Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday Morning Cartoons

From 1953, it's Tom and Jerry in Neapolitan Mouse.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Listening Post

Happy Friday, kids.

Here's the new Crash Kings single -- You Got Me.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

...And Don't Call Me Shirley

No idea whether this will actually end profitably for either Shirley Sherrod or anyone with a love for the truth, given that it'll only increase Breitbart's street cred with the far right and he has nothing to gain by rolling over and settling. But it'll at least be entertaining to watch.

The Huffington Post: Shirley Sherrod To Sue Andrew Breitbart/7.29.10

Quote of the Day

"Of course I have. I'm an actor for fuck's sake."

-- Tom Hardy, who plays "forger" Eames in Inception, on whether he's ever had gay sex

Listening Post

Welsh band Hybrid make music that can only be described as epic. Part techno, part rock, part movie soundtrack orchestral -- with strings typically provided by Harry Gregson-Williams -- their stuff is rarely subtle. But it's always powerful and moving.

The latest single from them is no exception. From their new album Disappear Here -- coincidentally, the first two words in Bret Easton Ellis's Less Than Zero and a line that alert readers will note that I paid homage to in Dead Star Twilight -- this is one of my favorite songs of the year so far.

Here's Break My Soul

She's the One

Two years ago this morning, this was the picture I posted here.

Looking back through the history of all the photos of my daughter I've published on this site -- the timeline of her young life -- is something that's bittersweet beyond description.

Regardless of the difficulties that have come my way, though -- the fact that I'm separated from my daughter on her second birthday being just one -- I'm the luckiest man in the world. I had this moment -- this gorgeous baby, who's become this amazing little kid.

She'll be with me in a few days, but for now let me just say -- happy birthday, Inara.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Listening Post: In Memoriam Edition

Al Goodman 1947-2010

Underneath the Coverage

A friend of mine tweeted this link last night. My favorite part about it? Read the very first comment following the post -- the one that succinctly points out the inevitable #6 on this list.

Rock My Car: 5 Things You Should Know Before Dating a Journalist/5.10.07

Given that this was written back in 2007 -- and considering how much the industry has changed since then -- you may as well tack one more on there:

#7. Be prepared to have to pay for everything.

Listening Post

Well, what do you expect when the insanely cool teams up with the insanely brilliant?

Here's DJ Shadow's Six Days -- the video directed by Wong Kar-wai.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Laugh'a While You Can, Monkeyboy

You know, it's been bugging me for months just who Breitbart reminds me of.

It's only a matter of time before he slips up and refers to Obama as "Barackaroo," and then we'll know the truth.

Quote of the Day

"The Sherrod story is a reminder — much like the 2004 assault on John Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth — that the old media are often swayed by controversies pushed by the conservative new media. In many quarters of the old media, there is concern about not appearing liberally biased, so stories emanating from the right are given more weight and less scrutiny. Additionally, the conservative new media, particularly Fox News Channel and talk radio, are commercially successful, so the implicit logic followed by old-media decisionmakers is that if something is gaining currency in those precincts, it is a phenomenon that must be given attention. Most dangerously, conservative new media will often produce content that is so provocative and incendiary that the old media find it irresistible."

-- Time magazine's Mark Halperin (astonishingly), stating the incredibly obvious but rarely admitted

How many times have I specifically used the word "overcompensation" when talking about the supposed liberal media's treatment of politically divisive issues? Likewise, how many times have I said that the press has only one true bias: conflict?

(via Cesca and Media Matters)

Guest of Dishonor

Remember how I said that Breitbart wouldn't suffer one bit from the humiliation and castigation heaped on him by the general public following the Shirley Sherrod non-story?

I rest my case.

AP: GOP Invites Breitbart To Fundraiser/7.26.10

It was always pretty much guaranteed that Breitbart's stock with the Wingnut Nation wasn't going to drop, given that he never had any respectability to lose and it doesn't concern itself with things like reality anyway. But the fact that he continues to be embraced by the official Republican power structure is fucking repugnant. For the record, this is my issue with the modern GOP: It's not that I vehemently disagree with the fundamental principles Republicans believe in and therefore rail against them; it's that they make their party nothing more than a joke by willfully aligning themselves with the lowest common denominator and least credible on the right.

By welcoming Breitbart with open arms, they prove that the GOP and the dumb-ass fringe are basically one and the same.

Tuesday Is Recycling Day

Given that Ted Haggard has been back in the news lately -- now piously touting his born again again status as someone who overcame his demons through the Lord Jesus Christ and can now safely criticize the supposed witch hunt that led to his disgrace -- I figure it makes sense to bring back what I had to say when the Haggard gay-sex-meth scandal first broke.

"Sympathy for the Reverend" (Originally Published, 11.5.06)

A few years back, my wife and I, and one of our closest friends, undertook an adventure which wound up becoming one of the seminal events in each of our lives: We went on a three-week, cross-country road trip. We started in Miami, drove all the way out to Los Angeles, then back. During our journey, we stopped in several major cities -- New Orleans, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Vegas -- but also in the tiniest of tiny towns. It was during the time spent taking-in the smaller blips on the map that most of our fondest memories were created. From an entertaining conversation with a teenage check-out girl in Erick, Oklahoma -- one that involved my inability to understand the concept of grasshoppers stuck in the grill of our SUV -- to stumbling upon an impromptu dance by a group of Native American children in Holbrook, Arizona, to the purchase of a souvenir coconut head in Ocala, Florida, to a drunken 4th-of-July celebration in Odessa, Texas, the entire experience opened my eyes to the astonishing beauty of my homeland. It's something I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

We saw so many strikingly different kinds of terrain -- met so many wonderfully unique people.

As we pushed inward from the coast, into the heartland of America, we did, however, notice one particular image which seemed to assert itself inescapably everywhere we traveled (aside from Elvis, whose face -- thin or bloated -- adorns every kind of memoribilia imaginable from sea to shining sea).

That image is the cross.

You don't fully comprehend or appreciate America's unquestioning adoption of the Christian faith until you realize that a whole lot of people obviously believe there is no landscape so pristine or flawless in its own right as to avoid being improved upon by the insinuation of the ancient torture device on which Jesus was supposedly executed. Whether on a major highway or a lone, isolated road, crosses can be seen everywhere -- in all variations of shape and size. They are made of wood and stabbed into otherwise empty fields; they adorn the tops of steeples which dot the topography; and in the otherwise unremarkable roadside town of Britten, Texas -- they are made of corrugated steel, and literally pierce the sky at a height of 190 feet.

Needless to say, we had to stop.

My friend would later perfectly articulate the overwhelming sense that each of us had while standing in the shadow of a cross the size of a building. "The effect is fearsome and oppressive, a symbol not of love and acceptance and forgiveness, but of domination. Looking up at it, you expect to see a zeppelin moored to its top, illuminated by giant search lights," he'd write. My mind, on the other hand, couldn't shake a much more succinct term for what we were witnessing in the middle of the expansive Texas plains: Industrialized Jesus. We'd witnessed hundreds of franchises of Christianity throughout our journey and would no doubt witness many more still; this one just happened to be the biggest -- the Jesus Christ Super-Center.

After the requisite time necessary to fully document the giant cross on film -- on the chance that someone back home might not believe the existence of such an object -- we pressed on, continuing our southwestern route through the United States. This course, took us nowhere near Colorado Springs, Colorado -- a place which might have been a required destination should we for any reason have desired to see the true fulmination of the Industrialized Jesus concept. It's there that we would have found the New Life Church, a mammoth structure dubbed, with all possible lack of subtlety, a "Mega-Church." It seats thousands and could be mistaken for a shopping mall were it not for that ubiquitous cross making it perfectly clear that what's being sold inside is nothing less than salvation. Up until yesterday, it was also the religious seat of arguably the single most powerful Evangelical Christian in the country: the Reverend Ted Haggard.

Haggard is a man who has spent the past thirty-four years of his life preaching the gospel of Jesus and the unerrant truth of every aspect of the Bible. Recently, he was the leader of the 30-million-strong National Evangelical Association and a personal friend and advisor to President Bush -- even participating in weekly conference calls with the White House. He's also been, for some time now, a staunch opponent of gay-marriage and has worked tirelessly to support ballot amendments which would ban it in eight states this election day.

And that's exactly why, last Thursday, an openly-gay male escort publicly destroyed Reverend Ted Haggard.

What 49-year-old Mike Jones did was the figurative equivalent of an assassination: He calculated his actions perfectly and timed his shot to inflict maximum damage not simply to Haggard but to his cause. He claimed to have proof of a three-year affair with the reverend that included not just sex but regular use of methamphetamines. Before those who would certainly jump to the defense of Haggard could even get their talking points in order -- before the Rush Limbaughs of the world could power up a mic to cry election-year foul -- Jones disarmed them by admitting that political consideration was indeed integral to the timing of his attack; he wanted to expose the hypocrisy of Haggard and the demagogues on the right and specifically chose the moment that would hurt and disillusion them the most. The truth was -- and is -- simply staggering: the leader of America's Evangelical Christians, exposed as a gay drug-user.

Haggard initially denied the accusations, insisting that he hired Jones for a massage but never had sex with him and that he bought meth from him but threw it away. Although not quite as catchy, both retorts seem destined to become the new "I didn't inhale." Since then, however, Haggard has admitted to having a "lifelong sexual problem," telling his followers in a letter that he's a "deceiver and a liar," "sexually immoral," and that there is a part of his life which he calls "repulsive and dark."

That sound you hear right now is a whole lot of people gloating with satisfaction.

While the level of hypocrisy and arrogance involved in Haggard's private life versus his self-righteous public crusading is indeed sickening and indefensible -- and there is certainly plenty of legitimate nose-rubbing to be done to Haggard's many intolerant minions -- for some reason, after a reflexive moment of giddy schadenfreude, the news of this man's downfall and his own reaction to it began to stir a different emotion in me entirely.


Ted Haggard has spent most if not all of his existence living a lie and he's done so for only one reason: because his unwavering belief in the literal teachings of a 2000-year-old book has taught him that he must. There's a distinct possibility that the reason Haggard found Christ to begin with was because he sincerely hoped that through him all things were indeed possible -- the suppression of his true feelings and urges being the most pertintent of those things. There are thousands if not millions of Christians out there who hope for the same transformative power of religion. The enrollment in schools which the church claims can "straighten-out" homosexuals is proof of that hope; the success-rate of those schools is proof of its futility.

Many claim that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, does more good than harm; it gives meaning to life and provides its believers a moral compass with which to navigate the world.


Ted Haggard is married and has five children -- all of whom don't need to concern themselves with angry threats of an impending hell because they're going through it right now. The person they love and admire the most has devastated them, simply because he could never admit who or what he truly was and is -- because Ted Haggard the fire-and-brimstone preacher has always believed that the true nature of Ted Haggard the man is "immoral, repulsive and dark," when in fact, it is nothing of the kind; it's only the dishonesty that's immoral. A man's relentless submission to superstition has destroyed himself, the family he loves, and more than likely a small part of those who have respected him and held him up as an example.

The biggest tragedy, however, might be that Ted Haggard has wasted the one life he was given.

He's done it by lying to himself and by trying to convince others that they should do likewise.

For that I blame not the believer but the belief -- the same belief that would lead someone to plant a giant metal cross in the middle of a place that was so beautiful just the way it was.

Listening Post

It's one of life's great mysteries: why these guys aren't a household name.

Here's the Supreme Beings of Leisure -- The Mirror.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tom and Cherry

I have to believe that this is somehow a coordinated response to all the crap she's been getting lately -- as well a minor concession from Fox in the wake of it screwing up so royally with the whole Sherrod thing:

The Huffington Post: Fox News's Megyn Kelly Pushes Back Hard Against Tom Tancredo's Call for Obama Impeachment/7.26.10

What does it say, though, when it takes Tom Tancredo to make you appear reasonable? I mean, Jesus, he's really the perfect ideological tomato can to wheelchair out and let Kelly go a few rounds with, because the man is so ratshit crazy only the most psychotic among your audience will take umbrage at the fact that you're beating him up on national television. Tancredo's a pariah -- the Fred Phelps of politics. You'd have to be out of your mind to agree with him on just about anything.

Both Fox and Kelly know this, which is why it's not exactly daring or proof of some heretofore untapped reservoir of journalistic integrity that they're willing to call out a guy who's barely hanging on to reality on the fact that he's barely hanging on to reality.

By the way, while Tancredo may be a lunatic, don't think for a second that if the Republicans manage to retake the House in a few months they won't immediately begin moving to impeach President Obama. Cesca's been harping on this for quite a while, and he's absolutely right. Given the climate out there right now, the one they would ostensibly need to exploit in order to get elected, they would be beholden to the notion of forcing Obama out for any manner of ridiculous, completely made-up reasons. Think about all that indignant posturing and wasted taxpayer cash spent investigating one horseshit scandal after another during Clinton years, then multiply it by a thousand. Nothing else would get done. The government would basically grind to a halt, all so that they could, at best, blame Obama for failing to pass anything meaningful or beneficial for the country or, at worst, just try to push him out altogether.

Quote of the Day

"I always caution young people: Never post a naked photograph of yourself on the internet."

-- CNN anchor John Roberts, offering a bizarre and somewhat creepy confession, seemingly apropos of nothing, during an on-air conversation with fellow anchor and fiancée Kyra Phillips

You know, I couldn't help but be curious as to why Roberts felt the need to spend so much time in the very close company of the American Morning interns. Now I know he was simply steering them in the right direction -- teaching them important life lessons, if you will.

Listening Post

Happy Monday, worker bees. It can only get better from here.

This is Quietdrive's surprisingly entertaining cover of the Cyndi Lauper classic, Time After Time.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Sacrilege

From Tea Party Jesus, which puts quotes from modern-day conservative Christians into the mouth of Jesus.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday Morning Cartoons

From 1953, it's Tom and Jerry in Baby Butch.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thank You and Goodnight

Want to hear about a real scandal? Something truly newsworthy, as opposed to, say, editing a clip from a low-level government official talking about an event that happened long before she even worked for the government and touting it as evidence of widespread racism and corruption?

In 1976, a correspondent for CBS News who had been personally recruited by Edward R. Murrow received a file from a confidential source that detailed extensive illegal CIA and FBI activities. It was called the Pike Committee Report. When CBS reportedly refused to air the contents of the documents, the correspondent quietly leaked the file to the Village Voice, which then ran with the story. He was not only suspended by CBS for doing this; he was called before Congress and hectored to reveal his source -- which he refused to, asserting his First Amendment right as a member of the press.

He risked his career and his very freedom for something he believed in.

And in the end, he became known as one of journalism's elder statesmen because of the sort of courage and conviction it took to make that stand.

That man was Daniel Schorr -- who died this morning at the age of 93.

There are very few people in the news business who truly have earned the title of "legend." Daniel Schorr is unquestionably one of them.

So if you're out tonight, raise a glass to the man who read Nixon's now-infamous Enemies List live on network television -- only to find out that he was #17 on it.

Quote of the Day

"If anybody reads the sainted, martyred Sherrod’s entire speech, this person has not gotten past black vs. white."

-- Andrew Breitbart

Well, let's see, asshole -- despite your unethical attempt to distill it down to the point where its meaning would be twisted backwards, everyone has now read and seen the entire speech, and you're wrong. Not to mention the fact that you're the one who fucking martyred her in the first place.

Oh, and to quote the great philosopher Principal Vernon of Shermer High School -- I don't care what you think, Andrew.

Right and Wrong

David Frum has turned breaking ranks in the name of common sense into a point of personal pride, and he's of course paid dearly for it.

Here he asks the very necessary question, "Why is the conservative press not stomping Private Breitbart's guts out?" You know, rather than selectively editing out his and Fox News's role in the Sherrod mess, if you get my drift, and now making the story about how the Obama administration slipped on the banana peel the right-wing media inadvertently dropped on the ground in front of it.

The Week: "Shirley Sherrod and the Shame of the Conservative Media/7.21.10

The gist of it:

"You want to see media bias in action? Okay — look at the conservative media reaction to the firing of Shirley Sherrod... When people talk of the "closing of the conservative mind" this is what they mean: not that conservatives are more narrow-minded than other people — everybody can be narrow minded — but that conservatives have a unique capacity to ignore unwelcome fact."

By the way, he's right when he reiterates what any sane person should already know: Breitbart's going to come out of this thing totally unscathed, or at the very least no worse off than he was in legitimate circles before all this shit went down.

Here now, just for the hell of it, are the two columns from earlier this year that detail my own personal run-in with the always level-headed Breitbart: the piece I wrote that brought him inexplicably to my digital doorstep in the middle of the night, and my reaction to his decision to confront me.

"We Report, You've Already Decided" (Originally Published, 2.3.10)

I'm not sure there's been a story in recent memory that's better illustrated the unnavigable divide between the perspectives of the left and right than the whole James O'Keefe controversy -- especially when it comes to each side's opinion of the media. As far as the right is concerned, O'Keefe is a modern day folk hero, the conservative press's answer to Michael Moore and Bob Woodward and a guy whose efforts to rage against the liberal machine by way of supposedly capital-J journalism is deserving of a Pulitzer. To the left, meanwhile, O'Keefe is a joke -- a rich, dumb kid whose irrational hatred of progressives has tainted and compromised every "investigation" he's ever undertaken, culminating, of course, with his arrest following what seems to be a failed attempt to tamper with the phones at a Democratic senator's office.

The battle lines over O'Keefe are just about set in stone. He's essentially the Elian Gonzalez of the perpetually stalemated left-vs-right media war: Anybody who takes an interest in his case isn't likely to be indifferent to how the whole thing turns out.

Maybe that's why a couple of new reports about James O'Keefe, while mildly eyebrow-raising at face value, don't really amount to much in the great scheme of things -- simply because they're just not going to change anyone's already made-up mind. Today both Salon and the Washington Independent are reporting that O'Keefe attended and played a hands-on role in a conference in 2006 that hosted leading white nationalists -- basically putting O'Keefe in the direct company of racists and anti-Semites and implying that he may be one himself (or that he at least had issues with those who weren't white, Christian, Americans during his time as a campus Republican activist).

It's certainly true that more than a few of O'Keefe's stunts have seemed to specifically target minorities, but does that make him a racist or simply your average conservative -- given that issues like affirmative action and illegal immigration have traditionally been right-wing boogeymen -- and is there even a distinction to be drawn? There's just no way around the fact that a guy who refers to himself as "James O'Keefe III" on his Twitter profile and dresses in a faux-ghetto get-up -- what Real Time with Bill Maher's Chris Kelly humorously refers to as "Prescott, the Preppie Pimp" -- to dupe an urban outreach group is going to face some serious questions about his motives and mindset.

The problem, though, is that those who've already eagerly jumped to the defense of O'Keefe aren't going to be swayed from their beliefs; it would take the revelation that their hero wandered the streets of Lower Manhattan, Bateman-like, scooping homeless peoples' eyes out with a pen knife for them to possibly rethink their devotion -- and even then, the story would have to be reported by Andrew Breitbart himself for the right to even believe it was true. And that's the real point, and the real shame: The distrust between the two media factions is so toxic that each side simply discounts any negative press against it by the other as made-up mudslinging. The Fox and Breitbart people aren't going to give a good crap that Salon and the Washington Independent have uncovered what could be a history of racist behavior or sympathy on the part of James O'Keefe -- the same way the left was hardly willing to consider that O'Keefe may have been on to something when he targeted ACORN.

My opinion? Since he first entered the spotlight with a hell of a lot of fanfare, I've always pegged James O'Keefe as an arrogant and obnoxious little tool -- a modern young-conservative cliché in just about every way and damn sure not the brilliant investigative journalist he claims to be (for a whole host of very objective reasons). Much of this is why the notion that he has issues with minorities -- and that they seep liberally (no pun intended) into his advocacy -- doesn't faze me in the least because I can't say that I didn't expect it. But I'm willing to concede that the very fact that I feel this way is likely part of the problem.

I do my best to keep an open mind these days, but if they have their way, the echo chambers and spin merchants on both sides of any politically charged story will be happy to reach a conclusion for me -- do the heavy lifting so I don't have to. And the noise they're pumping out is so loud that you, literally, can't hear yourself think anymore -- which is probably the idea.

So James O'Keefe may have broken bread with racists and anti-Semites. The people who hate him won't be shocked and the people who worship him won't believe it or won't care. And if no one's really listening, it makes you wonder if it's even worth reporting at all.

"The Notorious 'Big'" (Originally Published, 2.4.10)

I have a new BFF.

This morning at 3:13am, I got an email from Andrew Breitbart.

Let's go to the video:

[Title] do you care that okeefe as racist meme is built on bed of lies?

less than a week after same media suffered devastating exposure that 'watergate jr' wasnt and the media that ignored acorn was at forefront of a preposterous rush to judgement?

yet, i have to be a one-man correction cudgel because the press grants james less fairness than any gitmo detainee or al qaeda pantybomber.

you're insinuation that james is a racist is equally egregious: does it ever dawn on you that we conservatives can't fathom how lefties can't see how horrible their social policies have turned out to be for poor and minorities. explore for one minute the implications of what are found on the acorn tapes: almost every employee is SKILLED at helping unqualified people hooked on complicated government run systems like welfare, creating 501C3s as fronts, explaining how to skirt the tax codes, even getting underaged illegal immigrant prostitutes set up as dependents.

james' planned parenthood tapes, similarly, attempt to show how the media narrative is a false one, driven by 'morally superior ' types who think the group is simply good and unquestionably benevolent. a simple google search will show that the group has a racist past and the amount of black fetuses killed since roe is far greater than that of whites.

can james at least not have the opinion that abortion and abortionists are bad and that the philosophy behind PP'a origin in the US is filled with Margaret Sanger and a racist and Eugenics background?

james fucks with liberal narratives. and they can't take it. i am gleeful he has found me. what an historic innovator. i'm sure you and the rest of the town elders will vote that he and his friends can't dance. but i promise you the futre won't be stopped by john lithgow & co this time.


Got all that?

It's kind of unfortunate that it would be so easy to summarily dismiss Breitbart's jumbled words as nothing more than the poorly thought-out product of late-night exhaustion or, seemingly, a hell of a lot to drink. It'd be equally simple to go almost line-by-line and either refute his incoherent arguments -- beginning with the claim that I essentially called James O'Keefe a racist, which I didn't -- or point out how quite a few of them only hold water if you believe that the media have banded together to gang up on conservatives and ensure that they never get a fair shake, which I don't at all. Thing is, it's that very distinction in how the left and right view the media that led me to write yesterday's quickie piece about O'Keefe -- the one Breitbart was commenting on -- to begin with.

My point yesterday was that political coverage may still be important on the surface, because it's true that an informed electorate is a strong electorate, but the partisan voices have become so powerful that it's almost impossible to discern the truth above all the noise. What's more, tainted advocacy journalism has become prevalent to the point where no one needs to bother seeking out an opinion that differs from his or her own anymore. As a nation, we're so fucking divided politically, with each side in possession of its own bullhorn, that there's rarely any common ground for the two sides to meet on because there doesn't need to be any; the left and right have their respective sets of "facts" and that informs their intransigent worldviews. Now more than ever, it's possible to work backward from the conclusion you want to reach and make the details fit that end: Believe progressive America can do no wrong? Watch Olbermann. Think only the Tea Partiers can save this country but the liberal media refuses to report it? Watch Fox -- or read Breitbart.

The problem is that guys like Breitbart assume the role of angry paranoiacs; the entire reason for their entry into the media echo chamber is supposedly to be a single candle against the near-total darkness of the liberal press. Breitbart believes that just about all media are slanted to the left and therefore out to get conservatives in any way they can. This is a fun little parlor trick and justifies all kinds of lapses in logic: All Breitbart has to do to refute bad press about him or the political stances he happens to take is to ask his readers to "consider the source." It's utter horseshit as an argument, but it's music to the ears of the rabid partisan crowd, who go to his site specifically to have their biases confirmed and wouldn't accept a contrary assertion if it came wrapped up with a bow.

If you need proof of this, look no further than Breitbart's response to the Salon and Washington Independent pieces dealing with James O'Keefe's supposed attendance of a 2006 conference that hosted white nationalists. For the past 24 hours -- through his website, his Twitter page and, apparently, email -- he's been on a fucking talking points rampage. A post on Breitbart's amusingly misnomered "Big Journalism" site takes aim at Max Blumenthal, author of the Salon piece, for, among other things, being Max Blumenthal. The post's author identifies Blumenthal as the son of a "Clinton apparatchik", which is all Breitbart's readership needs to hear to understand that he's not to be trusted. The post goes on to call the stories about O'Keefe proof of "how the left distorts, invents and lies." Ad hominem attacks are par for the course in the ridiculous Kabuki theater that passes for political discourse these days, but what makes the Breitbart piece by Larry O'Connor especially flagrant in its lack of adherence to the basic standards of honest journalism is its acceptance of O'Keefe's own take on events as being somehow above reproach.

Read this and try not to laugh:

"...Here at Big Journalism we think it’s a good idea to actually seek the truth.

So we spoke with James O’Keefe today. This is what he tells us:

He was not 'manning a table' at the event
He was not involved with the organization or operations of the event.
He attended the event with many of his Leadership Institute co-workers since it was
right across the street from their building in Arlington, Va., and it was organized by other LI associates.
The organizer who is being called a 'White Supremacist' is half Jewish and half Korean.
One of the panelist was an African-American named Kevin Martin.
The event was forced to move to a Georgetown University building in Arlington, not at a cross-burning.

We know all this because we called Mr. O’Keefe and asked him. Which is more than other media outlets have done."

Well, that settles it then.

I'm by no means comparing James O'Keefe to a criminal, but imagine the police dragging the suspect in an investigation in for questioning, then upon hearing that suspect say, "Nope, I had nothing to do with it," releasing him, satisfied that he was telling the truth. In order for something like that to happen, you'd have to believe the guy wasn't guilty to begin with and reverse engineer your investigation -- which is exactly the stance Breitbart's site is taking and what it's doing. The problem is that true journalists are like police officers. They dispassionately pursue the facts. They may chase down leads they believe strongly in, but if those leads don't pan out they don't make shit up just to get a collar (at least not in theory). They have an obligation to the truth.

There's a difference between the brand of journalism trumpeted by Breitbart and O'Keefe -- "Big" journalism, I guess -- and that practiced by those who at the very least try to remain objective about the issues they're covering. Which do you think, just at face value, would be more trustworthy?

For the record, what Larry O'Connor was complaining about in the piece on Breitbart's site -- that Max Blumenthal supposedly didn't try to contact James O'Keefe for comment -- is being contested by Blumenthal himself today. He says he did in fact reach out to O'Keefe but got no response. Maybe if O'Keefe had been on Blumenthal's payroll he would've had as little trouble getting the subject of his article on the phone as Breitbart's people did after the fact. This may seem like a cheap shot, but it can't be a coincidence that O'Keefe has generally turned only to friendly outlets -- the ones guaranteed not to hardball him -- when he wants to make a statement or answer questions about his arrest or the various controversies surrounding him. Like Sarah Palin, he knows full well that these days there's no need to suffer through an adversarial interview when his side has its own state-approved media megaphone and all he needs is for the already apostolic to believe and support him for everything to be okay. Besides, any agent of the press who would ask him tough questions about his behavior is simply in league with the enemy anyway.

This is the way Breitbart thinks. The way he, not coincidentally, accuses the left of thinking (and which Eric Boehlert of Media Matters occasionally helps fuel by getting into ugly internet pissing matches with him). As it turns out, each extreme is right about how wrong the other is -- which makes each each extreme more than a little hypocritical. Where Breitbart goes completely off the rails -- besides simply his shoddy journalism, and that's a pretty objective assessment -- is in his demonization of almost all media, his belief in the giant liberal media conspiracy. That's just fucking crazy.

But not as crazy as ending a 3:30am email to a complete stranger with a Footloose reference.

Footloose? Really?

Listening Post

Ah, remember when techno was supposed to take over the world? It didn't, but the Crystal Method's Vegas album is still a benchmark in the genre.

And I still love this song.

Here's Busy Child.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quote of the Day

"We here at Studio B did not run the video and did not reference the story in any way for many reasons, among them: we didn't know who shot it, we didn't know when it was shot, we didn't know the context of the statement, and because of the history of the videos on the site where it was posted, in short we do not and did not trust the source... An edited videotape on a widely discredited website that has had inaccurate postings of videos in the past, edited to the point where the world was deceived... What in the world has happened to our industry and the White House? How can they lead and govern if what they're worried about is something that happens on a cable news channel that they've already said doesn't matter?"

-- Shepard Smith on Fox News yesterday, talking about the Shirley Sherrod debacle

Listening Post

From one of my favorite albums of the last year or so, here's the latest single from the xx.

This is Islands.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Trust Exercise

Credit where credit is due: CNN has absolutely owned the Sherrod story, and in doing so helped to change the course of it for the better.

Gibbs just gave a White House press briefing where he said that Tom Vilsack is trying to get a hold of Sherrod to personally apologize to her -- and she's sitting live on CNN's set watching the whole thing.

Bravo, guys.

We Distort, You Abide

I'll make this really quick.

Rachel Maddow mentioned this last night on her show, and it's a really great point to make and hammer home: Fox News bears much more of the blame in the Shirley Sherrod debacle than Andrew Breitbart does. Breitbart's a showman, a professional provocateur; it's expected that he'll chomp on a potentially incendiary item like a bass, without taking the time to consider things like context, ramifications, etc. He's in the business of throwing raw meat to the dogs and has made it clear that he's not willing to play by the rules (which can be translated into: he's not willing to be the least bit responsible and fuck you if you ask him to).

But Fox? Despite what we all know about Fox News, it still bills itself as a reputable news organization, one with an enormous microphone and a hell of a large cable audience. It not only tips its hand to the fact that it accepts that it's expected to be a respectable outlet by constantly hyping how "fair and balanced" it supposedly is -- it also pushes its willingness to break and perpetuate stories other networks haven't as proof of its responsibility to the public. After it aired what from the onset appeared to be a conspicuously misleading clip of Sherrod spouting racist rhetoric, it took Bill O'Reilly less than eight hours to declare openly that the "scoop" was proof of Fox's television news dominance. But it wasn't. Fox now has egg on its face -- egg that it wouldn't be scraping off today if it had behaved the way any responsible news outlet is expected to behave. If it hadn't put the rabid drive to claim a partisan scalp and score political points above being fucking journalists.

As Maddow said, this is why the White House was right when it argued months ago that Fox News shouldn't be treated like a normal news organization. Because it's obviously anything but.

Quote of the Day

"Context is everything."

-- The now hilariously ironic first three words of the story on Breitbart's "Big Government" site that set off the Shirley Sherrod controversy, the one that's now blown up squarely in Breitbart's face

The Huffington Post: From Glenn Beck To NAACP, Shirley Sherrod Defended by Diverse Coalition; USDA Considering Reinstating Her/7.21.10

National Review Online: Jonah Goldberg Says Breitbart Should Apologize To Sherrod/7.21.10

So, what have we learned, kids:

Listening Post

A gloriously audacious cover of a song that was spectacular to begin with, and a video that's easily one of the best of the year so far.

From his upcoming solo album, this is Cee Lo Green doing Band of Horses' No One's Gonna Love You.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bonus Quote of the Day

"With regard to the initial media coverage of the resignation of USDA official Shirley Sherrod, we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias."

-- NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, following the forced resignation of Shirley Sherrod and the revelation that the recorded comments by her which led to it were selectively edited to appear more damning than they actually were

You know, the USDA really should've considered the source of the clip in question before it knee-jerked Sherrod right out of a job. Remember, Breitbart's last videotaped bombshell turned out to be almost 100% horseshit. A flat-out hoax. The government owes this woman an apology, given what we've learned over the past 24-hours (and kudos to CNN for putting Sherrod and the farmers she was referring to on the tape live on the air together this morning so that those supposedly aggrieved white people could sing their tormentor's praises -- and basically dump all over Breitbart's piss-poor argument on national television).

But still -- snookered?

(Adding: Incidentally, this is what I meant when I talked about allowing the right-wing feedback loop to drive the story -- to bully otherwise thoughtful and intelligent media outlets into reacting with the same kind of contrived outrage that the partisan extremes do. It's shocking when you consider that, despite his terrible track record, all Breitbart had to do was slap a quick, poorly contextualized clip up on his site and stand back. He knew the mainstream press's Liberal Media Bias Accusation Alarm would cause it to wet its collective pants and instinctively jump on the bandwagon and begin shouting for the head of whomever the right claimed was the enemy. The really awful thing, though? That Breitbart is already using the same monkey-shit dodge he did when the O'Keefe tapes fell apart. He's now feigning ignorance -- claiming that he never saw the rest of the recording that would seem to exonerate Shirley Sherrod. So, if you believe him, Breitbart -- remember, the future of journalism -- just throws something up on the internet having no clue what the fuck it really is, makes up a narrative, lets the ravenous Neanderthals who worship him fill in the blanks, and voila! suddenly he's got established journalists who should know better jumping through hoops. Oh yeah, and some poor lady who probably didn't do a damn thing wrong is out of a job thanks to the crowd of pitchfork-wielding knee-jerks indignantly demanding blood all over cable TV. God bless America.)

Quote of the Day

"The only ones who are gonna lose any dignity are the cops when Lindsay gets turned on, licks her fingers, runs her hands between her legs and says something about her 'honey pot.'"

-- Brendon at What Would Tyler Durden Do, on the potential indignity of Lindsay Lohan being strip-searched upon her arrival at the Los Angeles County Women's Jail

Fox and the Hounding

Here we go again.

There's a headline over at the Huffington Post right now that made me do a double take and immediately check to see if it was something that had been filed under the site's comedy banner; it just felt -- and feels -- too much like the kind of dead-on satire I'd expect from Andy Borowitz. Or maybe the staff of The Onion.

It reads: "Bob Scheiffer Defends Himself Against Fox News on New Black Panthers Story."

See what I mean?

I missed CNN's Reliable Sources over the weekend, mostly because I reached my yearly recommended dosage of Howie Kurtz somewhere back around mid-February, but apparently Scheiffer felt as if he needed to address accusations being hurled at him in the wake of a sit-down he did with Attorney General Eric Holder. At issue is the fact that at no point during that interview did he hammer Holder about a 2008 case in which a couple of members of the so-called New Black Panther Party, one carrying a nightstick, reportedly stood around a polling place in a predominantly black area of Philadelphia and eventually had to be escorted off the property by police. The DOJ went on to file a federal injunction against one of the two -- the guy with the stick -- but wound up dropping it because it determined that there wasn't enough to the case to make it worth pursuing.

And that's where things get sticky. And by sticky, I mean predictably dumb.

Conservative media, particularly Fox News, have finally picked up on the item and are trumpeting it as another example of President Obama's Machiavellian hand silently pulling strings behind the scenes to protect those groups who might have helped steer votes in his direction during the 2008 race for the White House. If this sounds familiar, that's because you've heard it before -- back when it was known as "The ACORN Scandal." If you can't immediately see what the members of the New Black Panther Party and the people who were generally helped out by ACORN have in common, you need to have your eyes checked.

For the record, the New Black Panther Party is a fringe group that's actually been denounced by the original Black Panthers. Its leader, the artist formerly known as Paris Lewis who now goes by the amusingly generic hyper-African moniker "Dr. Malik Zulu Shabazz," is the kind of clownish caricature Fox News loves to trot out at regular intervals. This is because he's guaranteed to say something mindlessly inflammatory that will scare the hell out of the network's demographic of lily-white, middle-American doofs, confirming all their worst fears about the encroaching negro threat. As former Washington Post columnist Dave Weigel beautifully put it, Shabazz is to Bill O'Reilly what the KKK or GG Allin was to Donahue: Somebody who makes for great TV and whom your core audience can feel comfortable disliking intensely.

If you haven't been watching Fox News lately -- and I can't in good conscience suggest that you do -- the Panthers "story" has been obsessively, breathlessly beaten into the ground by one network personality in particular: Megyn Kelly. She's taken it upon herself, bless her little heart, to be the avatar for every freaked-the-fuck-out white Christian soul convinced that he or she is losing this great country to minorities or illegal immigrants or whatever, and that it all started with the election of the Great Kenyan Socialist Usurper. She's like Elisabeth Hasselbeck with an actual associate's degree and a shit-ton more professional ambition. Kelly is Fox's rising star du jour, even going so far as to get an official canonization from none other than Sarah Palin via her overworked Twitter feed -- and the reason for this is that she knows exactly when to crinkle her face into that lemon-sucking look of smug skepticism, and just what buttons to press and what open-ended questions to ask of her viewers.

And so she's harped on the New Black Panthers meme with stalker-like intensity -- and with the full understanding that it's good for the network and therefore good for her career. Which is what caused her to "call out" Bob Scheiffer for supposedly shirking his journalistic duty by not asking the tough questions about the New Black Panthers bombshell when he had the chance.

Pay attention to enough partisan media these days -- particularly on the conservative side, only because it has the largest megaphone in Fox News and the most impressive bullpen of bullies -- and the patterns among the chaos really begin to stand out. As with ACORN, which was always a mostly bullshit story, the right created a controversy out of thin air, amplified and advanced that contrived controversy, and now is engaging in indignant political theater by pretending to give a damn that no one outside the echo chamber cares about the controversy it's made deafening inside the echo chamber. The problem, of course, is that thanks to its typical spinelessness in the face of any accusation of a liberal bias, the rest of the press is more than happy to let itself be suckered into the right's vortex of largely fact-free crazy. The mainstream media allow themselves to be talked into seeing the same ghosts that Fox News is trying to scare the hell out of its audience with.

That's what makes it so painful to watch Bob Scheiffer (a titan of the network news business whose reputation is just about bulletproof) feel like he has to answer to allegations made by Megyn Kelly (a yapping chihuahua who wouldn't know journalism if it came in a bottle of peroxide).

The New Black Panthers Party "story" isn't a story at all -- certainly not as Fox News is selling it. It's a Southern Strategy dog whistle designed to rile up more fear in an already angry and frightened white America. It's one racist tool with a nightstick being used to confirm the inflexibly entrenched suspicions of a good number of other racist tools.

But as long as credible guys like Bob Scheiffer allow Fox News and Megyn Kelly to set the narrative -- to browbeat them into submission, into having to defend their own news judgment -- this kind of thing is going to happen again and again. Kelly isn't pushing the Panthers meme because she believes it's an important story; she's doing it because she knows it's exactly what her viewers want to hear, believe anyway, and will never be convinced otherwise of.

Which means that any attempt by the media to indulge it will not only play directly into Fox and Kelly's hand, furthering each's goal, it won't win them one convert from the audience it's unnecessarily attempting to defer to.

Bars Tab

So, anybody wanna take the action on Lindsay?

Bets on whether she actually shows up for her stint in jail today?

Listening Post

It may seem an ironic choice, but maybe that's the point: Following 9/11, when I first arrived in New York City, this is one of those songs I listened to quite a bit. To this day, it somehow always makes me feel a little better.

Here's Incubus -- Wish You Were Here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Brightness Falls

For those of you who live under the misguided assumption that a lack of book learnin' is something relegated mostly to the flyovers and Central Florida -- take a second to marvel at how half of these places are in California.

If you've ever driven even 40 miles or so east from, say, the Pacific Coast Highway, this will come as no of surprise to you at all.

The Huffington Post: The LEAST Educated Cities in America/7.19.10

Graditude Adjustment

Just wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who was kind enough to contribute during our little Summer Pledge Drive.

The fact that people enjoy my idiotic ramblings enough to actually throw a few dollars -- and in some cases, a lot more than a few -- toward keeping them coming is just astonishing to me.

So really, thank you -- and to show my appreciation, here's a photo of a beagle puppy. Because who doesn't like beagle puppies?

Choose Wisely

You know, what with the latest addition to Sarah Palin's impressive pantheon of really fucking stupid comments -- namely her defense of just making up words as she goes -- I thought I'd dip into the archive and find something I wrote way back in September of '08, during the closing days of the presidential campaign.

With midterms approaching and the talk of the 2012 White House race already ramping up -- I think this sentiment bears repeating:

"And this is what it's come down to. They've drawn the battle lines and all that's left now is for the rest of us to choose which side we're on -- because they've seen to it that there is no middle-ground.

You're with us or you're with the idiots.

You're smart or stupid.

You either want your leaders to use their brains or you align yourself with the ones who would play the role of the dumb jocks mocking those who dare to think as being a bunch of effete wimps who can't be trusted.

You vote for great minds or for people who don't just devalue great minds but demonize them.

Sarah Palin was right about one thing last night: This is a battle for survival, but defeat doesn't mean death -- it means dumb.

I don't know about you, but I don't want the two most powerful people in the free world to be a couple of folks I'd just like to sit down and have a beer with; I want them to be fucking super heroes -- sharper, stronger and wiser than I could ever hope to be. They have the weight of the world on their shoulders; I want to never have to worry that they won't be able to carry it.

But that's my choice.

Now it's your turn.

Where do you stand?"


Quote of the Day

"‘Refudiate,’ ‘misunderestimate,’ ‘wee-wee’d up.’ English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!"

-- Sarah Palin via Twitter, defending her ongoing use of words that don't actually exist

Over the weekend, she used Twitter to call on "peaceful Muslims" to "pls refudiate" acts of terrorism like the one that brought down the World Trade Center.

Yes, Sarah, you ignorant buffoon -- the English language is a living thing.

And you're fucking killing it.

Listening Post

Back to the grind with you, gerbils.

Here's the latest Paramore single. This is Careful.

Dream Big

Believe the hype -- Inception is just bloody fantastic.

The New York Times: Inception Exceeds Box Office Dreams/7.19.10

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Love Is a Battlefield

I don't write about my personal life very much anymore. Because of this, there are times that I feel like the heart has gone out of the material I publish here -- that there's nothing left to my occasionally literate thoughts but a reflection of the more mechanized aspects of my personality. I don't believe in the things I used to -- I don't feel the way I once did -- so I can't write with the same kind of passion that I did for so long. I'm not coming from that hard-earned, rarified place of relative peace and contentment these days, which means that almost anything I say that isn't strictly perfunctory will have to work its way upward from a pit that's better off not being seen or heard from.

The following piece was written back in March of 2007. It was always one of Jayne's favorites, for obvious reasons. Being forced to look back on it now is difficult in ways I can't properly describe. I miss feeling this way. I miss who I used to be and how I much I cared for my wife. I miss being in love.

"Bulletproof Hearts" (Originally Published, 3.25.07)

I don't function very well without my wife. Though I have no doubt that many would view this as an opportunity to lecture me on the gathering storm of inevitable co-dependency, I actually believe it to be somewhat quaint and -- in my case -- a damn nice about-face from a past that's overflowing with positively atrocious behavior. Unfortunately, this simple truth means that when Jayne and I are apart for extended periods, I find myself oddly disoriented -- unsure of what the hell to do or how to do it.

Case in point: She's gone right now -- away at a conference for two days -- and I've probably opened and closed the refigerator door ten times without actually removing anything. I just stand there vacantly staring into it as if expecting the margarine to stand up and begin explaining string-theory to me. So far at least, it's failed to do so and thus the mysteries of the universe remain just that: mysteries.

I admit to having the monotony broken a short time ago by one of the more maddening quirks of the apartment in which my wife and I pay an unforgivable amount of money to live. Our intercom system -- the one which lets us know that any manner of small, non-English-speaking persons has arrived with our food delivery and would now very much like to be buzzed in -- creates a sound that rivals a jackhammer in volume and ability to irritate. This would be little more than a minor inconvenience if not for the fact that the button tends to get stuck, which means that if we can't explain the situation to the person six floors below -- and this is where the whole non-English-speaking thing becomes a pitfall -- one of us will be forced to go downstairs and unstick the button while simultaneously stifling the urge to beat the utterly confused bastard at the door into a coma.

It's even more annoying when someone walks by and hits the button just for the hell of it.

Having not ordered food -- I'm still determined to allow my refrigerator the time it apparently needs to show some initiative and suggest something worthwhile -- I assumed that one of these phantoms was the culprit when the jackhammer unexpectedly went off in my apartment a half-hour or so ago. As is typical, I swore loudly then put on my shoes and took the elevator down to the street level. When I threw the front door open in a rage, standing there, a few feet from it, was a small Asian man with a messenger bag slung over his shoulder.

"Did you hit 6C?" I barked.

He returned a look that I recognized; it was the same one my dog used to make when he had recently come to the conclusion that my couch didn't meet the required level of canine fecal matter necessary to be considered truly tasteful.

"No -- no," he returned, looking anywhere but directly at me.

I huffed, fixed the button and went back upstairs.

A few minutes later, I was making yet another trek to the refrigerator when I noticed a white leaflet on the floor directly in front of my apartment door. It was then of course that the full breadth of Fu Manchu's nefarious plot became clear: He had basically just punched a bunch of buttons until somebody finally let him in, then he littered our building with restaurant fliers.

Normally this would've been thorougly infuriating. And it was -- until I picked up the flier and took a look at it.

It was relatively unassuming -- the latest in an infinitude of Chinese restaurant menus my wife and I find under our door. This one, however, featured in bold lettering what has to be the best blurb in the history of promotion -- an endorsement so impressive that it no doubt has the Zagat and Michelin people contemplating a change of career.

It read simply:

"The best Chinese food I never try it before!"
-- Said by many customer

And with that, all was forgiven.

After a quick internal debate over whether or not my mastery of the English language was strong enough to become one of the restaurant's "many customer," I threw the menu away and went back to the refrigerator. Still no string-theory.

I'm loathe to admit it, but years ago I likely would've looked upon this sort of reprieve from a current relationship as an opportunity to, at most, fool around with someone other than my partner or, at the very least, masturbate in every room of the house. The former is out of the question these days because I'm very much in love with my wife, the latter simply because, A) my sex drive isn't quite what it used to be since undergoing brain surgery last year, and B) I live in New York City, which means that there's only one room in my residence to speak of; any attempt to vary my masturbatory patterns would be sorely lacking in creativity. Instead, I willingly turn my attention to a combination of writing and mental preparation for tonight's season finale of Battlestar Galactica.

Oh yeah, and watching Blood Diamond again.

I say again because my wife and I curled up on the couch last night and watched it together -- each of us enjoying the movie quite a bit, which is what led me to make the rare commitment to a second viewing. In addition to being a disturbing and wholly necessary tutorial on both the reality of the diamond trade and the brutality of the constant political upheaval in Africa -- upheaval which goes largely ignored by many here in the states -- it boasts excellent performances from its lead actors. Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou are each phenomenal and unquestioningly deserved their respective Oscar nominations; Jennifer Connolly manages to capture the enigmatic quality -- equal parts seductive and repellent -- that drives someone to willingly and consistently travel to the worst places on the planet and risk his or her life in pursuit of the news.

I'm very familiar with this quality -- I've had plenty of personal experience with it -- and yet it remains "enigmatic" simply because I have yet to fully understand it, and I'm not alone in this nescience. I know this, however: It's very easy to fall in love with; it is almost impossible to live with.

A couple of weeks back, I left the insular quiet of the Upper East Side and hopped a cab down to, quite literally, my neighborhood's polar opposite -- the Lower East Side. I had been invited to a small party by one of my co-workers and relished the chance to spend a little time engaging in a ritual which long ago became foreign to me: drinking and complaining about the business. Before I even left my apartment, the party already had the distinction of being the first social event I'd be attending in years without Jayne on my arm. (She wasn't feeling great and had decided to sit this one out.) When I arrived, I quickly realized that the gathering was unusual for an entirely different reason: In attendance were reporters and producers from several networks' Baghdad crews, all of whom were not only familiar with my ex-wife, but had shared the kind of indescribable, singular intimacy with her that can only come from dodging mortar rounds together for extended periods of time.

They knew everything there was to know about her -- which meant that they almost surely knew everything there was to know about me.

A quick history lesson: My ex-wife and I were the worst couple imaginable.

Each of us was insanely passionate, notoriously short-fused and brutally caustic. Like many couples whose individual partners share combustive characteristics, we created a volatile mixture which simmered for quite some time before finally exploding altogether. It's only in hindsight, however, that our most indomitable shared trait becomes clear: Neither of us was willing to accept that we were exactly the same. Neither wanted to admit to having the same negative personality traits as the other; it was easier to just blame each other and be done with it. I needed an escape, so I did drugs; she had looked for an escape from the beginning, so she subconsciously pushed me away. I was selfish and irresponsible -- constantly looking for something more, while trying to keep the status quo; she insisted on keeping the status quo solely out of obligation, while constantly craving something more. We both loved strongly, but neither of us would truly commit. We were each flawed in ways neither was willing to discuss or possibly even admit to. Our relationship never should've lasted more than a month at the most; we were foolish for trying to turn it into a lifetime.

The most common word I've heard used to describe my ex-wife is "rigid." She's indeed tough-as-nails -- exuding a masculine sexuality and drive that makes her enticing in a way that seems almost preternatural. It's likely always made her an object of infatuation to those who perceive the idea of taming her to be the ultimate challenge. I have no doubt that it's the progenitor of this kind of rough-and-tumble bravado which drove her to take a job as a network field producer. What that progenitor is, I have my suspicions.

Back to the party. It was about an hour after my arrival that it became clear to the Baghdad people just who I was.

The reaction was, well --

"YOU'RE CHEZ?" one woman practically screamed, with equal parts shock and bemusement -- immediately calling the others over so that they too could get a look at the circus freak.

I just smiled and nodded in resignation.

Yes, yes -- it's me -- THAT GUY. The asshole -- in the flesh. Thanks for coming; please take care of your bartender and waitresses.

I was almost sorry I didn't have a pedestal handy.

Understand, it's one thing to have an unseemly past -- one in which you regret nearly everything you did and didn't do; it's something else entirely to meet people for the first time who already know every repugnant detail -- every rotten secret -- from that past. Disconcerting doesn't even begin to cover it.

For the next half-hour or so, I did my best to keep the conversation upbeat -- despite the knowledge that I had already been judged and convicted and now stood before my ex-wife's co-workers as exposed and vulnerable as the day I'd been born. I spoke highly of my former love. I spoke truthfully about my own mistakes -- my search for a measure of redemption -- and my recent successes and newfound happiness. I spoke honestly about my love for Jayne and the strength of our relationship. I smiled a lot and did my best to take the whole uncomfortable situation in stride.

I learned that my ex-wife is now dating a photographer who works with her. In fact, one noticeably strange moment came when someone actually suggested calling my ex, right there and then, and putting me on the phone. Another woman quickly dismissed the idea, intimating that it would upset the current boyfriend. Admittedly, the possibility that I might be perceived as a threat was something that I turned over in my mind for a few minutes, curious as to whether my memory existed as some sort of specter in my ex's life -- confused at this thought, given her abrupt and unequivocal exit from our relationship.

After awhile, the garrulity turned toward another topic and I was left to drink my beer in relative peace. Thankfully, my inquisition at the hands of the Babes of Baghdad was quickly followed by a quiet conversation with the host of the party -- my co-worker. She's a cool, sweet, funny, smart and attractive twenty-five-year-old with whom I've forged an odd little bond recently. This was initially due to the fact that she'd been unlucky enough to fall hard for an overseas field producer herself, and was facing the same obstacles and difficulties I had once faced in dealing with that particular personality type.

I offered an opinion or two -- refusing to lecture -- confident in the belief that she's doing just fine figuring it out on her own.

Discussing it with her, however, had a surprising affect on me; it helped me to at least better understand what years ago was so torturously incomprehensible. I listened to what was happening to my friend and I recognized the behavior immediately. The man she cared about sought solace in her arms, but was never fully there; his passion was alluring and consuming -- but also fleeting; despite the trappings of adulthood -- particularly the dangerous, important job -- he was, in reality, little more than a selfish child.

It all finally added up.

"Baghdad" isn't merely a place -- not for people like the man who has my friend's heart; not for people like the woman who once had mine -- it's an idea. It's where you run to when bullets and bombs don't terrify you but commitment to another human being and the very thought of an ordinary life does. It's where everything is transient, nothing lasts, and caprice is not only accepted but rewarded; rationalized as an unavoidable by-product of the job; in actuality, the very reason the job held such appeal in the first place.

The progenitor, the root of this very specific brand of adrenaline high nomadism that I mentioned earlier: fear.

Fear of never being able to lead a quiet life; fear of becoming restless and unwittingly hurting someone who loves you; fear of failure.

The job becomes the perfect excuse for never having to take on that most daunting yet rewarding of life's responsibilities: the care of a human heart.

About two-thirds of the way through Blood Diamond, Leonardo DiCaprio's character asks Jennifer Connolly's why she does what she does -- why she puts herself in the line of fire time and time again. He asks if she's a thrill-seeker; she responds, "Three out of four ex-boyfriends say that I'm not happy unless my life is in a constant state of crisis."

At least one ex-husband understands, and he's happy not to be a part of it anymore.

He's grateful, though, for the learning experience -- and even more grateful for what's come into his life since.

(Update: Obviously, the ex-wife to which I was referring in this piece is the woman readers of Dead Star Twilight now know as Kara. She went on to marry the photographer she was dating at the time this was written. They have a beautiful new baby boy together. My friend, the one who threw the party, is also pregnant and engaged. Me? Well, we know what happened to me.)

Sunday Sacrilege

I've watched this a few times now and it gets a little more surreal with each viewing. I'm not sure what the more fascinating aspect of it is -- that he's hawking siding, windows and roofing while preaching conservative Christian values and an end to "secular socialism" or the fact that evangelicals are so arrogant in their moral certitude that they feel they can use their faith as a selling point. I mean, you'd never hear a Zen Buddhist or, perish the thought, an atheist telling a TV audience that it should buy his crap because he knows what's right for America and has the ticket to the hereafter.

By the way, if you want to make this really entertaining -- watch it while simultaneously playing GG Allin on your computer.

(via Christian Nightmares)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday Morning Cartoons

One of the greats. From 1955, it's Beanstalk Bunny.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Urine Luck

Why am I so oddly aroused by this?

The Huffington Post: Ellen Page Talks About Peeing/7.16.10

Levi & Bristol + Loaded Pistol

Of course.

TMZ: Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston Shopping Multiple Reality Shows/7.16.10

The meta-Mobius strip is just dizzying at this point.

Wonder Twin Powers

Consider this the "The Olsens: The Special Edition" -- a slightly updated version of a mildly amusing bit that hasn't seen the main page in a very long time.

"Who Ya Gonna Call?" (Originally Published, 1.24.08)



(Fade up from black to slow dissolves of various pix of Heath Ledger, opening strains of Coldplay's "Fix You" can be heard. Dissolve to shot of makeshift memorial outside Ledger's SoHo apartment. Mary-Kate Olsen walks into the frame.)

Hi, I'm Mary-Kate Olsen. You may remember me from New York Minute, Full House, those late-night masturbation sessions you tell yourself never happened, or maybe a couple of Anorexics Anonymous meetings in that grubby little church at the corner of Fairfax and Fountain, if that was, you know, your thing.

My point is, you probably wouldn't think of me and my sister Ashley as the kind of girls you'd turn to in a crisis.

But boy would you be wrong!

By now you probably know that I got the first phone call from Heath Ledger's massage therapist when she found him dead two years ago. That's right -- she didn't call 911, she called me, Mary-Kate Olsen. You're probably asking yourself why, right? Well, it's because she knew something most of America didn't -- and hasn't until now. It's a secret that the most important people in the world have always known, and it can finally be revealed.

I'm talking about the Olsen Twins Emergency Hotline.

Just one call and the full power of the Olsen Twins swings into action, ready to help you get through even the toughest, most publicly embarrassing personal crisis. Ever asked yourself how Paris Hilton, Halle Berry or Brandy can crash a car and leave a person near-death, but still vanish from the accident scene like nothing happened? How Nicole Richie can pop Vicodin and drive the wrong way down the freeway and yet not lose that valuable photo shoot in People? What the hell R. Kelly's doing walking around free instead of doing 10 to 20?

That's right -- the Olsen Twins Emergency Hotline.

Me and my sister Ashley are here to help you when you need it most, and we're proud to continue a tradition that's been passed down for centuries -- dating all the way back to the time of Christ. It was Salomé who founded the first service of this kind, using what would have otherwise been a pretty useless talent for pole dancing to get the head of John the Baptist -- the first contract murder by the way -- and actually change the course of history!

Cool, huh?

Since those early days, strong, sexy women from Mata Hari to Mamie Van Doren have carried the torch and undertaken the awesome responsibility of solving the world's problems when no one else could.

Oh yeah, you didn't think it was just Tom Cruise calling us at four in the morning from the Hollywood Hills after he'd just beat a hooker to death with a copy of Dianetics and eaten her heart, did you? The Olsen Twins Emergency Hotline has been the secret weapon of world leaders for more than a decade.

Why do you think Bill Clinton wasn't actually thrown out of office? All us. O.J. acquitted of murder? Are you kidding? We're guilty as charged on that one. The entire presidency of George W. Bush, from the 2000 election to 9/11 to a second term? You're welcome. Come on -- Sarah Palin? You betcha. Tiger Woods still walking around with a penis? Uh, yeah.

FEMA's response to Katrina and BP's response to the Gulf oil spill?

Guess that'll teach Mike Brown and Tony Hayward for not calling the professionals.

I mean come on, you really didn't believe me and my sister got so rich off a crappy little sitcom, did you?

The bottom line here is that the emergency service that's been available to the world's elite is now being made available to you. Given that the cat's out of the bag after the whole Ledger thing, Ashley and I figure we may as well pad out the account in the Caymans, so if you've got a problem and no one else can help, maybe you can hire the O-team.

Just call 1-800-THE-WOLF.

That's 1-800-THE-WOLF.

The Olsen Twins Emergency Hotline -- because knowing where all the bodies are buried means you know where there's room to bury more.

(Phone rings. Mary-Kate picks it up.)


Oh, hi, Lindsay -- yes, we've been waiting for your call.

(Coldplay music swells. Fade to black)