Monday, December 31, 2007

Dick Clark's In My Freezer

Another wretched year limps off to die, taking whoever it can for the final walk. And what of us who remain? The distant fires may reach us soon, or perhaps not, if we can keep our heads down low enough to be ignored.

Eh? What's that? You don't want to be ignored? You wanna take it to The Machine in '08? You wanna make a difference? Sure. Fine. Why the fuck not. Tie a fire-red bandanna around your head, grab an aluminum bat, scream a hideous scream and charge the thing with all you've got. I'll be right behind you. Not directly behind you, of course, but within shouting distance. Give me the high sign when all's clear.

Please don't see this as a form of surrender, or God forbid, despair. Some poor fuck's gotta stick his or her head inside the Beast's mouth to get a better sense of what awaits in this all-important, let's-stop-fascism-in-its-tracks-by-putting-any-Dem-in-the-White-House election year. Me, I'm playing the age card -- been down this shattered road so many times that I've lost whatever inspiration and political verve I once possessed in a life now in mist, where hazy figures stumble around, arms outstretched, calling for guidance and tips on how to avoid the M18A1 Claymores. I'll offer what I can when I can, but remember, my chest and throat were blown apart by a Claymore in an Army war game, so my record's not all that great. If I couldn't find the tripwire when I was 19, how the fuck will I see it today?

So as not to end the year on a sour note, let me give warm thanks and boundless love to all my friends and co-conspirators, online and off. I especially want to thank Barry Crimmins, Toby Hayse, Blue Girl, James Wolcott, Beth Renaud, Louis Proyect, Eric Yarber, Darrel Plant, IOZ, and Ian Garrick Mason for their support (if I stupidly overlooked you, write in and give me utter hell). To Rob Payne, who has helped me much with research for "Savage Mules," I say, go easy, brother. I recall when you were a bit more upbeat, and now you seem intent on out-Silbering Arthur Silber, whose end of civilization posts make one want to drink bleach while jumping off the Chrysler Building. Things are bad, but at least you can play the sax. If nothing else, we who bother to write about the bloodbath must embrace something creative in our personal lives, something that gives us balance. Otherwise, what are we trying to salvage?

If you crave upbeat -- I'm talkin' so fucking optimistic it'll singe your mind with wonder -- stick close to Jon Schwarz. This guy loves living in these horrid times. He sees so many beautiful possibilities, and is so certain that even the dopiest liblogger will eventually recognize true reality, that you'll run to the mirror to verify your own existence. When Jon and I talk on the phone, he laughs off my veal crate statements to spin magical tales about reinvigorated humanity, the use of instant communication as a democratic leveler, and the uncharted, but decidedly real, areas of human hope and imagination that can, and with enough effort will, turn this barbarism around -- or at least mute its awful effect. Jon even sees the upside of an Obama presidency. Mind you, he sees all this completely sober. Not a mushroom stem in sight. Far be it from me to question such splendid imagery in another person's skull. Whatever kicks off a pleasant chemical chain reaction.

So, into the vortex we go, like it or not. Catch you on the other side.

Apropos of nothing, here's a video of The Plastics, circa 1981, from "SCTV." I never got Dave Thomas' Tim Ishimura, who introduces the clip. He's so over the top that it's hard to be offended by it. But then, one can be offended by anything. All it takes is desire.

Hoppy New Yeah.


Friday, December 28, 2007

What Can Red, White & Blue Do For You?

Suddenly, everyone's an expert on Pakistan, or at least a mourner of Benazir Bhutto, who, for some, is swiftly becoming the Princess Di of the Near East. And, naturally, the chaos in Pakistan prompts the Smart Folk stateside to scrunch their brows and ponder, What should we do? How does this affect us? Because, in the final analysis, Bhutto's murder and Pakistan's corruption are all about the United States. Just like everything else.

This shameless narcissism now extends to Iowa, where the leading candidates jostle for the right to stand on Bhutto's corpse and appear presidential. Saint Obama seized the moment as soon as he could, playing a bit of "I told you so" in reference to his belligerent, ignorant promise to get "tougher" with Pakistan, which might require a unilateral U.S. military strike. Yep, that's just what Pakistan needs -- more interference from the U.S., bolstered by a cruise missile here and there, or at least the threat of attack. That approach has worked beautifully so far. Just ask Benazir Bhutto, who trusted the U.S. to have her back. But then, she was dealing with John Negroponte, around whom the stench of mass graves has long lingered.

I cede ground to my publisher and comrade Tariq Ali, who writes of his friendship and many disagreements with Bhutto in today's Guardian. Also, friend Manan Ahmed, whose site I've added to the roll. A bit of fresh air amid all the Pakistan-on-the-brink talk.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pakistan's Shame

Abraham Lincoln

James Garfield

Sitting Bull

William McKinley


Medgar Evers

Malcolm X

Martin Luther King, Jr.


Fred Hampton

John Lennon

To name but a famous few.

Democratize, Pakistan. Before it's too late.


Dunk The Dope For A Dime

Libloggers are having a grand ol' time with Jonah Goldberg's tome about liberal fascism. And why not? Based on what I've read, Goldberg has produced a scattershot comic book history of liberal manias, fast food for the faithful, perhaps, but pages that will quickly yellow and flake. No surprise, really. Goldberg's lightweight mind is incapable of heavy lifting, too dull for sharp satirical swipes. Of course his book is a laughable mess. That the guy enjoys a professional writing career in this diseased environment is all one needs to know. If Goldberg can secure supermarket or airport display, then his miserable effort will have been worth it.

The disintegration of what passes for the American mind touches everything, right wing polemic included. As ridiculous as it may seem, Goldberg and his fellow National Reviewers are tinsel imitations of that mag's earlier contributors, James Burnham, Willmoore Kendall, and John Dos Passos among them. You know things are falling apart when one speaks of the "smart" National Review. But when touring NR's present Corner, such comparisons are inevitable. Small wonder that blowhards like Victor Davis Hanson are held in such high esteem there.

Given all that, liberals owe the likes of Goldberg big time. Without him, or Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Limbaugh, Hannity, or the rest of the reactionary clown roster, American libs might have to examine their own political biases and failings, as well as critically assess their political heroes. They may even be forced to deal with -- gasp! -- the corporate/military state, not to mention the global order itself. Ick. Far better to take endless potshots at rightist dopes and dupes, while hoping, praying, that the Dems will deliver some kind of salvation, however imperfect or tainted. Consider it an extension of fantasy football.

The thing is, Goldberg's not wrong in essence, just incredibly stupid, one-sided, and incomplete in his approach. Democrats and liberals do indeed possess authoritarian traits, and have for some time. I don't know if I'd call it "fascism," but when studying the history of liberal politicians and presidents who've violently smashed dissent, jailed or deported those deemed enemies of the state, censored political speech, and committed mass murder overseas, "fascism" isn't all that far from the mark. I cover all this and more in "Savage Mules," to which I must again return. I'm curious to see how funny libloggers will find my book when it appears, assuming they bother reading it at all. Maybe a mule in Mussolini garb on the cover. Whatever moves product.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Same As It Ever Was

The Prince of Peace was nowhere to be seen in Kurdistan yesterday when Turkish jets, supplied by U.S. taxpayers and guided by U.S. intelligence, again hit northern Iraq, the third such assault in the past 10 days. As is usually the case, those suspected dead were terrorists and terrorists only, since NATO blows apart strictly those who wave rifles and shout terrorist slogans with their dying breath. At least, that's how the wire services report it, and that's good enough for me.

Turkey claims to be retaliating for PKK violence against its troops, which I've no doubt is true, as both sides have smoldering entrails and blasted brains all over their clothing and boots, part of an ongoing nationalist war that has no end in sight. And where does the U.S. stand in the midst of all this? With our NATO ally, of course. "Liberating" the Kurds from Saddam's grip is one thing, as that served to make it seem like the U.S. is interested in regional freedom and self-determination. But Kurdish nationalists clearly don't know their place; and when they use northern Iraq as a staging area to attack Turkish targets, happy days are over. Turkish interests, which are essentially U.S. and Israeli interests as well, seriously trump Kurdish territorial and cultural aspirations every fucking time.

This is nothing new. Bill Clinton bankrolled and backed Turkey's massive ethnic cleansing against the Kurds in the 1990s, killing tens of thousands, destroying countless villages, and sending millions into refuge. Of course, American liberals then said little to nothing about that, preferring to paint Slobodan Milošević as the world's worst ethnic cleanser, calling for U.S. military action against Serbia, which eventually arrived and which they applauded in 1999. Today, I've seen little liberal commentary about the continuation of this policy, apart from some slams against Bush and his failed war in Iraq.

Perhaps once the holidays pass, liberal commentators will raise their voices a bit higher. If they do in any critical fashion, expect them to start their Turkey/Kurd timeline with Bush's invasion of Iraq, since everything bad that's happened in recent history can be traced solely back to Bush. Bill Clinton? Still one of the Greatest Presidents Ever, if not The Greatest Of All Time. The worst thing Big Bill ever did was lie about a blowjob. So goes the liberal catechism. And if you don't agree with that, you're a rightwing racist wingnut in need of immediate mental care.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Dusting Of Snow

A Happy Merry to all who care about such things. I still do, to a degree, primarily through the eyes of my 11-year-old son, who still gets such a big kick out of Christmas that I cannot resist his enthusiasm. Besides, who knows how he'll respond in two, three, four years? While he and the teen daughter possess very different temperaments, teens are teens, and when the boy becomes one, I suspect he'll forge some kind of resistance to Santa's big commercial jackboot. At least, I hope so. For now, he's in the latter stages of boyhood, which really shows right now, and that makes me happy.

As for the rest of our collective existence, well, the less said today, the better. With '08 upon us, and all the wondrous moments sure to follow, there'll be plenty of time to deal with that.

So, this will be it for a couple of days. Enjoy, be safe, spread love where and when you can, and remember, it's always Christmas in Hollis, Queens.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Will Scab For Laffs

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

View From The Crate

Thanks to Chris Dodd, champion of Liberty and all other good things, the Constitution should be up and running again very soon, end of January at the latest, though the olde document may need the warmth of Spring to fully recover.

All Hail Democrat Dodd!

Jesus, what little it takes to get the libloggers dancing on their keyboards. They're like a perpetually jilted and ignored would-be lover who'll leap at any hint of recognition, however cynical or fleeting. "I just knew he cared! I mean, he does care, right? He must care!"

The crowing from the Dodd camp is ceaseless. My in-box has been hit daily by Dodd's campaign, primarily Tim Tagaris, who informs me that his master is really just about the greatest guy who ever lived, perhaps the greatest, so won't I send Dodd some money and extended online love, and let's put this Hero of the People in the White House where he can dismantle the imperial state, gut corporate power, end torture, restore civil liberties, expand health care, and gosh, whatever else seems really cool and kinda liberal (just don't mention I-s-r-a-e-l and ruin the party for everyone else).

While it's nice that FISA and retroactive immunity for the telecoms has been placed on hold for the moment, I wouldn't hold your breath for some kind of systemic cleansing. For Harry Reid and his cronies, it takes a hot issue off the front burner for the holidays, allowing them to focus on other ways to skull fuck the public. For Dodd, well, the guy has nothing to lose. Barring some McGovernite miracle, Dodd is not going to snag the Dem nomination. This allows him to be a semi-Kucinich -- not the complete model, obviously, as that would be crazy. But enough of a Kucinich that the libloggers will drool all over themselves with fantasies of re-taking power, for if there's one thing that libloggers love to do, it's wallow in political fantasy.

You can't really blame them. What do veal calves dream about as they await the abattoir blades? Hopefully, something pleasant and soothing, like the destruction of the slaughterhouse and a mass conversion to vegetarianism. In the veal crate, all you have are your dreams.

I toured the major lib sites yesterday, anonymously conversing with various Dems all atwitter over Dodd's heroic stance. Any minor mention of the actual system and how it realistically functions made many of them angry and upset. They railed about "defeatism" and seemed to honestly believe that Dodd's action is the first step to national salvation. Several, blog tenders included, praised Dodd's "patriotism." Man, you know you're fucked when the so-called political "opposition" plays the patriot card. They appear to think that patriotism is wholly compatible with real social change. It's a bit like asking the slaughterhouse worker for a kiss just before he puts the hammer gun to your temple. Hey, every positive gesture counts.

Meantime, in the chambers overlooking the farm, the Democratic-controlled Senate has approved another $70 billion for imperial war, with the Democratic-controlled House expected to follow today. The blades keep spinning. The walls remain coated with blood. Feed on that, veal calves.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Snowball's Chance

What is it with people who sternly wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS? Is this some measure of defiance? Some perceived resistance to Happy Holidays newspeak? Whatever it is, it's pretty fucking annoying. Makes me want to burn down all the trees, feed ornaments into a wood chipper, and stomp on every nativity scene I see.

Christmas used to be a pleasant holiday for me -- not only as a child, but as a father with two young kids. My son still gets excited by the holiday, part of his overall nature, but the teen turned against the spectacle years ago, informing me of its exploitative features. Tough to honestly counter, especially where mass advertising, endless product placement, and cynical marketing are concerned. All I can do is shake my head in agreement, mutter an apology, watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" for the 1,786th time, and remember quieter, happier moments under fragrant tree and soft blinking lights.

You'd think that if there were a real reason to be defiant, it would be in reaction to the corporate bulldozing of Christmas. But the MERRY CHRISTMAS stance appears more religiously based and very right wing in sentiment. I haven't seriously followed the whole "War on Christmas" self-pity party, since it seems more of a niche marketing concept than anything else. But this season, in good ol' liberal Ann Arbor, I've run into more and more of the MERRY CHRISTMASers, who speak as if conveying samizdat code, lest the godless overlords hear and force them to celebrate Kwanzaa as penance.

Sometimes I chalk moments like this up to the general madness of contemporary American life, the squeals of those crammed into the national veal crate, fattened for slaughter. But my emotions of late have been so bleak and clouded that I cannot accurately assess this present cultural trend. As with so much else, people seem confused, frightened, and anxious, and will clutch whatever totem gives them comfort, however mystical or fantastic it is. Indeed, the more mystical and fantastic, the better. Hard to disprove what really can't be proven.


Friday, December 14, 2007

The Geek In Milford

It's been a very long week, friends. A deeply emotional, rocky week, what with the hangover from Holly's murder still pounding my head, and some intra-family anguish which turned our house inside-out for several days. I feel like shit, look cadaverous, bloodshot eyes squinting in a pale, haunted face. What headlines I've caught only darkens my mood, and I crave a big plate of White Castle cheeseburgers, washed down with a 40 of Labatt Ice.

Aren't you glad you stopped by? And don't forget to visit the gift shop on your way out!

I claim no uniqueness here. Everybody goes through hard emotional times, and some survive better than others. Comes with the slaughterhouse tour. My son's boundless optimism is a big help to me, and he performs routines and slapstick to lift my spirits. He's a great kid. When an early X-mas present arrived the other day, the boy became very eager to share it with me: the DVD box set of SNL's complete second season.

For years and years, I tried to never look back, labeling nostalgia as a distraction and emotional trap. But as I've aged, this has gotten harder to pull off, especially since the book after "Savage Mules" will be largely autobiographical, recording and dramatizing incidents that you might not believe ever happened. I wish to God they hadn't. Yet, not everything was awful, and I retain a few very happy memories amid the insanity I witnessed and endured.

SNL's second season, 1976-77, was my senior year of high school, in a small school in a small resort town in northern Indiana. My father was going through a rough patch professionally and financially, and my stepmother was alternately encouraging and emotionally unbalanced. She'd praise my initial efforts to write and perform, then suddenly tear me apart, going on rampages that could last for days. I never really knew which person might walk into the kitchen or living room. In retrospect, she may have been bipolar. I haven't spoken to her in 25 years (when my father and she divorced), though I hear stories now and then. But back in the day, it could be frightening. SNL served as one of my few sources of pleasure, taking me to a creative place I longed to make my own.

The show's first year, while interesting as comedy history, was wildly uneven, to be expected as it tried to find its balance and voice. By that season's end, SNL began to gel, and once the second year commenced, the show really bloomed, mixing varied comedy moods and styles, taking conceptual chances. It remains SNL's most experimental season (Marilyn Miller's dramatic scenes a true standout), and this made a serious impression on my 17-year-old mind. It was when I decided to try comedy as a career.

Opening the box set flooded my brain with memories I hadn't encountered in quite some time. The listing of each show's host and date took me back to my tiny Indiana bedroom where I listened to the audio of sketches taped by a cheap recorder I held inches from the TV's speaker (pre-home video days). It also reminded me that some Saturday nights, I could barely make out the picture, since the nearest station that carried SNL was in Fort Wayne, making the reception iffy at best. NBC's South Bend affiliate, which was much closer, refused to broadcast SNL because it satirized the Catholic Church. So if the weather was stormy, I was lucky to get the barest human outline. The sound always came through, however, which I recorded and replayed for days on end, imagining what the sketch might've looked like. The show meant so much to me then that a lack of picture clarity couldn't dampen my enthusiasm. And naturally I memorized most sketches and acted them out, driving my father and stepmother even crazier.

No problems with picture clarity now. These shows are in mint condition and are a supreme joy to watch. Since these are the entire shows, complete with musical guests, there is much I'd forgotten, pieces I hadn't seen since they originally aired. I've only viewed five of 22 shows so far, and already the emotions these episodes have unleashed render me useless. A certain line, recurring character, type of performance, specific cast member, fills me with feelings of old inspiration, sadness, wistfulness, happiness, sometimes making me laugh, too often making me cry, or at least tear up. I cannot watch SNL's second season without being 17 again. And that, overall, was not a terribly pleasant year.

The cast members are all fine, with the early exception of Bill Murray, who joined the show in mid-season. Murray struggled with timing and mangled his lines, sometimes blowing jokes and cues to such a degree that it's amazing he survived the season without getting canned. In the Broderick Crawford show, he pleads to the audience to laugh at his performance no matter how poorly he does. Still, as we all know, Murray weathered it to become one of the best actors SNL's ever produced. But man -- what a ragged start.

The boy loves much of this stuff, Belushi's Samurai most especially. I'm trying to get him to appreciate Tom Schiller's "Bad" pieces, but he doesn't quite see the point to something being intentionally terrible. "That's the joke: it's bad!" He finds it more weird than anything else, which I'll take, though he did laugh at the short film "Ooh La La Les Legs," shown on "Bad Cinema," as Aykroyd's Leonard Pinth-Garnell applauds its awfulness. Give the kid time.

Watching these performers in their prime, acting out scenes conceived by a first-rate, diverse writing staff, I remain thankful that I've actually hung out with, in some cases gotten to know, many of my comedy heroes. If only that frightened, insecure 17-year-old kid sitting alone in his bedroom knew that would happen in his lifetime. Might've lifted the load just a taste.


Monday, December 10, 2007


Back to work on "Savage Mules," and do I have some serious timing problems to negotiate and solve. Sure, I've got 1828 to 9/11 pretty much covered, as well as the years following the '03 invasion of Iraq. But day after recent day, the Dems' ongoing collusion with the war and torture state appears even worse than we who despise the mules first imagined; the trick is laying it all down without it seeming dated by mid-'08.

I probably shouldn't worry. There are so many acts of Dem criminality that listing, say, a dozen will more than make the point. Still, you want it as fresh as possible, and come primary season, Hillary, Obama, and Edwards, if he's still around, will utter some really rancid, imperial bullshit, too late for use in my book, but if things go well, I can add all that to a revised edition.

The current "news" that assholes like Nancy Pelosi have no problem with torture has sent many a liblogger crying into cyberspace, "Why? How?" Oh man, if I wasn't still hurting from recent personal events, I'd really be laughing my ass off right now. And I especially love it when libs get all constitutional and moral as the bald, unblinking face of the U.S. state stares right at them. They clutch their blue security blankets, close their eyes, sing "My Country, 'Tis Of Thee," hoping that a better world will emerge once their mystical ritual is complete.

Systemic analysis? Acknowledgement that perhaps American political reality is wholly different than their fantasies about constitutional order? Forget it. That's for Naderite losers. Besides, putting more Dems in office will increase the chances that someone good and decent will restore America's greatness. Because all was hunky-peachy before Bush/Cheney ruined everything. Can I get an eeee-hawww?


Friday, December 7, 2007

Slowly Moving On

Thanks again to all who've reached out during this awful time. Some of the notes I've received on behalf of my family have been truly moving. Even old mentor Hitchens sent along some nice, supportive words. Most appreciated, but it doesn't change my feelings about his war frenzy, nor his, I suspect, about my rejection of same.

We all still feel pretty sick about the whole barbarous mess, and this sour feeling will probably intensify somewhat as the holidays draw near. Horrible. Unavoidable.

For Holly's survivors, life continues, and for me it means getting back to the book. Thanks to my patient editor at Verso, my deadline's been extended, so that definitely helps as I try to push my mind back into composition/editing mode. Again, this will affect posting -- to what degree I don't yet know. Depends on mood, hour, exhaustion and/or outrage level. Check in and see.

The wife has a sweet post about brother Jeff today. She really nails it. Friend Barry Crimmins adds his thoughts, too. Further thanks to Rob Payne, Tom Watson, Chris Floyd, Brad DeLong, Blue Girl, Dancewater, Spiiderweb, and of course Jon Schwarz for offering their online condolences and spreading the word about Holly's passing, as well as who she was in life.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Full Of Broken Thoughts

"Now I will be famous." So wrote Robert Hawkins before he entered the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska, gunning down eight people before killing himself.

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

If I were in a strictly cynical mood, I'd say that this was the perfect capper to an absolutely shitty week for my family. But within my deep sadness and grief, there is numbness, for we all know this will happen again. And again. God knows how many times again.

As clichéd as it may sound, I know how those families in Omaha are feeling today. Their lives are altered forever, and they're asking questions that have no real answers.

Bad human wiring. A twisted, violent, war-friendly culture. Firearms spread far and wide. Take your pick. Add your own. Mix and match. Your results may vary, but not by much. America is a fucked up consumerist fantasy zoo, its large screens and Dolby Digital Surround EX speakers blasting happy, flattering images and sounds, trying to keep the inmates docile, fat, and unaware, most times succeeding, sometimes not, depending on one's ability or desire to look past the bullshit.

If that's too simplistic and bleak an assessment, well fuck it then, because I'm feeling simplistic and bleak. And as bad as I feel, I cannot imagine what's going through my brother Jeff and my nephew Jeffy. I spent the last few days watching them wrestle with their anguish; and while they were surrounded by family and friends, they were in their own dark space, far away from any of us. What can you do? Hold them, kiss them, tell them that you love them, tell them jokes, do impressions, sing, dance, trip over the ottoman, whatever you can muster, but in the end, they are the ones on the front line, and now their lives have brutally changed. I wish I were wise enough to better understand all this, but I'm not. All I can do is show my love and support and trust that it reaches them.

Heartfelt thanks to all of you who sent condolences on behalf of my family. It means a lot.

The wife weighs in on Holly and the funeral service.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Holly Corey

My sister-in-law, Holly Corey, was randomly murdered Friday afternoon on the north side of Indianapolis. Seems a disturbed young man, who had access to a handgun, shot her several times while she pumped gas into her car. No one knows why this happened, since the guy didn't rob her. He just shot her, then killed himself. A personal free-fire zone.

Whenever tragedies like this happen, the survivors always paint the deceased in bright colors. To be expected and not to be dismissed. But please trust me friends when I tell you that Holly was one of the sweetest, most positive individuals I've ever known. Holly faced some serious adversity in her life, but it never seemed to drag her down. She remained optimistic and upbeat no matter what. I don't know how she swung that, but I'll always be amazed and impressed that she did.

Holly leaves behind my brother Jeff, and their son Jeff Jr. who is 12. Now I must drive down there and be with my family. And the book? It can wait.