Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Assistant Quote of the Day

"I've emailed them back and my position is, I've read their rules, I’ve reread their rules. I still don’t understand how I broke them. I think they’re making up their rules as they go along frankly."

-- Journalist Guy Adams of the Independent, commenting on Twitter's decision to suspend his account over a negative tweet aimed at NBC and its coverage of the Olympics

Here's what happened: Adams tweeted the e-mail address of Gary Zenkel, the head of NBC's Olympics coverage, last Friday, suggesting that people write him to complain. NBC of course filed a formal complaint with Twitter -- so Twitter suspended Adams's account, claiming that Adams had violated its privacy policy. Thing is, Twitter is an official partner of NBC's Olympics coverage. Are you starting to see where things stink here?

Adams's Twitter feed has now been reinstated with both NBC and Twitter's apologies, but not only does this little incident highlight the danger of the titanium-hulled corporate synergy which Comcast NBC Universal has become legendary for, it proves that NBC still doesn't understand how social media works. The network doesn't get that as a giant media organization, it can't simply flirt with social networking platforms and expect to control how much or little of itself is rendered transparent because of it. It's all or nothing. Either you accept that you pretty much have no privacy by submitting to new media or you close yourself off completely (and even that won't really work anymore). It's staggering how willfully blind these organizations continue to be -- how stuck they are in a mindset that's thoroughly obsolete.

Quote of the Day

"If you’ve been watching NBC in prime time the past few nights, you’ve probably noticed how, night in, night out, we’ve been wrecking the Olympics for you. All we can say is, our bad. At NBC we’re just not used to broadcasting things that people want to watch."

-- Andy Borowitz, in "A Message From NBC About Its Olympics Coverage"

There's gonna be a lot of NBC bashing around here over the next 15 or so hours, so prepare yourself.

If you'd like, there are other outlets that will happily stream it for you for live -- or you can just wait til I post it here in prime time long after everyone else has seen it and knows how it ends.

Tuesday Is Recycling Day

In honor of all the recent debate over the politics of The Dark Knight Rises.

"The Right Stuff" (Originally Published, 2.17.09)

Gotta thank Cesca for leading me to this little gem: the National Review Online's compilation of the supposed "25 Best Conservative Movies."

What exactly makes a movie "conservative" is apparently known only to the brain trust at NRO, which includes the decidedly un-brainy Rich Lowry -- editor of the National Review and the guy who essentially publicly admitted to masturbating during Sarah Palin's vice presidential debate performance (see column below). While the most interesting thing about the list in general is what it subtly says about the effort undertaken by the Review's conservative readers to avoid appearing stereotypically uncultured (obvious choices are avoided: Superman, Top Gun, Die Hard, Norris's The Octagon, the Rambo series, etc.), equally fascinating is what a few of the individual choices say about how conservatives view their role in relation to the U.S. power structure. Put simply, they still, even after the last eight years of oppressive abuses and astonishingly expansive spending by a Republican administration, see themselves as the rag-tag band of rebels fighting the evil empire of big government. How else to justify the appropriation of films like The Lives of Others, 300, or -- in the "also-rans" list and possibly most shocking -- my beloved Serenity.

While scanning the list, look for a couple of truly great "What the Fuck?" moments, like the fact that all three movies by hyper-WASP Whit Stillman are included, as well as The Dark Knight (still pitched as a paean to George W. Bush), United 93 (if you didn't see that one coming...) and, well, Team America (its inclusion proof that brilliant satire ultimately fools those it's targeting).

The National Review Online: The Best Conservative Movies/2.23.09 Issue

Now that I've perused NRO's choices a few times, I can't help but feel like there are quite a few movies that the magazine neglected to mention. Movies that I think should've made the list before, say, Ghostbusters.

How about:

Last Tango In Paris

Features a selfish white guy who delights in bending over complete strangers and screwing them in the ass.

Wall Street

A perfect movie right up until the last ten minutes.


A clever American outwits the Nazis and dumps his foreigner girlfriend.

The Transporter

A white guy in an expensive car lives by a strict code that includes doing what he's told while never asking questions and never bothering to look at what his job entails and whether it's hurting anyone.


The uplifting story of an unstoppable white object that sinks a boat full of poor people while most of the rich manage to save themselves -- a fine allegory for either the U.S. government or Wall Street, depending on your perspective.

The Big Chill

Its main character is a dead hippie.


Mel Gibson defeats illegal aliens.

American Psycho

A Wall Street investment banker murders hookers, homeless people, and other undesirables.

Thelma and Louise

Ends with Susan Sarandon driving off a cliff.

Any more suggestions? Have at it.

Absolutely Fabulist

Today's piece for the Daily Banter takes a look at the downfall of Jonah Lehrer, and questions what is and isn't acceptable behavior for journalists in the internet age.

Here's the opening shot:

"So, shooting star journalist celebrity Jonah Lehrer’s very short stint at The New Yorker is officially over, quite possibly along with his entire career. Since accepting a staff writing position at the magazine back in June, Lehrer’s been the subject of quite a bit of controversy, most of it stemming from the fact that he’s revealed himself to be one hell of a self-plagiarist; several online watchdogs have documented his tendency to rip off quotes or entire paragraphs from earlier pieces written for other outlets and recycle them in new columns. That, according to standard protocol, was bad. What’s worse, though — and what put him in a position where he had no choice but to resign — was fabricating quotes out of thin air for his new book, "Imagine: How Creativity Works." Lehrer got busted when he lied to a reporter who asked for references for a series of quotes attributed to Bob Dylan..."

Read the Rest Here

Listening Post

This song is familiar to millions thanks to its placement in an ad for HP computers, but as electronic dance songs go it's pretty damn irresistible.

Here's Nero's Promises.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Quote of the Day

"CNN and other news organizations expect politicians to tell the truth; they expect business people to tell the truth; they expect church people, they expect athletes to tell the truth. And they issue a statement like this... I’m guessing the people who watch them don’t like Sarah Palin all that much anyway, which is why they did it, and thought that, like in the old days, they could get away with it. Well, it’s not the old days anymore, CNN. You can’t get away with this stuff."

-- Bernie Goldberg on CNN's claim that playing Pink's song Stupid Girls before a segment about Sarah Palin was an accident

Wait, what?

Look, I don't doubt that CNN is probably lying its ass off when it says that the choice of that particular song before a Palin segment was an innocent oversight; while it certainly could be, because you'd be shocked at how little attention to every small detail is paid in a 24/7 news operation, it was more than likely a joke played by somebody in the control room. But for Fox fucking News to self-righteously claim to be crusaders for the truth and defenders of integrity is goddamn laughable when you consider that just two months ago the network actually tried to make everyone believe that a four-and-a-half-minute attack ad against Barack Obama, produced for Fox & Friends and run multiple times, was an accident and ultimately the fault of one associate producer.

Stick that hypocritical indignation in your ass, Bernie.

Oh, and I happen to think it was inexcusable for CNN to play Stupid Girls before a Sarah Palin segment. Surely Eminem's White Trash Party was available.

Bad Defense

Today's piece for the Daily Banter takes a look at some of the fallout from the recent NCAA punishment of Penn State -- not the fallout from the sex abuse scandal itself, but the reaction from some of the Penn State faithful to the severe penalties levied against the school and its football program and to the hostility expressed by many against Joe Paterno.

Here's the line that kind of sums up the entire argument made in the column:

"What those who defend Penn State and Joe Paterno against all comers — who look for mitigating circumstances and concoct ridiculous rationalizations for the sins of their idols — don’t seem to understand is that it’s exactly this kind of thinking that allowed Sandusky to get away with what he did for so long."

Read the Rest Here

Listening Post

I'll generally spend a good amount of time trying to purposely overlook bands from New Jersey that cultivate the well-trodden "working class" sound, but the new record from the Gaslight Anthem is pretty undeniable.

From that album, here's 45.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Inara

Four years old today.

I love her and miss her, but I'll see her soon.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Game On... and On and On and On

Today's piece for the Daily Banter has to do with the Olympics.

Don't care at all about the Olympics?

Tough -- you're gonna be inundated with them for the next two-and-a-half weeks whether you like it or not.

Read Here

Listening Post

I saw these guys open for Miike Snow a while back.

That's pretty much all I got.

Here's Wolf Gang -- Lions in Cages.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chicken Out

As promised, my column at the Daily Banter today elaborates on the current dust-up over Chick-Fil-A's stand on gay marriage and gay people in general.

Here's the opening shot:

"I’ve never been one of those people to let a little corporate malfeasance stand in the way of getting what I want. Call me an asshole, but the fact is that I’m cynical and realistic enough to understand that every company is probably engaged in some kind of behavior I’d find reprehensible were I to look closely enough. So, no, I don’t avoid shopping at Target and Best Buy because they occasionally funnel money to the Republican party and I haven’t hacked my Mobil card up with a kitchen knife, even though Exxon Mobil was behind one of the worst oil spills in history and has a lengthy record of inequity when it comes to how the it treats its employees. I’m not saying that I won’t try to avoid giving money to companies that engage in particularly egregious activity, but in a pinch convenience and selfishness will generally trump ideals. It’s just how it is.

That said, I kind of have no choice but to not eat at Chick-Fil-A from here on out..."

Read the Rest Here

Listening Post

These guys have been one of my favorite bands since I was in high school.

Here's recent stuff from the mighty Killing Joke.

This is European Super State.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Picture of the Day

It's interesting that a business that's so unrepentantly in-your-face about its belief in superstitious nonsense and its distaste for gay people wouldn't be willing to just come right out and admit the real reason it was forced to remove any trace of Jim Henson's characters from its meals.

Then again, I guess the "safety issue" is that enjoying the Muppets will get you sent to hell for all eternity.

More on this tomorrow at the Daily Banter.

Post Mortem

A little housekeeping item: Starting this week, I'll be writing four pieces a week for the Daily Banter. It'll mean that I'm busy as hell, but at least there'll be plenty of material to keep everybody satisfied. My stuff will appear Tuesday through Friday most weeks, with the usual mail bag also popping up on Friday. Some of the material will continue to be cross-posted at the Huffington Post.

Today's column deals with the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado and the inevitable reaction to it.

Here's the opening shot:

"The most important thing to keep in mind is that nothing’s going to change. You may as well accept that right now.

Since last week’s midnight movie shooting spree in Aurora, Colorado — the one that cost a dozen people their lives and left more than 70 others hurt — everything has moved along according to a well-established routine. We know how this works because we’ve seen it unfold far too many times before — and it now seems to do so with almost surreal and disconcerting precision. The press descends, the details trickle out, the obvious yet nearly unanswerable questions are asked, the politicization begins, the gun control debate reignites, the usual suspects step up to offer the insane fantasy of a roomful of guns somehow allowing a bold hero or two to stop the violent actions of one gunman, the lack of faith in Jesus is offered as an authentic rationale for why there was ever a gunman in the first place, pop culture is blamed — all of this is part of the machinery that ramps up every time something like this happens. And it happens far too often..."

Read the Rest Here

Listening Post

Purity Ring are an electro-pop duo out of Canada on 4AD whose song titles all sound like something created in a tour bus crash between Sigur Ros and the Cocteau Twins.

From their new record, this is Fineshrine.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Listening Post

Looks like musician-performance artist Ariel Pink -- who's a bona fide weirdo, by the way -- isn't making too many changes to his sound with his new album.

Last time around he managed to hit the 70s soft rock nail with almost eerie accuracy -- and this new single proves he's doing it again.

Here's Only in My Dreams.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Quote of the Day

"You know what really gets me, as a Christian, is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs, and then some senseless crazy act of terror like this takes place. People say ... where was God in all of this? We've threatened high school graduation participations, if they use God's name, they're going to be jailed ... I mean that kind of stuff. Where was God? What have we done with God? We don't want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present."

-- Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, responding to last night's shooting in Aurora, CO

I swear I didn't want to even bring politics into it this early, but the way things are these days -- with assholes like Gohmert immediately putting the blame for senseless, inexcusable violence on our lack of faith in Jesus -- there's just no way around it. I guess this was something I forgot to mention in my previous post on this subject, because this kind of blame-the-victim thing goes way beyond simple politicization. It borders on sociopathy.

Speaking of blaming the victim, Gohmert goes on to make an argument you just knew would be coming in short order:

"It does make me wonder, with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying a gun that could have stopped this guy more quickly?"

Because if Louie Gohmert had been there with his trusty pistol at his side, he would've dropped that killer in his tracks, I'll tell you what. Bullshit. Gohmert's another pretend tough guy from Texas who, armed or not, would've pissed his pants and climbed over small children to get out of that theater once the shooting started. He's a pussy -- and nothing more.

Dark Days

I'll make this quick.

In the first movie in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight series, Batman Begins, a determined Bruce Wayne finds that there are those who take a much more scorched earth approach when it comes to their desire to fight crime. He comes up against R'as Al Ghul, who believes that Gotham has become so irredeemably corrupt that it must be completely destroyed, that the slate must be wiped clean and the clock reset. This, he says, is the natural order of things. Wayne, however, feels differently; he believes that one man, living by the courage of his convictions, can turn things around and show the good people still left out there that justice can triumph. He believes he can act as an example to inspire the noble and a symbol to terrify the evil.

Batman's very reason for existence, his statement of purpose, is the first layer of sickening irony to last night's shooting in Aurora, Colorado at the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. But I can't help thinking that it's not the only one.

We know now what will follow. We know the politicization of this tragedy that's to come and the ghoulishly vulturine media feeding frenzy. We know the bitter debate over guns in our society that will infuriate and sadden anyone with a conscience but will ultimately be futile thanks to a select group of very powerful zealots for whom guns are nothing short of a necessary extension of their own flaccid masculinity. We know the almost certain picketing of the funerals of the victims by a handful of monsters for whom any violent death, even that of a kid who simply wanted to see a movie he or she was looking forward to, represents God's entirely deserved wrath upon our society. We know all of this -- and more.

And as we watch, I won't be able to stop thinking about my very first reaction to this heartbreaking atrocity: What the hell is wrong with us?

I want to believe in what the fictional Dark Knight stands for. But I see something like this and I can't help but feel that maybe R'as Al Ghul was the one who was right.

Listening Post

Incredible song and a gorgeously evocative video to go with it.

Here's the new single from School of Seven Bells.

This is Reappear.

The Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show, 7.19.12

Our One Year Anniversary Show; Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital Whereabouts; Mitt Romney’s Mysterious Tax Returns; Mitt Romney as the Reaganomics Poster Boy; Voter ID Laws and Jim Crow Disenfranchisement; Rush Limbaugh is Really Confused About Batman and Bain Capital; Ann Romney’s ‘You People’ Remarks; Everything We Didn’t Get To will be Featured on The After Party Tomorrow; and much more. Brought to you by Bubble Genius!

Programming Note: Contrary to what Bob said last week, there will be a show and an After Party next week. No show on August 2.

Listen and subscribe for free on iTunes

Download the mp3 (55 minutes, 23mb)

Listen on your smartphone via Stitcher.com

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Picture of the Day

After the death of Joe Paterno earlier this year, political cartoonist Rob Tornoe drew an image of Bear Bryant with his arm around the Penn State coach, welcoming him "home" to heaven.

After the recent results of the Freeh report, this is his follow-up cartoon.

Changing Channels

My latest piece for the Daily Banter is up and it asks a question that will seem a little surprising given my initial take on this subject: Can The Newsroom actually change television news for the better?

Here's the opening shot:

"A few weeks back I banged out a column for this site that took issue with what I called the misguided, 'pipe-dreamy idealism' of Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO show, 'The Newsroom.' After watching only the season premiere I didn’t necessarily claim to know whether the show would eventually wind up being genuinely good TV, but I did think that it had all the necessary ingredients to be cloying and obnoxious as hell. From Sorkin’s at times insufferably overbearing sanctimony, to characters I didn’t really care much about, to, yes, a lack of foundation in anything approaching the real world when it came to how the show portrayed the world of television news, I just wasn’t sure it would keep my attention for long let alone have the kind of impact it was obvious Sorkin was hoping it would on the industry I’d devoted almost two decades of my life to. In that original piece, I said that TV newspeople on the whole simply aren’t idealistic enough these days to be affected by anything that tries so blatantly to both lecture them and appeal to their sense of dignity..."

Read the Rest Here

Listening Post

Apparently the xx figured there was no sense in messing with a good thing for their new album, because the first single from it once again sounds like a post-orgasmic sigh.

Here's Angels.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Picture of the Day

Whoever did this should get an honorary MBA from Harvard.

Listening Post

I'm not sure Deadmau5 actually has any spare time, because when he's not recording new material, being paid to remix other people's stuff, or getting into Twitter feuds with aging, irrelevant pop stars, he's creating remixes to throw out into the ether just for the hell of it.

Like this: a very cool and menacing reimagining of Nine Inch Nails's Survivalism.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Quote of the Day

"Have you heard, this new movie, the Batman movie -- what is it, the Dark Knight Lights Up or something? Whatever the name of it is. That's right, Dark Knight Rises, Lights Up, same thing. Do you know the name of the villain in this movie? Bane. The villain in the Dark Knight Rises is named Bane. B-A-N-E. What is the name of the venture capital firm that Romney ran, and around which there's now this make-believe controversy? Bain. The movie has been in the works for a long time, the release date's been known, summer 2012 for a long time. Do you think that it is accidental, that the name of the really vicious, fire-breathing, four-eyed, whatever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bane? ... Anyway, so this evil villain in the new Batman movie is named Bane. And there's now discussion out there as to whether or not this was purposeful, and whether or not it will influence voters. It's going to have a lot of people. This movie, the audience is going to be huge, lot of people are going to see the movie. And it's a lot of brain-dead people, entertainment, the pop culture crowd. And they're going to hear 'Bane' in the movie, and they are going to associate Bain. And the thought is that when they start paying attention to the campaign later in the year, and Obama and the Democrats keep talking about Bain, not Bain Capital, but Bain, Romney and Bain, that these people will think back to the Batman movie -- 'Oh yeah, I know who that is.' There are some people who think it will work. There are some people think it will work. Others think -- 'You're really underestimating the American people who think that will work.'"

-- Rush Limbaugh

And there you have it, at long last: the single dumbest thing that's ever been said by any human being in the history of mankind. Mark your calendars -- some day you'll be able to tell your grandkids you were there when it happened.

Listening Post

Sorry, but I'm still trapped in project hell so it's gonna be barren around here today yet again -- probably through tomorrow as well.

Anyway, here's a favorite from the 80s.

Adam and the Ants -- Dog Eat Dog.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Listening Post

Over the next couple of days I'm going to be up to my ass in a project that I really need to finish -- so it's gonna be pretty scarce output around here. Sorry, kids.

Here's new Beth Orton.

This is Something More Beautiful.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

You're Not One To Talk

This is why I'm friends with and love the hell out of Salon's Mary Beth Williams:

"Not even Daniel Tosh deserves to have an audience member yell at him about what’s 'never' funny while he is doing his job. But wait, you say. First they made jokes about the communists and I didn’t speak because I wasn’t a communist, and all that! The comic needs to know when he is going too far! you argue. Still, no. A comedy club is not a town meeting. It is not a dialogue. Even if you’re going to see improv, and the comic is asking you to shout out suggestions, he is not inviting you to tell him that rape is not funny. There’s really not a whole lot he can do with that. He is not going to pause thoughtfully and say, 'Why, perhaps I should reconsider my material. I’m off to do some rewriting. Thank you, helpful expert in the back!' He is going to attack you with everything he’s got now, because that is the nature of stand-up.

The moment the comic takes the stage, he is fighting every second for control of that audience. He is competing with the table full of drunks over at the side who are talking through his routine. He is vying for attention against the group that can’t stop looking at their phones. As Todd Barry once told a New York club crowd, 'You are the nicest audience that has ever texted through my whole set.' And he is just holding his breath for the person, like you, who has suddenly decided that this is the night to get into a debate. Comedy is a power struggle, and I promise you the person on the stage will not let you win it. If he’s worth his salt, he’ll do it in a way that’s so incisive and devastating that even you, random person with poor impulse control, will laugh. If he’s not, he’ll do it in a clumsy, angry manner that becomes a gigantic stink on the Internet and you will still have been wrong in the first place."


Friday, July 13, 2012

The Bob & Chez Show After Party, 7.13.12

Join the After Party

This week: We Argue About Daniel Tosh and His Laugh Factory Heckler Response; Women and Rape Jokes; The Outrage Machine; Free Speech; Funny and Not Funny; Louis CK; The Enemies List: Our Most Hated ’80s Rock Bands and Musicians; and much more.

The Age of Outrage

My latest piece for the Daily Banter is now up, and it expands on and summarizes my thoughts on a conversation that's been going on pretty much nonstop here, via e-mail, on Facebook and on the podcast for the last few days: Daniel Tosh's rape joke and the reaction to it.

Here's the opening shot:

"There are a few subjects that I feel like I’ve written about so often that when they inevitably come up again, I’m at a loss to say anything about them that I haven’t said before. It’s one of the occupational hazards of blogging steadily for six years: You just run out of clever twists to put on the subjects you’re passionate about and which inspire you to speak up and so you essentially wind up recycling all your previous points and arguments while hoping no one notices how tedious you’ve become. (This is known as 'Greenwalding.') Among my cast of rotating regular topics, there’s Nancy Grace doing something despicable, Fox News doing something unethical and not giving a damn what anyone thinks about it, and the subject I’ve been embroiled in an ongoing online debate over for the past 48 hours: a comedian or entertainer saying something offensive and the whole world losing its fucking mind..."

Read the Rest Here

Listening Post

I'm currently embroiled in yet another battle in my ongoing epic struggle with Time Warner Cable -- incidentally, the worst and most institutionally incompetent cable system in the universe, and I used to work for Time Warner -- so it's going to be sporadic today given that my internet service is out and I'm working off an air-card.

Either way, I'm a big fan of 70s film, so here's Paul Williams's Where Do I Go From Here from Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show, 7.12.12

Mitt Romney Flirts with the Southern Strategy; Republican Dog-Whistles; Programming Notes and Summer Vacations; Lemon Wet Good; The Real Welfare Queens; Reagan and Tax Loopholes; Fox and Friends and Rove Politics; The Biggest Tax Hikes in the Universe; Everything We Didn’t Get To will be Featured on The After Party Tomorrow; and much more. Brought to you by Bubble Genius.

Listen and subscribe on for free on iTunes

Download the mp3 (54 minutes, 22mb)

Listen on your smartphone via Stitcher.com

Comment of the Week

In response to the rabidly pro-Penn State tweets posted earlier today:

"As a Penn State graduate, let me assure you that many who go or went there are just as disgusted with this whole mess. The mistake you are making is saying that it is almost cult like. I lived in State College for 7 years and can affirm that the 'We are…Penn State!' crew is a cult and you have to look at them in that way. It’s going to take years to deprogram them from thinking that it wasn’t possible for Paterno to do anything wrong. I would say that they are all still in the first stages of deep denial and that belief in the almighty JoePa is trumping intelligence. Even the devotion I’ve seen in fans of some of the big Florida colleges pales when compared to Penn Staters, though you may get close in Texas. Paterno had been sold as a man of principle and character for so many years throughout Pennsylvania and beyond that it has become an article of faith. Even I first thought 'There’s no way he could have known.' when the story first broke and I really give no fucks for the football program. I quickly got beyond that when the façade was pulled back and the whole stinking mess was exposed. I'm really not trying to make excuses for these kids, but they have been more or less brainwashed since birth. Then again, they may just be assholes.

-- Matt"

Thanks for the comment, Matt. As usual, you've just won a brand new Chrysler Cordoba and you can pick it up at Morty's office.

Tweet(s) of the Day

Yeah, I put poor dumbshit Brady Lucas in there twice, and maybe that's a little unfair, but I couldn't get enough of the fact that he both misspells "stopped" -- and it's not a 140 characters issue -- and of course whines about how this is all the big, bad media's fault. Sorry, kid -- Wolf Blitzer didn't rape a bunch of children while Pete Thamel swept it under the rug. And yeah, big fan of "B-Rock's" self-serving, Chris Brownian plea for everyone to just put it behind them and move on. Do I even need to bring up who's had a bitch of a time moving on in all this? Here's a hint: the kids whose innocence was absolutely shattered by a predatory old man and the friends of his who thought that the reputation of Penn State was more important than stopping a child rapist and rescuing his victims.

By the way, here's an interesting little tidbit: All the TVs at the Penn State student union were abruptly switched away from cable news to a local public access channel just as the results of Louis Freeh's report were about to be read.

Adding: This...

An hour ago he was bitching about the media, now look at him -- all stars in his eyes. Is there any way we can get Tosh to throw an insult this kid's way?

Quote of the Day

"The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized... None of them ever spoke to Sandusky about his conduct. Nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity... None of these men took responsible action."

-- Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who headed the internal investigation into the Jerry Sandusky child rape case and the reaction to it by Penn State's administration, issuing his report on the matter

So there you have it. Anyone want to argue anymore? Anyone want to claim that it wasn't an inexcusable cover-up that resulted in child after child being assaulted by a serial rapist? Anybody want to take to the streets in outrage that Joe-Pa got fired?

Freeh says flat-out, without a hint of equivocation or mitigation, that Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz, Tim Curley and, yes, Joe Paterno, all exhibited a "total disregard for the safety and welfare" of the young boys Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulted. Forget the death penalty for Penn State's football program, which is practically a lock -- this report now sets in motion the likelihood of not only criminal charges and civil suits, but the possibility, albeit slim, of the complete repeal of Penn State's accreditation.

If nothing else, Spanier, Schultz, and Curley belong in prison for the rest of their lives. As for Paterno -- he got off far too easy. But that statue of him in Happy Valley? That thing needs to be pulled down by a Humvee and a cable and beaten with shoes.

Listening Post

Florence + The Machine's Ceremonials is just a dazzling record from start to finish.

From that album, here's No Light, No Light.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

...What Makes Us Human

In October of last year, the New York Times op-ed page published one of the most profoundly moving and searingly heartbreaking essays I've ever read. It was written by a woman named Emily Rapp, who is slowly watching her young son die of Tay-Sachs disease -- and to say that it left me in tears, an utterly devastated mess, would be an almost farcical understatement. It was, quite simply, an extraordinary piece of writing -- one I doubt I'll soon forget -- that related with quiet dignity a suffering most parents couldn't even imagine nor would they want to.

I'd highly recommend reading it, if you haven't already -- then read the latest piece by Ms. Rapp in today's Salon. In it, she expands on the initial essay, revealing in almost too-personal detail -- with a tone that's equal parts desperate and reverent, the kind of thing only a soul laid completely bare can express -- how she's continuing to cope as her son nears the end and what she's learned about life as she lives in the shadow of certain death and unrelenting grief. It's agonizing, and yet undeniably life-affirming -- and it's no coincidence that her determination to open herself up completely through writing about her experience is what makes both her words and how they've helped her find her humanity and a measure of peace so awesomely powerful.

This is my favorite excerpt:

"The world can be a horrible place at times, but we don’t have to participate in this, we don’t have to harden our hearts as we’re taught and told to do, in order to survive or be sexy or attractive lovers or perfect parents or interesting people. We do not have to make ourselves into mysterious gifts, waiting to be chosen or read or understood by those who will earn us, unwrap our secrets, and then what? We can be something more authentic, and speak from a different place, a different planet. This is why I like being a writer, because what it demands is both simple and incredibly hard. To be a human being. Does anyone even know what that means anymore? Why don’t we allow for mess? Why are we so afraid of it? What do we expect from the veils we pull down over our eyes, our minds, our hearts? How can we possibly connect if we never let people see what we truly are and what it would take to make us free? Now, when I can’t fake a single emotion I don’t feel (or at least not for long), I wonder how I’ve lived this long being any other way. Maybe it’s that I haven’t really been living, and that now I am like Adam, like Eve, my feet still wet from being newly created, awkwardly learning how to walk on dry land."

Trust me -- read this.

Salon: Someone To Hold Me/7.11.12

The Libertarium of Doctor Parnasshole

The Onion: Showing Ron Paul the respect he deserves.

Just brilliant.

(via Cesca)

Tweet of the Day

This is another one of those subjects that it would be a waste for me to pontificate on in too much detail because I've done it so many times before. Yeah, Daniel Tosh made a joke about rape at a comedy club then made another rape crack at a woman in the audience who took offense and heckled him for it -- so what? Love him or hate him, Tosh is a comic whose material is readily available to anyone going to see him live, given that his show is the most popular thing on Comedy Central at the moment, five times over. You know what you're getting yourself into by sitting in the crowd at one of his shows; you know the kind of humor you'll be subjected to, and in the end that's all it is: humor. He's a fucking comic. Don't think he's funny? His kind of comedy not your particular brand of vodka? Leave. Don't watch, don't listen.

Enough with the fucking offense at anything anyone says that you don't like. Enough with the horseshit indignation spread like wildfire through social networking to millions who weren't privy to the actual comment -- its extended context and the setting in which it was offered -- so that everyone can join in your personal pissy-party pile-on. Comedy is entirely subjective and I don't want to live in a country where someone, anyone tells me what I should and shouldn't think is funny.

I've said it before but it bears repeating: Comics stand as the vanguard of our right to free speech -- the canary in the coal mine, so to speak. They're the ones we count on to be able to push the envelope, challenge our sensibilities, even offend us occasionally because it's necessary for us as a culture. The world would be a much more tedious place without comedians willing to truly put themselves out there and take risks -- to make fun of the sacrosanct and vilify the revered if necessary -- and their ability to do that should be protected at all costs. Making them grovel before the altar of political correctness, in the end, damages all of us.

It doesn't matter whether you think what Tosh said was funny or not; he should be able to say it and not have to worry about the effects of a nationwide public backlash.

To everyone who's pissed about Tosh's rape crack: You got an apology from him -- and it's quite frankly more than you deserved.

The Bob & Chez Show After Party, 7.11.12

Join the After Party

This week: It’s a Bonus After Party; The July 4 Holiday Week; Fireworks and Dogs; Liberal Beef Consumption and the Climate Crisis; We Debate Foie Gras Again; The Nation is on Fire; This Week’s Food Network Star; The Newsroom and Sexism; The Self-Destruction of Facebook; Thunder Frightens Baseball Players; God Bless America Blunder; Idiot Burns Own Crotch with Fireworks; and much more.

Quote of the Day

"Now, years later, I hear the word 'socialist' being tossed around by the likes of Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and others. President Obama, they warn, is a socialist. The critics cry, 'Obamacare is socialism!' They falsely equate Western European-style socialism, and its government provision of social insurance and health care, with Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism. It offends me, and cheapens the experience of millions who lived, and continue to live, under brutal forms of socialism."

-- Director Milos Forman, who lived under tyrannical socialist rule in Czechoslovakia, in an op-ed in yesterday's New York Times

Forman puts things in crystal clear perspective -- and puts the politically motivated hysterics of the Tea Party-led GOP in their place.

It's required reading.

They Burn Witches, Don't They?

There's really no sense in my writing yet another angry screed against Nancy Grace; I've written quite a few already -- including an open letter to CNN published in the Huffington Post and circulated far and wide online -- and they've accomplished pretty much nothing other than to stop me from actually resorting to some form of physical violence.

I think with this latest suicide that the most repugnant, irresponsible and dangerous person on television is linked to -- a woman who may have admittedly killed her baby in a drunken accident but who wound up lighting herself on fire only after becoming the nightly target of Grace's entirely self-serving indignant histrionics -- the best I can hope for is that at some point Nancy Grace decides that Nancy Grace herself doesn't deserve to live.

Wouldn't that be a beautiful thing: Nancy Grace devoting hours and hours of airtime, night after night, to hammering away at Nancy Grace; a woman who's now been implicated in two deaths; who regularly flouts any standard of decency, morality and ethical conduct, all in the name of making herself rich; who believes that she has the right to play the role of judge and jury -- and, inadvertently, executioner -- over cases that haven't yet been decided or have already been ruled on fairly and justly, trying them separately or retrying them in the court of public opinion; who claims to speak for the victims but who herself is a bullying victimizer; who subverts the real justice system over and over again using one of the most powerful weapons the world has ever seen: a televised forum. Could Nancy Grace bring Nancy Grace on her show, slap a clever nickname on her like "Vodka Mom" or "Tot Mom" -- "Grudge Judge" maybe? -- and pile onto her, eviscerating her until she feels so guilty for being a reckless, wretched, despicable monster that it would lead Nancy Grace to take her own life? Could Nancy Grace put Nancy Grace on trial publicly -- doling out whatever punishment she and she alone feels is deserved?

That would be something worth watching.

Here now is the last thing I wrote about Grace, published just a few months ago. You can literally replace one or two words and it works perfectly this morning.

"An Open Letter To CNN Regarding Nancy Grace" (Originally Published, 2.14.12)

You have to fire Nancy Grace.

Is that simple and unambiguous enough for you to get through your heads the gravity of the situation that the world's most irresponsible cable news presence has put your network in? Is it finally sinking in just how reckless, unhinged and flat-out dangerous Grace is -- and what an embarrassment she is to the CNN brand I have to assume you value -- now that she's used your airwaves to make the ludicrously inflammatory claim that Whitney Houston may have been murdered, without a shred of actual proof? Did you cringe when one of your level-headed anchors, Don Lemon, was forced to follow up her ridiculous, histrionic accusation with a disclaimer distancing CNN from the opportunistic ravings of one of its own? Are you maybe, now, after all this time, beginning to realize the level of shame that Grace has heaped at your doorstep for the past seven years -- seven years in which you've inexplicably given her free rein to bullhorn whatever wild theories or self-serving but ultimately defamatory blather have popped into her overactive mind?

You can't let this continue. Enough is enough.

I'll say it again: You have got to fire Nancy Grace -- and you have got to do it now.

For reasons most sane people will never quite understand, you let it slide when Grace -- in a near-sociopathic display of morbid prurience and sadistic exploitation -- berated Florida mother Melinda Duckett on-air to the point where it may have led her to kill herself, then ran the pre-taped interview immediately following the suicide. You looked the other way when, after months of indignant torch-and-pitchfork bluster from a CNN host's chair directed toward them, it was revealed that three Duke lacrosse players were in fact innocent of all rape charges against them, a verdict which prompted the perpetually wrong Grace to not only refuse to admit that she was wrong but to sub in another CNN anchor to deliver the news of the court's decision. You abdicated your responsibility to do something to stop the daily onslaught of incendiary invective spewing from the geyser of crap in the middle of Grace's face in the wake of the Casey Anthony verdict. Whether Casey Anthony is truly guilty or innocent doesn't matter one bit -- a court spoke and justice as we know it in this country was served. But that didn't matter to Nancy Grace, because in her mind she is the only real arbiter of right, wrong and legality and therefore it's within her God-given right to sit in judgment of each and every court case she calculatingly milks of every last drop of soap-opera tawdriness in the name of keeping herself relevant.

And that's just scratching the surface of her vulgarity.

She can do this kind of thing all she wants. This is a free country. But she should not be allowed to do it as a representative of CNN.

You have to fire Nancy Grace and you have to do it now -- before she does any more damage to your already tarnished reputation. You simply cannot continue to provide her with an on-air forum at your network and simultaneously claim to be a responsible news organization, one which holds itself to a high journalistic standard. The two just don't go together -- they can't.

She's already a national laughingstock, but you don't have to be by association. Not anymore.

Get rid of her.

Because I guarantee that her outrageous and irresponsible rants about the life and death of Whitney Houston -- informed only by her megalomania and the apparent voices in her pea brain -- are only going to continue. They're only going to get worse, in fact. And they're only going to bring more shame to CNN.

You have to do it. She's left you no choice.

Related: The Daily Banter: The Despicable Nancy Grace/7.11.12

Listening Post

I listen to a lot of Alt Nation on Sirius XM -- or at least I used to up until recently. I think my choice to kind of go cold turkey on the station is that most of what it plays right now is boring and indistinguishable, probably because most of what's popular in the alt music scene right now is boring and indistinguishable; it's all a lot of twee hipster anthems.

I'm gonna sound like an old guy here, but I really kind of consider the new Emperors album to be a breath of fresh air -- mostly because it actually harkens back to a time when melodic rock dominated the alternative landscape.

I really can't get enough of this record at the moment.

Here's Be Ready When I Say Go.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Stage Left

Continuing the apparent theme here today, if you didn't get a chance to listen to the Bob & Chez Show After Party that I referenced in my little diatribe against John Stossel it probably won't surprise you to learn that Al Sharpton came in a close second on my list of most disliked cable news personalities. The shockingly dumb stunt his unwatchable MSNBC show pulled last night is a perfect example of why I think he has zero place on the air at a major news outlet.

He and his crew staged a "reenactment" of Mitt Romney's Hamptons fundraiser on Sunday, complete with four actors playing the Biff and Muffy Hamptons cliché to the hilt -- all tennis-wear and phony finishing school accents, like they're extras in a Whit Stillman movie -- while rattling off actual quotes from the fundraiser's hyper-wealthy attendees. It was, literally, political coverage as cheap theater -- and it never should've been allowed on the air at MSNBC.

The argument is often made from the right that MSNBC is as horrifically biased as Fox News, just from the other direction. This isn't true, simply because MSNBC ultimately has to answer to the objective-at-all-costs NBC News mothership and it maintains a modicum of independence and fairness in its regular news programming, while Fox News has a top-down political mandate that infects every single show on its air. Still, despite the fact that Sharpton's show is opinion and nothing more, this kind of stupid stunt just makes the entire network look bad, adds more fuel to the fire of its critics and proves that political punditry on cable is nothing but a circus act these days. It isn't even decent and insightful advocacy because no one with an IQ above that of a gerbil will take it the least bit seriously.

Sharpton's a buffoonish, inarticulate joke -- and he and his show should be scrapped for finally resorting to this kind of nonsense in an effort to make its point.

Although it's admittedly humorous and ironic that, in keeping with the need for liberal political correctness, the show included a black guy among the cast playing the Romney fundraiser guests. I'm betting the only black people at this thing were the ones serving the food and drinks.

Tuesday Is Recycling Day

It's been a while since I've done one of these under the old official name of the franchise, but given the recent influx of new readers I wanted to start bringing this feature back to DXM. A couple of nights ago, Aaron Sorkin's HBO show The Newsroom began with a well-written and impassioned mea culpa delivered on-air by the show's fictional news anchor, Will McAvoy. The soliloquy was everything you'd expect out of Sorkin; specifically it presented an important subject, in this case the American news media, not how it is but how intelligent people wish it would be.

Basically, McAvoy issued an "apology" to his audience for his complicity in bringing crap into its collective living room every night and for willingly contributing to the "dumbing down" of the American electorate. He copped to his own failures and promised to try to do better. It immediately reminded me of something I wrote for this site way back in February of 2007 in which I apologized for the TV news media's coverage of the death of Anna Nicole Smith. Admittedly, I was "in the closet" at the time -- working for CNN without divulging it here -- and I continued to be a part of the problem until being unceremoniously shown the door a year later. With that in mind, I can't get on too high a horse.

But what McAvoy alluded to during his fictional statement of purpose was correct in the real world: There are literally thousands of smart, dedicated, hard-working journalists in the news media who never signed up to cover garbage; who don't want to inflate every minor controversy or random event to the point where it explodes across the airwaves and pages day after day and night after night; who know that the truth is what journalists strive for and that it and it alone represents fairness, as opposed to some phony concept of forced objectivity; who understand that adding to the noise in the echo chamber in the name of the almighty ratings dollar demeans them and their chosen profession.

There are those who still remind us never to forget 9/11, as if such a thing were possible. I would, however, also remind everyone who takes an interest in being an informed populace that in the weeks just prior to 9/11 the mainstream news media as a whole was almost singularly fixated on trying to terrify every man, woman and child in this country into believing that he or she was about to be eaten by a shark.

And great white sharks have now been spotted off Cape Cod and the West Coast.

"And Now an Apology in the Form of an Open Letter To America" (Originally Published, 2.15.07)

Dear American Public,

I have no excuse. I have no defense.

I am a member of the American news media and have been for some time. This means that on more than one occasion I have -- willingly or unwillingly -- foisted upon you the trite, the inane and the monumentally ridiculous, and done so under the auspices of my supposed right to inform and educate you as to important events which affect your lives. I have been party to the beaming into your living room of seemingly endless video loops of JonBenet Ramsey dressed as a five-year-old prostitute. I have encouraged various interchangable Ken-and-Barbiesque meat-puppets, pompous and breathless, to sincerely attempt to convince you of the hidden threat lurking in your underwear drawer. I have conspired to make you believe that you were, at any given moment, in danger of being eaten by a shark. I have actually written the words "every parent's nightmare" -- more than once, in fact. I have dispatched correspondents to Aruba in search of Natalee Holloway. I have marveled at the ingenuity behind using an episode of Dateline NBC to promote The Apprentice. I've been good friends with Rick Sanchez for sixteen years.

In short, I have betrayed you. I have betrayed your trust.

I have let you down.

Yet I've never felt compelled to humbly ask for any sort of forgiveness for my offenses. I have never felt true shame, both for myself and my chosen profession. Until now.

I'm sorry for the coverage of the death of Anna Nicole Smith.

I'm sorry that so many supposedly venerable news organizations have elevated the all-but-inevitable self-destruction of a B-list former-stripper, Playmate, hack actress, gold-digger, tabloid queen, and all-around piece of human flotsam to the lofty heights of near-Shakespearian mythology. I'm sorry that we have treated an absolutely meaningless event as if it were somehow nothing short of a cultural earthquake, sure to send reverberations and tremors throughout society until they shake the very foundation -- the very soul -- of every man, woman and child in America. I'm sorry that we have devoted hour after hour to discussing and debating such asinine subjects as the paternity of this horrid woman's baby, even being willing to proclaim, with a straight face, that its father might be the husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor. I'm sorry that we've allowed Wolf Blitzer and Diane Sawyer to look no better than Pat O'Brien and Maria Menounos. I am truly sorry that we have, even for a moment, lent a shred of credibility to the opinions of Nancy Grace.

During the past week, those charged with the awesome responsibility of relaying to you the global, cultural, political, economic and medical news which you rightly expect and demand from us, have instead willingly allowed ourselves to be taken hostage by every permutation of loathsome, opportunistic degenerate -- each claiming to be able to add yet another spoonful of pabulum to the pot we're all too happy to stir. During the past week, hundreds of American soldiers and innocent civilians have been killed in Iraq -- as our focus shifted to one minor celebrity who died just off the Florida Turnpike.

We have failed you.

We have failed ourselves.

The only possible consolation is that many of us are well aware of our own ethical bankruptcy in the continued pursuit of this absurdity. I could explain at length my own feelings in the matter, but better I allow an anonymous colleague of mine to be the eloquent, impassioned and utterly frustrated voice for the thousands currently toiling away on this story at otherwise-reputable news operations across the country:

"I'm sorry, but I did not spend tens of thousands of dollars in school to cover this bullshit. She's a celebrity for fucking the unfuckable; that's not an accomplishment. I actually announced to the newsroom this morning that I didn't go to journalism school to cover a two-bit Texas whore and that, if this was the kind of news we were covering, I could use my diploma for toilet paper. It's unbelievable. BREAKING NEWS??? I'm really sorry that the drug addict OD-ed, but that's what happens when you're an overweight drug addict."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

With Contrition,


John Stossel: Asshole

My latest piece for the Daily Banter is up -- and it has to do with John Stossel.

Really, that's all that needs to be said.

Here's the opening shot:

"A couple of weeks back, Bob Cesca and I each put together a list of the people in cable news we disliked the most, then ran down our respective choices on our subscription-only podcast After Party. A couple of the names we both came up with were obvious — the O’Reillys and Hannitys of the world — but we did actually try to stay away from easy political targets and were for the most part successful... A couple of days ago, though, I was reminded of a huge oversight on my personal list of the worst of the worst on cable news..."

Read the Rest Here

Listening Post

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is one of those movies I hold dear to my heart. It's a criminally overlooked work of art that was both moving and stunningly beautiful to look at, thanks to director Andrew Dominik and some of the best work cinematographer Roger Deakins has ever done.

Adding to the almost ethereally mournful tone of the film was the score, composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

I listened to this quite a bit during my drive through the American west to reach California last winter.

Here's All Things Beautiful

Monday, July 09, 2012

Quote of the Day, Jr.

"I don't think the common person is getting it. We got the message. But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies -- everybody who’s got the right to vote -- they don’t understand what’s going on. I just think if you’re lower income -- one, you’re not as educated, two, they don’t understand how it works, they don’t understand how the systems work, they don’t understand the impact."

-- Anonymous, Range Rover-owning woman attending yesterday's Romney fundraiser in the Hamptons on how the little people just don't understand what Barack Obama is doing to this country

If you haven't yet, do yourself a favor and read TPM's breakdown of the mega-rich attendees at Romney's soiree; as the piece says, a lot of them managed to perfectly live up to the stereotype you'd imagine.

I get that Obama counts on and courts the wealthy himself -- all politicians do. But to be this willfully tone-deaf and condescending requires an insular lifestyle and worldview that's offensively ugly. And while Romney has been a member of a rarefied club since his first breath, he's chosen to embrace a specific brand of ultra-entitlement -- a greed-is-good ethos that puts him fundamentally at odds with the common man. Mitt Romney easily moves among people like Hamptons Range Rover lady there, as well as guys like Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon and the rest of the financial "supermen" who cratered the global economy just for the hell of it, because he's one of them. He walks their walk and talks their talk.

Might be a good thing to keep in mind this election season.

Quote of the Day

"He’s a sage, skillful and respected leader (who's doing) all he can to take our country back. At the end of the day, he’s one of the few people in the country who can command respect from people of all walks of life."

-- Sarasota, Florida GOP Chairman Joe Gruters on Donald Trump, whom the Sarasota GOP is giving its "Statesman of the Year" award

I'm not even sure where to begin -- whether to insult the statement, Gruters, Florida, the modern Republican party or Donald Trump first.

You know, now that I think about it, I got nothin'.

This one's offered without comment.

Listening Post

Finally back from an extended holiday. Sorry about the lack of warning, kids.

Anyway, still a big fan of these guys after all this time -- and this kind of thing is exactly what I need to wake me up a little this morning.

Here's Filter's Welcome To the Fold.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

No Mother Hubbard

While we're on the subject of celebrity pseudo-science around here today, I feel like it's been a dereliction of duty on my part that I haven't even bothered bringing up the impending divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. It's not like I care much about Hollywood marriages, but ones that involve Scientology are both fascinating and revolting to me -- no way around that.

Since I've written quite a bit about Scientology before -- the truly conspiracy-minded have even suggested that it was my 2008 column in the Huffington Post about Anonymous's war on the "religion" that got me fired from CNN -- I've been paying some attention to all the little Scientology-related details that have emerged in the wake of last week's Tom-and-Katie split announcement. Obviously, there's the rumor that Holmes bailed when Cruise decided that he wanted to enroll their young daughter in either the "Sea Org" or one of L. Ron's other strict indoctrination programs; the spooky black SUVs that have mysteriously appeared outside Holmes's place in New York City and which have seemed to follow her everywhere since the split; the claim that Holmes said being married to Cruise was like being Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby; the list goes on and on.

While I could easily publish another acerbic, long-winded diatribe about the dangerous lunacy that is Scientology, my favorite thing about this particular topic is that I don't have to. Nobody does. Yes, Paul Haggis's extended and revealing takedown of the group, its ridiculous cosmology, and its cult-like tactics, from the inside out, was excellent -- and there's been plenty of other terrific stuff written about the insanity of Scientology. But in the end, nothing tells you everything you need to know about Scientology like ten minutes of Tom Cruise talking about it himself. I've said it before but it bears repeating yet again: I go back and watch this video clip every once in a while simply because it's just that fucking crazy. It's rare to see a movie star -- someone whose every move is generally reduced to inoffensive homogenization by an army of publicists -- allowing himself to go this far off the rails. This image of Cruise, the one we were never meant to see but which millions of us now have, should never at any point be separated from the carefully crafted, entirely bullshit image his Hollywood handlers would have us believe. The next time you see Tom Cruise acting demure and humble and otherwise behaving seemingly normal during a press junket for one of his movies, remember, this is the real him: all bukkaked with crazy via the jet-fuel semen of L. Ron Hubbard; an entire dictionary of silly, official-sounding acronymic lingo blared through an amp cranked to 11.

This is what he's momentarily tamping down for public consumption. This is what he's dying to unleash.

Quote of the Day

"The doctors are not gonna tell you both sides of the issue... they're told by the pharmaceutical industry, which makes billions of dollars, that it's completely safe. The efficacy of these shots have not been proven. And the toxicity of these things -- we're having more and more side effects. We're having more and more autism."

-- Rob Schneider on the supposed link between vaccinations and autism

So there you have it: every reputable doctor and researcher in the civilized world or -- the woman on the new cover of Playboy and Deuce Bigalow.

I realized I've been recycling a lot lately, but we've had an influx of new readers around here recently and, what with the holiday and all, I'm all about cheap and easy content.

So there's this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listening Post

All hail new music from Blur -- available beginning today in the stateside iTunes store.

Here's Under the Westway.

Monday, July 02, 2012

State of Disgrace

Okay, anybody wanna step up and defend these assholes?

CNN: Disturbing E-Mails May Spell More Trouble for Penn State/7.2.12

A related article in the Christian Science Monitor sums up the details:

"Citing email exchanges between senior Penn State officials in 2001, CNN reports an apparent effort to go slowly on what a graduate assistant said he had seen: Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in the team locker room shower.

The emails between former university president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley, and vice president Gary Schultz, at first suggested contacting the state Department of Welfare, which investigates suspected child abuse.

But a day later, the officials agreed that a more 'humane and a reasonable way to proceed' would be to approach Sandusky (referred to not by name, but as 'the person') with the allegation but not involve state authorities.

'The only downside for us is if message isn't heard and acted upon and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it, but that can be assessed down the road,' one email said, according to CNN.

Coach Paterno (who was fired for 'failure of leadership' because of the sex scandal and died in January) had said that he reported graduate assistant Mike McQueary’s information to the athletic director, believing that was his only obligation in the case.

But the timing of the officials’ change in plans alluded to in the emails – coming after athletic director Curley had discussed the reported shower incident with Paterno – raises questions about whether the coach was more involved than he said in the decision to proceed in a more 'humane and a reasonable way.'

The fact is, the incident back in 2001 was not acted upon in a way that might have prevented subsequent sexual abuse by Sandusky over the next decade. Nor was there ever an attempt to identify the boy seen in the shower by McQueary, or to check on that boy’s well-being."

I realize that some will see this as an overreaction and the Penn State faithful will consider it outright blasphemy, but the school's football program should probably face the death penalty. While it can be argued that no NCAA bylaws were officially broken, the breakdown in institutional control -- particularly one that arose out of an effort to protect the football program and the school itself -- and the unmitigated tragedy that was allowed to spring from it constitutes a massive violation of the spirit of the rules put in place by the NCAA. There were acts undertaken and not undertaken by almost everyone who knew about what was going on with Sandusky that may not be illegal in the traditional sense, but that doesn't make the attempted cover-up, the gross negligence, the willingness to keep it from those it needed to be relayed to despicably unethical and flat-out wrong.

Make no mistake: The NCAA almost certainly won't kill Penn State football -- but it would be justified if it did.

Back when this story broke last year, I had quite a bit to say about it. What follows was the most comprehensive piece.

"Say It Ain't So, Joe" (Originally Published, 11.9.11)

I was going to avoid this subject simply because there's an odd sort of conflict of interest at play for me -- namely, all of my ex's siblings went to this particular school and their rabid allegiance to it was the subject of quite a bit of back-and-forth between us during my time with their sister. I've never been someone who aligns myself with any group, let alone vigorously, and so I never could understand the almost cult-like devotion and blood-brotherhood ethos with fellow alumni that an alma-mater could inspire. It just didn't make a bit of sense to me and so I often looked at the traditional machinations and proclamations of unwavering faith that went along with it probably much the same way that Mark and Ollie looked at the Mek tribe when they made the decision to live with it and document its alien ways. Although I was probably more of a dick than those guys were -- I admit that.

Bottom line, though: My adopted brothers and sister are truly great people and I certainly wouldn't want to insult them, but strangely that very special brand of steadfast fealty is part of the reason I want to at least throw out a minor comment or two on the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State that just ended the almost mythical career of the school's football coach, Joe Paterno. I won't run down the details of the scandal that has inarguably brought shame to what was going to be the hallowed legacy of Paterno and has consumed the Penn State athletics program from the inside out; those details are sickening, made even more so when you consider that it appears there were those within the program -- Paterno included -- who at least had some idea what was going on with defensive coach Jerry Sandusky and yet didn't lift a finger to truly put a stop to it. Obviously, Paterno isn't charged with a crime and I believe him when he expresses extraordinary remorse for what happened, as well as what he did and didn't do about it. Paterno's cultivated a reputation for being a stand-up guy, so it really is unfortunate that this is the way he's going to go out.

The issue I have, again, is with the view by those who either went to Penn State or just count themselves among the school's many fans that it's an almost infallible institution. Case in point: An article written for USA Today College by a Penn State alum named Emily Grier in which she goes to nearly super-human lengths to express sympathy for the victims of the alleged abuse while defending Penn State as an establishment -- a way of life, even -- that remains largely above reproach. One which has earned the devotion it inspires through a lifetime of good deeds that simply can't be sullied by the actions of a few bad apples.

Except that this runs much deeper than that.

True, at worst it would appear as if the gruesome crimes allegedly perpetrated by Sandusky were indirectly enabled by a handful of people, but those people are undeniably the power structure of Penn State -- not necessarily the heart of the school but certainly the ones who hold the hearts, minds and loyalty of the student body and beyond. Make no mistake, if a systemic cover-up of any kind took place that allowed Jerry Sandusky to rape children, that's not a couple of bad apples -- that's a Catholic Church-level crime. And much like followers of the Catholic Church, the Penn State nation will have to learn to reconcile the fact that the view of their institution has been irreparably tarnished, and with excellent reason. Of course the school has done much good throughout its history and that shouldn't be disregarded, but it can be argued that the church has as well, and yet that allowed it no slack when the details of the behavior of a relative few within its ranks began to come to light. In fact, the presentation of itself as a benign and charitable entity is exactly why its sins are so devastating. Why they feel like such a betrayal to so many.

Joe Paterno is Penn State. He's the face of the school -- its deity. And when you hold someone or something up to idol worship, you blind yourself to the possibility that that person or institution is capable of terrible things. The same as any of us is.

It bothers me because it makes me feel like I was always right in saying that no one deserves sanctification -- no one has earned it and no one, no matter how much you believe in him or her, is beyond the potential to let you down. I wish someone would prove me wrong about this, but that never seems to happen. The good almost always succumb. Evil generally triumphs. Even gods fall. And when they do, it devastates those who worshiped them -- leaving everything they believed in in tatters and leaving them desperate for answers.