Monday, March 30, 2009


Or “Back In The Saddle Again”

It’s been a whirlwind couple months, and since only sissies keep diaries I’m going to jot it all down here so I can forget it in peace.

As you know (or maybe I didn’t mention it here, I have a usually hard & fast rule about mixing blogging and complaints about my work-life), I lost a regular part-time job a couple months ago and we’ve been eking by ever since. This was the gig that evaporated while I took a week off to recover from shoulder surgery. In journalism, as in comedy, timing is everything.

I actually officially lost it January 20. I spent inauguration day preparing for the party we were having that night and having panic attacks about losing my job. To say it was a buzzkill would be to sugar-coat the reality of the day. Pictures of me from that night’s party show a doughty middle-aged man with a worried look on his face in a crowd of happy-go-lucky revelers. I still get shortness of breath just thinking about it.

Well, it turns out my replacement was more incompetent than I am unlikable (you can take a minute to let that sink in) and I just got the job back. The thing is, I didn’t really want it back. We were mostly getting by without the extra income (although poor-folks things had started happening already, like when our toaster broke a month ago and we haven’t been able to afford to replace it yet), but now that the gig is back, I wonder how long it’ll be before my obvious distaste for it gets me fired again. I promised the boss and The Missus to do my best not to be an asshole this time – this was Friday morning – and Saturday morning I ended up on the phone with one of the salespeople, chewing them a new one for calling me on the weekend. I mean, Christ, I’m not even back on the company teat till Monday and I’m already past my stress breaking-point.

For instance, I’m afraid now to look at my email. I think about checking my email and I can feel my blood-pressure rise.

But I keep telling myself, I’m not going to work in the mines every day. On my worst day my biggest complaint is that I accomplish two solid hours’ worth of work spread-out over an extra-long workday. Really, that’s it. And I can get to have my time wasted in the comfort of my own home. And I have my magic stress-be-gone pills and an extremely supportive wife.

And probably every song Johnny Cash and Hank Williams ever recorded.

I should be thanking my lucky stars. Some people out there have real problems. The same day I got my job back, my friend Cliz got bounced from hers after nine years. And she barely mentioned it in passing on her blog.

When the hell did I become such a primmadonna? Somebody out there please give me a swift kick in the ass, will you? (Sean, I’m looking at you…)

I need to ask myself, What Would John Wayne Do? and then do that.

Which I guess is why I’m back in the saddle again. I am going to so suck it up and be a man about what is actually my extremely good fortune that I won’t even mention the subject again till I get fired the next time for having a shitty attitude (or my publications join the great scrap-heap of print journalism in the sky, whichever happens first).

Stay tuned…

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

You know you’re getting old when…

It hurts to sleep. Ouch.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

FLASH: George W. Bush to pen memoir!

(I swear, I had every intention of never writing his name again. Every good intention…)

And by “George W. Bush,” of course I mean his ghostwriter not him, and by “memoir” I mean a carefully-culled, non-linear series of unrelated anecdotes, not the standard biographical narrative that would necessarily have to include or obfuscate all the DWI’s, frat hazings, unsanctioned absences from the Texas National Air Guard while campaigning out of state for his father and the laundry list of various other ‘youthful indiscretions’ of every size, shape and variety that the former POTUS engaged in till he (allegedly) got his act together at the tender age of forty.

No, he’s only going to cover the parts he most needs to spin so history can see him as the Alexander The Great he sees himself as, not the Alfred E. Neuman it currently considers him. So for instance, he’s going to discuss giving up drinking, buuuut not the drinking itself.

I’m surprised I’m even surprised.

As is his custom and his wont, he is taking the coward’s way out. I’m disappointed he hasn’t gotten Dr. Phil to co-write it with him, so all the fatal, disastrous errors in judgment that proceeded from his inability to self-reflect could be tidied-up and explained-away in real time as they popped up again and again and again and again. But of course Dr. Phil would insist he talk about his childhood (shrinks always do, heh-heh), and for reasons both legal and Oedipal, W’s childhood is another place he just won’t go.

But he’s at the jumping-off point to making another signature fuck-up and I’m here to tell him, assuming he is a reader of this blog. And let’s face it, I think I have about three readers, including The Missus and the two undergrads we keep in the root cellar to grade papers at the end of the quarter. So I don’t think I’ll be able to be accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy, in this case, our former president number forty-three, when I point out the obvious here:

If Dumbleyou doesn’t cover all the juicy bits from his past and get out ahead of them, some esteemed presidential biographer – I mean a David Maraniss not a Kitty Kelley – is gonna rake out the muck first and present the ugly facts without all the prettifying explanificating Bush could do if he told the stories first.

For instance, when Obama was asked, during the campaign, if he had ever smoked pot, he said yes. When asked if he inhaled, Obama laughed and said, “I thought that was the point.” Aaaaand that was the end of the interest in Obama’s pot smoking. He put the story out himself, contextualized it without apologizing for it and moved past it.

Bush’s proposed half-a-memoir guarantees a cottage industry to come of scorched-earth tell-alls by former confidantes and their former-journalist ghost-writers, all of whom will feel they have an axe to grind with the Dissembler-In-Chief. Once again, for the umpteenth time, he will find himself in a hell born of his own bad decision-making and lack of self-reflection. And this time, there will be no one there to grease the appropriate palms to see to it he gets off with a slap on the wrist.

History’s paperwork isn’t going to get conveniently lost.

Friday, March 20, 2009

“How cool is it to ride on Air Force One?”

This is exactly the kind of empty, ass-kissy question one would expect a featherweight, middle-of-the-road entertainer of Jay Leno’s ilk to lob at the first sitting US president to visit a late-night talk show, and he did not disappoint.

Spoiler alert: It’s pretty cool to ride on Air Force One!

The fact that most of last night’s Tonight Show interview centered on the specific policy points Obama has been pushing the last couple weeks was almost certainly at the Obama camp’s insistence, or we would have been treated to thirty minutes of Leno pitching softballs like the one above. By the last segment, it would have been, “Do you ever get tired of being played-on to the same song every time you make an appearance anywhere?” Or some tired gag about Obama’s ineptitude at bowling – oh wait, Jay did get to that one.

For this NBC is planning to jettison their entire 10 p.m. weeknight schedule? They’re going to scuttle the fabulous “Life” (among other, less worthy but still scripted, dramatic programming) just to keep a talent of Leno’s stunning mediocrity in their stable? Jay Leno is the entertainment equivalent of a control group in a scientific study. He doesn’t offer a damn thing of actual value, but his consumers are told he does and are thus entertained.

Dave Letterman (as I have recently opined) is a bonafide national treasure, whereas Jay Leno is a gumball you buy for 25¢ from the machine in the lobby of the Wal Mart. He doesn’t challenge, offend or excite. He’s everything that art isn’t but commerce is. He’s New Coke. He’s PG-13 movies. He’s the guy your parents want you to date.

Example: Jay’s musical guest for Obama’s drop-in? Garth Brooks. “Attention, blue light shoppers…” What with everything in the world already sucking or on the path to suckage, it’s the perfect time for Brooks to launch his comeback. (Disclaimer: Brooks acquitted himself better than I expected with one of his catchier faux-country tunes, but he was still Garth Brooks.)

But I digress. What I really need is a good editor. Speaking of digressions and needing editors:

This isn’t actually about Obama doing “The Tonight Show” even though I think it was a terrific idea. I have a whole bit inside of me about how skillfully Obama has been managing the media and his image. The guy is everywhere. He’s taking hostile questions from Town Hall meetings. He’s on the highest-rated nighttime TV talk show. Almost-daily, extended press conferences. You can’t turn around without bumping into a presidential appearance. The effect being to create the feeling that he’s in this awful mess at the same time as we are. His is a pretty big fucking bubble. It’s so big it includes us and that’s a mighty shrewd business model.

I used to have this argument with my boss. She told me, “Fang, your problem is, you just want people to like you.” (Years later, I realized she was right.) At the time, it was in the context of differing managing philosophies – is it better to have your employees love you or fear you? She was strictly in the Fear camp. But my experience – with my employees, who loved the shit out of me – is that a fearful employee will at best walk right up to that 100% line and make sure his ass is covered, but go no further. A loving employee will start at the 100% mark and proceed from there. They’ll make sure your ass is covered, too, with the result being better unit cohesion and a tighter end-product.

She was right about me but wrong about management theory.

Anyhow, Obama is taking the Love Model to the White House. The nation is in shit up to our elbows, but he’s always right there and he’s always doing something to try to help. And it’s working. Not the solutions he’s offering, not yet, but by retaining his political capital with a successful charm offensive, he’s making sure we’ll still be looking to him when the shit-level starts to recede and stuff can actually be begun to get accomplished.

But this isn’t about Obama nailing his appearance on Jay Leno’s show. This pissy little fit I’m trying to throw is about NBC throwing up its hands and saying “Fuck the 10 p.m. drama.” It’s not a ‘brave gamble,’ as some have said, it’s a calculation, a capitulation. A perceived financial imperative. And as much as I understand the dollars and cents sense of the move, I think on balance, it was a shitty thing to do and it casts an ill portent for scripted TV drama if it is successful. And I reckon it will be successful.

Can you imagine what our network TV hellscape will look like 5, 10 years from now? Nothing but celebrity peep-shows like Entertainment Tonight, ever more shocking reality shows and variety shows modeled after Leno’s that will combine the lowest elements of the peep shows and the reality shows. And all of it coming into our front rooms on wall-sized Hi-Def 3-D 360° holographic displays... Suddenly, my stomach is feeling all roller-coastery.

So maybe it’s all good, all just part of the inevitable, ongoing transition to the new communications paradigm. Maybe it’s time we were weaned completely from our old television-viewing habits so the internet can scratch that industry off its To-Do List, too.

And when it does, for good or ill, Leno’s 10 p.m. gabfest will have been one of the touchstones of that transition.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Art for Art’s sake (and other issues of mine)

One can only ponder how quaint and professionally obsolete the goddamned interweb will have rendered finger-painting by the time The Boy’s out there looking for work as a finger-painter…

“You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone!”

So say we all!

My brother was kind enough to send along this gloom & doom (ie: accurate) analysis of the current state of print journalism. Don’t know this guy Shirky, but he’s given this issue at least as much thought as I have and expressed his thinkings better than I probably could.

Important reading if you or anyone you know relies on print journalism for a living.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Here To Help…® This Week: Dave Matthews

I have some career advice for Dave Matthews. You should only sing back-up on traditional-sounding tunes behind giants like Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris, the only two times I’ve ever liked you.

In addition to your endless jam sessions which are bad enough, your white-boy scat makes me have to jump up and leave the room. Or hit the clicker in a panic. “Oh shit it’s Dave Matthews and he’s trying to scat again…!”

Dave, you’re a likeable enough fellow and you and I obviously share many of the same musical tastes, so I’ll meet you half-way: You can keep doing the 28-minute two-verse songs that you (and your fans, bless them) so love, but you must, must stop with the scat. Your band makes a serviceable Phish, but I’m sorry, you’re no Ella Fitzgerald and it’s embarrassing watching you try to be.

Emmylou and Johnny Cash, my career advice is I wouldn’t change a thing. You must be doing something right; you’ve both made me like Dave Matthews, even for a few minutes at a time.

Here’s an interesting PS: a quick search of the YouTube turned up an “acoustic Johnny Cash/Dave Matthews Band cover” band - I kid you not - and I’ll be damned if their version of “Long Black Veil” doesn’t kick maximum ass. (I keep wanting to learn how to play that one, but it must have an F in it or something.) Respect to Mike Masse and Jeff Hall for taking one thing that sucks and one thing that rules and turning it into gold.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jail is too good for Bernie Madoff

I hope they sentence him to “Oz” and put him a cell with Adebisi (above).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Three Cool Things This Week On The Homefront

All of them related to minor milestones in our son’s life.

He’s about three and a half. Tall for his age but reticent in new situations. Until recently, he’d been kind of taking his time getting up to speed on some of the social basics that his peers seem to already be mastering. Which is fine with me. He’s a happy kid who’s curious and funny and kinda flirty, he already knows the ABC song and he’s in good health. I don’t need anything else for or from him.

Which is why big advances always take me by surprise and freak me out. I’m always happy with the stage he’s at, and he’s always looking to move on to the next one, and the one after that!

So here are the bullet-points for the last week:

• He went from being a potty-training handful, requiring much reminding and attending and hands-on assistance, to a marvel literally overnight. One day we’re wrestling him onto his little plastic training potty only with the promise of bribes, the next day he’s whipping his drawers down by himself, taking care of business, yanking his underwear back up and marching the detachable container of pee to the bathroom, where he empties it, flushes the toilet and puts the lid back down before heading back to the front room to reassemble the potty. On his way past my office, he mentions casually, “I went pee, daddy.”

• One day a week, he and I usually end up at Burger King for dinner (usually the night The Missus is off teaching a class at the university down the road). This week, we’re at our usual table, back and in the corner, and we’re eating and for him, it’s all about the fries which themselves are only the delivery vehicles for the ketchup. When the ketchup got low, he told me, “Need more ketchup.” I said, “Okay then, well get your little ass on up to the counter and ask the man for some more.” I didn’t know what he’d do, I was fully expecting to be one who retrieved the extra ketchup. He looked at me like ‘Really?’ I said, “Go on, go ask him. Make sure you say, ‘More Ketchup please.’” He slid out of his seat and started walking toward the counter, all the way across the restaurant. He stopped about a third of the way there and looked back at me. I waved my hand at him in a shooing motion. “Go on, all the way up to the counter.” He continued on and when he got to the counter, he must have said the right thing the first time, because the Burger King guy immediately relinquished to him a handful of ketchup packets. He came back to the table, I told him what a great job he did and there were fries and ketchup enough for the entire kingdom!

• After a particularly ugly potty-training malfunction of the number-two variety (which I am eternally grateful that I slept through), The Missus had to put The Boy under the shower to get him back up to Code. And since that incident, he has eschewed baths for showers. Now I don’t even know if this is anything, but that seems kind of young to me. It’s a lot easier and quicker for everyone than sit-down baths, but showers at three and a half?

File this post under “Insane Ramblings of a Proud Dad.”

Monday, March 09, 2009

Like Father, Like Son (Part I)

So the day care provider tells The Missus and me that some new kid’s parent was leaving him there his first day this morning, and after the parent left the child wailed copiously and carried on at length. Eventually, she said, our son responded by sternly admonishing the distraught child, “Stop that. You’re Mommy’s not coming back. Be quiet.”

As that sunk in, another one of the day care ladies said he had done the same thing to another kid last week. I looked straight at The Boy, accusingly, there in his mommy’s arms. He tilted his head toward me, his eyes lit up and a big toothy grin spread across his face.

“Luke, you must turn from the Dark Side…”

It seems he’s picking up all the wrong things from me. Besides The Missus, I can’t imagine who he could have seen me torture for sport. I’ve got to be more careful. And by careful, of course, I mean discreet.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Two Cool Things This Week in Pop Culture:

The new U2 album and the “Watchmen” movie.

U2’s new disc came out first so I’ll start with that.

I’ll admit, I was leery when a bunch of the fawning pre-release reviews came out and said the same thing: This is an album that improves on increased listenings. I’m thinking, Christ, I listened to “Sister Christian” enough times in the ’80s to think it was a good song; telling me that repeated listenings will improve my listening experience is like saying that several days without food or water will make my next meal that much tastier. I could be eating a crap sandwich and it would taste like one of those $6 Burger King hamburgers that give you a heart attack before you pull out of the drive-through.

But I do a lot of recreational writing in the mornings so it’s a good time to listen to music, even music that has to be beaten into you to be appreciated.

So that’s what I did and guess what? “No Line On The Horizon” really pulls itself together upon repetition. Like “Grace Under Pressure” by Rush and “The Boatman’s Call” by Nick Cave (just two off the top of my head), I was underwhelmed by the albums on the first couple of listens but have since come to love them both. Same with this.

The last couple of U2 records seemed a bit desperate affairs to me. For every “Kite” or “City of Blinding Lights” there was two or three calculated, arena-ready anthems like “Beautiful Day,” “Vertigo” and “Elevation.” Songs that would have been cool coming from a lesser band, but U2 doing it, it just seemed to me their work was showing. Not that they couldn’t write great songs anymore, but that that wasn’t the priority. Their priority at the time, admittedly, was “We’re here to reclaim the title of greatest rock and roll band in the world.” And to do that, I guess they needed a couple of albums loaded with mostly middle-of-the-road music to move them units off the store shelves.

Happily, they’re back in rare form with the new disc, although I still hit the ‘skip’ button every time I get to the first single, “Get On Your Boots.” It seems like a left-over from when they were writing songs designed solely to rouse lethargic concert-goers to their undiscriminating feet. Or a discard from the “Pop” sessions.

For most of the album, I have no idea what Bono’s singing about (that usually comes later for me) but the songs roll into each other like movements in a symphony. Some of the banal lyrics that have been criticized in other reviews actually work me for in the context of this suite of songs. They make it easy for me to shut out the content and just admire the delivery system. And the delivery system is a thing of real beauty.

Here’s an example – there’s a song called, “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” that on its face seems like just another shameless call for a hypothetical audience to sing along with a mindless party-anthem chorus. Oh and the lyrics are pretty lame too, but then the song does this very cool, very unexpected thing: The chorus builds and builds, crescendoing with ‘I know I’ll go crazy if I don’t go crazy tonight!’ in full roar and just at the place where there ought to be a major, crashing power chord to put an exclamation point to all the mindless excitement preceding it, the music evaporates like a popped ambient soap bubble. It’s really cool, and it’s probably an example of what the reviewers who are calling this CD ‘experimental’ are talking about.

For me, it’s more a return to form than anything wildly new and different. They sound looser than they have since “Achtung Baby” and “Zooropa.” Actually, if this album has any direct antecedent, it’s The Passengers project they did in the 1990s with Brian Eno and Pavoratti. “No Line On The Horizon” is the sound of four men finally free to be themselves again.

So that’s the skinny. If you’re inclined towards U2 but aren’t sure about this record, go ahead and buy it, but buy the whole thing (as opposed to sampling tracks on iTunes and downloading just a few). I think it might just fall apart if not appreciated in its full context.

The other cool new thing I liked this week was “Watchmen,” the movie.

I was one of the kids in 1986-87 who haunted his comic book store every fourth week to pick up the latest issue of the source material of this movie. It was really involved, advanced reading. The storytelling and the thinking that went into it, you couldn’t just read it on the bus home. It was like “The Wire” in that way. Clear my schedule, hold my calls, I’m going to read the new issue of “Watchmen” now.

Twenty-some years later, a movie version arrives, and for me it kicked total ass.

The comic book elements were delivered in a SOCK! BIF! BANG! kind of way that was wonderfully choreographed, lit, shot and edited. The sex scene featured not only some perky female nudity but was set to a Leonard Cohen tune as well (I don’t think Leonard was in the comic book, but the sex was). The naked blue guy had a penis, just like a naked blue guy ought to. Everything about the comic-to-movie translation just clicked for me.

I even thought the characters were well-drawn (contrary to reports I have read in other reviews), especially considering at the end of the day, this is a comic book movie we’re talking about. At two hours and forty minutes, every major character had a chance to shine.

And oh my God, Jackie Earle Haley as one of the self-styled Watchmen was amazing. Especially in his unmasked scenes. I wouldn’t be surprised if he grabbed another supporting actor nomination. He was that good. He was totally like a young Clint Eastwood – young, but as grizzled and growly as Clint is today. Really, it was a hell of a performance.

Now, some of my fellow geeks are buzzing about changes made to the story by the filmmaker. Let me just say, without those changes, they would have had to have added a whole ’nother subplot, which would have sunk the film’s running time. And I thought the way they integrated the plot-change into the narrative and logic of the story was seamlessly organic.

Really, if they had wanted to do the slavishly-accurate version of the story that we comic nerds would have ideally liked to have seen, it would have to have been done as a major HBO limited series. But they didn’t do it that way, so for what they did do, I thought they did a great job. Director Zach Snyder (“300”) is two-for-two in my book.

“Watchmen” is a genuine summer blockbuster, generously served up to us in the cinematic doldrums of the first week of March. I’d recommend it for anyone who is familiar with the source material, likes action/adventure movies in general or even just naked blue men with penises.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Sad Monster, Bad Daddy

About this one, The Boy explained, “It’s a monster. He’s sad. He’s got tears.”

So I told him, “Boy, the only good monster is a sad monster.” Which made him sad, because I forgot Elmo is technically a monster. As is Mike Wazowski...

I still have a lot to learn about this Daddy business.

A few words in defense of (the ORIGINAL) Rush

Canada’s Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart have been putting out new albums of hard-rocking, ass-kicking, Bic-flipping heavy duty rock and roll for over 30 years now, have influenced generations of fans and fellow musicians, never made their private lives part of their publicity campaigns and enjoy baseball and their families better than strippers and cocaine.

Their song lyrics advocate the value of accepting personal responsibility for one’s actions – a message more timely today than when they began in the early 70s – and they’ve maintained their original lineup (if you discount the first album they did with unlucky drummer Pete Best) even in the face of what looked like the inevitable dissolution of the act ten years ago when one of their members suffered twin personal tragedies that sidelined the band for more than five years.

They’re good people and great musicians, and I’m here to say two things: When I talk about Rush, I’m talking about the band not the drug-addled right-wing radio bloviator and I resent the hell out of having to explain that almost every time; and two, they’re not in the Rock & Roll hall of fame but The Lovin’ Spoonful, Earth, Wind and Fire and Gene Pitney are?!

To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, their new album ought to indeed be called “THAT’S BULLSHIT!”

Friday, March 06, 2009

There Is No God But Rush Limbaugh...

Everybody’s been trying to drag me into this goddamned Radio Talk Show Host debate. In trying to dodge it, I’ve even gone so far as to publish somebody else’s rant on the subject without their permission. I don’t even want to mention the provocateur by name, but I am assured by all the smart people I know that my site will get more ‘hits’ if I do (more on that later), so here it is: Rush Limbaugh.

(Point of order: On a challenge from my pal The Last Boy Scout, I’m going to try to get through this without taking any easy shots as relate to Mr. Limbaugh’s unseemly girth, although I hold that his record as a drug abuser – at the same time as he was calling for harsher treatment of drug offenders on his show – remains fair game. Hypocrisy is always fair game.)

Even The Missus sent me a link to a blog on the Big Hot Topic yesterday: Is or is not Rush Limbaugh the de-facto head of the Republican party?

See? I just typed the sentence once and I’m drowsing off already.

But I’ve been advised to try to weaponize my blog, ie: Find ways to derive revenue from it against the day my newspaper career ceases to exist altogether. And right now, I am assured that including Rush Limbaugh’s name will drive people to this site (hello, welcome!), and that’s the name of the game. Plus, I can derive some perverse pleasure knowing that I am attempting to use Rush Limbaugh to improve my ratings the same way Rush Limbaugh is using this trumped-up controversy to increase his. So I am going to cite him by name, Rush Limbaugh, as many times as I can.

Rush Limbaugh.

Anyhow, I browsed the BlogHer link The Missus sent me (above) and didn’t see anything but well-written variations on the same hew and cry I’ve been silently suffering for it seems like weeks now. So I wrote her back:

Oh God no, it’s all just the same back-and-forth I’ve been having with [The Last Boy Scout]. I don’t want to contribute to the public din over this issue or this man.

It’s all hocus-pocus. In English-Major terms, it’s all text, where what’s interesting is the subtext. Not the conversation itself, but what the very existence of this conversation means. In this case, it’s all razzle-dazzle designed to A) boost Rush’s ratings, B) boost Rush’s ratings, and C) give the GOP a chance to re-group and find an actual leader who isn’t going to help drive independents to the polls to vote for a Democrat again in ‘12.

Rush is a convenient distraction right now, but it won’t be long before he’s a huge drain on the GOP ticket. So I guess in that sense I should help stoke the fire, but I don’t think my help is needed at this point.

So it cannot be argued that I did not try to sit this one out, but in the end, I have decided to play after all. But just this once, then Rush Limbaugh’s name will be banished once more, hopefully never again to appear in my little corner of the Fangosphere.

(Since the running email conversation on this topic with TLBS has been ongoing for weeks now, I’m going to copy-and-paste some of that to save the tips of my overworked index fingers any more punishment than they actually need to suffer.)

As I was saying, TLBS sent me some ridiculous thing the other day about Limbaugh apparently challenging Barack Obama, President of the United States and arguably the busiest guy in the world, to a debate on his show, then called Obama out when said offer was either ignored or declined, I’m not sure which. I’m guessing ignored.

Sidebar: I love TLBS, I really do. More than that, I admire him. We started out together as near-peers and in the time it has taken me to sink to the bottom of my chosen dying industry, he has climbed to absolutely dizzying heights in his own. And he’s gotten there by being smarter and better at what he does than any of his competition. He’s a bright fucking guy. So you can imagine my frustration with his infatuation with Rush Limbaugh. I ‘get’ every other part of his conservatism, but his slavish devotion to this pompous radio blowhard is a complete mystery to me. I mean, I can’t even defend Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann because they’re such obvious self-serving, self-parodying blowhards. Yet compared to Rush Limbaugh, they’re the stereotypical fusty librarian whispering “Hush.”

Like I said, it’s a mystery to me.

Anyhow, after he sent me a bullet-pointed list arguing for said Obama/Limbaugh sit-down, I responded in spite of my distaste for the issue:

First, if you were on my side of the aisle, you’d appreciate the laughable absurdity of even the notion that a sitting President of the United States would throw his credibility away by pulling up a chair for a palaver with a carny hustler the likes of Rush Limbaugh.

By saying that Rush Limbaugh is the de-facto leader of the GOP, the left-wing is not elevating Rush Limbaugh, they’re damning by comparison the feckless, squabbling elected officials who ought to be carrying your banner. (And it is a damning indictment indeed.)

And the reason Rush still matters is because you guys have no bench whatsoever. If your side had its own Barack Obama, Rush Limbaugh would be bounced right back to the lunatic fringe margins where he belongs.

The fact that everybody seems to agree the he matters is music to my ears because it tells me the GOP is pulling hard to the right, meaning they’ve given up on the centrists and independents in your party who crossed over and helped get Obama elected last time. And Rush Limbaugh’s snake oil is no kind of enticement to win those voters back.

So long live Rush Limbaugh. May his tenure as moral center and intellectual bulwark of the Republican party last just as long as humanly possible.

That’s pretty much how I feel about it. If Rush Limbaugh isn’t the epicenter of the Republican party, they’re doing a pretty shitty job of getting that message out. Probably because Rush (and Fox News, reliably in Rush’s corner throughout this whole episode) is the guy they’ve long-since tasked with delivering their message.

Oh the comedy is just too rich.

And as long as I’m ‘going there,’ I just have to say how much I’ve enjoyed the spectacle of the GOP responding to Hillary’s up-for-grabs voters last year by puking forth Sarah Palin, then reacting to Obama’s election with their own colored fella, Michael Steele. (If America had elected a cross-dresser as President, Rudy Giuliani would probably be head of the RNC today.) This guy, Steele, makes me feel embarrassed every time he opens his mouth, and I’m neither black nor Republican. JC Watts, you got out too soon.

To sum up, Rumsfeld-style… Am I bored bored bored with this whole distraction? You betcha. Am I am a Bad Person for enjoying the Republicans engaging in the kind of circular firing squad that is usually reserved for the Democrats? No. I was a bad person long before that. Do I want this meaningless Rush Limbaugh-centric and –fueled ‘debate’ to keep going round and round ad infinitum, at least until Obama quietly pushes through the rest of his radical recovery agenda while everyone’s attention is distracted by all this narcissistic ephemera? Oh hell yes.

The Republican party is on a sinking boat and they can’t even decide who’s in charge of re-arranging the deck chairs. What’s not to love?

Best of all, the ratings are through the roof!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Guest-blogger: When Schoolteachers Attack!

I have a former squeeze who teaches middle-school in an impoverished community in an impoverished southwestern state in our freshly-impoverished country. She’s a great little communicator she is, but has always eschewed blogs, blogging and bloggers in general – and me in particular – as being beneath her. So there’s very little danger she’s going to notice that she’s become my first-ever guest-blogger.

(I know reproducing her rant here without her permission is somewhat ethically iffy, but as I said, there’s very little chance of me being busted and her perspective is one that I feel deserves to be heard. Save your angry upbraids for the mainstream media who, for the time being anyway, are still held accountable to standards we bloggers are not.)

The funny thing is, this is the same gal who used to fob off politics as also beneath her, insignificant arcana that happened on the TV and in the newspapers but didn’t have any impact on her little life so could I please stop boring her with this shit?

Ah hah, but then she became a schoolteacher!

I now turn the Forum over to the Middle-school teacher from the great southwest. I have edited her comments only to protect her anonymity, otherwise they are reproduced verbatim. My few remarks are [bracketed].

Her email arrived with this subject line:

I know I shouldn't vent on you...

But damnit, I just get so angry after coming home from a meeting trying to "save our school" (with no turnout) to watch Rush Limbaugh get even more media attention as some high school graduate who is fat, narrow-minded, ignorant, and full of anger spewing his continual shit and transparent hypocrisy. Really, he's got 4 million in the bank, no college education, not one class in history, economics, political science, etc. and yet he has a huge following of brainwashed idiots who need direction because they don't know how to think for themselves and need an outlet for the unhappiness in their lives (and by the way, why doesn't ANYBODY take a look at his social and marriage life - or Ann Coulter's for that matter - the beautiful, angry woman [Ann Coulter is a woman??] with a hateful mouth, a rich spoiled background, a string of broken engagements and dead eyes?). To me, they both symbolize everything that is going wrong in this country - not because of what they say or feel, but for the fact that PEOPLE LISTEN TO THEM AND BUY THOSE BOOKS! Like porn, violent video games, Brittany Spears...all kinds of shit like that (out of some kind of "hole" within ourselves?), we "reward bad behavior" by endorsing them with our precious resources - our time, our attention, our money - not to mention Wall Street, CEOs of failing banks and highly paid scammers. No wonder they support capitalism to its ugliest degree. It's working for them...and that's OUR fault.

Apparently they've either got us by the balls because we NEED we insist on playing by the rules to treat them "fairly" when they never did play fairly at all - interesting game - makes our government - and ourselves - look like WIMPS. They represent the base of our animalistic natures...and they profit from it. We have only ourselves to blame...if there IS any "us" (or U.S.) anymore...I vote we insist on those CEOs getting OUT and paying back all those so-called "bonuses" they gave to themselves NOW - THIS year - when the country they screwed over really needs it. Hey, how about REQUIRING them to INVEST it in the stock market? Perhaps they would be more receptive to that as opposed to giving it back to the government or people they screwed over directly. They MAY stand to gain...and they have to swallow the bitter pill of turning this stock market around and investing in this country AND our president. I'm starting to wonder if our president (and this country) is being DELIBERATELY sabotaged. There are rich people in this country who could be putting their money where their mouth is in terms of investing (boosting) the stock market in a way that most people can NOT afford to do (uh...the bottom 90% of our population that are losing jobs, losing homes, totally stressing if they both are lucky enough to have both right now...). We're still trying to play "diplomatic" as the good guys (us) go down the drain. There's DEFINITELY a movie to be made in all this - somewhere down the line when history is clearer in perspective (or is it? Look at how suddenly the "New Deal" was a Bad Deal! - I certainly personally "get" how history can be re-written). I hope somebody like Ron Howard or Stephen King or some other big name takes it on and does it justice. I'm sure they are ALL taking notes. Nothing like a primary source. I want someone honest who will NOT rewrite or embellish history. There's PLENTY of meat here to make a Big Seller without having to "build it up" (though perhaps the profits should go to the national deficit?:-)

Sorry - and no offense to you for never having gone to college), but it just completely IRKS me that someone like Rush can be a "speaker" to the people and RECEIVE an award for defending the "constitution" as he quotes the Declaration of Independence and quotes it WRONG. Even my smartest 6th graders caught that! They HAVE to listen to the part about life, liberty (NOT FREEDOM) and the pursuit of happiness every day...and (if they choose) stand up and pledge allegiance to our country, one nation under "God" (which IS the issue with some folks)...just like "God" should be taken off our pennies, etc. I just think people need to get a life, but the moment they start insisting kids attend prayer to "god" in school, telling us to teach science from a religious point of view, and insisting we teach the Ten Commandments in public school, I am right there on the front line protesting. What I'd REALLY like to protest is that [my state] is one of the few states where citizens have the right to direct their tax dollars into private religious - and I STRESS RELIGIOUS - schools. This is a very quiet and unusual change that has taken place...and has yet to be constitutionally challenged...a case that SHOULD go right up to the Supreme Court. It's a constitutional violation in a very RED state which has a terrible reputation for educational funding. So many things in this state go unnoticed. I don't speak out because I am legally informed that I truly can NOT speak out against my institution or I could lose my job. I will eventually get into a position where I don't need my job as much as I need to speak out. I work in different ways right now. Someday it may not even matter. I seek bigger things anyway.

I think at this point we should just ask ANY of the political critics how much they make. It's unfair, I grant you, but I think at this point backgrounds are important. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Bruce Springsteen and even Obama himself among so many others who make millions, are appreciative of what they have, and will be affected the most in terms of tax increases SEE the necessity, the justice, the FUTURE of this country, not just themselves. Some people make fortunes and hoard it, some give back...and not for the tax breaks, but for a higher purpose...and whether that is from a sense of humanity or whether they are smart enough to realize that ULTIMATELY you can NOT turn your back on humanity and EVER hope to survive, I really don't care. It's a higher level of thinking than I see when I look into the eyes of that senator from Ohio (looks like the fucking leader of the "gang") or hear that beautiful Ann spewing ugliness, or even back when I first heard Palin speak in her sarcastic, snotty tone. I'm so sick of selfish, narrow-minded greedy or downright BRAINWASHED people who are swearing by McCain (senator of a failure state) - or following some other ugly version of humanity.

What can I say? I KNEW this was the year to get cable TV and a big LCD screen [2009 is the year to finally make the upgrade to cable??]. It's WAY overdue, but I'm politically involved, bringing attention to these issues in a NON-PARTISAN way (as best I really can because I respect CRITICAL thinking in a government institution - separation of church and state and all that), but I DO make it a point to illustrate inequities to my students. I wish I could take them on a field trip to the middle school that [my son] attended up here (in Republican land) which looks like a RESORT. We have mice, mold, broken...all kinds of things...and this is the LARGEST school district in [town], second largest in the state and one of the largest in the whole country. We will be hit hard, even with the stimulus packet. I DO make it a point to tell them that I just saw a school district asking kids to bring - among other things - their own TOILET PAPER to school because the school doesn't have the money. They were shocked. Perhaps that will make them think twice about taking colored pencils out of the room, leaving pencils on the floor and wasting paper (all pet peeves of mine over the years). I am sick of "takers" and it starts VERY early, particularly in the Hispanic community. I welcome them here, but they need to change their mindset (not US changing ours to constantly accommodate them) in order to become contributing citizens to this country. Screw hand-outs. On THAT I am very Republican. In everything else, I remain...shit...I guess Democratic. It's become very hard to be an "independent" and I would LOVE for that to change as well...

This is NOT socialism. This is actually as simple as a song "The Trees" by Rush...and SOMEBODY should be playing that right about now...especially the ENDING. Listen to it, even though you haven't heard it for awhile. It says it all.

[Not sure what she means here. “The Trees” is an anti-union screed as I read it… Judge for yourself.]

By the way, since I'm being pessimistic...may as well go all the way. You think you've seen wars over OIL? Wait until the water wars hit. People can LIVE without oil. Water is an ancient method of warfare, even when it wasn't scarce. It is FAST becoming even scarcer in many parts of the world where population is growing. Things get very, very ugly when basic survival is at stake.

Okay...I'm venting. Don't expect a response, persay, I just miss intelligent discourse on events as they happen. [Darling, this is why you should have your own blog!] You will be pleased to hear that my son is taking AP history and gives me a run for my money every time in terms of political debates (not to mention his grandfather - a history and political buff). He has found an outlet for anger (I'm afraid - NOT the reason to get too involved) but he is also HIGHLY analytical and passionate...and thank God he's more likely to end up in the Peace Corps than the military. His father remains apathetic (loosely Republican and now not seeming to care either way) about everything from politics to [our son] going to college. It's all on me...and believe me, my son is going to college. For all my troubles, mistakes and struggles, I gave my son those two things I didn't have that I value most - two caring involved parents and a better education than I ever had.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mixed Media (Untitled)

Courtesy of my son, the artist

Monday, March 02, 2009

Taking a break from the blues

That’s because I just scored The Missus and me a pair of tickets for a Leonard Cohen live performance next month. With him being at 73, it is safe to say I had long-since given up the ghost on ever seeing him perform live again.

Of course, even the shitty balcony seats we got cost us an arm and a leg at a time when we can scarcely afford it. It went on the “Bad” credit card. I don’t know how bad the credit card really is though, it only does what we tell it to. Like my “bad” guitar.

Somehow, my friend Jon over at knew I’d be beating feet to grab seats to this upcoming Cohen show and left a very nice comment on an unrelated post, so I reproduce his kind words here:

Christianity needs a new direction (if it can be saved from its latest kidnapping) - ready to go into the ministry Rev. Fang?

It could be interesting...You help cure your blues go worship at the L. Cohen Church of Transformation... Leonard Cohen, Live From The Beacon Theatre (full NPR Concert).

I've listened to it several times now... and it takes me back to '93, seeing Leonard - Fang was there, and Mario, Mark Dowdy (I think), Brian Maul and some others. Fang was lead singer for Illusion Stu - a Leonard Cohen centered musical moment (you could call it a band) that altered my life in many ways. Thanks for introducing Tania and I to the wonder and beauty of the great L. Cohen

Jon, onehumanbeing

I will take that gratitude in the spirit in which it offered and pass it along to the guy who introduced me to Mr. Cohen’s work, my friend Barmosca.

And now I hope to pass it along again to The Missus. (Oh please God, don’t let this show suck!)

As for Christianity needing a new direction, I couldn’t agree more. As usual, Leonard said it best, in this case in an online interview he gave a few years ago. Somebody wrote in and asked:

“You have such vivid Christian imagery in many of your songs, and much of it is contrasted with the selfishness of the ‘modern’ individual. I was wondering what's your take on the state of Christianity today?”

Leonard, the self-described ‘little Jew who wrote the Bible’ who I believe may be the new-model Christian my friend Jon is looking for, answered thusly, and I’ve always thought it was one of the great off-the-cuff ruminations on reconciling spirituality and humanity I’ve ever read. Leonard Cohen said:

“I don't really have a ‘take on the state of Christianity.’ But when I read your question, this answer came to mind: As I understand it, into the heart of every Christian, Christ comes, and Christ goes. When, by his Grace, the landscape of the heart becomes vast and deep and limitless, then Christ makes His abode in that graceful heart, and His Will prevails. The experience is recognized as Peace. In the absence of this experience much activity arises, divisions of every sort. Outside of the organizational enterprise, which some applaud and some mistrust, stands the figure of Jesus, nailed to a human predicament, summoning the heart to comprehend its own suffering by dissolving itself in a radical confession of hospitality.”

Did I mention we’re going to the Leonard Cohen concert next month!? Woohoo!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Career Death March (continued/ongoing)

BCC-ed a note to The Missus that I emailed to the publisher of one of my newspapers. The note read: [The new guy, my replacement who I am training] is in the office but needs the password for the wireless. Do you know what it is?

She hit the nail squarely on the head when she replied, “OMG, your job is approaching the irrelevancy level of Sigourney Weaver’s character in Galaxy Quest. My sincerest apologies.”

Never give up. Never surrender. Full speed ahead...