January 31, 2009

It was Foolish of You to Come Here Tonight, Tom

The inherently stupid hubris that afflicts all powerful people is truly an awesome thing to behold—especially once it begins to make their brains dissolve into warm muck, forcing them to flap their arms in panic and whimper like eunuchs on national television. We all got another good look at that phenomenon this week, of course, when the Gods of Karma claimed a further Democratic victim in the secretary-designate of Health and Human Services: Tom Daschle, whose prediliction for expensive automobiles and erudite drivers landed him deep in the freshly-dug Obama Transitional Ditch of Shame.

The secretary-designate will have to scratch and claw his way over the heads of other ridiculous degenerates already caught in varying levels of corrupt stupidity—the shifty Tim Geithner, the hopeless sot Bill Richardson, the crazed Rod Blagojevich—and for a man who wears pretty red-framed glasses, that won't be an easy task. Daschle, of course, was one of the prime examples of Senatorial Yellow Spine Syndrome during the past eight years—groveling and sniveling at the feet of any Republican who looked at him sideways—and bookmakers across the country have not been kind to him since his current predicament arose. He is currently at 6-1 on the question of career survival, surely music to the ears of any pathetically hopeful Howard Dean fan—though The Doctor himself could not be reached for comment.

Daschle's weak-ass defense, some silliness about "needing debate and intellectual stimulation while in transit," was so colossally dumb that even elementary school students laughed at him. When pressed, the ex-Senate Minority Leader amended his remarks to something like "you can't drive to Cabinet meetings in just any old town car—this is still America, goddamnit," which did him no favors when bloggers, pundits, and other semi-evolved hacks began likening him to the half-wit patricians currently sucking up taxpayer funds in the latest Wall Street bailout scam. Hell yes—tax evasion for everyone! Now that is some big-time change we can believe in, dude.

Jesus creeping shit, where will it end? I know, I know—politicians are all corrupt, blah blah blah...but does every Democrat have to do a Bill Clinton "why-don't-you-make-me?" impression these days? How many more of those stupid bastards will be cut down by their own incorrigibly arrogant impulses before the new administration figures out how to vet people? Naturally, we childish fanboys out here among the purple mountains and amber waves are dying to know. All that starry-eyed bullshit about "seamless transitions" was starting to get a bit rank, you know? Hell, somewhere people like Zoe Baird, Kimba Wood, and Lani Guiner are collapsing into fits of laughter, and even Jimmy Carter is getting a weird sense of deja vu.

Apparently Democrats have been shut out of real power for so long that they don't know how to handle it once it defaults back to them after years of mendacious Republican venality. Well, you can all kiss healthcare reform goodbye now, kiddies—because every single one of Tom Daschle's vaunted "genial relationships" with various congresscritters is now a steaming pile of useless rat dung. No one will want to work with him at all—and even the Republicans who are so used to whoring themselves to any lobbyist who comes along won't even bother to return calls from Daschle's wife, Linda, who at press time held so many lobbying credentials for...let's see now, was it Big Pharma or the M-I complex or the insurance industry or—oh who gives a shit, because none of it matters. One could reasonably assume an outcome like this was even by design.

And why not? The true powers that be in this country got what they paid for in 2008—a complete overhaul of Brand America—and now they're hanging in there until the gazillion-dollar bailouts get muscled through so that everyone who went all-in gets their promised ROI. But hey, at least one level of government is bothering to make it look like a full-body cleanse; out here in California, our stumbling dunces in the legislature can't seem to get themselves together enough to give the Governator the finger.

Of course, none of this would set me off so much if I hadn't been digging through random piles of paper all day in preparation for my own imminent tax bill—and unlike most people in this Proposition 13-worshipping state, I am perfectly happy to pay my fair share of taxes. I am, after all, a Liberal, and flagrant tax evasion is not among my retinue of vices. So pretty please, pardon me if I have no patience for yogurt-brained dingbats like Geithner and Daschle who can't get their shit together in anywhere near a competent manner. I thought the fucking grown-ups were supposed to be in charge again, Mister President. All the Facebook ads tell me your IQ is 130, but didn't Mister Alinski teach you to do your homework, or at least to cover your ass if you didn't? I didn't vote for reruns of "Pimp My Cabinet," man. This isn't judo. This is the kind of thing that Rush Limbaugh masturbates to.

And look, I know it's finally great to be in the Oval Office, and I appreciate the Ledbetter thing and the solemn promises to close Gitmo and whatnot, but some people really aren't worth putting on the Cabinet when they have severe cerebral malfunctions on or around the Ides of April. They got Al Capone for tax evasion. Remember him? Don't make someone like Arlen Specter into Elliot Ness, dude. My ever-so-delicate sensibilities couldn't take it. And to all the other potential Geithner/Daschle mutants out there, well, if you want a gubmint job, you better pay your fucking taxes, yo.

Cross-posted: dkos, dd, fsz

Requiem for a Music Geek: Silver-Tongued, Sharp-Toothed Snow Leopards

There's a certain style of pop-rock songwriting and lyricism that I've always been attracted to: the deft, acerbic expression of power that rears its sneering visage into view via two or three talented people per decade. The best singer/songwriters who work that way, of course, have never confined themselves to such a one-dimensional, silly caricature like that, but you know when you listen to their stuff that it might go sideways on you at any time—because once someone gets to the point where easily using and abusing such a frequently fucked-up language like English is second nature (let alone setting their screeds to music), they're not gonna be a dull waste of time. That such people can survive professionally and creatively on down through decades of shit-stupid pop music is no mean feat, either—but since there are so many of them (really, it's true), for now I think I'll just stick to my three main fountains of inspiration (plus one literal contemporary): Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, David Lowery, and Jenny Lewis.

Dylan's an easy choice, of course, because despite having been persistently deified by millions of slavish acolytes like me for almost fifty years, he has consistently frustrated all efforts at emulation via his own restless creative schizophrenia. Every poser with a pen and a guitar has had to contend with the man's imposing creative shadow; the sheer power of what he can accomplish in just one song—"Like a Rolling Stone," for instance—is equalled only by his maddening ability to self-sabotage with half-assed shit like his late-80s albums or the pitiful "Self Portrait" platter from the Woodstock-wilderness days. When he's on, though, he's more on than most anyone; he's the one who threw away his useless folkie skin when the humorless old bastards couldn't take even the slightest electric shock. The one who behaved like a speedball-fueled magician of letters and Telecasters until he crashed his bike in upstate New York and nailed himself to a hyperbolic legend that will outlive us all.

But hell, you can read about that Dylan in any hagiographic gusher at Barnes & Noble, and yeah, sometimes I like that guy a lot too. It's easy and fun to love the omnipotent 1960s Dylan and rolling-thunderous 1970s Dylan just as much as any hippie burnout—you can't be a lyricist in a 12-bar-blues band and avoid him—but for lots of people my age, the old-fogie Dylan is "our" Dylan. The cranky bastard who cheated death and came back with that triple-threat of the virulently misanthropic "Time out of Mind," gleefully masterful "Love and Theft," and I'm-still-here-you-punk-kids "Modern Times" albums. He's almost 70 and is still playing hundreds of shows a year—which of course isn't novel, thanks to B.B. King and Willie Nelson and countless other crazy old men—but none of those guys has consistently manipulated the English language as dexterously and expertly and seemingly effortlessly as Bob Dylan. He can do it all: snide lashings of revenge like "Rolling Stone" or "Idiot Wind," epic poems like "Tangled up in Blue" or "Highlands," moving heart-wrenchers like "Sara" or "Dark Eyes," and haunted death-marches like "Desolation Row" or "Blind Willie McTell." He's a huge inspiration, and of course it's always overstated, but like Yogi said, "it ain't braggin' if you can do it."

I first heard Bob Dylan's feral whine at a young age, when it regularly blasted out of my father's hi-fi, and thanks to people like Adam Cota who bugged me about him in high school, it didn't take me long to become a major Dylan geek. The same sort of thing happened with Elvis Costello, but in that case, I got there all by myself. Costello started out full of the kind of focused rage that it took Dylan four or five albums to warm up to—but of course Elvis couldn't control himself and simply had to try out every genre of music he could get his concrete little hands on. He's also obviously a major talent, but it helped that his band the Attractions weren't exactly slouches, either—especially, in my opinion, the Thomas rhythm section of Pete and (eternal Costello nemesis) Bruce. The latter is such a phenomenal bass player that it's really no surprise that there wasn't enough room for both him and Elvis in the same combo. Anyway, I jumped into Costello's catalogue relatively late, but it was still right around the time I was beginning to churn out my own lyrical slabs of revenge and guilt (1999/2000), so I was primed to absorb everything from 1977 to 1996—the Rhino reissues and the Warner Brothers flailings.

The thing I always have been hung up on about Costello is that the fool really does need an editor. He's a great employer of puns and internal rhymes and all kinds of tricky shit, but he's such a virtuosic talent that he can't help but dribble his superlative abilities over the top of almost every good idea he's ever had; the songs on "This Year's Model" aren't just angry, they're poisonous; "Imperial Bedroom" doesn't just sound lavish, it's fucking decadent. Even a seemingly messy aural tooth-pull like the "Blood and Chocolate" album was still an astounding act of malevolent willpower, and the overriding emotions that color other discs (creative inadequacy on "All this Useless Beauty", sonic tourism on "The Delivery Man") are almost fussily constructed. It takes some hard work for Elvis to fail, too—"Goodbye Cruel World" is so perfectly complete in its failure because it seemed to deliberately take some excellent lyrics and douse them in the worst sounds the early '80s had to offer. And shit—here I've rambled on about the sneaky bastard without even listing my favorite lyrics, but there really are too many favorites for me to list them all: "Accidents will Happen," "Beyond Belief," "Blame it on Cain," "I Want You," "Shallow Grave," etc etc ad infinitum. The most fitting line, though is probably on "Little Atoms": "...and if you still don't like my songs/well then you can just go to hell."

The youngest gun of my big three is David Lowery of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. Lowery is almost equal parts Dylan and Costello, to my ears: he's got the snide silliness of mid-60s Dylan, the vicious streak of nastiest Costello, and the multilayered emotional pathos of both when he's feeling nostalgic or lonely. The goofy semi-throwaways he penned for Camper's first few albums, like "Take the Skinheads Bowling" or "Joe Stalin's Cadillac" are refreshingly unpretentious, but when he put some real effort into the acerbic side of things, out popped "Tania" and "Eye of Fatima" and "She Divines Water" and "Life is Grand." Then Lowery topped himself with an arguable career peak on the first side of Camper's "Key Lime Pie" album; the stretch from "Jack Ruby" through "Sweethearts," to "All Her Favorite Fruit" is a fantastic exercise in thematic discipline and crazed tone.

Lowery would go on to do the same things in Cracker, but the looser boundaries of that band seemed to make the snide/rocking stuff a little more malicious and condescending (if still hilariously funny, like anything from "Teen Angst" to "Get Off This" to "Eurotrash Girl"). His real progress in Cracker was to latch on to Johnny Hickman's evocative tunes and craft the best faux-blasé world-weariness the '90s could muster: the casual expertise in "Seven Days" and "Been Around the World" is only exceeded by some truly great, epically heartfelt ballads: "Big Dipper," "Bicycle Spaniard," "Take Me Down to the Infirmary," and the recent "Sidi Ifni." And of course there's always "Low," lurking out there at the end of Cracker's live sets like a vengeful golem, ready to stomp all other one-hit wonder competition. It's been strangely both disappointing and gratifying to see Lowery's name become mud in the music industry—because Camper's and Cracker's discographies have been roundly abused by Virgin Records—but then he seems to be doing just fine creatively, and there's a new Cracker album in May, so we'll see what happens.

Naturally, my massive ego demands inclusion to this self-made canon, but enough about my own unsubstantiated and naked hubris; Dylan's in his 60s, Costello his 50s, Lowery his 40s—surely there's a budding lyrical genius out there in their 30s, right? Well, the one I found a few years ago isn't me, of course—it's Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley and other points adult-album-alternative. The music is pretty mainstream-y—including her rootsier solo albums—but Lewis' particular brand of sardonic kitchen-sink melodrama on "Go Ahead," "Silver Lining," "It's a Hit," "Wires and Waves," and so many others has completely suckered me. She's just as uneven as the above three guys, though—RK's last album was 70% dud, and her great first solo disc was followed by a spottier second—but if that proves anything, it's that the best talents go through some mediocre/fallow periods just as often as they churn out brilliant works of curdled genius. For me, who's only managed to cough up about 25 lyrics in the past decade worth shouting about, that's a reassuring straw to grasp at. When you set yourself up against the silver-tongued, sharp-toothed snow leopards of rock lyricism, you walk into the arena at a profound disadvantage, so you take whatever crumbs the lyric gods see fit to toss your way.

January 26, 2009

Ten Non-Sucky U2 Items from the Past Decade

Yeah, just to balance the (otherwise totally valid) negativity of the previous post with some things that the Rich Irish Dorks accomplished during this Decade of their Neo-Classicism that did, in fact, make me happy in the most fanboyishly nerdy way:

Reinventing "The Fly" live
Since it's my favorite U2 song, this is an important thing to not screw up. The extended Eno-esque intro during Elevation 2001 and killer echo-feedback loop during Vertigo '05 were worthy. The 4/10/05 performance in San Jose was particularly ass-kicking (naturally, the night AFTER I saw them).

Diverse live setlists
In general, the sets for the majority of both Elevation and Vertigo were, for U2, amazingly diverse in terms of the pool of songs they drew from. Lots of "Pop" songs survived well into Elevation, and the un-mothballing of several ancient tunes from "Boy" during Vertigo worked surprisingly well.

...And otherwise refusing to suck live
More songs that were fun to see done well live: "Gone" and "Kite" (during Elevation), "Until the End of the World (both Elevation & Vertigo), "City of Blinding Lights," "Electric Co.," and "Zoo Station" (during Vertigo).

Non-sucky opening acts
Getting P.J. Harvey to open Elevation's first (U.S.) leg was a fucking coup, boyos. Also, some of the openers for Vertigo Europe weren't too shabby either: Doves, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Plus the Secret Machines for the Mexico shows.

Best-Of package design
The otherwise marginally useful "Best of 1980-1990" and "Best of 1990-2000" had some good work from Steve Averill and the 4-5-1 creative team. The mostly-useless "U218" career-spanner wasn't terrible, design-wise, either.

DVD Releases
Holy shit, the 90's best-of DVD was a fucking god-send, and then Zoo TV and PopMart both got deluxe double-disc releases. And yeah, finally having Red Rocks on DVD was nice too, I guess.

The "Window in the Skies" video
Say what you will about U2's egomania vis a vis getting other legends of rock, pop, and country all synced together to sing a not-bad, but not-great song (itself the only reason to buy "U218"), but it was a masterwork of editing. The Modernista people who pulled that shit off should get medals—and I say this because, in my experience, editing video to match music is HARD.

"The Wanderer," Live (!)
It's true, U2 played the epic "Zooropa" closer at a Johnny Cash tribute while they were on the road with Vertigo. Very cool.

Vertigo's "Heart of Darkness"
Sure, Bono's headband/flag/Coexist outfit was hideous, but the strech of the Vertigo show that comprised "Love and Peace or Else," "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "Bullet the Blue Sky," and "Running to Stand Still" was the best quasi-politicizing they've done since Zoo TV's excruciatingly awkward Bosnia hookups.

Reissuing the early albums
Yeah, the 2007/08 double-disc versions of "Boy," "October," "War," "Under a Blood Red Sky," and "The Joshua Tree" were super-expensive, but getting some comprehensive reissues (and their companion rare goodies) on disc is much, much better than the bloated, mediocre redundancy of their "Complete U2" iTunes box set from 2004.

Those maybe aren't the bits that the band themselves would list, or even other crazy diehard fans, but I don't care. I'm not a total hater—it's just that the last two albums haven't cut it for me, and "Get On Your Boots" still stinks. We shall see about this "No Line on the Horizon" album. Oh yes, the quest stands upon the edge of a knife indeed.

January 19, 2009

Creative Bankruptcy Never Sounded So Desperate

U2's new single deserves every last negative review it will ever get. As a first single it's worse than "Beautiful Day" and worse than the depths of "Vertigo." It is a monstrously half-assed jalopy of suck. It's so bad, even "Undercover"-era Mick Jagger is going, "Damn, that's bad."

It really shouldn't be all that shocking—after years of flirting with the concept, they have indeed finally become the new aging Rolling Stones. If the new album is this bad then it will truly be time to hang it up. Three strikes mean you sit down, boyos.

January 11, 2009

The Insurgent Power Plays of Electrified Youth

So I was flying through Seacliff at about eighty miles an hour when the universe suddenly and spectacularly decided to align in my favor. An unseasonably glorious sun shone down on the 101 freeway, and as I threaded the California coastline's spine on my way north to Santa Barbara, I felt the soft and deadly tentacles of contentment wrap themselves around my decaying cerebrum—and I was okay with that.

Yeah, because the combination of dramatic scenery, agreeable weather, a fast car, and an adorably earnest song about the collapse of Antarctic icebergs erupting out of the stereo was quiet a potent one, yo. I mean, you try to be a cynical asshole when the coda of "Larsen B" dumps you in its warm bath of epic Euro-echo right when the Rincon headlands loom up ahead like inverted Cliffs of Insanity. It's virtually impossible—or at least that's what I told myself in that giddy moment—so I just let it happen, you know?

That's right, dude. I was returning to the scene of many delightfully depraved episodes that occurred during my wild and hairy youth, but today wasn't supposed to be a nostalgia trip. No, I had a Vital Role to play in this dawning Age of Hope and Change. Indeed—even if the whole "crashing the gates" trip proved to be a silly bait-and-switch; even if I now belonged to the Party in Power, and even if I was now, effectively, an Arm of The Man—I had my own unique contribution to make for The Cause today. This had nevertheless proved difficult to explain to my wife the night before, however—a weird conversation that had gone something like this:

"So... what is it exactly that you're doing in Santa Barbara tomorrow?"

"Um, voting for...let's see...the 'assembly district delegates for the Democratic Party.'"

"The what?"

"You know, the people who are more into the political party stuff than me—the ones who'll go to Sacramento and bitch out the Governator and all the rest, so that I don't have to."

"Oh. You mean, other politics nerds?"

"Yeah, that's about right."

"Okay...well...have fun, honey. Just tell 'em to make those yoyos in the Assembly get that budget crap together. I need to stay employed."

I cringed inwardly at the time—even though we've long since accepted each others' obsessive foibles—but this morning I jumped out of bed full of Purpose, because I knew I would be doing Important Shit today. I mean, the Facebook group email had said so, right? Right. Anyway, I slithered off the freeway into Santa Barbara without incident—unless you count the screaming drivers at the stupid Milpas roundabout—and dutifully presented my credentials at the East Side Library where the A.D. delegates had convened to meet and greet their rabid supporters.

"Hi there," I said to the official-looking woman at the desk outside. "Where's this votin' place I've been hearing so much about?"

She smirked at my affected cool and handed over the ballots, but before I could fill them out I was accosted by another woman who was actively politicking for a delegate seat. I cut her off right away—"sorry ma'am, I'm here as part of the ‘Ventura Axis of Youth Insurgency’"—and she smiled blandly, but her eyes were full of fear as she moved away.

"Did you say Ventura?" asked a balding old man who wandered over. "When you walked up I was sure you were one of the UCSB crowd, myself."

I smirked. "Maybe ten years ago, but not now—it's the acne, right?" He stepped back, puzzled, but seemed to accept that I was sane enough to merit an introduction. I don't remember anything about him or his wife, though (who ambled over soon after) except that they drove up from Pasadena for some reason. I made my excuses and retreated quickly once I saw the targets of my support, Katherine and Dave, plow through a crowd of Genuine Youth that had just arrived from campus. I scrawled my vote onto the ballot, stuffed it in the box, and went to introduce myself to The Candidates.

I didn't get far, however—a guy who called himself their "communication director" stopped me and asked if I'd be attending a Young Democrats meeting in Camarillo next week. "You fool," I laughed. "There are no Young Democrats in Camarillo. Get out of my face with that craziness."

I shoved him aside and aimed for the Power Couple on the ballot, who were of course all smiles when we got the opportunity to finally meet each other. "Good to see you," smiled Katherine. "I'm surprised—we all thought you were a recluse who hated actual activism."

"Yeah," added Dave as he gave me a manly handshake, "what brought you up here on a beautiful day like this?"

"Bribery," I replied. "What else? I only have so much time to make my influence felt before you take office, right?" I pressed a copy of my band's CD into their hands, and they laughed politely. "Well, we have to actually win first," said Dave, tactfully keeping me from falling socially flat yet again.

"See," Katherine said, chucking him on the shoulder playfully, "I told you he wasn't a complete chickenshit. It'll be great to have a genuine local rock star in the fold."

"Ho ho," I chuckled. "You know better than that. I'm not famous around here at all, and I only said all bets were off when it came to that stage-hog Hanna-Beth Jackson. I'm good for anything else that's non-solicitous, you know?"

She waved away my ancient prejudice with a flutter. "Never mind that—we're happy to have your vote today. Here, take a picture with us, won't you?"

I agreed, naturally, but promised myself I wouldn't smile. I mean, I'm happy to be used, but not taken advantage of. Who knew what would happen with an image like that? It might be photoshopped into a hideous caricature and posted on malicious blogs within the hour. The candidates roped in a passing student photographer, though, so I was trapped. "Come on," said Katherine, "smile!"

But I didn't—for some reason, it all suddenly felt weird. The photographer moved in, Dave continued crushing my hand with his mighty grip, and I resolved to look grim and constipated in my first-ever photo-op. And then something totally unexpected happened: Katherine leaned into my ear and whispered a fluent string of curses so vile, so hilariously off-color, that I burst out laughing in spite of myself, et voila: the camera snapped, instantly creating a good-timey photo of three fast friends.

"You're in it now, man," said Dave. "You'll be coming to Camarillo next week—you have no choice."

I hung my head, knowing his words were true, but Katherine said something nice about maybe getting the band a gig at a local rally this year, as well as other blatant appeals to my massive ego, and before too long I was happy again and full of Purpose, glad-handling with the best of them at the beginning of a New Vibrant Era, and the good vibes stuck with me the rest of the day.

Yeah, so much so that when I finally made my exit, I couldn't help but take a victory lap around Santa Barbara and re-visit the anarchic scenes of my Gauchoholic days of yore, back in that Wild Party for Rich Kids known as "the late '90s." I drove like a bastard around the hairpin curves of Alameda Padre Serra, cruised down State St. like I used to, powered up to the Mesa like a conquering hero, and wound my way through this Gorgeous Nucleus of the Central Coast Riviera for the next two hours, high on the fumes of Transferred Youth.

I never found out if they actually, you know...won the vote, but it didn't really matter, because it was Sunday afternoon in Southern California, baby, and I felt like a native son.

Cross-posted: dkos, cal

January 04, 2009

The Invasion is Immoral and Will Not Stand

Look, I've been as patient as the next guy when it comes to enduring the continual vile spew of this useless back-and-forth "debate" over who started what and who's at fault and all the other bullshit associated with an illegal and immoral invasion. The facts are clear, and anyone who doesn't know the history really needs to shut the fuck up and inform themselves before subjecting the rest of us to their thinly-veiled, slavish boosterism, no matter who they side with—the fascist oppressors and the maniacally dangerous rebels have both committed heinous sins. This is not a time to fall back on ignorance and favoritism, and clinging to well-worn shibboleths will only get your ass rocket-bombed in the end, dude. Fuck that. I won't waste my love on a nation, and I suggest you pay attention, lest you continue to foolishly do so.

And yes, I am indeed referring to the perennial tribulations of a densely-populated coastal enclave, whose Mediterranean climate is nevertheless blighted by overcrowding, poor sanitation, feudal landowners, ruthless violence, substance-fueled orgies, moral depravity, and other shameful hallmarks of absolute degradation. Like most abused third-world scapegoats, it has been ever thus. It's no secret that most of the awful situation's current problems have their roots in a violent conflict from about forty years ago, during which a repressed populace, driven to mindless self-indulgence by their wretched condition, rose up and physically defied a tyrannical ruler by destroying a hated local financial outpost of his military-industrial empire. His incompetent but brutal viceroy then unleashed the porcine rage of local law enforcement, causing further destruction and death. The upheaval was crushed, however, and a pattern thus emerged that would repeat itself across the ensuing decades.

Over the next twenty years, outbursts of violence and repression ebbed and flowed to varying degrees, until about a decade ago when the level of sheer dangerous lunacy reached such a fever pitch that the State felt compelled to step in once again and clamp down on the oppressed locals' rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It was a stark echo of previous pogroms, and it centered on a massive deployment of overwhelming force that descended like an avenging army over the crazed, babbling populace as they celebrated a traditional holiday in all appropriate debauched glory. When the boom of discipline lowered, however, there was zero tolerance for bullshit of any kind. Hysterical fear gripped the establishment, so the local population was kept cowed and watched at all times. Identification cards were issued to all permanent residents, and foreigners were not permitted to enter the effectively walled-in seaside ghetto.

I should point out at this juncture that I myself was a longtime resident of said coastal enclave—for nine long years—and I crossed and re-crossed the checkpoint-strewn border between that dirty sinkhole and the adjacent brightly-lit, shining beacon of opportunity that had been founded when a previous viceroy sought to give his hated foes a painful thumb in their eyes. It had been accomplished with a callous land-grab of an ancient military installation, but the surrounding community's shocked silence was taken as approval. I knew the story well, for I had been indoctrinated in its fictionalized genesis. You see, I worked there. Yes, I earned a paycheck from several arms of the very establishment that held my homeland in a velvet-gloved, iron-fisted grip of oppression, and though my friends and family said they'd supported me, I knew in my heart that they cried bitter tears each and every night that I was shackled with the bonds of gainful employment. I was a sellout, a traitor to my kind, and they knew it.

But I led a double life. Indeed, all throughout my intellectual and commercial exploitation, I fought back in spirit by joining first one—and then another—tiny bands of freedom fighters. We slowly built up our following via blatant disregard for the hated laws of oppression, sometimes winning favorable press in small places, and—though ignored (first passively, and then actively) by others of similar bent who may have sympathized before their co-option—we soon began to get the attention of the world beyond the snarled barbed wire and soulless psychological concrete stacked against us. It wasn't much, though, and before long our pitiful rebellion was wiped out with the potent weapons of universal apathy and organizational incompetence. We fought amongst ourselves, expelled compromised and counter-revolutionary elements, and slowly faded into the mists of time, erased from existence by the ongoing revisionism of state-controlled history.

The struggle endures, however—because the oppression shows no sign of abating, and the downtrodden will not long brook continued physical, moral, financial, and social harassment imposed by the surrounding nation-states and their client mercenaries. Their hateful propaganda continues, of course—spear-headed by a news daily owned by sociopaths that is deep in the pocket of established interests. It's hard to look at it from where I am now, though—removed from the epicenter of conflict but still nearby enough to feel its ugly effects—because of how much I myself have succumbed to self-imposed co-option. I could almost—almost—feel sympathy for the Orwellian policies of the Ruling Elite, but that was before I was snapped back to reality when my lovely wife and I returned to tour the scenes of our rebellious youth. To make a long story short, the authorities stomped on our souls for no other reason than they could, and as long as that inhuman treatment continues, there will be no hope, none whatsoever, for a peaceful resolution to this horrible conflict.

cross-posted: dkos, fsz, dd, mlw

January 01, 2009

Spastic Sloth: A Diary of Deflections and Distractions 2008-2010

Dubious Ventures, Volume II
Currently the idea is to split up the Gonzo/non-fiction stuff into 2 "books," one of the '97-'07 stuff before I began writing the novel in earnest, and a second full of the stuff I would write in '08-'09 to warm up or cool down from writing fiction.

The Last Binge of SupaDupaPhat Tuesday 2.4.08
Ripping Fiction from the Facts 4.10.08
Beware the Terror of Campaign Bloat 5.16.08
When the Banshee Screamed for Thatcher 2.0 6.4.08
Five Vulgar Pictures of a Derivative Decade 6.26.08
Sneers and Gloating at the FISA Hearings 7.9.08
Yeah, What Winston Wolfe Said 7.24.08
Brand America Goes For Broke...Sort Of 8.29.08
John McCain is Doomed, and it's Bono's Fault 9.8.08
It Began with a Book, and Died with a Film 9.20.08
How Many Barricades Have You Stormed Today? 9.21.08
Mighty Radical Awesome Power in the Sandbox 9.28.08
Happily Chugging the Toxic Stew of Dumb 10.3.08
The Crippling Nostalgia of Naranjastan 10.9.08
Desperately Seeking the Holy Grail of Epic Fail 10.26.08
Everything Was Fine Until I Looked Down 11.4.08
The Decline and Fall of Juvenile Idolatry 11.12.08
Projection Now, Projection Tomorrow, Projection Forever 11.13.08
When Living in Paradise Totally Blows 11.18.08
Slouching Towards Sonic Domesticity 11.25.08
I'd Still Rather Shiver Than Fry 12.7.08
Skittish Creatives Desperate for Respect 12.8.08
The Snide Lashings of Aesthetic Deconstruction 12.9.08
Pondering Potentially Damaging Trade-Offs 12.11.08
Ringing the Mighty Cowbell of Rageohol 12.19.08

The Invasion is Immoral and Will Not Stand 1.4.09
The Insurgent Power Plays of Electrified Youth 1.11.09
Silver-Tongued Sharp-Toothed Snow Leopards 1.31.09
It was Foolish of You to Come Here Tonight, Tom 1.31.09
The Bipartisan Kleptocracy Will Never Die 2.8.09
The Soothing Sounds of Regression Therapy 2.10.09
A Perpetually Sputtering Bonfire of the Ptolemies 2.14.09
Pachydermicide, the Perennial Sport of Kings 3.29.09
A Serious Case of the Teenage Retro Virus 4.5.09
I've Seen Things You People Wouldn't Believe 4.17.09
Reviving the Lost Art of Self-Immolation 4.23.09
Because I Am, After All, a Professional 4.29.09
Blockbuster Albums and Happenin' Tunes 5.5.09
Will Anything Ever Be Incredibly Awesome Again? 5.7.09
Spastic Melodrama from the Great Magnet 5.16.09
Pat Some on the Back, Put Some to the Rod 5.21.09
A Long Time Ago, We Used to be Friends 6.3.09
Display Some Adaptability, Mister Jones 6.7.09
My Long Nostalgic Nightmare is Finally Over 6.18.09
Web Industry Prattle, Direct from Seattle (Part I) 7.23.09
Web Industry Prattle, Direct from Seattle (Part II) 7.24.09
The Greatest Trick the Old Man Ever Pulled 7.27.09
Bottle Up and Explode, Over and Over 8.20.09
It's Not a Blue World After All, Max 9.5.09
All of This Has Happened Before 9.7.09
We're Not So Different, You and I 11.21.09

We Move Like We're Suspended in Amber 1.27.10
Walk On Your Lips Through Busted Glass 2.5.10
The Horrible Burden of Being Right All the Time, Part II 2.14.10
When "Rock and Roll" Only Meant One Thing 3.16.10
It's Always Amateur Hour Somewhere, Part I 4.26.10
It's Always Amateur Hour Somewhere, Part II 5.15.10
Sometimes You Break a Finger on the Upper Hand 5.25.10
Baby, Let Me Show You a World Without Sin 7.2.10
The Designer/Wordsmith/Rockstar 7.9.10
Would You Like Whipped Cream With That? 9.1.10
Your Ears You Keep, and I'll Tell You Why 11.12.10

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