November 29, 2008

Shameless Revisionism: Soapblox Rants #3 (2008)

As promised earlier this week, the continuation of my Shameless Revisionism series, this time dedicated to more ridiculous spew from Election '08. There's a lot to cover, so for better descriptions of the five W's involved, check out my previous Soapblox Rant revisionism here and here. Okay, let's get to it then—click on an essay title link to see the whole post:

Brand America Goes for Broke...Sort Of (Aug. 28, 2008)
In which I try (and fail) to explain my preposterous "PermaGov Seeks Re-Branding" theory of Election '08. It capped off a week's worth of Democratic Convention/Barack Obrouhaha in Denver, so I'd been simultaneously titillated and repulsed by the supersaturation-level coverage from TV, radio, and the web, and therefore my intellectual capacity was too sapped to offer up a coherent distillation of said Theory for the education of all. Which was fine, of course, because a day later all thunder was stolen by the screeching, sneering Republican Veep nominee: Alaska governor Sarah Palin—but more on her later.

So...this was originally supposed to be something about how Brand America/Monied Interests/PermaGov/The Man is, in 2008, finally grudgingly acknowledging certain global sociopolitical realities by conceding the nomination of a major American political party to a black man. About how said black man and his crew had been following in the footsteps of great political marketers and ad men of the past—specifically, the past of 1960 and 1980—in creating an indelible brand with which to sell themselves to the American consumer population. About how, after all, this is the American Way, and that's just what we do here.
John McCain is Doomed, and it's Bono's Fault (Sep. 8, 2008)
This one was a happy confluence of two extremely nerdy, time-wasting obsessions of mine: American Presidential Politics and U2. Like the "PermaGov Seeks Re-Branding" Theory mentioned above, this essay also tackles a similar idea: the "U2 Election Year Album Release" theory—and in the interests of thorough, complete analysis I thought I should include relevant supporting data from U2's past 18 years of touring. So yes, I called the election for Obama in September based on shoddy, nebulous evidence—but hey, isn't that just as good as any shit you'd ever see on cable news? Yes. Yes it is.
Now, by the album theory, this year was all set to be locked up for Crash McCain, what with plenty of substantiated rumors about a new U2 album looming in the fall. However, it seems that someone in the U2 camp—be it the nefarious Edge, the sullen Mullen, the libertine Clayton, or the socio-capitalist manager McGuinness—has overruled Yer Man Bono, and forcibly delayed the new release to 2009. One could argue that Obama has already telegraphed this, what with his make-it-stop overuse of U2's recent single "City of Blinding Lights" during the eternal Democratic primary, but I don't think so. No, Barry's not as big of a U2-booster as the Big Dog, but he probably does realize that the universe is now aligning a bit more in his favor. Yeah, you only think he had a bad week. Whatever, man. We're ready for the laughing gas. We're ready for what's next.
How Many Barricades Have You Stormed Today? (Sep 21, 2008)
Like a good spoiled suburban jerk, I'm capriciously fickle when it comes to respecting or disrespecting the passionate beliefs and cynical snark of my fellow bloggers. In Left Blogistan, nowhere is the gulf between those poles wider than in the space between the ultracool, snide, overeducated "leftists" (who understand that the Democratic Party is merely the lesser of two viciously compromised evils), and the seemingly naive, idealistic, blindly loyal Party People who fall in behind the nominated candidate. In this essay I bitch and moan at both of them—and perversely, its cross-posted Daily Kos version was "rescued" from the dark depths of obscurity. Go figure.
You don't want to be uncool, do you? You don't want to, like, become exactly what the chickenhawks always said you were, do you? Just another dirty fucking left-liberal hippie armchair activist who doesn't have the balls to publicly state how much you hate Bush/the Iraq War/Republicans/whatever? Even after the massive (and massively ignored) anti-war protests of 2003? Even after the whitey-frightening brown-power marches of 2006? Because arm-chairing it is, like, so uncool, dude. For serious. I mean, even I know that, and I would never in my wildest nightmares do anything remotely politically active. Registration? Please. I couldn't sell candy bars door-to-door for Little League twenty-five years ago, and I sure as fuck ain't walking around some leafy green neighborhood full of Nice People Who Might Not Hate Me just for the sake of the fucking two-party system, man. And phone-banking? Don't even start. Some days I can't even call for a fucking pizza, okay? Forget it.
Happily Chugging the Toxic Stew of Dumb (Oct. 3, 2008)
Over the course of the 2008 election campaign, I decided that I didn't like Sarah Palin, and I didn't much respect people who admitted they liked her, but thankfully, we know by now that a decisive majority of American voters apparently agrees with me. However, the night she squared off against notorious blowhard Joe Biden in the vice-presidential debate, things didn't seem as certain to me (though they did to certain others), so I was hoping to see Palin get mauled at the podium before changing the channel to watch the Dodgers get stomped by Chicago. Of course, it didn't exactly happen that way: Palin crashed and burned, sure, but so did the Cubs, so by the time I posted this thing it was more about the concept of political reincarnation than anything else.
Palin's arrival on the national stage is just as timely as that of George W. Bush, our jabbering dupe of a forty-third president. It's generally agreed upon by nearly all sentient presidential scholars that Bush is the farcial reincarnation, politically speaking, of Ronald Reagan. Both men were genial twits fronting a den of thieves and pimps who held the government hostage while stoking fear of foreigners and hatred of liberals. Reagan himself represented the political mutant hybrid of John Wayne and Barney Fife, and Bush is basically a diseased Morlock with the brain of Reagan and the heart of Richard Nixon. Nixon's spiritual successor is, of course, Bill Clinton (who also shows traces of Warren G. Harding), and if we really wanted to waste time, we could take this presidential if-they-mated bullshit a step further and note that Barack Obama is probably the farcial hybrid of Reagan and JFK, but I was supposed to be exclusively shitting on the Republicans tonight, so let's just get back to the point, which is that Sarah Palin is the logical next step from the notoriously stupid vice-presidential punchline known as Dan Quayle.
The Crippling Nostalgia of Naranjastan (Oct. 9, 2008)
Writing a book report may seem like an extremely silly and useless thing to do, but I needed a break from election stupidiity, so I chose to opine on something that I almost literally stumbled across one night at Borders in Oxnard: Gustavo Arellano's second tome entitled Orange County. It was a fun read for an OC native like me, and re-energized me in terms of writing my first novel (which is set there for half the plot), so naturally I thought I should share it with the wider world. "Naranjastan" is actually my own made-up name for OC, but it has also been used in creatively pejorative ways to reference the liberal mega-blog Daily Kos, so imagine my surprise when the damn thing became my second "rescued" diary there.
Thanks to Arrellano's book, I know that I'm not the only one in thrall to the slow creep of crippling nostalgia. His Orange County is full of strange rumblings in Aztlán; a deft combination of frank, poignant personal memoir and gloriously reviciousnist history, it explores his family's roots in both Zacatecas and Anaheim, against a backdrop of John-Wayne-Birch-Disney-Dornan-Saigon-Surf City-Citrus-Coto OC insanity. His family anecdotes and extended epics fit—obviously and perfectly—into the eternal continuum of American Borgification that has chewed up and spat out every immigrant group from the Pilgrims to the Irish to the Chinese to the far-flung scions of El Cargadero, Mexico. Arrellano pulled me in with his incessant localized appeals to my inner history-geography-culture nerdiness, and it worked like gangbusters.
Desperately Seeking the Holy Grail of Epic Fail (Oct. 26, 2008)
And the rescued DKos diaries just keep on comin'—and yes, this has been the last one of those to date, but it was aptly described there as something like "an exhaustive search for the definitive political face plant," which is basically true; picking on losers is one of the most American things anyone can ever do. Speaking of—I also got to beat George Will with a baseball bat, but even that wasn't enough, because I came back for more in two additional instances, the first outlining how the Phillies' World Series win would bookend the era of Reaganite government-emasculation, and the second bitching about how I can draw a better map of the U.S.A. than Al Franken. But back to flogging losers:
We don't celebrate Halloween and Día de los Muertos at this time for nothing, folks, and baseball is not the only Haunted Game in our nation's twisted history. No, politics has that market cornered for the conceivable future. Oh sure, epic political failure has always been a lurking menace in American politics, but recent history has thrown up more examples of massive electoral defeat than you can shake a hanging chad at. Landslide losses at the presidential level by Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, and Walter Mondale are just the tip of the iceberg, of course, but since I don't have relevant data at my command right now, let's just make my thesis skate on some ice thinner than the 2000 election results and ignore hard facts, because like, everyone's been doing that for so long now that it's just routine, right? Aimless speculation's all the rage, right?
Everything Was Fine Until I Looked Down (Nov. 4, 2008)
In which I argued, somewhat lamely, that with the election of the uber-serious Barack Obama to the U.S. Presidency, petty, sarcastic bullshit would quickly be going out of style, what with the legions of humorless liberals swamping Washington D.C. with their commendably earnest do-gooder insticts. Snark jumping the shark, as it were—which is indeed a pretty dumb idea, since it's not likely to ever happen, but whatever. I sensed it turning on me as I wrote the thing, so I slipped in a fun email I wrote to Bryn that was sort of a how-to Lesson in Gonzo:
Brother of mine, verily I say unto thee that this is Good. In fact, it's better than 90% of the Daily Kos diaries out there. You are a worthy student of Thompson and Taibbi. However, for this piece to truly cross into the realm of Gonzo, you must shamelessly embrace your inner hyperbole. Throw "objectivity" to the feral hyenas, man—that shit is for do-gooder wimps. You know the Truth. You're not just right. You're righter than the most miserably wise guru who's ever been stuck up on K-2 without a decent porno for all eternity. You've ruminated on these evil aphorisms of our sick age for so long that they simply must be vomited up like...well, you get the picture. Compound those similies, and never be squeamish with the nastiest metaphors, for Gonzo is a caricature based on a grain of truth, where fiction and reality collide violently, and the Author is irreversibly self-injected into The Work.
Projection Now, Projection Tomorrow, Projection Forever (Nov. 13, 2008)
For many progressive political junkies, the Obama win on Election Day was tempered soberingly with the passage of the odious, queer-hating Proposition 8, and it led many activists to, somewhat justifiably, freak out with the same sort of cornered-animal behavior that the McCain/Palin crowd showed in the campaign's waning weeks. It was an enduring lesson to me that, as Dusty says, "they don't make it easy," and that changeovers always trample some good underfoot. I threw in one of my pet co-opted phrases as a title to boot, but so far it's been the last piece of political gonzo I've been moved to barf out this year, which may prove to be a Good Thing.
Changeovers can be brutally destructive things. Many re-inventions happen in the wild and chaotic aftermath of massive, revolutionary change, but many more take place during the subtler transitions. Inevitably, though, naked avarice, cognitive dissonance and crude denial reign supreme. The winners scramble for as many spoils they can get, and the fleeing losers become scattered refugees, wailing in wide-eyed, desperate panic. Once-apt definitions no longer apply, as all forms of communication are pulverized into malleable blobs of Play-Doh, ready to be built back into whatever lingua franca the victors see fit to impose. They also, of course, get to write history, which can be fun—believe me, I've met more than a few contortionist historians, and they were always winners—but for the most part, writing history is sloggy, boring transcription work, and that's where the projectionists make their real money
Okay, so it's only been a short spasm of relapse, but I think today's helping of Shameless Revisionism may be the last one for a while, until I work up some more substantial work worth anthologizing. Until then, stay tuned to the DV for more random gonzo, including my new series Requiem for a Music Geek, which will be showing up a little more frequently, I hope. Thanks for enduring.

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