Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Happy Happy




Today marks 10 years of marriage for me and the wife, which, given some of the insane obstacles we've faced, is pretty remarkable. Even more remarkable is how she's endured all my bullshit and dark moods over the years. Came across a home vid recently from when we were living in NY, and I look absolutely nuts. I was in the deepest bowels of writing "Mr. Mike," and the years of direct exposure to Michael O'Donoghue's life can be instantly read on my face. I barely recognize myself from that time, but it's clear that I was not in a happy place.

"How the hell did you put up with that jerk?" I asked her.

She sighed. "Wasn't easy. You were so far into that book that I hardly knew you."

True. Tip: if you must write a bio, try to avoid one of the darkest American humorists ever. You may not survive.

"Didn't matter," she added. "I love you."

If, as the cynics insist, love is but a strange combo of chemical attraction and emotional delusion, then I happily and peacefully surrender to the irrational. For in the end, love's pretty much what it's all about, yes? And how lucky and blessed am I to have found someone who loves so unconditionally -- well, unless the dishes aren't washed and the bathrooms teem with grit. Then all bets are off.

Today is also my father-in-law's 78th birthday. Conn Bauer is one of the toughest yet sweetest men I've ever known. Over the past few years he's battled cancer and suffered an enlarged heart, in addition to the cruelties of aging, but the old boy keeps plugging along and refuses to buckle. He reminds me of DeNiro's Jake LaMotta in "Raging Bull" -- no matter how hard he's pummeled, he never goes down. In time, we all do and must, but when Conn's time comes, it'll be on his terms and at his pace.

Recently, Conn and wife Clare visited us from San Diego where they currently live. They brought along some home movies from the late-1930s and 1940s, transferred to DVD. The picture quality was superb. There was Conn, around 11-12 years old, working on his family's Idaho farm. Mother, father, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles are all there, no television, computers or cell phones to distract them, chatting, laughing, romping through a mid-summer dusk under tree branches gently swaying in the breeze. Another world. A different mindset. The years pass from black and white into color. The movies take us on the road, through Midwestern cities and rural expanse. No strip malls. No interstates. A small Sunoco filling station. Roadside diners. Metal drugstore signs. Ads painted on the sides of brown brick buildings, now faded if still present, but then bright and bursting with reds, greens and golds. It's the America that Thomas Wolfe described and Jack Kerouac romanticized and mourned. For us, it lives only on a thin silver disc.

I truly enjoy the pop culture from that period, and Conn, Clare and I can talk about radio comedies, old movie stars and big bands for hours. When we do, oftentimes with Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman or Louis Armstrong playing in the background, I get a brief sense of what the pace of that time must have been like. No rush. Easy does it. Want another beer? Now what was I saying . . .

Nice. In many ways far preferable to today's crush and madness (though, obviously, I'll take today's medical advances over what was known back then). When Conn and Clare visit, the wife, kids and I tap into their casual vibe. We sit, chat. The wife plays piano and my daughter sings the songs of their youth. They beam. Everyone connects. For a moment you sort of understand what this existence might actually mean. And to the degree that you do, it's glorious and enriching.

So Happy Birthday Conn, and Happy Anniversary, doll. I love you both.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Scene




Did the peace gig last night, and for the most part, it went pretty well. It wasn't the best setting for performing comedy, esp the political brand I wrote for the event.

But wait, Mistah Son -- wasn't this an antiwar fundraiser? What better place to diss and piss on those who rule us?

In theory, yes. You'd think that those who hate this war and can't stand the criminals who wage it would be ready to release their anger and rage through righteous laughter. And quite a few did, some deeply and loudly. But a good many sat there with pursed lips, and didn't seem amused with all the lib bashing I placed in the mouths of different characters. (And the fact that many people were in line for the à la carte dinner didn't help -- too much moving around and talking.) 'Course, this was meant to mock those characters and not the libs per se, but as is often the case, the material was taken literally, so much so that when I was introduced as President Bush, I received a series of boos. I wanted to stop right there and remind them that, um, I'm not really the president, and that, ah, this is a set up for a comedy bit, so your boos are really pointless. But then, maybe I didn't get their humor. Well, we do live in confusing times.

The wife joined in the fun, playing Osama bin-Laden, several battered survivors of the Into Karl Rove's Mind theme park ride ("17 solid insane minutes of pure emotional depravity"), and Fox News Bedtime Story reader Miss Britney Ann. This was the first time we'd performed together, and it was great. The wife studied theater at Cornell, was in several plays in NYC and for a time worked with a comedy group at the 13th Street Repertory Theater, alternating gigs with Brother Theodore, who had a long-running one-man show there. So I was in good company. After the act, a couple of people asked me where we were gonna perform next, which I hadn't really thought about, but now I, and she, are. Some deranged Nichols and May deviation, perhaps. We're in discussions.

The Hummingbirds, who preceded us, played raw, melodic folk rock. Rep. John Dingel got up and delivered a blistering critique of the Bush gang. And Juan Cole, for whom we opened, spoke at length about how the US media was glossing over the intricacies and internecine battles over Iraq's constitution, and how despite this, that country remains in horrible shape. And while he called for US ground troops to be pulled out, he maintained that some kind of US or allied presence should remain, lest the whole region be engulfed in even more brutal warfare. Dunno how that went over with the Out Nowers in the audience (Juan wasn't booed, put it that way), but he's been slimed as a warmonger and racist for saying this, notably by the Counterpunch crowd. I didn't get that sense from Juan when we talked; he seems genuinely outraged by this war and knows quite a bit about the region. I have my differences with him, but he's a very soft-spoken, nice, intelligent guy. Attacks like Counterpunch's are simplistic and crude, to be generous.

For those who didn't get a chance to see the act, here are three excerpts. The first is an "anti-blessing" given by Pat Robertson. The second is a public appeal by Dick Cheney and Osama bin-Laden. And the third is W. doing what W. does.

Much thanks to Phillis Engelbert of Michigan Peaceworks for the invite. And mega-thanks to Mike Gerber for the extra material, and to Jon Schwarz for the feedback.

*******

Dear Lord, please ignore this gathering of peace activists who reject your command that America wage war throughout the world, and know that in their hearts they wish to destroy your holy system of corporate capitalism.

And Lord, I pray that you keep these ACLU-loving traitors from turning God fearing Americans into pacifists, atheists, feminists, socialists, communists, Satanists, environmentalists, vegetarians, vegans, fruititarians, Rastafarians, witches, warlocks, demonic elves, lesbian vampires, homosexual werewolves and cross-dressing leprechauns.

For as your Son and our Savior once put it, "Blessed are the hitmen, for they shall inherit the Earth" and "Do unto others, but cover your tracks, to minimize blowback."

And Lord, it appears that I have once again embarrassed your Republican party by calling for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. And even though I'd still like to see Chavez's head blown off, and Venezuela's vast oil reserves seized and privatized by American petroleum companies, I regret my outburst, and ask that you punish me harshly. I need not specify how I should be punished -- we've been over this many times, and you know what I like and how long and hard I like it. I leave that to your discretion.

Again Lord, thank you for this war and the many more to come. In Jesus's ballistic name, amen.


*******

Cheney: Hello, I'm Vice President Dick Cheney

Osama: And I'm Osama Bin-Laden

C: As you know, both of us have done pretty well with this Terror War thing.

O: Very well indeed.

C: I mean, Halliburton's making a killing -- pun intended.

O: And Al-Qaeda's recruitment is thru the roof, unlike your military, Mr. Dick!

C: Low blow Osama, but a good one!

O: Just watch your head!

C: Ha! I love this guy!

O: You're cute too!

C: Thanks. Anyway, things have been great for us, but that's starting to change. All these polls are telling us that the majority of you out there are turning against the war.

O: Very bad for business.

C: You said it. That's why Osama and I are making this special appeal: without your support, we can't keep waging this war.

O: Frankly, it's all we got.

C: If this thing tanks, my pension's in the toilet.

O: And I'm no longer the Bono of jihad.

C: So please, the next time a pollster phones you, tell them that you want more war and plenty of it.

O: Get those poll numbers up there. We can't do this without you!

C: Remember, you put the public into private war. Thank you, and God bless America.

O: And death to all infidels!

C: Osama, you slay me.

O: Some day, my friend, some day . . .


*******

Condi Rice: Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, the President of the United States.

Bush: Thank you, Condi. My fellow Americans, and Helen Thomas, I've given many reasons why I won't meet with Miss Sheehan, but none of them seems to have satisfied you. So, I've come up with a few more reasons why she and I will never meet.

1. Miss Sheehan didn't vote for me. As you know, I don't talk to anyone who doesn't vote for G. W. I mean, that would be plum crazy! I'd have to be a crazy man to do that!

2. Miss Sheehan's for peace. I'm for war. Lots of it. See, there's a disconnect there. We wouldn't understand each other. It'd be like a killer robot trying to talk to the Ambassador from Pluto. Just doesn't make sense.

3. Gotta have my Me Time. Need my Me Time. Me Time's important to a prez'nit, and last time I looked, I'm the prez'nit! I meet with Miss Sheehan, no time for Me Time. Me Time becomes She Time. Then the Next Person's Time. Before long, it becomes America's Time. I can't govern like that.

4. If I let Miss Sheehan into my home, she might steal something. I'm rich, she's not. You do the fuzzy math.

There are many more reasons why I won't meet with Miss Sheehan, but I'm late for a GOP fundraising veal calf slaughter. And to the terr'sts watching, I simply quote my man MC Hammer: "Can't try to touch this." So keep bringin' it on! Feels good!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Me & Juan Down At The Brewery

Several people have asked me what my Sun night gig is all about, so here it is:




"Brewing Peace" is Michigan Peaceworks' annual fundraising dinner and silent auction with great food, entertainment, and camaraderie!

Featuring conversation with Juan Cole, comedy by Dennis Perrin, and music by The Hummingbirds.

Sunday August 28th, 5-8 pm
Arbor Brewing Company, 116 E. Washington

Requested donation: $30/person; $50/family.
Reservations: email info@michiganpeaceworks.org or call 734-761-5922. Space is limited and is starting to fill up.

--------

*Juan Cole is author of the weblog Informed Comment, which covers the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq and other developments in the Middle East. He is also a professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan and author of "Sacred Space and Holy War" (IB Tauris).

*Dennis Perrin is a former writer for Bill Maher ("Politically Incorrect") who now confines his ranting to his blog, Red State Son. He is also a regular contributor to the Ann Arbor Observer.

*The Hummingbirds are an "electro-coustic" duo performing twang-filled country Americana music.

----------

If you have a good or service to contribute to the silent auction, please contact us at info@michiganpeaceworks.org or 734-761-5922.

Don The Mask




Since I remain tied down with showbiz duties (trying to rent a mule and a gaggle of geese for a White House-run-by-farm-animals bit that I'm certain will kill), I suggest you swing by Max Blumenthal's place and read his nice take on the ever-devolving Hitchens. Indeed, if there exists a living, wheezing, bloated example of purest DEVO, it's Hitch:

Got an urge got a surge
And it’s out of control
Got an urge I wanna purge
’cause I’m losing control
Uncontrollable urge
I wanna tell you all about it
Uncontrollable urge
Makes me scream and shout it

Now, if only he'd wear the Booji Boy mask (seen above) made iconic by Mark Mothersbaugh, his raw public displays would take on much-needed theatrical flair. Is he not men?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Poli-Yuks




Still in rehearsals and tightening/rewriting material. Ah, political comedy -- is there anything more up in the air? You laugh based on your political prejudices, if you have any, that is. Otherwise you don't laugh. You stare. Yawn. Most likely throw something, usually something sharp. That's why most stand-up is apolitical. It's a form of self-preservation.

But this crowd will be political in a very lefty/lib way, which is no guarantee for success. Lefties can be, and in my experience have been, some of the grimmest, humorless people you'll ever encounter. I've offended many rightwingers, but I've never gotten the earload of righteous anger that I have from unamused lefties.

Still, I expect Sunday's crowd to be very hip and open to my stuff. And I'm not saying that because this blog is linked to the online/email announcement of the event, which means that some of you reading this will be in the audience that night. No. I'm saying that because I believe it to be true. Call it a comic hunch.

While working on my set, I thought of an SNL bit from December 1989 where Phil Hartman played David Rockefeller speaking about the Japanese buy out of Rockefeller Center. I saw the bit only once, but it remains one of my faves. (I was once told that Hartman himself wrote it, but I have no solid proof of that.) And thanks to my pal Patrick Lonergan, who runs SNL Transcripts, I found the script, which I now share with you.

[Open on: A giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center at night. A solemn instrumental version of "Silent Night" plays in the background as Rockefeller appears]

Hello. I'm David Rockefeller. A few weeks ago, my family sold the controlling interest in Rockefeller Center to the Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan. Since then, there's been a public outcry from people who are distraught that we're selling off our architectural treasures to the Japanese. It seems there's a perception that the Japanese are some "evil empire" to be feared and distrusted. Well, I just want to reassure the American people that the Rockefeller empire is every bit as evil. Probably more so!

After all, my grandfather, John D. the First, built our family fortune on corruption, thievery, blackmail, murder, and the exploitation of common working people. Now, my father may be of interest to those of you in labor unions. Why, one time, he sent his men down to a camp of striking coal miners and they drove through in an armored car and machine-gunned the whole area, setting it on fire. Now, weren't you a little quick to judge those Mitsubishi people?

Dad hated everyone. And, if he were alive, he'd hate you. He would! I do! So, the next time the Japanese buy some institution that you hold dear, let's remember that you shouldn't be judged by the color of your skin, but, rather, by the blackness of your soul. Good night and merry Christmas and -- I'm evil.


HA: Just heard Al Franken doing a very funny bit about Pat Robertson reading a list of political enemies who should be assassinated -- in God's name, of course. When Franken does this, he's great. But soon he sinks back into the mainstream Dem swamp, and the laughs turn to zzzzzzzzzzzs.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Pukes




When you look at Cindy Sheehan's vigil outside Bush's bunker, it may appear exactly as it is -- a bereaved mother who wants answers from the man who ordered her son into a meatgrinder she (and she says he) opposed, and where he soon perished. You might think Sheehan's too public with her grief and request, but it is what it is, like it or lump it. Not much more to see.

For many rightwingers, however, there's more, oh sooooo much more to see. To them, Sheehan is either leading a gaggle of pro-jihadist Jew-haters, or has been duped and is being used by the vilest of anti-American scum. Whatever the case, there's no way she's that upset about losing her son in Iraq. I mean, like, c'mon! What real patriot wouldn't give to have two, three, many relatives blown to shreds in Baghdad? It's one of the highest honors, as any Real American knows. And helping to build a Shi'a theocracy in the south where Sharia law rules? Well, that's simply gravy.

The thing about rightwingers when they get all crazy like this is that apart from the loud, disgusting spectacle they put on, their whole attack mode is pretty funny. They look like Ben Turpin or Snub Pollard swinging wildly with a giant prop mallet, inevitably bashing themselves in the head, causing them to stumble around as if stinking drunk. The beauty of this is that they don't see themselves that way. They think they're making a political point. The humor is unintentional. And the wilder and crazier they swing their mallets, the funnier and more absurd they get.

But then there are those rightwingers who, God bless 'em, actually try to be funny about Sheehan. Intentional reactionary humor is one of comedy's minor-categories, down there with farting the National Anthem and eating anything on a dare. Since reactionaries worship state power and those who wield it, they cannot go after that, esp when Repubs control everything. The military? Nah. Corporations? Be serious. There's the Liberal Media, but even as Ann Coulter recently admitted, they pretty much influence the tone and focus of that as well. So, what's left to attack? As P.J. O'Rourke discovered when he took control of the National Lampoon in the late-70s, reactionary comics have minorities, the poor, homosexuals, and those many others who are a blight upon a wholesome, pure America. O'Rourke did quite well with this recipe, as did R. Emmett Tyrrell in the old American Spectator. The Dartmouth Review writers of the early/mid-80s attempted similar routines, but usually their raw, untested deliveries blew whatever joke they'd cobbled together, and most often they settled for name-calling, outing gay students and racial slurs.

In the past few days, I've come across a couple of would-be reactionary comics who are straining to satirize Cindy Sheehan and her vigil. Since there really isn't much to bite into, they are faced with the Dartmouth Review's old dilemma, and so they sling insults at Sheehan, make fun of her physical appearance, mock her supposed "grief," and so on. It's pretty embarrassing to witness, as joke after joke splats the pavement in full vomit relief. But they appear to think themselves clever and "cutting," and perhaps they are, to someone, somewhere. Comedy is subjective, after all. Normally, I'd leave it there. But one of these puking clowns uses Michael O'Donoghue's material to name her blog (which I won't link to, but you are free to Google away), and given her amateurish, low-rent routines, I was moved to email her:

"Hi --

"I know you don't read mail that's critical of your public output, so perhaps this is merely a Zen exercise on my part. But in case you're still reading, I'm Michael O'Donoghue's biographer, from whom you swiped the name of your blog. I knew Michael somewhat in his final years, and am still quite friendly with much of his inner-circle. After reading the chickenshit you've been throwing at Cindy Sheehan, let me clue you in on something: O'Donoghue would find you cowardly and beneath his contempt. I know that one of his closest friends does. And he especially despised those who stole his words or ideas (without credit, so far as I can see) and employed them in such clumsy, semi-literate ways. As a strong believer in karma, I personally wouldn't express the darkest disgust I have for you. But Michael had no problem with such niceties. So I give him the final two words.

"BLOW ME."

I have communed with Michael's spirit, and he suggested that I use one of his stronger lines, where he wishes rectal cancer on those who cross him. While I briefly considered it, I decided against it. Karmic payback's a serious bitch, and I've enough to deal with as it is.

OH: Speaking of M O'D, I've been informed that the following image --




is featured full-screen in the new film, "The Aristocrats." It would've been nice had the film's producers, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette, given me a head's up. After all, there are plenty of O'Donoghue images to choose from. Still, I can't complain. "Mr. Mike" rolls on, which gives the late Mr. Mike a reason to flash that wicked smile.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Peter Jennings




Died yesterday of lung cancer. He was 67.

I always liked Jennings. Even in my most militant media activist days, when I routinely spat on my TV and yelled "Bullshit!" and "Liar!" at whatever news anchor was onscreen, Jennings was the calm in my storm. Not that he was perfect nor free of corp media taint -- he worked for ABC-Cap Cities (later, Disney) after all. But Jennings had the look and posture of someone who knew that deeper truths existed, and occasionally these truths appeared in his news copy, however briefly. It was this that drove the right wing nuts (well, nuttier). Oh, they could go on and on about Dan Rather's communism and treason, but Rather was their punching bag, an easy, reliable target. Jennings, on the other hand, really frightened them. His subtle intelligence was hard for them to hit, so in their frustration they'd take wild swings at his reputation. To my knowledge, they never truly connected.

I've been on panels and in debates where the rightist media critic I was paired with (usually someone from Accuracy in Media, though I tangled a few times with Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center) would "prove" Jennings's political bias by going after two of his spouses. His second wife, Annie Malouf, was Lebanese, and this, coupled with Jennings's years as a Middle East correspondent, operating primarily out of Beirut, suggested that Jennings was pro-Arab/anti-Israel. One opponent told me that Jennings knew a bit too much about the Arab world, and loved it enough to marry into it. What more proof did I need? (That he also apparently dated and remained friends with Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi added to his evil rep.)

His third wife, Kati Marton, showed that Jennings had communist leanings as well. Marton, Hungarian-born (ah hah!), worked for various media outlets, NPR (oh ho!)among them. And while she played an active part in organizations like the Committee to Protect Journalists, P.E.N. International, and Human Rights Watch, for rightists her real crime was writing "The Polk Conspiracy: Murder and Cover-up in the Case of CBS News Correspondent George Polk." Marton had the audacity to suggest that far from being murdered by Greek communists during that country's civil war in 1948, Polk, a CBS veteran, was lured into a death trap by Greek fascists who tried to pin his killing on the left. It is Sacred Truth to American right wingers that Polk was a victim of commie terror, even though he may have been (and probably was) a commie symp himself. Marton undermined this belief, and that she was married to Peter Jennings made matters even more sinister. But then, as I was always reminded, Jennings was Canadian, and hated America anyway.

I met Jennings once -- well, sort of. I introduced myself to him in front of millions of people on April 7, 1988. Jennings anchored a live, ABC News Viewpoint special about terrorism and the American media. There were to be questioners from the audience, and remarkably, I was chosen as one. I say remarkably because I told the woman doing the picking exactly what I wanted to discuss, namely, how the American corp media continually ignored the PLO's numerous calls for a two-state solution with Israel, based on mutual security guarantees and mutual recognition. I figured, why not be completely honest and see what happens. I'd just gotten a job as a junior media columnist for the New York Observer (which I recounted here), and I thought if she wouldn't allow me to say this on-air, I'd have something to write about. Instead, she put me in a prime spot, coming right off a commercial.

Jennings went directly to me, standing at a mike, attempting to hide my extreme nervousness since I knew that my question would be considered insane. When I look at the tape now, I'm impressed with how smooth I seem, given all the flying reptiles in my stomach (I'm less impressed with my haircut -- looks like I'm trying to pass as one of Echo and the Bunnymen). But not only did I get the question out to ABC Israel Bureau Chief Bill Seamans, I was allowed to rebut him and criticize his inaccurate response. Jennings then asked, "Do you have a follow-up question, Mr. Perrin?" to which I stupidly said "No." ABC's top news anchor was offering me more national airtime to make further points seldom heard in the mainstream, and I passed. I was relatively new to the pro media crit game. Rookie mistake.

Had Ted Koppel anchored that special, I seriously doubt I would've been given all that space. But Jennings seemed sincerely interested in what I had to say, and his little smile (not caught on camera) told me that he knew what I was saying was true, simply because it was being reported everywhere but here (with the exception of the New York Review of Books), and anyone who'd done any reading about the topic would understand this immediately.

Jennings consistently showed interest in subjects that other anchors would never touch. At a time when the US media pretty much ignored the US-backed Indonesian slaughter of East Timorese (wiping out about a third of their population), Jennings produced a report about the atrocities and who was responsible for them. During the build-up to the first Gulf War, when antiwar critics were being compared to Nazis, Jennings delivered a balanced look at the movement (divided though it was), and was the only network anchor to meet with antiwar media critics who marched on the Big Three to protest their slanted coverage. It was this type of engagement that pissed off the right. To them, the media's role is to parrot state propaganda, esp in a time of Repub domination and ongoing war, and anyone who doesn't is a traitor. Jennings rarely buckled on this front. He'd seen too much of the world to be crammed in a red, white and blue veal crate. For that alone, he deserves thanks from those who value expanded debate and inquiry, as well as aggressive journalism.

So long, Peter. And thanks for the airtime.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Please Stand By




Been having cable connection probs over the past few days, so I don't know when I'll next post. Hopefully later today. Spent close to five delightful hours on the phone yesterday with various tech support people, one of whom had me reconfigure something that wiped out some of my files, including a piece I'm working on FOR MONEY. So, after destroying a chair that had the bad luck to be in my path after I saw this, I've calmed down, and will have to rewrite the whole thing FROM THE BEGINNING. But no more kicking chairs into splinters. I promise.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Sad Day




Online war boosters mourned the non-fatal crash of Air France Flight 358, which skidded off a runway at Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Tuesday. That all 309 people aboard survived shook them deeply.

"I was all ready to write how 8/2 would now join 9/11, 3/11, 7/7 and 7/21 as infamous dates in our war for freedom," muttered Michael J. Totten. "I was hoping that al-Qaeda was behind it, or maybe Hamas, which would be cool, and that there would be a lot of dead bodies. But it looks like it was the weather. Damn."

"When I first heard about the crash, I began writing about how the French were now truly our comrades in the fight against Islamofascism," said Roger L. Simon. "But since no terrorism was involved, I'm glad it happened. The French are gutless. Serves them right."

James Lileks sighed, "As you know, I'm rather quick with the Franco-phobe bon mot. There's probably no other writer alive who gets so much negative use out of 'baguette' and 'Brie.' Yesterday, I was prepared to put all that aside. I had a nifty DeGaulle reference at hand, one of my better sentences of late, but now there's no point. So instead, I'm writing about buying a hammer at Home Depot."

When reached by cell phone late Tuesday, Christopher Hitchens had only this to say: "Mordez mon dick, my dear fellow."

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

But Seriously




Having let my GQ sub lapse long ago, I don't keep regular tabs on its covers or the increasingly insipid articles within. At one time, under Art Cooper, GQ boasted fine writing and some of the better topics and prose in American mainstream mags. Gore Vidal and James Ellroy contributed feature pieces, and Terrence Rafferty penned a monthly culture column. By the late-90s, however, Cooper was pressed by Conde Nast's Si Newhouse to simplify and chop down GQ's content in order to compete with Maxim and FHM. Cooper apparently struggled with this, but ultimately, GQ went the boy mag route. Cooper retired, then died of a stroke while dining in 2003.

Recently, while doing some online research for a piece I'm writing about new experiments in electromagnetic disruption of REM cycles (for the Journal of Unconscious Science), I happened upon some photos from the July GQ of Jessica Simpson stripping off camo gear to reveal an Old Glory bikini. Her cover shot was adorned with "God, This Is A Great Country: Jessica Simpson and 75 Other Reasons To Love America."

Now, in the past, I've made fun of Simpson, suggesting that she's an intentional parody of American trash culture, made sharper by the fact that the parody makes loads of money (which, in turn, lends added gloss to the parody, making it seem even more real, and on and on), and that she entertained US troops in Iraq alongside the cryogenically-frozen remains of Bob Hope. But the GQ profile, written by Chris Norris, outdid me on every front. Imagine typing this with a straight face:

"What an enigma, this Bible Belt–raised, teen-pop-honed, reality-TV child bride. True, over three seasons of MTV's Newlyweds, [Simpson] has amassed the most astounding collection of blond sound bites in the modern age—including three abortive attempts to pronounce the word Massachusetts. Yet later reports hint at subterfuge behind the seduction. Husband Nick Lachey cites her 'very deep, intellectual' aspect as key to his love. Her mom once put her IQ at a genius-level 160, suggesting that an anguished intelligence might lurk behind the telegenic facade.

"Even now, as she looks over the barbecue take-out containers scattered around her, Simpson's face seems to bear traces of some existential malaise. 'Why do I feel such paradoxical loneliness?' she might be thinking. 'How can the Self truly breach the Void?'"

So, until further notice, I'm placing a moratorium on Jessica Simpson gags. After Norris's piece, there's simply nowhere else to go. All I can say is that if Jessica Simpson is the top reason to love America, our cultural demise is perhaps closer than anyone thinks. That may be a good or bad thing, depending on the fall out, but know that the end was heralded by a secret genius posing as a stupid blonde with fake tits and horrible taste in music. That countless men masturbate to her image adds the crowning touch: love of country expressed through jerking off. You can't get more American than that.