Saturday, April 28, 2007

President Awarded Purple Heart

…and I’m not making this up. I saw it on Bill Maher’s show then did a little digging myself.

A couple weeks back, while the domestic media had its head 110% up the ass of the Virginia Tech shootings, a Texas Viet Nam vet, one Bill Thomas, got to pondering about the President’s delicate little feelings (killing all those Am’r’can kids in Iraq every day and all) and decided that the President’s emotional suffering had gone unacceptably unrecognized and unrewarded. As the recipient of three Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in combat in the 173 Airborne Brigade in 1965 himself, this well-meaning (if arguably misguided) duffer decided he oughtta give one of his Purple Hearts to the President. You know, for his suffering, emotionally-wise.

The President’s. His suffering.

No, stop it, I’m serious.

According to the Killeen Daily Herald’s Joyce May, Thomas said he and his wife came up with the unprecedented idea to present the president with the Purple Heart over breakfast one morning a few months ago as they discussed the verbal attacks, both foreign and domestic, the commander in chief has withstood during his time in office. "We feel like emotional wounds and scars are as hard to carry as physical wounds," Thomas said.

So far, so sad. But as far as crazy shit that former soldiers have done, making statements by doing symbolic things (returning, refusing, etc.) with their medals has long been accepted practice. It’s actually a pretty healthy form of free speech.

Here’s the twist:

Our irony-impaired President actually accepted in a White House ceremony from which I have seen not a single image emerge (obviously somebody on staff gets irony). No official photo of the ‘presentation’ that I can find has been released by the administration; you know somebody there took a photo, but it hasn’t shown up on the wire and my The Google skills have failed me in this effort as well.

[Full disclosure: I really like this last bit, even though I stole it from the comment section of somebody else’s blog then added the part about clearing brush. Funny, there’s lots of photos available of the President clearing brush…]

Now if only Bush could find a Wizard to give him a brain and some courage, he could be clearing brush in Kansas in just three clicks of his Tony Lamas.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Speak No Evil

I swore I wasn’t going to do this. I wasn’t going to write about the killings at Virginia Tech.

But this morning I decided to go for it after all, just to show it could be done without contributing to making a folk hero of a mass murderer.

Actually, I’m not writing about the killings at all. I’m not shoving a microphone into grieving relatives’ faces, demanding to know “how they feel.” I’m not gonna put up photos of the killer posing like the cover shot of an import-only snuff flick.

And I for sure as goddamn hell am not going to give any ink, or web space, to the name of the sick, insignificant bastard who killed all those people in order to get his name and image splashed all over the media.

I’m going to write about the media.

I’ve been sitting on my irritation all week, not wanting to participate in any way in helping achieve the murderer’s dream of infamy for him. But in private emails, I’ve been encouraging my fellow bloggers to exercise similar restraint. And now, by the end of the week, a lot of the MSM has come to the same conclusion that I came to upon first hearing about the bloodbath, which is that the saturation coverage of the killings isn’t a by-product of the event, it is indeed its very purpose. And by fulfilling the shooter’s purpose, we validate the killer’s intentions, and by validating them, we become complicit.

The proof is in the killer’s manifesto itself, where he references the Columbine killers by name and mentions what cool cats he considered them.

As soon as the multimedia hate package surfaced at NBC, I couldn’t go to a single news web page or TV channel for days without having this asshole’s sullen visage snarling back at me. “Look at me, look at my sexy guns. Look at me hate you while craving your approbation. Mourn my victims for a little while, but remember my name forever!”

I was stunned at the ignorance of the media outlets making hay of the alleged “manifesto” and the images it contained.

When I was single, I used to say that the last part of the sex act wasn’t climaxing, it was telling your friends the next day about how you got laid last night. This is the same thing. The rampage didn’t end when the last bullet was fired, and it wasn’t meant to. All those horrible, unnecessary deaths were only the means to an end, which end was realized a couple days later with the saturation coverage of the killer’s name, face and story.

Finally, after a day or two, the MSM somehow got a fucking clue and pulled the offending images, but the damage was done. The next time some disaffected, loner, loser wretch arms himself to the teeth and goes big game hunting at his school or office, you’d better believe he’s gonna be thinking about this guy and the fame he achieved, just like this guy was thinking about the Columbine cunts when he embarked on his own desperate adventure.

At this point, I must give better-late-then-never props to After they came to their collective senses regarding helping make this guy an inspiration to future spree-killers, in place of the murderer’s self-portraits they began to run individual photos of the victims as their main art. I still wish they had relegated the story off the top of their home page, but at least they were giving coverage where coverage was due – the extraordinary young lives cut brutally short, and not promoting their killer’s sick agenda.

I produce several rural community newspapers for a living, and this week I ran a story about the mental health concerns raised in the wake of this latest school shooting. It took me about 90 seconds to edit out and write around the miscreant’s name, and you know what? My readers will know what I’m talking about, and will be able to take from the story what they need to without my having added to the killer’s desired infamy.

As a society, there’s not much we can do about spree killings except sit back in horror as the body count mounts. The gun genie is out of the bottle and isn’t going back in. Even the President of the United States’ first comments on the tragedy included a preemptory endorsement of the Second Amendment, compassionate conservative that he is.

And society will continue to produce disaffected, hate-filled losers. From Cain and Abel to ripped-from-this-morning’s-headlines, we like killing each other. As a species, it’s one of the things that really gets our rocks off.

But as individuals, and for myself as a junior member of the MSM, we can commit to not moving the problem forward by lionizing these creeps in the aftermath of their evil deeds.

The ancient Egyptians did a pretty cool thing with people who fell out of favor in their society – they erased his (or her) name from anywhere it appeared (which in ancient Egypt was pretty much everywhere). After a generation or two, the memory of the offending party was expunged, lost to history.

Obviously, that option is no longer available to us, nor is it necessarily even advisable. You can’t undo history by ignoring it (see Operation Iraqi ad Infinitum), but we can put events in a context that doesn’t encourage the next generation of gun-toting wackos to think killing innocents is their ticket to a place in the history books.

We can shun them. We can join in a conspiracy of silence to never speak their name. We can’t erase their evil acts, but we can deny them the notoriety their evil acts were committed to perpetuate. And if we can get the goddamned media to play by the same set of rules, I personally believe we can help avert future such tragedies.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Modified toddler humor

He forgot to remember to not recall...*

…at least 45 times by lunch break. It took him three weeks of intense rehearsal and cancelled vacations to not recall that much? Good thing he didn’t study much longer, or someone might have had to feed him his line when he was asked to identify himself by name.

This guy’s racking up lots of firsts, though. First Latino Attorney General, first AG with ADD, first Latino AG to eventually be forced to resign in disgrace after a protracted national humiliation…

If this is how Bush repays loyalty, I’m glad I’m on record as a member of the loyal opposition!

* with apologies to Charlie Feathers and Stan Kesler

Thursday, April 19, 2007

If it bleeds, it leads

The old newspaper axiom is as true today as it ever was. While the Attorney General is being grilled by the Senate for either corruption or gross incompetence, CNN, MSNBC and our friends over at FoxNews can’t drag themselves away from the Virginia Tech bloodbath aftermath long enough to do anything but mention that said grilling is occurring in the ticker running along the bottom of the screen.

I know it’s running on CSPAN-3, the red-headed stepchild of the CSPAN network, but our stupid satellite carrier (Hi DTV!) doesn’t carry CSPAN-3

Most egregious, actually, is CNN, which is running live footage of the testimony in an inset from time to time, while they have pundits chattering over the actual testimony!

There is some serious suckitude afoot here.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Your Second Amendment rights at work:

Maybe it’s time we took another look at this amendment.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Disclaimer: I hate it when time and circumstances don’t permit me to comment on current events in their immediate aftermath. All the professional smart-asses beat me to the best jokes.

That having been said…

“War Czar,” eh?

… Reeeeally?!

The Commander-in-Chief needs a Czar. A Czar, as it happens, of War. Somebody to make the, you know, important war decisions. A ‘Decider,’ if you will. Someone, someone with the kind of track record of asserting unilateral decision-making powers in the area of the defense of the homeland that is unassailable. That kinda mythic, swaggering, John Wayne type o’ fella.

I think you can see where I’m going.

For years now, Bush has been taking full, flagrant advantage of his Constitutionally-guaranteed power to make unchecked decisions regarding the prosecution of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now it turns out he wants to use that awesome Constitutionally-endowed power to… delegate that awesome Constitutionally-endowed power to someone else??

Jonny Stewart hit the nail on the head the other night. All the “power” any potential War Czar will actually wield will begin and end with the power to absorb ALL the blame for the Iraq/Afghanistan fucktastrophe, retroactive back to September 12, 2001.

Any job with a title containing the word “czar” in it should come with a “HIT ME!” sign for the middle of the new-hire’s forehead. We’ve had a Drug Czar for twenty-plus years, right? Ask little Johnny and Janey Tweener, strung out on whatever’s going around the middle school this week, how the government’s War On Drugs is working out. If it’s a proper government job, they make you a secretary of this, or the vice-president in charge of that; they don’t give you the title of doomed Russian aristocrisy. It would be like appointing someone “Fuhrer of Agriculture” after seven years of drought.

And apparently, all the military brass they’ve offered the gig to have figured that out, responding with a hearty group “hell no!” From Maureen Dowd’s piece on the same subject, The Washington Post reported that at least five retired four-star generals have refused to be considered; the paper quoted retired Marine Gen. Jack Sheehan as saying, “The very fundamental issue is, they don’t know where the hell they’re going.”

I can’t wait till they hit the talk- and news show circuit.

This is a last-ditch, desperation ploy. The administration is drowning in flop sweat and they’re actually advertising for a Fall Guy. When the Green Zone cafeteria is no longer safe from suicide bombers, no reasonable person stateside has any reason to continue to believe the lie that Baghdad is, or ever has been secure. There was wild, Rumsfeldian-sanctioned looting in the streets from Day One of the occupation and the chaos only escalates as our presence there drags on.

I’m telling you, this “War Czar” thing is a last-ditch effort, a panic move, and there will only be more to follow as the wars worsen and Congressional investigations broaden. God help our Republic.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

“You guys go on ahead without me.”

—Billy Pilgrim, “Slaughterhouse Five”

Sixty-some-odd years after surviving the razing of Dresden, Germany as a young G.I. in the waning days of WWII by taking shelter in the basement of the slaughterhouse where he was being held prisoner, time and tide have accomplished what her majesty’s RAF and Nazi Germany’s finest couldn’t, and unstuck Kurt Vonnegut in time.

Kurt Vonnegut 1922—2007

When I was in high school in the late ’70s, That Special Teacher that some of us were fortunate enough to have, dismissed me from the rigors of her English class’ regular curriculum and introduced me to, among other dangerous thinkers, the late Mr. Vonnegut’s work. (This is the same teacher, Mrs. Lockhart, who also about stroked-out when I told her I was working my way through the writings of Ayn Rand. The funny thing is, Rand and Vonnegut were both saying the same thing, only coming at it from different directions: the individual is more important than the collective.)

Kurt Vonnegut’s writing taught me that you could hold a funhouse mirror up to the worst depravities the human condition had to offer, still make your reader laugh and even leave them with at least an olive branch of hope when the telling was done (if that was in any event one’s purpose). Even after witnessing his mother drink Drano and “turn into a human volcano,” as he famously described his mother’s suicide in book after book; somebody’s mother was always committing suicide in Vonnegut’s books, usually by kitchen product.

For a couple of years thereafter most of my ‘creative writing’ bore the marks of my sincerest form of flattery as I tried my best to ape Vonnegut’s easy, eclectic yet conversational style. It’s pure shit, looking back on it, but it’s some of the purest shit of which I am least ashamed.

And now, the Great Man has passed. I’ll leave it to other, more able writers to eulogize him. I don’t feel worthy of the task for one thing; for another I’m sure he would find it all so much sentimental nonsense.

Discovering his work at the same time as being exposed to Hunter S. Thompson’s writing changed not just the way I looked at the world, but where I saw my place in it. Kurt Vonnegut was, more than almost any other writer, the voice of my generation. He was not just unafraid to cry “Bullshit!” in a crowded slaughterhouse; he considered it his responsibility. And he bequeathed that sense of responsibility, of moral outrage in a world gone mad, to me and every other aspiring writer who followed him.

That’s the legacy he left, and the one that I, within the constraints of my ability, try to honor in my humble Forum here whenever I sit down to bang out one of my humble left-wing rants.

In the unlikely event you’re reading this, but haven’t read any of Vonnegut’s books, I cannot encourage you strongly enough to check out his wares. If you’re just starting, “Breakfast of Champions” has always been my personal favorite. I also fondly recall “Sirens of Titan” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” among his many other great works. In my mind, they all blend together in one seamless epic. That’s probably at least partly because many of Vonnegut’s books contain certain characters that keep popping up in story after story, like Kilgore Trout, failed hack science-fiction writer; and mothers who kill themselves by drinking the fine products of the Drano family of clog-cleaners. His books, like his characters, inhabited their own discrete alternate universe. A crazy, back-to-front world that looked scarily like our own.

In order to impress upon the unititiated a snapshot of the insoucience I loved and will miss so much about Vonnegut, I close with this drawing from the hand of the man himself, from “Breakfast of Champions” (which he also illustrated), of an asshole. So it goes:


Monday, April 09, 2007

Requiescat in pace, Johnny Hart

The creator of “The Wizard of Id” and more controversially “B.C.” passed away today. He died at his drawing board at age 76.

Although I wouldn’t describe myself as ever having been a big fan, I did own most of his paperback collections as a kid (along with MAD magazine and Peanuts® paperbacks) and his work influenced my outlook as a kid, and as a one-time budding cartoonist.

I know he caught a lot of flak for introducing Christian themes into his work (some might say shoving them down his readers’ throats), especially in his later years (according to press reports, since he stopped drinking), but art is supposed to provoke a reaction, and by this metric at least, Johnny Hart was an unqualified success.

Now it’s showtime. Either Johnny Hart stands before the Pearly Gates and finds himself and his belief system delightfully vindicated, or he’s dissipated into the ether and is beyond such pedestrian concerns. I’m in no hurry to find out which, personally.

Godspeed, Mr. Hart. Thanks for the smiles as well as the outrage. Mission accomplished, good and faithful friend.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

A few things that are pretty cool:

In no particular order:

The Arcade Fire, “Neon Bible”

This is one of those bands by and for kids that I actually “get.” I’m hep, baby. Most new music sounds like garbage to me (although everybody looks real nice), and even a lot of the critically-anointed ‘cool’ bands like Radiohead I never did get.

These guys I get. In spite of the fact that most of the time, I have no idea what the hell they’re going on about – I’d swear some of the lyrics are in French? – but it doesn’t matter because the bits I can make out suggest they think it’s something pretty important, anyhow. And the fact that they don’t jump out at me and read me the riot act is kinda welcome too. Even if they are trying to wag their fingers at me, they’re polite enough to bury the vocals under enough glorious bafflegab that the finer points roll right over me.

I used to say that INXS wanted very badly to be U2 but only succeeded in being U2 very badly. These kids pull if off (being U2) with style and zazz to spare. It’s very sweet, anthemic music about stuff that sounds like it matters. I’d swear he just slagged off the White House right there. Well I’m cool with that. I’ve made a cottage industry of it here on my beloved forum. “Friends, Romans, people with substance abuse problems and family members…”

However, he just sang “I don’t want to live in America no more.” Well, we have an open border policy in this country mister (just ask Lou Dobbs!), nobody’s forcing you to stay. Plus, that would explain the French. How much you want to bet these guys are from Canada?

(Speaking of Canada, Rush has a new album coming out May 1st. Place your pre-orders today!)

Anyhow, “Neon Bible” is a little baroque but very, very pop and well-crafted. Sincere without being weak-kneed. Best new record from a newer band in I can’t remember how long. You should also run over to iTunes or wherever you snitch your music from and check out “Wake Up,” a previous anthem totally in the U2 mode. It may already have become the standard they’re going to be held to. And “Neon Bible” damn near lives up to that promise.


Opening this weekend; sadly, the matinee screening I attended on Friday was sparsely attended, unlike the same showtime for “300” which had been packed. Doesn’t look good for the bottom line, but my gut tells me its directors, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, will land on their feet. If this thing bombs, watch for them to tell the press that they’re proud that it did, that that was the whole point of it.

That having been said, I loved the hell out of it. The directors, who famously met years ago at a festival screening of their respective first features, are both working at the top of their form here. The banality and utter dispensability of Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror,” is again, the point of it. Zombies get blown apart in every conceivable way, heroes sling catch-phrases, the film itself spackles and cracks and scratches like a second-generation print of a 30-year-old film. A-List stars mingle with television actors and people more famous for being famous than any actual acting talent… Rodriguez nails the genre perfectly. And at a brisk 85 minutes or so, there’s not a lot of fat on the film story-wise, either.

In between the films and before the first, were fake trailers for non-existent movies that also nailed their genres perfectly. Some even created their own genres, like Rob Zombie’s “Werewolf Women of the SS.” Brilliant stuff.

Tarantino’s contribution, “Death Proof,” is more Tarantino being Tarantino than a reverent re-creation of films past. His is more a nod and a wink to the genre it’s aping than the aw-shucks homage of Rodriguez’s film. The dialogue is pure Tarantino, and first half of the film at least is almost all talk. I was getting pretty sick of it, frankly, till stuff started to happen. Clever dialogue will only take me so far in a splatter film.

But when stuff started to happen, it suddenly became one of the great car chase movies I’ve seen. It made me want to check out the car-chase movies it repeatedly referenced in the vast, arid stretches of clever dialogue, saucily delivered that preceded it. Long takes, too. Oh yeah, and Tarantino makes long-ish cameos in both films. Puh-lease.

In “Death Proof,” Kurt Russell plays a variation of his renowned Snake Plissken character from “Escape From New York.” He’s a stunt car driver/serial killer who kills people with his stunt car after stalking them. The fun of this movie isn’t reading about it, it’s seeing it, the same as “Planet Terror.”

I’m on a deadline here. “Grindhouse” was definitely a blast and I’d recommend seeing it on the big screen while you can. Hopefully, you’ll have a livelier audience to enjoy it with than I did.

“Rome” Season Two on HBO

Just finished watching this thing. Awesome! Better than the last few seasons of the Sopranos. Tighter, leaner, meaner and more focused. My favorite series after “The Wire,” for which I have already rhapsodized at length elsewhere.

The first season of “Rome” wrapped after the death of Julius Caesar on the senate steps, and I thought that was a fine place to end it. I’d heard it was a really expensive series for HBO to produce, and I was glad they’d given it their all the way they did. The fact that they eked a second season out of it initially worried me. What was there to tell?

Fortunately, history is generous. In the great civilizations, one monster is always replaced by the next monster, as is the case here. Julius Caesar is replaced by two scheming, warring asswipes, Marc Antony and Caesar Augustus. Three, if you count Egypt’s Cleopatra, and I definitely would count her among the scheming asswipes assembled. This season follows their stories, as well as the interconnecting lives of two commoners, soldiers whose job brings them to the attention of the better-known historical figures.

It’s a device I’ve seen before, but it’s especially well-used here. And for those grumpy Guses complaining The Sopranos has been stingy its last few seasons with the sex and the violence, “Rome” delivers both by the heaping helping.

My only caveat is, this alone-time TV. No kids, no ringing phones, no answering emails. This is more like literature than TV writing. You can’t afford to miss a bit, and you don’t want to. Rent the first season, out on DVD now, and HBO will probably have season two out in no time. If HBO didn’t charge a goddamned arm and a leg for their DVD products, I’d pick it up myself and watch it again. What, do they press these discs on spun gold or what?

The Man Cub

I have saved the best for last.

At about 18 months or so, he’s really coming into his own. Still doing annoying baby shit like not sleeping as, how, when and how long we’d like him to, and throwing pointy, hard objects at expensive, softer objects (like laptop monitors).

But he’s also beginning to get a handle on communicating. ANECDOTE ALERT: When we put him down for his morning nap, the ritual includes him tapping his light off (it’s touch-activated) and us shutting his drapes to make the room appropriately dark. Yesterday, The Missus was putting him down and she pulled the right curtain shut. The boy writhed and pointed to a section of drape that was stuck, and not where it should be. “Nyuuuh!” She pulled the drape free and smoothed it out. She took the right drape and pulled it toward the center, again catching a corner on some baby toy. Again, the boy twisted and pointed to the unobstructed area of window, “Gaaah!” until she had freed the drape and smoothed it into the proper vertical configuration, placating the boy. Then she turned to me with an accusing look and said, “Well, we know whose son he is.”

He understands more than he can communicate. I can say, in the morning, “Want to go get Mommy up?” He jumps off my lap and grabs my hand and leads me the bedroom where he knows Mommy is, slapping the door and making happy, multi-syllable baby noises.

I say “Come here.” And he knows to laugh at my foolishness and (literally, still) toddle off the other way, giggling at his indiscretion.

He’s even finally getting “bah bah” and the attendant hand-wave, as well as being able to identify where his nose is by pointing to it when requested. His baby doctor will be so relieved. The Missus is even working with him on his ABCs, and 123s, so when he does speak his first complete sentence, it might well contain a quadratic equation.

Meanwhile, I work on survival skills with him. It’s a rough old world out there, and I didn’t have the foresight to name him “Sue,” so I’m gonna have to stick around and make sure he has the tools he needs to triumph over a world that eats little people like us for breakfast. And the first step down that road … is dandelions!

Monday, April 02, 2007

It’s Gore

What better way to repudiate the current fucktard-in-chief — and by association, the policies he’s enacted in our name — than by re-electing the man who beat him in 2000?

If Gore gets in, it’s his to win. He was right on Gulf War I (pro: Saddam needed a spanking and that’s what he received), he was right on Gulf War II (the ongoing Operation: Iraqi ad Infinitum), he’s right on the environment and he’s a hands-on wonk with a nuts and bolts understanding of how things work, both in the Senate and the White House. If his ponderin’ ways make him a little less quick on the trigger, maybe that’s a compromise we can live with.

If Election 2008 becomes about shunning Bush, and barring an act of god it will and ought to be, Al Gore is the candidate with the mandate!