Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Sacrilege: Eastern Edition

"People are always debating, is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy: it's a religion. You're a religion if you do something as weird as when the Buddhist monks scrutinize two-year-olds to find the reincarnation of the dude who just died, and then choose one of the toddlers as the sacred Lama: 'His poop is royal!' Sorry, but thinking you can look at a babbling, barely-housebroken, uneducated being and say, 'That's our leader' doesn't make you enlightened. It makes you a Sarah Palin supporter."

-- Bill Maher on Tiger Woods's apology

Quote of the Day

From an article in Salon today called "The Week in Crazy: Jenny McCarthy" by, wonder of wonders, Mary Elizabeth Williams:

"By offering the vague caveat that 'there is no cure' while peddling her Generation Rescue's slogan "autism is reversible" and telling parents that 'for a moderately autistic kid the best prognosis is full recovery,' McCarthy makes a promise that no one on the planet has the authority to make. It's one that puts the onus of failure on parents whose kids can't or simply don't make that 'full recovery' and opens up those who take her advice to "try everything" to a buffet of expensive to downright dangerous quackery.

The correlation between the MMR vaccine and autism may still be unproven, but the correlation between the MMR vaccine and preventing death and disease is pretty clear-cut; considering that, McCarthy is fueling an alarming resurgence in illnesses all but eradicated a decade ago. Her response to a potential rise in life-destroying diseases like polio? Last year she told Time, 'I do believe sadly it's going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it's their f___ing fault that the diseases are coming back.'

To recap: If not vaccinating your kids means bringing back polio, so be it. And if your offspring is diagnosed as autistic, do 'everything' to fix him. Insist on accountability from the CDC but advocate a whole raft of unproven therapies. And all the while, smugly describe yourself as "the voice" for a noble cause. Those maternal instincts are in the right place, but too often, the voice of autism recovery seems to be coming out of Jenny McCarthy's ass."

Don't ever let it be said that I don't give credit where it's due.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Picture of the Week

Lego Stephen Hawking

Fear Itself

In the wake of Thursday's health care summit in Washington, orange Republican Senator John Boehner took to YouTube to answer a series of questions on health care reform that had been pre-submitted by YouTube users. For the most part, Boehner rattled off the standard litany of GOP talking points -- move along, nothing to see here -- but Breitbart's Big Government site allowed him to do a quick write up on the exchange, which means that Breitbart's audience was given the opportunity to comment on Boehner's points and the health care debate in general.

And that's where things get interesting.

Look, as I've been saying lately ad nauseam, read through the comment section of any partisan online outlet -- either side, left or right -- and it's impossible to ignore how nearly interchangeable the two sides of the political divide are when it comes to their rhetoric. There's the childish derogatory wordplay -- "DemocRATS" and "Rethugs" -- the specious accusations, the kind of blather that makes you wonder if the commenter is arguing simply to hear him or herself argue. But where there are differences, they're vast and impossible to ignore -- one of the major ones being the incendiary, irresponsible and absolutely fucking dangerous calls to arms you hear on the right, proving the point that it's not so much that side's loutish carnival barkers that anyone should worry about -- since their shtick is largely about making money or getting votes -- but the True Believers who hang on every word from these clowns like it's gospel and use it to fuel their already raging paranoid psychopathy. There have always been violent activists on the far left, but they've never been given the kind of encouragement and legitimacy that the batshit crazy anti-government crowd is currently enjoying on the right. In other words, what used to be the fringe right isn't really relegated to the fringes these days -- the "far" right ain't so far anymore.

Case in point: One commenter to the Breitbart-Boehner post writes this, and receives a series of replies like "Here, here fellow patriot!" (which is as frightening as it is grammatically incorrect):

"Mr. Boehner,

Just curious when you and the rest of the Rep party will get a spine? You guys are no different than the other side you run your mouths about how bad things are BUT what have YOU done? Did you scream out in session and bring proceedings to a halt? Did you organize a walkout at the health summit yesterday? We the people all know it was nothing but a patronizing show orchestrated by his majesty BHO better yet the three stooges after complaints about transparency and opening debate up to the public...

Do us all a favor Mr. Boehner, you and the rest of the DC Rep. inept either grow a spine or a set of b___s and physically do something (walkout, bring govt to a halt) vs the daily rants, should I say whining, we are oh so tired of...

Go read the Constitution, words of our founding fathers and really do something or stand down and let someone who is ready to truly take them on in! Maybe you haven't realized but the old piece of paper called the Declaration of Independence was pretty much those men signing their own death warrant if what they planned failed? Can you do that? Are your ready to do that? If not get out of our way WE WANT OUR COUNTRY BACK! "

The commenter then posts a link to this YouTube video. I'm pretty good at shrugging off inconsequential crap, but its message is 100% clear -- and it's scary as hell.

This is what's fulminating on the right these days: The belief that the country white Christian men have always been entitled to was illegitimately stolen away from them -- despite the overwhelming disagreement of the electorate, which more than ever represents the changing face of America -- and must now be retaken by any means necessary. This is the kind of shit being spewed by conspiracist whack-jobs like the Oath Keepers -- who are bestowing upon themselves the blessing of the invoked-to-death forefathers, arming themselves and making ludicrous promises to stand against the creeping socialist threat, the one that's nothing more than a fucking paranoid delusion. This is what's being fomented by irresponsible little turds like Glenn Beck. They're creating a dark fantasy land of hidden terrors and outlandish boogeymen that has zero basis in reality.

And this is what's wrong with the right these days.


DXM: Revolutionary Goad/4.7.09

Saturday Morning Cartoons

This is one of my all-time favorites.

It's got Aardvark Ratnik, "mild" pills, and a line I still bust out once in awhile: "I'll just relieve you of that, if you don't mind."

From 1956, here's Stupor Duck.

Friday, February 26, 2010

He's Weir, He's Queer, Get Used To It

You'd have to be in a persistent vegetative state not to be able to figure out that Johnny Weir couldn't be gayer if he skated with a penis stuffed in his mouth. In fact, I'm pretty sure part of the reason he's so graceful is that he's actually floating about three inches above the ice.

But is he too gay for figure skating?

Bryan Safi takes a look, in the funniest thing you'll see all day.

Quote(s) of the Day

"Tough shit."

-- Republican Kentucky Senator and colossal asshole Jim Bunning, who is single-handedly blocking action to extend unemployment and health insurance benefits for more than a million Americans, responding to pleas on the Senate floor that he allow the measure to be pushed through

He went on to cross his arms and say this about the time being "wasted" attempting to resolve the impasse:

"I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9:00, and it's the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina since they're the only team that has beat Kentucky this year."

Kentucky's current unemployment rate is 10.7% -- which means that the real figure, factoring in people who are severely underemployed or who have simply given up looking for work, is probably more like 17%.

There just aren't words, folks. Actually there are, but they would advocate hitting Bunning repeatedly behind the knees with a rubber hose until he remembered who the fuck he works for, so best I not go there.

Incidentally, Bunning's cruel and disgraceful drama queen act is all for nothing. The bill's going to pass whether he likes it or not.

The Mother of All Mothers

Playboy bunny turned Leading Scientific Expert "Dr." Jenny McCarthy is once again in the news, claiming to have "fixed" her son's autism. This is as good an excuse as any to bring back one of my favorite little rants from last year (because I'm kind of busy today). I recycled this piece before and at that time I mentioned a fun fact about it: It's the only thing I've ever submitted to HuffPo that's been turned down flat. I'll let you draw your own conclusions as to why.

"Autism Speaks (and Speaks, and Speaks)" (Originally Published, 5.6.09)

Good news for people who think that posing nude in Playboy and hosting a crappy MTV game show automatically comes with its own PhD in neuroscience: Jenny McCarthy will soon have a daily platform from which to berate the medical community for not taking her advice on treating autism.

Unless you're lucky enough to have mercifully been born deaf, you're probably well aware of Jenny's delightful one-dingbat crusade to find someone or something to blame for her 5-year-old son's autism. For the past couple of years, she's jumped in front of pretty much every television camera and microphone in the continental United States to stir up unnecessary controversy over certain childhood vaccinations by proclaiming her belief that there's a link between them and autism and shouting down anyone who has the gall to doubt her credentials (or, in the case of Denis Leary, to doubt the veracity of the abundance of recent autism diagnoses in this country in the first place). Because, really -- why trust those doctors and their medical degrees when you can listen to Jim Carrey's girlfriend?

There's little as obnoxious in the pop cultural sphere as the celebrity who declares him or herself the all-knowing, unrelenting voice of experience on a particular subject simply because it happened to have touched his or her life in some way. For every one Michael J. Fox, who's fought Parkinson's with staggering humility and a dignified focus that's truly benefited others, there are ten Jenny McCarthys -- who write books on how gross it is that white stuff sometimes comes out of your vagina during pregnancy.

Actually I take it back; there is one thing more obnoxious: someone who enables that person.

In this case, the one foisting Jenny's show on an innocent public -- the one whose personal largess pretty much guarantees that Jenny McCarthy will be the next big thing in daytime television -- is none other than the event horizon of all human experience: Oprah. No one absorbs, assimilates, then repackages under her own mantle the breadth of existence that Oprah does; if something hasn't happened to her -- it just hasn't happened. Who the hell knows, maybe Oprah assumes that being tangentially associated with someone whose child is autistic will qualify her as an expert on yet another subject currently capturing the public's imagination. She had to have some way to stick her greedy little fingers in the autism pie, seeing as how she won't be getting her own kid, autistic or otherwise, at any point short of chloroforming one at her school in South Africa and sneaking him or her through customs in a giant box marked "make-up."

The real problem is that celebrities of the Oprah and Jenny McCarthy stripe are so used to being deferred to on just about every issue by the sycophantic media that they really have come to arrogantly believe that they're qualified to offer an informed opinion on anything they've Googled once or twice or read an article on while sitting in First Class. When we're talking about, say, Oprah's favorite funnel cake recipe or Jenny's thoughts on the feel of silicone versus saline breast implants -- no harm, no foul. But when they begin playing doctor -- when Oprah hypes the latest trendy Hollywood colon cleanse or Jenny recommends that parents not inoculate their children or touts Scientology-esque "cures" for complex diseases -- that's when things get dangerous.

Nothing Jenny McCarthy has suggested about the link between vaccinations and autism has been proven -- far from it. But Jenny isn't letting that stop her campaign of ignorance. She has her convictions as a mother and her moral certitude as a celebrity.

And soon, she'll have a bigger audience than she's ever had before.

Listening Post

Happy Friday, kids. Here's Iglu and Hartly -- In This City.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bonus Quote(s) of the Day

"I know your talking points. I know the other side's talking points. But can't we say, 'Look, we gotta do something in this country. This is going to bankrupt us.' And you people up there who are supposed to be representing us are making it perfectly clear you're gonna sit in your corners with your own talking points and we're gonna lose. We're gonna get nothing."

-- Shepard Smith, interviewing Republican John Thune of South Dakota

"What do you think is gonna happen if, after all this talk, you get up there and pass this bill through reconciliation with 51 votes? How do you think the partisan divide in this already messed-up country is gonna lay out? What do you think the right-wingers are gonna do? They're gonna explode."

-- Shepard Smith, interviewing Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland just a few minutes later

Headline of the Week

The Huffington Post: Gaddafi Calls for Jihad Against Switzerland/2.25.10

Squirrel Power

Just go here.

Quote of the Day

"We're not on anybody's fucking side."

-- South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone

Kick-ass chick Alex Leo's interview with the two of them in HuffPo is great stuff.


Like I said, world domination.

New York Magazine: Andrew Breitbart Identifies with Kevin Bacon in Footloose/2.24.10

So Cherry

Man, say what you will -- this new TV spot for The Runaways makes me want Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning something awful.

Yeah, I know -- creep.

Bomb Disposal

If you were to judge me strictly by my opinion of the female writers and contributors at Salon, you'd probably think I was the world's biggest misogynist. That's because I just can't shut up about how bloody fucking awful so many of them are. With the exception of Joan Walsh, who's fantastic, and a select few others, Salon's roster of largely catty, misguided women are a discredit not just to anybody who spends most of his or her day tapping fingers against a keyboard in the name of putting words to virtual paper, but occasionally, to the female sex itself.

Yeah, Heather Havrilesky and Stephanie Zacharek take crap writing whole to new levels, but at least they don't play the neo-feminist role and attempt to in some way interpret the world through the lens of, and subsequently speak for, all womanhood. They're just reviewing TV shows and movies. Badly, sure, but it's still pretty cut and dry. Then there's Mary Elizabeth Williams, and now Martha Nochimson. Williams I've commented on before, not really ripping her to shreds, just calling her defense of Sarah Palin's indignation in the wake of the "Family Guy Incident" a little silly.

But Nochimson. Oh, dear Lord.

I could spend a ton of time systematically taking apart her almost mind-bogglingly ridiculous and insulting piece on Kathryn Bigelow in today's Salon -- the one which calls Bigelow "the 'Transvestite of Directors'" and proceeds to slam her work in The Hurt Locker as being simply what a female auteur has to do to get noticed by the Hollywood boy's club -- but thankfully, at last count 70-something pissed off commenters had done the heavy lifting for me.

Seriously, read this horseshit, and try not to laugh and/or close your laptop and walk away before you feel the need to set something on fire.

Salon: "Kathryn Bigelow: Feminist Pioneer or Tough Guy in Drag" by Martha Nochimson/2.24.10

By the way, one of the aforementioned commenters asked if this sort of thing is done purposely by Salon: Some moron writes something completely over-the-top and sure to draw fire to increase page views and pad out the comment section. It's certainly possible, no doubt about that.

Listening Post

Ah, Amanda Palmer. You're just so damn cool.

Here's Leeds United.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Truck Stop

So Hummer has officially gone the way of the Edsel -- consigned now to the scrap heap of history. If you're like me, you thought the behemoth GM vehicle -- which seemed to inspire either reverence or bitter derision -- bit the dust several months ago, but apparently there was always a plan in the works to try to get a Chinese company to pick up the contract on the brand; that bid finally fell through, and so Hummer is no more.

I don't really have a dog in this fight because I don't drive a Hummer and wasn't planning on buying one, mostly for the same reason a lot of people weren't buying them anymore, enough to kill the entire line: For the most part they're completely impractical. Thing is, though, that's a personal choice reflecting my own preferences and lifestyle. In other words -- and I'll be brutally honest here -- I probably wouldn't have taken into account any of the traditional left-wing considerations like the effect an SUV has on the environment or America's overall dependence on foreign oil when deciding whether or not to buy a Hummer. If I could afford it and it worked for me, I might've bought one. That simple.

The Hummer brand died a fair death, meaning that the market spoke and it succumbed (although admittedly, GM should've dropped it earlier considering how much money it was losing for a carmaker that was subsisting on taxpayer money). That's capitalism. That's how the system is supposed to work. What's obnoxious, though, is the reaction of some of the commenters over at HuffPo to the news of Hummer's demise. I get that to many the brand has long stood as a symbol of selfish excess, a perennially reviled Texas-sized dragon that the left has always wanted to see slain for the supposed greater good. But the cries of "good riddance!" "thank the Lord these will no longer be made" and "score another win for the planet" as a response to the end of an American vehicle -- and one which wasn't nearly as terrible when it came to gas mileage as its rabid detractors made it out to be, particularly not the H3 -- seem slightly ridiculous.

Understand something: I'm all for being socially responsible, and I certainly get that there are times when people need to be pushed hard in the direction of doing what's good for the community, the country and the planet. But you can't always mandate responsible behavior. If you do that wantonly, you take away freedom. And while it's true that freedom should in theory come with responsibility, it's also true that not everyone is going to live up to his or her end of the bargain; the price of freedom, the ability to live your life how you see fit, is that you have to tolerate the guy you think is an arrogant, thoughtless jerk living life the way he wants. There are always gonna be selfish assholes. You can't legislate them out of existence.

There's of course an argument to be made, and a legitimate one, that we're all interconnected and therefore that big-ass Hummer does in fact have a direct impact on you, the country, the planet, etc. But exactly where is the sweet spot between what's right for me and what's right for the larger body -- in cases where the two notions are mutually exclusive -- and more to the point, who should have the power to make that official and binding ruling?

Not everyone could afford to, or even wanted to, drive a Hummer -- which means that there were never that many of them on the road to begin with (in spite of what hip-hop videos might've made it seem like). They were always more than balanced out by the millions and millions of people driving sensible, efficient Honda Accords, Chevy Cobalts or whatever. In other words, it seems like a really silly, purely symbolic and ultimately ineffectual thing to cheer for: the fact that the world is finally rid of the big bad Hummer.

Red Dawn

Guess who's now on Twitter?

Behold, Conan O'Brien's first official communiqué since leaving The Tonight Show.

Middle Schooled

Decent commentary here on trying to stay at least somewhat fair in the age of partisan journalistic hackery.

Mediaite: Attacking the Middle/2.24.10

Bonus Quote of the Day

"The Bible says that marriage is between a man and a woman. In Leviticus it says, 'If man lies with mankind as he would lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death and their blood shall be upon them.' The Bible is pretty black and white... I feel like God himself created mankind and he loves everyone, and he has the best for everyone. If he says that having sex with someone of your same gender is going to bring death upon you, that's a pretty stern warning, and he knows more than we do about life."

-- 23-year-old Miss Beverly Hills 2010 Lauren Ashley

And here we go again.

By the way, the quote was given to a regular column on Fox News's website called "Pop Tarts."

(Update: But enough of that kind of talk. Let's be juvenile and just make fun of the fact that she's really unattractive for a beauty pageant winner.)

Battle Star

Yesterday, Simon Owens over at Bloggasm published a piece that sought to better understand why a guy like Andrew Breitbart would bother getting into public pissing matches with bloggers whom he considers critical of him. Like, you know, me, I guess.

Simon talked to me for this story and now his work has gotten the attention of the folks over at Politico, which basically means that now I've been mentioned in Politico.

World domination, here I come.

Politico: Breitbart Battles Liberal Bloggers/2.24.10

Children of the Scorn

Following up on MTV CEO Van Toffler's broadstroke declaration that the Millennials are an uncynical, family-oriented, civic-minded bunch (which I'll assume wasn't said while trying to choke back laughter): I've done more than my fair share of generational generalizing around here, having picked on both tween culture and, of course, the Baby Boomers on more than one occasion. What's interesting, though, is that every time I beat up on either of those groups -- and let's face it, making fun of the tweens is entertaining and the Boomers, easy and these days somewhat justified -- I wait for someone to rub in my face a piece I wrote way back in April of 2007. One that took a much more measured approach to generation-bashing. (I freely admit that my level of magnanimity on a given subject can sometimes depend on the mood I'm in when I wake up in the morning.) This will be the first time this sucker's been on the main page in quite some time.

"The Kids Are Alright" (Originally Published, 4.2.07)

"They say all teenagers scare the living shit out of me. They could care less as long as someone'll bleed. So darken your clothes and strike a violent pose -- maybe they'll leave you alone, but not me."

-- My Chemical Romance

I speak from experience when I say that the only thing the modern media loves more than scaring the crap out of Americans for no good reason is making sweeping generalizations about just who they are. It's a given that most news outlets have never met a poll they didn't like -- particularly during an election season, when the grotesque and demeaning practice of reducing the choice between political leaders to a series of cliched sports metaphors becomes the order of the day. At the very least, though, this ritual form of vox populi only attempts to reveal a few select opinions as opposed to acting as some sort of blanket Rorschach whose aim is to diagnose the social anthropology of an entire generation.

In that regard, no generation has been as poked, prodded, probed and -- consequently and confidently -- pigeonholed, as our kids.

I'm of course not refering to one particular wave of American offspring as much as the ever-popular generic and perpetually recyclable notion of "kids these days." Adults have always concerned themselves, occasionally to the point of apoplexy, with the thought processes of those mysterious and often infuriating creatures bringing up the rear. The difference in the latter half of the 20th century and early days of the 21st is that those same adults have an unprecedented global coalescence thanks to the technological advances in mass communcation. Unfortunately, they also have a hell of a lot of people with access to this mass communication who are more than happy to play armchair sociologist, drawing conclusions from isolated incidents involving children then casting them as fact and ramming the whole package down the collective throat of the general public. Needless to say, their adjudications rarely serve as good news from the front for anxious grown-ups. (Remember, what's the one thing that's more beloved than sweeping generalizations?)

All of this is why over the past twenty years or so, you've been able to count on both hands and feet the number of news cycles that have included one alarming pronouncement or another about the state of America's kids: the way they think, behave, dress, fuck, arm themselves with automatic weapons, etc.

I've mentioned before that there's serious money in fear-mongering, and nothing strikes visceral terror into the hearts of your average 35-54-year-old consumers like the notion that someone else's incorrigible rugrats will kill them at an ATM or kill their own drunk, pregnant and meth-addicted spawn at school (provided the latter don't fire first). The only possible exception might be the nagging suspicion that said-same ungrateful spawn will eventually dump them in a third-rate rest home and forget about them until the probate hearing.

About a month ago, my wife and I did something which even at the time seemed utterly ridiculous given our respective ages: We hopped the Long Island Railroad and traveled all the way out to the Nassau Coliseum to see My Chemical Romance. We figured going into it that we were likely to be the oldest people at the show not either part of the road crew or providing supervision for a couple of fifteen-year-olds dressed in every possible shade of black. I'm proud to say that at the very least neither myself nor my wife made any attempt to look like we were a part of the band's youthful core audience, but this admittedly caused us to stick out like -- well -- like two adults at a My Chemical Romance concert. Right off the bat, the guy at the door sized us up and used the Jedi Mind Trick to suggest a different course of action than the one dictated by our tickets.

"Hmm, floor seats," he said, intimating no small amount of concern for our well-being. "You don't wanna sit there. You wanna be away from all that shit and be someplace you can see."

Whatever his reasoning, he was right -- we did in fact want to be away from all that shit and be someplace we could see, so we followed his instructions and met an usher who escorted us to an area of elevated seats right next to the stage. Whether it served as the designated "Unaccompanied Adults" section I have no idea, but if so, it would've confirmed our initial theory about the width of the generation gap on this particular evening, given that we had the area all to ourselves for the length of the show. I remember thinking at the time that the benefits of this were substantial: It would keep us safely out of the path of the arterial spray should any of the goth kids become so overwhelmed by the presence of the Way brothers that he or she decided to end it all right there, and it would save my wife and I the shame of knowing that the final sight that same poor kid took to the grave was of the two drunk old people dancing and singing along to the songs a couple of seats over.

During my lenghty stay on this earth, I've been lucky enough to see Oasis at the Viper Room in L.A., Nine Inch Nails at 1235 on Miami Beach, Jeff Buckley at a bar no larger than my living room and the Afghan Whigs at the Palace. I've gotten the crap kicked out of me at Black Flag and had Siouxsie Sioux wrap a feather boa around my neck and sing Slowdive inches from my face. I've cried during Jimmy Scott's set at Birdland; I've had Mike Patton of Faith No More steal my Lakers cap. While My Chemical Romance at the Nassau Coliseum couldn't really compare to any of these experiences, it was, for the most part, a damn good show and my wife and I left the place glad that we had made the trip.

On the train ride home, we sat not far from a couple of young girls who had managed to perfectly capture the emo aesthetic and were now milking it for all it was worth. Whether by design or necessity, their look seemed more homegrown (as if Mom had driven them to the local Goodwill) than mass-market (as if Hot Topic had vomited all over them). I sat quietly and listened to them talk about the show: which songs they loved, their favorite members of the band, whether the b-sides were better than the stuff on the actual record etc. Despite the black clothes, the ripped leggings, the faces that looked like The Crow had dragged Eric Draven back from the dead one more time simply to give them make-up tips, they were essentially just normal kids. In fact, there was something sweetly charming -- hopeful even -- in the fact that their giddy smiles belied all that gloomy camouflage.

They were just kids.

Or maybe not.

As it turned out, I was wrong in my assessment of the benign nature of my young traveling companions. Their youthful exuberance and facade of naivete was, in fact, nothing more than a clever ruse designed to trick the unsuspecting into showering them with attention -- and as far as those girls were concerned, no one deserved it more than them because no one was more important than them.

Selfish bitches.

I was informed of the folly of my snap-judgment -- the true nature of not just those two kids, but all "kids these days" -- less than a week after the MCR show; it came via every single television network and newspaper in the United States, all of which trumpeted the "startling findings" of a recently-released study authored by a lone associate professor at that most prestigious of our nation's academic institutions, San Diego State University.

The hysterically caricaturish title of the report: "Egos Inflating Over Time"

It's incontrovertible declaration: America has raised a nation of young narcissists.

The study points to modern teen outlets like MySpace and YouTube -- tools which by the very nature of the personal pronouns in their names cast the user as a demigod -- as Exhibits A & B ad infinitum in the canonization of the individual adolescent. It claims that today's teens are self-absorbed, self-obsessed, self-congratulatory and just plain selfish. No, they're not going to take care of you when you're old because they're going to be too busy thinking only of themselves. No, they won't give a damn about making the world around them a better place because as far as they're concerned they are the fucking world!

Worth mentioning at this point is that the aforementioned SDSU associate professor behind the report, Dr. Jean Twenge, is also the author of last year's tailor-made-to-garner-a-guest-slot-on-The Today Show book, Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled -- and More Miserable than Ever Before. (I swear, some day I'm going to write a book called "Alarmist Assertion: How the Clarification Always Comes After the Colon" -- or maybe just "Exclamation!: Noun Clause.") The cover of Dr. Twenge's dissertation features a photo of an attractive, anonymous female mid-riff sporting the ubiquitous navel ring -- the name of the book emblazoned across those bronzed abs in the form of a tribal tattoo. Subtle it's not.

It should surprise no one that within twenty-four-hours of the initial release of Dr. Twenge's study on February 27th, television news correspondents across the country were fanning out in an epic quest to find the most generic student-union to stand in front of with furrowed brows and parrot the ominous findings. The truly inspired ones even took it upon themselves to seek out as racially and ethnically-diverse a group of American teenagers as possible, then delve into the negative aspects of the kids' supposed self-absorption by pointing a television camera at them and asking their opinions for twenty-minutes.

The end result was that a questionable and otherwise trifling piece of pop-psychology instead became a nationally-circulated indictment not only of an entire generation, but of the generation that raised it -- the one that the study more-than-peripherally implied has enabled such a sickening sense of entitlement by spoiling its children rotten. This latter insinuation is humorous for two reasons: (A) because the older generation in question happens to be the tail end of America's beloved Baby Boomers -- a group which has itself been accused of squandering an unprecedented spirit of revolution and social-consciousness in favor of vanity and excess, and (B) because if you believe (A) to be true, then it stands to reason that any attention lavished on the Boomers' offspring was nothing more than a solipsistic endeavor in the first place.

Once again, though, broad strokes tend to miss integral details.

When I was around twenty-three, there was a seemingly ceaseless flow of unmitigated crap being written about how people my age -- those rounded up and summarily tagged with the absurd "Generation X" label -- were going to lead to the eventual subversion of the American way of life followed by the inevitable rise to power of the Antichrist. We were slackers; we were too cool for our own good; we valued irony over sincerity; we listened to the Replacements. In response, a lot of us got high and questioned why our parents arrogantly believed their childhood to be so fucking spectacular that they insisted on foisting it upon the rest of us via reruns of the Brady Bunch and a somewhat disturbing fascination with an aging David Cassidy -- then we ordered a pizza and watched Clerks again.

Over time, though, fresh news cycles brought fresh assumptions as to who we were and what we were about ("Gen-X Grows Up," "Gen-X Overachieves," "Gen-X Underachieves," "Gen-X Still Gets High and Watches Clerks," etc.); none of them were correct.

The reason of course is because we were never a "we."

No one's saying that a vast number of people aren't likely to be affected in similar ways by the generalities of their collective place in history, but when you do them the service of looking a little closer, you usually find that what they really have in common is that each is unique -- more the product of his or her specific environment than anything else. Among those with whom I shared a childhood, an adolescence and an early-adulthood, there were the narcissistic and the benevolent, the arrogant and the humble, the noble and the unscrupulous, the saintly and the depraved, the industrious and the apathetic, the needy and the independent. Our parents feared for our well-being -- afraid that the evolving caprices of a new and dangerous world would swallow us whole, or at the very least corrupt us irredeemably.

It was the same fear that their parents once had for their well-being.

Last week, two stories made the rounds which caught my attention. One concerned a group of Connecticut high school students who were taking on their principal after he suppressed the performance of a school play dealing with the war in Iraq; the other profiled the rising popularity of so-called "Purity Balls," in which young girls pledge a vow of chastity to their fathers during an elaborate, if not somewhat creepy, ceremony. Whatever you think of the young people involved in these seemingly antithetical endeavors, it would be difficult to argue ego as the primary motivation behind either.

If nothing else, this should provide hope for the future -- by providing proof that this generation, like those that came before it and those that will rise in its wake, defies easy categorization.

That's because "kids these days" are, at their core, no different than kids any other days.

(PostScript, 2.24.10: While I really do believe that every generation is made up of disparate elements, there's absolutely no denying that there are certain cultural touchstones which are unique to a specific generation and around which the members of that group coalesce. The internet, cell phones, social networking, YouTube, iTunes and -- really fucking unfortunately -- reality TV no doubt have had a massive impact on the way the Millennnials as a genus think and how they function in the world. I've joked recently that, ironically, I wouldn't want my daughter watching MTV no matter how much its CEO is lying his ass off to make himself and others believe he's performing a community service by airing noxious crap like Jersey Shore. But that being said, the rise of new media has created a period in history unlike any other, and it's impossible to underestimate its impact on the generation at the epicenter of it. The digitization of information on the internet, which has basically brought together all human knowledge into one place, has created the feeling that there's no past anymore. There's simply a "permanent now." I was talking to a friend of mine about this the other day -- asking him to think about the fact that when we were teenagers, the 1950s were thirty years behind us, nearly the same distance that our teenage years are from now. Yet the 50s felt thoroughly alien to any kid growing up in the 80s; they may as well have been a millennium ago. That's not the case anymore. 80s and 90s culture is now a click away for anyone coming of age in the 21st century. In other words, more than ever, we're one generation. Now please kill me before I write another line that sounds like a Pepsi commercial. Oh, the photograph above, by the way, was taken by Andrew Steiner. You can see the rest of his portfolio here.)

Quote of the Day

"We're slaves to our different audiences, for MTV that's millennials, who are vastly different than Generation X. They're definitely less cynical -- they're more civic minded. Millennials are really about authentic reality and family. (That's why MTV) played up the camaraderie and family elements in Jersey Shore to appeal to them."

-- MTV Networks President Van Toffler

So I'm too cynical to appreciate the authenticity, sense of family, and general civic-mindedness of Jersey Shore.

Man, this quote is great on so many different levels.

Listening Post

There aren't enough words to describe the sheer awesomeness of these guys.

Here's the Deftones -- Minerva.

And as a bonus, their new single, Rocket Skates.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Head from the Hils

No! Say it isn't so, Hilary! I trusted you!

Oh well -- not like I'm not used to it by now.

What Would Tyler Durden Do?: Hilary Duff is "Blown" Away by Her Engagement Ring/2.23.10

Tune In, Turn On

Hot off the presses, the latest edition of the Gregory Brothers' Auto-Tune the News.

Hell yeah -- a turtle fence.

Bonus Quote of the Day

"I do think that there would be a benefit to having people who have run businesses in office, who have a sense of how to how to get something across the finish line, make hard decisions that actually everybody can get behind... It's something that I would certainly look at."

-- Napoleonic NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker, taking arrogant delusion to heretofore unheard of levels when asked if he'd consider running for elected office

To turn a somewhat legendary quote, I guess when Alexander looked out and saw the breadth of his domain he wept for there were no more worlds to thoroughly fuck up and turn into a universal laughingstock.

Labor Pain

So in the latest step in the Palin family's ongoing quest for complete celebrity pop cultural domination, Palin daughter and indignant Facebook message writer Bristol Palin will guest star in an upcoming episode of the ABC Family series The Secret Life of the American Teenager. She'll be playing -- who else? -- herself (which, for those who've been mercifully trapped under a rock in a cave for the past two years, is an unwed teen mother).

She'll befriend a character on the show who also happens to be a teen mom, no doubt offering compassion and admonition that she should've, you know, tried abstinence. Or should stay abstinent from here on out. Or something.

Hmm, now that I take a good look at Bristol -- and considering the career trajectory she's on -- I think it's obvious that there's only one inevitable outcome for her.

Behold, Bristol Palin in a year or two:

I Drink Your Chalkboard

Tuesday Is Recycling Day

Putting a twist on the admittedly crass joke that you should never trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn't die, it's not a good idea to trust something that's still alive after four five heart-attacks. Alas, Dick Cheney once again suffers pain where his heart should be but will likely come out of the whole thing none the worse for wear. Still, news of his hospitalization caps a two week period that saw him admit on national television that he endorsed war crimes and, not coincidentally, get a standing ovation from the psychopath crowd at CPAC. A few days before Barack Obama's inauguration last year, I wrote a piece expressing support for the idea that the incoming administration might be willing to consider formal charges against members of the Bush White House who wantonly violated the law during their time in office. I stand by it even now, while resigning myself to the fact that it was always a naive thing to hope for.

"Walk of Shame" (Originally Published, 1.15.09)

It's probably a good idea to preface what I'm about to say with a quick fact: I was in New York City two days after September 11th, 2001; I covered the aftermath of the attack that leveled the World Trade Center both from Ground Zero and from the 69th Regiment Armory at 25th and Lexington, which was where many of the families of those missing and presumed dead were sent to have their cases processed. I held in my arms men and women who'd just lost loved ones and who were, at that moment, devastated remnants of the people they had been just a few days earlier. Because of all this, I felt an electrified rush of jingoistic venom like nothing I'd ever experienced before. I wanted to see those responsible for the catastrophic anguish around me not simply brought to justice, but made to suffer in the most excruciating way possible. The people who brought down the World Trade Center -- and part of the Pentagon, and a commercial jet full of innocents in Pennsylvania -- deserved to die, and die horribly. They still do.

I need to make all of these experiences and these feelings clear, because maybe if I do it will help to lend a certain kind of weight to what I think now has to be said.

George W. Bush and members of his administration should be investigated and stand trial for their crimes -- for their trampling of the Constitution, their illegal and unnecessary war, launched under false pretenses, against a country that didn't pose a clear and present danger to the United States and, most egregiously and despicably, their illicit and explicit approval of the torture of enemy prisoners.

Last month, the Senate Armed Services Committee released a report detailing the Bush Administration's fingerprints on a plan, first hatched in 2002, to reverse-engineer the SERE training (Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape) given to some U.S. special forces units. The object of SERE is to teach special-ops personnel how to withstand the kind of interrogation methods they could face if captured by countries or militias that don't honor the Geneva Conventions. It was the creative idea of the White House to have SERE instructors turn around and teach torture techniques to covert interrogation teams involved in the War on Terror.

For years, this underground program remained largely and safely removed from public scrutiny; although it was in fact reported on, the administration engaged in its usual obfuscation and deflection while quietly charging those who dared to ask too many questions with being unpatriotic in a time of war. Over the past couple of weeks, though -- maybe emboldened by knowledge that their time is almost up and that they'll likely never be held accountable for their actions -- the Bush Administration's chief architects of this plan have begun, Colonel Nathan Jessup-style, to admit that they ordered the Code Red and would do it again if given the chance. Dick Cheney in particular confirmed in no uncertain terms that the U.S. tortured al Qaeda prisoners and all but dared potential critics to do anything about it.

He knows he can be as forthcoming -- to say nothing of brash and arrogant -- as he likes right now, because he knows that he's right: His critics in the incoming administration aren't going to do a goddamned thing about any of it. They'll talk tough -- say they're not ruling anything out and that investigating the past transgressions of the Bush clan is always on the table. But when all is said and done -- in other words, next Tuesday -- it will end the same way for Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, et al: They'll live out their lives in expensive homes far from Washington, DC, counting the money they're making from honorary corporate positions and speaking engagements. And they'll sleep very, very well -- with clear consciences.

The problem is that many of the Bush Administration's sins, with special attention paid to the issue of authorized torture, don't qualify as a simple case of a bunch of guys improvising during an unprecedented time in American history -- doing the best they could with what they had. George W. Bush and his cronies broke the law. Willfully. Wantonly. And if we truly adhere to the belief that no one is above the law, then that makes them all criminals.

I'm more than willing to admit that, from a political perspective, any attempt by incoming president Barack Obama to prosecute members of the Bush White House would be a lousy idea, one sure to be met with resentment from many of the leaders he needs to work with and outrage from a portion of the country he needs to help heal. Most Americans who consider the Bush era to be a dark age in our history are content to see its engineers and enablers thrown out on their asses, their lasting legacy one of unmitigated shame. Most people just want to move forward; that's what electing Barack Obama was all about. But if we remove the political question, what we're left with is solely a legal one: Did Bush and company break the law?

Again, they did.

And this country's standing and stature can't be restored simply by swinging a U-turn and looking toward a new kind of future without taking responsibility for the mistakes of the past. We'll never get our respect -- self and otherwise -- back if we just pretend like the last eight years never happened and let the men behind one of our nation's most embarrassing periods quietly walk away from the disastrous mess they made.

We don't torture. That's not who we are -- not what this country is about.

What we're about is bringing the guilty to justice.

Whether it's a foreign terrorist or a U.S. president.

Mission: Inscrutable

Proving that anti-Obama conspiracist nonsense knows no racial bounds, here's the balls-out craziest thing you'll hear all day.

Oliver Willis: Nutjob Video: Obama Was a Secret CIA Agent in Pakistan in 1981/2.23.10

Seriously, this guy makes Orly Taitz look like she's on Haloperidol.

Fux News

For the blissfully uninitiated, the rabid fans of Insane Clown Posse -- yeah, I didn't know that band was still around either -- are known as Juggalos.

Thankfully, you don't need to be one to get a good laugh out of this, a video by Scott Gairdner that feels like it starts to get tedious after awhile but then pays off nicely at the very end.

Quote of the Day

"It's sad the incident in Texas happened, but by the same token, it’s an agency that is unnecessary and when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the IRS, it’s going to be a happy day for America... I can tell you I’ve been audited by the IRS and I’ve had the sense of 'why is the IRS in my kitchen.' Why do they have their thumb in the middle of my back? ... It is intrusive and we can do a better job without them entirely."

-- Republican representative Steve King of Iowa commenting on the crash of a plane into a building in Austin, Texas last week by a man who had a grudge against the IRS

Yeah, this guy had a real point there, Steve-O. So fuck the dozens of innocent people who happened to be in the building working for the IRS when Joseph Andrew Stack decided to slam a plane into it -- people who, like it or not, work for the exact same government you do. Fuck Vernon Hunter, the IRS employee and Vietnam vet Stack actually killed.

It goes completely without saying that if Joe Stack's name had been Mohammed Abdul Whatever-the-hell, King would be doing a fucking burlesque show on Fox News every hour on the hour, screaming to high heaven about how we need to outlaw Muslims, close all the airports and erect a wall around New York City, turning it into the one maximum security prison for the entire country. Oh, and it would all be Obama's fault for being soft on terrorists just like the guy who crashed a plane into a government office and killed an American citizen.

Jesus Christ, what an insanely irresponsible prick.

Listening Post

Hum was one of the more memorable one hit wonder groups from the 90s; their song Stars remains beloved by just about anybody who grew up during that period and was into alternative music.

Well, the band's bassist, Jeff Dimpsey, went on to form National Skyline -- and they're really terrific.

Here's Revenge.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Perish the Thought

I figured it would be all kinds of entertaining watching the Tea Baggers' reaction to word that brand new Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts broke ranks and voted for the Democrats' Jobs Bill earlier today. You know -- that there'd be cries of "traitor," "recall," that silly "RINO" nonsense.

I had no idea.

Twitter: #ScottBrown

(Update: The Huffington Post: Conservatives Turn on Brown Over Jobs Bill Vote/2.23.10)

Bland Ambition

Clear your schedule, everybody. The guest list has been revealed for next week's triumphant return of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

And who will Jay be welcoming?

Olympic athletes Apolo Ohno, Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn, country star Brad Paisley, the cast of Jersey Shore and -- Sarah Palin.

Truly, the best man won in the battle between Leno and Conan.

Fuck you, NBC. Just fuck you.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell (Singing Is Okay, Though)

Maybe this is part of some kind of plan to honor Johnny Weir for his performance at the Olympics.

The Los Angeles Times: Glee Cast To Perform at the White House/2.22.10

Not-Very-Deep in the Heart of Texas

According to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, nearly a third of all Texans believe that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time, 38% believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago, and a full 51% don't think that we evolved from earlier species of animals.

Don't have a joke, folks -- that is the joke.

The Texas Tribune: Meet the Flintstones/2.17.10

The Latest Show on Earth

It must be exhausting being on the right these days. The near-constant unfocused rage, the endless paranoia, having every little fear that lurks as a mere shadow in your mind amplified by guys like Glenn Beck until it becomes positively paralyzing; it's gotta be a tough life.

I hate to keep harping on this, but if you once again need a reason why it's so difficult for me to align myself with the modern right in this country even for a few minutes, even when I happen to agree with some of the basic tenets of conservatism, look no further than the torrent of crazy-and-dumb that gushed out of last week's Conservative Political Action Conference in DC. So much of the damn thing served as a really tragic reminder of just how thoroughly the inmates have taken control of the asylum of Republican politics. Within the span of just a couple of days, you had Tim Pawlenty obligatorily invoking the Almighty and hitting the usual high note with the red meat crowd by suggesting that it hit the boogeyman of big government with a golf club, this coming the day after a guy crashed a plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas; Andrew Breitbart frothing at the mouth in one pissed-off tirade after another aimed at any ostensibly adversarial reporter who got within ten feet of him; and of course the aforementioned Beck, the belle of the ball, dragging out his chalkboard and going into full faux-Beale mode to the delight of the audience, who must've put it along the lines of finally seeing the Stones perform their greatest hits live.

Here's the thing, though: I'm not even inclined to give those guys a giant ration of crap anymore for their contrived Angry Everyman routines. That's because each of them has something to gain by being a professional shit-stirrer: Pawlenty wants to be president and knows he needs whack-job base-appeal to make it happen; Breitbart's readership is largely comprised of white college kids who love it when he snarls like a rabid pit bull at their perceived liberal wuss enemies; and Glenn Beck has made himself millions doing the best piece of living performance art since Andy Kaufman. It makes sense for them to give the audience what it wants because they get something in return. The problem, of course, is the audience. It's the fucking dimwits being used as stage props in this perpetual side show -- the ones who don't simply adopt the shallow opportunism of carnival barkers like Beck or even Sarah Palin as gospel, but who then act on those beliefs. The people who give standing ovations to Dick Cheney or hand conspiracy theorist Ron Paul a victory in the CPAC straw poll.

This isn't to imply that conservatives are dumb-asses by nature, since that's not the case at all, only that the movement is content to be based on stupidity and irresponsibility rather than cogent reality. And for those who would claim that the left indulges in the same kind of exploitation of its fringe, there's just no comparison, not these days; the truth is that most Democratic politicians run like scared little girls from the label of "liberal." Part of the reason the left is as divided as it is right now is that those who claim to carry the mantle of truly left-wing politics feel completely disenfranchised despite having had a supposedly friendly face in government for the past year. A byproduct of the right's admittedly impressive knack for sticking together and staying on message is that its fringe always has a voice; the left can't say the same.

There were of course a few real highlights at CPAC: unapologetic egghead George Will's speech was excellent, as was the round audience trouncing that homophobic fuckstick Ryan Sorba took when he went off on a rant against gays -- although a joke can easily be made that getting thrown offstage at CPAC for being anti-gay is like being Steven Adler, kicked out of Guns N' Roses for doing too many drugs.

Once again, though, the issue is the effect that some of the most virulent government-bashing and pissed-off-white-guy bloviating is having on a group of True Believers already suffering in a desolate economy and looking for someone to blame -- and the fact that the right continues to embrace the craziness of the fringe it's creating rather than denouncing it, because somewhere along the line the self-serving end of votes and money became a hell of a lot more important than what's good for the country. And who's being put at risk.

Read on:

Mother Jones: Oath Keepers and the Age of Treason/April 2010


DXM: Protecting America from Whatever/10.21.09

Beer, Abbie?

Jesus -- I mean, I get the whole Reese thing, but cheating on Abbie Cornish?

That's just a supremely inexcusable lack of respect for how good you've got it.

People: Ryan Phillippe and Abbie Cornish Split, Rumors of Infidelity/2.21.10

Quote of the Day

"We know we can beat anybody now."

-- Brian Rafalski of the U.S. Men's Olympic Hockey Team, after last night's stunning upset against Canada

Listening Post

I'm running out of ways to say how much I love this band.

As soon as I heard this song, I figured it would be released as a single because it's not only the best track on Paramore's most recent album -- it's one of the best pop ballads in many, many moons.

Here's The Only Exception.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Thinking Outside the Inbox

The latest in our ongoing series which brings just some of the PR-firm junk e-mail I regularly get to you, the readers.

Hi Chez–

I’m sure you’ve heard the exciting news that Hillary Duff is engaged!! As images will probably begin to surface shortly, we’d love to offer you celeb jewelry and CEO of, David Mamane, to appraise the ring for you.

Please contact me if you are interested in having him appraise the ring for you, give tips, price quotes, etc.

Have a great weekend!

Best, Lindsay

And now, my response:

Dear Lindsay,

While I appreciate the kind offer -- and you're so right, it is exciting news -- I actually won't be requiring the services of your jewelry expert seeing as how I bought the ring and therefore know exactly how much it cost. Yes, that's right, I'm engaged to Hilary Duff, which means that henceforth she should be referred to in the press as "The Future Ex-Mrs. Pazienza #5" (as opposed to say, Hillary with two Ls, the way lazy PR flacks who can't even be bothered to Google the correct spelling of her name might write). I know it's getting so you need a slide rule to keep track of all my wives, but I hope you can at least respect my tenacity. For the record, Hilary is Lucky #5 -- the one I just know is Miss Right -- because last weekend I got hitched to a Thai hooker in Vegas, but unfortunately young Pakpao was killed in a tragic, entirely accidental fall from the top of the Stratosphere tower three hours after the ceremony. So, hey, gotta get back on the horse, right? Anyhoo, feel free to send a gift our way; Hils and I are registered at Macy's, Target, Hot Topic, Wet Seal and the Hustler Superstore on Sunset. Also, would you happen to know the name of a good divorce attorney who's willing to be kept on permanent retainer?


Chez : )

Meet Loaf

Thanks, Greg.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Quote of the Day

"I guess former Governor Palin does not have a sense of humor.... In my family we think laughing is good. My parents raised me to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life. My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes."

-- Actress Andrea Friedman, who played the voice of "Ellen" on Family Guy and who actually has Down Syndrome

Listening Post

Okay, so I admit it: I'm really looking forward to the upcoming Limp Bizkit album -- the first full-length record with Wes Borland since Chocolate Starfish.

Say what you will, these guys are the ultimate guilty pleasure.

Here's Re-Arranged.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"I've Just Had Enough"

It's rare that I publish an item without offering a corresponding opinion, but I think it's important that -- before each of the echo chambers on either side of the political spectrum begins knee-jerk spinning the hell out of its supposed larger implications -- you get a look at this, unclouded, and come to a few conclusions on your own.

At the link below you'll find the written manifesto of Joseph Andrew Stack -- the man who crashed a small plane into an office building in Austin, Texas this morning. Stack apparently had major issues with the IRS and was specifically targeting its office. Regardless of which side of the political fence you're on, something like this is a potential gold mine: If you're on the right, you can paint Stack as a guy who'd had enough of big government intruding into our lives; if you're on the left, you might trumpet his final act as proof of the violent shitstorm being stirred up by exactly that kind of talk from the right.

But after reading through the whole thing, none of it's quite that cut and dry -- and therefore that easy to summarily dismiss or co-opt.

See for yourself.

The Smoking Gun: Plane Crash Suspect's Online Diatribe/2.18.10

(Update: I touched on this in the comment section but I think it needs to be on the main page. Just because I thought that a logical examination of Joseph Stack's "suicide note" proved that he wasn't easy to pin down politically, that doesn't mean both sides aren't already trying to do just that. There are already Facebook pages popping up from what I assume is the farthest-right lunatic fringe claiming Stack as a martyr for the cause -- pulling irresponsible crap like calling him "the first casualty in the next American revolution." Likewise, commenters at Huffington are dismissing him as just another "Tea Bagging loser" who doesn't think he should have to pay his taxes. Needless to say, both sides are dead wrong.

As much as Stack may have a good vocabulary and have made a few decent points in his final manifesto, one thing cannot be avoided: He's now a domestic terrorist. He flew a plane into a building filled with innocent people to make a political point -- that's the definition of a terrorist, as we should well know. He's an attempted mass murderer. Holding him up as some kind of patriot or excusing his act because you happen to agree with some of his views -- or even worse, hope to adopt them strictly to score political points -- is fucking inexcusable. Period.

But at the same time, it's absolutely off the mark to relegate Stack to the Bagger faux-populist pile. He apparently had issues with the IRS for decades, long before the "movement" started (his primary nemesis being a change in the tax code 24 years ago that he blames for forever altering his life); he fires his anger in all kinds of paranoid directions, going after not simply one elected official or political party but politicians in general, including George W. Bush, as well as multinational corporations, health insurance companies, the city of Austin, "Big Brother", even the Catholic Church. He doesn't go off on any kind of racist tangent and his anger doesn't seem to have peaked specifically because Barack Obama is now in office. Stack may share some of the Baggers' ideology when it comes to government intrusion but he doesn't seem to be one of them by alignment. Which won't stop the craziest on that side from canonizing him, the mainstream right-wing shit-stirrers from trying to distance themselves from him, and the usual suspects on the left from demonizing him.)

Basterds of Young

I'll tread lightly here.

I'm one of those people who believes that a film's cultural impact can occasionally be taken into account when deciding whether to give it an Oscar. I'm not necessarily saying that the Academy Awards should be a popularity contest -- just that if it's obvious ahead of time that a certain movie's going to have a lasting legacy, that's worth at least considering during the Oscar voting process. The most glaring recent case in point: In 1998, Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan, the latter movie being not only a far better film but one that had a much more hefty impact on American culture. More than a decade later, which movie still sticks in your head?

Granted, I get that if you were to go strictly by contribution to the national zeitgeist, Avatar would be the one and only choice to get the top honor this year -- but let's face it, it's not a very good movie. Groundbreaking and an awesome visual experience, yes, but not a great film by any means. The Hurt Locker is without question the best movie I've seen over the last year, and it would be good to see Kathryn Bigelow get an award -- if for no other reason than how it cool it would be to be able to say, "From the Oscar-winning director of Point Break" -- and it's the current very slim favorite. But lately there's been a quiet tide turning in favor of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. Gold Derby's Tom O'Neil -- who's not only a really good guy but who happens to be the only person who predicted that Crash would shock everyone, most of all fans of quality moviemaking, by winning Best Picture -- has gone on record as saying that Basterds will pull off the upset this year. But does it deserve it?

If you ask Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, the answer seems to be "yes."

In a move that feels more than a little predictable, Foxman has posted a piece over at HuffPo which tries to make the case that Basterds should get the film world's top honor simply because, from the way it sounds anyway, it's a really good movie about the Holocaust. Now I'm not sure whether Foxman is specifically saying that the film should win Best Picture or simply an Oscar in general, but what he's pretty clear about is that, like Life is Beautiful and Schindler's List before it -- both far superior films, by the way -- Basterds is inherently "good" because it serves to remind audiences of the atrocities of Nazi Germany. Obviously I would never belittle the Holocaust -- one of the single darkest periods in human history -- but as an argument this is kind of nonsense. Foxman, a Holocaust survivor himself, indirectly makes that point that Basterds serves a greater purpose because it brings the reality of Hitler's horrors to "a new audience," the younger generation.

But once again, does the movie deserve an Oscar simply for that reason?

There have been a lot of films made about murderous injustices that have been completely overlooked by the Academy, that is they weren't honored strictly because they told a story that needed to be told or made a point that needed to be made; just think of the number of movies dealing with slavery in America -- Amistad, Beloved, etc. -- that didn't win top Oscars. The reason they didn't, of course, is that they weren't terrific movies, and at its core -- all powerful messages and attempts at righting the wrongs of society through film aside -- that's what the Academy Awards are all about. Not every film that breaks new ground on land that's admittedly fertile deserves to be honored for it -- not even when that land calls to mind a tragedy that shouldn't be easily shrugged off. Hell, if we judge strictly on the moral of a story, who's to say that The Hurt Locker -- with its nightmarish look at war in the modern era -- isn't as powerful a film as Tarantino's World War II epic?

Inglourious Basterds is certainly a good movie, and with a surreal final act that includes -- spoiler alert -- the murder of Adolf Hitler, it's easy to see why the head of the Anti-Defamation League would get a visceral thrill out of the alternate history it concocts. But I'm just not sure it deserves an Oscar for Best Picture solely for its contribution to the pantheon of Holocaust films. (Best Original Screenplay for its sheer audacity might be a different story.)

Bottom line: A movie has to be much more than simply its message, no matter how passionately we might feel about that message.

Of course the real irony in all of this is that the guy who chews up the scenery as the deliciously menacing Nazi colonel -- Christoph Waltz -- is the one person from Inglourious Basterds guaranteed to walk away with an Oscar.

Beat Kids

Bringing in George and Juju really did complete the "Our Gang" vibe, didn't it?

The Onion: Scrappy Crew of 'Good Morning America' Decides To Put On a News Show/2.18.10