Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bonfire of the Inanities

Maybe I'm just too cynical for my own good, but I think the Susan Boyle "story" is less an indictment of the implicit "looksism" of our society (fucking duh), than a perfect example of how frequently the line between supposedly "legitimate" media entities and tabliod fluff is willfully blurred by its more institutional players.

Seriously, I have no doubt an article of this grade could be found quickly in People or Entertainment Weekly. The primary difference between the Times and Redbook is that people reading the former probably think they're too smart to bother with the latter, even though they frequently end up reading the exact same sort of shit. There is absolutely no logical reason a contestant from some indistinguishable limey reality talent show should merit this (or any) attention, whether she looks like Shrek or Heidi Klum.

Since I get up an hour or so early to get on the treadmill and lift weights before heading in to work, I've had the stark misfortune of acquainting myself with the morass of morning teevee. Christ, what a stinking butthole of broadcast manure these shows are. Commercials for bizarre fourth-generation People's Court knock-offs and mortgage-lending scams, bookending the most trivial, asinine, sensationalized nonsense passed off as "news".

It's the sort of shit TMZ and the E! Channel specialize in, but without all the irony. I honestly don't know how (or hell, what sort of) people sit through the first hour of the Today show, much less the fourth. If this is not a deliberate conspiracy to condition viewers to the docility of cattle, prodding them occasionally to some manufactured hot-button issue, I don't know what is.

I've found that going through my DVD collection for the morning workout, throwing on some old Ben Stiller or Mr. Show, or Motörhead or Rush concert videos, to be a much better solution. Feel the burn!

NFL Draft and Management Arcana

The NFL Draft is much like the Super Bowl -- a sham weekend with a sham build-up, something for football fans to do in April besides thumb their dicks and plot their fantasy strategies for the upcoming season. That said, as always, it's been somewhat interesting following along from the usual management perspective, looking for sensible decision-making and coherent strategizing in the midst of what is mostly, let's face it, slightly educated guesswork.

A successful draft should be built on one simple premise -- adding value to the team. This means not just pure playing talent, but recognizing talent that will be the best fit for your team's system, and getting the best deal for that talent. The starting salaries for top ten picks have become so ludicrous, the smart move really is to trade down out of there, unless your team is just a colossal turd (such as Detroit) that, talent evaluations and team needs being more or less equal, a marquee player can put more fans in seats and sell more swag. So it makes business sense for the Lions to plunk down a buttload of money for a galoot like Matthew Stafford, so long as they don't delude themselves into expecting that Stafford will, by himself, be the next incarnation of Bobby Layne (though apparently Stafford actually attended the same high school as Layne).

The way new Cleveland coach Eric Mangini was practically going out of his way to alienate his star players, I was beginning to wonder if he had hooked up to an IV of stupid. But oddly, a couple weeks ago a fellow Raider fan was asking me what I thought about how they should handle the draft. I replied that if they were really sure about Michael Crabtree, they should take him at #7, and find a way to get some linemen or safety help in the second and third rounds. But if Crabtree was gone by then (Cleveland had made noises about picking him up at #5), the Raiders should trade their pick down and grab Maclin later, where he was more likely to fall. Better yet, deal further down and grab Cal center Alex Mack and Ohio State WR Brian Robiskie. Both Mack and Robiskie are much more likely to add (not just recoup) value than virtually any skill-position player available in the top ten.

That Mack/Robiskie option is exactly what Cleveland did, and Mangini deserves credit for finding a creative solution for what is likely to be a very bad team this year, but at least in a proper rebuilding mode. Al Davis, naturally, fell for the track speed of Darrius Heyward-Bey, whom he could have picked up just as easily much later in the first round, or even in the second. Even if Heyward-Bey is everything Davis thinks he is, he could gotten him for at least $10 million less, and with another relatively high draft pick to boot as a result of trading down.

Sometimes there seems to be some degree of similarity in the decision-making process between corporate goofballs on Wall Street and in the NFL (or, for that matter, politicians). They become more entrenched in validating their personal power and decision-making capacity, doubling down on flawed premises and bad hunches, instead of finding ways to make the right decisions to benefit the team.

Pigs on the Wing

In the panic to inoculate ourselves against the new strain of swine flu, perhaps we could consider quarantining diseased ungulates such as Cheney and Rove from where they might infect decent humans. Really, these assholes spent eight years hiding from any direct inquiry, and now, thanks to a complaisant media, we can't get rid of 'em. Thanks, librul media!

Dick Cheney became a one-of-a-kind vice president for two reasons: he cared deeply about governance, and not a bit about his future political standing.

Those same factors, for better or worse, have turned him into a one-of-a-kind former vice president. In a sharp break with long-standing practice, Mr. Cheney has emerged as the highest-profile critic of the new administration.

This may be the most irresponsible opening descriptor regarding Cheney to tumble out of the corporate media poop-chute in some time. Replace "governance" with power, and you might get somewhere. As for the second assertion, the commonly held misconception that Cheney's positions were informed by the moral courage of not wishing to obtain higher office, this is a canard of the cheapest order. Only someone who cared very deeply for how they are perceived would so eagerly and frequently break long-held protocol in the first few weeks of a new administration.

Cheney is nearly fanatical in burnishing his legacy, no matter how much it requires gainsaying the current administration in a very serious set of circumstances, no matter how much it undermines the attempts (however cynical) to bring the country around on certain critical issues, no matter how much shit he has to fabricate. There is clearly nothing Cheney is not willing to say to make himself look like the bringer of measured pragmatism, and the more it comes at Obama's perceived expense, the better. He's never been right about anything substantial, not even by accident. Yet he is still granted access to what people at least pretend is reasoned discourse. More and more it's just the same inbred claque of beltway hacks validating themselves and each other, neither knowing nor caring what was real and true.

If Bill Clinton and/or Al Gore had behaved that way in March/April of 2001, the pained yowls of the usual wingnut catamites would have shattered glass around the planet. But of course, since Democrats typically mistake civilized behavior for practical strategy, it never really occurred to them to bother carrying on in such a manner. That's not a compliment.

Repeatedly during Mr. Obama’s transition and his first 100 days in office, Mr. Cheney has carried his anemic favorability rating into the ring to slug it out with a successor who enjoys considerable public support on issues from the role of the vice presidency to his trademark issue of national security.

Which begs the question why putatively serious media outlets, not just Fox, continue to enable him in his nasty little hobby. This is a vicious, small man, as comfortable with lying and calumniating as he is with torturing people without concerning himself with notions of actual "guilt" or "innocence". Four out of five Americans repudiate him and his words and deeds. But they need to back that up with something more concrete. At the very least, a decent nation would turn its back on him, as well as any entity granting him entree into reasonable discourse.

But then, a decent nation wouldn't continue to lie to itself about its propensity for murder and torture and futile proxy wars. The main difference between the Cheney administration and prior iterations -- and this certainly includes liberal lions such as Clinton and Carter and Kennedy, and more likely than not, Obama -- is its disdain for even the pretense of circumspection in means justifying ends.

Indeed, its main players took a degree of perverse pride in what they were willing to do to defend their abstract idea of what their country should be, even as they held most of its inhabitants in sheer contempt, and clearly continue to do so. These are, after all, the very same people who had the balls to use fucking Won't Get Fooled Again as their campaign song, not once but twice. That's a special kind of cynical.

Cheney is essentially the John Wayne Gacy of politicians, accumulating molested hitchhikers in his crawlspace even as he screws up the gall to point at how his neighbors let their lawns get a few inches too tall. Some days you almost wish that Obama were the fascist soviet nightmare his lunatic detractors insist he is, because animals like Cheney and Rove would be on the first cattle car to Outer Yakutsk already.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Roving Lunatics

If there is a greasier turd in American public life than Karl Rove, it's probably floating down a Staten Island sewer drain. It's not just that Rove looks like the Nazi asshole in Raiders of the Lost Ark whose face gets melted, it's the glee with which he dissembles and fabricates, his primary mission to empower and encourage the dumbest, most reactionary core of the electorate, simply by affirming all their fever dreams.

Yesterday was Tax Day, and it was marked by large numbers of Americans turning out for an estimated 2,000 tea parties across the country. This movement is significant.

"Significant" is not the same thing as "substantial". A mass movement of boobery -- which this is not, if one compares the rally sizes to that of, say, immigration or antiwar rallies of recent years, most of which were hundreds of times larger in the same cities -- is still just an assemblage of retards. Yet this nonsense gets more media attention than those much larger rallies did, especially the leg-humping from Rupert Murdoch's one-ply ass-scraper of a cable "news" network.

The number of protests, as opposed to volume of protesters, on the other hand, is actually somewhat impressive. You know what would really be impressive is if all that localized action could be put to productive use, instead of a bunch of screaming tit-suckers puffing up their consumptive chests and fronting all Galt and shit. Again, fucking go already, how many times do we have to ask you?

There seems to be a fair quantity of over-60 folks at these things, and it'd be nice if some of the media folks dutifully covering these circle-jerks asked them if they'd ever collected (or plan on collecting) Social Security, Medicare, or any other cool government tax-funded stuff. If they wanna keep their pride intact and live on dog food, I won't bother to stop them, there being no fool like an old fool and all. Steal some ketchup packets from Mickey D's for flavor.

Derided by elitists as phony, the tea-party movement is spontaneous, decentralized, frequently amateurish and sometimes shrill. If it has a father it is CNBC's Rick Santelli, who called for holding a tea party in Chicago on July 4. Yesterday's gatherings were made up of people who may never meet again (there's no central collection point for email addresses). But the concerns driving people to tea parties are real, growing and powerful. Politicians ignore them at their peril.

Indeed. I encourage all good Republicans to listen to Ratfuck Boy and grab every teabag in sight. Larry Craig can probably point you in the right direction.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but these people are flat-out fuckin' thrice-inbred mow-rahns. Not just because they take their emo-patriot cues from halfwit ball-lickers like Glenn Beck, and get all weepy and weird about things they can't even articulate (though that sure doesn't help). It's because they offer no solutions of their own, no alternative plan. Everything that tumbles out of their diseased pieholes is eerily similar, by virtue of being unencumbered with truth or coherence.

If they had half a clue, they'd realize that the hortatory rhetoric of Rove and his slimy ilk is specifically designed to urge them ever further into voting and acting against their own rational self-interest. I honestly cannot imagine trusting a person such as Rove with even simple household chores; I can't imagine what sort of knuckle-dragging rube would take Rove's advice on public policy. The fucker was born with one hand hidden in his pocket, crossing his fingers. As the saying goes, every word this scumbag utters is a complete lie, including "and" and "the".

One concern is the rise of state and local taxes. New York and California passed multibillion-dollar tax increases this year. Other states are considering significant tax hikes or have enacted tax increases in recent years. The many tax and fee increases enacted or under consideration is angering voters.

Jesus H. Christ, the only sane response to this bullshit is that anyone dumb enough to buy what Rove and the teabaggers are selling deserves what they get. A third-grader can rebut this blindfolded, but for the slow kids out in Teabagland, here's the short-bus version: Many public services, such as police and fire protection -- which most citizens enjoy having -- are funded by something called "property taxes". This is a fee which is levied by the [Count Floyd voice] Big Eeeevil State [whoooo! scary!], based on the assessed value of one's domicile.

So (follow along with me here), when property values decline precipitously -- and in some areas of California, they have declined 50-60% or even more -- that affects the funding for those services rather adversely. This is especially true when, as in the case of California, a multi-year drought has extended wildfire season -- and thus fire protection services.

Now, while a video of Karl Rove burning alive in his house would be an entertaining YouTube upload, chances are most folks like having police officers and firefighters come when they are needed. Doesn't matter, because even with the rate increases, services are going to be cut. The property values and revenues have simply declined too far, too fast. Can't someone show up to one of these public park hootenannies and explain this shit to these fuckwits, or do they just enjoy being used by animals like Rove and Hannity?

But to tap into that constituency Republicans will have to link lower taxes to money in voters' pockets, and economic growth and jobs. They must explain why the GOP approach will lead to greater prosperity.

Sure, like it did for the past eight years. And no doubt they're fudging the numbers right now to make 2004-2006 look like the Bush salad days for the economy, but rest assured, they're just tossing that salad. None of those numbers represent real wealth generated, only debt created and transferred, and the sooner the hapless Dems convene a Pecora-type commission to review the trail of blood, the better. They better figure something out before this shit derails their dream gig.

But in the meantime, hell, I dunno, read yer fuckin' pay stub, bub. None of these teabag scrubs is in the $250K club, and they goddamn well know it. These people are freaking insane, compelled to show up at these moron conventions like it was 4:00AM Black Friday out front of Wal-Mart. If this is how off their meds they are after ten weeks of Obama, and a 4% hike in a marginal rate none of them will ever see, it really is going to be a long four years. Again, for different reasons, but thanks to pretty much the same band of idiots.

Such arguments are not self-executing.

Sadly, neither are the people making those tendentious arguments. Although they are panic-buying guns, so there's always hope.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Profiles In Dipshit

You know, as the father of a young girl who wears her share of Hello Kitty gear, I certainly share the outrage over a piece of shit child killer, but um, c'mon:

A Northern California woman who has the same name as the Sunday school teacher charged with murdering an 8-year-old girl says she is getting death threats from people who mistake her for the suspect.

Like the Tracy resident who is accused of killing Sandra Cantu and putting her body in a suitcase, the Melissa Huckaby who lives 14 miles away in Manteca is 28 years old, has a 5-year-old daughter and volunteers at church.

Yeah, see, in addition to being a different town, one critical difference is that the person accused of killing Sandra Cantu is, as a person with an IQ above 40 might expect, in jail without bail. Again, pending my desired stupid plague, it's just too damned bad every idiot who called in a threat to this other poor woman didn't have the phone explode in their hand. Isn't there a Pied Piper of stupid out there (now that Howie Mandel is on medical leave) who can lead these bozos off a fuckin' cliff or something?

Teabag Nation

I suppose unemployable malcontents need something to do besides drink and breed, so what better way to stagger in public and bray their ignorance than to teabag their mascot? I trust that none of these peoplefucking morons have ever utilized any government service whatsoever, since they and theirs valiantly haul their own freight through life. Yup, no grandparents drawing Social Security, no kids in public schools, no family members drawing unemployment insurance. Why can't we all be as perfect as this sainted crowd of sanctimonious dipshits?

When it comes to observing the misfortune that's befallen my countrymen, I continue to veer between sympathy and contempt. As far as I can tell, Mencken was an optimist. What this country could really use is a deadly plague, one that targets the stupid and hypocritical, which appears to be every single braying jackass at these damned things. Till then, it is somewhat amusing to watch them teabag each other over and over and over again.

Even if it is starting to get kinda gay.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Reckoning

Although I'm not quite ready to give up on what's left of civilization and hide out in a mountain cabin with a couple of SKS rifles and a few hundred pounds of lentils and beef jerky, it's still very difficult not to agree with the alarmists' possibly overwrought prognostications, rather than the too-rosy views of the triumphalists. Jim Cramer clearly has not learned anything from his week of public contrition and puling excuse-making for Jon Stewart's mighty wrath; already Cramer is publicly assuming that things have bottomed out sufficiently, are on their way back up, and is doing something called a "bull dance".

I guess I haven't really sat through the man's show to any meaningful extent, but has he always been that schticky? I mean, I get that he's trying to make an inherently dry subject more "entertaining", but seriously, what sort of person takes their financial cues from someone who straps on clown shoes in the morning? No wonder everyone's going broke. One should assume these periodic upward spasms of the Dow are either an indication that another half-million people are out of work, or another scheme has been dumped on the backs of future taxpayers, or that the short-selling is continuing apace, and the uptick will be offset by a corresponding drop in a few days.

It's not class warfare to assert the obvious -- that what benefits Wall Street the most these days is more likely than not intrinsically poisonous to the average American's well-being. The past six months -- and more importantly, the next six months and more -- have made and will continue to make that abundantly clear. Instead of a sound-effect and sound-bite wielding finance teevee clown, perhaps an actual serious economist can shed more light:

Our future could be one in which continued tumult feeds the looting of the financial system, and we talk more and more about exactly how our oligarchs became bandits and how the economy just can’t seem to get into gear.


The conventional wisdom among the elite is still that the current slump “cannot be as bad as the Great Depression.” This view is wrong. What we face now could, in fact, be worse than the Great Depression—because the world is now so much more interconnected and because the banking sector is now so big. We face a synchronized downturn in almost all countries, a weakening of confidence among individuals and firms, and major problems for government finances. If our leadership wakes up to the potential consequences, we may yet see dramatic action on the banking system and a breaking of the old elite. Let us hope it is not then too late.

Profit is only profit if value or wealth is created in the process; otherwise, it is merely the creation and redistribution of debt. The average American's wages are about what they were thirty-five years ago, despite productivity gains, despite comprehensive changes in workplace management and process design, because the geniuses at the top decided that they could better manage the gains than we could, by shoveling it into a financial system whose primary feature -- again, rather than creating actual, physical wealth -- was to facilitate capital mobility.

Creating a billion cheap shirts in a Chinese sweatshop, or a million shitty grocery schooners in Detroit, is at least the generation of tangible products; credit default swaps and derivatives are merely assholes playing poker with everyone else's money, expecting to be handsomely rewarded in the process, while everyone else figures out how to get by on a little less every year. It has resulted in an unconscionable level of disparity, especially for an industrialized nation.

So as I've reiterated probably too many times already (but as long as we persist in absolving incompetent flunkies of their past crimes, and abetting them in future ones, it bears repeating), the likely scenario is not some cataclysmic Mad Max potboiler, it's something more like this:

America is devolving into a third-world nation. And if we do not immediately halt our elite's rapacious looting of the public treasury we will be left with trillions in debts, which can never be repaid, and widespread human misery which we will be helpless to ameliorate. Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty. This is the inevitable result of unchecked corporate capitalism. The stimulus and bailout plans are not about saving us. They are about saving them. We can resist, which means street protests, disruptions of the system and demonstrations, or become serfs.

And we'll go along with enhanced security measures to ameliorate our fears, as a substitute for real investment in local communities. Better security would make some sense as a complementary measure, but not as a replacement for fostering local solutions. The state continues to step over dollars to pick up dimes, as the saying goes, because there's no disincentive.

And it's becoming clearer by the day that all the happy talk about "change", regardless of Obama's possibly nobler intentions, will be just that. He's too constrained by the entities who put him there to enact any significant change. He's already overcommitted to rebooting a failed system, hoping to jumpstart the patient's heart. His main advantage is that his ideological, political, and (ahem) intellectual opponents are mostly borderline retarded, where his putative allies are merely craven cynics and buffoons.

The conservatard bellowing over whether Obama is a socialist/fascist/floor wax/ dessert topping is entertaining, no doubt, but one rule of thumb these dipshits might consider is this (at the risk of sounding like Yakov Smirnoff): in a socialist system the government controls the banks; here the banks are controlling the government. Obviously, they're too busy congratulating one another over their revolutionary teabagging prowess to get this simple and obvious idea. But maybe the rest of us -- you know, the actual majority, as this cadre of loudmouths consistently polls under 25%, and most of them are either doddering morons who can't die off too soon, or people who are too intellectually dishonest or simply too stupid to bother with -- can find ways to disengage from this system of what is essentially debt slavery.

This is where it starts and ends. The only reason Wells Fargo is looking at record profits is because it has figured out another way to fuck honest people, either by jacking their credit card rates (and if you have credit cards and have not yet been told that your interest rates are about to double, regardless of perfect payment history, don't worry, you will), or picking their pockets directly through this bailout scam. This is the biggest fucking heist in history, period, and we are abetting it through our avatars of change. And the network media are never going to talk about it, not in real terms; when they're not cheerleading their corporate owners and financial decision-makers, they're thumbing their collective dicks over vital issues such as what kind of dog the Obamas will get. This is the kind of thing people have to start working around, if they are going to see any real change.

Or not, if one uses cultural artifacts as a barometer of a nation's mentality. The two biggest movies in the first third of this year are Paul Blart: Mall Cop (and I like Kevin James, but jeezus) and the third Fast and Furious sequel. The most-read books are usually either sob-sister mopes bearing Oprah's imprimatur, or ridiculous self-help tracts. Did anyone really need to plunk down twenty bucks for The Secret to figure out that thought and action motivated by "positive" rather than "negative" emotions tends to produce more "positive" results (aside, of course, from the ancillary anodyne effects)? Does anyone really need diet advice beyond "eat less, exercise more"? Yet there are entire industries built around the lack of taste, intellect, motivation, and willpower. No wonder we keep getting rolled by these cheap grifters so thoroughly and so regularly.

The Unknown Comics

We've all heard by now the wretched outlook of the print journalism industry. Failing advertising model perpetuating unsound business model caused by outmoded technological model driven by stale content model, yada yada. But perhaps, some astute observers note, there's a simpler explanation.

I've been reading with amusement some of the more absurd ideas coming from readers to save The Chron (i.e., charge more for a product for which demand is falling - brilliant!) and theories for the paper's demise, but I was struck by the recent letter from Richard J. Roberts, linking readership decline to the comics. And I suddenly remembered: I started reading the colorful Sunday comics as a child in the late '70s, moved up to the daily comics, then added the Sporting (actually) Green, graduated to Herb Caen, etc., finally enjoying the entire paper.

But what kid in their right mind would want to read the comics today? Stale, repetitive Garfield, predictable left-wing Doonesbury, politically correct, boring and predictable options (Candorville, Non Sequitur, Luann and Sally Forth) and, worst of all, the simply unfunny Mutts or Get Fuzzy. Oh, and a comic designed for old people: The Elderberries - that'll bring in the young readers!

It goes on like that. Ordinarily, you'd probably want to presume some degree of facetiousness in such a trivial epistle, but anyone who has a passing familiarity with the Chronicle's annual comic polls knows that there are a lot of people out there who take their comics waaaayyy too fuckin' seriously. Actual adults rending digital cloth, much anguish over maybe giving something new a shot, instead of sitting through another endless forty-year slog of stale Peanuts reruns.

They shitcanned Zippy the Pinhead, but by god we'll have Charlie Brown coming out our asses for the next two generations. Or maybe if guys like this had their way, they'd inflict Mallard Fillmore or Day by Day -- really, the comics equivalent of sarin gas -- on an unsuspecting populace, to keep the comics page fair and/or balanced. This guy probably has a Lockhorns shrine in the back corner of his sex dungeon, behind the ball-gag and the hitchhiker corpses.

Look, if you're over the age of, say, nine, and you really give a shit one way or the other what's on the comics page, something's wrong with you. I don't think I'd notice or care if the comics page disappeared altogether, and more often than not, the most consistently funny comic in the Chronicle is their very own Bad Reporter.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Life's Too Short

Occasionally strangers will approach me on the street and ask me, "Heywood, how come you don't cover the endlessly entertaining perfidies of the conservatard blogosphere? Shouldn't the internets be apprised of what's going on with those people?"

Friends 'n' neighbors, a crack team of diligent researchers and writers kept awake around the clock by intravenous infusions of Code Red Mountain Dew could not adequately chronicle the heaving incoherence that erupts from the spastic colon of the conservablogs. Ed at Gin and Tacos sums it up pretty well.

The fundamental problem in establishing a right-wing “alternative” media is not a systemic bias. It is the inescapable fact that they have absolutely nothing interesting to say and are woefully inarticulate in saying it.

This is true not only of Underoos' ridonkulous bidness model in particular, but the content model of most of their participants in general. I just lost the stomach for it years ago -- the tone-deaf intellectual dishonesty; the full-throated tautologies; the tedious logrolling; the obnoxiously bold assertions, either very quietly retracted or (more often) completely ignored when shown to be erroneous or false; the inept rubber-glue reactionism to even the most simple and indisputable of points. The same hysterical, convoluted, conflated talking points, turning on a dime to suit the shifting sands of the daily outrage.

Almost invariably it adds up to piss-poor reasoning and debating skills, frequently made more intolerable by incompetent writing. I find it difficult enough to endure poor writing with people I essentially agree with; it's incomprehensible to me to sit through the ritual abuse of an electronic feces-chucking lower primate, unencumbered by the conventional constraints of mechanics and logic. Who needs it?

The first time around they're funny, because you figure they gotta be fuckin' with you, that no sentient being could fail to see the inherent ridiculousness of the clowns and reprobates who present their filthy arguments as responsible government, or jive-ass mascots such as Joe the PlumberSam the Plunger. Then you realize that either they're serious and mean it, and don't care about the inconsistencies of their arguments, or are simply too dumb to understand what they're talking about, or (most likely) a mix of both. Why not pick a fight with a street person or a stray animal while you're at it?

They're interesting primarily from a sociological perspective, an object lesson in what end-stage societal decay can culminate in -- people with the time not only to lie to themselves and each other, but to evangelize their nonsense at unsuspecting passersby.

Get Over Yourself

He's a decent enough actor and comes across as fairly reg'lar on his Dinner for Five appearance, but apparently this hapless interviewer caught ol' Billy Bob when his Aunt Flo was visiting. If I had been the interviewer and someone had talked like that to me, I don't care who the fuck they are, I'd have cut it dead right there.

And, you know, Tom Petty seems like a nice enough guy and has amassed a certain body of work through sheer longevity, but like the Rolling Stones, Petty hasn't done anything to make most listeners' jeans too tight in about twenty years. Not to mention that Thornton has done a lot of critically acclaimed work in a lot of movies, where Petty has a bit part on King of the Hill. Not an especially astute comparison, even for a cracker named Billy Bob.

Still, it's always good fun to watch C-list celebs get douchey beyond their proper spot in the food chain. He might as well have screamed indignantly, "Don't you know who I used to be?!?" The bragging rights from banging Angelina Jolie for a couple years must have worn off by now.

Short Takes

  • Been Netflixing the recently released Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and there's even less doubt in my mind that, between this and the barely-ran Andy Barker, P.I., Richter has pound-for-pound been hosed out of more quality projects than anyone else in recent memory. You look at the shit that clogs up the airwaves night after awful night, year after miserable year, and you wonder how things that are actually somewhat innovative and creative just get dumped after a handful of half-hearted jumps around the schedule. We all know that shows with actual actors and writers cost more to produce than some asinine "reality" dick-skinner, but I don't think Harve Presnell or Paget Brewster would have broken anyone's bank with insane salary demands.

    Anyway, ARCU holds up pretty well. The only people that are ever going to Netflix a reality show probably also wish for Home Shopping Network reruns. They can suck on it. They've fucking ruined television as a genuinely creative outlet, for the most part. The only chance a new project sneaks through is if it can get tagged as "gritty" or "uncompromising" or some such, and even then only on basic cable. We're probably just a couple seasons away from a decade of Oww! My Balls!, once the brain trust at NBC decide they're not covering their desired nut on 30 Rock and The Office.

  • The first time I heard Blood Mountain, I got the same feeling I got when I first heard Back in Black, or Moving Pictures, or Ænima, that something new and substantial had arrived, something that would quickly prove to be canonical to its genre of music. Sure enough, Blood Mountain ended up on many fans' all-time lists, and vaulted Mastodon into the top ranks of metal bands. As with any other group attempting to follow up a critical success without simply cloning itself, Mastodon faced a challenge, and they succeed for the most part with Crack the Skye. Lyrically it's as all over the place as it can be -- astral travel, ethereal possession, Rasputin, tsarist political intrigue, cult divination -- all sorts of weird. But good weird.

    Crack the Skye doesn't quite have the furious vitality of its predecessor. For the most part it's slower, even sludgier in areas, reminiscent of Sabotage-era Sabbath classics such as Megalomania or The Writ. But the breadth and ambition are evident in the album's scope, the musicianship is top-notch throughout, and while the bizarre thematic underpinnings are most present in the epic-length tracks The Czar and The Last Baron, there are bona-fide potential radio hits in Ghost of Karelia and Divinations. Mastodon fits well in that prog-metal niche that bands such as Tool occupy, and there's no reason they can't go as far, creatively and commercially.

  • Remember the old Chris Rock riff about how in the '80s, there was the "Prince or Michael Jackson" debate and "Prince won"? Of course, Rock was talking in terms of personalities and relative weirdness, that as odd as Prince's gyrating ambisexuality and ball-tightening falsettos might be, they were at least life-affirming, encouraging one and all to get their sweaty freak on, just as James Brown and Al Green preached in the salad days of r&b/funk. That stood in stark contrast to Jackson's soul-deadening passions for tween boys and zoo animals, eschewing truly childlike energy and imagination for overproduced, committee-written hackery that was musically as much a Madame Tussaud's piece as its singer's ruined visage was.

    But what Rock neglected to say was that Prince really wins on the merits of music, that he writes and plays his own stuff where Jackson neither plays nor writes, that Prince's best work far outshines Jackson's best work, that even Prince's middling efforts over the years have at least been the product of a fertile creative pursuit, of indefatigable ambition and a serious work ethic.

    While Jackson spent decades inflicting his emotional retardation on his equally stunted celeb pals and an increasingly indifferent planet, Prince churned out records almost annually, and was banging Sheena Easton and Sheila E., among others, grooming a pulchritudinous stable of practically interchangeable (yet, you know, freaking hot) dance-hall queens. What did Jackson have, a show marriage with Elvis' goofball daughter, followed by an expensive, homely beard/surrogate for "his" offspring? On top of all that, Prince is a seriously underrated guitarist, a tone demon with a passion and melodic sensibility usually found in giants such as Jeff Beck or Jimi Hendrix.

    And the main disc of Prince's 3-disc effort (available at Target), Lotusflow3r, is certainly evocative of late-period Hendrix, practically dripping with references to Electric Ladyland and First Rays of the New Rising Sun, without being derivative. Prince's guitarwork is all over this disc, weaving seamlessly throughout laid-back efforts such as Love Like Jazz, and uncorking fat riffs in Boom and Dreamer. The only real clunker here is $, a decent dance number with an unfortunate choice of vocal style.

    The other Prince disc, Mplsound, and the third disc (Elixer [sic]), by yet another young female protégé (Bria Valente), are more dance-oriented, and thus not really my thing, but are well-produced as far as that goes. Mostly it's the kind of "Quiet Storm" shit dickless yuppies use to seduce each other after a long night of Red-Bull-and-vodkas and aimless groping, though there's a nice throwback solo in the crunky chug of Ol' Skool Company. But at $11.99 for all three, the main disc is worth the price of admission alone.

  • I keep reading good things about The Decemberists, so I figured I'd finally give The Crane Wife a shot. And I wanted to like it, I really did. There are glimmers of promise in tracks such as When the War Came and The Perfect Crime 2, competent prog riffs anchoring the first half of The Island, only to be undone by reedy, nasal vocals and twee, overly bookish betcha-can't-tell-I'm-still-working-on-my-MFA-at-Oberlin lyrics. Coffee-house shit is okay at the coffee-house or farmer's market or whatever, but otherwise, not so much. It's not completely terrible, and maybe some of their other stuff is worthwhile, but in the end, it's the musical equivalent of Kegel exercises, and I had to throw on some Blood Mountain afterwards to get the vital fluids flowing again to the necessary appendages.

Weekly Update

The fingers have been healing nicely all week (and thanks for all the kind comments), to the extent that I was finally able to pick up a guitar yesterday and play reasonably well. The main problem there was being able to leverage the thumb against the neck comfortably (conventional grip #1), as well as draping the thumb over the top of the neck for certain types of runs and chords (conventional grip #2), where the side of the thumb that was injured rests directly on the top of the neck. But it's amazing what a week of ibuprofen and neosporin can do, the nail is growing back, and the hand is about 90%. Not bad.

Of course, there has been more than just the hand keeping me out, and that's not entirely a bad thing. In fact, it's more of a gathering array of good things -- the new job is going remarkably well, to the extent that many of the things my co-workers complain about are things I actually like (although, since time/crisis/process management is part of my skill set, I thrive on working with dysfunctional situations and finding ways to improve things); while I'm not playing guitar as much as I was while I was off, I get enough time in to feel like I'm getting my chops back (though they'll probably never be what they were when I was 25 and ripping Yngwie and Paul Gilbert stuff blindfolded, the taste and tone and melodic sense you pick up as part of the typical player's seasoning more than offsets the pure mechanics of shredding); I'm still reading everything I can get my hands on; and I'm fairly certain that I will be going for the MBA later this year. (Not to mention the Anvil doc. That is going to be freakin' sweet.)

Good thing I get by on five or six hours of sleep anyway, but there are only so many hours in the day, and so many areas of attention I can give proper diligence to. And politics and economics seem on the same ill-fated track they have always been, hence a lessened urgency to unfurl an epic jeremiad (though there is one of those in the pipeline) as often. With or without my input, the Big Flush goes on as it always has.

But writing is still therapeutic and enjoyable, so the blog will continue at least until the end of this year, and we'll see where things stand at the five-year mark. Worst-case scenario is I punt this over to a private domain name to preserve the archive and start up a guitar blog or something, but for the time being, probably one or two days a week of varying levels of activity.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The California Chainsaw Massacre

I'm typing this with one hand, though not for the usual reasons. Yesterday I was doing a spot of last-minute pruning on one of my ancient, overgrown fruitless mulberries, and inadvertently tried to give myself a manicure with a chainsaw. If you can avoid having to block a falling 100-lb. limb while wielding a chainsaw, 6' up a ladder, it's probably for the best.

No permanent damage; aside from peeling off half a fingernail and getting a nasty gash on the thumb, I'm fine. It could have been a lot worse. I just can't use my left hand for probably a week. And it's not like I've been posting much lately anyway, although knowing that there are probably cat blogs with more traffic is not exactly an incentive to step up the pace.

At any rate, there won't be much activity here this week, unless I get really good at this one-handed typing thing.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Tabloid Nation

I guess I hadn't realized just how long it's been since I watched Nightline, but shit, they've basically devolved into the teevee version of the Weekly World News. I'm sure there's an upcoming quest for the Batboy's lair. Maybe they can get Kirk Cameron and Ron Jeremy (or failing that, Geraldo Rivera) to help out.