Writer/podcaster Doug Lain interviewed yours truly recently, and as always I popped off about whatever passed through my fading mind. The audio is here. If nothing else, this'll help kill some idle summer moments, and hopefully a few brain cells as well. Peach out.
Having ceased reading lib blogs, and most blogs overall, I lack any real sense of despair over Obama's regime. Some complaints trickle in, and I receive links to liberals concerned with Obama's "direction." But generally speaking, I have no clue just how deep lib dissatisfaction truly runs.
It would be gauche of me to remind you of what I was saying this time last year, or to have you flip through "Savage Mules" for nostalgia's sake. It would probably be pointless as well. Besides, I'm pretty much through with writing about American politics, at least in this format. As I was say---
Hey! Is that applause I hear? Man, are you people easily pleased.
I yield the floor to my pal Dwayne Monroe, who posted the below letter to liberals and progs at LBO-Talk. Dwayne gets right to the point without rancor. He's a much more peaceful man than me.
I know you're unhappy.
You tell me, via email, text messages, tweets, listserv posts and maybe even tachyon bursts I'm not yet equipped to receive.
You tell me -- and the world -- you're disheartened by Obama's velvet gloved treatment of ibanks, his failure to "take advantage of a good crisis." His inability to speak to any group of black people without yammering on about "personal responsibility" (a theme conspicuously absent from his speeches before mostly white audiences).
His escalation of the Afghan war. His supposedly groundbreaking national medical insurance plan which, once closely examined, looks an awful lot like a funds transfer program for the pharma and private insurance sectors.
His continuation of Bush era surveillance programs. His backtracking on same sex unions. His... by the gods, I could go on, but why?
Listen mates, I have some bad news for you and your ruined dreams...
You should have paid closer attention during the campaign. You should've spent a little less time shouting about new, "post-racial" politics, the excitement of "young people" and Obama's polished, upper management style of presentation and more time thinking through the totally predictable implications of the things he said.
What the hell did you think he meant when he said he was going to "step up" US efforts in Afghanistan? Air drop delicious snake cakes and DVDs? When a potential or sitting POTUS announces a "renewed effort" he (and one day soon, she) means only one thing: bombs, blood and blasting.
I know, that's three things.
Months ago, when you read stories about Obama's popularity among our well-fed hedge funders, what did you think that meant? Wall Street loves "diversity"? It meant those mercenaries were pointing their mojo wands towards the guy they felt would produce superior ROI.
And so on.
During the campaign months, many of you wankers (and yes, I love you but...) accused me of being cynical. Why didn't I open my heart and believe in change? Change! My black and tan amigos y amigas were dismayed I wasn't happy to see the ultimate example of a black face in a high place. Dreams, no longer deferred!
Well-intentioned pink skins scratched their heads, puzzled by my lack of glee at their non-racist action: voting for a black chief exec. Look at us!
To be cynical however, you have to be a disappointed romantic. Within each cynic's skull throbs a mind longing to believe with the fervency of a "Twilight" fan. My objections weren't cynical. I simply took Mr. Obama at his word and factored in the history of the office he sought.
So there you are, upset and worried. You're upset by how things have turned out. You're worried that unless Obama does this or does that -- zigs instead of zags, kerpluks instead of plukeriking -- his presidency will fail. Which is hella odd: what presidencies have succeeded and by whose criteria?
I recommend spending no more than five, maybe ten minutes being disappointed. And perhaps an extra half hour musing on the various things the President should do to save his historic legacy.
WATCH: Mark Fiore's take on the same theme. Thanks Fuzzy! (And Mike Alewtiz for the link.)
Benicio del Toro abandoning "Medellín" was perhaps the best career move he's ever made, allowing Vincent Chase and director Billy Walsh to drive Pablo Escobar's story right down the toilet. Del Toro had the keen sense to instead hook up with Steven Soderbergh to make "Che," a two-part guerrilla saga that I recently watched and immensely enjoyed.
Like Walsh's "Medellín," Soderbergh's "Che" is almost entirely in Spanish, lending it added texture. Unlike Walsh, however, Soderbergh knows how to frame a shot, pace a scene, create tension without a booming soundtrack or even dramatic dialogue. There are stretches in "Che" when you feel lost in the jungle, primarily in Part 2, where oblivion steadily hovers before closing in with a crash. Soderbergh's visuals are at times as lush and intricate as Terrence Malick's better work, minus the glacial drift.
But cinematography aside, what struck me most about "Che" is just how fucking amazing the Cuban revolution truly was. It's relatively easy and certainly profitable here in El Norte to bash Castro, Che, and the revolution. Such are the perks of our imperial culture. Yet when you seriously ponder it, free of ideology, Cuba slipping from Uncle Sam's grip seems a work of fiction, especially at a time when US power was at its zenith. This little island, led by a bedraggled yet highly coordinated cadre, kicked out Cuban puppets, the Mob, and American military interests, save for Guantanamo Bay. They began remaking Cuban society while enduring and repelling continual terrorist attacks. Is it any wonder why the US political mainstream despise what Cuba accomplished?
Of course, Cuba's impertinence led to a vicious counterattack in the Americas, as US-trained death squads sought to eliminate further peasant resistance to the prevailing regional order. This is dramatized in the second half of "Che," where the Bolivian military receive the latest counterinsurgency tactics then being honed by US forces in Vietnam. Add to that the indifference or opposition to Guevara's crusade by Bolivia's campesinos, and it was only a matter of time before that rebellion was smashed. Che's final hours as a prisoner, his body depleted but his faith in revolution unshaken, are anti-climactic. One of Che's captors sneers at his emaciated appearance, telling Che that he should have stayed in Cuba, where Fidel was doubtless enjoying a fine meal and good cigar at that very moment.
Soderbergh and Del Toro show that wasn't in the cards for Ernesto Guevara. His attempt to pull off a second political miracle in the Americas was essentially a suicide mission. He may have misread the Bolivian situation, or was simply foolhardy and reckless, but you can't say that Che lacked guts. That his iconic image still inspires bipartisan American hatred tells you something about his enduring heat. They can't put a bullet through that.
As I putter away on dialogue, exposition, and plot turns that'll sear your incredulous psyches, here's some fine visual filler to amuse and relax you before rejoining our collective living hell.
Ron Rocheleau's "Concrete TV" remains one of my favorite shows. Indeed, much of Manhattan Cable's public access programming from the mid-80s/early-90s was some of the best television I've ever seen. Groove on this pop-cult freak out and see if you feel the same. (I particularly like the Nazis marching to Smash Mouth.) Then I want emails of 100 words or less about why you liked it or despised it.
Speaking of Manhattan Cable classics, here's a brief clip of Sid and Nancy taking viewer calls, alongside Stiv Bators of the Dead Boys (looking very Phil Spectorish) and his girlfriend Cynthia Ross of The B Girls. This is from September 1978, about a month before Nancy was found dead in the Hotel Chelsea. It's easy to mock her strained attempts to sound English, but Nancy suffered various mental maladies, and you can see just how lost she and Sid clearly were.
And no review of Manhattan Cable would be complete without Al Goldstein's "Midnight Blue." I can't find the clip where Goldstein rants that "intellectual Jews" are trying to shut him down, yelling at his viewers to not walk passively "to the gas chambers," but rally to big Al's defense. "For once in your fucking life, get off your ass and do something!" Yes, I still remember that bit. Made me laugh for hours. Instead, here's Goldstein employing his signature language to attack Howard Stern (with a big hair sex ad -- remember that style, kids?), followed by a few "Midnight Blue" bumpers. Friday nights will never again be as crude or brash.
Still deep in this script, and will be for a few weeks at least. I'll pop in and out, oftentimes without warning. Maybe a post at 11:37 AM on a Tuesday, then ZOOM -- another post at 2:56 PM. Then no posts for a few days, keeping you off-balance until . . .
I'll rely on others to help entertain and inform you. Today, it's friend and early influence Paul Krassner answering Larry King's pointed queries.
Then another "Fridays" film by pal Tom Kramer. I remember this well, as I was in the Army at the time, becoming more politicized by the day. This was the beginning of the Reagan era, a bellicose, militarized period that helped to clarify many issues in my young head. It really seemed that the US would invade Central America, either El Salvador or Nicaragua. That's what criminals like Al Haig were floating in the media to gauge public reaction. But public rejection of direct US intervention was so swift and profound that the Reagan gang retreated, turning instead to contra armies and clandestine terrorism. Mass murder on a scale that would make Milosevic blush with embarrassment. Tom's film captured that early vibe, as did "Fridays" overall, openly opposed to another Vietnam. A noble, doomed gesture.
As you may have guessed, I've pretty much ceased writing about politics in any "serious" way. "Savage Mules" taught me a valuable lesson about what people want to see or not see; and my recent struggles with Huffington Post prove that there's no political outlet willing to publish my critiques. So instead of spinning my tires for zero bucks, I'm returning to the kind of writing -- and in the videos, performing -- that excited and inspired me at the beginning. Only now I have the experience to make that kind of writing better, richer, and hopefully funnier.
The big focus is on the pilot script I'm currently writing. I'll leak more details later, but this project is perfect for the present cultural moment, which means I must finish it soon. When it's done, I'll send it to my LA contacts for their input and help. Ideally, this is an HBO or Showtime series, but it can work elsewhere. It's a dramedy, the humor dark and sometimes physical. It also deals with class, how tenuous one's place is within the grand American delusion. It's something a lot of people can relate to, especially now, which is why I must get back to work.
I'll still be doing the blog dance, for the time being, anyway. This is fun, but I need to move on to bigger things.
Thoughts of nonexistence make me increasingly serene. I'm starting to get what robed Eastern monks have been yammering about for centuries, and I may resume sculpting that beer can Buddha shrine I abandoned years ago. Or I may just hustle rubes over darts at the local brewery. Depends on my mood.
Looking at the countless religions, statements of faith, violence and corruption anchoring those faiths, desperate, manipulative visions of endless afterlifes, and the sectarian bellowing that serves as the soundtrack, I suspect that my serenity is a minority taste. Most people want to live forever, have awareness for eternity. I've understood this desire at various levels throughout my life, but never really shared it.
I think that eternal life would drive me nuts. Oh, I'd go with it for awhile, maybe the first 70 years or so. But after a century of death-free living, boredom would set in, tedium unknown in the physical world, and hence more crushing. And there'd be no escape, unless the next life has an afterlife of its own, and another after that, and on and on.
Now there's a play for you! All these doors leading to different levels of awareness, but in the end, it turns out to be the same room! Man, would that throw an audience! But it might also make them think, at least before they realize they'd been taken and they trash the box office, demanding their money back.
And I don't buy the conceit that in the afterlife, you'd be rubbing shoulders with the greats. I've known at least five guitar players who said that when they die, they'll be jamming with Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn. What narcissistic fantasy. Did it ever occur to them that Hendrix and Vaughn, having nothing more to prove as guitarists, might be completely out of the music scene? Hendrix could be an innovative botanist, and here come a bunch of lesser, dead musicians clamoring to play "Purple Haze" with him. That's gotta blow, especially if he's just discovered a new strain of celestial plant fiber that requires his full attention.
Eternal life is bound to disappoint, so oblivion is probably the way to go. This has been reinforced by "Life After People," a History Channel show I recently discovered. The first time I watched this, I felt at peace. It soothed my nerves and eased my anxiety. George Carlin once said that far from destroying the Earth, people will be shaken off like dandruff, allowing the planet to reboot itself, eventually destroying most if not all traces of human existence.
But then, American war criminals have always been a slippery breed -- those surrounding JFK most especially. Few have skewered the Kennedy liberals as accurately as has Noam. His reaction to Robert McNamara's "second thoughts" about Vietnam still rings true:
"What were the misgivings? The misgivings were that it might not succeed. Suppose that some Nazi general came around after Stalingrad and said, 'I realized after Stalingrad it was a mistake to fight a two-front war, but I did it anyway.' That's not the Nuremberg defense. That's not even recognizing that a crime was committed. You've got to recognize that a crime was committed before you give a defense. McNamara can't perceive that. Furthermore, I don't say that as a criticism of McNamara. He is a dull, narrow technocrat who questioned nothing. He simply accepted the framework of beliefs of the people around him. And that's their framework. That's the Kennedy liberals. We cannot commit a crime. It's contradiction in terms. Anything we do is by necessity not only right, but noble. Therefore, there can't be a crime.
"If you look at his mea culpa, he's apologizing to the American people. He sent American soldiers to fight an unwinnable war, which he thought early on was unwinnable. The cost was to the U.S. It tore the country apart. It left people disillusioned and skeptical of the government. That's the cost. Yes, there were those three million or more Vietnamese who got killed. The Cambodians and Laotians are totally missing from his story. There were a million or so of them. There's no apology to them."
Scene from Rankin/Bass' holiday classic, "Uncle Sam's Secret Life" (1976)
To The Moon For Which It Stands (1953) An attempt to claim the moon as the 49th state goes awry when the crew of the USS U.S. Grant (Tom Ewell, Phil Silvers, Corny the Chimp) take a wrong turn and end up on a hidden planet run by communist bathing beauties. Incensed by the American invasion, the space women put on a fashion show, driving the astronauts to renounce free enterprise, until Corny unplugs the hypno-ray, breaking the commie spell, leading to a beach party the likes of which Tootstopia has never seen! With Beverly Garland and Cloris Leachman.
Kick The Kaiser's Keister (1935) Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey play reluctant Army draftees who somehow end up behind German lines during WWI. The boys trick a couple of drunken plumbers out of their clothes, hook up with two apolitical beer garten waitresses (Sunny Sims and Mabel Jung), con and sing their way to the top of Germany's military command where they not only dismantle the German war machine, but stop the Russian revolution, restore the Habsburg dynasty, and become sauerkraut tycoons, before the plumbers they tricked wake up and demand their clothes back. Songs include "Bavarian Cutie Pie" and "Smile When You Schnitzel."
The Pounding Fathers (1981) Bob Guccione's follow-up to "Caligula." Washington (Dabney Coleman) and Franklin (Mac Davis) are swinging libertines who pimp out high-end colonial call girls, until Betsy Ross (Helen Mirren) wants a piece of the action, sending the young republic into an orgy of betrayal and hard-core sex. Alexander Hamilton (Wayland Flowers) tries to exploit the sexual chaos by making himself America's reigning sovereign, but is stopped by Thomas Jefferson (Norman Mailer), Sally Hemings (Pam Grier), and an army of horny slaves who fuck the Continental Congress back to political health. Jesus (Cheech Marin) descends to bless the new nation, but is so disgusted by the scene that he throws up and takes the next hundred years off. With Evel Knievel as Jumpin' James Madison.
World War WOW! (1969) Nate Nichols (Dick Van Dyke) wants to stage a reenactment of the Normandy invasion for Tuttle, PA's Fourth of July celebration, but can only find unemployed hippies to play the roles. Determined to realize his vision, Nate runs endless rehearsals, until his leading men (Rob Reiner and Beau Bridges) dose his sherry with LSD, causing Nate to rewrite D-Day as a Hopi dance ritual. Angry Tuttlites, led by barber Jake Nester (Ernest Borgnine), try to stop the performance just as Ethel Merman's tour bus breaks down nearby. Merman brings Tuttle together by singing patriotic show tunes set to psychedelic music. The pharmacy suddenly explodes and burns, but everyone's in too good a mood to care. With Scatman Crothers and the 1910 Fruitgum Company.
Independunce Day (1973) Futuristic look at early 21st century America, where widespread ignorance, apathy, and technological distractions turn the US into an overfed mega-state ruled by elite private interests with financial and military designs on energy-rich segments of the Earth. Leonard Nimoy plays The Instructor, who wanders through this nightmare landscape, explaining how average Americans are so deep in debt and lack the political power and will necessary to change matters that they look instead to a smooth-talking Messiah figure (Cleavon Little) who promises to make it all better while actually maintaining the status quo. Chilling to watch even today.
My friend Tom Kramer is steadily posting his short films from "Fridays," all of which are in mint condition. At some point, these and the rest of that old but influential show will appear in a DVD box set, though when is still being discussed. What is happening is a "Fridays" reunion next spring, to celebrate the show's 30th anniversary. I've been invited to attend, which still has my head spinning. I can't wait.
There've been mini-"Fridays" reunions on Tom's online radio show, "Funny Is Money," co-hosted by another pal, comedy vet Bob Iles. Tom and Bob have chatted with producer John Moffitt, original head writer Jack Burns, and staff writer Bruce Kirschbaum. I've been on FIM twice to discuss "Fridays," but alas, was not part of the original show. Larry Charles, director of "Borat" and the upcoming "Brüno," was, and appears on the next FIM airing at Shokus Radio starting Monday. Here's LC with Bob in the Orioles cap, and Tom.
Here's Tom's parody of "Chariots Of Fire," a film that was satirized all over the place in 1981. This one features Darrow Igus, Mark Blankfield, and Larry David.
Then it's Punk Ballet, with Peter Fonda and Bruce Mahler. A younger Tom appears briefly in the dressing room scene, a punk Hitchcock cameo in a gray sweatshirt.
Finally, a young boy brings home a new friend, introduced by wise-cracking ballerina Melanie Chartoff.
"Vice President Joe Biden has a new assignment: overseeing US policy on Iraq
"Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed Tuesday that President Obama had asked Biden to begin 'working with General [Raymond] Odierno and Ambassador [Christopher] Hill in working with the Iraqis toward overcoming their political differences and achieving the type of reconciliation that we all understand has yet to fully take place.'
"Before becoming vice president, Biden had served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 'Given his knowledge of the region, the number of times he has been there, he is perfectly suited for this type of role,' Gibbs said at Tuesday’s White House briefing."
Hoo haw. This is why I wanted Obama to win. The man whose name liberals slapped on their car bumpers next to "War Is Not The Answer" stickers is now set to manage what's left of our murderous invasion. Couldn't happen to a sicker fuck.
Let's briefly review Joe Biden's take on Iraq.
First, he supported Bush's "enforcement strike," as Biden put it in 2002, talking out of both sides of his ass, authorizing the invasion while worried that, over time, it might not be as successful as he would like. Sort of like John Wayne Gacy being concerned that he might run short of crawl space to stuff bodies into. How embarrassing is that?
Once the killing commenced and all hell broke loose, Biden called for a partition of Iraq, which was already happening under the more common name of ethnic cleansing. As with any viceroy wannabe, Biden had his own concept about how the natives should be arranged, minus their direct input, of course. Again, it was all about "our" needs.
Then Biden, double-talking as usual, criticized the political side of "the surge" while championing its military aspect. So although he was fine with more Iraqi dead, Biden bitched that we were pouring money down the drain, undermining our violence in Afghanistan. "It's killing us," cried Biden on the "Today" show.
Ah, Afghanistan. The word itself makes Biden's lips moist. Iraq is soooo Bush era, which suggests that Biden cannot be happy with his new gig. But have him oversee the Afghan war and watch his dick get hard. Biden supports an Afghan "surge," complete with fresh bodies and deadlier weapons. And again, Biden understands the native mindset: "The Afghans are patient people, but they’re not seeing an effort worthy of a superpower.”
You are so right, Mr. Vice President. We really need to step it up.
I'm the author of "MR. MIKE: The Life and Work of Michael O'Donoghue, The Man Who Made Comedy Dangerous," "AMERICAN FAN: Sports Mania and the Culture That Feeds It," and "SAVAGE MULES: The Democrats and Endless War."
I wrote jokes for Bill Maher and countless other comics, some of whom ran for public office. I've done the media/public speaking thing, pounding podiums when not singing and dancing for tossed coins. Once upon a time I wrote Red State Son, the archive of which can be found in the blogroll below.