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Archive for January, 2011

I love Keith Olbermann, but I don’t have to work with him. As of last night, neither do the staff at MSNBC, who abruptly cut the tether with their basso profundo heir to Edward R. Murrow. Olbermann reminded us in his closing program notes of “Network” and Peter Finch’s famous “Mad as hell” catch phrase as he signed off for the last time and contemplated his departure, using the spare elegant Occam’s Razor-worthy prose for which he’s known. His life would have been easier if he used that trombone-like voice to sell commemorative plates and soap sculptures and gold coins. Instead he used it to civilize us.

So goes the man who finally carved out a space for liberalism in the liberal media. When I think of Olbermann and the way he situated himself in the nightly pundit game, I think of a Josef Albers painting in which shades of whites are contrasted with other whites or a greens with greens. If the media is really so “liberal,” shouldn’t liberal Olbermann have gotten lost in the green screen background like so many Costa Rican macaws in their almendro trees? He didn’t. Instead, he came about as a trenchant and refreshing rhetorical answer to CNN, at a time when that supposedly liberal network was regularly offering up Iraq War coverage under the rubric “War on Terror”–reinforcing the central fiction of the war for less astute viewers and playing right into the hands of the folksy Mr. Haney who operated our country at the time.

Liberals in this country are a bit like Canadians–we’re always apologizing for something we didn’t do wrong. (Sorry, Canadian friends, but I’m quoting one of your fellow Canucks here.) Perhaps libs don’t like to win, as some introspective pundits like to say. Or perhaps we see more sides of an issue, and thus seem ready to yield to people who take pride in knowing one thing so well. Perhaps we’re just all impressed by ruddy faced conviction. Red-staters are so, so, so emotional about the wrong things they believe. That’s why we lie down when the debate turns silly. Anybody who would seriously debate the question “Is America going socialist” is already being suckered and making medicine with quacks. America has been “socialist,” as the right defines it, since long before 99% of Americans were born (and before we were, children worked 12 hours a day in indentured servitude and many workers were locked into their offices). The real question is why is America going down the road of plutocracy. You might see meretricious rules of rhetoric in that, but that’s because the game has been defined by the crazy people in the tricorn hats and those selling gold on late night television to poor conservative suckers. Are they, we ought to ask, plutocrats or anarchists or have they managed to find a horrifying nexus of both as they finally get around to learning only half what they couldn’t bother with in high school civics?”

Across the discursive gap strode Mr. Olbermann eight years ago, with his arrogant “Yes, I’m liberal and I know what I’m talking about so fuck you,” right into prime time television. It’s like what happens when a great new restaurant opens on a block that used to be full of closed-down warehouses. The block has now been spruced up a bit for newcomers, and I doubt Keith Olbermann’s termination will make that much difference. Salon even suggested that his colleague Rachel Maddow, with her cool Vulcan nerve pinches on stupidity, has stolen the march on her pal in liberal popularity. Nobody seems to be worried about a chill in political dissent so much as speculating about how much of an ungrateful and arrogant prick Olbermann was to his bosses. I guess we could roast him for that, but then you might also have to agree that a lot of polite people are ineffective hypocrites who run you down behind your back. Keith is dealing with you in front, where you cause all the trouble.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if Olbermann went to Fox News?” That’s what I thought at first, and it seemed stupid, but now I hear other people saying the same thing. Roger Ailes seems to have a soft spot for house lefties. He gets to co-opt them and further shield his franchise from its image as being more insulated, weepy-eyed, deluded and prima donna-ish than the cast of Glee. And at Fox there seems to be no real problem with “reporters” contributing a bit to politicians, the activity that got Olbermann in trouble at MSNBC a few months ago. Maybe that would be attractive, maybe not. Maybe Keith Olbermann can just start to enjoy his celebrity and sell out at Fox News. Others have done it.

When Olbermann referenced Network and “I’m mad as hell …” , he dropped the reference with such winning self-deprecation I think people missed the satiric undercurrent in that too-much-abused movie reference. Because Keith Olbermann is better compared to Shane, and it’s Glenn Beck who is actually the Peter Finch character, Howard Beale, a man who capably finds an audience that doesn’t know the difference between discourse and showmanship, snake oil and antibiotics. Even when Beck gets around to coming up with an actual fact, he’s usually quick to move beyond it to the real attraction–exorcism. He’s giving his viewers the nightly purging they need when they feel alienated from the political process, powerless to stop forces beyond their control like money and power and recession and unemployment and foreclosure and failure. When there’s blood in the streets, people need a crazy man like Beck to reflect the perversity of their spirit. Maybe Keith Olbermann hates a bit too much too. He even said as much after Gabrielle Giffords was shot and he asked for a tone of civility.

It’s awfully hard to keep calling for civility, of course, when you’ve just been unceremoniously shit-canned. But Keith Olbermann somehow did it with his elegance and basso profundo. Maybe that’s good for an exorcism too.

Come back, Shane. Come back.

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Season 10 of American Idol launched tonight, and call me a pollyanna, but I have much optimism that this will be the most technologically advanced season of AI ever. From the Botox injections, to the Autotuned music of the guests, to the amazing graphics to the phenomenal cutting edge film editing technology, this year’s show has everything to provide you with the best entertainment that machines and not humans can offer.

You cannot argue that we are still celebrating an incredible century of scientific achievement when we saw breakthroughs in mathematics, chemistry, particle physics, computing, biology, industrial science, etc., and I believe these breakthroughs have naturally brought us here, to a new dawn of American potential that is Season 10 of American Idol. As the judges traveled through the heart of American commerce and industry–East Rutherford, N.J.– looking for the next person whose face will grace the Prospectus of a large military-industrial company’s media subsidiary, we were reminded again that America is built on innovation and ineluctable technological advance. From the opening graphics to the Terminator robot voice responsible for Miley Cyrus’ “Party In the USA,” American Idol is a revolutionary creation right up there with Rene Descartes’ automatons, the combustion engine, the atom smasher and recombinant bovine hormone. The show even uses very professional demographic studies based on statistical analysis to know exactly who to put in the front row to show the most preconceived excitement. Capable professionals who master in film editing techniques will be on hand to make sure that we feel human drama at right times, as well as moments of comic respite.

I cannot help but think that this is what Hegel meant when he laid out his dialectical method of scientific progress, and that we are synthesizing new and better things every day. We envy the machines we create, because they reveal our idealism, our enlightenment responsibility to reason. As we saw tonight, when people gathered together to sing the hit Miley Cyrus song, people are enamored of robots and this bodes very well for our country’s technical schools, engineering programs and computer science departments. They want to perfect themselves with Botox. Like Steven Tyler very likely does. They want to lose weight like Randy Jackson through gastric bypass.  They want to efficiently condense their names into useful portmanteau words like “Benifer.” Even the show’s public relations effort has been pursued by highly trained professionals who know exactly the right moment to claim the show is a hit just in case the ratings prove otherwise.

Even British mathematical genius Alan Turing could not have come up with a Turing machine as self-perfecting as the American Idol juggernaut, and my guess is that this show will leave us with a legacy of new technologies as World War II did when it brought us rocket fuels, helicopters, new plastics, metallurgy, medicine and Jane Russell.

I can’t wait to watch it again next week to see how this show will inevitably improve me. See you there, fans.

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As Americans stopped today to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and ponder his message of freedom for all regardless of race or creed, they soon afterward began using him to score cheap points against each other on all sorts of matters Dr. King likely had no opinions about.

“Americans have to move on from a spirit of racism, which is why I want to end the alternative minimum tax,” said Jesse Stamford of Columbia, S.C. “I know that’s what Dr. King would have thought of as equality.”

“Dr. King fought for the rights of common people, which means the protection of unions and that’s why we at United Auto Workers will not budge in our upcoming talks with Ford,” said union leader Ray Johnstone.

African-American leaders led the way in arguing over the legacy of this great civil rights leader. Al Sharpton said that Dr. King would have found today’s Tea Party a travesty, while others said Dr. King would have certainly agreed with them that no matter what you think of the Tea Party, Al Sharpton is “a showboating political fringe dweller and an embarrassment to all of us,” in the words of Washington, D.C. resident Kim Watkins.

President Barack Obama, weeks after political violence erupted in Arizona, tried to use the occasion to strike a conciliatory tone.

“Dr. Martin Luther King showed what this nation could be if it had more community organizers,” said Obama. “Like me.”

But it wasn’t only politicians piling on. Democrats were quick to say Dr. King would have wanted better health care, while others said Dr. King would want “absolutely no government health care whatsoever.” Gays pointed out King’s history of tolerance while Jesse Jackson said King would have wanted him to be president.

“Also, he showed it’s not that big a deal having a girlfriend on the side,” said Jackson.

Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush said that Dr. King would likely want to give to their charity, while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahjadinejad said that Dr. King would have wanted Iran to have nuclear power.

Dr. King’s message was one of using civil disobedience to achieve the goals of equality and peace. Americans said that message was needed now more than ever as they raised fresh petty political arguments and showed the dissent and discord that is evidently part of human nature.

“I want ice cream!” screamed 8-year-old Beth Marshton of Bryn Mawr, Pa. in the back seat of her parents’ Lexus. “Dr. King would have given me ice cream!”

Dr. King was assassinated in 1968 by a limited, brutish man with some sort of personal agenda of his own.

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Totally shedding irony and calling it like he saw it, Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais slammed some of Hollywood’s biggest stars and the sponsor of Sunday’s gala awards show, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, with vicious putdowns not to be taken with any sort of humor whatsoever.

“Johnny Depp is a no talent hack,” said Gervais, popping open a split of champagne and sitting down cross-legged on the stage with a big sandwich. “And Angelina Jolie is a whore. I suggest her next tattoo be a warning label.”

The Golden Globes audience and viewers at home were shocked and offended by Gervais’ scandalizing of Hollywood’s elite within minutes of the show’s opening, but he showed no signs of remorse, and in short order dispatched Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Cher. He was especially harsh on Jolie and Depp, whose film “The Tourist” was, he said, “a waste of money, a film with no merit, the kind of thing a dung beetle would roll away on its hind legs if it could. Not even chemotherapy could put this film in remission.”

“Cher’s old and has got no brains,” continued Gervais. “Don’t get me started on Brad Pitt. He is not talented and should be giving blowjobs in a Santa Fe rest stop to crystal meth addled truck drivers.”

“Steve Carell is a horrible blighted egg sack,” said Gervais. “I invented ‘The Office.'”

Sensing that the audience had begun to turn against him but showing no remorse, Gervais turned and bit the hand that fed him, attacking the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

“If you weren’t standing next to celebrities or throwing them dog and pony shows, there would be nothing to get you between your doses of Paxil. I spit on you people.”

Some wondered about the judgment of the Foreign Press Association hiring a well-known obstreperous comedian known for his scathing attacks on art, ethics, politesse and common decency and the concept of God as a real person. They seemed to be surprised that he took very seriously his assignment to dispatch the formality of the stuff shirt event by turning into a mean-spirited prick.

“I would kill every one of you with a ball peen hammer. Robert Downey, Jr.–everybody knows he’s on crack. Charlie Sheen is a well-known frequenter of prostitutes. His new girlfriend is famous for doing anal porno films. No, I have no follow-up punchline. The ignominy and awfulness of it speaks for itself, like this awards show.”

Gervais ended the evening by thanking everyone for being good sports, and by that he meant, “You’ve got hired help to kiss your ass. I’m not going to do it.” He then said he was an atheist and recommended that people see “The Social Network,” which was actually a pretty good film.

“Every once in a while, Hollywood accidentally makes one,” he concluded.

Bruce Willis was philosophical about the night.

“I guess this fooferaw is going to be in the paper tomorrow because you’ve got nothing better to write about like warfare and poverty. Maybe Gervais is right. Maybe journalists are pieces of shit.”

The Golden Globes traditionally has no host. It is also traditionally considered a joke.

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The Republican-controlled House of Representatives, having postponed legislation for a few days to observe a more civil tone after a weekend of violence, has returned to work in a spirit of compromise and unity with the Democrats across the aisle, introducing a new piece of legislation showing the shared convictions of a nation coping with loss.

It is known by its unifying title, the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.”

“Hey, wait a minute …” said Democrats. “That’s not very nice.”

A largely symbolic piece of legislation, since the Democrats still control the Senate, Republicans tweaked it a bit so it read instead, “Shooting Down the Health Care Act Act.” In lieu of that, they suggested the “Cutting Life Support on the Health Care Act Act,” and “Killing Health Care Reform In A Bathtub,” and the “Returning to a Belligerent Posture Following A Weekend of Mock Civility Act.”

“After the tragic events of last weekend, we have hopefully returned to a new era of friendship, noblesse oblige and tact,” said majority leader Eric Cantor as he introduced the “Terminating the Health Care Bill With Extreme Prejudice Act.”

Were those bills to stall, Republicans say they would introduce the “Euthanizing the Health Care Reform Act With An Overdose of Morphine and Digitalis,” and the  “Guns Don’t Kill People, The Health Care Reform Act Kills People Act.” Like the others, these bills aim to remove last year’s main Democrat achievement, a law aimed of insuring 95% of all Americans by offering subsidies to small businesses and increasing the age at which children can no longer remain on their parents’ insurance plants. If that bill fails, Republicans say, they will continue to pursue a spirit of concordance and compromise by floating a bill, again largely symbolic, called the  “I Fuck Your Health Care Bill in the Eye Socket Reconciliation Act,” and if not that, they’ll try the “You Talking To Me? Health Care Reform Assassination Act.”

Other titles for future legislation, should these not pass, are the “Beheading the Democrats’ Stupid Health Care Legislation,” the “Snuffing Out the Health Care Reform with a Pillow Act,” the “Throwing Lit Matches At Democratic Faces Act,” the “Sowing Discord For Cheap Political Points Act” and “The Patriot Act.”

Again, all mostly time-wasting, symbolic titles that won’t go to Senate and really don’t do anything other than promote the new spirit of harmony.

“Americans after this weekend are showing a new unity,” said John Boehner as he introduced the “Screw Unity and Screw U Act.” We cannot let a few deranged individuals upset our Democracy and spread dissension, and that’s why we support this new bill, subtitled ‘The Democratic Criminals Are Assaulting Your Liberties Act.'”

After those bills die predictable deaths, having served absolutely no purpose at all, Republicans say they may simply call it the “Supporting Gabrielle Giffords By Repealing Legislation that Gabrielle Giffords Supported Act.”

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http://player.vimeo.com/video/18698532

Sarah Palin: “America’s Enduring Strength” from Sarah Palin on Vimeo.

Sarah Palin released a video today in which she talked about the shootings in Arizona. She would like to go back and edit some of her language now that she realizes what some phrases actually mean.

“Like millions of Americans, I was learned of the tragic events that unfolded in Arizona on Saturday. I could not understand why a deranged man would try to attack those showing their peaceful right to assemble and to exchange ideas in our vibrant country. But how sadly ironic it was to see later that people were trying to apportion blame to those other than the law breaker. Dare we call this kind of talk a blood libel dirty smear?

Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own and we should not stand still while journalists and pundits manufacture a pogrom backlash against those who debate passionately. Why, the attitude among the media to patriotic right wing talk radio hosts this week was  a Holocaust an outrage. A real genocide. Real dirty pool. As Americans rallied to express their opinions in a beautiful moment of inspiring debate that so defines our country, a mad man let loose with a mindless rampage. But rather than unite together in a time of common humanity, we let the media create a Shoah horrible controversy.

It is important for us to respect our differences with each other and strive for a better country. And for us instead to point fingers at each other is a horrible final solution mistake. Ronald Reagan said that blame for monstrous acts should stop with the monster. I agree with that. Let not the vibrant debate in our country be muffled by those who would seek to tear us apart.We cannot abide by these volkisch partisan sentiments. It will end in a real Dreyfus Affair moral travesty. Or a Farhud war of words.

Sometimes political parties win and sometimes they lose, and we do no favor to the political process by acting like antisemitic silly Nazis schoolchildren prosecuting a kristallnacht pitching hissy fits. The only thing we have to fear is Judeophobia fear itself.

Thank you, and God bless America”

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Newly minted celebrity Ted Williams, the homeless drug addict with the mellifluous radio voice who was found on an off-ramp last week giving highly polished traffic updates, has in just one week left the streets of Ohio to reach the pinnacle of stardom. Entertainment Tonight has even brought him on a tour of Hollywood and given him an audience with Doctor Phil. He’s visited the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s won a Kraft commercial. His story has already taken on the dimensions of an epic with all its attendant plot points of fall from grace and redemption. He also happens to share a name with a famous baseball player, a fact that was unearthed by diligent researchers at CBS.

This leads me to the next question. With his new tight schedule, how are we going to keep Ted Williams awake? I’m just saying, he might really benefit from the use of some killer drugs, perhaps some mini-bennies or white crosses or what have you.

Then we have to ask, what is Ted going to do when this media attention suddenly fades, and the esteem he’s getting artificially from Entertainment Tonight reporters needs instead to be generated from within? My prescription? Drugs! Heroin or cocaine are very different kinds of substances, but both will offer Ted the self-esteem he will most definitely need in spades once the 2000 watt stage lights have turned away and Mary Hart has completely lost interest in his golden voice.

What happens when Doctor Phil has finished Ted’s psychological evaluation and Ted finds he cannot face the pain he’s caused so many? How about a big flagon full of soul killing alcohol? Or china white. Or ‘shrooms? Whippets or liquid paper?

Also, drugs are very good for withdrawal. So I recommend Ted Williams have some on hand when he has euphoric chemical memory that makes him junk sick, especially when the feelings of worthlessness come back midwifed by Doctor Phil.

Williams prayed on the Today show. At some point, when he realizes that this practice is largely unhelpful, it’s very likely he’s going to want to turn to something with a little more bite. Like valium or downers or acid.

I guess the point I’m making is that there are lots of things that would make you feel more suicidal then a life of drugs–and that’s life as an ex-celebrity. Ted Williams has suddenly found himself surrounded by non-friends, and rather than giving him a blast of black tar heroin to the arm, they’ve given him a shot of the more vexing junk called fame. With friends like Doctor Phil, who needs a Doctor Philgood?

I look forward to the next YouTube video in which Ted, live from the I-95 off ramp in Miami, says “Fuck you, America. If you loved me, you’d give me some smack!”

By the way, CBS, the plural of “Williams” is “Williamses.” What are you, on drugs?

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