Monday, August 31, 2009

All The Seats Are Naugahyde

Jenna Bush on the Today show is an amusing, fleeting concept. Given the florescent yawn of corporate newstainment, pushing another jabbering dope in front of the cameras means relatively little. That Jenna's pop is an unindicted war criminal lends her a slight, unique edge. Not many members of mass murdering families snag cozy TV gigs. And if Today doesn't work out, Jenna can always migrate over to QVC, where she can sell her personal jewelry line made from the irradiated bones of dead Iraqis. See how they shine! And yours for only three easy payments of $39.95!

I'm sure that Media Matters and kindred scolds will flap arms and gums about the desecration of journalistic trust, or whatever it is we're supposed to revere. In that sense, Today's hire is a smart one, as it gives everyone something to cluck and whine about until the next lull in the abyss.

To me, the Today show means having a late-teen crush on Jane Pauley, a fellow Indy native who I mooned over when she read the local news on WISH-TV. After her, Dave Garroway, Today's first host whose kinescopes I watched at the old Museum of Broadcasting in NYC. Garroway's easy, informed style would be lost on contemporary audiences. And his calls for peace, open palm raised to the camera, would incite professional reactionaries and their followers. Maybe that's why NBC paired Garroway with J. Fred Muggs --

Such communist notions could be blamed on the chimp.

"Mr. Muggs -- have you now or ever been a member of the Communist Party?"

(Muggs raises a clenched fist, then attacks Joe McCarthy, ripping open his face while screeching about Fifth Amendment rights.)

What was I saying?

Remember that Obama/Joker/Socialism poster that rattled liberal sensibilities? Turns out the original concept came from a lefty critic of President UnChange in Chicago. I had a feeling this was so. The poster seemed too clever to originate from the teabagger/Town Hall nut wing of our robust and much-envied democracy. The wags at Gawker tried putting it all into perspective, but pre-chewed snark flies only so far. If you entertain any lingering thoughts about intelligent political exchange, then avoid the comments section. Where are the communist chimps when you need them?

While in the East Village, I took my son to St. Mark's Books, one of my favorite hang-outs from earlier days. Looking along the Current Events shelf, I came across a familiar spine.

An older man approached right after we cut.

"You wrote that book?"


"You predicted how Obama would turn out?"

"It's all in there."

The man smiled and took the copy. I dunno if he bought it, spat on it, or threw it across the store. Most likely he put it back, allowing it to collect dust alongside heavier, more theoretical tomes.

What a modern girl must do to move product these days!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Edward M. Kennedy

A year ago today, I wrote this about Ted Kennedy, who appeared at Obama's Denver coronation:

"I'll confess a soft spot for Ted Kennedy's speech. This has more to do with nostalgia than anything Kennedy said (the American flag is still on the moon? Color me proud). I supported Kennedy's challenge to Jimmy Carter's incumbency in 1980, my first presidential election. While certainly not perfect, Kennedy was easily preferable to Carter, and might have given Reagan more of a contest had he grabbed the nomination. His pseudo-concession speech at the '80 convention was powerful, a real up-your-ass to our underrated imperialist, whose hand Kennedy refused to shake. You don't see that kind of spirit anymore, whatever the political reality.

"The reaction shots of Joe Biden during Kennedy's brief bit only highlighted the difference between the two. Kennedy's time is over, as is the political age he helped to define. Biden is old enough to remember those days, but too avaricious to care about their demise. He hustled his way onto Obama's ticket, more than ready to embrace today's savage rules. Compared to Biden, Ted Kennedy was a socialist. Maybe that's why felt I sad watching Kennedy last night. Say goodbye to all that, liberals."

Kennedy's death makes me feel older and more wistful. I was turned on to his intra-party challenge to Jimmy Carter -- a ballsy if doomed effort -- by my Army roommate, a Black Spec. 4 from Chicago who schooled me on how African-Americans would fare better under a second President Kennedy as opposed to Carter or Ronald Reagan. Younger liberals don't know or remember how right-wing Carter became in 1979-80, while Kennedy promoted New Deal positions and whatever remained of 1960s political passion. The choice back then was clear, at least to my young mind.

Reactionaries loved rubbing Chappaquiddick in Kennedy's face. Whatever really happened that night when Kennedy's car went into the water and drowned Mary Jo Kopechne we'll never know. I suspect it wasn't an innocent ride home, given the Kennedy penchant for fucking around. But compared to the mass slaughter reactionaries have long supported and celebrated, from Nixon to Reagan to the Bush family, Kennedy's fatal failure was, to his and Kopechne's family, a private tragedy, not a war crime.

You can say a lot of negative things about Ted Kennedy that were true, but the man was as much of a progressive force as this rotten system allows. With his wealth, Kennedy could've easily been a Republican and pushed for more perks for the rich. Instead, he championed the powerless and left behind. Maybe he was sincere. Maybe not. But to me, Ted Kennedy was one of the few politicians who genuinely lifted my spirits, and dare I say it, hopes. Another part of my youth has died. RIP Senator Kennedy.

Here are the final minutes of Kennedy's 1980 speech at the Dem convention in Madison Square Garden. It's only audio, but it still rocks. Barack Obama wishes he possessed this kind of eloquence.

THEN AGAIN: Friend Louis Proyect offers a corrective to my youthful idealism. As well he should.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


My son shoots me in Times Square. Kinda like the old days, minus the flesh wounds.

Monday, August 24, 2009


At the Museum of Natural History. Past is fun!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Up & Away

Driving to New York with the fam, so this space will be dormant until Tuesday. Do check out my bloggy friends in the roll, especially brother Jim Buck, who's been tapping out some snappy posts of late. Jim's still relatively new to the game, but he's sharper than a lot of veteran bloggers I could name, if only I could remember who they are.

My son and I plan to shoot a bunch of video while in Manhattan and Brooklyn, so be prepared for a YouTube assault from the Big Apple. The young man hasn't been to the city since we moved to Michigan nearly 10 years ago. Even though he was born in the West Village, and learned to walk in Park Slope, he doesn't remember any of it. I'm looking forward to seeing the city -- his birthplace -- through his teen eyes.

My son's been getting into The Kids In The Hall of late, so here are some of his fave bits to amuse you before reality rears its hideous head. Aloha.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pick Your Vick

Michael Vick is the anti-Obama. Both boast African roots, but one evinces HOPE (however crumbling) while the other incites hatred. To many white reactionaries, there's little if any difference between the two. To whites who fancy themselves more evolved, Vick is a godsend, a Black celeb they can despise for "decent" reasons. In America, numerous white people need someone darker to fear, hate, or scapegoat; someone on whom they may project all that is poisonous in them.

Michael Vick fills the bill.

Over the weekend, I followed anti-Vick outrage on several sports sites and threads. I joined in one particularly contentious forum, arguing that unless you're a vegetarian, or better a vegan, then you really have no moral leg to stand on when denouncing Vick. What is done to cows and pigs, also mammals, is far more brutal than what Vick did to dogs. There are several slaughterhouse fortunes, backed by corporate wealth. How much big money do dog fighting promoters make?

On top of all this, intelligent mammals are eaten after being tortured. Or worn as fashionable accessories. Good thing Vick didn't market pit bull patties or canine fur coats. Can you imagine the righteous wailing?

Well, this line of reasoning did not go over very well. First, I was accused of polluting a sports thread with politics (as if politics and sports are somehow separate), then I was grilled, so to speak, for being a moral relativist. Any good American knows the difference between slitting a pig's throat while it hangs upside down from a meat hook, and a dog strung up by a noose. The former is food, the latter a friend. That they possess roughly the same level of intelligence is immaterial. Pigs simply taste better and make for successful cook-outs. Dogs are there to eat the scraps. God sorted this out ages ago.

Attacking this tidy arrangement is a fool's errand. Americans cling to arbitrary distinctions like, well, a pit bull on a pork loin. Given what the real world delivers daily, such tenacity makes sense. I knew this going in, but tapped away regardless, trying honestly to shift someone's perception, if only to seem sane to myself. A couple of them bit. The rest acted insulted, accusing me of defending Vick's cruelty no matter how many times I denounced his violence. A dog is superior to a baked ham or leather upholstery. End of discussion.

Maybe so. Still, this doesn't fully explain the rage poured on Vick while veal calves are carved up and served to discerning diners. There's more to it than canine abuse. And what's truly hilarious are those Philadelphia Eagles fans who decried Vick's signing. Eagles fans are among the most abusive and violent in the NFL (no small feat). The amount of pig flesh they cram down their throats before and during games keeps abattoir torture functional and profitable. They're not alone, of course, but Vick's on their team. Should he help the Eagles win the Super Bowl, you can bet their concern for pups will dissipate. Winning it all helps the healing process immensely. Hasn't the man paid his debt to society?

But all that's down the proverbial road. For now, Vick serves his cultural function. If it wasn't him, it would be someone else.

Interestingly enough, the anti-Vick Obama has far more blood on his hands. Human blood. The blood of children, among unfortunate others. That reactionaries fantasize and project all manner of evil on the man doesn't make Obama's killing any less real. Where's the mass outrage about this? Why aren't evolved whites who proudly wore Obama buttons and boasted about voting for a Black man doing all they can to stop this murderous process? For if the evolved don't seriously protest, who will?

Don't tell me that Afghan children are inferior to American pit bulls -- are they?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Zygote Perrin

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Boy Perrin

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Don't Tread On Moi

Ned "Beans" Simms informs Sen. Arlen Specter that he'll reject any health care reform that might quiet the strange noises inside his head.

Later, "Beans" began choking on a Slim Jim. Here he shakes off a man trying to help him, insisting that the Heimlich Maneuver is "downright socialism!"

Myra Lords of Alhambra, California tells her Congressman that socialized medicine will degrade the human condition, turning people into crazed animals who cannot reason or hold more than one thought at a time.

Many right-wing mimes also oppose any change in the health care system. Here a member of the Oliver North Players performs "Aborted Fetus In A Box" in response to a question about flu shots.

Dr. Calvin Mertz says that "Obamacare" will adversely affect his thriving medical practice.

Tim Kreiger explains to Police Officer Ken Manning that if Obama's health care plan becomes law, excessive government regulations will hamper his ability to fly.

Over the last quarter, the number of clueless white Americans rose by thirty-seven percent.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Casting Call

Arthur Bremer's near-lethal performance on George Wallace, May 15, 1972.

The George Wallace mask was scrunched by video tapes in the box, but a quick airing out and it was ready to wear.

I bought this thing ages ago -- back when I was into political theater, a la Reagan For Shah and Ladies Against Women (Devo's use of masks played a part as well). My bit was to don the plastic Dixiecrat face at rallies while waving placards bearing incongruous messages. It was an early, raw attempt to satirize meaningless political labels in an increasingly corporate world. By then, Wallace had renounced his segregationist views, so the mask didn't have the punch it might've had in 1968. But his racist legacy lingered, and other people, primarily Black, didn't see the humor in a young white boy pretending to be Wallace. So I ditched the masked routine.

I slipped the mask over my head and checked the mirror. Memories of more vibrant days swam over me. I toyed with the idea of giving Wallace a spin in public, say in a nearby rural town where white resentment is open and deep, but several thoughts stopped me. One, there are laws prohibiting masks in public. Two, I'm too fucking old for something so ridiculous, which doesn't stop me on other fronts (check my YouTube vids), but this is truly out there. And three, I seriously doubt that anyone even knows who George Wallace was, much less his original political brand. My old Bircher bosses remember, but they told me that Wallace sold out to the commies long before he died, so the hell with him.

It seems that only the craziest wings of American reaction maintain some kind of political memory, however fractured and bizarre. I've been thinking of the Birchers while watching the Birther bullshit and right-wing meltdowns at what supposedly pass for town hall meetings. I haven't spoken to them in over a year, yet I'm certain that they are in the thick of this insanity. It touches on many of their key manias. It's probably their best bet to grab a sliver of pseudo-mainstream attention, and being Americans, that's what it's all about.

This wave of so-called populist tumult against Obama's "socialism" merely strengthens the status quo. Right-wing money and media help fuel this charade from below, but there are plenty of willing actors eager to play their roles. What alternative do they have, given their utter lack of political power? Meanwhile, liberals continue to moan about Obama's performance, with Frank Rich asking "Is Obama Punking Us?" Actually, liberals are punking themselves, and have been since last summer. Obama is performing his systemic function, as advertised. Everything else is projection and belated ass-covering.

You don't need a plastic mask to show a false face. Simply choose your character, learn your lines, and get into the mix. What -- you got something better to do?

BUT SERIOUSLY: Friend Louis Proyect takes a Marxian view of town hall theatrics.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Permanent Vacation

John Hughes died while strolling through Manhattan. Not to seem insensitive, but that's a great way to go -- at least to diehard New Yorkers like me. I'll be in the city in a couple of weeks, so if I croak while cruising Central Park or Ave. C (where the old East Village hangs on by a black-polished nail), know that I probably went with a smile on my face. Who wants to die in Michigan?

I never really liked Hughes' films, though several friends in the biz did. While he was capable of occasional cute lines, a feature from his ad days, I thought Hughes' movies -- "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" -- symbolized the death of whatever smart comedy Hollywood could muster. Perfect pap for the Reagan '80s. His takes on suburbia were toothless and tame, which is why most of them raked in so much serious green. Give me Todd Solondz's "Welcome To The Dollhouse," "Happiness" or the "Nonfiction" part of "Storytelling." Those films cut much closer to the suburbia I experienced than did the puffy clouds painted by Hughes. Still, I would've loved living next door to Molly Ringwald. Oh, the exquisite pain of her inevitable rejection!

Before he struck Hollywood gold, Hughes worked for a time at National Lampoon. This was during P.J. O'Rourke's editorial reign, when the mag's guns were aimed at women, people of color, and queers. Hughes was one-third of the Pants Down Republicans (alongside O'Rourke and Denis Boyles), white guys who rejected liberalism in favor of the emerging GOP consensus, only theirs allowed drugs, drinking, loud music, and sexual promiscuity. But to me, the best thing Hughes produced for the Lampoon was "Vacation '58," which inspired the Chevy Chase film series. The original piece was much darker than the films, of course. And any story that begins, "If Dad hadn’t shot Walt Disney in the leg, it would have been our best vacation ever!" is worth a read. See if you agree.

Hughes wrote the "Vacation" screenplay as well. It's some of his best work, bringing a bit of the original's darkness to the screen. Here's a brief taste, with Chevy nailing the mood.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Other Dear Leader

Bill Clinton hasn't lost a step. Regardless of his actual record, which includes various war crimes and assaults on that wax deity, the Constitution, Bill's sexy swagger still makes lib boys and girls swoon and come on cue.

I've never seen anything like this in American politics. Sure, reactionaries grovel before images of Reagan, but his appeal is religious in tone. Clinton is more down to earth, someone you fantasize spending time with, and if you're lucky, fuck. (Right-wingers tried this same approach with W., pretending he seemed salty and real, but it never gained the same traction as Clintonphilia.) His corporate centrism is favored by professional liberals high and low, something not lost on Obama. His imperial management was savvier and in many ways more effective than Bush's cloddish attempts (another lesson for Obama). He even survived impeachment, which thankfully avoided any mention of real impeachable crimes, focusing instead on lies about blowjobs.

What's not to like?

Clinton's "rescue" of the two American journalists in North Korea added another bright layer to his legend. It was smooth, a sort of "Here's how it's done" to Obama, who I'm sure took notes. That the entire production was a pre-arranged, propaganda bump for both sides is really beside the point. That someone like Clinton, who expanded the American police state, shredded Constitutional protections for the poor, oversaw a boon in prison construction and the use of prison labor to serve private companies, allowed the use of roving wiretaps and other forms of domestic surveillance, and set the stage for the Patriot Act with the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, is hailed as a liberator of those unjustly jailed, is truly beyond comment.

There is no serious domestic opposition to this state of affairs. Only fantasies, theories, and empty chatter. We the Free are in extended lock-down. Hey, at least there's porn, something Bill might appreciate.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Face Is Reigning

I love this poster. Yeah, the Heath Ledger parody is past tired, but still, this thing swings. It shows just how lunatic parts of American reaction are, so fucking batshit thick that they've failed of their effect. This supposedly "reveals" Obama's barely-hidden criminal socialism, but instead it's an ironic take on how the mainstream political world overall creates fictional categories for the current imperial manager.

Reactionaries believe that Obama is a foreign-born Islamo-commie intent on imprisoning patriots. Liberals still largely believe that Obama is one of them, compromised and undermined by evil forces in DC. Both sides believe that the corporate media is against them (true to a degree, but this includes us all). And each side uses the other's fantasies to reinforce their own. A splendid arrangement. Meanwhile, the owners maintain control.

This image could easily hang in some Chelsea gallery. Perhaps an entire show featuring repainted/crazily defined administration and media figures. Invite leading liberals and reactionaries to the opening, pop a cork, sit back and watch the fun. Occasionally, the mad house has its moments.

(Thanks to Shane T. for the link.)

Tongue Me

Speaking in tongues has become a hobby, not as serious as jerking off, but a fine way to release anxiety while clawing at transcendence -- or at the wall, depending on the hour.

I've written before about the friend whose family went full Pentecostal, how he and I would get baked in the temple's parking lot, then go in and watch the show. These people seemed insane, but I admired their commitment to the premise. They threw themselves on the floor, reached to the sky, shook their heads and bodies violently, tongues flicking from their quivering mouths.

And the noise! Vocal chaos. Frightening yet fascinating. All that was needed were some cottonmouth snakes and the performance would be complete. My friend reminded me that waving snakes was primarily a Baptist bit. Too bad, I thought. Even when it comes to reptile-enhanced dementia, religion finds a way to segregate itself. Will we ever come together?

My tongue wagging is non-sectarian. I came across it randomly. One recent morning, I woke with stiffness and aches in my joints, something I'm used to, but this time I was really sore. As I stretched to get the blood moving, my yawning suddenly veered into bizarre gibberish, yet it was a comfortable riff, almost sensual. I rode these guttural sounds until my throat went dry, fell back into bed, wondering what the hell just happened.

My concern faded quickly as I went through my daily paces. Then, in traffic, it surfaced again. I had no control over it. BRUADDA KRECKAI SHANDOOVOP! Thankfully I had the windows up, but anyone could see my head bobbing, hands shaking, mouth moving as if a hornet had flown inside. I didn't care. For a moment I saw salvation, not religious but humane, peaceful, lush, vibrant, a small but serious frequency I plugged into before hitting my head against the steering wheel. The brief burst of horn brought back this sad reality, as the driver in front of me yelled "Fuck you!"

After all these years, I began to understand what those Pentecostals experienced. Their mistake was to tie their tongues to ancient, brutal superstitions. This limited their tongue speaking potential. Probably for the best. If they had let go of their celestial preconceptions, they would have soared through realms where sky gods are sideshows, distractions from higher consciousness. A few might've evolved past their Pentecostal trappings; but the majority would probably be frightened, unable to navigate freely. They would return to the fold, doubtless more sectarian than before.

Still, those believers were onto something. I'm just happy to SCRAGGADOTH MONDAGEEDA BANKU whenever I feel overwhelmed. You should try it. You may not reach transcendence, but at the very least, you won't be bothered by strangers. Sometimes, that alone is enough.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Last Round

Sidney Zion has died of bladder cancer at 75. Based on a rather rancid evening with him in Tarrytown, New York, I'm not surprised. The man guzzled Scotch like there was no tomorrow. A mean, angry drunk sputtering racist insults. "Fuck you, Jew boy!" was one of his favorites. He had some choice words for Arabs as well.

The New York Times gave Zion a respectful obit, no shock given his long career in NYC media and social circles. The death of his teen daughter darkened his life, I'm sure, something every parent can appreciate and would want to avoid. But in my brief experience, Sidney Zion was a complete asshole. If the booze didn't kill him, then the bile certainly did. Small wonder he was chummy with Roy Cohn.

If you missed it the first time, here's the full story about that lovely night.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dirt In Truth Is Clean

(Photo by the guy who snapped my "Mr. Mike" mug shot, Adrian Buckmaster.)

I'm a fool. An aging clown who increasingly lacks better sense. I won't go into specifics. That's not important. It's the middle of the night here, and for what seems like the thousandth day in a row, I'm awake, rattled, crazy from sleep deprivation, mistaking shadows for friends and fantasies as lovers.

A friend suggested exercise to wear myself out so I can sleep. Sound advice, but shit man, I exercise all the time. I'm still locked into the blue collar gig, which is quite physical; and while I get the aches, pains, and numbness that comes with this, especially as I age, it doesn't knock me out. I wish it would. I wish it would kick my ass into deep slumber. But it won't.

I lift weights, punch the heavy bag in my basement, occasionally shoot hoops, though my jump shot is fading, and I can't spin in the paint for a lay up quite as easily as before. Nothing works. I think of death, but then I always did, even as a teen. Most writers paint death metaphorically, giving it a name, face, habits, some kind of smooth apparel. For me, death sits in the corner, quietly reading a dated magazine. It has all the time in the world. Its patience can be deafening. Dressing it up in amusing colors would do little to mute its presence.

An old, dear friend, a relative by choice (sometimes you can choose your family), reemerged in my life recently. She told me that a mutual friend, whom I hadn't seen in over a decade, was dead. He was in his mid-40s. Booze probably whacked him. He loved to drink and pounded it hard. I know the feeling. Some bodies can take it longer than others. Not his, apparently. Death claimed him quickly. Probably didn't get past the table of contents. I'll write about him soon.

Outside, the world continues to burn. It always will. I read headlines, stay aware, but it's becoming more abstract to me. Is this imperial privilege? Or do we all lose the edge that once informed our lives -- assuming we ever had it? Any explanation will suffice. I'm tired and open to suggestions.

The wife has written a snappy piece about "Mad Men." She still has her edge. Hell, I'd fuck Don Draper. But death would have to leave the room first.