Thursday, October 31, 2013

Plus Ça Change

Just what you needed -- yet another paean to small-town foke givin' Teh Man the ol' whut-fer. Christ on a stale cracker, like anyone should fucking care that some backwater latrine whose population dropped from 668 in 2010 to 654 in 2012 (presumably from some combination of old age and common sense) seriously thinks that pointlessly erecting a Ten Commandments "monument" (pictured below) is some sort of heroic act of defiance to a brutal dictator.

I wrote extensively about this particular phenomenon several years ago, in the context of a book review, and near as I can tell, only the specific locations have changed, the predictable useless yahooisms have remained intact. Yes, Obama has only visited the state twice, once to speak at a memorial for a mining disaster (but fuck the MSHA and EPA, amirite peoples?), and later that same year (2010) for Senator Pork Robert Byrd's funeral. So there is, as they say, some resentment building in West Virginia, as they perceive a lack of sufficient response to their plaints.

It doesn't seem like anyone wants to break the cold, hard truth to the ruggedly independent Mountaineer State, so let me take a humble stab at it -- you people need to pull your heads out of your fucking asses, m'kay? There's no way to put a cherry on this turd cupcake, folks. When you have a state full of goddamned moochers, who sponge from the system far more than they contribute, who produce a single commodity whose vocational utility is rapidly diminishing (for a variety of reasons -- diversification of energy sources; mechanization of coal extraction; diminishment of "easy" extraction sites), who have disproportionately large populations of medical and welfare benefit recipients, there's not much point in doing meet-and-greets in Cooter's Gulch.

Not to mention the fact that barely one-half of one percent of Americans live in West Virginia, and it becomes quite easy to see why no one wants to bother with it. Great, you produce coal. Awesome. But since many of us can simply run down to Harbor Freight and get of the grid for under a couple grand, and there are other exploitable energy sources as well, it is incumbent upon the self-styled individualists to explain -- in greater detail than some weird fuck-you Ten Commandments monument, mind you -- why precisely the other 99.5% of the world's largest economy is supposed to give more than three-quarters of a fuck about your failure to prepare, anticipate, or adapt to the tectonic change that the entire planet saw coming two decades ago.

It's not my intent to indulge in gratuitous hillbilly-bashing, I swear. I do have compassion for people who have spent their entire working lives performing difficult, extremely dangerous labor, and are either spent from decades underground breathing toxic dust, or have enough to get by but have watched their towns and communities collapse around them. West Virginia has probably had more news stories about its pervasive drug problems than anything else, which is a shame, since anyone who has read up on the state and its abundant natural resources knows that it's a lovely place full of beauty and wonder, comparable to just about any other place in the country. (Yes, even my beloved California.)

But caves and geographic quirks are not enough, unfortunately, to turn a generational economic tide. The state's geographic and cultural insularity, as with many southern (and WV does pride itself on being the "most southern of the northern states, and the most northern of the southern states," among other directional superlatives), has finally caught up with it in that regard.

One branch of my family is a boisterous, insanely fun group of Irish Catholic Texans, so I know firsthand a little somethin'-somethin' about the suhthuhn culcha I routinely deride. Anyhoo, one defining redneck characteristic is the display of the confederate flag in some form, whether an actual flag or merely a bumper sticker. The redneck proudly informs dismayed passersby that his is a symbol of "pride" and "independence," as if it were up to one random simpleton to repurpose a highly objectionable emblem of rape, terror, murder, systematic subjugation. In our family, this fucking thing was regarded as nothing short of an American swastika.

But the reality of such a symbol, when one comes across it --and I did, this very afternoon, here in sunny NorCal -- is that its bearer is someone whom, as my East Texan great-grandmother would have put it, "cain't tell 'em nuthin'." No, indeed -- and that, ladies, fish, and gentlemen, is what you are seeing with your southern states, most of them (Texas and Florida notwithstanding, but even then only by economy of scale) unproductive moochers, culturally regressive, uncomfortable with the fairly major societal changes taking place, and not knowing what to do about any of it.

I wish I knew what to tell them, I wish there were easy answers for them. It would be nice to just be able to tell them to suck it up, take a few Khan Academy classes to get their shit together, and grow superhot peppers. [Ed. Someone has to give those hot-pepper guys a reality show. If people can watch other people open a goddamned storage shed, they can watch heat-seeking trenchermen grow two million Scoville unit peppers.]  But just as one cannot serve two masters, one also cannot be utterly dependent on gubmint largesse, and simultaneously expend precious scarce energy and resources railing against said gubmint. That's not politics, it's math.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Deadeye Dick

Just for a hot second, let's set aside the serious impracticality of grotesquely disparate levels of governance; that is, the notion that an almost literally uninhabited state has equal representation in the nation's highest governing body as a state with forty times as many people (and at least four cities with larger populations -- hell, LA's metro area has close to 20 million people, versus the less than 600K in the entire state of Wyoming). The Constitution might be in need of an overhaul, or at least a review, if enough high-profilers with IQs above 80 can be located and dragooned into such a noble project. But that's a subject for another post, perhaps by a different observer.

Consider instead the reasons and ramifications for Shooter Cheney's carpetbagging (perhaps teabagging as well, jury's out so far) daughter trying to muscle Mike Enzi out of his Senate seat. Whatever your political bent, 2014 is shaping up to be fun times already, n'est-ce pas? As Shooter hails from reliably traditional neocon stock, it's difficult at first blush to presume that Liz Cheney would fall too far from that particular tree.

And yet, if one attempts to read the, erm, tea leaves (see what I did there?), the signs are unmistakable. The Cheneys are, and have always been, political opportunists, first and foremost. (That's not a disparagement, by the way; anyone wanting to be successful in such a high-stakes money game had best be an opportunist above all else. There is simply too much money, power, and influence abounding to be left to the merely principled.)

So the fact that Rand Paul has so far endorsed Enzi means little, perhaps nothing at all. Paul is almost certainly positioning himself for a presidential run in 2016 or 2020, and so he is in the early alliance-building phase. Enzi will probably win, and if so, as the senator from the least-inhabited state, he'll no doubt appreciate Paul's early backing. If Liz Cheney should win, Paul will simply reach out (in the spirit of collegiality and party comity, of course) and patch things up accordingly. No sweat either way.

The more interesting possibility here -- as well as in Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi, where amazingly, those states' senators are all being primaried by insurgent teabilly candidates -- is that either the vote gets split and redounds to the Democratic candidates in some or all of those states. The chances of that happening in all five of the above mentioned states is not a betting man's parlay, but it's not too much to hope that perhaps three or even four of those states could roll D and expose the soft white underbelly of teabilly moocher flesh.

We'll find out in one year. Much money will be spent, and regardless of the outcome, very little will be accomplished as a result.

Gratuitous Pet Break

Pets are the best. That is all.

American Grandstand

It's never been news that there is a practically infinite supply of people who are not only willing to cut their own throats, but to vote for other, far wealthier people to do it to them. So it's no surprise that, while a polled majority seems to understand that the shutdown sideshow was entirely engineered by the short-bus teabilly contingent in the Outhouse of Representatives, a substantial (and of course disproportionately vocal) minority blames Obama 100% for this mess.

Certainly Obama deserves some blame -- for persisting in the delusion that these maroons could be dealt with as if they were normal human beings, and not delusional would-be revolutionaries. There is no negotiating with fanatics, and that is all these people are. They are not seeking any sort of "grand bargain," they are seeking only capitulation. There is no compromising with them.

Obama has failed to understand this, over and over again. If he is not urging the DCCC and DNC and anyone else who will listen to pour as much filthy money into unseating these psychopaths, then he is just continuing to fail, simple as that.

At the very least, this should be one of those episodes that highlights the remaining actual differences between the parties, that while -- since they both represent the "donor" class -- both are red in tooth and claw, the Democrats at least usually make a token effort to clean up some of the blood, pick out some of the chewed meat, before uttering whatever feckless burble they think the proles need to hear this week, before muttering "whatever" and turning on the teevee to watch nincompoops sort their sock drawers.

So when you have apologists for bullshit and psychobabble gleefully willing to wreck the world economy just to stand on their imaginary principles, you then have to focus on the fools who keep supporting them -- even though statistically, it's those very same fools who will bear the brunt of the proposals and policies of their fearless leaders.

The only reason we don't let them get exactly what they think they want, and good and hard, is that they'll drag most of the rest of us down with them. At this rate, they might anyway.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Assassination Nation

As entertaining as it is, Public Shaming can only post so many twitards on any given issue, an infinitesimally small sample size in a nation of 320 million. But when I see unrepentant fucktardery such as this, it's hard not to at least briefly wish for a hot second that this was the dictatorship these idiots so feverishly believe that it is. Because in such circumstances, the internal security forces would already have knocked down their doors, dragged them to some secret location, pulled out their fingernails and raped their closest relatives in front of them, and then put a fucking bullet in their miserable heads. I'm only half-joking here, maybe not even that much.

In complete seriousness, one assumes that at the very least, the Secret Service has contacted these brain-dead shitbirds and explained to them that they have committed a crime, and could (and should) be prosecuted for it. Venting is one thing; these motherless fucks are openly begging for some random lunatic to step up and murder the President. So they need to be put on notice, no questions asked.

In the meantime, it continues to be a thoroughly nauseating prospect to know there are people like this, people who drive, work, vote, have children and/or parents, etc. They're a fucking embarrassment to humanity, and a complete waste of oxygen, and further proof that karma doesn't exist.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Breaking Bad: Meta-Criticism, Binge-Watching, and O.G. Fans

[*here there be spoilers*]

As Breaking Bad, almost indisputably one of the best teevee shows ever, winds up as strongly as any series could hope for, it behooves us to do what everyone else is currently doing, and provide some deeper insight to the ongoing proceedings.

Having watched the show first-run from the very start, but not having Netflixed in between seasons, it's actually somewhat difficult to draw from memory specific threads from early episodes to these amazingly intense homestretch episodes. But catching a few episodes from the first two seasons in last week's marathon brought back many fine details and nuances -- the unrelenting madness of Tuco and the consequences of dealing with it; the gamesmanship between Walt and Fring; the professional (professorial?) distance Jesse always kept between Walt and himself; the way Hank seamlessly morphed from blustery jock-cop to determined bloodhound. You could go on and on and on.

But really, both eight-episode "halves" of the final season were constructed and paced nearly to perfection, culminating in the now-infamous third-to-last episode, whose title said it all, the same way its Sopranos episodic counterpart used a related poetic reference as an anticipatory framing device.

Feel free to correct my dumb ass, but I think the trend to instant meta-criticism came to fruition with The Sopranos. By the time that series neared its close, technology had enabled anyone with a connection to inform the rabble of their deeper insights of each episode. This persisted not only to the more obvious, narrative-driven salient points of the scene or episode, but to the apparent visual cues and MacGuffins contained therein.

With high-stakes series such as The Sopranos, The Wire, or (in this case) Breaking Bad, this makes sense, and it has only accelerated with the vaunted advent of social media. But it has also cemented the observer effect on such shows, as they navigate through their respective narratives, and ultimately determine the "right" way to eventually come to a satisfying conclusion.

The ability and popularity of binge-watching (and I've done that as well, especially with Showtime series such as Dexter, Homeland, and The Borgias) has a similar effect, I think, in that you no longer spend a week or even a day digesting the layers of the episode you just viewed; you move on to the next one, right away or tomorrow. You don't have to wait anymore. This too will affect the production and writing of future series, guaranteed. Another trend with these critically acclaimed series is the decisions by their creators to end strong, after five or seven seasons, resisting the urge to milk a premise to death, to a limp-dick end watched only by die-hards who sat it out for a sense of completion.

A big part of the magic of BB, the show and its finale, was that so many threads were pulled, and while so many were left to be resolved, the major threads were resolved, and in a way that didn't leave people on a ledge the way the Sopranos finale did. As with Sopranos or The Wire, there have always been clues in the episode titles, and Felina did not disappoint on that account. From the Marty Robbins reference to the blood (Fe), meth (Li), and tears (Na) chemical breakdown to the playing out of all the elements, the episode rang true to Walt's statement in the pilot about chemistry being the science of transformation. I defy you to find any dramatic work -- including Shakespeare -- where every single character transformed so tremendously, so catastrophically.

I'll probably Netflix the entire series over the winter, and I have no doubt that I'll catch any number of catalyzing scenes and events that more fully inform the final half-season. In the meantime, what transpired was nothing short of rare, true greatness, the kind of "dramatic Halley's comet" folks were lucky to catch once or twice in a lifetime.

Like the aforementioned shows as well as Game of Thrones and past treasures such as The Shield, these shows are obviously rare confluences of spectacular writing and strong ensembles, catalyzed by one or two "force of nature" type performers who are enabled by the overall strength of the cast. In an endless ocean of dross, these are things that give you a sliver of hope, and maybe even a reason to watch.