Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Take Another Little Piece of My Heart



Long time no blog, I know. And I have lots of legitimate excuses - a wife, an eight-month old baby, a job that's been sixteen hours a day for the last several months. All of which are good reasons.

But none of which, perhaps, are the main reason.

Those of you who are still occasionally lurking around the fringes of this blog in hopes that I might someday get off my ass and start posting more often might recall that there was a time when I tended less toward irate political commentary and more toward what Derek St. Hubbins referred to in "This Is Spinal Tap" as "Spinal Tap Mark II: Jazz Odyssey": free-form fiction and musing from whatever exotic psychological locale my mind was in at the moment. Some of those posts were so personal that I actually took them down; this is not a totally anonymous blog, and at times I felt too exposed, too open. Which is a weird way for me to feel; historically I have a compulsion to vomit myself forward for perusal like Caligula after a big pasta dinner. I actually feel most free when I'm hanging it all out there for everyone to see, warts and all. Like I said, weird.

But lately I feel... I don't know. Tied up. (And not in a good way.) I could comment seventeen times a day about what is now clearly the worst presidential administration in American history, a collection of religious extremists and thugs who loathe the laws they swore to uphold and the system they pledged to defend. But why? To what end? It changes nothing. I'm all for "being the change I wish to see in the world," but I can't stop those criminals, not one bit. They laugh at people like me. You know, Americans.

And I work so hard... and I love what I do, but I'm just tired. Bone tired, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Maybe it's just new parenthood - and don't get me wrong, I adore my daughter - or maybe it's the job, or maybe it's the state of the world, which I feel utterly powerless to remedy. I know, elections in November, etc., but I'll believe the Democratic Party has really grabbed a piece of the zeitgeist when I see it, thanks. I just don't know that I see the point in caring until then, in getting my hopes up for a renaissance in lucidity on the part of an American electorate that has, to this point, shown very little inclination to pay any attention at all to the systematic dismantling of its soul. I know how that sounds. I've bucked up people like me on countless occasions over the past several years. And now I've slid inexorably into the whirlpool with them, slowly at first, but with a coldly certain acceleration.

Have you ever felt so muddled and full of thoughts and feelings and hopes and fears and loves and hates that you CAN'T create anymore? That art feels inadequate to the task of making sense of it all, or even a decent catharsis? That's how I feel. That's how I've felt for months - years, even. I can't be beautiful or graceful or elegant or raw or passionate or ANYTHING about it all. I feel numbed by the enormity of it, watching the water swirl around me as I sink, making no effort to swim or even call for help. Just going slowly down.

Nothing pretty today. Sorry. Just ugly truth.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Free At Last


I have a very specific nausea reflex when it comes to acts of violence. Like most Americans my age, I'm not generally affected by depictions of violence in film, TV or videogames (although the more graphic the depiction, the less sanguine I remain; the data about such depictions desensitizing test subjects to acts of real-life violence are increasingly conclusive). I'm swiftly moved to the point of physical illness, however, by depictions of violence done to innocents, whether real-life or fictional. I can't bear to stay in the room, for example, while my wife cheerfully digests the true-crime docudrama cable shows produced by Bill Kurtis and his ilk; I know many women, particularly, derive from such programs a sense of vicarious triumph over the understandable anxieties that dog them any time they hear footsteps in a parking garage, and they're welcome to it, but I can hardly stomach the recounting of the cold-blooded slaughter of innocent people, much less the re-enacting of it. (Hell, I got sick once when I accidentally caught the cold opening of a "Law & Order" episode in which two college students using an out-of-town parent's apartment for a little nookie were walked in on by thieves and then methodically blown away, despite tearful pleas for mercy. It may not surprise you to learn I'm not a fan of the show.) This reaction doesn't disturb me; on the contrary, I find my visceral response to such things a welcome confirmation of my own persistent humanity.

All of that is to say that few things sicken me more than when terrorists kidnap innocent people, particularly aid workers or journalists who are there to help non-combatants and get their stories out to the world unfiltered by the military, paramilitary or government powers-that-be. If there's a clearer-cut category of self-defeating evildoing than threatening to take the life of a person not only with whom one has no quarrel, but who is actively trying to do something that aids one's own supposed cause, I can't imagine what it is. I am, for a number of reasons, in foursquare opposition to our misadventures in Iraq, but when I hear of a hostage being beheaded on camera with a knife, for God's sake - no matter who they are: military, contractor, U.N. worker, whatever - my reasoned opposition is sorely, sorely tested. Such acts are not, sad to say, inhuman in the strict sense, but they are acute reminders that the purveyors of "intelligent design" and such nonsense are demonstrably full of crap. We are descended from animals; of that, there is no doubt.

And so today I'm literally overcome with flushed, tangible relief. I rejoice, as I'm sure every person with a beating heart does, to hear that Jill Carroll is a free woman. She says that her captors, though they publicly threatened to take her life on several occasions, treated her well and subjected her to no acts of physical violence at all (although the emotional trauma of her ordeal can only be massive). If that is indeed the case, I am profoundly grateful.

I am not a religious man, but at times like this I often wish I were, if only so I might thank the providence which allowed this mercy to come to pass. I have been sick for three months over Jill Carroll's predicament. Today I am, as my homegirls Emily and Amy would say, a little bit closer to fine.

Welcome home, Ms. Carroll.



Sunday, March 26, 2006

Take That, Howie!


You know, Howard Kurtz used to seem like a reasonable guy, but this Domenech debacle over at Washingtonpost.com has got his moral compass all discombobulated. So imagine my joy to see, via Crooks and Liars, his recent forays into Dittoheadedness utterly refuted - by a plucky young journalist whose passion and righteous indignation had me leaping to my feet like a midnight showing of Norma Rae on TNT. I do believe I've got me a wee crush on Lara Logan. (I assume my wife will forgive me; she's currently swooning over the fellow that plays the "Night Detective" on BBC America. Fair's fair.)

The cause of my infatuation is not merely Ms. Logan's pulchritude, although that is considerable. It's that she clearly takes great pride in her job and has had it up to her cargo vest with right-wing macaws repeating, ad nauseam, the craven falsehood that the problem with Iraq lies not with our war, dear reader, but with the coverage of it. As if sixty people a day weren't dying in that country in the civil conflict they placidly deny exists. Now that my family's got a member serving in our American armed forces in Baghdad (and a shout out to you, Funky, if you're reading), my patience for such outright butchery of the truth is running somewhat short. So is Ms. Logan's, thank goodness - and in the linked clip, from Kurtz's Reliable Sources show on CNN, she demonstrates herself to be a most reliable source indeed.

Of South African birth and sporting an impressive resumé, Ms. Logan lets loose a controlled yet appropriately passionate defense of herself and her colleagues that leaves Mr. Kurtz practically speechless (to be fair, the effect is abetted by a five second time delay, as Ms. Logan is speaking via satellite from a Baghdad rooftop). Wish we made 'em like her in America. (And yes, I'm looking at you, Laurie Dhue, my erstwhile classmate and Jessica Savitch-manqué, who hath leaped from the dubious frying pan of Fox News updates into the pathetic fire of Geraldo at Large; hope it's all been worth losing your soul over, Laurie).

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Excuses, Excuses


Just so you have some vague idea of why I would disappear for so long... Say hello to Little Lady Hotspur.

Destroying Our Democracy in Order to Save It


If you're like me, you've shut down. (No jokes; I know how long it's been since my last post, and thanks - I missed you too.) Gone fishin'. Closed up shop and gone south for the winter. Figure you can't change the situation: Bush is it, Bush is gonna be it for over three more years, and with the GOP controlling all three branches of the Federal government, there's no point in wasting emotional energy fighting what can only be a losing battle. Might as well pack it in and wait until 2008, or at least 2006.

But.

But.

But.

In this Salon piece, Michelle Goldberg quotes smart people asking the key question. All this yammering about laws, about facts, about what it means to be an American - it's all come down to a crystalline point so hard and sharp, you could use it to etch the Bill of Rights onto the Hope Diamond. The president broke the law and violated the Constitution. The president, far from being contrite, is defiant about having done so. The president proclaims he will keep right on doing it, and that no one is in a position to stop him.

The rubber has met the road, ladies and gentlemen. This is what it comes down to: In the clearest possible terms, your president has proudly acknowledged destroying this democracy in order to save it.

Which means there is only one question left:

What are we - what are YOU - going to do about it?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A Heartbeat Away



Yeah, I know - it's been a month since I posted. Some of you have been kind enough to point that out in a gentle and appreciative way, and I thank you. The truth is, there are several reasons why I've been derelict in my duty.

First, I got a new gig - I won't go into the details, but let's just say you should be very afraid - and while I've been having a ball, I've been so busy lately I've had no time to post. Second, frankly, this blog had been sliding toward filterhood for a while - you know, one of those snarky Gawker-type deals where the whole thing just consists of as many tiny postings as one can find (or receive in one's inbox from amateur publicists) and write some sarcastic little in-joke about. My intention was always for Naked Singularity to be more reflective than that, for it to be about thoughtful analysis, not a tangled mass of self-satisfied hyperlinks, hit count be damned. And NS was getting away from that, so I felt a slight reboot wasn't out of order.

Third, and by no means least, there hasn't been a lot going on that I felt anyone needed to hear from me about. The tragedy in Iraq, the Downing Street Memo, Bush's plunging ratings, Episode III sucking less than its predecessors (and ain't that damning with faint praise), Crash and Batman Begins rocking the world, Nikka Costa's new album being the Fat Man and Little Boy of modern pop-funk-soul-rock - these things have all been either self-evident or adequately covered by the Mainstream Media (well, except Nikka's record, but plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose). I've always seen my purpose here as at least partly to point out issues or points of view that may not be getting the play they deserve in the media at large, and I haven't felt an urgent need for that of late.

But today's a new day, and Salon's War Room is reporting today that no less august a super sleuth than Arianna Huffington spotted your Vice President being rushed off the tarmac to a Colorado hospital for emergency EKGs and the like. It's not a smoking crash cart paddle, I'll grant you, but we all know the likelihood of Dick Cheney completing two terms was chancy at best.

So I'll go out on a limb here, because I love using the phrase "you heard it here first" and I'm so rarely proven right in the fullness of time. But here's my prognostication: sometime before January, 2008, Dick Cheney will resign for health reasons - and George W. Bush, who seems determined to see himself as a battler for diversity despite evidence to the contrary, will name to replace him your Secretary of State, Miss Condoleeza Rice. Dr. Rice will then become both the first black and the first female Vice President in American history, thus throwing the race for the Republican nomination in 2008 into complete chaos.

You heard it here first.

; ;

Friday, May 27, 2005

Chung-Chung!



Well, let there be no doubt about who's responsible for the multiple messes the world is in. First we found out that the ongoing FUBAR SNAFU in Iraq and surrounding regions was Newsweek's fault. (Whew! Finally, somebody set the record straight! It's so helpful to have the Bushies and their ilk to show us where to direct our mindless rage.)

Now Tom DeLay makes it clear that the real bad guys in all this judge-killin' weren't the psychopaths who pulled the various triggers, and certainly weren't the ones calling in coded language for the judges to be killed (like him).

Nope, the real bad guys are the media.

From Reuters:


"DELAY CLASHES WITH NBC OVER 'LAW & ORDER'
"By Steve Gorman, Reuters

"LOS ANGELES (May 26) - House Majority Leader Tom DeLay accused NBC on Thursday of slurring his name by including an unflattering reference to him on the NBC police drama 'Law & Order: Criminal Intent.'

"DeLay's name surfaced on Wednesday night on the show's season finale, which centered on the fictional slayings of two judges by suspected right-wing extremists.

"In the episode, police are frustrated by a lack of clues, leading one officer to quip, 'Maybe we should put out an APB (all-points-bulletin) for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt.'

"In a letter to NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker, DeLay wrote: 'This manipulation of my name and trivialization of the sensitive issue of judicial security represents a reckless disregard for the suffering initiated by recent tragedies and a great disservice to public discourse.'

"The Texas Republican went on to suggest the 'slur' against him was intended as a jab at comments he had made about 'the need for Congress to closely monitor the federal judiciary.'

"NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly responded in a statement that the dialogue in question 'was neither a political comment nor an accusation.'

"'The script line involved an exasperated detective bedeviled by a lack of clues, making a sarcastic comment about the futility of looking for a suspect when no specific description existed,' Reilly said.

"He added: 'It's not unusual for "Law & Order" to mention real names in its fictional stories. We're confident in our viewers' ability to distinguish between the two.'

"The show, which frequently incorporates stories and themes ripped from the headlines, aired weeks after a white supremacist was sentenced to 40 years in prison for plotting to assassinate a federal judge whose husband and elderly mother were later slain by another man angry at the judge.

"That judge, Joan Lefkow, appeared earlier this month before the Senate Judiciary Committee to rebuke politicians and other public figures who have used inflammatory language to criticize judicial decisions they disagreed with. She said such rhetoric encouraged violence against judges.

"Some leading Republicans used harsh terms to condemn judges earlier this year after courts failed to intervene to save the life of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman who died after her feeding tube was removed at her husband's request but against her parents' wishes.

"At the time, DeLay said, 'The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.'

Producer Dick Wolf, creator of the 'Law & Order' franchise, took a swipe at DeLay in his own statement on Thursday, saying, 'I ... congratulate Congressman DeLay for switching the spotlight from his own problems to an episode of a TV show.'

"The flap came as ethics questions swirling around DeLay mounted with a Texas judge ruling on Thursday that a political action committee formed by the congressman violated state law by failing to disclose $600,000 in mostly corporate donations.

"The show's season finale drew 14.5 million viewers, but DeLay wasn't one of them. An aide said he heard about the show through his wife, who learned of it from someone else who saw the episode."


(Check out the big lip on Dick Wolf! And I do believe he's a Republican to boot. Just goes to show, "Republican" and "fundamentally insane" don't have to go together like Scott McClellan and James Guckert.)

Now, notwithstanding that I do work in the quote-unquote entertainment industry, kids, I'm no media apologist. I think the state of broadcast TV in general (and broadcast news in particular) is such that every network exec and soi-disant TV journalist in America ought to be walking around with a paper bag over his/her head in shame. (Which also explains why The Daily Show, which is first and foremost a satirical chronicler of said shameful media hackitude, is not only the best but the most profoundly urgent TV show since The Simpsons.)

Having said that, I gotta hand it to DeLay. Even in a party known for surviving scandals by simply being brazenly unapologetic about the dastardly shite they've been caught red-handed at, DeLay sets a new standard. The man is simply unparalleled in his willingness to shift the spotlight onto somebody - anybody - else. If he was discovered in a Capitol Hill washroom in a heavy-petting three-way with McClellan and Guckert, I have no doubt he'd blame it all on the woman who planted the severed finger in the chili at Wendy's.

And he'd get away with it, too. 'Cause the media would lick that chili up.

; ; ; ;

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I Think I'm Getting a Military-Industrial Complex



Pop quiz, politico savants. Who said:

""Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are [a] few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

The answer, of course, is President Dwight D. Eisenhower, on November 8, 1954.

You know, when the wisest president your party has put up in nearly a century is a guy who spent most of his two terms on the golf course, you're in a bad way.

On the other hand, look at those "stupid" Texas oil millionaires now, Ma!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Filibuster? I Hardly Filiknow Her!



God forbid tiny fringe news outlets like CNN, The Associated Press, and NPR - NPR! - should get their facts right on niggling details like who coined the phrase "nuclear option"; we let it slide because the Mainstream Media are like those sibling-cousins everybody else in your extended family knows are a little slow; we can't just bust on 'em because we're sort of related and all.

But the Senate Republicans are another issue, thank Tip O'Neill (hey, if they can reject evolution, we can reject being genetically related to them; works both ways). And therefore let us be grateful for David Brock (it's really true what they say: there's no liberal convert like a gay ex-Republican liberal convert) and his watchdog website, Media Matters, which, Salon's War Room informs us, has assembled a dandy little rebuttal to the GOP filibuster battle disinformation that's been of late lying around and, shock of shocks, getting reprinted verbatim in the MSM.

The Media Matters fact sheet sets the record straight on malarkey big ("Why, the Democrats' filibusterin' of President Bush's judicial nominees is simply unprecedented!") and small ("Oh yeah? Well... well... We confirmed a lot more of Clinton's judges!"). It won't shut Frist and company up, but at least now if you're being attacked by a frothing GOP senator (and really, is there any other kind?), you know where to get some ammunition for the showdown.


(Insert "Loan Shark" Joke Here)



THIS JUST IN: There are some weird freakin' people in this country.

From Salon:


"MOTHER: WENDY'S FINGER USED TO SETTLE DEBT

"May 18, 2005 | San Jose, Calif. -- A Pennsylvania woman says her son -- who lost a fingertip in a work accident -- gave the digit to the husband of the Las Vegas woman now accused of planting it in a cup of Wendy's chili to settle a $50 debt.

"'My son is the victim in this,' Brenda Shouey told the San Francisco Chronicle for a story Wednesday. 'I believe he got caught in something, and he didn't understand what was going on.'

"Shouey said her son, Brian Paul Rossiter, 36, of Las Vegas, lost part of his finger when his gloved hand was caught in a mechanical truck lift in December at a paving firm where he worked with James Plascencia, the husband of Anna Ayala, who was arrested last month and was set to be arraigned Wednesday. Plascencia was arrested earlier this month on unrelated charges of failing to pay child support in a previous relationship.

"San Jose police announced last week the finger was obtained from an associate of Plascencia, but they have refused to identify him because he is cooperating in the investigation.

"Shouey said her son was desperate for cash when he gave his finger away.

"'He had a money problem. He owed $50 to this character, James,' Shouey said, adding she just learned of her son's involvement when he called her Monday night.

"Shouey declined to give details of how the finger was preserved, the nature of her son's debt, or whether Rossiter knew why Plascencia allegedly wanted the finger. She said her son is keeping a low profile after undergoing intense police questioning in the case.

"'My son is a happy-go-lucky guy. He thought it was cute to show' the severed finger, Shouey said. 'It's like a man thing. If a woman had her finger severed, she would never show it to anyone. But he would show it to the girls in the office if they asked.'"


It's "like a man thing"? Is she serious? I'm a man, last time I checked, and in the distasteful eventuality I found myself the victim of an industrial accident and suddenly dedigitated, I cannot imagine "showing it to the girls in the office" as some sort of bizarre flirting behavior.

And are there really women out there who would, upon seeing a bloody, severed finger, reward its owner with their company and/or sexual favors?

Can I get a show of hands? Er, fingers?