Tuesday, October 25, 2005
What comes first: the idea for a new song or the endorsement contract? Whichever, every tune Lenny Kravitz composes is destined to become a jingle for something ... jeans, trucks, beer, condoms, sponges ... Because he dresses nifty and looks good, Helen Willis' ("Loooooooo-uise, we must get to the help centah!") son has somehow secured hip cred, when really he's nothing more than Phil Collins with hair, and a darker pigmentation.
Blandness knows no color.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Not to be confused with Capital or Wealth of Nations or even Mein Kampf, what I'm proposing didn't grow out of well-researched ideological fervor or, in Hitler's case, masculinity issues. Sometimes, bleakness (combined, in this case, with 22 minutes of animated anarchy) breeds inspiration, or at least provides a window into cold, hard reality (not that reality can be cold or hard. Well, maybe in a romance novel, or a Dr. Phil book).
What we have here is a mandate to complain, not about buying an outdated I-Pod, but about stuff that matters to more people than you. Complain loudly and complain often, though avoid shrillness whenever possible. We have plenty of that already.
Which brings me to "South Park," whose creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have evolved into the premier satirists operating amid the muck of today's popular culture. Granted, the competition is virtually non-existent ("Did you see "Saturday Night Live" sock it to Viagra? They don't care who they piss of!") Granted, that Jimmy Fallon is ruthless ...
Let's establish that good satirists, like journalists, shouldn't take sides, or prisoners. Trust no one, particularly when there's no one to trust.
"South Park's" season premiere, a well-timed spoof of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, ably skewered the Bush administration, environmentalists, the media, Hollywood, the culture of blame, the culture of hysteria and, just for the hell of it, transgendereds who've had plastic surgery. Conservatives have sought to co-opt the cartoon (they must've been getting popcorn during the "America, Fuck Ya" montage during "Team America: World Police") but that's nothing more than a desperate attempt to claim some hipness cred, kind of like their desperate attempt to appear multicultural when they scheduled all those Mariachi bands during the 2000 Republican convention.
The left hails Michael Moore as a satirist; the right, Rush Limbaugh. Effective propogandists, perhaps, but truth is something true believers struggle with. You know, while Oxycontin may be synthetic heroin, one who takes a pill instead of injecting a needle is not a junkie, but a victim of a overzealous prosecutor.
Could it be possible that he's a junkie and a victim of an overzealous prosecutor. Just as it's possible that Tom DeLay can be an oily crook ... and a victim of an overzealous prosecutor. Same goes for Bill Clinton.
Noncommital? Obviously, but where's the valor in committing to farce? Taking the easy route? Sure, but why follow the longer road, littered by all those pesky obstacles comprised of logic and context? Cynical? Damn right.
That's not to defend those who leave the house because a pox has been placed on it. I'm saying, stay in the house and bitch and bitch and bitch until someone removes the damn pox. Don't employ the pox removal company whose solution is limited to blaming the guy who put the pox on the house. No, throw pox on that guy.
But when someone finally arrives (granted, it may be awhile), reviews your pox-ridden house and declares, "I best be getting the pox off this here domicile," give that man, woman, or transgendered individual your loyalty, until, that is, they give you a reason to withdraw it.
So yes, it's possible to think there's merit in the war with Iraq while also believing that Georgie Bush is completely incapable of prosecuting it (or, speaking in complete sentences). It's also possible to think John Kerry wouldnt' be any better. We shouldn't have to choose between incompetence and indescisiveness, let alone make that choice with conviction.
But most people end up siding with, depending on their perspective, Goofus or Gallant (consult your local pediatrician for a copy of Highlights magazine if that reference is foreign). The truth is, Goofus was a thoughtless jackass and Gallant was an insufferable sycophant. I prefer Goofus When Appropriate, and Gallant When Need Be.
When you're an ideological free agent, everything's more clear. I've actually managed to detect liberal bias in The New York Times and a conservative bias on Fox News, all in the same day. Again, I'm reduced to cribbing from a cartoon. As Grampa Simpson once said: "The good Lord lets us grow old for a reason: to find fault in everything he's created." Of course, with my dogma, there's no having to wait for the retirement home.
Do what you can about solutions, but remember, you can't solve the problem until you acknowledge it. At least that's what they tell you in rehab, and isn't our country overdue for an intervention?
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
For those out of the cultural loop, Frogtown is a bedroom community within Cleveland ... Ga., home to one of our fair state's finest scribes, Candice Dyer (you'll recognize her byline from Atlanta magazine, among other publications). Candice and I first met as young cub reporters at The Times ... of Gainesville, where we fought like hillbillies over such choice assignments as the opening of the new Chik-Fil-A at the local mall. (Although I did always admire her spot-on Markie Post mullet, circa 1990).
We eventually dug our plowshares and became comrades. (That is, I stopped being threatened by her superior writing talent). So the Malcontent has decided, without approval, to designate itself as the official home of her mountain dispatches (journalese for a collection of some her late night E-mails that I've taken the liberty of posting).
*You know how P. Diddy held a press conference to announce the dropping of the "P"? My dyslexic granny (a hillbilly Yogi Berra) was watching the news and said, "Who is this D. Titty feller they keep talking about?"
*From the "What Would Jesus Do?" file: My cousin Virgil's boy was leading a prayer at school. Some smart-aleck secularist kept heckling him. So, after my little cousin said "Amen," he made a beeline for the heckler and beat the holy crap out of him.
*There is a classified ad in the local paper under "Services" that says, "Redneck for rent. Get your bushhogging done." There's another "help wanted" classified that a different cousin of mine ran for his fruit stand, in which he cautioned: "Lazy dopers need not apply."
Too bad about the fruit stand job, Candice.
Friday, October 14, 2005
Some random thoughts:
*What's happened to "Curb Your Enthusiasm?" The new season is as painful to watch as ever, but no longer funny. Just obnoxious. Hopefully we're talking a creative blip here, though I'm skeptical.
*Mike ("Office Space") Judge's new film sounds promising, and topical: (from the IMDB) Tentatively titled "The Idiocracy," it stars Luke Wilson as Joe Bowers, an "average American who is selected for a top-secret hibernation program that goes awry. Bowers wakes up and finds himself living among a society 10 centuries in the future, a civilization so dumbed-down that he is the most intelligent person alive." I think I've been to that place.
*I'm curious to see George Clooney's new movie about Edward R. Murrow. Hopefully it's an improvement over "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," which made the life of "Gong Show" impresario Chuck Barris somehow boring. (Could've used more Paul Williams, baby!) Plus, it had Drew Barrymore lisping her way through yet another role as a sickeningly adorable girlfriend. Did I mention my feelings about "cutesy" types?
*Snob though I may be, I've watched a few episodes of MTV's latest paean to superficiality, "My Super Sweet 16." Truly shameful entertainment, and a most appropriate addition to any radical Muslim's "Why I Hate America" list.
*Documentary lovers, pop culture junkies and those curious about the homegrown terrorist fad of the 70s should rent "Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst." Solid journalism, and even better filmmaking.
Everyone loves Cameron Crowe. His films are so sweet and affirming and ... not my cup of tea. He peaked with his first, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." "Say Anything" was an impressive follow-up, but everything since has given me tooth decay. Somehow, "Almost Famous" made Kate Hudson a star, all by doing a poor imitation of her mother. I kept rooting for her character to get on with the drug overdose.
Crowe's latest, "Elizabethtown," is getting horrendous reviews. With no plans to see it, I'm sure they're on the nose, particularly since it appears his film is just the latest to characterize the South and Southerners ... on the nose.
You see, while we may seem dim and out-of-touch on the surface, we're actually wise beyond anyone's years. While we have a funny way of dishing out our little homilies, you'd do well to listen to us simple folk. Life is like a box of chocolates and so on ...
At least we're not portrayed as white supremacists anymore. Yet we're still patronized plenty. The real story is not so rich: basically the South has become a giant suburb, spawning the likes of Jessica Simpson and Justin Timberlake. If you can find Flannery O'Connor, let me know.
We still have our share of characters and eccentrics, but you have to dig a bit deeper than Hollywood is willing to do.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Not really, but he might as well. According to CNN, U2 is scheduled to appear at an upcoming fundraiser for Pennsylvania demagogue Rick Santorum, a potential GOP candidate for president in 2008.
Wonder if Paul Hewson is aware of these comments made recently by "the Ricker":
"We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now, that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family. And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does.
It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold -- Griswold was the contraceptive case -- and abortion. And now we're just extending it out. And the further you extend it out, the more you -- this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family. You say, well, it's my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that's antithetical to strong, healthy families. Whether it's polygamy, whether it's adultery, where it's sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family."
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
There's no doubt in my mind: the best 30 minutes of TV, ever, is "The Simpsons" episode featuring John Waters.
I remember watching it when it debuted on my 27th birthday (an otherwise unforgettable night due to a generous helping of mushrooms), and it's maintained a special place in my brain since. Some sample quotes:
Marge, to Homer: "He prefers the company of men." Homer: "Who doesn't?"
Homer: "You know me, Marge. I like my beer cold, my TV loud and my homosexuals flaaaa-ming!"
Homer: "There's only two kind of guys who wear those type of shirts (Hawaiian prints): big fat party animals and homosexuals."
John Waters: "Helen Lovejoy. She looks blond, but cuffs and collars don't match, if you know what I mean."
Homer: "They (homosexuals) ruined all our best names. Like Bruce and Lance and Julian."
Homer, to Bart, as he attempts to give his son the "Exodus" treatment: "Don't worry, son. By tomorrow, I'll turn you into a regular Burt Reynolds."
John Waters: "Well Homer, I won your respect, and all I had to do was save your life. If only every gay man could do the same."
Thank you, Matt Groening.
It's become fashionable to bash reality stars who won't go away, but here's one cynic willing to stand up for the Richard Hatch's of the world.
Why should they be taking valuable magazine space away from "real celebrities" like Jessica Simpson? Why not? Really now, what's the difference between her father's new concubine (that be Jessica ... keep up, dammit!) and the nude guy on the first "Survivor"? I can think of one thing: his boobs are real and hers are fake.
These days, being a celeb depends largely on the quality of your publicist. So why resent the gay guy on season eight of the "Real World" while celebrating Tara Reid? Basically, they're one in the same: untalented whores who've successfully manipulated the public eye.
I guess when you're corresponding with George W., it's best to keep it simple. Here, according to the New York Times, is some of what Harriet Miers wrote to her president and bestest friend in the whole wide world:
"You are the best governor ever - deserving of great respect," Harriet E. Miers wrote to George W. Bush days after his 51st birthday in July 1997. She also found him "cool," said he and his wife, Laura, were "the greatest!" and told him: "Keep up the great work. Texas is blessed."
Monday, October 10, 2005
Odds are you haven't heard of Fernando Meirelles, but he's helmed some artistically relentless films of late, as vibrant as anything I've seen over the last five years. There isn't a more influential director working today.
"City of God," which debuted in 2002, is the second best movie I've seen since the century turned (I'll always be partial to "Ghost World.") I saw "The Constant Gardner" Monday, and though it didn't match the vitatlity of "City of God," it's nonetheless a film that begs to be viewed.
I can't reduce Meirelles' style to a few blog-friendly "wordbites"; instead, I challenge you to to sample his work and come to your own conclusions. You won't be disappointed, or bored. And, rare though it is nowadays, you will be challenged.
In need of some kicks and giggles Monday night, I tuned into "The O'Reilly Factor," featuring the world's most sanctimonius defendant ($10 million to settle a sexual harrassment lawsuit and, less than a year later, he has a best-selling book aimed at kids. Only in America ... and only on Fox!)
Anyway, Capt. Sponge Bath is trying to build support for a boycott of Aruba, where the Natalee Holloway disappearance/muder remains unsolved. It's been six months since she was last seen, and obviously the Aruban justice system favors those with wealth and power. Hmmm, remind you of someplace?
How amusing it must be for the inhabitants of that resort island to see an American media figure call for a boycott of their homeland, due to an unsolved murder.
I suppose we should boycott Washington, D.C., since there's been no arrest in the Chandra Levy slaying (the girlfriend of that California congressman with the 80s haircut). Certaintly, we should've stayed out of Witchita, Kansas, since it took them 20 years to apprehend the BTK killer. And so on ...
But Bill O'Reilly is as shameless as he is shrill, personally and politically. Doesn't he remember the old schoolyard maxim (I'm paraphrasing): People who live in glass countries should not throw stones?
Granted, that philosophy might limit one's bank account, particularly when you're an opinion maker in 21st Century America.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
This quote must be read to believed. It comes from former Indiana senator Dan Coats, the White House "point man" on the Harriet Miers nomination:
"If great intellectual powerhouse is a qualification to be a member of the Court and represent the American people and the wishes of the American people, and to interpret the Constitution, then I think we have a Court so skewed on the intellectual side that we may not be getting representation of America as a whole."
Finally, the mediocre will be getting their voice on the high court. Well, the ignorant have theirs in the White House, so I guess that's fair.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
So the other night I tuned into one of those sloppily assembled "best of" shows that have become so pervasive on E!, VH-1 and all those other cable channels with no apparent reason for existence ... except to provide fuel for my righteous indignation.
They typically feature stand-up comics or actors you've never heard of (with good reason) along with entertainment magazine reporters (showbiz suck-ups not physically attractive enough to qualify for anything beyond celebrity sycophant) chosen because: a.) They have nothing better to do and b.) they'll enthusiastically spew whatever party line is being promoted.
Surprising at it may be, Cher topped the list of those who selected "The 20 Best Things About Being Queer." Didn't see that one coming, did ya? Sonny's ex bested show tunes, parades (parades?!?) and the usual assortment of other has-been divas on this "best of" compilation.
Can queers be any any less "queer?" (Unconventional, for those unfamiliar with the term's origin).
While cementing stereotype, we've refuted one of the few I didn't mind: that is, homosexuals have good taste.
Cher and "Starlight Express"?!? No wonder coming out of the closet was so difficult. It wasn't so much the ostracization I feared; rather, I didn't want to be embraced by the likes of Harvey Fierstein. Musicals, along with melodrama, bore the hell out of me. (Parades?!?) That, of course, qualifies me as self-loathing in the minds of the fraternity, a convenient scarlet letter handed out by the group thinkers.
So be it. Maybe I'm not so proud to be gay (the randomness of nature required no effort on my end), but I'm a damn proud malcontent!
Friday, October 07, 2005
John McCain, backed by fellow Vietnam vet Colin Powell, has forwarded legislation that would codify long-standing military regulations against torture (proven to be an ineffective interrogation technique, one, regrettably, that's been used by more than just some West Virginia private hung out to dry by spineless superiors).
However, our naked emperor says he will use his veto power --- for the first time since he took office --- to block the McCain amendment, arguing that it would restrict the president's ability to prosecute the war in Iraq (something he's prosecuted pretty poorly to this point). Besides, what would John McCain know about torture?
So Bushie can overlook billions of pork barrel spending (and politically cynical entitlements enacted solely to attract votes) but forbidding torture is something he just can't abide. Now here's a man who speaks for God!
You'll notice that those opposing the torture restrictions have, by and large, never served in the military (sorry for borrowing one from the MoveOn.org crowd, but protecting the Alabama coast line is not military service). They are the same crew who chose to ignore the Powell doctrine --- better to deploy too many troops than not enough --- when formulating their battle plan against Iraq. Of course, Powell (whose recent retreat from the national stage is no coincidence) has something that most of Bush's inner circle doesn't: first-hand experience.
I supported the Iraq War because I believe --- naively, perhaps --- in the domino theory, which, many forget, led to Communism's tidy (and relatively bloodless) demise in the late 1980s. If your neighbors are free, chances are you'll demand the same. I just wish we had someone competent enough to handle such a nuanced, but necessary, foreign policy.
If only the Democrats would provide an occassional solution. Instead, they follow the predictable, and politically expedient, route of merely stating the obvious. Even the far right wing is starting to reach the conclusion that Bush is haplessly inept. We get it! Now offer those of us in the middle a reason to trust you.
Regrettably, the Dems seem incapable of providing any alternatives outside of not being George W. Bush. Abandoning Iraq before the job is complete may be an alternative, but it's one that would set us back decades in the Middle East. Would democratically inclined Arabs ever trust us again?
It's well past time this country stopped settling for less than average (and that's not just in politics ... we seem content with the bare minimum in every facet of modern life). At this point, I'd settle for mediocrity. Someday, that prince will come. Or am I just hopelessly naive?
What's eating ATL Malcontent?
Many things, obviously, and, granted, the following is nowhere near the most pressing. But as political heroes go, my list begins, and virtually ends, with Theodore Roosevelt, the eco-friendly, trust-busting, take few prisoners sonofabitch who inhabited the White House shortly after the turn of the 20th Century. Some 100 years later, Hollywood has decided to make a movie about T. Rex, and already I'm concerned about the portrayal.
Leonardo DiCaprio?!? Although I have enjoyed his work before ("This Boy's Life" was as knockout debut), lithe Leo is so physically removed from Roosevelt that I can't imagine him inhabiting the role with the slightest of conviction. Jackass though he may be, Russell Crowe would've made much more sense (though he'll probably end up being cast as Abe Lincoln one day).
Much like Will Smith and Muhammad Ali, the only thing DiCaprio has in common with T.R. is skin color. Hollywood just can't get it right when it comes to larger-than-life figures ... quite the contradiction.
In a huge blow to the abstinence movement (Christians sure are lax in selecting their role models), alleged actress and songstress Jessica Simpson has left her pop tart husband for dear old Dad. If history has taught us anything, it's this: don't underestimate the bedroom eyes of a Baptist preacher. No word on how Jessica's even less talented sister is taking the snub.
You may commence with the Southern inbred stereotyping.
Pictured: Jimmy Swaggart, who started the popular trend of wayward evangelicals back in the late 1980s.
Monday, October 03, 2005
I'm an unrepentant baseball fan (screw the other sports), but when it comes to those who play the game, well, that's a different matter. This weekend saw the re-emergence of Mark McGwire, who reminded us again that not only is he a cheater, but something less than a man.
The chemically enhanced hermit made his first public appearance since that woefully inadequate testimony before Congress in March to commemorate the final regular season series at St. Louis' Busch Stadium. Repeating what he didn't say before Congress, McGwire insisted he did not want to talk about the past.
"I've moved on from it and I wish the media would," McGwire said. Yeah, it's the media's fault. He must've enrolled in the Tom DeLay school of blaming everyone else first. "I've made my statement in Washington ... and that's really about it."
Compounding matters, he made this second non-statement while cradling his young son, following a weak trend among athletes. When Barry Bonds returned to the field a few weeks ago, he did so accompanied by a child stricken with cancer. How can you boo a sick kid? Or lob tough questions at a dad holding his little boy??
Then, to top it off, McGwire actually feigned sincerity: "That statement comes from the heart, and that's the way it is." (Apparently steroids shrink hearts along with testicles).
"I'm a very positive person and I just wish everybody else would be positive."
Damn cyics and their preoccupation with playing by the rules! Here's hoping Big Mac crawls back into his oversized hole.