Monday, April 30, 2007

Shovel Time




It's usually best not to care what people think of you, especially if you're not breaking the law, deliberately hurting people, or behaving like a sociopath. You can't please 'em all, and given the countless literal-minded dolts out there, it's pointless to even try. Live your life, attend to your work, and laugh before the big hand flattens you for keeps.

I try to live more or less by this loose credo, but sometimes I say or write something that angers or sickens even my closest friends and loved ones, and I feel the need to explain my intentions. Such was the case with this post, where I parodied the incessant media chatter about the VaTech massacre. A few regular readers thought that I was, if not over the line, then right against it, and that I was more tasteless and insensitive than incisive, which may well be true. There are times when I'm simply too close to what I'm writing, and what makes sense to me has a more ambiguous effect on others, and this was definitely the case here.

The main complaint was my use of a photo showing two unidentified VaTech students grieving, and some of you felt it was cruel to pry laughter out of such genuine hurt and misery. But know that I wasn't trying to make light of those kids in pain -- quite the opposite. My intention was to show how casually insensitive the media was in the massacre's aftermath, and in order to do that, I had to use the same imagery. It wasn't an easy decision. I second-guessed myself for hours after posting it, fingering the delete button while considering what YouTube filler I could put in the post's place. But finally I left it alone. I thought that if I were on staff at "SNL" or "The Daily Show", the piece would be rejected, so why do the same to myself? Sometimes you gotta go with your gut, which I did, and the rest is just interpretation.

There are those who believe that because I wrote Michael O'Donoghue's biography, I must share his comic philosophy, and posts like the one mentioned above tend to reinforce this belief. It's true that in my early years, I venerated O'D, and a lot of my work showed his influence. When I got to know the man privately, this veneration accelerated and inspired me to write some truly insane bits for the Manhattan weekly I then edited, which Mr. Mike himself enjoyed. What could be cooler than to have your main comedy idol approving of your work? But when O'D died, and I was chosen to write his story, my hero worship hit reality. I got to see a lot of the personal O'D that few outside his circle even knew about, and coupled with the interviews I conducted with his closest friends and collaborators, I discovered that O'D had many serious shortcomings of his own. Researching and writing that book was a necessary tonic for me, and since then I've tried to travel my own creative path.

There remains some O'D in my work, which is unavoidable but not entirely negative. After all, we live in a very savage time, and it's rare to see comedy or satire that confronts this savagery head on, primarily at the network/cable level. Whimsy, irony, and sarcasm are the preferred weapons; and while these forms have their place (and are utilized quite well by Stewart and Colbert), there are moments when you have to hit people in the face with a shovel. It's not a particularly pleasant way to express yourself, but then, there's nothing pleasant about the exploitation of grief, massacres at home and abroad, torture on a global scale, and maniacs in the media calling for more human suffering. In the face of all this, a wink and a nod are little more than a pat on the back.

SPEAKING OF COMEDY: Now it can be told -- sometime in mid-May, yours truly will begin appearing at the Huffington Post. I've been invited to join a new section of HuffPo that will soon be unveiled. I'll write satirical posts as well as about humor in general. This does not mean that I will abandon my personal site -- far from it. But it will be interesting and hopefully fun to play around on that much larger stage. More info in due course.

Friday, April 27, 2007

When Throat Slitting Had Meaning

1964:


1972:

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Mea Culpa, American Style




Just finished watching the Bill Moyers PBS special that many people are rightly touting today.

Excuse me for a moment while I walk to the other side of my office.

CRAAQK! THWAMP THWAMP! BRACCKKKKK! KRONNK!

I never liked that chair to begin with.

Now that some of my aggression has been channeled, I can state in a semi-reasonable tone that Moyers' examination of how the US mainstream press helped to sell the invasion of Iraq yielded no real surprises. The New York/Beltway political and media elite operate in a world of their own, and when they unite on something as grand as open-ended war, there's really not much We The People can do to stop them -- assuming said We have any desire to do so. They control the mechanisms needed to hype and launch wars, and they can marginalize or demonize anyone who gets in their way.

The work Moyers is doing is important and sorely needed. But showing the perpetrators for the murderous liars they are, several years after they've committed the crime, isn't nearly enough, for you know it will happen again. And again. And again. Then every few years a media vet like Moyers can produce a special where those who were in on the deed scratch their heads and wonder how they were supposedly fooled or led astray. In a sense, Moyers helps these fuckers to justify their actions, regardless of their "self critical" posing.

The New Republic's Peter Beinart is a perfect example of this. Shown for the pro-war idiot he was (and remains, despite his admission that he got Iraq "wrong"), he simply smiles and makes his excuses, knowing full well that he won't suffer professionally for helping to fan the war flames in the public sphere. That's the beauty of our media system: you'll get canned faster for plagiarizing than you will for advocating state violence against poor people in smaller countries, no matter how "high-minded" your rhetoric.

Still, for all of his blood-soaked hubris, Beinart has yet to become a truly smooth and efficient player. His allowing to be interviewed on camera proves that. The bigger criminals, William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Judith Miller, William Safire, and Roger Ailes, knew better than to appear on Moyers' show. After all, most of them are pushing for an assault on Iran, among other countries in their crosshairs. Revisit their lies about Iraq? Why would they do that?

I was somewhat amazed that Hitchens didn't appear. Moyers must not have invited the old bore, for Hitch rarely turns down a chance to rave on-camera, especially if the topic is his glorious war in Iraq. If nothing else, Hitch would've provided much-needed comic relief -- that is, if you find bloated apologists for mass murder funny. Humor is subjective, after all.

Moyers' program frustrated and depressed me, for the simple reason that it showed how well-protected the US state is from any real democratic challenge. And if you think that Obama, Hillary, or Edwards will change anything substantial in this regard, please take a trip to DC and spend a lot of private time with Peter Beinart. You deserve each other.

Home Of The Brave




Most Americans and a slim majority in Mexico want Osama bin Laden executed if caught, but most people in seven other countries would rather he spend life or many years in prison, according to a recent AP-Ipsos poll.

"The rest of the world are faggots," says Trent Mayler, 36, a banking executive in Lexington, Kentucky. "If it wasn't for America, Bin Laden would have the world wearing Arab dresses and taking it up the ass."

Such strong sentiments were echoed in many interviews conducted nationwide. Karla Bettle, a 27-year-old waitress from Santa Cruz, California, believes that the Al-Qaida leader should be tortured for weeks before being executed.

"He so deserves it," says Bettle. "I'd be all like 'Yeah, bitch! How you like this blade cutting off your balls, you camel eatin' mud house livin' motherfucker!' People like have no respect for Americans. Torturing his ass would show we mean what we say."

When told that a majority of Mexicans also want Bin Laden executed, Bettle added, "That's cool. But they still don't speak English and have chickens running around in their yards."

The interviews showed that the majority of Americans are content with killing Bin Laden through lethal injection, but there was also support for hanging him with an American flag noose, shooting him repeatedly with a machine gun until his arms and legs come off, disembowelment with a hunting knife dipped in poison, beating him to death with baseball bats like in the movie "Casino", being chopped into cubes and fed to starving wolves, and beheaded on camera by men wearing plastic George W. Bush masks.

"That would be sweet" says Daniel Spanglet, a 42-year-old contractor from Hershey, Pennsylvania. "And you could watch it over and over again on YouTube."

What should be done with Bin Laden's severed head?

"Shove it up Hillary Clinton's fat ass," chortled Spanglet. "Hell, she'd probably like it. Fuckin' dyke."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Collateral Damage




Kevin Jones, the journalism student who drove the car in which David Halberstam was killed, is obviously haunted by that terrible experience. Having another car slam into you at an intersection is bad enough, but seeing your passenger die is an added horror, and when that passenger is perhaps the most celebrated journalist in recent history, well, the whole disaster must be too much to immediately process. Which is why I hope that Jones was speaking from shock when he told the Associated Press that he wants "to make some kind of tribute" to Halberstam in the near future. No offense to Jones, but if there's anyone who doesn't need more tributes, it's David Halberstam.

I understand the desire to venerate a seasoned vet in the profession you hope to join. Did it many times myself. But when this happens in journalism, the results tend to reinforce the status quo rather than challenge, much less undermine, it, and Halberstam was as status quo as they come. His now-celebrated "criticism" of the Vietnam war was mainly tactical, for Halberstam never really questioned the right of the US to attack Southeast Asia in the first place. The real problem was that the war wasn't being waged correctly or efficiently (sound familiar?), and this is what eventually drove many mainstream journos to turn against what is still seen by many as a "mistake." If Halberstam truly was the cage-rattling truthteller of legend, he wouldn't be receiving the unanimous accolades still pouring in. An efficient propaganda system needs the likes of Halberstam, if only to establish "responsible," acceptable boundaries for reporting. Halberstam played his role better than most, and was richly rewarded for his service.

Young Kevin Jones is blinded by all this, and takes seriously the idea that journalists should not only win awards like the Pulitzer, but that this validates their worth. That's what usually happens when a kid enters journalism school, perhaps the biggest con there is in higher education. I've dealt with and worked alongside many J-school grads, and nearly to a person they were conditioned to accept the corporate media structure as a logical and objective means of conveying information. When I'd tell them that true investigative writers like George Seldes didn't need J-school to learn his craft, they'd sometimes ask, "Who's George Seldes?"

"My point exactly," I'd reply.

Having witnessed Halberstam's death probably cemented Jones' high opinion of the reporter and the media system he helped to define. If so, then there was more than one casualty in that tragic wreck, and looking across the corporate media landscape, there's bound to be more.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Little Red Lie, Redux



David Halberstam's death by car crash has the American mainstream media, The New York Times most especially, lighting funeral torches and sermonizing about Halberstam's journalistic integrity and deep moral vision. This is what happens when a senior scribe priest passes on, for it gives those still alive yet another opportunity to congratulate themselves for working in such an elevated profession as journalism. And to a certain generation of writers, Halberstam was among the elevated elite.

Halberstam did little for me -- he was too middle-of-the-road for my taste, and helped to keep the present system of recording acceptable history well-oiled and intact. I wrote about him once, during my brief gig with Ironminds, an online mag whose corporate backer, Novix Media, cheated many contributors before collapsing altogether. I was hired to write about the social impact of sports (alongside Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News), coming off the just-published "American Fan" and my appearances on dozens of sports radio shows nationwide. I took a big swing at Halberstam in my first column, as well as at the top sportswriters of the time, figuring I should piss off as many mainstream sports aficionados as I could from the jump, just to clear the ground if nothing else (such was my conceit in those innocent, pre-9/11 days). But I never did get Halberstam to correct his flawed history lesson, not that I had a serious chance to begin with, but you take your shots when you can and see what sticks. Here's my take on Halberstam as it appeared in Ironminds, July 10, 2000.

Little Red Lie

The Vietnam War inspires revision. After all, when you've slaughtered millions of men, women and children, and bombed large parts of their country into moonscape, it's best to dip the memories in bleach and hope the blood rinses away.

Such was the case during the 25th anniversary of the American pullout in April, a festival of revisionism on the order of MTV's Spring Break. And now, on a smaller but no less important scale, we find a senior member of the sportswriting fraternity engaged in the same squalid enterprise.

David Halberstam is well regarded by his peers. He has written about many topics during his illustrious career: civil rights, war, American politics and, of course, sports. He is the author of "Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made," a companion volume of sorts to MJ's own "For the Love of the Game: My Story," a monument to self-love that recalls the Age of Pharaohs. Halberstam's effort is less grandiose than Jordan's, and this is what Halberstam's partisans expect -- restraint, fairness, the ability to assess a subject in the proper light. We can trust what Halberstam says. They don't give Pulitzers to just anyone.

In the July 2 New York Times Book Review, we find Halberstam assessing (hell, celebrating) Red Smith, one of the better stylists of sportswriting's old guard. Smith's chief love was baseball. He was there when the greats played the game. He recorded the feats of Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson in cool, measured prose and served as an inspiration to a new generation of sportswriters, of which Halberstam was one. With the release of "Red Smith on Baseball," a long-awaited anthology of the late scribe's best work, Halberstam falls to his knees and pays unlimited respect, gushing for paragraphs about the greatness of his hero.

Which is fine. We all have our idols, I suppose, and Red Smith's writing is far superior to that of Mike Lupica, Mitch Albom, Rick Reilly and Tony Kornheiser. But that's not enough for Halberstam. After going on and on about Smith's ability to capture the poetry of the national pastime and turn it into literature, he suddenly drags in Muhammad Ali as a prop to further glorify Smith:

"When Cassius Clay embraced Islam, changed his name to Muhammad Ali and refused to serve in Vietnam, his actions outraged many sportswriters; Smith wrote with sympathy of Ali, his talent and his integrity."

This is, how you say, bullshit. In fact, Smith was one of the outraged sportswriters. He belittled Cassius Clay and openly hoped that Sonny Liston would pound the piss out of the brash young fighter. When Clay defeated Liston, won the heavyweight title and shouted to the sportswriters who were ringside to eat their words, Smith hesitantly obliged in print and conceded that the taste was not to his liking.

When Clay became Ali and refused to help butcher Vietnamese, the pro-war Smith went nuts. Here are two samples of his "sympathy of Ali," omitted by Halberstam:

"There are draft-dodgers in every war, and Clay isn't the only slacker in this one."

"Cassius makes himself as sorry a spectacle as those unwashed punks who picket and demonstrate against the war."

Note, too, how Smith refused to call Ali by his Muslim name. This was standard practice among those of Smith's generation, with the exceptions of Howard Cosell and a young sportswriter for the New York Times, Robert Lipsyte, now one of the paper's elders. The documentary record shows that Smith was no fan of The Greatest (indeed, when Joe Frazier beat Ali in 1971, Smith practically choked with joy), and though he apparently softened his view in later years, Smith was one of the shriller voices of the media pack that hounded Ali when it mattered.

Halberstam surely knows this, so his attempt to exonerate Smith for mistreating Ali is especially dishonest. One may think that Halberstam truly believes what he wrote, that it was not a crass attempt to beautify Smith's ugly past. After all, it's become folk wisdom that the great Red Smith was nothing but supportive of Ali. (Wasn't everyone?) But one need only read Thomas Hauser's "Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times" and David Remnick's acclaimed "King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero" to discover the truth about Smith. I'm certain Halberstam has, which makes his little Red lie even more difficult to digest.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Full Coverage

"And we're back, with more about the secret, strange, sad, twisted life of Cho Seung-Hui, or Seung-Hui Cho, we're not quite sure. But how ever you say it, it still comes out crazy."

"Right you are, Jen. That boy was one sick puppy."

"Clearly insane. No doubt about it."

"Insane, but dead."

"Oh yes -- clearly dead as well. But insane before he died."

"Right."

"Anyway, our next guest has some exclusive information about Cho's inner-hell before he decided, for whatever strange reason, to spread hell on earth. Randy Sesert is an expert on what drives young men to do crazy things. Welcome, Randy."

"Hello."

"Randy, you have some stunning information about Cho's masturbation habits, correct?"

"That's correct. I've interviewed some non-crazy young men who were witnesses to what stimulated Cho sexually."

"And what did Cho find sexually stimulating?"

"Beheading videos from Iraq."

"Wow. That's pretty stunning."

"Yes, it is. Cho apparently would masturbate to video images of Western hostages having their heads sawed off by Islamic militants in ski masks."

"Hi Randy. Steve here. Did Cho masturbate to completion?"

"Yes he did. Very often, in fact."

"Stunning."

"Excuse me, Randy, Steve. I hate to interrupt, but we have new footage of Virginia Tech students grieving."




"There still appears to be a lot of grief in Blacksburg."

"Lots of grief and grieving. No doubt about it, Jen."

"Let's get back to Randy. What else did Cho masturbate to?"

"Various things. Slaughterhouse footage. Old 'Faces of Death' movies. Insects eating each other. Elderly porn."

"Elderly porn?"

"Yes -- pornography featuring women over the age of 60. Apparently, Cho hoped that some of the women would die while having sex with men 30 to 40 years younger than them."

"Randy, Steve again."

"Hello."

"Hi. Is it me, or had any of the older women actually died while having sex on camera, the film wouldn't be released? There are laws against that, I believe."

"Yes there are, and you're right, Steve -- if an elderly porn actress died on camera, the film would not be released. But then, we're talking about a crazy person here."

"Yes. Cho was certainly crazy."

"Really crazy."

"Quite nuts, when you get right down to it."

"Pardon me, gentlemen, but we just received some more grieving footage, this time of a young dog named Daisy."




"And of course, Daisy's wearing a Virginia Tech football jersey in support of the humans grieving around her."

"That's one brave dog, Jen."

"I'll say, Steve. Man's best friend steps up once again."

"She's so cute."

"And not a sick puppy."

"Oh, definitely not a sick puppy. Not like Cho."

"Not even close."

Friday, April 20, 2007

Cue The Dancing Giraffes!

The boy's been pretty funny of late, trying out different gags and concepts to see what amuses his old man. He's past the stage where everything he does is "great," so these days I'm honest with him -- not brutally so, he's still a kid, but just to let him know that I care enough to be critical, to hone the rough edges of this or that bit.

Last night he played a few Christmas carols with the bathroom faucet. His "Jingle Bells" actually sounded right.

"That's very Ernie Kovacs," I said, smiling.

"I know! That's exactly what I was going for!"

Some may say that I'm corrupting the kid by pushing all my favorite comics on him. There are times when I think so myself. I'll tell him that he doesn't have to like what I like, that he can go his own way if he wants. And while there are times when he rejects something I offer (he wasn't all that crazy about Abbott and Costello, but then, he hasn't seen them meet Frankenstein yet), he usually finds something he can latch onto, and when he does, he really studies it.

In recent weeks, I showed him Jerry Lewis' "The Patsy" and "The Nutty Professor". He preferred the former to the latter, though there were a few Buddy Love moments the boy found amusing. He especially likes Lewis' absurdist, at times surrealist, slapstick; and he noted to me the sharpness of Lewis' timing. I then showed him a couple of clips from two of Lewis' lesser efforts, "Who's Minding The Store?" and "The Errand Boy", both of which have some great routines, but really don't hold together as complete films (especially "The Errand Boy" which is all over the place).

The first bit is a Lewis classic, something he first did on "The Colgate Comedy Hour" with Dean Martin, but refined and made slicker for "Who's Minding The Store?":



And then there's the nearly silent elevator sequence from "The Errand Boy", a much grittier-looking film than most of Lewis' Paramount work - not quite Cassavettes, but for Lewis in his prime, pretty downscale. Few film comics exploited claustrophobic conditions as well as Lewis did, and of course in his case, there's always at least one strange visual bit thrown in. See if you can find it. (And the man with the pince nez glasses is Bill Richmond, Lewis' co-writer who came up with some wild visual gags, and later went on to write for "The Carol Burnett Show".)



The boy enjoyed both clips, especially the typewriter bit. Then he said, "Let's watch the Kovacs credits again."

"You really like those, don't you?"

"Yeah. It's weird and funny. More shows should do that."

"Well, that was a much different time, son."

So, here are the closing credits to one of Ernie Kovacs' last shows for ABC in 1962, just before he was killed in a car crash. The man made his mark -- a 10-year-old boy in 2007 loves his work. We should all have such reach long after we're gone.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

15 Minutes Forever




Man, do I feel down today. I used to have a harder heart and tougher skin, but now I'm getting weak and soft, despite all the harsh satirical swipes I've taken of late. The VaTech massacre and the media-led choreographed grief, more misery and bloodshed in Iraq and the supreme indifference of many Americans, among other current delights, are too much to take from this distance, so I cannot imagine how those closer to these tragedies are coping. It must be truly soul-crushing. Whatever our daily trials, we should keep these people in mind before bitching about something that's bound to be trivial.

I see that some of the relatives of those murdered by Cho Seung-Hui are upset with NBC for airing Cho's "confessional" videos. I sympathize with them, honestly, but what can you expect? The biggest public shooting spree in the nation's history (well, by one or two people anyway; massacres where the state mowed down striking workers, as in Thibodaux, Louisiana in 1887, for instance, don't count), and NBC has video of the killer rambling about his sorry life and talking about terror? That's going to be broadcast, especially in a voyeuristic culture where mass murderers become famous. Journalists may call Cho's video "news," which is technically true, but let's be frank: people want to see the killer up-close, hear his voice, look into his eyes, imagine what he might be imagining, wonder how he appeared when he butchered his victims, soak in the sick fuck's negative energy. It's a ratings winner, a natural follow-up to the massacre, and the feelings and sensitivities of those related to the dead, while officially acknowledged by network execs, carry little weight in comparison.

Cho Seung-Hui is now a celebrity, a dark icon of sorts, right up there with John Wayne Gacy, Charles Whitman, Dean Corll, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Charles Manson (though Manson's rep is far bigger than his body count -- such is the power of crazed personality and word-of-mouth). There will be books, films, plays -- hopefully not those that Cho wrote, but I wouldn't be surprised -- t-shirts made from the video stills, possibly video games, and Zeus knows what else: it's still early. For now, the media is content to milk Cho's insanity until the final ratings point fades under the studio lights. Then it will be time for the Next Distraction, hopefully during sweeps week.

Killer Video

Not the one that's currently making the media/blog rounds, but kind of pertinent in its own way --

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Play's Not The Thing




Creative writing students beware -- short stories or plays containing bleak, twisted themes and action may put you under suspicion. At least that's the gist I get after hearing the clamor over Cho Seung-Hui's body of work, such as it is. Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of Virginia Tech's English department, said that Cho's writing disturbed her to the point that he had been referred to the university's counseling service. As she put it: "Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it's creative or if they're describing things, if they're imagining things or just how real it might be. But we're all alert to not ignore things like this."

A former classmate of Cho's, Ian MacFarlane, recalled that he and other students were alarmed by the angry tone of Cho's work. "When we read Cho's plays, it was like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn't have even thought of. [We] were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter."

As an aficionado of raw, dark, passionate writing, I naturally became curious about these "nightmare" plays. How fucked up were they really? Did they seriously suggest that Cho was a possible threat to public order? MacFarlane cut short my suspense by posting two of Cho's plays, "Richard McBeef" and "Mr. Brownstone". If you are interested in the full back-story to Cho's insane, grisly actions, then I suppose you should read the plays. But trust me, they are alarming only in the sense of being horribly written and poorly thought out. Unless there are other, more violent plays that Cho wrote, I cannot see where all the concern comes from. Yes, Cho clearly was possessed by deep anger, but that's nothing new in the creative world. Just look around you. Lord knows at the Son, I tapped out my fair share of violent fantasies, and used graphic, gruesome photos to make political, satirical points. Should I be put under surveillance?

I understand that in the immediate wake of such an atrocity, people want fast, easy answers so to soothe and calm their rattled senses. The reality that a young man had bad wiring and simply lost it is apparently not enough to help people cope. There must be more complex reasons for such madness, and thus the parsing of Cho's awful plays.

As happened after Columbine, teachers and professors nationwide will, for a time anyway, raise red flags when reading a particularly angry or violent scenario by any given student. And if the student dresses in all black, keeps to him- or herself, is a loner, listens to "weird" music, and the rest of it, you can be sure that tabs will be kept on their movements and public behavior. What some enterprising student should do is submit portions of Octave Mirbeau's "The Torture Garden" under their own name and see how their teacher or prof reacts. Or parts of William Burroughs' "Nova Express." Or bits from Kathy Acker's books. Or Dennis Cooper's. Or Donald Goines'. It might prove to be an illuminating experiment on how a young, "strange" creative person is perceived by his or her elders, as well as a test of a teacher's literary knowledge. And it would show how ridiculous it is to assume that what one writes is how one lives, or that a macabre story is a possible blueprint for mass murder.

Cho Seung-Hui was fucked in the head, and apparently made women nervous with his anti-social behavior. In time, he bought handguns, which has very little to do with creative writing. That's the story, sad and brutal though it is. There is the larger context of living in a violent, deluded society, but that doesn't completely explain Cho's madness, it serves mostly as backdrop. Sometimes horrible things happen for no reason. For the moment, the VaTech massacre appears to be one.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

See How We Are




Whenever someone snaps and starts shooting people until he's either cut down by cops or slain by his own hand, the American media goes into hyper-moral mode, and the same sorry questions are dragged out once again.

"How could something like this happen?"

"What's this country coming to?"

"What have we become?"

And rarely are there any serious, or even obvious, answers. Flipping through talk radio on Monday, I heard so much incredulity about the mass murder at Virginia Tech that it made me want to ram my car into the nearest radio tower, if only to break one link in the chain of bullshit.

One host, a local sports figure of limited intelligence, raved on about "insaneism," a word I'd never heard until he spat it out, but that apparently described what had happened down in Virginia. In brutal moments like that, one is allowed to coin new words, I suppose. But he wasn't as bad as some of the listeners who phoned in to pop off, blaming abortion, lack of prayer in schools, pornography, too much tolerance for sexual deviation, lack of gun control, too much gun control, M-rated video games, tattoos on basketball players, no respect for authority, etc. etc. From the madness of killing 33 strangers to the groping desperation of the public, it was a day that reminded you how clueless and on edge many Americans are, and made you hope that the lunacy doesn't come blasting away at your kid's school.

The VaTech massacre will throw another layer of delusion over the American scene as politicos and media commentators attempt to reassure the public about how decent we all remain, despite the "insaneism" of a few twisted types. And the public will, by and large, buy into this, for the alternative is an honest assessment of our national manias and high tolerance for the mass murder and starvation we help to inflict on areas of the world that most people know nothing about. Then there's Iraq and Afghanistan, the "bad" and "good" wars where violent death is a daily occurrence, hard to keep out of the public mind, but Lord knows we Americans do what we can to ignore it. Honest assessments of Who We Are and Why This Happens are not part of the program, and are officially discouraged in favor of pantomime grief and empty questions. We've seen it before, and we're seeing it again. Comes with the blood splattered turf.

I'm deliberately avoiding as much media as I can today, for I know that the ratings vultures are feeding on the corpses as I type, and besides, I still have to deal with this new site and all that jazz. Priorities, people. Keep matters in perspective.

Perrin's Spandex




For those who missed it over at Jon Schwarz's place (and thanks to Jon for his help during this very trying time), here's my homage, if you will, to the Harper's Index.

Percentage of Americans who can't spell "Iraq" even if it's spelled out on paper for them: 23

Percentage of Americans who can't spell "Iraq" even if they've been given a CD that tells them in a very slow and deliberate manner how to spell "Iraq" over and over again, and they have a week to listen to the CD: 17

Percentage of Americans who think that beheading is a form of oral sex: 29

Estimated percentage of Americans who masturbate while operating heavy machinery: 37

Number of cow assholes in every can of beef vegetable soup: 2

Number of human assholes at a Tim McGraw concert: 3,577

Percentage of liberal bloggers who would actually eat shit if the Democratic Party asked them to for the sake of winning elections: 42

Percentage of conservative bloggers who would fellate a syphilitic chimpanzee if it would make more people respect the American flag: 66

Number of rodeo clowns who reported having "anger management" problems in 1983: 19

Number in 2002: 51

Chance that a person will encounter a leprechaun while digging for worms: 1 in 2,892,673

Chance that a person will encounter Paris Hilton while having anonymous sex: 1 in 5

Average monthly cost to keep from learning anything new: $73

Estimated annual cost of not knowing how much it costs per month to keep from learning anything new: $347

Number of Americans who reported being raped by an angel in 2004: 482

Number of angels who denied raping Americans in 2004: 271

Number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop: 3

Hello Again

Well, Blogger made me do it, so here I am, ready for the next phase of ranting and screaming and telling awful jokes until I decide to do something else, whenever that is.

Welcome Sonsters. Let's get started.