Monday, December 23, 2013

Don't Really Give a Duck

Couple of final thoughts on the stupid Duck Dynasty thing, and then I'm gonna let it go. This episode is moderately interesting to me, in the way that Paula Deen's and even George Zimmerman's transgressions were interesting -- that the events themselves were absolutely dwarfed by the cultural buttons that were pushed, and the quickness and stubbornness with which the usual barricades became populated.

A lot of these things simply revolve around "Red" America being unable or unwilling to cope with, or even get a handle on, the rapid advances taking place in the nation's culture at large (if there can truly be anything resembling an "overall" culture, in a nation with 320 million people, and countless points of origin). The world is leaving them behind, as those things tend to happen, and they can't stand it. It's not just because Black President, though that's certainly a catalyzing factor. It's the small coincidence that the same fuckers who shipped their jobs overseas and poison their water tables also happen to own the media channels that immerse them in swollen rivers of disinformation.

So you have large swaths of people who have been ripped off and burned for generations, and don't say shit, coming un-fucking-glued over whether Cracker Barrel will continue to sell cheap swag from their favorite teevee show. Hokay then. I don't think there's anything to reason with. It's all just spittle and foam.

If there's one thing about this nonsense that's important to reiterate, it's that this is not a free speech issue. Really? Yeah, really. Go back and read Phil Robertson's comments, comparing gays to people who fuck animals, or criminals, drunkards, adulterers. Check out some of Reverend Phil's previous episodes of this sort of jabber on YouTube; he didn't just start doing this when the GQ writer showed up on his doorstep.

Now replace "gays" with "blacks," or "Mexicans," or whatever you like. Wasn't that all that long ago that those groups were in those sorts of conversations. It becomes easier to consider the basic fact that this guy made some indisputably disrespectful comments about groups of people -- or, in the parlance of A&E or any network, customers. That's really all there is to this; again, if you think you have a First Amendment right to talk shit about your customers while you're on the job, I encourage you to give that a shot, and let us know how that works out for you.

Bottom line is that Phil Robertson has a right to speak his mind, and did so. The people he talked disrespectfully about have a right to say, "Hey, asshole, we resent you comparing us to criminals and goat-fuckers," and they did so. And Robertson's bosses at A&E have a right to discipline their employees, and they did so. The difference here is that the Robertsons clearly don't see themselves as "actors," perhaps because their backyard is the studio.

But that is what they are, actors in a sitcom, and just like Charlie Sheen got his ass taken down a notch when he got too big for his britches, started believing that he was the show and could tell anyone and everyone to go fuck themselves, that is what is happening here. There is a weird cultural sway the family holds over (again, we are talking about a fucking teevee show, and a lousy one at that, right?) their viewers, a very Face in the Crowd kind of vibe at the heart of it all, with Phil as Lonesome Rhodes. Nobody can tell him nuthin'.

Even the Song of the South Uncle Remus reminiscences of happy, godly blacks picking cotton in the Jim Crow South, when you think a half-second, are enormously offensive and ignorant -- and loaded with more conservative cultural assumptions. What Robertson is really invoking there is not directly a time when those people knew their place, but certainly a time before they were on welfare having a zillion kids. That's the underlying sentiment of comments like that, and we all know it.

That's why they call that sort of shit "dog-whistle" speech -- because it goes right past most people, because it wouldn't occur to them to catch something like that. But you can't tell me that someone who grew up in a place and time where blacks couldn't even enter a restaurant or drink from a water fountain doesn't know what he's fucking saying.

Obviously, the show inherently exploits stereotypes, and in so doing creates some cultural friction and even tension. That's at the heart of it -- to show these goofy hillbillies making beef jerky and blowing shit up in the swamp, then easing toward the more universal tropes of family and (for some) faith. See, these crazy good ol' boys really are just nice guys who love their families and Jesus, and not necessarily in that order. Their blood is red, just like ours. [rolling eyes]

Personally, I hate cheap, trite shit like that, and what little of the show I have seen felt like a consummate waste of time even by reality teevee standards. I suppose if I wanted to know how to field-dress a possum or convince people that I had a steel plate in my head, the show would be the place to start.

But sooner or later, especially since this is a nation that increasingly lives and breathes manufactured outrage, someone on one side or the other of these magnified cultural tensions eventually says something stupid, crosses a line most people have learned to recognize. And because the perpetually aggrieved and threatened side, by definition, always have their backs up, conjuring grave offenses if none can be legitimately be found, we play the game.

The media do their dance, and make no mistake, this will be fodder for many a race in the coming midterm season. The multi-billion dollar perpetual campaign industry depends on it. When already mis-/dis-/under-informed people rely on simplistic, shopworn tropes to circumscribe their "values" that they deploy in the voting booth (on the off chance that they get off their asses to do so in the first place), nothing good can come of it.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Stranger Than Fiction

Folks of a certain age will recall Reagan's apocryphal Cadillac-driving "welfare queen." Turns out, not only did she actually exist, but welfare fraud was the least of her transgressions. Very long article, but well worth the read.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Head Count and Upcoming Books

Couple of quick housekeeping things:
  1. Please do me a small favor, and leave a quick comment, even if it's anonymously, even if it's just one word. In checking stats, the site seems to be getting traffic from one of those "vampirestat" things.
  2. I'm finishing up a couple of Kindle books. Like last year, there will be a compilation of selected posts from this past year (with new foreword and introductory commentary for each piece), and a 99-cent mini-book of the "notable jerkoffs of 2013" type. I'm finalizing formatting, cover, and title for each, and plan to release them by January 1st.
There will be a third book, later in January, which I'll discuss in more detail soon. I don't do fundraisers, and I don't cyber-panhandle. The books are something I enjoy doing, and for folks who might wish to contribute, it's an opportunity to get further value.

Check out the Amazon Store at the top of the sidebar, if you're so inclined, and if you happen to purchase anything from any of the 4 (so far) pages, please let me know about your experience, good, bad, or indifferent.

So thanks in advance, have a safe and sane holiday season, and stay tuned for more snark here at The Hammer.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Get the Duck Out

And you thought the "War" on Christmas was bad, as far as imaginary grievances go. This is one of those pseudo-cultural eructations that gives me the urge to shoot out the teevee and the computer, and head for a nice cabin deep in the woods. This country has lost whatever it had left for a mind.

For the record, I don't much care one way or the other about what Phil Robertson had to say about anything, anymore that I would care about what Spongebob Squarepants or the bottle blonde from The Big Bang Theory had to say about anything. (But you should read the entire article for yourself, simply because it's an interesting story, and Drew Magary, originally "Big Daddy Drew" at Kissing Suzy Kolber, is a damn good writer.) What Magary noted in his follow-up to the now-infamous article is about what I would have assumed -- that the Robertsons are essentially decent folk, a bit different, but we're all a bit different in our own way, I suppose.

The difference is that most of us don't have an employee-employer relationship with a cable network. Remember way back when last weekend, where we talked about how everything you see on teevee, no matter how much you lurve it, no matter how much integrity you might think it has, exists mainly to sell you shit? That, in spades. Maybe the Robertsons seriously think that the show is just a harmless bit of fun, where they get to goof around, make sure the world knows how much they love them some Jebus, and soak the rubes for swag and hundred-dollar duck calls.

But A&E -- you know, the network that airs the show and has a vested interest in protecting the brand -- just wants to keep the gravy train on the tracks. So when the lead character of its hillbilly sitcom goes and starts speaking his mind in a way that might make sponsors nervous, it's a bidness problem, pure and simple.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Swamp Thing

So....religious hillbillies turn out to be exactly what they say they are, and people seem to be shocked, surprised, dismayed even.

Or, you know, it could just be another lame publicity ploy, bullshit to make the pop-culture machine churn. Gosh, can't imagine it might be that.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The New Model

I am most likely the worst holder of an MBA degree you can think of, since I routinely piss and moan about the multitudinous vicissitudes and perfidy of the rentier grifter class, the shameless scamboogery with which they run this nation for their own benefit and no one else's.

But I'm always on the lookout for newer, fresher revenue models to emulate. So I'm strangely in somewhat respectful awe of this here revenue model, the ease and guilelessness with which hack comic Byron Allen has become a hack tycoon. Keep an eye on his low-ball licensing and distribution model, because it's likely to be some variant that will eventually provide your satellite, cable, and internets content.

And why not? For every Vince Gilligan or David Benioff or Kurt Sutter, there are a hundred Byron Allens, giving the people what they really want. I've often said that the corporate news exists solely to get you to buy cheeseburgers and pills and trucks and tampons, but the fact is that all media exists for that purpose.

Every football game; every talk-radio blowhard; every true-crime spouse-kills-spouse dramatization stretching twenty minutes of story to two hours; every karaoke competition that stretches an hour of material to twenty weeks; every group of inbred southerners hicking it up for the cameras, opening storage sheds or teasing alligators or whatever the hell it is they do. All of it exists for the singular purpose of distracting you long enough to open your wallet for a Duck Dynasty chia pet or some such.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Tea and Simpering

No doubt the latest set of polls 'n' graphs on dwindling teabaggery will push all the usual buttons and pinch all the usual nerves. It will be discounted in the expected circles with disdain as lamestream mediot bullshit.

And in some concentrated areas, that may actually work, in the gnarly pockets of doofery and befuddlement that pepper the land like so much randomly blasted buckshot. There's no shortage of people who, if Obama declared that the sun would rise in the east tomorrow, would denounce the flashing neon commie conspiracy such a statement stood for. And they've made goddamn sure that their elected representatives act accordingly.

But they're now about to find out the hard way what sort of game this really is. When Frank Zappa famously said, "Politics is the entertainment branch of industry," he understated the case, if anything. At the very least, at risk of stating the painfully obvious, it is first and last a money game, run by people with lots of it, and they've run out of patience for these bumptious rubes who were easy enough to gull into slitting their own throats, but damned if they'd shut the fuck up and stop yammering for two seconds.

Really, the only time your average teabagger stops to take a breath, it seems to be just long enough to cash whatever check he gets from the eeeevil gubmint. Then off he goes again, denouncing anyone else who got a check.

When this aforementioned fiscal hypocrisy is the defining characteristic of your "movement," you can be sure that its fuel is of the fossil variety -- polluting its environment and rapidly depleting. And so now the adults in the Republican establishment, perhaps calling the 'baggers' bluff to go rogue and set up a third party, have forced poor ol' John BonerBoehner to sack up and shut this nonsense down.

Because it's starting to cost them money. The Koch Brothers didn't get obscenely wealthy with hopeless, unproductive charity contributions. And while their little foray into astroturf politics may have gleaned them some short-run benefit, even they have to see how it's starting to backfire.

Not that it will matter too much in the end. For one, the districts are so heavily gerrymandered that very few are actually contestable in any real sense, so for the most part there's not much effort; for another, even if, say, Democrats take half  -- or all -- of the 'bagger seats in the House next year, what are they gonna do? You think they'll take some populist tilt at Wall Street, make the banksters give back the stolen pelf? If so, I have a nice bridge on some pristine swampland for you.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Confessions of Commander Ga

Unsolicited book plug:  if you have not yet read The Orphan Master's Son, you really should. That's all there is to it. It's as close as you could find to a detailed look inside the cruel absurdity that underpins and overlays and permeates every atom of the Hermit Kingdom. (Another, lesser-known but just as informative work, academic in nature, is The Cleanest Race.)

So it is that Dennis Rodman's most notorious BFF, needing to prove himself against his inner circle, continues his purge by having his previous closest aide (and uncle) executed. No doubt Kim Jong Un found out the hard way that, by letting his higher-ups conduct negotiations with other, more developed and civilized nations (which, uh, is most of them), by definition they were getting a first-hand look at life outside the walls of the compound.

And that (despite the inexplicable lunacy of this jagoff; what free westerner in their right mind supports this wretched regime?) is really all the hilariously named "Democratic" "People's" "Republic" of Korea is -- a giant cult in a giant compound, ruthlessly herded and abused by a small cadre of people who know the truth, but profit from and insist on the lie.

Lots of Famous Songs Created in DPRK in 2013

Pyongyang, December 10 (KCNA) -- Lots of songs in praise of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and the socialist motherland have been created in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea at a time when confidence in the WPK is growing deeper than ever before among the local people.

Among them is the song "Always under Party Flag", a paean for the WPK and one of the masterpieces in the era of supreme leader Kim Jong Un.

For its high ideological and artistic value, the song evokes strong emotions for the party flag among the people, leading them to harden their will to remain loyal to the WPK.

A song titled "The Leader and the General Are Always Together" was created on the occasion of the birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung, the Day of the Sun (April 15). For its ideological, emotional and philosophical profundity, the song well represents the honor of the Korean people advancing toward a rosy future under the blessing of Generalissimos Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, eternal leaders of the DPRK.

"Ode to the Motherland" is also one of the masterpieces created in the era of Songun. The song arouses feelings of ardent love for the socialist motherland, making one recall with deep emotion the great feats Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il performed on behalf of the country and the people. With fresh and passionate rhythms, it reflects the strong will of the Korean army and people to glorify their homeland.

All people in the DPRK say that the song is as valuable as National Anthem.

And you can really twerk to it.

Monday, December 09, 2013

The Golden Rule

Can't deny that Obama gives a hell of a speech, when he chooses to do so. So what? Does anyone seriously think anything will come of this, that suddenly the industrialists and financiers and rentier scumbags that own fucking everything are suddenly going to have a come-to-Jesus moment on their lives of hoarding, grifting, and accumulation?

Please. This is like Lucy with the football for poor ol' Charlie Brown. Maybe the minimum wage gets bumped up fifty cents, or even a buck. That would almost give it the purchasing power it had in 1968, while gas and food typically go up what, four or five percent per year in some cases? Is that going to take even a nibble out of the 1% owning 40%, of 6 Wal-Mart heirs being worth over $100bn, just for picking the right parents?

Everyone talks a good game about the virtues of hard work, and the promise of economic justice and opportunity. But who gets rewarded? Spreadsheet-diddlers and influence peddlers. Wake me when the talk turns into walk. There is zero credibility, and zero chance that anything actually gets accomplished that will return even a smidgen of the stolen pelf to its rightful owners.

When any name politician finally screws up the nerve to tell Jamie Dimon and his ilk to go fuck themselves already, then you'll know that you're finally getting on the right track.