Friday, January 30, 2009

You're Soaking In It

In this exciting new world of changiness, where everything is changy if not changetastic, certain things remain the same. Death for one. No getting out of that, I don't care how many black presidents we elect. Birds, too. They simply aren't going away; eating them hasn't made a dent. There are a few other constants that have slipped my mind, but one is never far from my thoughts: "Fridays."

I'm especially inspired today as I've connected with several "Fridays" writers on Facebook. I must seem strange to them, remembering all those bits from long ago. Part of being a comedy nerd is surprising your old idols with concepts and jokes they've forgotten. That's how I became friends with Michael O'Donoghue. I mentioned an SNL sketch of his from 1981, "Nick the Knock," where Joe Piscopo played a carnivorous hand puppet who eats a magic fairy. The piece bombed. Utter silence from the audience, scattered applause when it ended. One of my favorites. "You remember Nick the Knock?" Michael asked me with genuine incredulity. He was both shocked and impressed. That was my ticket in.

The same goes with the "Fridays" crowd. The main thing is to ensure them that I'm not a stalker. My enthusiasm is genuine, sincere, and non-violent. And if there's ever a "Fridays" retrospective, I'm the guy to help put it together. Seriously. I mean, if they did it without me, I would be very disappointed. Extremely disappointed. In a word, vexed. Just thinking about it hurts my head, makes my hands tremble, my mouth go dry . . .

Here are a few clips of Andy Kaufman's first hosting stint, February 20, 1981. The main bit features Kaufman's writing partner Bob Zmuda as The Masked Magician. I had a nice chat with Zmuda at a publishing party years ago in Manhattan. A gentle, soft spoken guy. Not in this sketch. Zmuda played aggressive characters well. After all, he took over the Tony Clifton role with few people noticing. The studio audience is especially rowdy, even by "Fridays" standards. Kaufman had thoroughly whipped them up by this point, another intentional feature of that show's overall premise: Kaufman out of control on live TV. This gives the segment an improvisational feel, something rarely if ever seen today.



The following week, Kaufman returned to apologize for his behavior (primarily for the disrupted pot sketch, which I've posted before), introduced by "Fridays" producer John Moffitt. I love how he gets laughs by playing it perfectly straight. Nobody did that better than Kaufman.



Here's a silly sketch featuring two guys you may recognize, along with Brandis Kemp and Maryedith Burrell.



Wow. Looking around, I see that "The Ronny Horror Show" is back online. I posted this nearly two years ago, and soon after it was pulled from YouTube. This is one of the best pieces "Fridays" ever did, written by Larry Charles and Bruce Kirschbaum, airing on December 12, 1980. Since a lot of you weren't reading me the first time around, here it is again. Enjoy it before it gets yanked.





Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Soft Parade

It seems that in order to be a "good" progressive, if not a Decent American, one must remain starry-eyed about Obama, regardless of reality. How long this condition will linger is up in the air, though I doubt it will ever fade away. Too many liberals are too attached to the myth of benevolent power. They want someone to worship, to obey, confusing their conformity for "inspiration," or worse, "patriotism." Feedle fiddo foo. What you gonna do?

Once upon a time, The Nation boasted hard-hitting writers and columnists. It often proved to be a riveting read. These days, the old muckraking mag is blander and softer than ever, pre-chewed opinions served warm, making its readers feel as comfy as possible. Since Obama's election, some of The Nation's coverage has verged on the mystical. This week's cover is the sappiest yet:




I had to check twice to see if I received the right magazine.




God. Obama. Close enough.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rabbit, Fuck




John Updike once got me laid. I was in my mid-20s, bored with joke writing, anxious to explore longer, serious forms. I split my time between the NYPL on 40th St., and The Strand down on 12th. I'd begun dressing all in black, the idea being that in order to be a real writer, I had to present a certain image, and mine was a cross between Samuel Beckett and Echo and The Bunnymen. Only I couldn't sing and rarely observed long silences.

The library women seemed preoccupied with study, faces pressed to texts, small fists scribbling notes. They weren't terribly attractive overall, and worse, they paid little attention to me or my routine. I'd stand for hours holding a book with one hand, the other either on my hip, on the shelf, or brushing back my Bunnymen bangs.

I sensed that I was choosing the wrong books as props, large philosophical tomes and encyclopedias too bulky to be cool. So I shifted to small books of poetry, gently nodding my head as if appreciating cadence and rhythm, when all I was thinking about was pussy. This proved a tactical error; the only girls who noticed this scheme were weird academic types with thick legs. I didn't mind the thick legs. They stimulated my inner-R. Crumb. It was their faces, primarily their teeth, that threw me off. Yellow, unflossed, smelling of deli coffee. No wonder so many poets killed themselves.

Out of desperation, I settled on Literature. Numerous authors, styles, moods, genres. If I couldn't score there, it was back to browsing magazines at Gem Spa. Having not gone to college, and not paying attention during high school English class, my knowledge of fiction was grotesquely limited. I grew up on comic books. I knew more about Jughead, Sad Sack, Teen Titans, and Richie Rich than I did about Jean Valjean, Larry Darrell, or Holly Golightly. But I recalled how taken one of my high school teachers was with John Updike. She pushed his novels and essays on us, praising his prose with theatrical waves of her hand. (She wore long silk scarves, large hoop earrings, and overused the phrase, "But of course.")

Updike, eh? Why the hell not?

I pulled out several of his novels, did the reading pose thing, and waited. While waiting, I slowly sank into Updike's lush narration.

"He felt a tickle in his rear, as if tiny feathers of cracked glass lightly teased the soft tissue between his cheeks. The commuter train was packed. Men in charcoal suits read their folded newspapers. As the tickle became a burn, he looked around to see who might be watching. Everyone seemed to be minding their business, but in such cramped quarters, that condition could change within seconds.

"The burn spread like an African grass fire. Tiny beads of sweat linked arms and ran down his reddened face. He decided to risk embarrassment. Slowly, his right hand moved to the inflamed region which, had it vocal chords, would have released a lunatic's scream. First the index finger, then its middle brother, pressed against the seat of his pants, driving the pinstriped wool into the fleshy fold. The fingers formed a hook and dug into the burn, erasing discomfort with each determined scratch. The relief was so rapturous that he believed he could hear angels singing, celebrating his return to sanity. He removed the fingers from their place of glory, bringing them up to his nose, where he inhaled their pungent perfume. He smiled, and remembered that his wife was making meatloaf for supper."

Wow, I thought to myself. This guy can write!

As I pored through intimate, poetic descriptions of taping a package, washing a glass, flipping a coin, and pressing an elevator button, a nice-looking young woman interrupted my Updiking.

"Excuse me?"

"Yes?"

"You like Updike?"

She had soft red hair, freckles, wore bookish black glasses, and most importantly, her teeth were clean and white, giving her a creamy smile. It was all I could do to keep my knees from buckling.

"Updike? Sure! Big John's my favorite American author, bar none!"

"Well, I'm more of a Joyce Carol Oates fan, but Updike's right up there!"

"Yeah, Oates is good, too. Really, really good." I had no idea what I was talking about, but after all my pretentious efforts, I wasn't about to blow this opportunity by admitting my ignorance of Oates.

"You know, I've never met a guy who liked Oates. What's your favorite book of hers?"

Tiny beads of sweat linked arms and ran down my reddened face.

"Ummm, well, you know, it's Oates' essence, her narrative air that grabs me. Specifying a favorite book misses the larger point. Why not celebrate Oates as Oates!"

She liked this answer. Or at least pretended to. Anyway, we went to her apartment and fucked all afternoon.

"He had never felt such supple, freckled flesh. As he gazed at her bare back, he imagined the freckles to be villages, a civilization based solely on her beauty. How happy he would be to live there for a day. A peasant among her pores, tilling her exquisite earth under the warm sun of her smile. No one living there would ever flirt with atheism. They would know God intimately, not only forgiven for their trespasses, but encouraged to extend their peripheries of sweet sin."

Thanks again, Big John! You will be missed.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Not In My Prison Yard!



The ACLU has taken some unpopular stands, primarily over state religious issues, while pissing off and frightening reactionaries, an amusing, necessary component of any serious attempt at political/social evolution. Yet the ACLU, like any other advocacy group, is oftentimes too courteous and mild when courting the powers-that-be. Its current campaign, seen at leading liblogs, calls on liberals to sign this statement and send it to Obama (who I'm sure can't wait to read it):

"Thank you for taking decisive action on civil liberties -- issuing four executive orders to close Guantánamo, end the military commissions, ban torture and delay the al-Marri trial.

"I am proud that in your first 48 hours in office you are beginning to free America from the civil liberties outrages and human rights abuses of the Bush era.

"I promise you my support as you continue to take actions to renew American justice and look forward to your next steps towards ending this national shame and restoring America's moral leadership in the world."

Luckily, I cleaned my puke bucket last night, so I didn't need to leave my desk after reading this.

Allan Nairn, who has extensive experience exposing American-backed torture, including nearly being killed by Indonesian troops in East Timor, rips away the mask beneath the hood:

"Obama's Executive Order bans some -- not all -- US officials from torturing but it does not ban any of them, himself included, from sponsoring torture overseas.

"Indeed, his policy change affects only a slight percentage of US-culpable tortures and could be completely consistent with an increase in US-backed torture worldwide.

"The catch lies in the fact that since Vietnam, when US forces often tortured directly, the US has mainly seen its torture done for it by proxy -- paying, arming, training and guiding foreigners doing it, but usually being careful to keep Americans at least one discreet step removed.

"That is, the US tended to do it that way until Bush and Cheney changed protocol, and had many Americans laying on hands, and sometimes taking digital photos.

"The result was a public relations fiasco that enraged the US establishment since by exposing US techniques to the world it diminished US power.

"But despite the outrage, the fact of the matter was that the Bush/Cheney tortures being done by Americans were a negligible percentage of all of the tortures being done by US clients.

"For every torment inflicted directly by Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and the secret prisons, there were many times more being meted out by US-sponsored foreign forces.


"Those forces were and are operating with US military, intelligence, financial or other backing in Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Jordan, Indonesia, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Colombia, Nigeria, and the Philippines, to name some places, not to mention the tortures sans-American-hands by the US-backed Iraqis and Afghans."

The rest.

Don't Cross The Family

President Change has officially wet his beak with blood, as US air strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan delivered their usual result. While I would've preferred Obama to personally pump rounds into the heads of those murdered, further proving his commitment to a new order, the president has only so much power, and must rely on drones to do the job.

I've long believed that every president should be required to kill a few civilians at point blank range, just to show his or her mettle. If you're comfortable with ordering air strikes, then capping poor women and children should be a snap. If you can't personally kill someone, you shouldn't be president. This is why John McCain was more than qualified to sit in the big chair.

But McCain was Sonny Corleone to Obama's Michael, a distinction understood by cinephiles everywhere. Obama knows the score, being a big fan of "The Godfather." Here he shares his enthusiasm with journalistic dynamo Katie Couric:



"There's that combination of old world gentility and ritual, with this savagery underneath it. And it's all about family."

Well said, Don Obama. You must save the American family the way Michael saved the Corleones. Aggressive preservation we can believe in.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Clean Up Time




Imperial repair has begun, and naturally, liberals and Democrats are basking in their funhouse reflections. To be expected. How long they have waited to praise the American state, to celebrate its imperial manager. And it's only been a few days! There's so much more to look forward to.

Obama is closing Guantanamo in a year, swears he's against torture, seeks to eliminate CIA black sites. This has his admirers all gooey in the knees. “He really gets it,” marveled John D. Hutson, a retired admiral and law school dean, who watched Obama sign the Gitmo order.“He acknowledged that this isn’t easy. But he is absolutely dedicated to getting us back on track as a nation. This is the right thing to do morally, diplomatically, militarily and Constitutionally.”

John Kerry added, “America is ready to lead again — not just with our words, but by our example.” Obama agreed with his fans: "We think that it is precisely our ideals that give us the strength and the moral high ground to be able to effectively deal with the unthinking violence that we see emanating from terrorist organizations around the world."

Moral America is back, baby. Finally, we can take pride in the fatherland as we lead the planet according to God's will. The embarrassing, aberrant Bush/Cheney era is already a distant memory, but serviceable when liberals need something to bash.

Is it crass to say I told you so?

Out here, where the confetti's not as thick, the picture's less rosy. Obama's doing what many in elite circles want done. His moves are hardly controversial, much less courageous. Most of Bush's mess must be cleaned up before the US can get on with the next imperial phase. Gitmo was bad PR. Torture's bad PR. Unlike more rigid systems, the American model adapts, alters itself when necessary, but not too much, for those calling the shots want to protect their advantage. Look to those periods when the powerful thought they were losing control, and watch the truncheon crash down. No worries about that today. Nearly everyone's on board. Masses of people are still crying and thrashing about with holy vigor. Consumers want to believe in the American fairy tale, and Obama's gonna give it to them. He's gonna give them something else in time. But that's down the road.

None of this is new. Jimmy Carter played the same role after the Nixon years, restoring "human rights" to the American vocabulary. If you read "Savage Mules," you'll know where this led. Yet, I don't think that Obama's another Carter -- he's too slick to get snared in that trap. Carter's failure taught Bill Clinton several lessons, and Clinton's success is not lost on Obama. Why do you think he made Hillary Secretary of State? To leading corporate Dems, it's always advisable to have a Clinton around.

States aren't moral agents. They don't have personalities or pet peeves. States represent the interests of those who rule them. And it's in the interest of our present rulers to reboot the American brand. Words like "morality" and "ideals" are smokescreens, blown in the faces of the public. Bush used the same words, but fewer and fewer people believed him. It was his own damn fault. A cheap failure in so many ways, Bush's recklessness made Obama's ascent not only possible, but inevitable. His actions weren't out of the mainstream of imperial thought, just riskier, crazier, more destructive. Bush's tactics were questioned, but not his crusade, which remains with us. His violence didn't seriously bother Democrats, as they continually helped finance it. So all this "new day" blather is utter bullshit. What's new is that we have a better, smoother bullshitter in office.

Bush also attempted some imperial repair when he closed Abu Ghraib in 2006. I don't recall liberals falling over themselves with joy when that happened. But then Bush was nefarious, sneaky. There had to be an angle to it. Obama closing Gitmo is born of decency, idealism. I can't wait to see what words liberals will use when Obama's first cluster bombs are dropped.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another Voice From The Boondocks




"I did say I was cautiously pessimistic about Obama's Presidency - but this is simply acknowledging the reality of an American Empire that is out of control and on the verge of collapse. Let us not forget that on the eve of the election, we witnessed a near-trillion dollar robbery of the US treasury. That robbery is still taking place. I do not blame President Obama, but I do not believe the financial and corporate interests that own and control this country will fold so easily. I do not question the integrity of the man as much as the power of his office - which I believe has greatly diminished over the years. I believe the Federal Reserve Bank, the Military Industrial Complex, and the massive corporate interests that run this country have more power than our new President. I hope I am wrong.

"After 9/11, I witnessed most of this country become obsessed with squashing dissent and silencing critics. I hope this election does not turn Black America towards this same, fascist mind state; but already I am starting to see it, and it saddens me greatly. I absolutely wish our new President and his family success and safety. But after all I have witnessed in my lifetime, and especially in the last eight years, I am not ready to lay down my skepticism or my outrage for this government. To do so would be unwise and, ironically enough, anti-American."

Aaron McGruder

Mental Case File




A few liberal friends have pitied me in the past few days, wondering why I won't surrender to the general national ecstasy. They know deep down that I want to, but ego, stubbornness, and brand identification are holding me back. I'm a contrarian for contrarian's sake, or worse, an ultra-lefty who won't settle for anything less than immediate revolution.

Do I really give off that vibe?

It's true that I lean "left" on most issues, whatever or wherever "left" happens to be in 2009 America. But I don't see myself as ultra-anything, and certainly not as a card-carrying contrarian. Revolution? Here, today, now? Even if that were possible, I doubt I would sign up. I'd probably look for some place to hide. Given the lay of the land, the vast political ignorance, the atomized emotions and embrace of the fables and myths that feed American exceptionalism, plus millions of guns, any "revolution" would doubtless be a serious bloodbath. And to what end would it serve? Social justice? Redistribution of power? Direct democracy? Under the present circumstances, I don't think any of those nice dreams would materialize. More likely, it would be a complete nightmare.

As Fred Hampton put it in the video I posted Tuesday, education is vital. If you suddenly handed the keys to The People, most wouldn't know why or for what purpose they were acting. Without an understanding of history, of economics, of political currents, perhaps even of philosophy, people would probably revert to personal gain. After all, that's the main narrative hammered into American skulls. Without an educational counterbalance, you're left with conditioning and instinct. And considering the national culture, that means a lot of shallowness, ugliness, and desperation.

So where does that leave us? Right here in Obama time. For masses of people, that's just fine with them. Indeed, they're intoxicated by it. They look to Obama to set things right, to make them proud, to restore America to her noble perch. I know it's early, but the Obama chorus isn't giving any indication of skepticism, of potential dissent, of turning on their savior. It may happen, but I don't see it. Then again, as we've established, I'm crazy, so who can trust my perceptions? Still, my padded cell has a pretty good view of the national yard, the acoustics loud and clear. I'm not missing much on that front. It simply comes down to perspective.

All of this yammering aside, don't I find the image of a black man in the Oval Office somewhat uplifting? Seeing Obama in the big chair is a bit startling to someone my age, as I remember racism when it was open and unapologetic. So I'll confess to getting a slight charge from those first photos of Obama behind the desk. It's what that desk represents that curbs any possible enthusiasm.

To many Americans, the majority of liberals among them, the presidency is essentially a good institution, perhaps even a righteous one. It's the person who occupies it that ultimately matters, not the system that empowers the president. Thus, at street level (buoyed by endless media reinforcement), the president stands alone, the ultimate celebrity in a culture choking on celebrities. Small wonder why Obama is viewed the way he is. He's not only the first African American president, he's already rebranded the role.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The HOPE Haze




There are days when I feel so out of it, so alienated, that I wonder if I've gone insane or suffer some deep personality disorder. After yesterday's drool fest, where countless adults behaved like sugar-crazed children, I certainly hope that I'm nuts. Because if I'm not, if what I perceive is actually true, then we are so beyond fucked that the glimmer of fucked is a fuzzy speck on the horizon.

Now, I don't want to feel this way; I have enough negative emotions as it is. But after watching the $150 million imperial saturnalia, augmented by the siren songs of fawners, spin doctors, and state mouthpieces, despair and anxiety rage inside my battered brain. Even worse, average people loved it. Simply fucking loved it. Everywhere I went online, it was the same maypole dance, the same sighing, the same crying. "Free at last!" was the collective chant, as though Bush and Cheney were run out of Washington by revolutionary forces. If only. "I thank President Bush for his service to our nation," said Obama, praising the war criminal's "generosity and cooperation" in helping him prepare to assume the same role.

What's that? You say Obama won't commit war crimes? That he thanked Bush because he's "post-partisan" and sees the Big Picture? Maybe you're right. Maybe the new president will transform his office into something other than it's been since at least 1945. Maybe he has a Secret Plan that lesser minds like ours cannot fully grasp. "Maybe" itself is variant of HOPE, and you know how much HOPE means these days. Besides, Barry looks smooth and cool, Michelle is hot, their daughters cute, so if nothing else we can feast on that, like munching grass on a sunny meadow under Obama's benevolent gaze.

Wow. I feel better already!

As he did throughout his campaign, Obama delivered an inaugural speech loaded with clichés, falsehoods, and myths, but crafted in a way that anyone could project on it anything they liked. Many online libs fairly jerked off to the speech, overwhelmed by Obama's force and vision, his call to our "better selves," his homilies to God, blood, and soil. Then again, many liberals love state power when a Democrat is in charge, so their arousal was expected, at least by lunatics like me. How long will liberals remain stimulated? I'll rub my psychic dildo and predict that their frenzied self-abuse will never really cease, so long as Obama's in office. Oh, there'll be some lulls when the orgasms aren't as intense. But rest assured that the stroking will continue, lubricated or dry. The psychic dildo's rarely wrong.

Hold on, Herr Cynic! Should Obama stray from his promises, liberals will be the first to challenge him, because Obama cares what The People think, especially those who voted for him no matter what he said. Again, I seriously doubt this will happen. Does anyone truly expect a mass liberal revolt against the Democratic Party? Whimpering, yes. Rubbing hands, sure. Netroots defection? Pardon me for a moment.

(Leaves desk, walks barefoot into the snow, releases a loud laugh that at first sounds cheerful, but quickly mutates into a twisted emotional outcry, almost non-human, sending the squirrels back to their nests, causing the crows to caw in unison. The neighbor across the street who still has her Obama/Biden yard sign up approaches and asks if there's anything wrong. She is told that the opposite is true -- that the hideous screaming is actually a cry of joy for living to see this wonderful new age. She smiles and starts howling as well, because we are Americans, and we will not apologize for our way of life.)

Anyway, these should prove to be interesting days. If you tire of liberal tug jobs, I'll be here with my peeling sandwich board, scrawling whatever delirium my brain insists is real. And of course, the psychic dildo. Why should Obamaites have all the fun?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Before CHANGE Was A Brand

Another Chicago-based African American activist, who didn't live to see this day, emphasizes the importance of political education. Had Richard Daley's death squads -- err, the Chicago Police Department, not assassinated Fred Hampton in his bed, one wonders how he would assess President Obama. Anything's possible, but note what Hampton says toward the end of the clip, especially the last words uttered. Remind you of anyone?

Monday, January 19, 2009

O-nauguration




God, I hate inaugurations -- a massive commercial for the imperial state, with some "populist" tinsel tossed around to make consumers feel included. And like clockwork, media mouthpieces assure us that no other country on the face of the planet, perhaps in all of history, transfers power so peacefully, so democratically. As if every other nation shuffles leaders via summary executions in windowless basements. Inaugurations show us, full blast, how arrogant and insecure our owners remain, thus the relentless propaganda about American "uniqueness." It's nauseating to witness, but it works.

"Think the rubes bought it?"

"They better. This thing's costing a fortune!"

With the ascension of President Change, the rubes are buying it more aggressively than ever. (No one seems to mind hearing pro-FISA Obama praise Martin Luther King, who was on the other end of government wiretaps.) Electing a President of Color is a boon to the empire, something media and political elites quickly latched onto, noting that the rest of the world will admire us again because our president has dark skin.

Obama's breakthrough should provide the necessary cover for imperial repair, from PR stunts like closing down Gitmo (whenever that happens), to a "humane" reassertion of American firepower. Time will tell how effective Obama will be, but if the man has anything, it's time. That's Bush/Cheney's present to the new prez. He'll be given slack to get America back on its feet, so it can stomp others again with renewed purpose and HOPEfully "success," as Joe Biden put it in the VP debate, insisting that Americans favor military intervention that "works."

Refined imperialism with a smiling face -- that's the Obama challenge. Elites understand this and are inside the tent. Consumers, especially those still blissed out over Obama, waving peace signs alongside his and Biden's name, are left to watch from the cheap seats, their loyalty and general obedience counted on and encouraged by those closer to the action. Contempt for the populace from above is as open and obvious as ever. Whether or not We The Spectators do anything to thwart this is another question. It may be too much to ask for during inauguration time, as compliant excitement is considered a patriotic duty; but when do we start pushing back against this feel-good arrangement? How much CHANGEspeak are we supposed to swallow before clearing our throats?

Oh look! It's Beyonce! Bono! Bruuuuuce! I love this song! "Come on up for the rising! Come on up, lay your hands in mine! Come on up for the rising . . ."

Sorry. What was I saying?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Refusal

Recent video from Israel Social TV:



Friday, January 16, 2009

Incredibly Strange Creature

Ray Dennis Steckler died recently, and if you haven't seen any of his films, you're missing some entertaining examples of improvised action, mixed genres, and general weirdness. Not many people create art on their own terms, much less make a mark. But Steckler carved out his own identity. His movies possess the same energy as early-60s garage rock, and probably cost as much to make. Yet they are like nothing else.

Here's part of the extensive final action sequence from my favorite Steckler film, "Rat Pfink A Boo Boo," 1965. The costumes are thrown together, though Boo Boo's mask is inspired, especially compared to Rat Pfink's common ski mask, which hides his identity in a bland way. Function decidedly trumped fashion there.



The fighting reminds me of what my friends and I filmed on Super 8 in the mid-70s. We used my rural front yard to stage a kung fu epic, which began in the standard manner, but soon became bizarre as our characters defied gravity, time and space, crudely realized with stop-motion techniques and cheating close-ups. The end result wasn't as fluid as Steckler's fight scenes, but we did have disappearing ninjas and leaves that cut throats. The end shot was me chasing down my tormentor, who's driving at 60 mph as I ran alongside his car, overtaking and forcing him off the road and into oblivion. How did we get that shot? It'll be in the memoir.

Dig the use of the gorilla as the climax to the action. Steckler's homage to King Kong? Or to the Three Stooges? In Steckler's cinematic dreamscapes, any combination was possible.



And here's a nice musical number from the same film. Apparently, Steckler had to pad for length, so he stuck in some go go scenes to fill out the running time. A valuable lesson for any young filmmakers reading this.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fun With Words

Human communication takes many forms, but demonization has its own distinct flavor, and blends in nicely with any historical era. Here are two examples of what I mean.

1.

"As Germany persists in its military efforts — by ground, air and sea — to protect its citizens from deadly Jewish bullets, and as protests against Germany increase around the world, the success of the abominable Jews' double war crime strategy becomes evident.

"People forget the usual rules of morality and law. For example, when a murderer takes a hostage and fires from behind his human shield, and a policeman, in an effort to stop the shooting accidentally kills the hostage, the law of every country holds the hostage taker guilty of murder even though the policeman fired the fatal shot.

"The same is true of the law of war. The use of human shields, in the way Jews use the civilian population of their ghetto, is a war crime — as is their firing at German soldiers and Polish civilians. Every human shield that is killed by German self-defense measures is the responsibility of the Jews, but you wouldn't know that from reading the press coverage.

"Moreover, the number of civilians killed by Germany is almost always exaggerated. First, it is widely assumed that if a victim is a 'child' or a 'woman,' he or she is necessarily a civilian. The Jews often use 14-, 15-, 16-and 17-year-olds, as well as women, as terrorists. Germany is entitled under international law to treat these children and women as the combatants they have become.

"By any objective count, the number of genuinely innocent civilians killed by the Reich in Poland is lower than the collateral deaths caused by any nation in a comparable situation. Jews do everything in their power to provoke Germany into killing as many Jewish civilians as possible, in order to generate condemnation against the Aryan state."

2.

"The responsibility of global Islam for the outbreak and widening of this war has been proven so clearly that it does not need to be talked about any further. The Muslims wanted war, and now they have it. Hamas is receiving a penalty that is certainly hard, but more than deserved.

"Every Muslim is our enemy in this historic struggle, regardless of whether he vegetates in a Gaza camp or carries on his parasitic existence in Jerusalem or blows the trumpets of war in Lebanon or Iran. All Muslims by virtue of their birth and their race are part of an international conspiracy against the Jewish state. They want its defeat and annihilation, and do all in their power to bring it about.

"The excuse they give for their provocative conduct is always the same: the Palestinians are after all human beings too. We never denied that, just as we never denied the humanity of murders, child rapists, thieves and pimps. Every Palestinian is a decent Palestinian who has found a dumb and ignorant goy who thinks him decent! As if that were a reason to give Palestinians a kind of honorable escort. What nonsense.

"The Palestinians have recently found a new trick. They knew the good-natured Jewish humanitarian in us, always ready to shed sentimental tears for the injustice done to them. One suddenly has the impression that the Gazan population consists only of little babies whose childish helplessness might move us, or else fragile old ladies. The Palestinians send out the pitiable. They may confuse some harmless souls for a while, but not us. We know exactly what the situation is.

"For their sake alone we must win the war. If we lose it, these harmless-looking Palestinian men would suddenly become raging wolves. They would attack our women and children to carry out revenge. There are enough examples in history. There is no turning back in our battle against the Palestinians — even if we wanted to, which we do not.

"If Hamas and the Palestinians appeal to your sentimentality, realize that they are hoping for your forgetfulness, and let them know that you see through them and hold them in contempt.

"The Palestinians are responsible for the war. The treatment they receive from us is hardly unjust. They have deserved it all."

Beautiful sentiments, no? Can you guess who wrote them?

The first excerpt came from this lovely man. The second was penned by this gentle soul. Switch certain nouns around and damn if you can tell the difference! But the difference is clear, yes?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

But He's Good On Health Care, Right?

For those liberals excited by Al Franken's narrow Senate win in Minnesota, savor this little taste of what's to come.



Franken's always been awful in this area, and it's obvious that he has little problem with shipping more cluster bombs and Apache helicopters to "our ally Israel." Oh sure, there's the scripted palaver about a two-state settlement (i.e. walled-off Palestinian Bantustans), and a few crocodile tears shed over Palestinian dead. But Franken's overall position is clear. Enjoy him, libs. He's what you wanted.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

That's Meshuga!

You want crazy? Here's crazy:



Kudos to Max Blumenthal for weathering this madness. What a bunch of assholes. And I love how Charles Schumer touts Israel texting Gazans, warning them of impending missile strikes. How humane. I bet Gazans appreciate the head's up before their homes are blown to smithereens. I know I would.

Note how casually the language of terror is employed here. It reminds me of when Ed Koch called for the Israeli carpet bombing of the Bekaa Valley, but felt that the inhabitants there should be given 24 hours to flee before the bombs fell (as Mayor of New York, it was the least Koch could do). Of course, had Al-Qaida warned the workers at the World Trade Center on 9/10 what was coming the next morning, people like Schumer would've doubtless applauded the gesture. It's how civilized people communicate.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Malach Ha-Mavis Goes Bananas

Q: What's the difference between a Palestinian and a pizza?
A: Choice of toppings.

Q: What did the Rabbi say to the Zionist?
A: "From this you make a killing?"

One could go on and on with this crap. And why not? The Israeli state is making it easier to speak this way, as more and more people are appalled by its murderous rampage. Naturally, there remain many Israeli apologists, but it's getting harder for them to peddle the "self defense" case with a straight face. It's probably tougher for those who know they're spewing shit, but push the party line anyway, their careers or professional relationships in the balance. Not that I weep for them, the craven fucks. But the pressure must be immense, given the growing cognitive dissonance.

How many will snap before this madness subsides? Hopefully a lot. Each media outlet can have its own designer straitjacket for hosts and guests alike: "The Rubber Room with Wolf Blitzer." Truth in advertising gone berserk.

Regulars know that I've moaned about the lack of American satirical assaults on Israel and Zionism, and the silence still resonates, save for this remarkable piece by Jon Stewart. I'm sure you've seen it, but watch it again. It'll have to carry you through more satirically dry days.



I have a few quibbles with Stewart's approach, but who cares. The fact that he and his writers put this out there is more than enough. No doubt the growing shift against Israeli violence gave Stewart the opening necessary to produce this piece. Yet the audience sounds hesitant, which is understandable, as American comics almost never skewer Israel. Years of Arab jokes and stereotypes have warped many people's perceptions, so it could take time for them to get comfortable with bits like the above. Judging from Israel's openly stated intentions and utter contempt for world opinion, comfort levels may rise faster than normal. How that will stop the killing, I've no idea. But painful laughter is better than complete silence. Blood is smearing the greasepaint.

Friday, January 9, 2009

You Should Only Live Twice

It's been some time since my last "Fridays" posting. But that doesn't mean my devotion to this long-lost show has faded in any way. Far from it. If anything, it's gotten stranger, deeper, almost mystical. "Fridays" conveys meaning to me that cannot be explained by human communication. To fully appreciate this, you'd have to shrink yourself down to "Fantastic Voyage" size and enter my brain through the nasal cavity. Then you would understand -- that is, if you aren't sucked into my subconscious, a swirling vortex of fears and passions that would shatter your micro-mind, ruin your micro-jump suit, and render you micro-insane. Neither of us wants that.

This sketch doesn't seem all that dated, given recent events. It features MATZOI: Mobile Attack Trained Zionists Operation International. Larry David and Bruce Mahler play secret agent rabbis looking to smash GOYIM, headed by that week's host, Tab Hunter, whose latest film then was John Waters' "Polyester." The piece is a standard James Bond spoof, with Hunter overdoing it as the evil mastermind. I'm sure you'll recognize Mahler's rabbi from "Seinfeld," the only character spin-off from "Fridays" that I know of. Bruce Mahler was a versatile player on that show, appearing in a few "Police Academy" movies before quitting performing altogether. A truly undervalued talent.



Michael Richards, on the other hand . . . well, anyway, here's another of his Dick sketches, which were very popular. Richards did a lot of physical comedy on "Fridays," but Dick was easily his oddest character. Melanie Chartoff is somewhat wasted in this scene, but given how she looks, I don't think many viewers minded.



Here, Chartoff introduces a Tom Kramer film, which features Richards. Tom's written a showbiz memoir, parts of which he sent me. His description of what "Fridays" was like backstage didn't surprise me, but there were dark elements I hadn't anticipated. And to think that I wanted to write for that show. I was 21, Tom's age. Based on his stories, I would've been eaten alive. Tom more or less was. That he turned out so much material is a testament to his talent and endurance. Tom's back in the professional groove these days. He's a sweet, funny guy.



And for your musical pleasure, here's Rockpile on "Fridays," from December 19, 1980. Led by Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds, Rockpile had a pop rockabilly sound, which at that time made a minor comeback (The Blasters and Stray Cats were closer to pure rockabilly). This song, "Teacher, Teacher," was featured on "Seconds of Pleasure," one of the best albums of 1980. Rockpile didn't last long, as Lowe and Edmunds went their separate ways. Here's what they sounded like before they split.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Frontline Laffs




(All material sanctioned by the New York Times, NPR, National Review, New Republic, Weekly Standard, and Commentary. Enjoy, and remember: You can spell "carnage" without IDF, but would you really want to?)

☻ ☻ ☻

Q: Why did the Israeli Army cross the border?
A: What border?

☻ ☻ ☻

There was once a Zionist, Joe
Whose reflexes were kinda slow.
One day he released
A white phosphorus feast,
On Arabs killed weeks ago.

☻ ☻ ☻

Q: How many Palestinians can fit in an oven?
A: What, and waste gas on non-kosher meat!

☻ ☻ ☻

Two IDF grunts were arguing about how much pain Palestinian prisoners can endure.

"I say those pigs can go three minutes without air!" boasted the first soldier.

"And I say those dogs wouldn't last 20 seconds of having their bones broken!" replied the other.

An artillery officer overheard the argument, and quickly admonished the soldiers.

"You're both wrong!" corrected the officer. "Cut those roaches in half, and they'll crawl for 40 years!"

☻ ☻ ☻

Q: What did the Israeli Gomer Pyle say when he saw Hamas fire three missiles?
A: "Qassam! Qassam! Qassam!"

☻ ☻ ☻

Drawers of water, hewers of wood,
Crying that they're misunderstood.
Slaughter their children, blackout the news,
That'll teach 'em to fuck with the Jews!

☻ ☻ ☻

Q: What do you call a Palestinian mass grave?
A: Israel.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Extremes



As Israel continues its psychotic rampage, many of its admirers cheer on the mass murder. Certainly no surprise, and I'm sure you've encountered your share online. The beasts aren't hard to spot. Despite the opinion shift against Israeli aggression, there remain plenty of people who can't get enough Palestinian dead, applauding the carnage from comfy chairs, feeling at one with the slaughter.

To say this is despicable really doesn't capture its essence. There's something deeper, pathological, sickening when not sad about those typing excuses for Israel's war crimes. Sadder still, we're all of the same species, give or take a chromosome here and there. So at some level, they are us. And what sick fucks we can be.

I've written tens of thousands of words about Israel and Palestine -- hell, it's probably well into six figures by now -- and have discussed and argued the issue at Molly Bloom length, and I've never gotten used to the toxic atmosphere surrounding it. I'm not complaining, as engagement is my choice; just noting that no matter how reasonable you may think you are, the air still reeks of blood and shit, and over time this twists your tone. Even in the more "civil" debates, one must slash through countless myths and falsehoods before even touching the main topic, assuming you get there at all. Popular opinion may be turning against these tactics, but it's a slow process, which gives Palestinian-phobes ample time to reload.

One point that keeps jumping out, apart from the ceaseless dehumanization of the Palestinians overall, is how "extremist" Hamas apparently is. Now, I hold no brief for Hamas; I've repeatedly criticized them, and have no love for their theocratic mindset (Israel has shown more support for Hamas than I could or ever would have). But "extremist" was once applied to the PLO, especially during the period of Fatah's moderation. Israel couldn't negotiate with them, their charter called for the elimination of Israel, they held civilians hostage and used them as human shields . . . all the same rhetoric we hear today about Hamas.

No sane observer would confuse Fatah for Hamas, yet in relevant periods of Palestinian history, both groups ostensibly behaved the exact same way toward the exact same end. It's a simple narrative to memorize, and can be applied to any form of Palestinian resistance, secular, religious, whatever. Thus, any Palestinian who resists a rational, moral agent like Israel must be hell bent on destruction, either for themselves, against the Jewish state, or most likely both. Keeping to this narrative helps one glide over numerous complexities, chiefly, regional history. It's an all purpose excuse, which is why it's been used for decades.

Since all "extremism" resides with the Palestinians (a genetic trait?), there's no need for Israeli state apologists to review Zionist comments about Palestinians being sub-human and diseased; no need to discuss "demographic time bomb" fears among Israeli politicians, their version of worrying about Mexican birth rates in the US; no need to unearth Zionist statements and charters calling for a Greater Israel, however unlikely that seems at the moment; no need to recall how the Israeli mainstream insisted that the Palestinians simply didn't exist -- they were an "invention of some Jews with distorted minds," as Golda Meir once put it; no need to be reminded of death squad leaders like Begin, Shamir, and Sharon, who became Israeli Prime Ministers. There's no need to do any of this. Why? Because Israel cannot be "extremist."

There's also the colossal disparity in body counts, a disparity openly embraced and excused by Israeli statists. To tell those who you have surrounded and outgunned that you will slaughter 100 of them for every single Israeli killed is not "extremist" -- it's how democracies function. This also holds true in weaponry. Qassam rockets with variable range and destructive capabilities: "extremist." F-16s, helicopter gunships, tanks, bunker busters and white phosphorus -- democratic. It's really quite simple once you learn the lingo.

For American supporters of Israeli violence, the use of "extremist" is even more inspired, especially when you recall some of the crazed reactions to the 9/11 attacks. If the United States was ever treated like Gaza, a Hamas-like reaction would doubtless be viewed by many Americans as appeasement. Qassam rockets? Fucking pacifists.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Which Direction Home?



"[M]y feeling is that no matter how many protests there will be against the Israeli war on Gaza, no matter how many people attend, nothing will change. We remain the fringe of Israeli society, with no power, with insufficient representation in the Knesset. A Palestinian friend told me that he had read in the newspaper that 150,000 had been at the demonstration in Sachnin [a Palestinian city in the north-east of Israel]. Perhaps. There was an enormous group of people marching. Ten thousand marched in Tel Aviv. But to what end? Perhaps the protests in other countries will help. Maybe . . . Nobody is coming to the rescue. I suppose you are right to say, 'why should they? it’s your problem. you’ve created it. Now stew in it.' But people are dying, mainly in Gaza (now over 500), but some Israelis have, too, and more possibly will. For what?"

So writes a member of the Israeli discussion list I belong to. I certainly know the feeling, living the majority of my adult life on the political margins. After awhile you get used to it, adapt to the conditions while hopefully not resigning yourself to failure and loss. Lord knows I've surrendered to despair more times than I care to admit. But as I've recently noted, from the Republic Windows sit-in to the widening critical awareness and action against Israeli aggression, unrest stirs below. Many people are restless, looking to connect with others as opposed to curling up in private. Desperate times affect people in various ways, of course; but now anyone with Web access can immediately share his or her thoughts with countless others. This helps make one feel less alone, the starting point for any social movement. Little wonder why elites and their media megaphones despise the Internet so.

A close friend credits Obama's election with this political opening, and I agree to a point. It's still strange for people my age and older to see an African-American standing behind the presidential seal, so that certainly shifts one's perception into fresh areas. But as we've already seen, and will witness after the inaugural hysteria and self-congratulation (Election Night Part II), Obama serves those who own the country. Doubtless some crumbs will be tossed to the populace, perhaps more than we anticipate. Our rulers may be avaricious, but they're not stupid nor suicidal. Americans must be made to feel that they have a stake in the process, however illusory -- indeed, the more illusory for us, the better for them.

Obama's PR front, which wowed the business and advertising press last year, knows how to shape the necessary dreams, so that's a decided advantage, at least early on. For if the economy worsens and war widens, no amount of HOPEspeak will keep people in their pens. So to the degree that Obama got people moving may help feed something that the owners have no stomach for: grassroots pressure against their rule. It'll be interesting to see Obama's reaction should his popularity tank. The man's so used to applause and cheers that facing angry crowds could prove to be a profound shock. If that happens, then we'll see just how slick Obama's propaganda team truly is.

For the moment, Obama's wise to remain mum over Gaza. But there can't be much mystery where his political loyalty lies. As others have pointed out, the Democratic base is more critical of Israel than is the Party leadership, a divide that's widened in the past week.

Does this mean anything? Depends on what the Dem base does.

Their leaders are making it sparkling clear what they think about Palestinian lives and society, the destruction and marginalization of which is financed by American taxpayers who have no say in how their money's spent. Will American liberals truly challenge this blood arrangement? Or will they rub their hands and meekly plead for whatever CHANGE they think they can get with the least effort? I still believe that in the end, liberals will defend Obama, albeit "critically." It's certainly easier and safer than taking the next big step, which would put many libs outside of their comfort zones. The time for serious rebellion is as ripe as it's been in memory. What will it be?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Resistance Is Not Futile




(Above: A few Israelis enjoy The Gaza Show.)

Maybe it's me, but the more I read about Israel's assault on Gaza, the more I'm convinced that the Zionist enterprise is in serious trouble. With each fresh round of bombing, Israel's reputation gets worse, allowing growing numbers of people who might never have said a critical word about that country to finally speak up, if only to friends and family. (I'm excluding racists and anti-Semites, whose vile opinions are disconnected from reality.) I continue to see this on those liberal blogs still talking about Gaza, their commenters increasingly unafraid to voice strong criticism, if not direct condemnation, of Israel's actions. This naturally alarms and frightens those spewing the old fables about "tiny, peace-loving" Israel, driving many of them into rhetorical overkill and incoherence. It may be a small shift online, but it is significant. The full, historical narrative is spreading, and as the Gazan body count rises, perceptions are sharpening. No amount of Israeli PR will reverse this trend.

To someone who first became aware of Israeli aggression in 1982, during the IAF's blitzkrieg of Beirut, such a shift has been a long time coming. Back in those days, championing Palestinian rights was considered by many to be fascistic. Seemingly reasonable people became irate and poisonous at the mere suggestion of Palestinian equality, peddling well-worn excuses for the occupation and ongoing violence. I suppose it was a measure of my masochism that I dove head first into this fray, studying the topic, reading the history, arguing and debating the issue in restaurants, cramped apartments, on radio and at podiums on college campuses. The venom I faced was palpable, and there were a few instances when the arguments nearly came to blows. That I'm not Jewish fed some of my opponents' anger, as they were convinced that I would've made a fine concentration camp guard. That many of my sources and political allies were American and Israeli Jews meant nothing, for they were worse than me. After several intense years of this experience, I retreated from the issue, overweight from drink, depressed by the rancor, convinced that the debate was forever stalled.

In time, I returned to the issue, helped mightily by online access, which has had a positive effect on the overall Middle East debate. Many comments at Daily Kos, Firedoglake, Glenn Greenwald's and Matt Yglesias' sites are encouraging, but not an end in themselves. For while many people are waking up to the reality, there are still those who claim that Palestinians are a Nazi race that deserves annihilation, making asinine, ahistorical comparisons to Hitler's Germany or Hirohito's Japan. Yet, by pushing such bizarre equivalency, those supportive of Israeli violence expose their empty arguments to a large audience. The more people read how Hamas is the modern day version of the Third Reich, then look at the actual facts on the ground, the less seriously they'll take what's considered the "pro-Israel" position. For if you must rely on this type of argumentation, then your shit is already weak, something that is becoming clearer by the day.

This doesn't mean that elite opinion will radically change overnight, especially on the cable nets, where Israeli aggression is routinely hailed. But it does show a new awareness stirring from below. That doesn't bode well for the warmongers and their apologists. They may control us militarily and economically, but their propaganda is fooling less and less people. Resistance is steadily building. Let's put our HOPE in that, rather than project it on politicians who serve the propagandists.