Sunday, December 28, 2008

Israel, stop indiscriminately bombing Gaza!

Fuck! With the civilian death toll climbing into the hundreds and no end to the bombing campaign in sight, what makes your actions any different or more morally defensible than those you are allegedly retaliating against?

What happened to targeted assassinations? You know, take a handful of your country’s craftiest murderous thugs, slip in, kill the other side’s craftiest murderous thugs in their sleep then slip the fuck back out. Always seemed like a better idea to me than government-sanctioned and -executed terrorist attacks, which by definition is what you’re doing when you lob bombs from afar irregardless of how many “collateral” casualties you accrue along with whatever legitimate military targets you’re aiming for.

Is everybody in that part of the world just plain batshit crazy?

The United States has to join the world community in condemning these attacks and it needs to do it Right. Fucking. Now. Our knee-jerk support of Israel and every outrageous thing they do has to stop. Sometimes it takes a friend or an ally to step up and talk truth to power.

It’s long past time America grew a pair and told Israel to cool its shit or they’ll find themselves surrounded on all sides by people who want them dead and nobody over here watching their back. As long as we don’t lay down the law, we are complicit in the atrocities committed by our closest mid-east allies.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Actually got out to see a movie yesterday, thanks to The Missus’ parents offering to babysit the young one.

Since it was going to be a date movie, “The Spirit” would have to wait and we went to go see Gus Van Zandt’s “Milk,” about assassinated San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk instead.

Now (director) Van Zandt has made some truly unwatchable films in his time. “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues” and “My Own Private Idaho” spring immediately to mind. He’s also made a couple of really good films, for instance “Drugstore Cowboy” and “Good Will Hunting.”

With “Milk,” however, he’s taken his game to a whole new level. This is the kind of film that they should show kids in school when the curriculum turns to civil rights.

And star Sean Penn, as Harvey Milk, deserves an Oscar for his performance. He totally disappears into his role. As always, he goes for broke, and with this film, he has found a vehicle worthy of his protean talents.

If you’re reading this blog, you likely already know the film’s story. Milk was the first openly gay man elected to public office in America and he spent his cruelly abbreviated public-service career battling the proponents of organized anti-gay prejudice (orange juice peddler Anita Bryant and various evangelical loudmouths chief among them).

The film even contained a few surprises for me, like the fact that soon-to-be-President Ronald Reagan was among those who supported Milk’s efforts to strike down California’s ban on gay school teachers. In the opening montage of the film are images of newspaper reports of people being arrested just for being gay. WTF? That this happened in America – during my lifetime… it’s still hard to wrap my head around.

I remember being in high school when the incidents portrayed in this film were going down. I wasn’t politically-conscious back then (spent most of time trying to be as generally unconscious as booze and modern pharmacology would allow me to be), but could still see that what was going on was a repellant outrage and un-American to its core. So I wrote an anti-Anita Bryant editorial for the school paper and had to endure the hassling of the jock über-class the rest of my time at that school. I wore their scorn (and off-target epithets and occasional shoves into the lockers) with some pride. Even then I understood that if these were the kind of people who represented the opposition, chances are I was on the right side of the issue.

But I never knew the details till now. This film should have been a celebratory dramatization of another proud step forward in America’s ongoing fight to secure equal rights for all, but as is all too often the case, ends up being a bittersweet elegy for yet one more fallen American civil rights hero.

“Milk” even made me re-think California’s recently-passed legislation forbidding gays to marry. Even though I voted against the proposition, my support was lukewarm and I didn’t shed any tears when it went down in flames. I figured, hey, the gay rights struggle is a relatively new one and social change usually takes a long time. Be patient, my gay and lesbian fellow citizens. Your time will come.

But “Milk” served to remind me that discrimination is discrimination and as Martin Luther King so correctly observed (before he was gunned down in his prime), “We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

So if not now, when? If not us, who?

Hopefully, “Milk” will win a handful of trophies come awards season and will re-invigorate the debate. This time, my heart – in addition to my vote – will be in it.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Say it ain’t so, Bruce!

The Boss has a new Greatest Hits package set for release just before his Super Bowl appearance next month, which is all well and good. Problem is, it’ll only be available at WalMart.

I understand the thinking, I think. Here’s my guess: People in rural areas of the country often have nowhere to shop but WalMart. Take a drive through the middle of the country sometime if you think I’m exaggerating. And these same fly-over-staters are also more likely to not have internet access or even own a computer, so they can’t download the 12 tracks from iTunes. Or presumably, don’t already own the recycled hits from their original releases or previous greatest hits compilations.

But god, Springsteen is supposed to be all about the Little Guy, and although it’s cool he’s making sure this package is available to all the Little Guys in the hinterlands, it also sucks rump that he’s throwing in with an outfit like WalMart that makes a company policy of screwing all the Little Guys they employ. Shitty wages, shitty benefits, zero-tolerance policy for unionization… all the stuff that Bruce gets up on stage every night and decries about what’s wrong with America is exemplified by the company he’s authorized as sole distributor of this latest greatest hits collection.

Whatever his thinking is, it strikes me as cynical at best. The idea that his Average-Joe fans don’t already have these tracks is laughable. I have no problem with his releasing yet another greatest hits set just before a big TV appearance to wring a few extra bucks out of the faithful – that’s just The Game. But to pretend that he’s doing his fans a necessary favor by releasing it exclusively through WalMart is bunk. It’s strictly a numbers game, and Springsteen is supposed to be better than that.

In the end, it’s not that big a deal, really. But it seems like the kind of compromise that Springsteen could afford to pass up. And because of that, it’s disappointing. Almost as disappointing as the fact that the big event he’s playing in January is the Super Bowl, not the inauguration.

Happy Birthday Jesus!

You don’t look a day over 1500. Seriously.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Walk it like you talk it, Left-Wingers!

After most recent elections, there’s been a lot of talk about incoming administrations “looking like America.” Even W did his part, bringing qualified African-Americans to some of the highest cabinet posts in the land. Colin Powell, Condi Rice, I’m sure there are others.

And now that Obama is trying to strike a cultural balance with his inauguration, the Left is losing its shit. Specifically in the choice of best-selling mega-preacher Rick Warren as inauguration invocator, because he doesn’t share the Left’s support of abortion rights and gay marriage.

The fact that a lot of America looks like rednecks, Republicans and evangelicals seems to make Warren a pretty good choice to me. Inclusion doesn’t just mean including people who agree with us, it necessarily encompasses including people with whom we are not in lock-step ideologically. It’s a knife that cuts both ways or not at all.

Anyhow, where does the Left think they’re going to find a pastor to give the invocation who does support abortion rights and gay marriage? The Catholics? No. The Baptists? Uh uh. The First AMEs? You’re kidding, right? Last I heard, Gavin Newsome doesn’t have a degree in Divinity... No, they’d have to settle for some wingnut Unitarian who nobody’s ever heard of or maybe the leader of some Protestant splinter group. And you know who that would unite?


Goddammit, if there’s going to be a drawing-together in this country, both sides are gonna have to give a little. That’s what they call a compromise, and as much as rebellion against taxation without representation, it’s what we have to thank for the existence of this country. If the founding fathers had been as intractable as the people howling indignation at Warren’s selection, we might still be kissing the Queen’s ass and speaking the King’s English.

So get off your soapboxes and look at the big picture. Warren’s on the good side of issues such as reduction of global poverty, human rights abuses and the AIDS epidemic. He’s an intelligent, articulate guy who doesn’t seem to be spreading a message of hatred from the pulpit for people who disagree with him. In these ugly, polarizing times, he’s about the best we’re going to do.

For crying out loud, we’re getting a duet between Yo Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman; even some highbrow poetry reading (a tradition done away with by culture-loving POTUS Bush in 2004 to the great irritation of The Missus as well as other members of the intelligentsia). If we have to listen to some member of the clergy drone on about God this and Providence that at the inauguration – and tradition clearly suggests we do – I think Rick Warren is one the canniest, most middle-of-the-road picks Obama could have made.

If we left-wingers are serious about healing the wounds inflicted on this country during the Bush administration and legitimately trying to unite our fractured union – and not just extracting cultural revenge for the last eight years of fundamentalist idiocy – we’ve got to give a little bit to get an awful lot back.

So let’s give them Rick Warren and be happy it isn’t Pat Robertson or Rev. Fred Phelps. To paraphrase a young Eddie Murphy: Have a double-caffeine mocha latte and a smile and shut the fuck up.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How in God’s name…

…has this clip of Hell’s House Band, the The F@%#ing Fauntleroys, gotten almost 3,000 hits? What the hell are people searching for on the YouTube!?

The Annual Holiday Report from Christmas Island

A better writer than me summed it up nicely in two words: Bah, humbug.

When I was single I hated the whole holiday season because it represented an unavoidable, unbroken string of unwelcome deviations from my carefully-wrought schedule, not a one of which was ever at my initiation (except the times I brought my Mom out to spend the holiday with me – those years were special).

Now that I’m married with children and any notions of maintaining anything like a predictable, enforceable schedule are long gone, my objections have become more prosaic.

Christmas means an extended leave from my base of operations. It means long sleepless nights spent in the childhood bedroom of my wife’s sister replete with constantly ringing telephones, echoing voices and the clattering of dogs’ toenails across the hardwood floor. Well, one less dog this year as my beloved Woody will not be joining us, and the current Liability is too goddamned stupid and dangerous to join us for the holiday.

It means huge nightly repasts that start after my usual lights-out, followed by going to bed uncomfortably full and remaining constipated until after I’m back at my own home.

It means consecutive days on end of no privacy, and since we fly down, no wheels to call my own. The in-laws bend over backwards to accommodate me, but my requirements are so unreasonable that they’re literally impossible to meet, making me appear and feel like the good-for-nothing ingrate I am.

It means no Bastardson family Christmas traditions will ever emerge; we’ll forever be coat-tailing the family traditions of my in-laws. Which, for the record, are fine and generous traditions, but I never get to be the dad I always imagined I’d be on Christmas, the dad my dad was. I’m always the interloper, the fifth wheel. I’ll never get to read “The Night Before Christmas” to my son in our own home on the actual night before Christmas while he’s still young enough to appreciate it.

And my job workload increases exponentially between Thanksgiving and the new year, leaving me precious little time to enjoy any holiday spirit that might have the wrong address and come knocking at our door by mistake. And since the holiday falls mid-week this year, it means the whole time I’m not sleeping or not crapping or attending compulsory events I’ll be overwhelmed with work that will have to be accomplished in a remote location (which is code for any place with potentially iffy internet connections, like five-star resorts).

All of which means I’ll be sporting an even shorter fuse than usual on my happy-go-lucky hair-trigger temper. When I’m not busy blowing up over nothing, I’m busy apologizing for same. And wishing I had eaten less and could get some fucking sleep at night.

The whole period between the end of November and the beginning of January is one long endurance test. I become the worst possible version of myself at the time it’s most important I’m on my “A” game.

But Christmas with her family means the world to my wife, and having The Boy on hand for the holidays means everything to my in-laws, so what’s a misanthrope with agoraphobia issues to do?

Eat too much, sleep and crap too little, and dread the payback when I finally return home to the dirt I was buried in; bleary-eyed and acutely out of sorts, counting down the days till my compromised immune system rewards me with the inevitable nasty cold and blown-out hemorrhoids.

And this year is extra special. By just about the time I should be recovered physically from the annual holiday ordeal, I have some arthroscopic surgery to look forward to on my shoulder, which will leave me bedridden for a week and back on the goofballs for the foreseeable future thereafter. Note to my sponsor…

And while I’m in a celebratory mood, I want to send birthday love out to my pal Cliz, who isn’t getting older, just better adjusted.

Some day, she must tell me how she does it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

W: Still finding ways to fuck America over…

…after all these years.

He came into office in 2001 and proceeded to immediately begin slashing federal dollars formerly used to fund critical medical research involving discarded human stem cells, and on his way out the door is moving boldly to shore up his Big Swinging Dick legacy; according to tonight, “the Bush administration cleared the way Thursday for federal agencies to skip consultations with government scientists when embarking on projects that could impact endangered wildlife.”

From indifference to the plight of sick and dying people to giving a hearty “thumbs-down” to species on the brink of extinction (neither group packed with big GOP contributors, one would imagine), Dumbleyou has been nothing if not consistently thick-headed and hard-hearted through his eight harrowing years as POTUS.

I’ll be so glad to never have to type his goddamned name again. I don’t need to go into chapter and verse to spell out my outrage; you either share it, or you can’t wait to vote for Sarah Palin in 2012 (assuming you haven’t been raptured bodily into heaven by then).

Fuck him. He doesn’t deserve any more of my indignation, although I’m sure he’s going to sorely test my resolve in his the next few weeks. There’s a lot of damage he hasn’t done to the country and the world yet and only a little bit of time left to get to it. Can’t wait to see who Uncle Dickie has him put the screws to next. Hmmm… what have we done to make orphans living with AIDS lives more difficult lately…?

Five rapacious weeks to go. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NBC gives up the goat

Or “I’d buy that for a dollar!”

I heard on the news tonight that coming soon, NBC will begin programming a ‘new’ Jay Leno show 5 nights a week at 10PM. There are so many things wrong with that I don’t know where to start.

Personal: Not a Jay Leno fan. Don’t hate him, but his middle-of-the-road persona is just so uninteresting compared to contemporaries like Dave Letterman and Conan O’Brien. Both of those shows you can’t imagine them going on without their hosts (although NBC will likely place some new yukster in Conan’s late night-time slot unless it turns out they can make more money running infomercials), but a Jay Leno-type gabfest could just as easily be fronted by any one of a dozen comics… Pauly Shore, Seth Green, one of the lesser Baldwin brothers. He’s a cup of warm milk. Nyeh.

Up side: When NBC has any scripted dramas worth broadcasting, it usually runs them at 10pm. Which I TiVo then have to make time to watch later. So by eliminating all the relatively pricey scripted content in the 10-11pm weeknight slot, I should see a lot of time freed up to pursue more worthy endeavors during the daytime hours.

Sympathy: Poor Conan O’Brien. He finally gets the plum gig, the crown jewel, “The Tonight Show…” only to have its former host cut him off at the knees by continuing to precede him 5 days a week, the same way he is now! It’s like someone finally conquering the capital city only to have the seat of government move away before he can take physical possession. Plus some of Conan’s edgier, funnier fare will probably be scuttled by his new earlier time slot.

Equivocation: Here’s Jeff Zucker, head of NBC programming, doing his best Rummy call-and-response impersonation, spinning like crazy for the AP: “Can we continue to program 22 hours of prime-time? Three of our competitors don’t. Can we afford to program seven nights a week? One of our competitors doesn’t,” Zucker said in comments that were relayed online. “All of these questions have to be on the table. And we are actively looking at all of those questions.”

Here’s my favorite Zucker quote, where he throws a shovelful of dirt on my own beloved, long-suffering industry in passing while he sells his down the river [emphasis mine], “We're in an era where if we don't change the models of these local TV stations, we will be newspapers, we will be car companies,” he said. “I don’t want to be a company that files for bankruptcy.

Well fuck you very much. MSNBC is all the proof I needed anyhow that you weren’t interested in being in the journalism business.

Although not technically a 10PM show, “Heroes’” spectacular, high-profile failure is largely what’s got NBC walking the streets in “The End Is Near” sandwich-boards. About “Heroes”: It’s really sucked this year. Not sucked like last year, where everything took forever to not go anywhere really slowly. This year they’re throwing everything they’ve got at the wall every episode. And characters are still acting dumber than library paste. During a recent 2-parter, all the super-powered cuties lost their abilities at exactly the same time as a total eclipse of the sun occurred, and not a single one of them put 2 and 2 together. They all wailed endlessly about facing a life without their powers and gnashing their teeth at this inexplicable turn of events. And the fucking eclipse lasted two whole episodes!! What planet are they on?! NBC, don’t mistake one show’s awful writing with an inevitable trend-line for a whole genre of television.

Down side: This is just the continued dumbing down, as if it needed more, of American TV. Whatever is cheapest to produce is what we’ll feed to our willing, complicit masses, and we’ll feed it to them till they like it. How far are we, really, from the sophomoric, anaesthetizing television content parodied so presciently in Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 “Robocop” – the drunk swell with two brainless bimbos preening on his arms bellowing, “I’d buy that for a dollar!” to riotous offscreen canned laughter.

A dollar? I wouldn’t give a plugged nickel for Leno’s looming 60 minutes of prime-time swill, nor for the fate of American television in general.

Time to get serious about that Great American Novel. Maybe someday I can find somebody who’ll be willing to buy that for a dollar.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Things That Have “Trouble” Written All Over Them

I was just on the phone with the Pet Sitter about Christmas when Obi, my wife’s dog, walked in chewing on something paper. Something not ordinarily associated with being chewed.

So I lean over and I’m trying to skirt Obi’s behavior problems with the lady on the phone and as I’m dissembling I’m trying to pull out the thing that Obi’s chewing and he takes a nasty snap at me. While I’m lying to this nice woman about how sure, it won’t be any problem for you to come over without your partner. What could possibly go wrong?

Did I mention this has trouble written all over it? It’s times like this I’m glad we don’t own our own house.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

To Never Forget

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Odetta, Voice of Civil Rights Movement, Dies at 77

Something like this is just bound to make a body sad. Another civil rights pioneer that won’t live to see Barack Obama sworn in.

I was only fleetingly familiar with Odetta; she had one of those kind of “Holy crap, is that a woman singing?” voices, like Nina Simone. A stop-you-in-your-tracks-and-make-you-take-notice voice. When she sang a thing, you believed it. You know damn well she believed it.

I’m not familiar enough with her body of work or her legacy to do them proper justice. This New York Times piece does a better job in a few paragraphs than I could do if I pounded hell out of my keyboard all night.

The only thing that the Times piece leaves out that I would like noted is that Johnny Cash was a fan, too, and had her on his TV show on August 30, 1969. This is how I’ll always remember her:

Although her light has been extinguished, her after-image is seared into our national conscience. Like Leonard Cohen, Sinead O’Connor and Bobby Dylan, someday I’ll be able to tell my son that for a few brief years, he shared the earth with a giant, the likes of whom we’ll not soon see again.

Rest easy, Odetta. You’ve reached the mountaintop that Dr. King spoke of and your faith promised you. I have to believe that the view from where you are now is better than it is from here.