Thursday, February 26, 2009

Faded Words

Talking with a friend late last night, the topic turned to talk itself. We're roughly the same age, and share many of the same cultural references, which in these frantic days is tonic enough.

I'd been watching John Huston and Orson Welles on Dick Cavett's old ABC show, melting into the smooth, stimulating conversation. It seems that people my age tend to turn to Cavett when desiring intelligent chat, however pedantic or pretentious it sometimes was, and here I was doing just that. I lamented the lack of similar talk today, at least the kind projected on screens. My friend acknowledged this, but insisted that smart stuff still exists, you just have to dig for it. Plus, back in Cavett's day, there weren't as many distractions as now, so people didn't get edgy during a 20 minute exchange, checking their text messages every 20 seconds. That factors in.

Communication technology has freed and connected us in unprecedented ways, something I don't think younger people truly understand and appreciate. Which is fine. The next phase and the phase after that shouldn't arrive with obvious fanfare. But this technology has also shattered our perceptions, and I don't think we've quite caught up to it. Perhaps we never will, as "improved" forms constantly hit us, forcing us to continually readjust. Then again, I may be in that part of life where older forms please and inspire, and help me make sense of the surrounding change. And I'm not talking about you-know-who's "change." That's the same old shit repackaged for mass consumption.

Another thing about Cavett: my late Uncle Don was a big fan, preferring Cavett to Johnny Carson and his "beady eyes." Don was also the one person in my family who had actual bookshelves bearing actual books. He noticed some raw intelligence inside my pimply head, encouraged me to read, think, develop ideas. When I lived with Don and his long-time partner Gene, he gave me my own typewriter, on which I wrote horrible, tortured comic essays and bits. But at least I was doing it, failing over and over again, having the time to fail and learning from it.

Anyway, here are a few clips of Welles and Cavett chatting. If there are two contemporary types who talk like this, please alert me. I'd love to see what the kids are into.

The Dying Music Man

Couldn't have put it better. Steve Bell in the London Guardian (thanks Eric).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Circling The Drain

Back in the bad Bush days, when liberals were embarrassed that our empire wasn't admired, I wrote many harsh posts about the Repubs, calling them mass murderers, torturers, liars, thugs who should be tried and hopefully jailed for their numerous crimes. I also attacked rightist blogs and journals, rousing ire from their crazed readerships, my inbox filling with bile from Freepers, Protein Wisdomites, and Little Green Footballers. I engaged those who seemed somewhat emotionally stable, usually for naught, but occasionally talking one or two down from their sniper towers, agreeing to disagree, and all that jazz.

Now that Obama is Lord, and man may not have any false gods before him, it's the liberals' turn to go nuts. And nuts a fair number have gone, if my growing hate mail is any indication. I'm not complaining: I fully expect to receive these types of screeds, given what I write about imperial libs. Comes with the entre. Still, I find it funny that during the campaign, most liberals wanted nothing to do with me or my book, "Savage Mules." They didn't even want to entertain an alternative take on Obama, much less answer one. (Glenn Greenwald and Christian Avard at Huffington Post's Off The Bus were two exceptions.) Now that we're locked into a Dem era, more and more liberals are sniffing around my site, and they don't like the aroma. And like their reactionary cousins who defended Lord George W. Bush, Obamabots are letting me have it, projecting all kinds of twisted reasoning at my humble frame.

Yesterday's post really stirred the lib pot. Several proggies informed me that those rednecks in Alexandra Pelosi's film deserve oblivion and scorn, that they're not "real" Americans. Sound familiar? One guy even took issue with the photo adorning my post:

"And what to day [sic] about the photo of the two unidentified people with t-shirts that say 'Sarah Palin is a cunt.'

"Ha Ha, you're so funny, aren't you Mr. Mike. I GET IT. The guy on the left looks like a faggot 'lib.' And it's proven by the fact that the girl on the right has a bottle of water. Hmm, I [sic] this is Ohio. I mean, if you don't have a brewski in your hand, you might as well be wearing a dress, right?"

Clearly some superior thinking. Those McCain/Palin rubes are no match for such insight.

And to think, there are four, possibly eight more years of these elevated views. Meanwhile, the economy continues to tank, imperial war is spreading, rendition and torture continue under different names and softer lights, but for many liberals the pressing issues are tribal identity and political obedience. Well, you get what you pay for.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Diversion You Can Believe In

What's more fun than mocking rubes? It's a time-honored liberal sport, a fine way to make one feel superior while groveling before the same nationalist superstitions. And I suppose that's what irked me most about Alexandra Pelosi's short film, "Right America: Feeling Wronged" -- the idea that We The Evolved hold saner ideas about American politics.

Yes, many of the people who spoke to Pelosi appear to live in the Bizarro World. And no, I wouldn't want to spend much time in their presence. I witnessed enough of this growing up in Indiana, so I'm well acquainted with the mindset. There are millions of Americans who have no idea what the fuck's going on. So what? Is that terribly surprising? A recent Gallup poll suggested that only 40 percent of Americans believe in evolution. Some people I know find that frightening. I'm amazed that nearly half the country buys into science at all. Let's take what we can get.

Films like Pelosi's serve as fat, soft punching bags for liberals. But one could easily turn the camera on them and expose all manner of political mythology and faith-based opinions. Obama's PR assault during the election inspired religious-like devotion to the Dem ticket, and to Obama especially. CHANGE and HOPE became the liberal mantras, and attempts to cut through this bullshit oftentimes elicited angry, hurt responses. I personally encountered several Obama supporters who literally covered their ears so as not to hear my "cynical" position. Most eagerly grabbed the sucker bait and have yet to let go, though a few here and there are showing some belated remorse, which is why Pelosi's film is a handy diversion.

"Obama may have lied about rendition, but hey, look at that stupid redneck! At least I don't sound like him!"

Actually, liberal rubes usually sound worse. Numerous right wingers may be out of their minds, but many of those interviewed by Pelosi acknowledge their limitations, saying they don't care what the facts are or what others think. I appreciate their honesty. Numerous liberals maintain that they know the truth, are on the side of reason, and if you don't share their political views, there's something deeply wrong with you. I suspect this attitude will worsen as the Obama age rolls on, unless the failing economy knocks liberals down to redneck status.

Who does Alexandra Pelosi represent in the first place? She's part of an elite political consensus where average people's concerns not only don't matter, they're at best background noise used for polling purposes, or in Pelosi's case, entertainment value. Here Pelosi's all chummy with Sean Hannity while promoting her film. As the old joke goes, politics is showbiz for ugly people. After watching this clip, that's putting it nicely.

Friday, February 20, 2009

SNL Survivor

The contrast couldn't have been clearer. Attending Michael O'Donoghue's wake in his crowded New York apartment, pressed up against the likes of Lorne Michaels, Chevy Chase, Buck Henry, Al Franken, Margot Kidder, and James Taylor, I could see that these former cutting edge figures had settled into quieter, comfortable lives, sipping bottled water, straight as arrows.

Then I smelled some incredibly pungent weed. It seemed at once out of place and perfectly appropriate. I turned and spotted Tom Davis, Franken's former comedy partner and sometime collaborator with O'Donoghue, toking on a large joint. A few people looked at Davis with pinched, agitated expressions. But he didn't care. He kept hitting that number, spreading the thick, sweet scent over those who long ago gave up such chemicals. Davis offered a direct reminder of what the original SNL offices smelled like, something that the late Mr. Mike, a weed fancier himself, would've appreciated.

When I became O'Donoghue's biographer, I got to know Tom Davis a bit, and learned that his pot smoking was not a stunt. He still enjoyed the bud, and made no apologies for his preference. Problem was, he was practically alone among his old comedy peers, and this had a negative effect on his writing career. Once a powerful voice within SNL, Davis was soon marginalized and banished, unable or unwilling to embrace clean corporate living. His humor remained sharp as his former colleagues softened their approaches, another professional strike against him.

Looking back, Tom Davis doesn't appear to have many lasting regrets.

His new memoir, "Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss," details his triumphs and defeats, offering one of the more candid looks inside the original SNL. Davis lays it out so honestly that he had Grove Press delay the book's release until Minnesota's Senate race ended, not wanting to give Norm Coleman any ammo against his ex-partner Al Franken. This generosity of spirit permeates Davis' memoir, though he's not lax in the graphic remembrance department. Some of his anecdotes, primarily those dealing with his heroin and cocaine use, are hard to read, simply because you wonder how he survived some of these scenes. Yet he did, and is here to tell us how it all went down.

Davis' timeline jumps all over the place, from his upbringing in Minneapolis, to he and Franken struggling as club comics in early-70s Los Angeles, to his intense friendships with Timothy Leary and Jerry Garcia, his many relationships with incredibly beautiful women, and naturally, his various runs on SNL, beginning in 1975. His depictions of Lorne Michaels, "The Boss" as Davis calls him, are the most forthright since O'Donoghue, who rarely if ever kissed Lorne's ring, a requirement for many seeking comedy fame. Not that Davis trashes Lorne; he repeatedly thanks SNL's godfather for the opportunities Davis enjoyed. Still, Lorne comes across as a Machiavellian figure, pitting egos against each other, showering certain people with praise while freezing others out. As Lorne became wealthier and more powerful, these traits solidified, turning SNL into a mirror of his personality. The show's rough edges were sanded down to the bland, celeb-worship model we see today. None of this reflects Davis' comedy, which is why over time, he too was slowly erased from SNL.

The writing on the wall became evident in this scene:

"I returned to the show as a writer in January of '88, and was given my own office as far away from Lorne's as possible. Things had changed and I hadn't . . . Dana Carvey (I thought it was Danic Harvey) was immensely popular with the Church Lady character. As I took a seat in the writers' meeting with Jim Downey, now head writer, he asked me what I thought of the show.

"I: 'It's great -- but what is it with this Ruth Buzzi Church Lady shit?'

"Jim: 'Gotta love ya' for that, Davis.'

"He laughed. Then I took a joint out of the breast pocket of my flannel shirt and lit it up. There was a collective gasp from all the young writers.

"Jim: 'Uh Tom -- there's no more smoking in the office.'

"I put it out."

The beginning of the end.

Davis produced some first-rate sketches, proving he'd maintained his satiric chops. But his chemical appetites became a distraction, and helped fuel his nasty break-up with Al Franken, who had quit drugs and tried to get his partner to do the same. Davis wasn't interested. Ironically enough, Davis later tried to talk Chris Farley out of drug taking, an emotional appeal that clearly didn't register. When Davis explained to Farley how his abuse was similar to John Belushi's, and that Farley was barreling toward oblivion, Farely smiled, which caused Davis to cry.

Despite the human wreckage that Davis recounts, it was drugs that inspired SNL's most identifiable characters: The Coneheads. Davis and Dan Aykroyd traveled to Easter Island where they ate acid and soaked in the giant stone heads staring off into eternity. "The Heads! The Heads!" Aykroyd kept saying, and soon he and Davis turned these visions into what remains one of SNL's strangest creations. The physical impact of the giant skulls combined with Aykroyd and Davis' conceptual, mechanical dialogue instantly set The Coneheads apart. Though Davis contributed to other classic SNL moments -- Aykroyd's Julia Child bleeding to death perhaps the most memorable -- and performed a number of great Franken and Davis bits, The Coneheads are perhaps his true comic legacy.

Drugs are only part of the story. Tom Davis has written a book any fan of American comedy will enjoy. His mind remains keen, his comic insights penetrating, his natural humor and humane persona evident throughout. Tom is one of the good ones. How I wish I hit that joint at O'Donoghue's wake.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Saṅkhāra On Aisle Five

Swamped for much of today, but wanted to share a director's reel made by my friend Tom Kramer. It's a selection of Tom's work from "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Not Necessarily The News," "The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show," and of course "Fridays," including the wonderful "Cons On Ice" and a film featuring Michael Richards as an active father. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mass Graves For Change

Blood test time approaches for American liberals. Obama's decision to accelerate the war in Afghanistan should force his fans to reexamine their allegiance, yet something tells me that ain't gonna happen anytime soon. Not being registered Democrats, Afghan civilians can't compete with liberal concerns, like how Republicans aren't true patriots, always seeking to blackmail or intimidate Dems into acting against their moral beliefs. Or how Sarah Palin's still crazy. Or how the corporate media hates Democrats. You know, the pressing issues.

A recent UN survey reports that violence in Afghanistan is surging, the civilian death rate up some 40 percent from last year. The Taliban is blamed for 60 percent of the carnage, but the US hasn't been slacking either, killing more than its share of civilians through airstrikes and raids on villages. Obama plans to add to the body count with no end in sight. What is the final purpose here? Kill kill kill until the Taliban and other armed groups surrender? Or is Obama simply planning to exterminate them, regardless of the civilian toll? Negotiation appears out of the question, if Hillary Clinton's uneasy reaction to Pakistan's ceasefire deal with militants in Swat is any indication.

So, where does this all lead?

As a former, enthusiastic supporter of this war, all I can see is perpetual death for years on end. Obama's not going to turn Afghanistan into Sweden; he'd be lucky to turn it into post-Katrina New Orleans. Given how many liberals bashed Bush for shifting the focus away from the Good War in Afghanistan in favor of his Iraq adventure (which continues and will continue under Obama), I'm not sure if partisan Dems will ever seriously question President Change's Central Asian crusade. Their main concern is the holy American middle class, at least those segments that reflect their political biases and educational levels. The American poor are pretty much out of the picture. The forgotten and marginalized have no real voice amid the ceaseless white noise. And that's inside the greatest country ever created forever. What do the Afghan poor offer American liberals, other than target practice?

Monday, February 16, 2009

His Truth Keeps Plodding On

When I came upon Lincoln, he was rubbing his long, weathered feet, trying to warm them up.

"Ah, hello!" said our nation's most spiritual and moral president. "Please, take a seat. I have been awaiting you."

The room's air was heavy, but breathable. My oxygen belt remained mostly full, so I had that as back up if necessary.

"You might think that in 200 years time, man would be better able to keep his feet from cold."

Lincoln looked up and smiled. His face was hideous. I was prepped for that, but seeing it up close still startled me.

"Mr. President -- I have so many questions."

"I know. They all do. I can answer but a few. Then I must return."

He nodded toward the swirling plasma wall next to the iron stove.

"Pray, proceed young man."

I shuffled in the wooden chair, trying not to stare at Lincoln's shifting features.

"How do you view America these days? Is it what you expected?"

The Great Emancipator laughed. A bit of gray bile oozed from his mouth.

"It is what it is. I merely kept the rebel states within the Union. And what did I receive in return? A bullet in the brain."

He turned to show me the wound.

"It hasn't healed in all this time," I said.

"Indeed not. It remains one of history's most infamous wounds. It has inspired the cheapest music and dreadful poetry. You might think it would get me the fifty dollar bill. But no, they gave that to Grant. Without me, Grant's a drunken failure who ends up in the saddle business."

His laughter became deep coughing. Gurgling sounds vibrated his chest.

"What is my reward?" he asked, clearing his rotting throat. "I am given the five dollar bill and the penny. The penny!"

"Well, you are considered our greatest president."

"I care not. All that has been thrown upon me is false. Sometimes I wonder if the Union was worth it."

"You must be inspired by Obama's election."

Lincoln rolled his yellow eyes. "Oh yes. That is supposedly my doing. Frankly, I am indifferent to whom you elect."

"But, because of you, African descendants can hold the highest office."

"They may have it. It is more curse than blessing, let me assure you. Besides, I did not wage that war to elect colored men."

"That's not what a lot of people believe."

"People believe many foolish things. The slave issue served my war effort well. But I would have waged war had there been no slaves. A great nation cannot allow its southern half to simply walk away. Besides, I did enjoy blasting so many shit kickers into the next life. A very disagreeable breed."

The air was thinning. My head became light. I placed the small mask to my face and sucked in clean oxygen.

"I see that our time is ending," said Lincoln, standing up. "I had a meal prepared, but it appears that once again, I will dine alone."

Lincoln turned to a large table. He lifted the lid from a darkened pot, steam rising from inside.

"Ah, the sweet nectar of quality meat. I never tire of this dish."

Lincoln stabbed with a fork what appeared to be a thigh, placing it on an antique White House plate.

"Pork?" I asked.

"Close," replied Lincoln. "Negro."


"You of the modern world enjoy many amenities that we in the 19th century could not have conceived," he said, digging into the thigh with a large knife. "But you have never tasted meat like this."

Lincoln took a bite, closed his eyes and hummed. "Field hands contain more succulence than house servants. But emancipated Negroes? Too bitter. Stringy. Freedom ruined their flavor."

"I gotta admit, Mr. President. I'm appalled."

"You find this appalling?" he replied, waving a forkful of darkened flesh at me. "For your next visit, I will invite the Kennedy brothers, John and Robert. You should see what they eat."

Friday, February 13, 2009

Nail Shut The Fire Exits

Joaquin Phoenix delivered a very funny non-performance on Letterman. I'm sure you've seen it by now. Some think the guy's snapped, that his spaced-out routine was real. Perhaps. If so, Phoenix certainly has the contacts and resources to get help. But I think the whole thing was planned. It just had that feel. A few people compared Phoenix's segment to Crispin Glover's infamous freak-out on Letterman's NBC show, but Glover's assault was too over the top. He didn't allow Letterman room to counterpunch, thus ending the bit before anyone knew what the fuck Glover was doing. Phoenix took the opposite route, a hippie Andy Warhol anti-interview, sucking Letterman into his silent space. If only more American TV was like this.

Not everyone liked what they saw. My friend James Wolcott got pretty pissed about it, which I don't fully understand, but that's subjectivity for you. Not content to box Phoenix's ears, James also took a poke at Andy Kaufman, whose ghost hovers over any perceived showbiz hoax:

"Isn't it past time for the Andy Kaufman cult to be given a rest? The farther out he went, the unfunnier he got."

Given our national amnesia, I'm surprised that Kaufman is remembered at all. He died in 1984, and other than that awful Milos Forman biopic, there hasn't been much in the way of a Kaufman "cult" that I can see. And I say that as a longtime Kaufman cultist. Even back in the day, Kaufman was often dismissed as nuts, self-indulgent, passé, and yes, unfunny. But that's what I loved about him -- he didn't settle for laughs. Kaufman went into areas where laughter made no sense. He pushed against every showbiz boundary he could, which horrified a lot of people I knew, but pleased me no end. And however unfunny he was, Kaufman still made me laugh. Then again, we've been over my mental condition.

Here are two photos taken during that period of my life. The first is another shot of Kamakaze Radio, from 1981.

This is my favorite photo of the group, faded by time. The only piece missing is Mike Owens, who co-founded KR, but by this point left the group after he, Jim Buck and I had a massive argument about our creative direction. Jim and I completely re-cast KR, using local theater professionals instead of comics, as we sought to limit the wackiness element as much as we could. While Mike's tantrums were not missed, his strange comic energy was.

Mike had a Kaufman-esque air about him, always willing to try the craziest shit. That's how we connected in the first place. Mike and I performed stand up in various spots around Indianapolis, the two of us occupying the weirder end of the local spectrum. (Jim often emceed these gigs, reading fake news bulletins between acts.) Mike told odd stories about ducks being crammed in the back of Saabs, then became a mutant Jackie Mason before commenting on US aid to El Salvador. I did impressions of people melting from nuclear fallout, or simply read from TV Guide, telling the audience what they were missing at home. Most of the other comics didn't like us, the audience less so. We didn't care. We knew we were doing something different, and soon channeled this energy into KR, which oddly enough was a success.

(I have a number of videos from that time, and would love to upload some of them to YouTube, but don't know how. Any advice is welcome.)

When Jim and I disbanded KR and moved to NYC, we took -- sometimes as a team, sometimes separately -- the same approach, which worked well enough for a time. It was thrilling to hear New Yorkers laugh at bits conceived and polished amid the corn fields. Here I am on the Lower East Side in early-'83, clad in my Army overcoat.

This was when Jim (who snapped the pic) and I were knocking around the club scene. As you can see, I was happy to be there. I felt free. I appeared at a few downtown spaces, most exciting for me, Club 57 on St. Mark's Place. I'd read about Club 57 in Esquire while still in Indiana, and was determined to perform there. The place was managed by a pixyish woman named Mona, whose day job was at Salomon Brothers, where I worked in the copier room. Mona's two idols were Thomas Jefferson and Yoko Ono, pictures of whom hung over her desk. She gave me a slot at Club 57, but when I walked in, I was intimidated by the heavy avant-garde posing by the patrons, which scared me out of trying more experimental humor. Instead, I showed what a mortician's fashion show might look like, then commercials for Irish Spring and Lucky Charms as conceived by the IRA. I died. All those bored faces just stared at me. My shit was too mainstream for the room. I was followed by a heavy-set woman who banged on a battered guitar and yelled, "Don't call me if you're not gonna fuck me, faggot!" That the audience loved.

Ah well. See what Andy Kaufman dredges up? Let's return to the source. Here's a bit from that same period, commemorating Catch A Rising Star's 10th anniversary. It's pretty self-explanatory, with Kaufman's partner Bob Zmuda playing the heckler. This is for you, James.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

For The Kids

Recently, a high school student in Ohio emailed, asking if I could help her with a paper she's writing about sports culture. She enjoyed "American Fan" and wanted me expand on some of the arguments made in the book. Always willing to assist the next generation, I agreed to a brief interview, which you may read below. Don't know how this will go over in her class. Maybe her teacher is one of those raving radicals David Horowitz is forever foaming about. We are, after all, living in a time of renewed HOPE.

Do you believe that sports serve as a platform to eliminate stereotypes and promote equality or do you think it just leads to further discrimination?

DP: I think that sports, by and large, serve to make rich people richer. The games themselves contain many meanings, though a lot of that is projected on to the athletes. Sometimes, as with Jackie Robinson and Ernie Davis, there's social impact. Doug Williams was the first African-American QB to win the Super Bowl. Many people found that inspiring. But for the most part, sports promote greed, conformity, tribalism, and social distraction.

What is your opinion on sports figures as role models?

DP: Many years ago, Charles Barkley made a commercial where he said that he wasn't a role model. Parents should be role models, not athletes. While the ad was selling Nike, a lot of people focused on Barkley's statement, denouncing his "irresponsibility." The "role model" issue has only gotten worse since then. Part of me is glad that more and more athletes are shown to be liars, perjurers, steroid users, animal abusers, even felons. That helps to shatter the role model myth. These guys are paid to win games, fill stadiums, sell gear. A good number of them have lived different lives than the average person, and if they're talented enough, quite privileged lives. To expect them to show your kid how to properly behave is ridiculous. But then, Americans love fantasy, and in certain areas, they insist that the fantasy be real. Want a role model? How about someone who works with starving or diseased people.

Do sports have a positive or negative impact on the American economy?

DP: Depends on whose economy you're talking about. For the average fan, sports can have a negative impact, what with ticket prices, team merchandise, paying additional taxes so that the local team can build a new stadium. For the owners and corporate sponsors, sports is often quite lucrative. As for the national economy overall, I don't know how much impact sports actually make. There's a lot more going on economically at the moment than just sports. I think that foreign wars, to name one item, has more of an impact on the American economy.

Do you believe sports serve as a microcosm of society?

DP: In a way, yes. Certainly at a basic competitive level. There's an overemphasis on "winning at all costs," but that's an American feature. Hard to escape. For me, sports at best celebrate physical talent and dexterity. There's a beauty to watching LeBron James drive to the hole, or Santonio Holmes' winning catch in the Super Bowl. To see fellow humans have that kind of physical control and grace is inspiring. That's what moved me when I played sports as a kid. I think it inspires kids today. The problem is the surrounding corporate noise that drowns every sporting event. It warps an athlete's thinking, as well as the fans'.

Please comment on the following quote by John Gerdy:

“Like a drug addiction, being a sports fan offers little of long-term substance or meaning. It allows us to escape our problems and ignore the issues we face, and it undermines our attempts to solve them. We invest our effort and emotion in sports stars and teams rather than improving our own lives.”

DP: I think that's absolutely correct, and what I tried to uncover and parody in "American Fan."

Do professional sports have a positive or negative impact on American society?

DP: Again, depends on the person whom it affects. I think that overall, under current conditions, it's pretty negative, and getting worse. I say that as a lifetime sports fan. I still watch the games, at times really get into them. I know intellectually that it really doesn't matter, but there's something so immediate and electric about sports that it's hard for me to unplug. Then again, I've been watching and playing sports since the late-1960s. I'm pretty much corrupted.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Smooth Operator

Rahm Emanuel advises the president.

Obama seemed edgy last night, at least during those moments I bothered to watch. My son's reading "Watchmen," in anticipation of the film's March release, and he and I were discussing parts of the book's dense plot that cannot be adequately translated to the screen. (Thus author Alan Moore's opposition to Zack Snyder's film, which apparently is pushing three hours, so a lot may still get in.) Anyway, Obama did what imperial managers are supposed to do: lend the impression that he's in control; that while times are tough, we the American children can sleep soundly knowing that our Father Leader is there.

As ice begins to melt and becomes early morning fog, online liberals are naturally gushing about their new, exciting prez. "Can I just say how refreshing it is to have a president who not only speaks the English language and doesn't filibuster with repetitive nonsense, but one who actually understands what he's talking about?" fawned Digby. "Whatever one thinks of anything else, this, at least, is a tremendous relief."

Comments across the libsphere echoed the same sentiments. Obama may be in the pocket of private interests, has already killed civilians in the Near East with plans for more bloodshed, is playing three-card Monte with torture and rendition, but holy jeebus, he sure do talk good! Some liberals are so easily pacified. Small wonder why Obama's inner-circle doesn't give a fuck what they think. When their leash is yanked, most libs will meekly follow, whatever their disappointment in or confusion about their masters.

Obama's repeated references to Elkhart, Indiana caught my ear. I lived close to Elkhart for a couple of years, worked on a garbage truck in nearby Goshen, and now both towns are suffering the highest unemployment rate in the country. That blows. What's worse is being out of work while living in the Elkhart/Goshen area. Not the most exciting part of the world. I found it a very depressing place, and I was making decent money for my age. The only visual respite is the Amish land, pastoral, quiet, simple but beautiful farm houses and barns. Man, the Amish really know how to build a barn. They also know how to care for one another, something we modern folk might wish to emulate, especially now.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Burden We Bear

The headline alone exudes the typical arrogance: "America's Scorecard In Iraq." The story, written by Steven Lee Meyers, builds upon this rotten premise, showing once again, as if anyone awake needs reminding, our utter contempt for those we choose to "liberate":

"The overthrow of Saddam Hussein, whatever the underlying motivation, certainly removed a potential threat to American interests, but a bird’s-eye view as the sixth anniversary of the war approaches shows that the Middle East remains as troubling and turbulent as ever."

Whatever the underlying motivation. Massive lies. Ceaseless propaganda. Widespread destruction. Countless deaths. Ho hum. What-ever. All that matters is our sacred interests. And empathetic people that they are, I'm sure the Iraqis are comforted to know that "a potential threat" to us has been removed, though we still face a few troublemakers who have yet to appreciate our sacrifice. Why won't they simply dye their fingers purple and move on? Haven't we suffered enough?

Of course, The New York Times is hardly the lone sociopathic voice on this front. But it does help set the overall tone. Naturally, were we on the business end of a foreign invasion and occupation, millions dead, towns destroyed, elections administered under barbed wire and snipers, Americans not only would be grateful, but would understand the existential struggle of our liberators, as their elites and press outlets wrestled with how the invasion affected them. More, we would swoon in awe of their sexy, newly-elected leader who told us to "step up" and take responsibility for our condition, so that his military could focus on "liberating" another lucky country.

We know this to be true. Why can't everyone else see it?

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Butterfly's Dream

This is what comedy writers should look like, or so my aging ass believes. Trapped in amber, I cannot get with writers who are clean-scrubbed and socially acceptable. Tina Fey? Seth Meyers? Simon Rich? Drones. Even the writers for "The Daily Show," smart and funny as they are, look like bankers in recreational wear -- polo shirts, chinos, clean-shaven faces. Wouldn't be out of place at a suburban barbeque.

What the fuck happened?

To me, comedy writers should be anarchists, not liberals. Hell, I'll take a reactionary jokesmith over some soppy lib still wearing an Obama button. At least that person has an edge, however lunatic it might be. Part of my stupid problem is that I grew up when comedy offended people, pushing past boundaries of taste. Whenever I got a glimpse of the minds behind the bits, they almost always looked rumpled, ragged, crazy, fucked up. That inspired me. There was place where freaks like us fit in.

But when comedy exploded all over the 1980s, that was it. I started meeting comics who dressed straight, their humor in line with their attire. Hanging out in writers' offices at MTV and Comedy Central was fun but hardly electric. The guys there may as well have been working for an insurance company. When Tom Schiller had me up at the SNL offices, it was so quiet and corporate. "You should've seen this floor back in '77 or '78," Tom told me, surveying the scene. "Crazy. Loud. But this . . ." He'd simply sigh. O'Donoghue was the same way. "Comedy writers should frighten you." He blamed Lorne Michaels for purging the show of misanthropes and outcasts. "The Harvard laugh factory fucked it all up."

If you haven't guessed by now, the above photo is the "Fridays" writing staff, 1981, courtesy of Tom Kramer, who's in the Cincinnati Reds jacket on the lower right. Above him, moving counterclockwise, is Rod Ash, Larry David, Steve Adams (one of the head writers), Matt Neuman (who came to "Fridays" from SNL), Larry Charles, Steve Barker, Mark Curtis (who died of cancer in 2004), Bruce Kirschbaum, Bruce Mahler, Joe Shulkin (the other head writer), and Elaine Pope.

Only one woman on staff, and no writer of color. Such were the times. But then, looking at most comedy writing staffs today, the same imbalance exists, only there's less excuse for it. Of all the features carried over from those earlier years, it had to be that one. Makes you want to blaze a blunt, blast some classic Cramps (Lux Interior, RIP), and kill your television, if it wasn't dead already.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Slaughter With A Smile

If Savage Mules is a Germs single recorded in Darby Crash's garage, The Liberal Defense of Murder is The Clash's Sandinista!, bursting with sustained energy and purpose. Richard Seymour, who oversees Lenin's Tomb, has delivered the best indictment of liberal warmongering to date, and just in time, too, as it appears we're about to enter another period of humanitarian barbarism led by a Democratic president.

But his book goes much deeper than simply exposing and smashing today's imperial cheerleaders. Richard plumbs the historical record of liberal violence, going back to the likes of John Stuart Mill and Alexis de Tocqueville, reviewing their elitist disdain for "savages" and the underdeveloped, who had to be colonized and treated as children by superior minds and arms. From there we get an expansive view of this mindset and the mass murder that nourished it. Imperial rhetoric became polished and refined, the role of court intellectuals rising in importance and utility. As Richard amply reminds us, there is no shortage of willing mouthpieces for the imperial state; it essentially comes down to effectiveness, who can best explain and justify the violence planned for those selected for "liberation."

There are many personalities that you'll recognize: Paul Berman, Michael Ignatieff, Samantha Power, Kanan Makiya, Norman Geras, and of course our own Christopher Hitchens as The Raver. But Richard also dissects Bernard Henri-Lévy and André Glucksmann, the former a superstar among Western humanitarian bombardiers, the latter making his bones in the 1980s, when the long-haired Glucksmann became a French media sensation, warning of gulags that apparently were everywhere. It was during the 1980s when American and European reactionaries laid the groundwork for neoconservatives and liberal hawks alike, their arguments for imperial aggression interchangeable and complimentary, if tactically divergent at certain points.

The Liberal Defense of Murder is not a happy read, not if you value intellectual honesty and genuine commitment to human freedom. The packed rogues' gallery of insufferable egos can be overwhelming if you don't pace yourself. But Richard Seymour's book is a necessary read, especially now, as beautiful lies are back in fashion with decided force.

WATCH: Richard discuss his book with George Galloway who, for pure entertainment and guaranteed shock value, should be given a prime time show on MSNBC or CNN.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dirty Dancing

Part of the fun of being outside of the two parties is watching the willing slaves do the partisan watusi on behalf of their masters. Tom Daschle's tax evasion is the least of it, a warm-up for juicier scandals and criminality. Liberals sweat a bit over Daschle but remain docile at Obama's feet. As I've said, if you can embrace the vile Joe Biden, you can swallow pretty much anything. And liberals love to swallow Democratic swill, however pungent the bouquet.

Touring some of the popular lib sites this morning shows them in fine gulping form. The fact that Obama stood by Daschle regardless of his corrupt, private ties means nothing to them. "Well, the president must choose a better replacement!"

Jesus. I'm convinced that if Obama sodomized a puppy, then ripped out its throat with his teeth, numerous liberals would find a positive side to the carnage. "I'm disappointed, but what the president must do now is find a puppy he can hold without raping and killing it." The lack of significant outrage over Obama's early missile strikes shows that many liberals are comfortable with pretty much anything their godhead does. Besides, it's the media and the Republicans who force Obama to behave badly -- to the degree that he behaves badly, which isn't all that bad, but even if it is bad, that's not how the president wants to behave. Why can't Barry be allowed to simply be Barry?

Here's a thought: Maybe he already is.

SOUNDTRACK: If liberals are gonna dance to Obama's tune, why not use this catchy mix, set to Christian Bale's meltdown on the "Terminator Salvation" set? (Thanks to Naila for sending this.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Forgive And Cash In

Michael Phelps' full confession:

“I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again.

"I've come to see how immoral marijuana truly is. Next to flag burning, it is without doubt the biggest corrupter of American youth today. When you smoke marijuana, you're telling the world that you hate America. I'm a proud American. Therefore, I renounce this demonic drug, this gateway to crystal meth and selling your body for heroin on the bad side of town. I will never, never, ever smoke it again. I won't even look at pictures of marijuana. That's a gold medal guarantee.

"Marijuana is used to finance our terrorist enemies. It is well known that the 9/11 hijackers were all stoned when they committed their acts of evil. Smoking marijuana makes Osama bin-Laden smile. It tells Iran, 'Go ahead and build a nuclear bomb.' It tells Hamas, "Keep shooting your rockets of death. We don't care so long as we can get baked.'

"I'd like to apologize to President Obama, the First Lady, and their two lovely daughters. I'm also sorry to God, Jesus, whoever the Jews pray to, and those Muslims who are one hundred percent pro-American and know their place in this great land. This also goes for those weird religions where they shave their heads, pray to rocks, and never use their kung fu unless absolutely necessary. In addition, I've sent a personal note of contrition to the Church of Scientology, and I want to thank them for the cool t-shirt.

"I hope to put this tragic, criminal lapse of judgment behind me. I look forward to a clean and sober relationship with Omega watchmakers, Speedo, Human Performance Labs, and the Hilton Hotels Corporation. And I promise never to have sex with Paris Hilton when there are cameras or cell phones in the room. Thank you, and God Bless America."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Happy Blogger


Nothing like starting the week with your heart racing out of control, pulse rate crazy, chest tight, head light, air short. I get these attacks now and then, for this is an anxious soul. Much of my life has been varied stages of chaos, despair, fear, some violence, both physical and economic. Thing is, these days are pretty good for me -- well, better than they've been. I should be able to relax and enjoy the love, positivity, and appreciation that swims over me from numerous sources. But for some reason, I can't. Too much happiness and stability make me edgy, wary, suspicious. When I was struggling for my life, I didn't worry about anxiety or dread. That's what was feeding me. Now when this shit surfaces, I'm unprepared, out of emotional shape, and this reduces me to a jittering wreck waiting for death.

Yeah, I'm kinda fucked up. But that's what you love about me, yes?

Part of this comes from the weirdo memoir I'm working on. I know -- everybody writes memoirs. But this personal volume is decidedly different, or so I hope. James Frey had to make shit up to seem interesting. I don't have that luxury. My stories are all too real, so fucking real that they still freak me out if I linger on them for too long. The other day, I told the teen about my month-long stay in the loony bin when I was 16. She'd heard some of it before, but she wanted more details. So I laid it out in full. The astonished look on her face lent me a clue about how that tale will be received. "Wow dude, that's fucked up!" she said. Yes. It was.

So there'll be no "churning out some of the best, most vicious prose on the Internet these days," as pal Tom Waston described my recent output. Maybe tomorrow. For now, I want a slice of Happiness Pie.

HAPPIER STILL: I'm not one to celebrate ads, but this Super Bowl spot is fucking hilarious, if a tragic reminder of the human veal crates so many lost souls must inhabit until they die or are fired. Laugh while you can.