NOTE: I HAVE MOVED TO DENNISPERRIN.BLOGSPOT.COM. The Son will remain as a standing archive, so please give it a moment of silence, then go to the new site for fresh ranting.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
To show that she is qualified to be president, Hillary Clinton broke up laughing earlier this week after President Bush told her a joke about how bad poor people smell.
In an effort to reach out to African-American voters, Sen. Clinton has hired a new speech coach, who here is teaching her to say, "Wha' zup whodie?"
Though she denies any animus toward fellow Democratic candidate Barack Obama, Sen. Clinton has tried to derail the Obama campaign. She is shown here sneaking up behind the Illinois senator, attempting to strangle him with a scarf.
Confident of his popularity, Sen. Obama has been testing the national media to see how much he can get away with. Here he tells reporters that he's petting his invisible Doberman Victory, who he hopes will become the nation's imaginary First Dog.
Denying that he uses steroids to help bulk up his body, Sen. Obama waves down to supporters and well-wishers at a recent campaign stop.
After facing critical questions from the press, an angry Sen. McCain tried to turn into the Hulk, with pathetic results.
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney met with active duty personnel recently, telling them that if he is elected president, they will all face certain death.
While in New York City during a campaign swing, Gov. Romney tried to exploit the 9/11 terrorist attacks by serenading a piece of rubble from the World Trade Center.
And finally, always the prankster, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani showed off a combat medal he stole from a wounded Marine in a coma.
CONSERVATIVE COMEDY TAKES OFF BY Janet Hespard AP Reporter
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Randy Clift has never liked Muslims, and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, his dislike deepened into extreme hatred.
And that's when things got funny.
Clift was a struggling stand-up comic, looking for that one humorous hook that would bring him headline status and professional success. After the initial shock of the attacks on America in 2001, Clift began working more anti-Muslim routines into his act, and before long, his career took off.
"Look, I never claimed to be a PC comic," said Clift in a phone interview from Biloxi, Mississippi, where he's appearing at the Chuckle Barrel. "And Muslims make me sick anyway, so when I put the two together, I found out that a lot of people felt the same way. The more I bash Muslims or Arabs, the bigger the laughs. Now I'm booked all through '07 and into '08. Hopefully, this will get me on Leno, Letterman or Conan. I can't wait!"
Clift may have to wait longer than he suspects. For while conservative comedy is on the rise, not everyone is in on the joke, especially those who book the bigger venues. Nightclub audiences may like Clift's brand of humor ("What's the difference between a dead goat and a Muslim? The dead goat smells better."), but on national television, insulting a major religion is almost never allowed, and it's difficult to see this changing anytime soon.
This is why conservative yuksters are creating their own platforms.
The Fox News Channel's recent experiment, "The 1/2 Hour News Hour," is a case in point. Billed as a conservative version of "The Daily Show," "The 1/2 Hour News Hour" pokes fun at liberal targets, with uneven results. Yet creator Joel Surnow, the mind behind Fox's dramatic hit series "24," is confident that his new venture will soon find its core audience.
"Well, I'm sure that our boys in uniform will like it," explained Surnow in his San Fernando Valley office, an American flag draped over his shoulders. "They pretty much like anything I do. Not like these Hollywood liberals I have to deal with. God, they make me want to puke. So what I'm trying to do with this new show is make the liberals puke instead. And I can hear them gag already!"
Surnow's show, for all of its intended daring, so far relies on standard conservative takes on homosexuality, welfare, The War on Terror, and of course The Clintons. "We might be predictable in that sense," Surnow admits, stroking a small, marble bust of Ronald Reagan, his favorite president. "I mean, with a conservative comedy show, you kinda know where the jokes are going to go. But you know what? Millions of Americans watch '24' for the torture scenes, so there's definitely a market for '1/2 Hour's' type of humor."
Surnow stared silently at the Reagan bust for a few moments, then began to cry. "Mr. President," he whispered to the bust, "I hope we're making you laugh in heaven."
Whatever the fate of "The 1/2 Hour News Hour," conservative comedy appears to be the next humor wave. Although the majority of these comics are men, more conservative women are making their funny voices heard, and not just those who have long blonde hair and wear mini-skirts.
Molly Steffens is a unique act: she performs only when she's visibly pregnant. While this may seem somewhat limiting to someone pursuing a career in show business, Steffens says she doesn't need the money or the fame. Performing while pregnant helps to frame her main concern: abortion.
"My husband has a lucrative, corporate job, so money's not an issue," said Steffens from her Connecticut home. "This gives me the artistic freedom to use comedy as way to overturn Roe v. Wade. Of course, it'll take the Supreme Court to ultimately do that, but I like to think that I'm out there on the frontlines, getting club audiences to think differently about killing babies."
Steffens, who's expecting her eighth child, is currently appearing at various East Coast clubs in what she calls "enemy territory." Most of her act deals with the humorous side of motherhood, but there are parts of her routine where Steffens taunts those in the audience she suspects are pro-choice.
"Once I spot a pro-baby killer, I really let them have it. I point to my belly and ask them 'You want to murder my unborn child? Well, come right on up here and kick me in the stomach! Go ahead! After all, it's your choice!' That always shuts them down, because what are they gonna do, attack a pregnant woman in front of a bunch of people?"
One might think that this would bring a comedy set to a dead halt, but Steffens insists that the opposite usually happens. "Most people like the honesty. Besides, an angry pregnant broad waving a microphone is funny already. The taunting is just the icing on the pregnancy cake."
Steffens says that her anti-abortion humor is partly based on her Christian beliefs, but she doesn't consider herself to be a Christian comedian. That's not the case with Charlie Willard, who embraces the label.
"Yes, I'm a Christian, and proud of it," admitted Willard, who lives near Nashville, TN. "But as much as I love the Lord, I also love to make people laugh. You know, Jesus was a bit of a comic as well. Though when he performed, there was a two-loaf minimum."
Willard often plays to sold-out auditoriums and theaters across the South and parts of the Midwest, but these are usually church-based crowds, and not the kind of nightclub setting most comedians cut their teeth on.
"Sure, I'd like to work in some of the more famous rooms, but there's a serious prejudice against Christian comics. If you use drugs, alcohol, profanity and are liberal, which, let's face it, all go together, then you'll have a stand-up career. But if you tell a club owner that you've been bathed in the Blood of the Lamb, you'll be lucky to get a five-minute spot on open mike night."
Such obstacles haven't kept Willard from making a living from his comedy. And while he clearly longs for more mainstream attention, Willard refuses to alter his act in order to attract a wider audience.
"One night, He gave me the gift of tongues in the middle of my act. The audience went crazy, so hey, I kept it in. But I doubt that people at The Laugh Factory are gonna find the Holy Spirit speaking in ancient languages through my mortal body funny or hip."
While comics like Willard may never hit the mainstream, there are conservative jokemeisters who do get national attention. Dennis Miller is perhaps the prominent example, and the comedy veteran likes this rightward comedy trend.
"For years, I was lonelier on this wing of comedy than Didi and Gogo at a WNBA exhibition game. So it's nice to see more real Americans performing patriotic comedy." When asked if he feels his humor has changed, Miller added, "Not really. The great thing now is that I don't even have to try to be funny. Whenever I talk about any political topic, people laugh. It's a sweeter gig than Sammy swimming in chorus girl trim at the Sands after drinks with Frank and Dean. I love it."
The Son has had its share of fun with the John Edwards/blogger brouhaha, but after reading Amanda Marcotte's take on the whole thing in Salon, I want to set the jokes aside for a moment and speak from the heart.
Time to grow up, Amanda.
Seriously. Wake up and deal with the real world of American politics. Yes, it's a nasty, horrid place filled with dreadful people largely motivated by hatred, fear, and too many personality disorders to mention. We're in the belly of the beast, and if you want to stake your political claim, then get ready to be slimed beyond belief.
Of course, working for a white collar, mainstream candidate like John Edwards will do little to change our present sorry state, but that's another subject for a later time.
Did the "right wing noise machine" make you feel uncomfortable? Did it call you bad names? Did it make your sexuality an issue? Did it issue death threats?
Good. You got its attention. But instead of taking your lumps and fighting back, you slink away and write a mealy-mouthed sob story about how "mean" the American right is. Well, guess what -- rightwingers are mean. And crazy. And filled with fascist loathing for anything even remotely progressive. And you know what else? They play for keeps. How about you?
I've received my share of abuse and death threats, though most of these came either over the phone or were issued to my face. I know what it's like, and yes, it can be extremely frightening and have a very chilling effect on your further actions. But you learn to move past it. You have to, if you are at all serious about changing society in any way. Giving in to these tribal fucks merely feeds their perceived power; and if they can shut you down with a few harsh words, then you serve as their enabler.
Now some may counter, "Easy for you to say -- you're a man, which is a different power scenario." Yes, gender does make a difference in how one is viewed and treated. But my being male didn't stop those who threatened to bash my head in with a baseball bat, or promised that when I least suspected it, I would be shot dead while walking down the street. Bullets are gender neutral. And anyway, what about Harriet Tubman? Emma Goldman? Fannie Lou Hamer? Cindy Sheehan? I dare say that they took more than their share of serious abuse, indeed, they and others like them risked their very lives in order to make a difference. Think about the women struggling in Afghanistan and Iraq (read Riverbend's archives for a dose of reality). Think about Iranian feminists who, if your idol John Edwards has his ultimate way, will be incinerated by US and Israeli bombs. Somehow, I don't see Salon giving them the space they gave you to moan about how hard political life can be. They've got more immediate concerns to deal with.
It may not feel like it, Amanda, but you are a relatively privileged person who, despite the reactionary assault you faced, is pretty much free to say and do as you like. That you caved in response was strictly your choice, but please don't ask us to cry for you, especially when there are other women out there who endure and resist the bullshit in real time without a large online audience patting their backs and stroking their heads. Hopefully, this episode will knock the yuppie liberalism out of you and toughen your hide for the harsh fights to come. Because they are coming, Amanda. Are you ready?
You're an up-and-coming, young liberal blogger, looking to ply your talents for your favorite Democratic politician. You're filled with political energy and bursting with opinions, just waiting for that special candidate to bring you aboard the Victory Express. Problem is, you've left a trail of angry, critical attacks on your many political opponents, some of whom have media access and demented followers who can make your life a living hell. It's the last thing a Democrat running for office wants to be associated with, and so your dreams are shattered before they've even taken flight.
Sound familiar? Well, it no longer has to end this way, not when you can simply Blame Me!
Hi, I'm Dennis Perrin from Red State Son. You may know me from my many assaults on liberal bloggers and the Democratic Party as a whole. While I maintain that no serious, lasting change can come from voting for the lesser of two evils, I still like to help where I can, and the recent John Edwards/blogger controversy offers just such an opportunity.
Look -- there's no way in hell that a serious Democratic campaign is going to hire the likes of me. Not only is my contempt for this corrupt, archaic political system open for all to see, my public opinions have bordered on slander and oftentimes read like a lunatic's screams. When it comes to mainstream political discussion, I'm toxic, damaged goods. But that doesn't mean you have to suffer the same marginalization. So instead of quitting a campaign under pressure, why not Blame Me! for your previous outbursts!
For an affordable, privately-negotiated fee, I'll allow you to insert my name in your blog archives, making me the source of any or all hostile opinions you may have typed in the heat of the moment. When your political enemies are searching for something that can embarrass your candidate, instead of finding this:
"The crypto-fascist Christers are trying to shove their blood-stained crucifix up our collective ass."
They'll see this:
"'The crypto-fascist Christers are trying to shove their blood-stained crucifix up our collective ass,' said Dennis Perrin, discussing the GOP's 2008 campaign strategy."
It's just that simple! With a few clicks of the keyboard, I become the target of reactionary ire while you are merely "quoting" me! And there's no need to worry or feel guilty about any harsh response I might inspire -- I have years of experience dealing with rightwing maniacs and their tortured, projected psyches. Nothing they say about me bothers me in the least. They're fucking crazy! I even briefly tangled with Bill Donahue back in the day, and let me tell you, that guy is a sad, sorry motherfucker. Think what spending countless years defending a sick, twisted institution like the Catholic Church does to a person's mind, then multiply it by 20. That's where Bill Donahue's at. Mix in some Jew-phobia and an obsession with queers that practically kicks down the closet door, and you get a jabbering head-case who always seems to find a working camera or microphone. But that's no longer your concern!
"I wrote some pretty harsh things about Republicans and conservative Christians on my popular blog. Then one day, someone from Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign offered me a job overseeing her online outreach. It was a dream come true, but I worried that my blog archives would come back to haunt me. Thanks to Dennis Perrin, all of my crude insults, casual libels, character defamations, and gutter-level slurs instantly became his! I never knew how powerful a few quotation marks could be! By blaming Dennis, I can focus all of my energy on Sen. Clinton's plan to tighten the corporate stranglehold on our country while finding new ways to wage war in the Middle East!"
Jill Smith (not her real name)
"I was all set to move to North Carolina to help John Edwards become the next President of the United States, when my archived attacks on 'pro-life' nutjobs and patriarchal fascists were spread all over the media, derailing my plans and filling my in-box with semi-literate screeds against my looks and sexuality. If only I could have blamed Dennis Perrin for my old opinions, I might very well still be in the thick of the '08 campaign. If there is a 'next time,' you can bet that I'll Blame Dennis!"
It may be too late for Amanda, but it's the right time for you. Campaign season is heating up, so don't take any chances -- Blame Me today!
As many of you know, I'm a big fan of the old ABC sketch comedy show "Fridays." I've posted several takes about the show and whatever clips I could find, but there's much more to be written and said about that now largely forgotten effort.
Recently, a friend in LA put me in touch with Tom Kramer, who directed the short films on "Fridays", as well as the filmed commercial and TV parodies. One of my favorite Tom Kramer filmed bits was "Assassin M.D.," about a sniper who shoots people, then rushes down to the street to medically treat them. It was written by Rod Ash and Mark Curtis, the latter of whom died of cancer in 2004. Tom shot an hour-long video about Mark Curtis' final months called "50 Things To Do Before I Die". In it, Tom and Mark go to a Neil Young concert, which they hate, travel to Vegas, meet up with some of Mark's closest high school friends (including former writing partner Rod Ash), go on a cruise, and at one point, reunite with several old "Fridays" writers, among them Larry David and Larry Charles, as well as Jack Burns, Bruce Kirschbaum, and Bruce Mahler.
Watching that assembled talent talking about their time on the show made me want to do a bigger project about "Fridays", either written or videotaped. Even though it used the same format as "Saturday Night Live", "Fridays" had its own flavor, and in many ways remains unique among the many sketch shows that have since come and gone. And of course it helped prepare the creative ground for "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm". So I asked Tom if I could interview him about his time on the show, and he graciously made time to do so. Consider this the first step toward realizing that larger project.
DP: Could you tell us a bit about your background and upbringing? When did you decide to become a filmmaker?
Tom Kramer: I was a good Catholic kid from a dry cleaner family in St. Louis, MO. I started making films in grade school, first by editing home movies to music, then by making my own scripted films.
DP: Which came first for you -- film or comedy?
TK: Actually, I liked making dramatic films until I showed one before a large crowd at Loyola University in New Orleans, and everyone laughed. I then realized I had an accidental knack for comedy.
DP: Tell us about how you got involved with "Fridays". What did the producers John Moffitt and Bill Lee tell you about the project, and how did they know of your work?
TK: I was a freshman at Loyola when Dick Clark did a special in New Orleans and hired some of us students as runners. I took the next Fall off from college to work as a runner on an NBC series, "Dick Clark's Live Wednesday" in Burbank. It was a dream come true, but the show got cancelled. So I went back to college the next Spring and made a documentary film parody in film class. The summer after my sophomore year I made a drastic decision and dropped out of college. I drove back to Hollywood and gave a copy of my film to Bill Lee and John Moffitt, who I met doing the Dick Clark series. I didn't know that they were just putting together a pilot for ABC to be called "Fridays". I got a call two days later telling me that they wanted to use the film in the pilot. I was so excited, I couldn't sit down. That film, "Nauseating Spasms," aired on Episode 9 of "Fridays", I think.
DP: What was planning the show like?
TK: We'd meet on Sunday to pitch our sketches and get assignments for the week. Blocking and rehearsals would go on during the week with a dress rehearsal and air on Friday. I would write sketches as well, but mostly concentrated on films, which I would pitch on Sunday. Monday would be casting and location scouting, Tuesday or Wednesday shooting, Thursday editing, Friday sound mixing and then air on Friday evening. I would also direct anything else on the show that needed to be shot on location.
DP: Early in its run, "Fridays" was slammed by critics and other comics as a rip-off of "Saturday Night Live". Did any of this criticism bother you guys or make you write in a different way?
TK: We were so happy for the opportunity that we didn't care. Besides, it was a "rip-off" of "SNL" and we tried to acknowledge that and have fun with it.
DP: What were your initial impressions of the cast?
TK: I was most impressed with John Roarke, because of his impressions, and Mark Blankfield's incredible physical comedy.
DP: What were your initial impressions of the writers?
DP: What was it like being one of the youngest people on staff?
TK: I was very impressionable, but I think I was also allowed time to grow because of my age. They really made a big deal out of it when introducing my films.
DP: That's true. I recently watched the parody of "A Chorus Line" you did with Billy Crystal, and he praised you to the heavens. What was your favorite piece?
TK: "Cons On Ice" was my favorite, about a new convict in prison who has to prove himself on the prison ice rink.
DP: In the early stages of the show, comedy veteran Jack Burns served as supervising producer, head writer, and on-air announcer. He certainly brought a lot of experience to "Fridays", having worked at Second City in the 1960s, and in comedy teams with George Carlin and Avery Schreiber. Tell us how Jack Burns helped to pull the show together.
TK: Jack staged and blocked the sketches, and worked a lot with the cast. He also inspired the edginess of the show with what he always referred to as "that 'Fridays' edge."
DP: At a certain point in the show's run, he seemed to just disappear.
TK: Jack stepped aside to spend more time working with the cast in staging the sketches. He recognized the talents of the writers he helped hire and encouraged all of us to have more say in the show. He was a big "protector" of me as well, being the "young filmmaker," and to this day is a great friend and Hollywood "father figure" of mine. He did have some problems [with other staffers] but never with me. I remember when he left the show about two-thirds of the way in. I'm not exactly sure whose decision it was at the time. But things were pretty crazy back then. You can only imagine.
DP: One part of "that 'Fridays' edge" was of course the show's drug humor. It's no secret that various chemicals were ingested on "Fridays", but what was the comedic thinking behind some of the drug sketches like the "Rasta Gourmet," the pill-popping Pharmacist, and the dope smoking 3 Stooges?
TK: "Fridays" aired during possibly the last time in America that drugs were at all acceptable. It was the early-80s, and drugs were open and everywhere in Hollywood. Some of the writers were veterans of the 60s drug culture, so drug humor, like that of Cheech and Chong, was popular. I personally had very little experience with drugs at the time and didn't seem to get the humor like most others. I guess I was very naive. I resisted [using drugs] at first, but eventually got pulled in and struggled for years to get sober. By the way, not everyone [on the show] did drugs.
DP: "Fridays" was also known for being very political -- much more political than "SNL" ever dared to be. You guys bashed the religious right at a time when most shows and networks feared people like Jerry Falwell. You never let up on the Reagan administration, and perhaps boldest of all, the staff wrote and performed hard core material about US involvement in El Salvador, setting sketches in refugee camps, torture centers, and the like. What was the general political bent of the writers and cast? Where there any political arguments or disagreements?
TK: Most of the writers and cast were antiwar and liberal in their views, so I don't remember many arguments on that. Reagan being in office became great fodder for humor. John Roarke, in make-up, did a hilarious Reagan. Draft registration was just reinstated and I was turning 21, so I did several antiwar films. One I remember was the "Draft Lottery Sweepstakes," which was a parody of the Publisher's Clearinghouse commercials, only here the grand prize was a trip to Afghanistan.
DP: You were about a quarter century ahead of the geopolitical curve on that one, though back then, we were on Osama Bin Laden's side against the Soviets.
TK: As far as that anti-draft film goes, my main political point of view was pacifism. I was a member of "The Fellowship of Reconciliation." It wasn't practical, real world thinking. I was just against war and killing in general except maybe in active self defense. I think how war comes full circle and how America sometimes changes sides depending on who has the oil or whatever is typical of politics. I'm still antiwar but still not quite as knowledgeable or active as everyone was back during "Fridays".
DP: What were the audiences like during air? Any incidents?
TK: The audiences were great and enthusiastic, but the only problem, if you want to call it that, is that they were sometimes too loud so that the sketches couldn't be heard.
DP: Give us a sense of what it was like during the infamous Andy Kaufman week in early '81.
TK: Andy lived in character most of the time. The famous on-air fight was kept secret and I only found out about it a few minutes before it happened. It was arranged by Andy and Jack Burns. The following show [hosted by Billy Crystal], Andy came on to apologize and feigned a nervous breakdown. He hosted the first show of the next season as a born again Christian, and a lot of people believed him.
TK: Andy told some of the writers that his ultimate plan was to fake his death. A few years later , I was almost killed in a car wreck in St. Louis. I was in traction in my bed, and I remember watching the news that Andy Kaufman was dead. Since I was seriously near death myself, I actually resented this and called the news station to tell them not to fall for the joke. They were going to send a news crew to my hospital bed to interview me; but then I talked to Mark Blankfield, who had the same manager as Andy, and he confirmed it. Andy had died.
DP: When did you guys get the sense that the show might be doomed?
TK: After the Iranian hostage crisis, Ted Koppel started "Nightline", which pushed us back a half hour, which hurt our ratings. That was the beginning of the end.
DP: We all know the names Larry David and Michael Richards. Who are some of the people, writers or cast, we should also remember?
TK: You should remember Mark Blankfield for sure, a reincarnation of Buster Keaton. Also, Larry Charles, who directed "Borat" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm", was on the writing staff. I'm just amazed that you remember the show at all!
DP: I loved "Fridays". Like I said, it's the "forgotten" sketch show from that pre-comedy boom period. It should be remembered.
TK: People ask me all the time what "Fridays" was like. It was the most intense experience I could imagine, my dream gig. I had the opportunity to enjoy the adrenaline of a live show with a live audience, but at the same time, have the creative freedom and control to write, produce and direct my own short films each week, starring people I idolized, including Oscar winners, all before I was legally old enough to drink. This was right before cable hit, so our audience was enormous.
DP: At one point, larger than "SNL's".
TK: I knew how lucky I was. I remember going off alone at times and crying in gratitude. But still, it spoiled me rotten and didn't prepare me at all for how Hollywood worked. It took many years of humbling experiences to rebuild a life and career. Between then and now I've fought with addictions, serious accidents and homelessness. I got sober and made a transition into making reality and hidden camera shows. When I got word that Larry David was offering me a chance to direct an episode of "Curb" [for the upcoming season], I screamed and then cried again. The first day on the set, I asked Larry if he remembered the first film I directed him in. He didn't hesitate: "Underwear Beach." He then listed several more of his favorite "Tom Kramer Films." That was an honor.
DP: Finally, how would you define the legacy of "Fridays"?
TK: A once in a lifetime opportunity, and totally exhausting!
Returned from the grind last night to find my 10-year-old son watching "Curb Your Enthusiasm". I nearly blurted "What the fuck!", but that would've defeated the purpose. But then again, he was watching "Curb", so my reticence was probably pointless.
This was the teen's idea, and she was there watching alongside him.
"Why is he watching this show?"
"It's a great show," she casually replied. "You know that better than anybody."
"Besides, Dad," chimed in the boy, "I've heard the all the words. You say them when you get mad."
"Well, it's more than the words. There are certain situations that you're too young to see or understand."
"This episode only has words," said the teen. "The one where Larry trips and injures Shaq."
"Yeah," I smiled. "That's a good one."
My desire to keep the boy from the crudeness of the world is fading. About time, too. After all, come Fall, he'll be in middle school, a place where 8th graders roam the halls, uttering the nastiest shit in order to separate themselves from the 6th grade children. Still, he remains a sweet, positive kid, though he is beginning to push back at and challenge me more and more. His determination will strengthen over the next few years, and before long, my little boy will be gone. A part of this makes me wistful, but another part of it gladdens me, as we'll be able to converse more freely and share ideas and feelings that for now he can't fully grasp. I look forward to this, even as I watch the unjaded, non-cynical boy slip further away into the woeful world that you and I know all too well.
Once he adds "fuck" to his daily vocabulary, I'll know the serious corner has been turned.
The teen began saying "fuck" out of the blue, testing our limits when she was 12, but by 14 she was throwing it around like a seasoned pro. It shocked me at first, which was ridiculous, given my peppery language, but I soon grew used to it, although at one point I told her that just because she was free to say it, she didn't have to use it every other word. She has since leveled off, and picks her profane spots with better care. Her new project is to get her little brother ready for the next stage of life, so he won't be some goody-goody wuss offended by streams of fucks, shits and cunts.
"He's not where he should be," she told me. "He'll be eaten alive unless he's comfortable with these words."
It warms me that she's looking out for the boy. She always has, no matter how dismissive her demeanor. Yet I never thought that part of this would include intensive lessons in and exposure to profanity. But what can you expect from someone who learned his cussing on the fly?
When I was the boy's age, "fuck" wasn't as widespread as it is now, but it was on the verge of everyday acceptance. Only a few of my classmates in 6th and 7th grade swore, and when they did, it seemed to me exotic. It wasn't until my stepmother began taking me to R-rated movies that "fuck" became familiar. And of course by my freshman year of high school, most kids were swearing on a regular basis.
I'm tempted to see the early use of profanity from a class perspective, the idea being that those who are poor or on the lower rungs of the working class start cussing when they're seven- or eight-years-old, even if they have no idea what the words mean. Their exposure to the cruelties of life at such an early age make saying "fuck" and "shit" seem harmless, especially when set against the larger problems they and their families may face. Kids grow up fast under harsh conditions, and I've seen plenty of examples. But I've also been around rich people, and their children usually are "motherfucking/cocksucking" it up at pretty much the same stage as those kids they'll never meet, so perhaps it's culture and not class that determines the usage.
In any event, the boy likes "Curb" and wants to see more. I told him that we should watch some "Seinfeld" first, since it's the same type of humor, minus all the "fucks." As for the Michael Richards/racist angle, I'll broach that with the boy after he's seen enough Kramer to appreciate Richards on strictly comedic terms.
Last Saturday night, when the family bundled together and watched Peter Jackson's "King Kong" on HBO, we all took turns making cracks about the movie, the actors and the computer effects, a la "Mystery Science Theater 3000". I was in a pretty steady groove myself, making the other three laugh for the better part of the film. Afterward, the boy followed me into the kitchen sporting a big smile, patted me on the back and said, "Great jokes, Dad! You were totally awesome!"
"Awesome." That's a word I don't mind hearing from my son.
You've probably noticed an uptick in Son posts of late, and there's a reason for that: I'm writing to keep from going crazy. I'm writing passages, blurbs and bits that'll never be seen, scratched out, erased or simply put away in file, folder, stacks of papers. I also have several Son posts in an offline queue, awaiting final revisions, while I take extensive notes of the daily insanity and plan, with the purest intentions, to flesh them out into some kind of readable shape. And on and on it goes. I'm clearly in the midst of a writing surge, which makes me happy and drives me nuts. Puttering and muttering is my present waking state.
The only problem is, I make nothing doing this. Oh, I've had some bites and interest over the past few months, but in the end, zilch. I've been dicked around since November by a large site with a wide audience, a site that many of you probably read on a regular basis, but the name of which I've been advised to keep anonymous, for you never know when they'll decide to get serious. Still, the dangling of a plum assignment just above my head is maddening, as was a reviewing gig with a prominent paper that was there, then suddenly wasn't. Plus, I was told by someone in the know that another site I've submitted material to will never publish me because of my hostility to the Dems. I've been informed more than once that while my writing is elegant, my opinions are shit. Apparently, I can construct a decent sentence, but it's mere tinsel atop rotting crap. There's something to be said for aesthetic victories, I suppose.
Bottom line, I cannot get paid for my writing, and must continue to perform custodial labor to help make ends meet (and even that's becoming shaky). There are worse fates, I know, but this reality is starting to wear me down. Yet, I refuse to fold, and will continue with the Son, though I will make some changes. After talking with Jon Schwarz, one of the Son's best friends who is distressed about the state of contemporary satire (primarily on SNL), I plan to write more satirical content, though what shape it will take I'm still working out. The plan is to distribute jokes and fake news items throughout bloggyland and see what kind of traction they get. Also, there will be more cultural writing, with some interviews mixed in. A Video Son project is in the works. Of course, the Son will continue to comment on the political scene and the expanding war, but that will no longer be my main focus. There are others who work this beat better than me, like Jon, Chris Floyd, Max Sawicky and crew, Steven Poole, and Arthur Silber; Louis Proyect tackles both socialist theory and movie reviews; and Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise is emerging as one of the sharper libloggers, and has cracked the all-male team at Tom Tomorrow (who graciously allows Jon to push my stuff there). Billmon remains AWOL, but few can really match his pace, depth and output, apparently, not even Billmon himself. How he functions with all those insights and no public venue to express them is a mystery to me. I'd end up shouting on street corners.
I'm also in the process of collecting my better posts, rewriting, updating and shaping them into a manuscript. Whether or not I can sell a Red State Son book I have no idea, but if worse comes to worse, I'll self publish and hawk it myself. I'm really proud of some of the work I've done here, and want to preserve it between actual covers before the entire system shuts down, and every computer screen goes blank. I don't know if that's actually going to happen, but it's best to prepare for the worst.
So I'm sticking around, but Sonsters, I must hit you up hopefully one last time. I sincerely don't want to rattle my rusty cup, but I have no choice if I am to continue. I'm simply up against it. I have other professional plans for the Spring, but right now I'm in a rough patch. I know I have a lot of new readers, so if you or anyone else enjoys my work or gets anything out of these tortured posts, your help would be humbly and deeply appreciated. Remember, I do all this myself -- no writing teams, no guest bloggers, no extensive news quotes followed by a brief original sentence or two. You all know the score, and the PayPal button is there if you choose to assist this effort. Also, serious offers of writing work, including joke writing, would be great.
Okay. Let me get off my knees and back to work. The surge continues.
A moment of silence for Molly Ivins, who died yesterday of cancer at 62.
I believe it was Gore Vidal who said, "Of the dead, speak only the truth." So I must admit that I was not the biggest Molly Ivins fan around -- not that I disagreed with her or found her work to be seriously lacking in any way. It just seemed to me that she was trying to reach the fence sitters and assorted wavering types, hoping to show them that being on the left was not a bad or frightening thing. Her natural, at times caustic, sense of humor definitely helped. But I never felt that she was writing for the likes of me. Which is fine. The struggle operates at all levels. I will say that I admired her warm and humane demeanor. She remembered what it's all supposedly about while grunts like me cursed humanity and threw garbage on the stage. Roses at her feet for that.
The other thing worth noting about Ivins is how she influenced and helped to wake up younger writers and activists. A lefty Texan of my acquaintance told me that Ivins seemed like a Marxist in that reddest of red states, and that her example was not only needed, it was cherished. Coming from a pretty rightwing state myself, I can definitely understand that (Hoosiers of my generation had Kurt Vonnegut, who, while not overtly political, was still a creative, humanist example to admire). That Ivins served as a nail in reactionary hides is to be remembered and celebrated. I only wish that her style of writing was more in evidence among libloggers. Most of them could use a generous injection of Ivins.
Farewell, Molly. You've been spared the madness and misery that is hurtling our way. The fight continues in our battered hands.
I'm the author of "MR. MIKE: The Life and Work of Michael O'Donoghue, The Man Who Made Comedy Dangerous," "AMERICAN FAN: Sports Mania and the Culture That Feeds It," and "SAVAGE MULES: The Democrats and Endless War."
I wrote jokes for Bill Maher and countless other comics, some of whom ran for public office. I've done the media/public speaking thing, pounding podiums when not singing and dancing for tossed coins. Once upon a time I wrote Red State Son, the archive of which can be found in the blogroll below.