Thursday, April 30, 2009

Razing Heckles

Creative heckling is a dead art, assuming it ever lived. It probably didn't. I'm sure that in more literate times, someone's comeback to a stupid joke or bad premise might transcend the material that inspired it, but that's conjecture. In my experience, most heckling comes from drunken idiot mouths, no more intelligent than skin blistering from a flame. It's part of the reason why comics are so nasty and cynical. It's one of the main reasons why I quit stand up long ago.

From what friends who still perform tell me, club audiences are getting dumber and cruder with each passing year. This naturally affects the comics, who must adjust their acts to survive the road while trying to get the attention of someone with serious connections. It's why you'll never see another Richard Pryor, Andy Kaufman, George Carlin, Steve Martin, Bill Hicks, Steven Wright, or Barry Crimmins, who in "When Stand Up Stood Out" demolishes a few assholes in the crowd. Barry wasn't included in "Heckler," a look at how carpers in clubs and online are supposedly ruining creativity and originality, reducing everything to the lowest means of expression. I suspect that Barry would've been less self-pitying than most of those featured, but then, Barry's not your average comedian. You wouldn't confuse him for Jamie Kennedy, who is the prime focus in "Heckler."

Kennedy, whom I always confuse for Seth Green, spends most of "Heckler" confronting his critics who are legion. Seems that a lot of people find Kennedy's comedy and films to be awful and unfunny, which is hard to disagree with, as anyone who's seen "Malibu's Most Wanted" can attest. Kennedy can't wrap his mind around this, looking confused and hurt with each strike at his persona. Kennedy appears to believe that he's better than his critics say, and so tries to shame and embarrass them into admitting their hatred, hidden agendas, or lack of insight. It's amusing for awhile, then becomes redundant and tired.

We get it, Jamie. You think you're a funny guy. Fine. Why not proceed from that point and get on with your career, such as it is.

In between Kennedy's sob sessions comes a celebrity roll call of pain. Roseanne Barr, Bill Maher, Lewis Black, Andrew Dice Clay, Craig Ferguson, Dr. Drew Pinsky, Carrie Fisher, Larry Flynt, Howie Mandel, George Lucas, Joel Schumacher, Henry Winkler, Rob Zombie, Pauly Shore, Jewel -- all have angry complaints about hecklers and "uncredentialed" critics who blog or otherwise write for an online audience. It seems that short of Pauline Kael, Stanley Kauffmann, or James Agee, these and numerous other celebs should not be appraised, at least not negatively.

I'm sympathetic to that reasoning. The amount of semi-literate online opinions is staggering, predictable in a culture that peddles celebrity over science, invasions of personal lives over contemplation and study. What do these celebs expect in the current environment? Especially when many of them insist on "being out there" to enhance their fame and bank accounts?

At times, their pain seems sincere. Tom Green's story of his rise to MTV cult status before getting trashed rings true. Joe Mantegna fairly simmers with violent revenge fantasies, which feel real, though Mantegna has said the same shit in so many films it's tough to really know. The funniest bitching comes from Christopher Hitchens, who bemoans character assassination in others while keeping a straight face. For me, the reaction from Scott Thompson, not the Kid In The Hall but the prop comic Carrot Top, was the most heartfelt. Here's a clip where Kennedy talks to Thompson about Carrot Top's joke status among critics and other comics:

Carrot Top's "Chairman Of The Board" is pretty atrocious, but hardly the worst comedy I've seen. In fact, I don't have anything against Thompson's prop routine, an updated version of Rip Taylor's act. Sometimes he can be quite clever and inventive, though he leans heavily on cheap visual puns. But then, so did Tex Avery and on occasion Ernie Kovacs. Not a bad tradition to honor, to the degree that you can. Certainly nothing to heckle about.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pumice In The Bank

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Coming Afflictions

That 70's Flu is back and crazier than ever, joined by Michael Jackson's 80's surgical mask look. And while people are panicked, expecting the worse, screaming and waving their arms, throwing supermarket pork into canals while burning DVDs of "Babe," stronger, deadlier viruses are on their way. And there's no stopping them. Don't even think about it. Seriously. Enjoy what time you have left.

AZTEC WHIRLWIND: Sweet Jesus. This is one nasty sumbitch, and bleeding armpits are the least of it. By week three, everything appears covered in lanolin as your head throbs like a strobe light at a gay disco, circa 1978. Then you can't walk. Then you can. Then bursitis sets in. Brutal.

KITTEN'S PAW: Don't be fooled by the name -- this virus will make you wish that a worse virus kills you, just to end the suffering. Avoid standing water and oat-based products. Pack a toothbrush. Try not to drool when unconscious. And for God's sake, would it kill you to wash your hair? Oh, right. It probably would.

LADDER INTO HELL: If only. By the time the first symptoms appear, your genitals will have turned into a rogue state, issuing crazy statements at the UN while silently backing retail terror financed by drug cartels and the country music industry. Good luck finding pants that fit.

COTTON COMES TO HARLEM: Classic 1970 film starring Godfrey Cambridge and Redd Foxx. From the Chester Himes novel, directed by Ossie Davis. "Two detectives only a mother could love" boasts the movie's poster. No kidding!

MOZART'S REVENGE: How this killer virus got its name remains a mystery, since the symptoms have nothing to do with Mozart, Salieri, 18th century Vienna, requiem masses, or Tom Hulce. But you will experience high fever, blistering rashes, blindness, gangrene, and the feeling that you never received unconditional love, that every relationship had a price tag attached. Then you drown in your own waste.

HOPEFLUENZA: This deadly strain has already infected large parts of the United States, killing minds and reasoning at various levels of society. Attempts to counter or limit the virus are largely useless as it quickly mutates and regenerates in reaction to social/political conditions. Symptoms include empty smiles, servility, belief in fantasy notions, double standards, and voting Democratic.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Balls Out

As a kid, I loved dodgeball, even though I got drilled on a regular basis. Not that I didn't mete out my share of punishment, but that was rare, especially if those who bullied me were on the other team. Nail one in the head and a wedgie awaited me in the locker room. Still, I liked dodging the ball. I was pretty good at it. When I did get hit, I tended to dramatize it Peckinpah-style, throwing myself into the wall as if hit by a barrage of M-60 fire.

I saw on HBO's "Real Sports" that dodgeball is being eliminated from gym classes across the country. Apparently, this has been going on for nearly a decade. My son has played dodgeball over the past few years at school, so I didn't know this was a problem. But I'm not surprised. More and more educators are ensuring that students touch each other less and less, and this retreat from contact has led to new forms of official play, like "shadow tag," where you step on another kid's shadow instead of tapping him or her with your hand.

Naturally, this sends reactionaries into predictable hysterics, bemoaning the "wussification of America," as manly Matt Labash put it in the Weekly Standard. "Real Sports'" Bernard Goldberg, who featured Labash in his report, needed little convincing, but then Goldberg has long been a leading whiny rightie, warning of nefarious liberal plots and leftist conspiracies. Goldberg has also attacked members of his own tribe, calling them "wimps" for not being as right wing as he would like. Throw in "pussy" and "sissy" and you get the general Goldberg complaint. It's all about manhood, strength, a will to power.

This is old news. Reactionaries have long fretted over the supposed emasculation of American men, worried that a generation of coddled kids will not obediently march to whatever slaughter their elders have endorsed. Norman Podhoretz added queer-baiting to this shtick in the late-70s, convinced that the gay rights movement undermined the national resolve to invade or bomb the lesser breeds, that opposition to the Vietnam War was the beginning of an unstoppable slide into feminization and pacifism. You hear the same bitching today, mostly from neocons, who seem to seriously believe that America is turning away from its duty to massacre Muslims, or anyone who dares resist our noble efforts. It all boils down to the master/slave narrative; who's the top, and who's the bottom. Sex and violence merge in many a reactionary mind. Hey, someone's keeping the leather mask industry afloat.

Most right wingers I've known who share Goldberg's outlook were not fine physical specimens. In fact, they looked like the kids who were targeted by jocks in dodgeball. But instead of calling for the game's abolition, they champion the concept of humiliation, insisting that being picked on makes for stronger nationalist stock, which is sorely needed in this dark socialist era. Again, there's a psycho-sexual-dom-submissive vibe that's evident, though how deeply it runs I've no real clue. I can only go with my personal exposure to these guys.

Yet despite all this, I tend to agree with the pro-dodgeball view, though I'm not interested in humiliating weaker kids so they'll grow up eager to serve the empire. I simply think that dodgeball is fun, and that kids should experience winning and losing games. Some kind of tough hide should be developed, not in preparation to fight or support imperial wars, but to deal with the assholes and hustlers who run America, and their apologists like Bernard Goldberg. Watch your crotch, Bernie.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

An American Dream

There are those who think I created my janitorial labor for dramatic effect. If only. Here are a few cleaning highlights, though this is far more sanitized than some of my earlier gigs. You should see what lawyers leave behind. Or how bankers treat their bathrooms. Oink.

Women's rooms are usually worse than men's. Not here, though clogs occur.

Liberal yuppie scum. What's left behind, I mean.

When I do this at night, I pretend that I'm Batman/Rorschach, throwing thugs into walls and off tall buildings. Need to slim down my Nite Owl frame.

Friday, April 24, 2009

More From Back When

Friend Tom Kramer is posting some of his work from "Fridays," which is all the motivation I need to join in. The pieces, in descending order, are another Matzoi bit featuring Larry David and Bruce Mahler as kung fu rabbis; a TV promo starring Mahler; the first anniversary "Fridays" film; and the piece that got Tom the "Fridays" gig at the wise age of 20, introduced by the great Jack Burns.

Note the first-rate condition of these old pieces. Word has it that an actual "Fridays" DVD set may very well be released, but nothing definite at the moment. Trust me, if that happens, all hell will break loose here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

You Loved Sitting By The Window

Amy, I treated you badly, dumped
you for an actress, a pert Southern
tease who made me come like a teen.

But I was young. We were young.
New York was still dangerous, open
to madness, and I desired my fill.

Had we stayed together our break
up would've been worse. I felt
guilty enough as it was.

I remember the parties,
Vassar grads, Ivy
League stragglers, exotic
to my rube eyes, the reason
I moved there to begin with.

Cape Cod,
Central Park,
The Dakota covered
in soot, Columbus Ave.
flea markets -- I still smell
old books blackened
by exhaust, blown open
by crisp Fall breeze.

I can't say I loved you,
but I loved our energy,
adventures, discoveries.
I was without form, yet
you recognized part of me.

Your drunken Spanish
sex talk in the back of
uptown cabs, deep
kissing and groping as
darkened buildings flew by.

Then I flipped out, crashed
into areas you had no stomach
for, telling me you didn't understand.

Neither did I. Yet you
nursed me after oral surgery,
fucked me after we split,
gave to me what I didn't
want, but took anyway.

That was ten thousand
suns ago. I've died too
many times since then
to notice. But I remember you,
Amy, these thoughts inspired
by an old photo I found.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


President Fix

The vanilla tumult over torture and "brutal interrogation," as the New York Times puts it, is a never-ending source of raw amusement, the kind that sears your gut and makes you cough blood. Obama, ever the evenhanded manager, now says that he won't stand in the way should someone else bring criminal charges against the previous regime.

Wow. What courage. Is there anything our Father Leader can't equivocate? At least he still speaks better than Bush. (Liberal APPLAUSE sign flashing.) Am I right? Ladies, you know it's true!

The day that senior Bush officials, like Bush and Cheney themselves, take the perp walk in chains and orange jumpsuits is the day I publically register as a Democrat, don an Obama t-shirt, and burn a stack of "Savage Mules." Of course, for justice to be seriously administered, many leading Dems would also have to be charged, not only for supporting or silently tolerating torture and rendition, but for beating the war drums over Iraq, the broken, bloody stage where much of this official "concern" originated with the Abu Ghraib photo sessions. This would naturally include the Vice President and Secretary of State, whose firing, arrest, and prosecution would show just how impartial American justice truly is, a shining counterexample to those lawless states that allow piracy to go unpunished.

But none of this is gonna happen. In American politics, talking and posturing about "justice" is about as good as it gets. Oh, maybe some lower echelon cog will be sacrificed to keep the charade going, but the real crime lords will avoid any jail time or serious censure as Obama urges us to "get past" this "aberration" to our noble system of governance. His slow motion pose about not impeding criminal investigations is simply more imperial pantomime -- chum bait for the rubes.

No matter what he does or doesn't do, Obama will not face a liberal mutiny, and he knows it. While a few Democrats like Glenn Greenwald are making critical noises against Obama's obfuscation, it remains a minority view. The liberal overreaction to the pitiful teabag demonstrations showed their true, loyal colors. That many of the teabaggers hold fantastic concepts of Obama helps his lib admirers, as it diverts attention away from his actual positions, giving Dem mouthpieces like Janeane Garofalo room to rant about idiot crackers who dare protest a black president, something you won't see Garofalo and kindred ideologues ever do, not with the energy and anger they protested Bush.

There are rare moments when the American Fix is so blatant, so obvious, that speaking against it merely reinforces its power and reach. This is one of those moments. Admire it, fellow peasants. You have nothing to lose but your CHANGE.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Daddy, Oh . . .

Just Another Decade

Avoiding cable news is especially key today, as I'm certain there'll be plenty of choreographed anguish recalling the Columbine massacre, now ten years past.

What is it about corporate media that flattens and bleeds dry events like that psychotic rampage? I know that the standard script must be adhered to, looking for lessons in the wake of a murderous spree. We The Viewers should not form our own conclusions about Columbine, but merely plug into the official vibe and allow chatting faces do our feeling for us.

What happened a decade ago was well within the American character, complete with theatrical flourish, as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot videos and kept crazed journals describing their murder/suicide scenario. They fully expected to be remembered and dramatized, and they were absolutely correct. Despite all the Hows and Whys, Harris and Klebold were as American as it gets. I think this is understood more than is acknowledged, which explains the euphemisms and supposedly confused reactions.

Killing innocent people was the least of it. Happens everyday. As Michael Moore showed in "Bowling for Columbine," the US was at that moment slaughtering Serbian civilians (as well as Iraqis, though that was hidden in plain sight), only Bill Clinton didn't face down his victims in a library, nor took his own life. He murdered with impunity, congratulated by media elites and political allies. Clinton made Columbine look like a fender bender, yet it's Harris and Klebold who are the monsters, while Big Bill is considered by many to be one of the greatest presidents of modern times.

Then again, selective morality and general hypocrisy are also ingrained American features. So I guess everything evens out.

Here's the final part of Gus Van Sant's "Elephant," his dreamlike take on Columbine. Van Sant's slow, soft approach magnifies the horror in a way that a documentary cannot fully capture. America is a crazy place, and getting crazier. The cliché remains true: it's remarkable that this shit doesn't happen more often.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Old Spice

Some rambling thoughts about a lesser-covered obsession. Also, try to the count the number of times I say "In any event." Maybe my new catchphrase?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reflection In Blood

Killing time last night, I came across a link at Facebook that startled me. It really shouldn't have; I read much worse on a daily basis. Still, it typified what many of my more liberal, mule-centric friends and acquaintances are writing and saying these days, still in love with Obama or the idea of Obama, despite mounting evidence undercutting his "promise," such as it was. So consider this a friendly if stern response. These people are not my enemies, but many of them need to knock the fog from their minds.

Though he may not believe this, I like Lance Mannion, and enjoy his forays into pop culture and how it affects him and his loved ones. But when Lance saunters into politics, well, that's where my enjoyment usually ends. Like many in the newcritics crowd, whom I've met and partied with, Lance is beholden to the Democrats, regardless of any complaints or quibbles he might have.

I haven't read everything he's written about Obama, but based on what I've seen, Lance is pretty much in the tank for our new Father Leader. No surprise. Hardly an unpopular stance. Al Gore's pathetic surrender in 2000 drove countless liberals 'round the bend, and they've waited eight long years to embrace a president of their own. Didn't matter who. Kerry. Edwards. Hillary. All would have sufficed. But Obama's even more special, what with historical CHANGE and all that. So numerous libs cling to him, which clouds their vision and makes them say and write things that I suspect they'd never say had McCain won instead.

Would Lance have reconsidered Ronald Reagan under a McCain regime? Somehow I doubt it, but there's only so much of the human mind I understand. In the wake of Obama's brave order to kill Somali hijackers (who, according to Chris Floyd, were essentially unarmed and trying to negotiate a truce), Lance, along with many liberals, praised the action, convinced that killing poor Africans would show reactionaries how badass Obama truly is. But Lance went further, wondering if Reagan would've been equally heroic. Based on a book about Reagan, "Tear Down This Myth" by Will Bunch, Lance concludes that Obama and Reagan have more in common than not, which I agree with, though not in the way Lance does. But that's another argument.

What threw me about this post is how Lance portrayed Reagan, softening the edges in order to make the old actor palatable to his liberal readers. How else to consider this passage:

"Here, though, what I want to highlight is another difference between Reagan the actual human being and the Right Wing Hero conservatives idealize and idolize.

"Reagan was nowhere near as bloodthirsty.

"In fact, if the bodies are ever tallied, it will probably turn out that Ronald Reagan was directly responsible for the deaths of far fewer people than any other President since Eisenhower, except Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Barack Obama may already have more blood on his hands."

Okay. Eisenhower oversaw the overthrow of the Iranian and Guatemalan governments, the latter of which turned into the hemisphere's grisliest slaughterhouse. Ike also helped undermine the Geneva Accords, establishing a client state in south Vietnam, which began jailing and murdering dissidents, the body count in the tens of thousands. This of course set the stage for direct US involvement, ultimately killing anywhere from 2 to 4 million people. (Eisenhower offered the French nuclear back-up at Dien Bien Phu, which France wisely and mercifully declined.)

Gerald Ford had less time to kill people, but he made his mark, backing and financing Indonesia's invasion and occupation of East Timor, where a third of the Timorese population was wiped out in Pol Pot-style violence. Not bad for an appointee. Jimmy Carter kept the Timor abattoir running, while backing state violence in El Salvador, military rule in South Korea (the Kwangju massacre killing some 2,000 people), and helping to assemble, train and arm reactionary Muslim elements in Afghanistan, the bloody effects of which, ahem, remain very much with us today. Obama does have blood on his hands, which will stay a moist crimson so long as he's in office. And while he's already out killed Bush in Pakistan, Obama's nowhere near Reagan's body count. That will take some doing. But I have faith that Our President will make an inspired effort to match one of his political heroes.

Not that Lance is blind to Reagan's faults:

"I'm not forgetting all the people who did die because of what he did, all the people in Central America killed by the Contras and the Death Squads we trained and supported, all the people who died of AIDS because he refused to acknowledge the crisis."

But this is an aside, a caveat to Lance's larger, more flattering point, that Reagan thought things out before ordering a hit. I'm sure that Reagan thought of a good many things. Yet let's remember that Reagan financed and defended mass slaughter in Central America, from El Salvador to Guatemala to Nicaragua. The numbers are staggering, given the size of these countries. If a Third World leader killed a portion of who Reagan killed, he or she would be viewed as another Hitler. But Reagan? He not only got away with it, he survived the so-called Iran/contra "scandal," which in reality was a systemic cover-up, aided in large part by Democrats and our ever vigilant Liberal Media. Since then, the focus on the Reagan years has gotten warmer and fuzzier, as liberals like Lance see the "positive" side to the Gipper.

Lance testily insisted that I read Will Bunch's book before commenting, but based on Lance's summation, I see no need to waste my time. I trust that Lance read Bunch closely and carefully, and if this is what he took away from it, then nein danke. I'll stick with Edmund Morris' "Dutch," an avant garde take on Reagan, as Gore Vidal put it. Morris doesn't linger on theory; he gives us Reagan the individual, to the degree that there was something to grab onto. Why people are trying to re-think Reagan is beyond me, since the evidence is damning and overwhelming. I suspect these are practice runs for later assessing Obama, but then, only a cynic would say that.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Restoring American Values

Navy SEAL snipers took out some Somali profiteers, and right on cue, many liberals and Obama lovers fairly creamed at their Father Leader's feet. You can find plenty of stroking on various lib comment threads; but for me, the most energetic tug jobs took place at the Huffington Post:


"Glad to see we have a real man in office, and not a kid playing dress-up soldier."

"I am so proud of President Obama and our Navy I am moved to tears. Truly, God has blessed America!"

"I'm just loving my President more and more each day, if that is possible!"

"President Obama was more effective in punishing the pirates than President Reagan was in punishing the Achille Lauro hijackers."

"The Ship of State continues to sail strongly tonight. Thank You SEALS, U.S. Navy and Commander in Chief Obama for preserving our reputation."

I especially like these last two comments, for they show, yet again, how Democrats love spilling blood, believing they can do it better and more efficiently than those evil, crazy tea-bagging Repubs. The Dems as Michael Corleone to the GOP's Sonny.

Still, the notion that Reagan was gun shy compared to robust Obama is not only historically inaccurate, at least so far, but ominous as well. Reagan oversaw mass murder on a scale that would've made Milosevic blush with embarrassment (though Saddam remained a big fan of Reagan to the end). Yet should Obama exceed the old actor's body count and devastation, many Dems would doubtless view it with pride -- a rebuke to conservative pacifist-baiting.

"Professional" killing makes numerous liberals moist. And as the Obamanator surpasses Bush's monthly kill rate in Pakistan, with much more bloodshed to come in Afghanistan and Iraq, only stubborn ideologues would dismiss the new president's chops. This happened to Jimmy Carter, whose war crimes go uncelebrated, and to a lesser degree Bill Clinton, who while feted for killing Serbians, never received the plaudits due him for the quiet dismemberment of Iraq.

Obama has no shortage of targets in his crosshairs. Killing Somali racketeers is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, especially since the conditions that help nourish "piracy" (a rich description coming from US politicos and commentators) are of little to no interest to those clamoring for American global "leadership" and a restoration of our noble "reputation." The energy and resource wars have found their perfect button man.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thwart The Imperial Taxidermist

As mentioned above. The Germs at The Whiskey, 1979.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dead Minds Of The TV Wars

Hoo boy. This looks like fun:

"The Pakistani state could collapse within six months if immediate steps are not taken to remedy the situation, warned a top adviser to the US Central Command.

"David Kilcullen, who advises CENTCOM commander Gen. David H. Petraeus on the war on terror, urged US policymakers to focus their attention on Pakistan as a failure there could have devastating consequences for the entire international community [. . .]

"Asked to explain why he thought Pakistan was so important, Kilcullen said: 'Pakistan has 173 million people, 100 nuclear weapons, an army bigger than the US Army, and al-Qaeda headquarters sitting right there in the two-thirds of the country that the government doesn't control.'

"He claimed that the Pakistani military and police and intelligence service did not follow the civilian government; they were essentially a rogue state within a state. 'Were now reaching the point where within one to six months we could see the collapse of the Pakistani state, also because of the global financial crisis, which just exacerbates all these problems,' he said. 'The collapse of Pakistan, al-Qaeda acquiring nuclear weapons, an extremist takeover — that would dwarf everything we’ve seen in the war on terror today.'”

So, if this is true, how exactly do US drone attacks help to counter, much less contain, a "rogue state within a state"? Especially one possessing nuclear weapons? Kilcullen offers the standard recipe -- winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan, insulating its population from the Taliban, and generally turning that ravaged land into a democracy that can be a model for the rest of the region, etc. Sounds sweet. How this is going to happen as Obama expands what is now his war I'd be interested to know.

Could it be that the US is simply fucked in the head when it comes to the Near East? That for all the nice talk about "freedom" and fighting terror, our meddling there, which goes back to the Soviet occupation, has made matters much worse? And what if Pakistan "collapses," whatever that might actually mean? What then? Coup? Invasion? Increased bombing? Threats of annihilation? Or does the US find some common ground, any common ground, with those forces it supposedly wishes to vanquish?

Peace my dick. With Iraq heating up again, our new Father Leader will soon be up to his elbows in corpses, deepening resentment and hatred. The rest of us will be urged to go along with this by professional liberal outfits like the Center for American Progress, which recently told Nation readers, "In the words of President Obama, we are not against all wars, just dumb wars. Afghanistan is surely not the latter."

Don't you feel safer than you did last year?

Speaking of professional libchat, The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates slammed Bobby Rush for referring to Fidel Castro as an "old friend" during a recent visit to Cuba. "[D]ude, he's a dictator," lectured Coates. "And no amount of subject-changing can get around that fact." Coates was backed by Matt Yglesias, blogging on behalf of the anti-dumb war CAP, who added, "Castro personally is a dictator and a bad guy."

What cutting edge thinking. How do these guys keep their gigs?

Now, I'm not a big fan of centralized states and one-party rule, and I've never really warmed to Castro ideologically; but given the global situation, bashing Castro seems misplaced, if not utterly anachronistic. For liberals like Coates and Yglesias, it's a mandatory pose to show how "responsible" they are when it comes to Serious Political Commentary.

That the US has a long record of invading and terrorizing Cuba, well before Castro appeared, doesn't enter into their considerations. That revolutionary Cuba yanked itself from the US orbit, which prompted liberal godhead JFK to risk nuclear war while erecting a death squad apparatus that further plunged the region into misery and mass murder, seems at best odd to them, to the extent that they're curious about why Castro came to power in the first place.

About the best this pair can cough up is that the embargo is "misguided" and "bad." Of course, had the embargo broken Cuba and reduced it to the level of Haiti or Nicaragua, I doubt that Coates and Yglesias would give two fucks for that island. Indeed, they'd probably hail the embargo as an effective means to undermine regional "thugs" -- at least the kind who resist the US, that is.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wind That Fucks The Barley

Beyond this stage of rotting meat
Where puppets die, scorned and broken,
Buxom women made of wheat
Express desire with no word spoken.

Minta Cantos, "Salvation Grain," 1927.

I've never understood what Cantos was talking about here, yet her imagery of wheat women, as well as her epic poems covering a genealogy of various grain people, consumed me at an early age. Though Cantos knew, socialized with, and sometimes loved notable figures like Man Ray, Zelda Fitzgerald, King Oliver, James Joyce, Red Grange, and Emmy Hennings, her artistic vision oftentimes clashed with her peers, resulting in hurt feelings and property damage. Nevertheless, Cantos kept conjuring worlds of talking, crying, fucking grain, her Yeast Monologues and Rye Diaries perhaps her most ambitious work.

By her 50s, Cantos succumbed to her visions, convinced that toasters were Nazi ovens, conducting elaborate funerals in her garden for burnt bread. She tried to kill herself by jumping off her one-story roof, but merely sprained her ankle, the ache of which plagued her until she died of respiratory failure at 67. Her legacy endures in Pillsbury Doughboy commercials, a character she created decades before as a millet hustler amid virgin oats. She later sued Pillsbury and lost, but her loss is our grain.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Natural Order

Obama's response to North Korea's fizzled rocket test was no different from what Bush would've said, for that's the imperial manager's function: reminding weaker nations who's allowed to own the big sticks. Comes with the gig. The notion that North Korea is an ominous threat to the world is another imperial talking point, taken seriously by Serious People, who speak of dangerous end games, the globe on the brink, and related dramatic rhetoric.

It's all bullshit, aimed at keeping We The Servants afraid and beholden to our owners. You'd be hard pressed to find any media commentator mentioning the millions of Koreans the US massacred from 1950-53, primarily in the North, where entire villages were erased and cities reduced to rubble. Massive destruction that was perhaps a step or two shy of an actual nuclear assault, though that too was under serious consideration among Truman's advisers. In the end, despite the mad Douglas MacArthur's raving about hitting the North with 30 nukes, it was felt that conventional dismemberment was more than enough, which it pretty much was.

Of course, the smoldering rubble and open mass graves did not seriously affect North Korea's perceptions of the US, just as if the roles were reversed, we wouldn't hold any grudge against a larger country that flattened numerous American cities and towns, killing tens of millions. And the idea that we would seek some kind of defense or deterrent against a future attack is ludicrous, which further shows just how crazy and paranoid North Korea remains.

So, a la Bush, Obama laid down the "rules," as he put it, bellowing about perilous threats and the rest. But whereas Bush would add that the US seeks only freedom, peace, and unconditional love, Obama took it to the next level, calling for a nuclear-free world.

A planet free of nukes. Wow. Awesome. Like Miss America praying for world peace and lots of hugs. The beauty of this approach is that no one can really disagree with Obama. Who wouldn't want nukes dismantled, other than lunatics and terrorists (i.e. North Korea and Iran)? That Obama admitted that such a state would probably not be seen in his lifetime, making his rhetoric even emptier, matters little to the faithful. The point is, Bush wouldn't have said it, or he wouldn't have said it as well. To countless liberals, that's all that really matters.

My old pub pal Juan Cole not only found Obama's nuke-free spiel "visionary," "pivotal" and "epochal" (beware of liberals clutching thesauri), he also says:

"The speech does not refer to the Middle East, but it has potentially big implications for that region. The logical conclusion is that Obama not only wants Iran to cease its nuclear enrichment program (which may not now be aimed at making a bomb, but could one day be used for that purpose), but he also wants Israel to give up its nuclear arsenal of 150 warheads."

Really, Juan? And just how, politically and militarily, will Obama convince Israel to go nuke-free? For this to actually work, Obama would have to insist that Israel undergo the same inspections forced on Saddam's regime. I mean, to achieve a post-nuclear world, all nations holding bombs must be treated equally, right? So not only Israel, but India, Pakistan, Russia, China, England, France, and of course the US would have to submit to inspectors and outside enforcers. I'm not sure who would enforce the dismantling of all these weapons (unless one thinks that the nuke nations would unilaterally disarm), but Obama's speech was so elevating, so life-changing, petty details like that are junk food for cynics and non-believers.

Pass the ketchup.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


I have no memory of this, yet there I am, 20 years old, with my new writing partner Jim Buck, who was 22. When I saw Jim last weekend in Indy, the first time we laid eyes on each other in 18 years, he found a shitload of pics and posters from our Kamakaze Radio days while visiting his parents. The above photo is from 1980, when Jim, Mike Owens and I quit stand-up and formed a group, though many of our early bits were adapted from our solo acts. I don't know if this was a rehearsal, or us fucking around for the camera. But it's a snapshot from the beginning, when Jim and I spent countless hours discussing comedy and what we wanted to achieve through our work.

Those were high-minded if very raw days. Jim and I stumbled around and experimented with form, oftentimes abandoning bits that just wouldn't gel. Mike, who was older (I think 30-31), brought a weird, vibrant energy of his own, but Mike tended to do his own stuff, and was brusque when it came to material he did not like. That forced me and Jim to re-write and polish more than we probably would have on our own; but once we clicked, we didn't need any push from Mike or anyone else. Our material got better, funnier, edgier. Within a year, KR began selling out shows.

Seeing Jim not only brought these memories back, but reminded us of how much we missed the natural energy we share. At the end of our little reunion, Jim and I riffed in the front seat of my car, as you'll see below. We dash all over the place -- at least I do, excited and manic from being around my old partner. I was the more hyper of the two, Buddy Sorrell to Jim's Samuel Beckett. But here I'm extra-jazzed, cutting Jim off in order to . . . I'm not sure what. Jim didn't mind. He was always quieter than me, always thinking through a piece or gag while I spat out lines rat-tat-tat. That was our chemistry, and it worked well for us.

Jim and I are discussing a new collaboration. We always wanted to try video, but back then we didn't have the means or the outlets to adequately realize most of our concepts. Now we do. If KR started today, we'd be an exclusively online group. I don't know how many members a 21st century KR would have, but in the end it always boiled down to Jim and I, knocking out scripts right up to rehearsal, sometimes re-working bits during a theatrical run. And here we are again. The two of us.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Killing Joke

Gore Vidal has often said, usually with a shit-eating grin, that the sweetest words in the English language are "I told you so." They certainly are among the most tempting. Still, I cling to whatever softness remains in me, so I can't share Vidal's nasty glee in being proven right. Because once that's settled, what comes after?

That liberal groups like the Center for American Progress are solidly behind Obama's plan for expanded war in the Near East should be no surprise. Many American liberals, especially those who want to be "relevant," support war and empire and always have. That my old radio colleague Laura Flanders expresses some shock over this bald fact is a bit disingenuous, for Laura knows better. But her career is largely based on flattering mainstream liberals and taking their arguments seriously, so instead of calling libs on their bullshit, she must shake her head in sorrow, and wish that it's all a bad joke.

Anybody paying attention knew that the Obama war machine was rolling into town, and that countless liberal admirers would be waving flags as it passed. This is why critics like yours truly were kept out of election year discussions and debates about a possible Obama presidency, because few liberals wanted to consider what was pretty fucking obvious.

And now we're here, with our Father Leader ramping up for extended slaughter while lecturing those haughty Europeans about their "insidious" anti-Americanism. That Obama also mentioned American arrogance, something Bush wouldn't do, doesn't alter the point. He was speaking to a French audience, and his PR team is too savvy to engage in simple Euro-bashing. Obama needs support for the wars he's inherited, and must repair the US brand so it can "lead" once again.

Obama is a smart imperialist, unlike Bush, who was a stupid imperialist. That's a real difference between the two, a difference that countless liberals embrace and celebrate, even though the same people, poor people, people who don't matter, are still paying the lethal price. That's not a joke, Laura, and you know it. That's business as usual.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pull My Trigger

I played Turtle Island maybe three times, and always died, but it sticks with me. Performing into a mike in front of an audience was enough. Anything to get out of my bedroom.

Charlie Company, Fort Ben Harrison. The stories I've told about this place. The stories I've yet to tell.

The only hippie joint I liked. The Hummingbird Cafe was for a brief time a serious hangout. Where pre-Kamakaze Radio performed separately.

The most artistic dive in Indy. And still standing. Here, time stands still.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Last Refuge Standing

Isn't it cute when the New York Times discovers populism? Like rich kids in a petting zoo. Of course, the current populism is right wing, what with our new Leninist masters and the socialization of God's free market America. The Times features a lot of this lately, which makes sense, as they've long tried to show the right how evenhanded they are, and the sad fact that there's no serious left wing alternative.

At the moment, the mainstream "left," or whatever the fuck it is, still supports their president, ever hopeful that Obama will do what they fantasize he'll do. And even if he doesn't, if he stays true to the political class that groomed and promoted him, "progressives" will remain loyal amid the grumbling, especially come re-election time.

As I've said ad nauseum, this largely uncritical surrender to Obama, however modified it becomes, hands reactionaries the populism card, making nationalism, xenophobia, and related disorders attractive alternatives -- to the degree they are alternatives. Despite all the cultural advances, some of which have been weakened or rolled back, a large chunk of white America remains mired in flag-waving bullshit. They are easily courted by the Limbaughs, Palins, and Glenn Becks who speak the same backward language, however differently these propagandists actually live. Superstition maintains deep appeal.

Whenever I hear liberals gloat over the supposed death of the right, I tighten up, because those people and their offspring aren't going anywhere. In many ways, they are much more "American" than Obama-lovin' libs. Oh, you might counter, look at all those disaffected whites who voted for Obama. Surely real change has arrived!

Uh, no. Recall that Obama and McCain were neck-and-neck as late as September. The shit economy saved Obama's ass, even though he sided, and still sides, with the criminals who created this mess. That's when his HOPE dope broke wide, because what else can you offer powerless people you want to keep marginalized? How long that meth hit will satisfy the disaffected is unknown, but as with all highs, there's an inevitable crash. And then what do you offer?

I confess I'm as guilty as anyone who mocks reactionary views. The trick is trying to explain to someone who invests in reaction why his or her position is illusory, divisive, and beneficial to our owners. I grew up around plenty of right wingers, knew a bunch more in the Army, and remain related to a fair number of those who thought Sarah Palin would make a fine imperial manager (as did I, but from a different angle). I've had countless conversations and arguments about the issues these people consider important and timeless. It's not easy, and in many cases you simply hit a wall and that's that.

Take John Rich, a country singer recently profiled in the Times. Rich is yet another right populist, writing songs about Wall Street robbing the working man, which at one time in American history was a left concern. A variety of attacks changed that equation, primarily capital using the state to crush radical working class movements and agitation. Once the smoke cleared and the bodies dragged away, working class populism drifted steadily rightwards, where it remains. So for Rich to sing about fat cats ripping us off is okay, in fact encourged, since the rest of his message serves the very class he ostensibly distrusts.

Rich's "Raising McCain," which he performed at McCain rallies, pushes the reactionary myth that the US was the real victim of the Vietnam war.

“He got shot down/in a Vietnam town/fighting for the red, white and blue.”

Actually, McCain got shot down while bombing civilian areas in the North, killing who knows how many Vietnamese citizens. He didn't fight for the flag, but for those invested in the Grand Area concept of US economic and military supremacy (designed and led by Democrats, remember). That McCain made it out of Vietnam alive is amazing, given his crimes against the Vietnamese people. Imagine how a Vietnamese pilot, who had bombed Washington, killing countless civilians, would be treated if he were shot down and captured by Americans. Better, imagine how the United 93 hijackers would be handled had that plane somehow made a crash landing. It would be brutal.

In Rich's “The Good Lord and the Man,” about his combat-decorated grandfather, we hear:

"When I see people on my TV taking shots at Uncle Sam/I hope they always remember why they can

"’Cause we’d all be speaking German, living under the flag of Japan/If it wasn’t for the good Lord and the man."

Dissent is a gift from the military, which you can but really shouldn't express. Not if you love America like God does. The idea that Germany, much less Japan, could ever occupy the United States is ridiculous. The Pacific war was about access to and domination of markets, while suppressing nationalist movements, a service Japan's former clients tried to deliver for the US in Korea and Vietnam. And if Rich wants to thank someone for defeating the Nazis, he can tip his hat to the Soviet Union, which bore a huge brunt of the fighting and dying.

Somehow, I don't think that John Rich or his audience would embrace these points. Looking at the present culture, why would they?