Thursday, July 31, 2008

Future Kisses Past

Traveled back to 1985 New York last night, to contact an old flame, Mary, with whom I lived before she tossed me out. The purpose of this excursion was to relay a message that only she could deliver, a message that apparently had some effect on this timeline. Why me, I don't know, but back I went, returning to Ed Koch's Manhattan, making my way to East 89th Street, to that fifth floor walk-up Mary and I once shared.

The grubby sights and rancid smells of that now-dead city invigorated me. My clothing -- black t-shirt, jeans, gray Skechers -- didn't stand out amid the styles of that time; my longish hair and gray-flecked beard inspired no double-takes. In fact, I was the one who stared at passersby, noting the mid-80s fashions, the gelled-hair of the yuppie bankers, the shoulder-padded stiletto dresses on the women. It was both stark reality and unsettling hallucination. I was there, and yet I wasn't. How many of these people were still alive? And how was it that they were going through their daily routines as if 1985 still existed?

Clearly, I was out of place, and sped on to see Mary, deliver my message, and return to our present paradise.

I pressed the apartment's buzzer. Mary stuck her head out of the window to see who it was. She of course didn't recognize me, and since I couldn't explain everything from the front stoop, I used what knowledge I had of Mary to lure her downstairs. She was naturally wary, wondered how I knew what I did (place of birth, previous boyfriend), then peered closer at my face.



"You're old!"

"Well, 48. Not ancient."

"I don't understand this."

"Can I come up? I have a few things to tell you."

"We broke up. I don't know."

"You broke up with the Dennis from right now. I'm not that guy -- sort of."

Mary reluctantly agreed. Walking up those narrow stairs brought back sharp memories, as did the inside of the small apartment we once shared. It was a bit overwhelming. I felt a little light-headed and leaned against the wall for support.

"You okay?" she asked, touching my arm.

"Yeah. It's been a long time since I was here."

"You were here a few days ago, getting the rest of your stuff."

"Well, obviously not me."

"This is so weird."

I told her I had a brief window, relayed the message about a mutual friend whose life affected the timeline, and thus had to be told to make a different decision in order to keep things straight.

"You're the only one who can do that, Mary. He'll listen to you."

I gazed at the younger Mary. She was still pretty, and I felt a tinge of sexual excitement that quickly passed. I'd already been down that road, which Mary reminded me of as she played a voice message my then-self left on her machine.

My tone was hurt and desperate, pleading for another chance. What a frightened, confused young man. So much yet to experience and learn. He was still a puppy, Mary's pet word for me back then.

"Ignore him," I said. "He'll get over it. He's about to move to LA anyway, so it doesn't matter."


"Of course. I mean, look at me now. I got over you a long time ago."

She asked about the future. I replied that I couldn't tell her anything, as that might fuck up the timeline and return me to who-knows-what.

"Well, you can at least tell me what you're doing, right?"

I said that I was married with two kids, and that my future wife was living downtown at that very moment with the man who'll become her first husband.

"You should go see her."

"Oh no. Not a chance."

"Don't you want to?"

"Yes. But I could alter everything. My son may not be born. Don't want to risk that."

Mary suggested that I go counsel myself. Again, while tempting, I had nothing really to say to that guy. He had to go through all the bullshit, insanity, and poverty that was ahead of him. If he didn't, then who was I?

"I have to get back. I can't stay here. None of this exists anymore."

Mary looked confused, then flashed that southern sexy smile she had polished over time, which worked on more men than not. She was a flirt and decidedly unfaithful. Yet part of my present self still found her attractive. We silently locked eyes; she rose up to kiss me. It was passionate, hot, but in the end a dead gesture. My head began swimming again, which meant my time there was closing.

"You're cute in your middle age," Mary said.

"Thanks," I replied.

Mary and her apartment starting fading, and I felt the pull of the present.

"Look me up when you get back."

I grinned. "I don't think so."

DID IT HAPPEN? Who knows. Allow theoretical physicist Michio Kaku to offer his views:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Our" Turn

Obama supporters and blissed-out Barry-heads everywhere: Are you ready for some righteous war? Are you prepared to step up and get fucking medieval in Afghanistan, and perhaps in Pakistan as well? You'd better be, for the man whose feet you're currently kissing has big plans to expand the War On Terror, and now is not the time for faint-hearted second-thoughts. Polish those boots, clean your weapons, and get in formation. The moment of truth is arriving soon.

Ah, who am I kidding? Of course American liberals will fall in line. They've been itching to show that they, too, can bellow for large body counts, cheer cluster bombs and patriot-bait those who dare question Dear Leader. Problem is, Bush and Cheney have been running the killing machine, and this has put a damper on the traditional liberal love of imperial war. But that era is ending, and unless Obama finds some way to blow this election (or if enough frightened whites in key states decide that having a president of color is a little too much for their racist psyches to absorb), we're going to see a renewed period of sustained bloodshed, with lots of dead and mangled Afghans in the foreground. As my friend Chris Floyd put it:

"For years now, 'serious' liberals have repeated the mantra that Bush 'took his eye off the ball' in the War on Terror by fighting in Iraq instead of focusing on Afghanistan, the 'good war,' the 'right war.' Now Obama looks set to call their bluff: 'You wanted a big war in Afghanistan? Here it is. Now what?'

"Now what indeed. No doubt we will soon be treated to the spectacle of many staunchly 'anti-war' leopards changing their spots. We will hear them supporting the same kind of 'counter-insurgency tactics' in Afghanistan that they now decry in Iraq. We will hear the same justifications for 'collateral damage' in Afghanistan that we now hear from rightwingers defending atrocities in Iraq. We will hear them advancing the same arguments for a continuing (and growing) American military presence in a volatile Muslim land that we have heard for years from Iraq hawks. And we will hear the same excuses for not joining the combat in a war they support that we have heard from the vast Chickenhawk Army of rightwing warmongers concerning Iraq."

And don't forget torture, Chris. Only under Obama, black hoods, beatings, and waterboarding will be legalized, or at least granted an exemption until a bi-partisan presidential panel can decide the "proper" lengths to which US forces can extract information. Liberals don't mind stomping or driving prisoners insane, just so long as it falls within the law. That's what separates them from rightwing savages.

Speaking of reactionaries, what will be their take when Obama goes LBJ on Afghanistan? Will they suddenly question the mission, as so many did when Clinton bombed Serbia? Or will they learn to appreciate a Democrat who slaughters the "right kind" of Muslims? Should make for some interesting scenes.

This is why I hope Obama gets elected. Let's throw some gasping, choking, blasted Afghan civilians at American liberals' feet and gauge their reactions. Based on historical evidence, the results shouldn't be too surprising. Plus, it will guarantee a sequel to "Savage Mules." Win/win all around, save for the Afghan people, who are in for some brutal times ahead. But then, they're used to that, and they're probably not even registered Democrats. So who cares what they think?

Numerous libloggers are blaming rightwing radio for Jim Adkisson's shooting spree in Knoxville. To hear libs tell it, Adkisson was programmed by the Hannitys and Limbaughs to kill liberals and queers, and he performed according to their sinister script. Of course, if such causal links truly existed, there would be at least a dozen anti-liberal shootings per day, given the large audience for rightwing radio. Mercifully, that is not the case. Still, it's nice to see liberals crawling over dead and wounded Unitarians in order to make quick, partisan points. It's an election year, after all.

Liberals shouldn't be too rough on their reactionary cousins, however. Recall their glee when the Branch Davidians were shot up, gassed, burned alive, and plowed under. Or their general lack of concern when Jimmy Carter pumped weapons into El Salvador, resulting in murdered Salvadoran Christians, most notably Archbishop Oscar Romero, who pleaded with Carter to end the arms shipments, which naturally he didn't. As with many things in life, casual attitudes about killing opposites work both ways, and usually for the same reasons.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dangerous Minds

What is the fatal switch that flips someone into killing mode? Primarily those who prey on the unarmed and unsuspecting? I think of this every time an angry, atomized person opens fire in public, for it must go deeper than mere social frustration. In Jim Adkisson's case, the asswipe who went ballistic on a Unitarian congregation in Tennessee, officials say that he blamed his sorry life on liberals and gays. Clearly, here is a confused fuck who couldn't separate his twisted personal demons from abstract tormentors like Obama-loving queers. Then again, I wonder how much negative weight Obama's possible election pressures the weak minds of guys like Adkisson. He can't get a job, and here some nigra's gonna run the country. Maybe that's all it does take to set these assholes off. And I seriously doubt that Adkisson's the only one.

Simmering white hatred aside, I'm very sorry to see Unitarians targeted like this. I've known self-described Christian purists who had nothing but disdain for the Unitarians, which I always found odd, given that Unitarians actually practice what they believe Jesus preached, even though they don't think that Jesus was the Son of God. I suppose that for some Christians, this alone is a deal breaker. Putting Jesus' philosophy into action is secondary to accepting without question Christ's divinity. Well, you won't go broke or be ostracized for taking that approach. Jesus as a timeless, floating wizard is certainly more appealing than viewing him as someone who defended prostitutes and mixed with the diseased and wretched. This is America we're talking about.

I've long had the utmost respect for Unitarians, going back to the early '80s near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where my then-girlfriend Amy and I spent many beautiful summer days. Amy's stepfather was a Unitarian minister who had worked with refugees fleeing Guatemalan death squads; and up on the Cape, he and his congregation were part of the Sanctuary Movement, helping Guatemalans and Salvadorans get into Canada and to safety. Whole families moved through this underground railroad at a time of mass murder, starvation, and torture in Central America, and my exposure to this had a serious, lasting effect on my developing political awareness. What the Unitarians did then was one of the noblest, bravest social actions I've ever seen. They didn't just talk about how awful Reagan was, like so many of my Manhattan liberal acquaintances; they risked arrest and possible prison time in order to save lives.

I recall sitting in a Unitarian church, listening to Amy's stepfather translate the stories told by refugees wearing bandannas over their faces to hide their identities. It remains one of the most moving experiences of my life. The love and peaceful determination of those around me was inescapable. I've no doubt that the FBI was there or was eavesdropping. After all, the Reagan gang made it clear that this type of activity was criminal, and federal agents fanned out across the country to spy on those actively opposed to their terrorist policies. Still, being human, I wonder if any FBI agents were ever moved by what they were ordered to curtail. If not, then they must have had hearts of granite. For me, it knocked the dopey Dem liberalism right out of my head. I saw things much differently from that point on.

Too bad that Jim Adkisson doesn't understand this about Unitarians. Far from being his enemy, they would be the first to help him should he ever come to ask. And even now, after the killing, chaos, and pain, I trust that those Unitarians are praying for Adkisson. How one can hate unconditional love is beyond me, but then, I've been known to occasionally miss the point.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Yak Yak

Busy with other items at the moment, but here are a couple of interviews with yours truly, promoting "Savage Mules."

A little chat with Christian Avard at HuffPost's Off The Bus.

Followed with a little more ranting at Green Left Infoasis.

Then, tomorrow, Tuesday, at 11AM EST, I'll be on Steve West's show on WKVT 1490, Brattleboro, Vermont.

More, oh sweet Mother of Mammon, even more to come . . .

YES, I KNOW: Several readers have pointed to mistakes and typos in the HuffPost interview. Trust me, that's not how it came out. It's frustrating to be sure. Copy editors -- what can you do?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Goosestep Through The Tulips

The current ACLU bid to stop the Bush/Mukasey plan to "make the entire globe — including the United States itself — a 'battlefield' where the president decides who will be locked up forever," is a noble effort, and about six/seven years too late. And of course, several libloggers are leaping on chairs, squealing about how this once law-abiding, respected nation is in danger of losing its democratic soul, etc. The same old routine. Naturally, I have thoughts about this and related matters. But that is a Monday or Tuesday post. This is Friday. You want ACLU vs. Adolph Bush, come back next week. (I'm enjoying how after years of portraying Bush/Cheney as Nazis, liberals are outraged that reactionaries are doing the same with Obama. Karma, kids!) Today, I'm talking comedy.

I don't give enough love to "SCTV," and I really should, given that I own two box sets of the show, and that I used to watch it alongside "Fridays" in that fevered, creative period of my young life. As much as I love "Fridays," the fact is "SCTV" was a superior show. There, I said it. As much as it stings, I must confess the truth. Yowch! No wonder so many people prefer lies.

Of all the "SCTV" bits I've seen, here's one that escaped my notice until now. Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" as performed by Ricardo Montalbán (Eugene Levy), Margaret Hamilton (Andrea Martin), DeForest Kelley (Dave Thomas), George Carlin (Rick Moranis) and John Belushi (Tony Rosato). Normally, I can take or leave celebrity impression sketches, as they tend to rely on familiarity instead of actual jokes for laughs. But "SCTV" often took celebrity impressions into strange areas, and this piece is a perfect example of that.

Thomas' Kelley stands out, and I like how he steadily slides into his "Star Trek" persona. Martin's Hamilton plays on that actress' coffee commercials of the time, but that is the chief hook, little more. Moranis' Carlin is funny, but essentially one-joke. Levy, as always, is marvelous. Rosato beautifully captures Belushi's essence, and I'm guessing that this was taped before Belushi's death, but who knows. Many of the "SCTV" cast worked with Belushi at Second City, so I wonder if they'd parody him after his overdose. Comedians can be overly sentimental or simply cannibalistic. Depends on the room.

And now, jump back in time with me, won't you, to 1950 and NBC's "Colgate Comedy Hour." In this brief bit with partner Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis displays his elastic, physical gifts. It was live TV, and Lewis took full advantage of the fact. No one in those early days stretched the small screen like he did: he's in perfect control of his body and his timing is excellent. (You can see where someone like Jim Carrey got his initial cue.)

I wasn't planning to deluge you with more "Fridays" for at least another week or so. But this morning in my mail, my pal Tom Kramer sent me a filmed piece he wrote and directed for the show in early 1981 -- introduced by Mark Blankfield and narrated by Brandis Kemp. I mentioned this piece in my George Carlin obit, which I saw only once and pulled from deep memory. I got most of it right, suggesting that perhaps my mind may stick around for a few years more. The sorry bastard.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Kangaroos Cometh

The capture of Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb "mastermind" behind the Srebrenica massacre, among others, has bolstered Western liberal opinion -- at least those Western libs still paying attention to this story. Karadzic's arrest and upcoming trial, the verdict of which has already been reached, brings back those heady days when "humanitarian" violence and NATO expansion (one complemented the other) were all the liberal rage; when Bill Clinton and Wesley Clark were cast as anti-fascist crusaders, allowing liberals to pound their chests and crow about the "correct" uses of state power. The Bush/Cheney madness of the past eight years obscured this holy period, and now that their cabal is fading away, with Obama poised to take their place, Karadzic should serve as a symbol for the kind of liberal interventionism that may define the next four years.

In other words, liberals might very well get a chance to be pro-war all over again. Ain't democracy sweet?

As far as Karadzic goes, I pretty much concur with Richard Seymour, a Verso stable-mate whose latest book, "The Liberal Defense of Murder," is an English bookend of sorts to "Savage Mules." One needn't condone nor attempt to explain away Serbian state violence in order to see the larger imperial picture. In a world run by mass murderers and war criminals of impeccable stature, Karadzic is small potatoes, an easy way to excuse or even deny far worse violence committed by those who'll never face a "human rights" tribunal. If the man is truly guilty, then an open, unbiased court should have no trouble convicting him. But then, that's not how "humanitarian" justice operates, not on the world stage, anyway. Perhaps soon Karadzic will dangle from the end of a noose, a la Saddam, with self-satisfied liberals dancing around his feet, tossing dead flowers at his stiffening corpse. And you thought the Sixties were over!

Meanwhile, here in the States, we have a different way of remembering our ethnic cleansers and war criminals. JFK and Ronald Reagan have had major airports and aircraft carriers named after them, as has Harry Truman, whose vessel features the MK 41 Vertical Launching System, its Sea Sparrow missiles boasting annular blast fragmentation warheads, 90 pounds Proximity fuzed, continuous expanding rod, with a 27 ft. kill radius. Not quite Hiroshima-Nagasaki force, but it'll get the towelheads' attention. Woodrow Wilson has an International Center for Scholars that celebrates his legacy. But for me, the best and most democratic example of war criminal remembrance is perhaps in your pocket this very moment.

Our very own Milosevic, Andrew Jackson. He doesn't go as far as he used to, but you can still get a filling meal at Taco Bell and receive plenty of change. I think the old Indian killer would appreciate that.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bathing Shadow Spawn

Counterpunch's Alex Cockburn deems the presidential campaign a snooze so far, and he's right. McCain's an utter twit to watch, that nasal, petulant whine issuing from those tense, waxen lips. Obama's trying oh-so very hard to Look Presidential, affecting serious poses and expressions throughout the Middle and Near East, droning about our hallowed mission in that part of the world. Well, you get what you pay for, or in this case, what the owners finance, so get used to it. Or not. Either way, it won't matter much.

I am looking forward to the Fall, however, when libs and reactionaries pull off their flesh masks to reveal their rotting, reptilian features. Oh, I can hear the rhetoric now, noxious emissions blowing dead leaves across the spectrum. As Mencken observed, if nothing else, American politics provides cheap entertainment. I'll be near the main stage mixing cocktails if you wish to drop by. Should be a good one this year.

I love it when liberals gush about voting drives, that sexy elixir which conjures up images of Selma and outrunning Klan cops on southern back roads. Of course, that was a long time ago, and even then it had mixed results. I mean, LBJ, Humphrey, and a boatload of other Dems sent African-Americans to kill and die in Southeast Asia when their political and social status at home was decidedly weak. Johnson is still praised for signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as if that was courageous and unprecedented. In fact, it was inevitable and smart.

LBJ was a Texas populist and a first-rate control freak. Blacks were a potentially loyal voting base for the Dems, and Johnson knew it, which is why he signed that bill. He may have said that by doing so, he was writing off the white racist south, but Johnson's hubris was so vast that he probably felt he could hold on to the segregationist wing as well, thus making the Dems an unstoppable electoral force. After all, most southern racists, like George Wallace, were Democrats. Where were they going to go -- to the Republican Party of rich, white easterners like the Rockefellers? At the time, Barry Goldwater was seen as an aberration. The GOP was for elite whites, not disgruntled working class peasants who bristled at sharing water fountains with coloreds. Nixon played both sides of the fence and won a healthy slice of the cracker demographic. But it wasn't until Reagan that the GOP formalized this rancid migration, the results of which are still very much with us, as you may have noticed.

Today's voting drives are essentially sheep herding for the corporate ranchers, with starry-eyed liberals insisting that this is how freedom is won. Well, "freedom" is a relativist concept, so who am I to say? Yet given how disinterested in voter theft and fraud Dem elites have been in recent times, you'll excuse me if I don't take all this talk about "empowerment" too seriously.

But this is a historic phase, as we're being told ad nauseum, so get in line and punch, touch, tap, or scribble your way into it. Unless McCain wins. If that happens, I wonder who the libs will blame for the next four years?

Thanks to Daniel Davies for the nice review of "Savage Mules" at Crooked Timber. Additional thanks to Louis Proyect, who seemed to enjoy "Mules" as well. If you haven't read either, please do so. And if you haven't yet purchased a copy of "Mules," you know what to do.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Trumpets Of Possible Victory

Spent the humid, stormy weekend in Indy, visiting family, engaging in hyper-Perrin talk (a loud fast feature of my clan), and signing numerous copies of "Mules." Most of my family likes to read, and to have an actual, living, blushing author in the fold . . . well, let's say that this old thing felt honored to be so loved and appreciated -- that is, when I wasn't matching my relatives quip for quip. Like I said, they're a quick, verbal crowd. The collective din of eight separate, simultaneous discussions reaches speed metal tone and velocity. Music to my ears.

Brother Jeff and nephew Jeffrey, Jr. are holding up well months after Holly's murder. It's just the boys now, and their new life obviously has its bumps and down times. But they keep it going, tighter than ever, and having a son close to Jeffrey's age makes me wonder how I would hold up under similar conditions. Jeffrey and I had a nice chat about superhero comics and movies, a topic I can talk about for hours. We discussed "The Dark Knight," and Jeffrey asked me about the trailer that ran just before it.

"You mean 'Watchmen'?"

"Yeah. That looked cool. What is that?"

I offered a brief explanation, since the plot of Alan Moore's classic graphic novel is so complex and covers several time periods, with varied political overtones. Mostly, though, Jeffrey wanted to know who the characters were, specifically the "weird blue guy."

"Oh, that's Doctor Manhattan. He's the most powerful of the Watchmen." Something the film's makers are already highlighting.

Looks like they've included the good Doctor's intervention in Vietnam, based on that shot of him vaporizing a Vietnamese guerilla. It's a kick ass trailer, especially on an Imax screen. If you don't know the storyline to "Watchmen," there are various sites online that'll explain it in full. I'm happy that Nite Owl's uniform doesn't look as clunky as it does in the book. And of course Rorschach, the masked man with the hat, appears as crazy as he should be. I hope the film is as good as the trailer, heightened by that smooth Smashing Pumpkins soundtrack.

On Sunday, I attended my Mother's birthday picnic at a local park, a very muggy afternoon where you could lose eight pounds by simply blinking. Mother talked to me about "Mules," which she liked, but was put-off by the profanity, primarily in the book's opening sentence.

"Actually, I'm quoting Bill Clinton, so you can take it up with him."

I explained that I was writing for the time I live in, just like the late-19th century scribes wrote for theirs, and so on. Not only do people casually cuss, it is part of the larger culture, which itself is profane. My Mother has very delicate concepts about writing, something that holds her back in her own work. She also was concerned about the image of me in "Mules" smoking a joint in my hotel room while attending YearlyKos. I told her that if she had seen what I'd seen at that gathering, she'd be hitting a blunt as well.

I finally met the young National Guardsman who's dating my teen niece. He's a few years older than her, is in strong, military shape, and is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in a couple of months. When he discovered my Army past, he immediately asked me about the boot camp of my era, saying that his was a joke. "The Drill Sergeants can't call you names, and they don't push you to the breaking point. They just rush you through to active duty." I replied that this wasn't the case in my day, where the Drill Sergeants routinely called us pukes, maggots, faggots, girls, women, cocksuckers, and motherfuckers. They screamed directly in our faces, pressed their boots on our backs as we did countless push-ups in the South Carolina sun, and ran us until at least two or three recruits collapsed. The kid's face lit up. That's the boot camp he desired. He was down with the whole military mindset, and actually looked forward to being in Iraq.

"Really?" I asked.

"Hell yeah. I got a lot of buddies over there, and only one's been in a firefight."

"I wouldn't get too secure about that 'surge' success. There are many reasons for the overall lull in fighting. And it's not over by a long shot."

The kid didn't care. He wanted Iraq on his resume. Seems for some of his generation, Iraq and Afghanistan are proving grounds. If you can go and come back in one piece, while hopefully kicking some hadji ass in between, you earn serious bragging rights. It's not about "democracy" anymore, as this kid readily admitted to me. He thought we should just steal their oil and eliminate those who get in the way. I held my tongue more than not, too hot and tired to seriously argue with him. Absorbing what I did say, he assumed that I was an Obama supporter.

"Oh no. Not even close."

"Thank God for that."

"Well, I think I oppose Obama for different reasons than you."

"I'm a Ron Paul man, myself."

"But Paul's against the war."

He smiled and shrugged his shoulders, then added that he's an avid listener of Michael Savage. Nice to see the kid has a sick sense of humor, even if he doesn't know it. I'm sure it'll come in handy where he's going.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Clown Of His Word

Take it from an aging fanboy: Heath Ledger is the shit in "The Dark Knight." I know I'm the nine thousandth person to say so, but it doesn't make it any less true. Ledger's Joker is fucked up inspired; his lip-smacking, make-up peeling, twitchy psycho energy impossible to ignore. He's a fitting figure for our torture age -- or better, a theatrical extension of it. There are scenes where you feel edgy and uncomfortable, primarily one reminiscent of beheading videos out of Iraq. Yes, "The Dark Knight" touches on such themes. Not your average summer popcorn flick.

Christian Bale delivers once again, intense and twisted under the cowl. There are too many explosions for my taste, and before long they loudly blur into each other. But the strength of "The Dark Knight" is its performances, particularly Ledger's. You laugh, but it's nervous laughter, for you know that something insane is about to happen.* Even if you hate the whole Batman premise or summer blockbusters on principle, you should see "The Dark Knight" for Heath Ledger. He'll carve a wicked smile on your brain.

*In a weird sense, Ledger's Joker reminded me of IOZ when he speaks of the glories of chaos and the tyranny of schemes. That he's wearing a nurse's dress while doing so has more to do with the scene's purpose than with IOZ's taste in fashion, I'm sure.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Objectively Speaking

While immersed in my daily reading of sociological trends, geopolitical strategies, cultural indicators, ecological reports, and financial analysis, I happened upon this photo:

Not many women would wear such swimwear at 63. But Helen Mirren easily pulls it off, so to speak.

I don't write that often about sex, sexuality, pornography, and related pleasures, which is odd given that at one time, that's pretty much all I wrote about. My comic-nightmare novel "Beautiful Lies" is filled with explicit sex scenes and reveries, as the book's narrator, Kevin, is addicted to porn, sexually attracted to his adopted sister, playfully named Cousin, masturbates to anything remotely arousing, including TV commercials and old Hollywood films. Massive amounts of booze is the only brake on his fevered imagination before an aborted fetus becomes his Jiminy Cricket, guiding him to a somewhat saner life. When my then-agent read it, her only comment was "Wheeeew! What the hell's inside your head?"

Clearly, not chick lit.

I seriously doubt that if I went back to that type of writing, most of you would stick around to read the sordid results. Besides, American political culture is semi-pornographic anyway, so straight up fuck posts would be timid by comparison. Still, the above photo of Mirren made me think about her fabulous portrayal of Ayn Rand, where Mirren made the Objectivist troll physically alluring, if philosophically crazy and emotionally rigid. I once dated an Objectivist for a time, a cute Italian girl from Jersey who loved Rand's work. Needless to say, we argued quite a bit about politics, sometimes nastily, but it usually ended in great sex or something near it. Not the healthiest relationship I've ever had, yet there were some bright spots amid the anger and infidelities. Through her, I read a lot of Rand's stuff, though it never came close to swaying me. Too Stalinist, humorless, turgid. Interminable speeches by cartoon characters. Endless paeans to smoke stacks and glass skyscrapers. Tortured reasoning. Not my cup of psychedelic punch. But something tells me that if Rand looked like Helen Mirren, I could be persuaded.

"Yes, Ayn! Yes! Selfishness is indeed a virtue! Capitalism is truly the unknown ideal! Atlas may shrug, but baby, you got my full attention! Let's do it on top of your latest manuscript! Reason dictates that we must!"

She didn't call it The Fountainhead for nothing. Honk. Honk.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More Mule Love

Publishers Weekly seems to dislike my new book, but I think the final sentence pegs me accurately.

"Proclaiming that 'American political life has always been a feeding frenzy of delusion, uplift, and fantasy,' blogger and satirist Perrin (Mr. Mike) focuses his attack more narrowly on the Democrats, arguing that from Andrew Jackson on, they have 'robbed, cheated and lied to their constituents' in order to consolidate power and maximize 'mega-profits.' The book moves from a historic overview to a contemporary critique of the Democratic support for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, skewering such Democratic heavyweights as JFK, FDR, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, 'America’s most underrated imperialist.' The final chapter offers a blow-by-blow account of the liberal blogger convention YearlyKos, an event that the author uses to illustrate his conviction that 'the Dem [sic] elites will continue to gorge on corporate money and favors.' Perrin undermines himself with his reliance on ad hominem attacks and joyless one-liners (JFK was 'smoked,' genocide in Bosnia is an 'Ian Fleming scenario,' 'the Iraq era had been satirically deficient'). The result is a combination of self-righteousness and puerility."

Get your copy today!

LIKE IT MATTERS: The above reviewer mentions Bosnia, which is funny since I don't in my book. I do mention Kosovo, however, and the glorious humanitarian bombing of Serbia by Bubba Mule Clinton. The Ian Fleming reference described the super-villan portrayal of Milosevic, who couldn't hold a flesh candle to the country schooling him on human rights.

From Ardor To Murder

If "Savage Mules" is ever made into an HBO mini-series (it would so kick John Adams' pale, powdered ass), I'm definitely hiring Adolph Reed, Jr. as a consultant. He nails the liberal love for Obama to the mule barn door. Here's a taste:

"This is what passes for a left now in this country. It is a left that can insist, apparently, that Obama's FISA vote, going out of his way (after all, he could simply have followed the model of Eisenhower on the Brown decision and said that the Court has ruled; therefore it's the law, and his job as president would be to enforce the law) to align himself - twice, or three times -- with the Scalia/Thomas/Roberts/Alito wing of the Supreme Court, his declaring that social problems, unlike foreign policy adventurism, are 'too big for government' and pledging to turn over more of HHS and HUD's budgets to the Holy Rollers are both tactically necessary and consistent with his convictions. So, if those are his convictions, or for that matter what he feels he must do opportunistically to get elected, why the fuck should we vote for him?

"I'd been thinking about doing a 'See, I told you so' column about Obama; then, especially given the torrent of vituperation and self-righteous contumely I got after arguing that he's not what far too many nominal leftists were trying to make him out to be, I was tempted instead to do a 'To hell with you, you deserve what you get' column. But the smug yuppies to whom I'd address that message -- the fan club we encounter in foundation offices, faculty meetings, soccer games and dinner parties and on MSNBC and in the Nation -- are neither the only people who've listened to Obama's siren song nor the ones who'll pay the price for their self-indulgent idiocy."

Beautiful. Read it all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Forget Eustace Tilly

All this wailing and flailing over that dopey New Yorker cover -- as if David Remnick knows funny. You want real, honest, clarifying laughs about the blood-drenched saga of the Dems? Gut-busting bits about Andrew Jackson and Janet Reno? Then "Savage Mules" is your kind of read. No double-meanings or misunderstood jokes. This tome is the real mule shit. Get yours before the curtain rises on the Dems' next act. Hee Haw.

Laughter: The Best Sedative

Apparently, comedy writers are having a tough time satirizing Barack Obama. In the wake of the over-chewed New Yorker cover (decent premise, tame execution), the New York Times asked several late night comedy fixtures about the best way to portray the Senator from Change.

Jon Stewart: "So far, our take is that he’s positioning himself to be on a coin."

Jimmy Kimmel: "His ears should be the focus of the jokes."

Mike Sweeney, Conan O'Brien's head writer: "We’re hoping he picks an idiot as vice president."

Honestly, how hard is this? The main problem is a lack of real political awareness. You'll never see serious political satire on any of these shows, even the sacred "Daily Show," which keeps its jokes well within mainstream guidelines. The corporatization of humor is complete, which is why all these guys are looking for some "clever" commercial hook instead of just going after what is obvious: an African-American with a "non-traditional" name may well be the next president.

American reactionaries have already shown their hand, citing fears about electing a Muslim/militant/gangsta, a dizzy mindset that The New Yorker attempted to lampoon. Then there are the fawning liberals who apparently have no sense of humor about their political hero, which is why Jon Stewart is grasping for an angle. I don't envy him and his writers, given their constraints, but that's what you get when working on American television. You can't upset the consumers whom your sponsors are trying to lull. Attacking political/social reality is pretty much verboten, so writers must create cartoons to mock. So far, no acceptable Obama caricature has emerged. Thus the thrashing about.

The major obstacle is Obama's skin tone, as white writers and comics don't want to appear insensitive or worse. This naturally assumes that there are non-racist white people, which there really aren't. White Americans have long been conditioned to racist images and concepts, and not one of us is immune. When I hear a white person claim that he or she doesn't have a racist bone in their body, I want to scream, "Wigga, please!" We possess plenty, regardless of our denial. This is why many white liberals don't want to laugh at Obama, at least not in public. To do so would destroy their delusions of purity, adding yet another layer of bullshit to the overall distraction, and getting us further and further away from the truth.

What is the truth? That race still matters. It matters so much that we're not supposed to joke about it. If race didn't matter, there would be no prohibitions, no self-censorship. Much of American comedy attacks irrelevancies. Clearly, race is not irrelevant.

As regular readers know, I've had no problem finding ways to satirize Obama, as well as his admirers and detractors. Then again, I have no corporate sponsors, so I'm free to offend at will. Despite what some think, I don't go out of my way to offend. I don't avoid it, either, but there has to be something behind it. Take this visual gag I posted in April:

Proving that he has the courage necessary to be Commander-In-Chief, Barack Obama stood under a tree in front of a large group of white people.

The target of the joke should be obvious: white people have a history of lynching black people. It doesn't make fun of Obama, but does use his skin color to comment on American racist history, and the demand that he be "strong." Yet I caught hell from several white liberals who thought I advocated lynching Obama. That whites were the butt of the joke appeared lost on them, and none of my explanations altered their belief. I was the racist, and they were Obama's defenders.

I don't deny that I have racist concepts in my brain. I grew up in America. How could I not? But in order to understand where this poison originates, while hopefully diminishing its toxic effect, white people need to work through these concepts, and not pretend that they don't exist. I use humor. Your mileage may vary.

Here's another visual bit that I've yet to post, until now:

Hoping to allay white fears that he's "too black" to be president, Barack Obama will begin appearing with surviving extras from "Gone With The Wind."

What say you?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Edge Of No Escape

I'm a tad late to the FISA outrage party, and from the look of things, that's probably just as well. Broken bottles litter the torn, soiled carpet. Vomit flecks the battered walls. A few stragglers try to drag themselves out the door and into the morning light. Some righteous rhetoric can be heard in a back room, apparently an argument that has no resolution, but I'm not going to check. I'll grab the two remaining brews -- light beer, natch -- and be on my way.

Yes, there is much to be angry about; but as with so much else in our corporate cage, the FISA vote was inevitable and unstoppable. Some in the pricier pens, like Salon's Glenn Greenwald, rattled their bars for days and yelled with pious indignation, hoping that Obama would not only hear them, but would shift away from laying the groundwork for the next administration, presumably Obama's. Others, like The Field's Al Giordano, perhaps knowing that there was no chance to change the FISA vote, comforted themselves with the thought that since Obama has the presidency locked-up, there was no need to get upset. Obama had to appear "serious" concerning "national security" and deprive the desperate McCain campaign of any negative talking points. Once President Change is elected (a formality at this point), he'll naturally overturn the nastier aspects of the FISA give-away. Because when you study American history, you'll notice that most chief executives seek to limit state power as much as possible. So why all the caterwauling?

Of course, these serene observers have yet to adequately explain what happens should McCain be elected. I know -- only whack jobs and conspiracy theorists believe that's possible. Still, Obama and his colleagues have given a President McCain much to play with.

Cause for concern? Nah. It'll never happen.

I can only watch all this with bemused contempt. We are truly living in some kind of madhouse, not startling news, but occasionally one must say so out loud in order to verify that it's not a twisted dream. The Obamaites have just begun their march to power, and already you can see the crazed Joker smiles on their faces. Despite the pacific tone established by their leader, the foot soldiers are in no mood to brook dissent. While they insist that Obama's going to Make History, they bash any faint-hearted or concerned liberal over the head with a Crazy McCain stick, telling them that a single waver might push our once-magnificent nation even deeper into fascist Bushworld. And in most cases, the bashed liberals will meekly comply. Race is occasionally employed as well, and depending on how the campaign looks in the Fall, you can bet that skin tone will become a major weapon -- on both sides.

But for me, the most nauseating noise came from Sen. Chris Dodd, who last week sent out an email titled "A Heavy Heart." Touted as a Hero Of The People by libs like Greenwald and Jane Hamsher, Dodd's opposition to the FISA "capitulation" was mostly cosmetic, as he'll support Obama no matter what the man does. It's easy to appear like a civil libertarian firebrand when you have no shot to alter the grim reality. It's a time-tested money raising scheme, and helps to fence off the outer reaches of permissible debate about vital issues. I mean, you can't get more noble than Dodd, can you?

This has long been Dodd's game, going back to the Central American wars of the 1980s, when Dodd put a happy face on mass murder, political repression, and torture. Back then, as Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua where assaulted by US-backed terror armies, Dodd sought regional "compromise," critical of Reagan's worst rhetoric, but wholly in line with the overall policy. And let's not discuss Dodd's involvement with Indonesian terror, Israeli violence, and of course the Iraq war, the latter of which Dodd now "regrets" backing. Given all the blood he helped spill up to that vote, I don't know why Dodd would get the shakes at this late date. It's not as if, true to previous form, Dodd's attempting to fence off respectable opinion about the Iraq quagmire, is it? No, that's just too cynical to even consider.

THANK YOU: To all of the non-cynics who've purchased "Savage Mules," keeping it among Amazon's top political sellers (minus any advertising -- ahem, Verso?). If you desire a clear, concise, and dare I say knee-slapping take on the Democratic love of war, "Mules" is one-stop shopping. Snag your copy today, and keep me in the mix when the election season intensifies.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Crickets Read My Mind

Been ruminating on the FISA vote, primarily Chris Dodd's "heroic" efforts to save Lady Constitution from the piranha pool, but it's the weekend, I'm a bit burnt, and a few readers have complained about my recent dour, negative takes on our consumer paradise, so I'll save that post for Monday.

My son and I were hanging out yesterday, sitting on the couch, shooting breeze, when I clicked on the set and arrived about five minutes into "The Brothers Solomon." Written by Will Forte and directed by Bob Odenkirk, "Brothers" is about two, er, brothers who want to give their dying father a grandchild before he expires. Unable to coax women into getting pregnant, they go the surrogate route, and most of the movie focuses on their preparation as two dads. Forte and Will Arnett play the brothers, and though neither one has done much for me in the past, their chemistry here is quite funny. It's always nice to be caught off-guard by comedy you don't expect, and Forte's script is filled with inspired, absurdist gags. He's got a strange comic mind, and while "Brothers" isn't a classic, it is very amusing, and the boy and I laughed through most of it.

Someone stitched together random clips from the film, leaving out some of the better bits, but this will give you an idea of what I mean. The shot of Malin Ackerman in a wet bikini isn't funny, but honestly, would you want it to be?

And what Perrin-centric comedy post would be complete without more "Fridays" clips?

I've received a certain measure of hell from several people (you know who you are, so don't even try to casually glance away from the screen) concerning my love for "Fridays," some of whom are in the biz, or were. Why that show? they haughtily ask. Well, I've touched on this before, but I really haven't explained the core of my interest.

"Fridays" appeared at a time when I was writing and performing for Kamakaze Radio, the satirical group I co-founded in Indianapolis with my writing partner Jim Buck, and Mike Owens, who came and went throughout our two-year existence. This was a period of intense creativity for me, much of it previously unexplored or even understood. I wrote a ton of comedy material back then, tapping every form and style I possibly could, sometimes writing in no ready form at all. It was a very stimulating time. So when "Fridays" premiered, I was right there at the beginning, and stayed with the show until its cancellation in early '82.

Unlike Jim, who was indifferent to "Fridays," I saw it as a doppelganger of sorts, a parallel effort to what we were doing at the Broad Ripple Playhouse. For me, "Fridays" represented comedy risk at a moment when I couldn't get enough. I identified with its early rough patch, when that show's writers tried anything and everything, from dopey to conceptual to of course political. It pushed me to take chances in my comedy, and like "Fridays," my efforts were decidedly mixed until I hit my stride.

Watching "Fridays" now revives those inspired emotions. It reminds me of a less-jaded period, when anything seemed possible. This was a few years before my experiences in the LA comedy scene and my near-immersion in sitcom writing, when those final stars were sandblasted from my eyes. My feelings are nostalgic, sure, but there are deeper emotions as well. It was perhaps the purest, happiest creative phase of my life. "Fridays" keeps that young comedy writer alive.

Aren't you glad you asked?

Here's Michael Richards as Dick, the wannabe ladies man and all-around loser, an early draft of Kramer, trying to impress Brandis Kemp, who usually played straightperson to Richards' bumbling character.

Richards again, as Battle Boy. Although this was a popular recurring bit, Battle Boy was decidedly limited. Still, I like the energy. With Kemp, whose little girl had a crush on Battle Boy, Melanie Chartoff, Mark Blankfield, and Maryedith Burrell as the abusive mother.

Finally, a breaking-the-fourth-wall sketch featuring Richards, Burrell, Chartoff, and Larry David. A comment on a comment about attempting new concepts for the sake of attempting them. Back when comedians did such things.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Oh Say Can You Farsi

Hiding in my basement from Iran's missiles, trying to avoid using my phone so the telecoms won't drop dime on me, praying for a liberal crusader to make it all right again, returning this upstanding nation back to the values of its innocent youth.

In other words, I'm taking the day off. Will be back tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out this fine essay by the wife. She do know how to write.

And of course, "Mules" -- as in, buy, please, etc. It has crept back into Amazon's top 20 political screeds. Perfect reading for Capitulation Summer.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Who Needs The Fourth Amendment

What's John McCain hiding in his fist?

Health care reform?

New tactics in the War on Terror?

A tax cut for those who make over $250K a year?

A piece of taffy?

His sanity?

Your nose?

You'll have to vote for him to find out!

John McCain: He's full of secrets!

Hoping to ease their anxieties about voting for an African-American, Barack Obama has begun telling "off color" jokes, to the delight of older white men.

In an effort to win over Jewish voters, John McCain this week introduced a new character, Crazy Uncle Sol. "So vote for the schvartze and get heartburn already. I should care?"

To illustrate his "Change you can believe in" campaign theme, Barack Obama assures an American serviceman that under an Obama administration, his dismemberment and grisly death will have meaning.

To broaden his electoral appeal, John McCain sings "The Yellow Rose Of Texas" to an undecided longhorn.

Barack Obama had a close call last week, when he was surrounded and nearly devoured by flesh-eating zombies.

The Secret Service rescued the Democratic candidate, but not before one of the zombies tore off and later ate a piece of Obama's thigh.

In addition to their Fall debates, Barack Obama and John McCain will hold a "Who Looks More Bad Ass" stare-off contest.

A lover of humorous polemic, Barack Obama not only admitted to reading "Savage Mules," he bought five copies for his closest advisers.

Get with the winning team. Buy your copy of "Savage Mules" today. It's rage you can believe in.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Why Do You Think They Call It Hope?

Reading endless liblog comment threads numbs the lobes to such a degree that after an hour, you can hammer nails into concrete with your forehead. So many people seeking deliverance, trusting that Obama will somehow make things better. It's a sad sight. For all of my critiques and sarcastic japes, I really do feel for many of these people, especially those who have convinced themselves that the Democratic Party is, beyond "capitulation" and "caving in," moral, or at least more upstanding than the evil GOP. Ascribing human emotion to a corporate-funded machine is insane, but then, this is the reality of our time. People have been reduced to praying to gun barrels pressed against their skulls, hoping that the trigger's never squeezed.

"Hope" is the key word here. One can talk of "change" until the ceiling collapses, but it's "hope" that people cling to. On the surface, hoping that those in power will not harm you or make matters worse is bad enough. It lowers the concept of "citizenship" to a cheap prop gag, which alone suits our owners fine. But there's a deeper application of "hope" in the political realm, at once fallacious and very real. It's the brand of "hope" that's encouraged by the most cynical pros in the business; indeed, they are perhaps "hope's" biggest boosters. For so long as there is "hope," those desperate for change or even a breather from the madness will stay within the system. "Hope" is the system's juiciest promise and its biggest lie. It mollifies and pacifies, leaving just enough room for the voter to believe that his or her ratification on election day has some powerful, personal meaning. I'm sure you've seen the faces of those lined up at the local elementary school, waiting for their chance to change the world. There's a tangible sense of expectation, of purpose, of "hope." It's an effective means of control, which is why the corporate media endlessly promotes it, echoed by those with a stake in each Party.

I think that on some level, those invested in "hope" know it's all a beautiful con, but go through the motions anyway. Hopers are trapped, told that only so many "realistic" choices exist. This profoundly limits the hoper's options, dampens his or her political imagination, and thus makes "hope" even more necessary. Mix in a smooth talker like Barack Obama, who can make "hope" sound like consequence-free, bareback sex, and it's set, game, match -- or so our owners hope.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sinking In The Amazon

Well, that was a fun ride. But now, publishing reality has taken over, and "Savage Mules" is tumbling down the Amazon charts like Jesus Jones or Bananarama, after they tried speed reggae rap. Some things are just meant for short shelf lives.

No matter. This is merely the opening round. "Mules" has already made a dent of sorts, with much more action ahead. It would be great if I could make it to Denver and report on the mules in real savage time. Let me look into that. And of course, helpful suggestions are welcome.

Flag Me, Baby

"I do not believe many people will ever be led to feel unpatriotic. To argue against these tribal and egoistic instincts is like arguing against gravitation. But I do hope that a fair proportion of the intelligent may be persuaded to resist the establishment, in their own minds or in American society, of patriotism as a religion."

Max Eastman, "The Religion of Patriotism," 1917

"We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens. We are ready to hang, electrocute, or lynch anyone, who, from economic necessity, will risk his own life in the attempt upon that of some industrial magnate. Yet our hearts swell with pride at the thought that America is becoming the most powerful nation on earth, and that it will eventually plant her iron foot on the necks of all other nations.

"Such is the logic of patriotism."

Emma Goldman, "Patriotism: A Menace To Liberty," 1917

Well, we can't say we weren't warned. Goldman ended up roaming the world in exile, while Eastman became a McCarthyite, but what they wrote at the height of American war fever, fanned by Woodrow Wilson and other notable liberals, remains true to this day. Indeed, their essays are understated compared to what we presently face.

Flag worship is and probably always will be a vibrant American mania. It is the short-cut to nationalist conformity, the quickest way to separate Believers from Heretics. You cannot overdo it. Once, many years ago, I tested various political groups and news desks by phoning them with bogus complaints about their insufficient lust for liberty. When I mentioned my "organization," Americans for Patriotic Excess (APE), most of the people I spoke to took me seriously. They truly believed that such a group existed, and they defended their patriotism while confessing that they could always do more. When I tried to sell this prank as an article about nationalism to a leading lefty mag, I was informed that my concept was contrived and thus rejected. If only I had kept my APE mask on for that pitch.

I was reminded of my old phantom group while reading a story in the New York Times about the boon in gigantic American flags for sports events:

"'People go ape when they see it,' said Jim Alexander, a retired Coast Guard commander who runs Superflag, the company that basically invented the industry and once held the world record for the largest flag, which temporarily hung on the Hoover Dam. It was 255 by 505 feet and has been surpassed by a flag in Israel that measures 2,165 by 330 feet. 'It’s a feeling. It’s a feeling that takes over a whole stadium. If anyone in the stands opened their mouth and objected, there would be hell to pay.'"

APE lives. And you gotta love that last line, the very essence of patriotism itself. It would be easy and cheap to say that Hitler's inner-circle would approve of such violent sentiments, as Nazi analogies long ago lost their zing. Besides, modern patriotism, wed to the corporate/military state, is light years beyond what those costumed German lunatics threw around. It's kabuki versus Imax; marbles against a Wii. Still, certain similarities endure.

Take the news that Obama will accept his mule coronation at Denver's Invesco field, where the Broncos play. Dispensing with the traditional intimate indoor setting, Obama's visage will flash to over 75,000 loyal subjects, doubtless drenched in countless Old Glories, with, if the DNC has any martial flair, a squadron of F-16s zooming overhead, heralding a New Dawn of Democratic power and national will. It promises to be a riveting, authoritarian spectacle, "populist" rhetoric dispensed through private media machines. Liberals who are currently wringing their damp hands over Obama's "capitulation" on FISA and related horrors will be reborn in the faith, intolerant of those who remain skeptical. As Superflag's honcho put it: "If anyone in the stands opened their mouth and objected, there would be hell to pay."

Change you can believe in? Ha! You fucking better.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Free To Be What The Market Will Bear

As you fellow Americans enjoy the blessings of this day, remember to heed that timeless Devo message:

Yes, use your freedom of choice. And what better way to show your true colors than to purchase "Savage Mules," a light-hearted, all-American romp through the exciting world of Democratic politics. Perhaps this slim volume of musings and asides will bring us all together, if we believe hard enough, that is. It's all up to you. Let's make this a Beautiful World.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

But Does He Stay Crunchy In Milk?

You'd think that being a cultivated voice for imperial war and general anti-Muslim hate would be enough for Hitchens. After all, he's created a profitable niche for himself, the urbane reactionary whom domestic oafs can drool over and hold in awe, despite his hostility to sky god concepts and the power of prayer. But with his pseudo-waterboarding stunt, which Hitchens finally assures us is torture (in case you were on the fence), he risks losing that vital demographic, which is fine by me, yet should alarm him. I mean, if the David Hororwitzs and Michele Malkins tune him out, to whom will he bellow his coarse opinions? I'm sure Carol Blue gets more than her share as it is.

Perhaps the military will embrace him. He's certainly become enamored with the kids in camo, almost weirdly so. His straining heart skips a beat when a platoon marches by in formation, and you see an aging man who never wore a military uniform fantasize about the experience, seemingly sad that he missed out in his radical youth. But Hitch makes up for his wasted past, and appears determined to be that old fart in the basement Barcalounger, surrounded by Army or Marine kitsch, dozing off while the explosions from yet another History Channel war documentary rip across his plasma screen.

"The team who agreed to [semi-waterboard him] in the woods of North Carolina belong to a highly honorable group. This group regards itself as out on the front line in defense of a society that is too spoiled and too ungrateful to appreciate those solid, underpaid volunteers who guard us while we sleep. These heroes stay on the ramparts at all hours and in all weather, and if they make a mistake they may be arraigned in order to scratch some domestic political itch."

You tell 'em, Gramps! Fucking faggot civvies with their "laws" and related Islamocommie bullshit! What do they know about real sacrifice?

If Hitchens is truly serious about experiencing life on the business end of empire, we should arrange to break into his home in the middle of the night, force his family on the floor at gunpoint, yell at him in a language he does not speak, kick him a few times in the balls, hood him, and drag him off to a black site where the waterboarding isn't choreographed ahead of time (and no safety words -- he can save that for his dominatrix), with plenty of beatings, sleep deprivation, and sensory derangement mixed in (a long Waco-style audio tape would be a nice touch, complete with the screams of slaughtered rabbits). I'd say a good two to three weeks of this should suffice, and who knows, Hitchens might enjoy it. The DVD special edition box set of his ordeal (yours free with a year's subscription to Vanity Fair) would give his career added freakshow boost. And really, isn't that what it's all about?

If you want to read some non-psychotic takes on our existence, do check out the invaluable Chris Floyd, whose work of late has been outstanding. Chris does the heavy lifting that's necessary, and having done my share in the past, I know what a depressing grind that can be. So show him some love.

Also, if you haven't yet, read this heartbreaking post by my pal Barry Crimmins. It's a courageous piece, and Barry's humane conclusions will give you what hope remains for our squalid species. As I've long insisted, comedians are the most serious commentators -- the better ones, anyway.

"Savage Mules" is still selling strong. I honestly don't know what to say, except thank you (and to Jon and Barry for helping). We're only a week in. Let's keep the mule train rolling through the election cycle.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Our Special Specialness

A chief requirement of the executive imperial manager gig, what we playfully call "the presidency," is to grovel before Old Glory while invoking God, Greatness, and Destiny. Most Americans demand this from their father-leaders (mother-leaders as well), so the ritual is routinely catered to, further fetishized by the corporate media. It's a strange, sad, sick display, borne of insecurity and fear, cynically exploited, thoroughly American. I suspect that we'll never be rid of it, even when the machines take power, cybernetic claws thrust upward, saluting holographic flags. Some traditions never die.

With Independence Day approaching (another zombie tradition, increasingly meaningless in a commodified world, though I do love setting off fireworks), tribalism is the main topic, with both Obama and McCain going through the motions to pacify the rubes. McCain's Biergärten enthusiasms are well known:

But Obama's not far behind, playing to the same emotions with a smoother, subtler song. His recent speech honoring the Vaterland featured not only the predictable soft-focus images, but also the requisite "stabbed-in-the-back" refrain concerning the Vietnam era:

"[S]ome of those in the so-called counter-culture of the Sixties reacted not merely by criticizing particular government policies, but by attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases, the very idea, of America itself - by burning flags; by blaming America for all that was wrong with the world; and perhaps most tragically, by failing to honor those veterans coming home from Vietnam, something that remains a national shame to this day."

Tomorrow may belong to Obama, but here he's simply spouting crap. "Dragnet" hippies are always fun to blast, those legions of dirty, pot-smoking traitors who lined up at airports, poised to spit on any pour soul in uniform. Yet the reality is much different, as Obama probably knows. The antiwar movement of the 60s and early-70s embraced returning veterans, many of whom became prominent speakers and activists in the cause. It was the US government that shit all over combat vets, from the VA on down; and there was hostility in the military itself, among active duty personnel and the old coots at the local VFW. I remember it well, as Vietnam was still very fresh in the minds of my NCOs and commanding officers. Hell, there were Vietnam vets in uniform who bad-mouthed their fellow combatants, primarily those who turned against the war. The Southeast Asian slaughterhouse did a serious number on the minds of many I served alongside. It was an early eye-opener for me, the first of many lessons.

I don't know what lessons Obama encountered, but clearly, pandering to American mythology had to be his major. Among Sen. Audacity's many howlers, this passage was especially rich:

"That is why, for me, patriotism is always more than just loyalty to a place on a map or a certain kind of people. Instead, it is also loyalty to America's ideals - ideals for which anyone can sacrifice, or defend, or give their last full measure of devotion. I believe it is this loyalty that allows a country teeming with different races and ethnicities, religions and customs, to come together as one. It is the application of these ideals that separate us from Zimbabwe, where the opposition party and their supporters have been silently hunted, tortured or killed; or Burma, where tens of thousands continue to struggle for basic food and shelter in the wake of a monstrous storm because a military junta fears opening up the country to outsiders; or Iraq, where despite the heroic efforts of our military, and the courage of many ordinary Iraqis, even limited cooperation between various factions remains far too elusive."

Yes, yes -- it's always worse someplace else. That's an American specialty: pointing in other directions. As bad as it must be in Zimbabwe and Burma, it is nothing compared to US history, from ethnic cleansing to slavery to class war to political repression, assassinations, and corruption. And that's just domestically. Let's not even go into our glorious foreign policy achievements, the most recent of which Obama soft-pedaled, seemingly unsure why life is bad for countless Iraqis. But then, you can't tell the truth and get elected in America, a fact that most people acknowledge yet do little or nothing to combat. That should tell us something about ourselves, but if we can find a horror scene in Africa, we won't have to think about it for very long. As Obama riffed:

"I believe those who attack America's flaws without acknowledging the singular greatness of our ideals, and their proven capacity to inspire a better world, do not truly understand America."

To quote IOZ who loves to quote John Goodman from "The Big Lebowski": Fuck it, Dude. Let's go bowling.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Follow The Bouncing Mule

"Savage Mules" continues to jump up and down Amazon's best-selling political party book rankings, which is remarkable given that other than here and at a few friends' personal sites, there has been zero publicity for the thing. I'm up against bigger names and richer publishers, so my time in their company may be running short -- at least at Amazon. But this is only the beginning. The real meat has yet to sizzle. If you haven't bought "Mules," you know where to go. And if you have, my deepest thanks and genuine appreciation. It's enough to make a gal all weepy.


With each presidential run, Ralph Nader further marginalizes his message, much of which remains accurate and on point. The problem with saying what he does as a declared candidate is that the candidacy itself becomes the media hook; and since Nader has no real chance to alter November's outcome (based on what I've seen so far, anyway), his perennial running is portrayed as a sad joke. To countless liberals, it's not only a joke, but an affront to their sacred belief that all left-of-center votes are pre-owned by the Democrats. So Nader gets it from all sides, while his critiques are either ignored or haughtily dismissed.

Too bad, and probably just as well, especially in this, Our Year of Obama. Despite his perfectly rational, predictable support for the US war state, which alarmed those liberals high on Hope Hype, Obama knows that he'll receive obedient lib support down the stretch, no matter what dreadful positions he'll inevitably take to prove he's imperial manager material. Criticizing Obama from an anti-imperial/anti-corporate position will be a lonely, despised pursuit, however necessary it is. Or maybe not. The strong, early sales of my little tome suggest that there are many people who desire an alternate description of our sorry condition, so you never know. Let's see how it'll play in September and October.

Do I think Nader shouldn't run, yet again? It doesn't bother me. The more the merrier -- or messier, if the political weather's right. Cynthia McKinney, Bob Barr, whoever the SWP throws up, whatever Bircher-approved minuteman looks sleek with musket and Gadsden flag: let 'em all loose on the electorate. It won't matter much. The corporate stranglehold on American politics is so complete, the propaganda system so rigged, that the very idea of an "independent" candidacy is fit for a bad, comic musical, with fright wigs, peeling scenery, and atonal warbling from the chorus. Amusing to watch, but no threat to the Big Show on millions of screens.

One Nader critique that elicited liberal sneers was his statement that online activism, "as a mechanism of actually getting people to do something … it's still significantly a snare and an illusion.” What an outrageous claim! Has Nader not heard of the netroots nation, perhaps the most vital American political movement since the Underground Railroad? Further evidence that the man responsible for Bush's crimes has lost what's left of his monomaniacal mind.

As with many other issues, Nader is absolutely right about online illusion. Libloggers have created and polished an "activist" simulacrum of such hypnotic power that they truly seem to believe they are an emerging political force to be reckoned with. What makes this even more absurd is their relentless mocking of Nader, behaving as though they are the "realists," while Nader's stumbling along in a Luddite fog. Reading the liblogs is like watching a character on TV watching TV -- the difference being that the TV actor knows that he or she is playing make-believe. Most libloggers have yet to reach such awareness.

Nader's not alone in seeing the limits of online politics. Sally Kohn, a community organizer, wrote for the Christian Science Monitor a genial but precise take-down of the prevalent Web delusion. As Kohn sees it:

"[S]ocial movements are based on collective action. The American Revolution, the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and every significant social change movement in between and since has relied on community organizing, building mutually responsible communities to challenge the status quo.

"On their own, for example, none of the activists in the civil rights movement had sufficient power and influence to end segregation. Coming together in local committees, led mainly by young people, they used the tools of face-to-face community organizing, developing shared strategies to address shared problems. And they took shared action; in sit-ins and Freedom Rides, they formed groups that were more than the sum of individual parts.

"By contrast, Internet activism is individualistic. It's great for a sense of interconnectedness, but the Internet does not bind individuals in shared struggle the same as the face-to-face activism of the 1960s and '70s did. It allows us to channel our individual power for good, but it stops there.

"This is great for signing a petition to Congress or donating to a cause. But the real challenges in our society –- the growing gap between rich and poor, the intransigence of racism and discrimination, the abuses from Iraq to Burma (Myanmar) -- won't politely go away with a few clicks of a mouse. Or even a million."

Kohn is correct, but her critique will fall on ideologically-blind eyes. The notion that online liberals get off their asses and personally, collectively, engage, much less remake, the nasty outside world is a fanciful one, a relic of a dead time. Mouse clicks are the New Direct Actions, as any "realist" will tell you, PDF attachment included.