Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Listening Post

It's Canadian electro-darlings Crystal Castles with a little Robert Smith thrown in for good measure.

This is Not In Love.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Auto Reply: Out of Office

Just a heads-up that I'm very likely going to be indisposed for the next 24 hours or so.

Got lots of things to do that involve my little one.

And by that, I mean my kid. Not my penis.

Quote of the Day

"Look, Herman Cain is a joke. Obviously, where there is smoke there is fire, and he needs to make a decision about whether or not he stays in the race. But I do find this extremely interesting, that Cain might get pushed from the race but Newt Gingrich is one of the top frontrunners."

-- An unnamed Republican operative, to the Huffington Post

The brilliantly ironic thing about all of this is the fact that a lot of Republicans are now making a show of calling for Cain to give up and get out because they say the Cain traveling circus is a distraction from the supposedly legitimate, non-batshit-crazy candidacies of the various other GOP presidential personalities. Cain of course got out in front of this story yesterday by turning what was supposed to be an inconsequential one-on-one with Wolf Blitzer into the most hysterically awkward interview anybody's seen in years; every TV talking head dreams that he or she won't have to work that hard for a bombshell and will have it simply fall out of the sky the way it did for Blitzer. Now, though, at least everyone in America will have no trouble finally giving in and admitting what anybody with a brain has known all along -- that Cain doesn't stand a chance in hell of ever becoming the GOP nominee, no matter how egomanically defiant he may be about the scandal now enveloping him or how deluded he always was about his real-world chances of success on the national and international stage.

So alas, the Herman Cain Performance Art Project ends not with a bang but a whimper, mostly because nobody who mattered had very high hopes for him to begin with. This latest twist in the "Herman Cain Loves Strange Pussy" saga, while amusing, doesn't even make a dent in the truth that we've all accepted since day one. Although there is one interesting sidebar to all of it. Cain loves to paint himself as the archetypal American business titan, circa 2011, and as it turns out he is: he's arrogant, completely out of touch with reality, unwilling to take any amount of responsibility for his actions no matter how devastating the evidence against him is, and convinced that because of his status he's somehow bulletproof -- that brashness and audacity is a kind of armor against anything thrown his way and that he's always above being held accountable. He's basically a cut-rate bullshit artist, but in the world of big business there's no such thing as lying when you're high enough up the food chain so who gives a damn.

In the real world, Herman Cain was never more than a smarmy, lying little toad and crappy pizza salesman infatuated with delusions of his own greatness -- and everyone else accepted that even if he didn't. So, so long, Toucan Stubs. It was entertaining while it lasted.

Next up: shameless, cheating, lying, hypocritical, bling-obsessed, endlessly corrupt newly minted/classic Republican infatuation Newt Gingrich -- a guy who once claimed that he loved America so much that it caused him to fuck around on his wife and who now engages in the most cynical kind of pandering imaginable by saying that he's not perfect because only Christ is. Get the popcorn ready.

Listening Post

Just sit back and ride the chillwave -- because it feels pretty darn good.

Here's Ernest Greene, who performs under the infinitely cooler stage name Washed Out, with Amor Fati.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Quote of the Day

"A Gingrich presidency, if such a thing can even be imagined, would be a chaotic catastrophe. A Gingrich nomination would yield an Obama landslide."

-- David Frum

This is a pretty succinct assessment of Newt Gingrich's entire ego-trip of a candidacy, to say nothing of that candidacy's laughable recent elevation by a Republican party desperate to vote for anybody but Mitt Romney. From the same source that linked to the above quote -- a post in the Daily Beast -- Andrew Sullivan points out the most important element to Newt's sudden rise in the polls, and it speaks volumes about what's truly important these days: timing.

"His timing is pretty good: better to be on the rise a month before the voting begins rather than two months before. And the hardcore base doesn't have many other places to seek refuge."

It's true that if the GOP had a singularly fantastic candidate to get behind, it'd be less likely to play the field as if it were one of the Sex and the City girls, eventually awakening to the cold light of day and being forced to take a Sisyphean walk of shame, over and over again. But there might be a bigger point to be made about Republican indecision and what it says about us as a media-shaped culture. I've mentioned this before, but we now live in a world where our attention spans are shrinking rapidly, largely due to the rapid-fire nature of our media. News cycles are dwindling down to hours instead of days. Zeitgeists come and go seemingly in an instant. You can go from nobody, to viral sensation, to the target of a harsh backlash in the span of a couple of days. We no longer have the will to stick with a message that's longer than 140-characters.

We're constantly looking for the next thing, particularly if we're not 100% satisfied with the thing we already have.

I think what this means for politics is that it's no longer important to be steadfast as a candidate or in message; the most vital thing is to be constantly evolving and staying one step ahead of media obsolescence, and that's much easier said than done. The reality is that everything -- everything -- becomes old news after a very short time these days and even the most media-savvy can trip up and lose momentum or find that no matter what they do, it's not enough to hold the interest of a public suffering, en masse, from ADD. The end result then becomes that politics is a game of musical chairs: whoever happens to be on top of the media cycle when the music stops wins.

How do we know our attention spans are shrinking, that vast swaths of our culture have turned into Lenny from Memento? Newt Gingrich -- a guy who just a few months ago was declared DOA because of a series of monumental screw-ups, a guy with a long history of personal and professional baggage that should doom any political aspirations he might have from the very start -- is now the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination.

Listening Post

This definitely isn't a high-quality recording, but it barely matters since it's a spectacular song -- one that feels like a syringe full of ice-water being injected into your veins -- by a really spectacular band that deserves to be heard by more people.

Here's Trespassers William doing I Know, live.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bargain Debasement

Well, here it is: The definitive image of the once-great nation of the United States of America, circa 2011.

A bunch of fat people going ape-shit over $2 waffle irons at an Arkansas Wal-Mart.

If somebody put this to music, it could be our new national anthem.

(via Cesca)

Sunday Sacrilege

I wasn't going to bother with this since, generally, "Fundamentalist Christian + Insanely Terrified of Your Own Shadow = Just Another Day at the Office." But then CNN posted an actual interview with the Georgia guy who recently got fired because he refused to wear a little sticker that happened to have the number 666 on it, because, of course, that would be accepting the Mark of the Beast on his person -- and I just had to run with it.

Why? Because it's everything you'd expect and more. And that makes it hilarious.

Seriously, how do these people even make it through an average day without pouring water directly into light sockets or accidentally running themselves over with their own cars?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Quote of the Day, Jr.

"There is a point in our culture beyond which camp and kitsch no longer make the least ironic sense, where consumerism loses its last mooring to civilization, where even seemingly legitimate protest devolves into farce. That point is Black Friday... There’s a point where healthy consumerism becomes out-of-control marketing-driven commodity fetishism, and when we find ourselves checking our smartphones for last minute online deals while standing in line for a chain store opening at midnight on Thanksgiving, we are clearly too far gone. That’s insanity."

-- Andrew Leonard in Salon

The only thing more indicative of the end of the American empire than, say, the 2012 roster of GOP presidential nominees -- and maybe the success of the Kardashians -- is the fact that millions of people are fucking stupid enough to not only stand in line but attempt to beat each other nearly to death for bargains on "Black Friday." Not that anybody who participates in the Black Friday madness would give a crap, but the entire phenomenon is like a litmus test for me -- the perfect litmus test, actually. It works like this: If you get anywhere near a store or shopping mall today -- if saving a little money is worth willingly trudging through the traditional Boschian hellscape of those kinds of crowds to you -- then I don't want to know you and you deserve to be ridiculed endlessly by the rest of us who are sitting comfortably at home all day.

If you went shopping today, if you're proud of the deep discounts you got waiting in line at midnight, you need to be sterilized for the good of mankind.

Topic of Cancer

Remember how I recently mentioned that a couple of weeks ago I spent a really terrific evening hanging out with Mary Beth Williams of Salon (which was actually yet another excuse to enthuse about how completely crazy I am about that woman)? Well, over those few hours and several beers at the bar at Fanelli's in SoHo, she ran down for me what was going on with her medically -- how her battle with stage 4 melanoma was going. The bottom line is that it's not going well, although in some ways it's going very well. I guess you need to actually have cancer or be close to someone who does to understand how such a paradox is possible.

But if there's anyone who can make it make sense for you, it's Mary Beth. And she's doing just that in Salon right now, in a piece she's written about the traumas, terrors and occasional triumphs of undergoing a clinical trial and being essentially a medical experiment -- at the mercy of doctors and drug companies who are trying to make history while you're just trying to make it from one day to the next in the hope that it'll all add up to a lifetime.

You just have no idea how much I'm pulling for her.

Salon: My Life as a Lab Rat/11.24.11

Quote of the Day

"I'm not looking to put money in people's pockets. That's the other party."

-- Mitt Romney

This comment came at a town hall event in Iowa a couple of days ago. A member of the audience pointed out that Romney's economic plan offers huge corporate and estate tax cuts but does little to help the average person. "It doesn't put any money in my pocket," the man asked. "How will this help the middle class?" Romney, the guy who you'll remember once had trouble finding a bill in his wallet that wasn't a hundred, responded with the above gem.

By the way, the line wasn't taken out of context; Romney really said it and he really meant it, in that he draws a line between giving tax breaks to the "job creators" and genuinely helping out the people who need it most. The funny thing, though, is that even if it were taken out of context and everyone ran with the quote, using it to hang Romney in the eyes of the public, he would completely have it coming.


Because of this.

Empty Suit

AIG was one of the most infamous and disastrous casualties of the economic collapse of 2008. The whole place was a swamp of toxic asset sludge so incompetently managed that it eventually had to be bailed out by taxpayers to the tune of $70 billion.

So how is the insurance leviathan's former CEO thanking all of us for saving his fat-cat ass and rewarding his company's irresponsibility?

By suing the government for stepping in.

Think Progress: Former AIG CEO Sues Claiming Taxpayers Need To Pony Up $25 Billion More/11.25.11

Seriously -- fucking guillotine this asshole. I'll pull the lever.

With that in mind, here's one from the archive.

"Get Rich and Die Tryin'" (Originally Published 3.16.9)

***OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT: "Wide World of Justice" Presented by ESPN, Spike TV, and the Bloomberg Financial Network***

(The following is the property of the above networks and may not be reproduced or rebroadcast in any way without the express written consent of the owners.)

Intro Music: Ministry's Thieves

Frank: Good evening, everybody -- and welcome to another exciting edition of "Wide World of Justice," presented by ESPN, Spike and of course, the Bloomberg Financial Network. I'm Frank Flotsam.

Todd: And I'm Todd Jetsam, thanks so much for being here -- and what a show we have for you tonight.

Frank: You got that right, Todd. Tonight, the we bring a little street justice to a man who we think has really earned it -- because Lord knows he didn't earn the 165-million dollars in bonus money, funded by you the taxpayer, that he just handed out to his executives at AIG.

Todd: Of course we're talking about tonight's guest of honor -- AIG Chairman Edward Liddy.

Frank: And here he comes now!

(Chorus of boos can be heard from the crowd; screams, shouts, and obscenities)

Todd: Oh, they don't like him very much, Frank.

Frank: No they don't, Todd.

Todd: Now Mr. Liddy is being led through the crowd here in front of the New York Stock Exchange -- he's in a steel cage that's been placed on top of a wooden cart being pulled by a specially selected group of Wall Street Journal op-ed columnists. It's a good thing he's in that cage too, because it looks like the crowd doesn't want to wait for the show to begin -- they want blood right now!

Frank: Unfortunately, since the Journal people aren't protected, they're pretty much fair game and, am I seeing this correctly? Yes, speaking of which, it looks like the angry mob has already dragged away Stephen Moore, the senior economics writer for the Wall Street Journal, and if I'm not mistaken... wait... yes, that's his head we're seeing being tossed around like a beach ball.

Todd: Right you are, Frank. I recognize those stupid little glasses. Not a very dignified way for a Wall Street Journal reporter to go out.

Frank: Guess that's one "deadline" he had no trouble meeting (laughs)!

Todd: (Laughs) You better believe it. Okay, now it looks like we're just about ready to begin here -- and not a moment too soon. The crowd here is going absolutely crazy. They're throwing... what is that? Frank, what is that they're throwing at the cage containing Edward Liddy?

Frank: Oh my God -- they're throwing their tax returns at him!

Todd: Well, I'd say they're ready to give him the ultimate "retirement party," eh Frank?

Frank: Yessiree, Todd. Okay, the cage has been opened and Liddy is now being escorted up the steps of the Stock Exchange and to the platform. He's being led by police, and of course by the cast of The Real Housewives of Orange County -- who themselves will be put to death by honey-and-fire-ants a little later today at the after-party for this event. What do you think, Todd -- you think the ants will eat through collagen and silicone?

Todd: (Laughs) Well, we'll see, my friend.

Frank: Indeed we will!

Todd: Alright, Liddy has now been walked to the middle of the platform. The crowd still going wild here. He's been chained to a large wooden pole in the center of the platform, and now the executioner -- or as we call him, ironically, the "executor" -- is making sure Liddy's bonds are nice and tight.

Frank: Edward Liddy and strong bonds? Now that's funny. But if I can say, Todd -- Liddy looks absolutely terrified.

Todd: Yes, not the kind of Wall Street welcome he's used to.

Frank: The microphone is now being brought in so that Edward Liddy can speak a few final words before we give him the old 401 K.O. He seems to be struggling against the chains. Alright, let's listen in.

(The crowd noise dies, there's the sound of feedback, then silence for a moment.)

Liddy: No! We had to do it! We were required by law to pay out the 165-million in bonuses to our executives! WE HAD TO RETAIN TALENT!

(The mob begins shouting at him.)

Frank: (Laughing) Sorry, pal -- I just don't think that's gonna fly with these taxpayers.

Todd: A hundred-and-seventy billion dollars for AIG in a citizen-funded bailout -- and remember, this is a company that lost 61-billion dollars last quarter, and he's trying to make the case that there's talent that needs to be held onto? And it's going to cost 165 million of our hard-earned cash?

Frank: You know what we say to that, right Todd?

Frank and Todd: FUCK HIM! (Laughter)

Todd: Obviously, the executor not swayed by Liddy's pleas for understanding and leniency, to say nothing of more money from Congress.

Frank: Nope -- the executor now grabbing his ax with both hands. It looks like we could be just seconds away from the end, here. This one could be over fairly quickly.

Todd: But wait! No, he's dropped the ax and is reaching for... what is that? IT'S A 2X4 COVERED IN BARBED WIRE! Oh, he's going to make this one last. And now he's -- yes, he's LIGHTING IT ON FIRE!

Frank: Look at the look of fear in Liddy's eyes. The crowd is just loving every minute of this. It makes sense when you think about it, I mean, when they leave here it's not like they're going anywhere since they're jobless and their homes have been foreclosed on.

Todd: Makes for a very angry audience, Frank. They're chanting "justice" now, over and over. Listen to that.

Frank: And the executor is raising the flaming 2X4 and...OH, he brings it down hard on Liddy's head. That is not a pretty sight. For you parents with small children watching in the store window of Best Buy because you don't have homes, I really hope you covered the eyes of the little ones. This is not for the faint of heart.

Todd: And Liddy has now slumped against the pole, but he's still bound remember. He doesn't seem to be dead -- just stunned.

Frank: Yeah, about as stunned as America was when it found it that it'd have to foot the bill for this guy's incompetence and excesses (laughs).

Todd: And the executor has now stepped aside and is letting the rabid throng attack Liddy. My God, they're crawling onto the platform and are giving him paper cuts with their pink slips. Oh the humanity -- he's screaming in agony. Someone's poured what looks like battery acid on him. Yes, his flesh is melting away.

Frank: And -- wait. Is that an alligator?

Todd: It's a madhouse! A madhouse!

Frank: We'd better "bail out" before the bitter end finally comes, folks. But we want to thank you for watching tonight.

Todd: Please join us next week when our "guest of honor" will be none other than CNBC's Rick Santelli!

Frank: Until then, from the both of us here live at the burned and bloodied front of the New York Stock Exchange, this is "Wide World of Justice." Have a great night!

Todd: Good night, everybody! (Barely Audible: Holy shit, was that his leg?)

Outro Music: Notorious BIG's Mo' Money, Mo' Problems.

Turd Luckin'

I unofficially suspended the out-and-out mockery yesterday in honor of Thanksgiving, but when this little item showed up in my e-mail it left me feeling like Chandler in the episode of Friends where they bet him he couldn't go a week without making fun of anyone. (For those who don't remember, it's the same episode where Ross decides to try wearing leather pants and Chandler, disarmed, is left to point and shout to everyone, "Ross is wearing leather pants! Does nobody else see that Ross is wearing leather pants?! Someone comment on the pants!")

Basically HuffPo asked a bunch of TV news "personalities" what they're thankful for this holiday season and while the responses weren't anything all that interesting -- they ran from the predictably self-congratulatory to the most likely to make the person answering appear capable of at least some human emotion -- the potential for entertainment was undeniable. You knew that, had they answered honestly, half these people would've produced comedy gold.

From those I happen to really like, including my friend Ali Velshi and recently minted mom Kyra Phillips (who seems to have chosen the names for her and John Roberts's new twins from among the colors available for the 2012 Range Rover), to Al Sharpton and Erin Burnett (both of whom could've been sodium pentothaled into some of the best honest answers ever), it's a who's-who of your favorite and least favorite talking heads. I mean, let's face it -- Sharpton has to be the most thankful person currently sucking down oxygen, since he owes his entire television hosting career to Phil Griffin's apparent stroke or at the very least a little-known caveat in the MSNBC handbook allowing even those who can't read or speak English to be given shows on the network; Burnett is, well, she isn't thankful for shit because she earned those diamonds, dammit. Then there's Chuck Todd, who's thankful Buffalo Bob Smith finally took his hand out of his ass and let him talk on his own; Ed Schultz, who's thankful that there's no rule at NBC that Gene Shalit has to be the most annoying person on-air during any one period of time; and CNN's Rob Marciano, who's thankful that he's great-looking, which tends to distract from the fact that the puppy he's holding in his picture is probably smarter than he is.

I, meanwhile, am just thankful that they posted a picture of Brooke Baldwin from the waist up.

The Huffington Post: What Media Personalities are Thankful For/1.24.11

Listening Post

Dammit, is this man cool. And his new album, while less the direct punch to the solar plexus that The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! was, is another exercise in power and passion.

Here's Saul Williams -- Explain My Heart.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Edible Complex

Our cavalcade of holiday reruns continues with a piece that -- along with the "Poor Kiwi" short -- has become something of a Thanksgiving tradition around here.

"Feast of Burden" (Originally Published, 11.25.09)

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

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

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

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

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

Be honest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except there isn't -- not for everyone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dream of the Blue Turkey

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

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

Just like the poor Kiwi.

Listening Post

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Here's Toad the Wet Sprocket's I Will Not Take These Things for Granted.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

You Can't Ever Get What You Want

As a complement to David Frum's dissection of what's wrong with the party he happens to be an avowed member of, Jonathan Chait takes to New York Magazine online to write the definitive takedown of the arrogant, whining, pouting, tantrum-throwing left. The whole thing is dead-on, but here are just a couple of pertinent quotes.

"Liberals are dissatisfied with Obama because liberals, on the whole, are incapable of feeling satisfied with a Democratic president. They can be happy with the idea of a Democratic president—indeed, dancing-in-the-streets delirious—but not with the real thing. The various theories of disconsolate liberals all suffer from a failure to compare Obama with any plausible baseline. Instead they compare Obama with an imaginary president—either an imaginary Obama or a fantasy version of a past president."


"'Monty Python’s Life of Brian' has a classic bit depicting the followers of 'Brian,' a thinly disguised satire of Jesus, as left-wing activists. The movement contains bitterly feuding splinter groups with such names as the People’s Front of Judea, the Judean People’s Front, the Judean Popular People’s Front, the Campaign for a Free Galilee, and the Popular Front of Judea—the last consisting of one man—all of which hate each other more than the Romans.

The joke was that left-wing politics has always taken the same form: that lefties in Palestine 2,000 years ago would act pretty much like their counterparts in seventies Britain. Political psychologists have found for decades that the joke is pretty much true. Conservatives, compared with liberals, have higher levels of respect for and obedience to authority and prefer order over chaos and continuity over change. They are more likely than liberals to agree with statements like 'It is more important to be a team player than to express yourself.'

The 1968 Democratic convention—'which consisted of spokespersons for about 253 major ideological factions giving each other the finger through clouds of tear gas,' as Dave Barry put it—is the sort of scene that could not occur within the Republican Party. Or consider the contrast in style between the tea party and Occupy Wall Street. These two movements, allegedly mirror images of each other, perfectly display the differences between the right and the left. The Occupy activists abhor anything that would force any member to subsume his or her individual autonomy to the greater good. Did the drum circles drive everybody else to distraction? Too bad—you can’t tell the drummers what to do, man. There are no leaders, no organized speakers, no attempts at organizing anything except addressing the protesters’ elemental need for food and shelter. The tea party was mostly able to suppress the racist signs that popped up in the early stages of the movement. Occupy Wall Street has been unable to silence a handful of anti-­Semites because it can’t silence anybody."


"Obama will never match among Democrats Reagan’s place in the psyche of his own party, as reflected in the endless propaganda campaign to give him full credit for the end of stagflation and communism, the dogmatic insistence that everything the great hero said offers the One True Path for all time, and the project to name every possible piece of American property after him. Republican Reagan-worship is a product of a pro-authority mind-set that liberals, who inflate past heroes only to criticize their contemporaries, cannot match. If recent history is any guide, they are simply not capable of having that kind of relationship with a president. They are going to question their leader, not deify him, and search for signs of betrayal in any act of compromise he or she may commit. This exhausting psychological torment is no way to live. Then again, the current state of the Republican Party suggests it may be healthier than the alternative."

Seriously, read the whole piece. It says everything I've been saying for two years now and sums up just about every point I've ever made to those who argue with me or write me off as some kind of Obama apologist. In other words, if you decide to bitch about any of this in the comment section, spare yourself the effort.

Quote of the Day, Jr.

"Everything is a little funny game to you. The Republic is at stake!"

-- Glenn Beck, angrily lashing out at Jimmy Fallon after the Roots, who are the house band on Fallon's show, played a couple of lines from Fishbone's Lyin' Ass Bitch during Michele Bachmann's entrance onto the set the other night

See below comment re: Pamela Gellar.

By the way, I agree with Beck on this. The Roots actually should've played a little of Buckcherry's Crazy Bitch. That would've made more sense.

Quote of the Day

"Non-Muslims in America and Europe don’t deserve to have halal turkey forced upon them in this way, without their knowledge or consent. So this Thanksgiving, fight for your freedom. Find a non-halal, non-Butterball turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday. And write to Butterball and request, politely but firmly, that they stop selling only halal turkeys, and make non-halal turkeys available to Americans who still value our freedoms."

-- Conservative, and quite likely insane, blogger Pamela Gellar on the encroaching Muslim threat to our traditional American holiday dinners

I can't even imagine how difficult it is to be someone like Gellar. The constant paranoia, the incapacitating fear that you can never let your guard down, lest the America you love be overrun by godless "others," the humorless vigilance that allows you to keep chasing shadows even when every not-crazy person on the planet is laughing at you to your face. This Thanksgiving, I ask you to remember Pamela Gellar. In fact, I call upon you to fight for your country's overall mental health and write to Gellar requesting, politely but firmly and through the use of subtle mockery, that she take her own life by inserting a non-halal turkey into her ass. Sideways.

Listening Post

In honor of my recent tale of teenage obsession, here's a little something from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. It's tragically devoid of the brilliance that is Keiran Culkin's Wallace Wells, but it's got a whole lot of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and that's never a bad thing.

For the record, I would've been madly in love with Ramona Flowers too.

Here's Frank Black doing I Heard Ramona Sing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Walt of Voodoo

I'll be out of the loop all day.

I'm taking Inara to Disney World.

Thus the cycle of subservience to the Almighty Mouse continues.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ballad of Big Nothing

I didn't think of it as stalking; it was just, I don't know, fascination.

When I was a junior in high school I had an unrelenting crush on a freshman. I remember her name, although I won't divulge it. I remember what she looked like: almost supernaturally petite, like some kind of pixie, with hair so blonde it always seemed as if it were being lit from within, skin the color of immaculate alabaster and ice-blue eyes that I was truly convinced had the power to stop time if she willed it. I had a couple of overarching infatuations throughout my high school career -- unrequited interests that threatened to boil over one day then were reduced to a simmer the next -- but this particular girl kept me tightly wound and perfectly transfixed for most of the 11th grade and even into the summer before my senior year. I never spoke to her. Not once. I did, however, drive past her house a couple of times when I happened to be in the area. What I was looking for, what I expected or at the very least hoped to see, I still don't really know. Maybe I imagined that one day I'd find her out in her driveway washing her family's car in a bikini or something -- or maybe I just longed to see her in her natural habitat, as if she were some kind of animal I had decided to study in the interest of science. Maybe it was simply the thrill of knowing that I was in her general presence even if she didn't know it. No, I didn't ever stop the car. No, I didn't sit outside her house. Yes, I did once drive by mildly intoxicated at around midnight, although in my defense I was returning home from a party and her place happened to be on the way.

Yes, it was a creepy little obsession, I guess, and if it had been 2011 rather than 1986 I probably would've gotten myself arrested or at least talked to by a professional should anyone have found out.

I bring this up to make a point: I was always desperate and passionate. I always craved mutual devotion and yearned for storybook romance. I always believed in love and believed that it could last. I don't think I am, I want, I believe any of these things anymore.

I realize that I've made a statement like this before, not long after my initial break-up with Jayne, but what's startling to me now are the ways in which the removal of such a profound and powerful force from my life have affected that life. The ferocious will to be with another human being is the drive that keeps millions of us moving forward, giving our lives weight and our course direction; it's often why we dress the way we do, get the job we have, live where and how we live, surround ourselves with the people and possessions we choose. So many of us are who we are not simply because we want to be the best we can be, but because we pray and expect that the best version of ourselves will translate into a desire by others to be with us. We want to be attractive. We want to be impressive. We want to be loved. But what happens when you take away that compass, do you then drift aimlessly? I can't help but feel as if I've been doing just that.

I'm basically homeless right now and have been since those early days following the split with my wife and my flight from New York City with my daughter two-and-a-half years ago. Because of the present arrangement I have with Jayne regarding Inara, one which remains in place until September of next year, my child is in my custody for weeks and sometimes months at a time, which means that I toggle between being on my own and being with a little girl at regular intervals. When my child is with me, I spend quite a bit of time in Central Florida where my parents live since Inara's grandmother has offered excellent -- and relatively free -- daycare while I've worked both full-time and freelance. When my child isn't with me, I've lived either in a very nice two-bedroom condo in Fort Lauderdale, one owned by an uncle of mine which I pay rent and utilities to stay in part-time, never making fully "mine," or in the guest bedroom of one of my best friends in Miami. The latter situation is amusing for a whole host of reasons, the primary one being that the two of us live like bachelor goof-offs despite having long since passed the stage in our lives where such frivolity was deemed acceptable by just about anybody. Still, in Miami it's common knowledge that you never really have to grow up; the whole place is like Neverland.

The bottom line is that I live out of a suitcase a good portion of the time, going from place to place to place, never truly putting down roots or settling into one specific pattern. I tell myself that the reason for this is that I simply can't at the moment, given the instability inherent in the current situation with Inara and the fact that I'm not working full-time, instead keeping busy with client work from anywhere my laptop happens to be. At least that's what I used to tell myself. More and more I'm willing to admit that I'm in fact lying to myself. I haven't put down roots because I have no desire to. I live out of a suitcase because that's how I choose to live. I don't have a "home" because I don't want one.

This flies in the face of everything I ever wished for or demanded of myself throughout most of my life. It does so because I always wanted to be in a relationship, to be appealing to someone looking not simply for a night or two but for a steady partner. And I don't want any of that anymore. The compass that kept me on one very specific course is gone and the question now becomes how to find your own way without its guidance. For decades my desire to love and be loved was like some elegant Fata Morgana, perpetually seducing me from the horizon but ultimately turning out to be elusive. So maybe I've finally just given up the quest altogether. I have love to give and I give it to my child in abundance, and I've certainly cared about people since my break-up with Jayne, one person in particular who remains very dear to me, but I'm finally coming to terms with the fact that not only have I not fully "healed" in the wake of everything that happened during my marriage to and divorce from Jayne, I'll very likely never again be the person I was before that experience. And I think I'm alright with that.

But those questions remain: Can your own desire for self-betterment be as powerful and have the longevity that an outside, some would say artificial source of improvement did for so long? How do you stop yourself from just dropping out altogether -- from no longer being the least bit concerned with the important things you once did in the hope of appealing to another? How will you know the person you see in the mirror is the real you without someone else there to provide confirmation and affirmation? Who are you if not one-half of a whole?

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece for this site detailing some of the physical changes that happened to me following the surgery I underwent to remove a tumor from my head. I talked about how it altered my hormonal output and, for a time, left me completely uninterested in sex. I talked about how strangely liberating that was; to not worry one bit whether I was clever enough, or funny enough, or cute enough, or rich enough to get laid; to be free of the sexual hang-ups and burdens that have plagued almost every post-pubescent man and woman since the dawn of the civilized age; to not even miss the pursuit of that kind of contact -- or the contact itself -- and the hassles that often come with it. That was just sex. This is love. This is full-time companionship. This is the stuff of songs and sonnets and supposed soulmates. If sex and passion are inspirational in our lives, love is epochal. And while I don't claim to know whether the latter is something I'll purposely avoid, and if so for how long, I know that I'm not looking for it anymore. I don't feel about it the way I once did and so I have to find a new way to feel about it.

In the meantime, I drift -- although I'm not sure it's really drifting. Next month I'll be hitting the road again, traveling across the country and eventually ending up in Los Angeles for a few months. I'm doing it for the reason most people have gone west in the past: opportunity. In this case, work and quite a bit of it. But I'm also going because, as I said the last time I struck out into the empty space, there's therapy in movement, in forward momentum. And because there's wonder and adventure in not knowing exactly what happens next. And because I can.

I have no idea what happened to that little blonde-haired, alabaster-skinned girl with the ice-blue eyes. Wherever she is, I hope she's happy, that she has a good life. I know what became of the impetuous, passionate boy who once thought she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen, though. He's gone. But the man who took his place is doing okay.

Assistant Quote of the Day

"No other media people fought the war. In fact, most of the liberal media attacked me -- your humble correspondent -- for actually standing up for Christmas."

-- Bill O'Reilly, officially ringing in the Christmas victimization season for the right

Usually it's well into December before I pull this holiday classic out of the archive, but like everything else involving Christmas, we're seeing things ramp up earlier and earlier each year. So, here you go -- a DXM holiday tradition -- my little take on the balls-out absurdity of the so-called War on Christmas.

"The Thin Red and Green Line" (Originally Published, 11.27.07)

The following e-mail correspondence was released to the public on December 16th, 2011 via the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (Amd. Public Law 104-231) and was collected at an undisclosed time via the U.S.A. Patriot Act (Public Law 107-56). It includes content which will remain classified by the United States government due to its sensitive nature regarding matters of national security until the following date: January 1st, 2050. Please be advised that despite FOIA provisions, the publication or broadcast of this communication may be subject to restriction or amendment as dictated by the Fox News "First Look" Act of 2009 (Public Law 134-793, Signed by President George W. Bush, 1-17-09).

Communication Intercept #XX,XXX,XXX (USAPA)
Transmitted on: December 10th, 2009
TC: 13:21:06
From: PFC Granville Sawyer, 57th Overlanders (Tactical Infantry)
To: Mrs. Myrna Sawyer, Seattle, WA

Dear Mom,

I didn't think it would be this cold in Kansas, but the truth is it feels an awful lot like home right about now, except for all the unfriendlies.

My platoon's dug in far behind enemy lines. We have been for quite awhile now, just how long I don't want to say -- long enough that I've seen some things that will haunt me forever.

I keep going back to the same questions, Mom: How did it get this far? How did we get into this mess? How did this bloodbath start?

The first time I heard somebody say that there was a "War on Christmas" I laughed. I figured it was just bunch of overblown garbage used to sell some idiot's books. I thought it was a scare tactic.

Then came all the court cases, the lawsuits against any businesses that used "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." The threats, the intimidation. Christians saying that they were being persecuted. Pushing their beliefs on so many until finally somebody decided to push back. I guess that's when I stopped laughing.

I can't even remember when war was officially declared.

We don't get much information out here and I'm worried that our transmissions are being monitored by electronic surveillance. XXXX XXXXXX XXXX XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX XXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXX XXXXXXXXX What we hear are mostly rumors. Is it true they wiped out New York City? The last I heard, the National Guard was moving in to crush some kind of uprising that torched the Rockefeller Center tree and destroyed all the Christmas windows at Saks. If the rumor's true, man, all those people. It wouldn't surprise me if it is. After the 42nd Irregulars took out John Gibson live on the air back in March and Fox News decided to relocate from New York to Orlando, it was only a matter of time before the Christian militants finally got their hands on some loose nukes and leveled that city. They've been looking an excuse for years.

I don't know if communcation's been cut off from California, but our new captain says that after we captured Santa Cruz and Santa Monica and renamed them (although I understand the decision, I kinda think Odin Cruz and Odin Monica sound a little silly), the Army's 1st Air Cav launched an assault on San Francisco. He says they came in off the horizon in a fleet of low-flying gunships, blasting Burl Ives's Holly Jolly Christmas as they opened fire. Cap was there and says it was the most terrifying thing he'd ever experienced, the smell of flaming egg nog in the morning. Scared the hell out of the locals.

I hope you're safe, Mom. There's a big mission coming up for us, maybe I'll be able to tell you about it next time I write.



Communication Intercept #XX,XXX,XXX (USAPA)
Transmitted on: December 15th, 2009
TC: 9:17:54
From: PFC Granville Sawyer, 57th Overlanders (Tactical Infantry)
To: Mrs. Myrna Sawyer, Seattle, WA

Dear Mom,

Last night, the Marines' 105th Airborne Crusaders -- they're nicknamed O'Reilly's Raiders -- dropped on our position. It was a violent fight. We lost thirty men, including one of my best friends, a guy named Muhammed. Thing is, the Raiders don't just kill you. No Mom, they want to make damn sure you know that "Jesus is the reason for the season." After the battle, we found out that they'd taken a bunch of our guys, tied them up with strings of Christmas lights, then forced them to eat mistletoe and myrrh. It's a poisonous concoction. A terrible way to die from what I hear. Another reason to hate Christmas.

But I'm still not sure all of this is worth it. We hit them and then they hit back, then we hit back harder. I don't even know if the brutality of the Raiders is a response to our own Special Ops unit. They're known as the Season's Reapers. There's word going around that they've been kidnapping carolers and tacking their Santa hats to trees... with the heads still in them.

This morning we torched a Christmas tree farm near the Colorado border. The cloud of smoke from the inferno blotted out the sun. It was like hell on earth.

Give my love to Dad.



Communcation Intercept #XX,XXX,XXX (USAPA)
Transmitted on: December 19th, 2009
TC: 21:06:33
From: PFC Granville Sawyer, 57th Overlanders (Tactical Infantry)
To: Mrs. Myrna Sawyer, Seattle, WA

Dear Mom,

We're XXXXX XXXX XXXXXXXXX XX and I'm not sure what sort of weapon they've got, but it's XXXX XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXX XXXXXXXX. I've never seen anything like it. All of a sudden there was this bright flash of white and XXX XXX XXXXXXXXXXX XXXXX XXXXXXX XXXX garland and pine needles raining down...

Communication Intercept #XX,XXX,XXX (USAPA)
Transmitted on: December 19th, 2009
TC: 05:45:21
From: PFC Granville Sawyer, 57th Overlanders (Tactical Infantry)
To: Mrs. Myrna Sawyer, Seattle, WA

Dear Mom,

Things are bad here. Word is the Christian militia's moving reinforcements into our position. They're conscripting the Kwanzaa Regiments into service by promising them freedom after the war -- that and Cadillac Escalades with 27-inch chrome rims. The only ones still standing with us now are the Jewish Brigades. They call themselves Zion's Lions. Strong fighters, but they make these fire bombs called Mazel Tov cocktails that use bottles of Manischewitz. Problem is that the stuff doesn't light very well.

It's now turned into a guerilla fight on both sides. Our best weapons right now are IEDs: Improvised Explosive Decorations. We plant them on the side of the road, and their guys just can't help but stop to take a look at them, since they love Christmas and all. We fill the ornaments with explosives and BOOM! ... that's the last Noel for them.

What's the word on the net from the front?

They say there've been some major victories for our side on the ground, but I'm hearing some rumors that really scare me.

Is it true we're putting dwarves into internment camps?



Communcation Intercept #XX,XXX,XXX (USAPA)
Transmitted on: December 24th, 2009
TC: 16:03:50
From: PFC Granville Sawyer, 57th Overlanders (Tactical Infantry)
To: Mrs. Myrna Sawyer, Seattle, WA

Dear Mom,

So this is it, the final offensive, the one that could finish this war once and for all. After the American Family Council -- those crackpots out in Mississippi -- firebombed the Supreme Court, we knew we needed to make a statement. We needed to do something big and public.

That's what will happen in a few hours.

It ends tonight.

Wish us luck.

Your loving son,


Communication Intercept #XX,XXX,XXX (USAPA)
Transmitted on: December 26th, 2009
TC: 11:20:04
From: PFC Granville Sawyer, 57th Overlanders (Tactical Infantry)
To: Mrs. Myrna Sawyer, Seattle, WA

Dear Mom,

How will history remember this war? How will it remember those who fought against Christian fundamentalist terrorism, or those who fought to preserve a beloved tradition? Who will judge all of us?

After the capture of NORAD two nights ago and the live feed that was beamed to every home in America, after the retaliatory annihilation of the entire coast of California, after the truce that finally followed -- after the bloodbath, what's left?

Now I can tell you, I was part of the team that seized NORAD. We took Cheyenne Mountain and as the facility was going live with its traditional "Tracking Santa" broadcast, we broke in on the air, gave the statement of purpose that I'm sure you saw, then locked on and ordered a complement of surface-to-air missiles to be fired on the designated target. A few minutes later, Santa was blown out of the sky. The people in northern Canada reported seeing a huge explosion in the sky, followed by a fireball plummeting to the ground. The team that confirmed the kill said that nothing was left but a few toys and a bright red nose. For the rest of the world, all they saw was the "Santa" radar blip disappearing on their TV screens.

Then we cut into TNT's "24 Hours of A Christmas Story" and replaced it with The Exorcist on a continuous loop.

The retaliatory nuclear launch that followed, from the militia-controlled Army bunker in DC, was devastating. Millions were killed in California.

That's when both sides realized it was time to end the nightmare.

Hopefully this armistice will mean that I'll be coming home to you, Mom.

Although I finally have access to a TV and while flipping through cable channels this morning I came across Fox News, and there was Bill O'Reilly...

...saying something about a War on Easter.

End of Correspondence

Quote of the Day

"I can’t shrug off this flight from reality and responsibility as somebody else’s problem. I belonged to this movement; I helped to make the mess. People may very well say: Hey, wait a minute, didn’t you work in the George W. Bush administration that disappointed so many people in so many ways? What qualifies you to dispense advice to anybody else? Fair question. I am haunted by the Bush experience, although it seems almost presumptuous for someone who played such a minor role to feel so much unease. The people who made the big decisions certainly seem to sleep well enough. Yet there is also the chance for something positive to come out of it all. True, some of my colleagues emerged from those years eager to revenge themselves and escalate political conflict: 'They send one of ours to the hospital, we send two of theirs to the morgue.' I came out thinking, I want no more part of this cycle of revenge. For the past half-dozen years, I have been arguing that we conservatives need to follow a different course. And it is this argument that has led so many of my friends to demand, sometimes bemusedly, sometimes angrily, 'What the hell happened to you?' I could fire the same question back: 'Never mind me—what happened to you?'"

-- David Frum, in a New York piece entitled "When Did the GOP Lose Touch with Reality"

Frum's points are by and large excellent. While I disagree with him on quite a few things, he does represent a fading style of conservatism -- maybe best personified by the pomposity of William F. Buckley -- that embraced intellect and an adversarial but cooperative stance to contrast those who believed differently, rather than delusional stupidity and absolute eliminationism. And that I appreciate greatly.

With this latter point in mind, though, I've gotta say: I do my level best to still be respectful and to not respond, as Frum says, with angry rhetorical one-upsmanship in dealing with those who hold political views diametrically opposed to mine, but this -- this seriously made me think to myself, "Dust off and nuke the entire site from orbit -- it's the only way to be sure."

Fighting Words

For a couple of weeks now on the podcast, Bob and I have discussed the fact that while everyone's busy pointing out Rick Perry's inability to speak without tripping over his own stupid tongue, no one's paying attention to how asinine and dangerous the things he's trying to say are. Like a couple of weeks ago, when he couldn't remember that he wanted to shutter the Department of Energy, which controls the country's nuclear weapons -- or this gem from Saturday, where he seems to be saying that he wants to end civilian control of our military:

"There is a time and a place for us to intervene, and intervene militarily. But when we intervene militarily, we best make the decision on how we are going to win and how we are going to win convincingly and quickly, send those young men and women with the equipment to win. Don’t let some congressman sitting in an air-conditioned office in Washington DC deciding what the rules of engagement are. … And for us to micromanage them, in a civilian way, without their commanders truly in charge, is absolutely irresponsible and as commander-in-chief of this country I will not let it happen."

I bring this up not because it's so outrageous, which it of course is, and not solely because it's indicative of how far a candidate like Perry has to go to get noticed at an event like the Christian Family Leader "values forum" when he's way down in the polls. No, I mention it because it's crap like this that makes it 100% clear how offensive it is when self-righteous clowns like Glenn Greenwald, Jane Hamsher, etc. make the claim that the Obama Administration is essentially the same thing as any given Republican presidency would be these days, and when they threaten, as Greenwald has, that allowing one of these Perry-esque far-right malignancies into the White House would be a necessary sacrifice if it meant that it would finally bring the country around to how destructive the current GOP model of thinking is.

Right. Because Obama, although by no means someone willing to give the left everything it wants, is the same as a guy who wants to take the reins completely off the U.S. military, who wants to kill the Department of Energy, who thinks the Occupy Wall Street protesters are dirty hippies who are just looking for a handout and who need to go take a shower and get a job (as Gingrich so cleverly intoned on Saturday), who thinks God told him or her to run for office (as half the GOP hopefuls have enthused), who thinks homosexuality is some kind of social disease (Bachmann and Santorum), and who believes that individual towns should be able to ban mosques if they choose (Herman "Toucan Stubs" Cain).

These people are fucking crazy and dangerous. And refusing to accept that because you're all in a huff that the current president simply isn't liberal enough for you is just as crazy and just as dangerous.

Listening Post

The whole 60s grindhouse soundtrack retro thing is huge in the alt scene right now, and nobody does it with more audacity -- meaning they may as well be plucked directly from, say, 1968 -- than the Black Angels.

Here's Bad Vibrations.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Go get a job after you take a bath."

-- Newt Gingrich to the Occupy Wall Street protesters, at last night's Christian Family Leader "values forum" which included most of the GOP candidates for president

Please -- can somebody please punch him in the fucking mouth?

Picture of the Week

Chances are by now you've seen this picture in one form or another. No, it's not Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body of Kent State student Jeffrey Miller after he'd just been shot through the mouth by the Ohio National Guard, but it does promise to become an iconic image of the Occupy uprisings on America's college campuses in its depiction of disturbingly casual violence by authorities against kids who are doing nothing more than exercising their right to protest peacefully.

As I've said before, I tend to allow the police quite a bit of leeway in most situations, certainly ones involving crowd control -- that benefit of the doubt stemming from my own history as the son of an ex-cop -- but my first reaction when I watched the clip of Police Lt. John Pike pepper spraying the faces of unarmed students sitting down on the UC Davis campus shocked me. I think I actually said out loud, "Why isn't anyone tackling that asshole?" Of course I know the answer to this question, and of course it's good that no one actually did try to stop the police through physical force as the result would've been disastrous.

It's not about that, though. My instinctive, visceral reaction was that an injustice was being committed and that somebody needed to do something to immediately put a stop to it. I don't care that the guy behind the unconscionable cruelty was wearing a badge and riot gear and had been allowed to intervene at the request of UC Davis's own chancellor; he was still wrong and had he been anyone else but a cop, every single person there would've been completely within their right to kick the crap out of him.

What he did was brutal, unprovoked and entirely unnecessary. He's a lousy cop who didn't know how to handle what seemed for all intents and purposes to amount to a relatively cut-and-dry confrontation with a bunch of kids who weren't in any way a threat to him. He and his fellow officers very likely fell back on a ridiculously faulty belief -- that because pepper spray, tear gas and the like are designated non-lethal weapons that it's perfectly alright to use them wantonly and that they should be the first choice rather than a last resort in dealing with protesters who refuse to do what you tell them to but who aren't threatening you. It's lazy policing, pure and simple, and the person who thinks that way doesn't deserve to be a cop.

One more thing: In an effort to both broaden the scope of this incident for maximum mileage and drag one of their favorite targets into the crosshairs, some of the usual suspects on the left are blaming President Obama for the nationwide crackdown by police on the Occupy protests, as if local authorities all plug into the federal Matrix to get their daily marching orders. This is a useful liberal "police state" fantasy, but it's nonsense. The reality is that the "militarization" of many American police departments has nothing to do with the Obama administration -- or any other -- homeland security, or even the drug war, per se. It has to do with the cops being outgunned on the streets by the criminals. For years, the police carried revolvers or semi-autos while the ones committing crimes -- some of whom were actually involved in the protection of the drug trade -- packed AKs and Mossbergs. If you've ever wondered why, say, the LAPD became the impersonal blue machine it's now regarded as, it's because of what it was up against. Granted, guys like Daryl Gates took the idea of an impenetrable and insurmountable police department way too far, but that military aesthetic began in the country's urban centers and spread outward from there. The idea of the friendly police officer on the street corner is long-since a thing of the past; a bad-ass police "force" is nothing new under the sun.

The problem is that this is what you get: military crowd control tactics used against a bunch of kids sitting down on a street in the middle of a college campus quad. What happened at UC Davis was unforgivable and hopefully someone will pay dearly for it and that action will send a message to those put in the position of dealing with non-violent protesters. And it speaks volumes that these particular protesters remained peaceful when, to be honest, they had every right not to.

Update: Think the video above is powerful stuff? Watch this, as UC Davis students lined up by the hundreds and silently confronted Chancellor Linda Katehi as she left the school last night -- basically turning it into a perp-walk-of-shame.

Listening Post

Perfect music for a Sunday morning.

Here's Pat Metheny doing Minuano, live at the North Sea Jazz Festival with the Metropole Orchestra.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Hoo-Ha, Cherry Soda!"

As with Herman Cain, the words the BLR team put into Ron Paul's mouth don't really sound any crazier than the crap he actually says. And besides, he could release an ad just like this one and not lose a single one of his supporters -- they'd keep right on praising Dr. Paul as the savior come to rescue us all.

Still, that'd make such a great campaign slogan:

Ron Paul 2012: He'll Haunt Your Prostate

Friday, November 18, 2011

Stupid Crazy Herman Cain Thing of the Day

This, in which Herman Cain cries while discussing how his wife will hold the Bible at his inauguration which hasn't happened yet and, in fact, never will.

Remember that this is the man who titled his book (which he's never read because he's a leader, not a reader) My Journey To the White House and has already spoken about his post-presidency plans, which include a speaking tour and, of course, the establishment of the Herman Cain Presidential Library (which he'll never visit because he's a leader, not a reader).

Why do I get the feeling the Cain Library would be stacked to the ceiling with copies of the DSM IV and various other psychology texts?

Quote of the Day

"I truly believe that 'Twilight' is worthless as source material. I do not believe there is a filmmaker alive who could manage the impossible feat of creating a faithful adaptation of Meyer's book and also making a good movie. Going into the home stretch, I think this is one of the worst blockbuster franchises of all time, inept from start to finish, and getting worse as they go. There will come a time when we look back on these films and wonder what sort of mob insanity drove their success, and we will laugh and shake our heads and pretend they were never really that popular."

-- Drew McWeeny at Hit Fix on the release of the new Twilight movie today

What's interesting is that I've read a couple of decent -- not necessarily "sparkling," if you'll pardon the pun, but decent -- reviews for this new movie. I actually have a theory about why that is, though: I think it's submission to a kind of cultural Stockholm Syndrome. It's human nature, and certainly the way things work in the entertainment industry, that when something is extraordinarily popular we try to find value in it, even if there is none. Even though we've become used to garbage being elevated to the level of art by the masses, it still creates a cognitive dissonance that we subconsciously can't accept. So we fool ourselves into believing it's something worth all the acclaim being aimed in its direction by the faithful.

This is the reason Hollywood can't handle the idea of "movie stars" anymore, not without being able to laud them as brilliant actors as well -- it's why Julia Roberts has an Oscar. She had to get one. She couldn't be just a star.

I think critics who've finally sort of embraced the Twilight series have just given up and given in. They're through fighting the madness and have convinced themselves that there's something there that really isn't -- something a world of idiots have been seeing for years. They figure, to borrow the phrasing of an old Elvis record, that 50,000,000 people can't be wrong. Except that in this case, they are.

Stardust Memories

When I was growing up there were three pop culture influences in my life that truly helped forge my personality and create the charmingly wise-ass, anti-social mess you see here before you today. They were, in no particular order, Woody Allen, Bugs Bunny and Hawkeye Pierce.

In particular, Woody Allen changed me at a formative age; his films were the equivalent of a speeding car that careened into my psyche and sense of humor so hard that it knocked both in an entirely new direction, one I've traveled on ever since that collision.

I bring this up for no other reason than to justify linking to a clip from PBS's new documentary on Woody, one that features a scene from one of my favorite movies of all time: Love and Death.

Yeah, I know. In the words of Meryl Streep's character in Manhattan, like the creations who stand in for him in his films, he's given to fits of "male chauvinism, self-righteous misanthropy, liberal paranoia... nihilistic moods of despair... and a fear of death which he elevates to tragic heights when, in fact, it's sheer narcissism," and God knows he telegraphed the hell out of that Soon-Yi punch. But in the end, he's a genius, through and through.

The Hollywood Reporter: PBS Documentary Spotlights Woody Allen/11.18.11

Quote of the Week

"You see, Oprah, there is still so much more that God needs for me to express to the world. It’s not just a coincidence that I look like Jesus. I am the modern day Jesus Christ that you all have been waiting for... So I ask you, Oprah, better yet, I’m begging you, Oprah, please cast me onto your show, Oprah. It is so crucial that the world hears God’s word for the fate of humanity, for the fate of mankind, for the fate of me seeing my son grow older, please, Oprah, I’m begging you."

-- Alleged White House shooter Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, who's now charged with trying to assassinate President Obama, in a rambling and thoroughly hilarious 20-minute video aimed at getting him a guest spot on Oprah

Boy, is Oprah gonna be pissed that Jesus here didn't call her "dad."

Stupid Herman Cain Thing of the Day

From CBS News:

"In New Hampshire on Thursday, Cain accused the (Occupy Wall Street) protesters of 'trying to destroy the greatest nation in the world' with plans to stop traffic and subway commuters. He accused them of trying 'to infringe upon people's right and liberty to go to work.'"

He went on to say, "Yes, I'm rollin' in it. I can prob'ly freak on you. Nachos and hogwash. This is my juice!"

Ball Boys

Well, I guess now we know which two schools are gonna get invited to the "KY Intense" Child Sodomy Bowl this year.

ABC News: Syracuse University Assistant Coach Accused of Child Sexual Abuse/11.18.11