Friday, January 30, 2015

Everything Stupid Is Alive, and Everything Stupid Can Kill You: Welcome to Goodell World

Note: This piece originally appeared somewhere that is not here. It was taken down for a project. (DO NOT ASK WHAT THE PROJECT IS.)

Here's a horrifying game you can play during this Sunday's Super Bowl and the nearly 12 hours of pre- and postgame content: count the number of times you hear some variation of "deflated balls" and compare that to the number of times during Super Bowls XLV or XLVII you heard the phrases "two-time accused rapist" or "accused co-conspirator in a double murder." Or just compare "deflated balls" to "brain damage." Then see if the first number dwarfs a combination of the last three by an order of magnitude. It will.

Naturally, this comparison isn't meant to equate accusations of equipment tampering with accusations of rape and murder or mental destruction. The latter three are so vastly more repugnant, which is why you will hear about them as little as possible. That silence ultimately stems from the NFL's inevitable trajectory toward a vertically integrated entertainment-capital complex that also happens to include football. It is a spectacle machine and an ATM that reflects, promotes and admires itself. For all the talk of harsh gridiron realities, the NFL hasn't been in the reality business for a while. Reality is its enemy, and the Super Bowl—the largest spectacle of the game—is paradoxically its most vulnerable creation. It is an event ballooned so large that the slightest puncture threatens to send it deflating into a long, suffocating series of fatal escaping farts.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

2016 GOP Frontrunners

The midterm elections have come and gone, which means it's time to play a game we've been waiting for since 2012: Pick the GOP Frontrunners! Another slate of Democrats has been stomped, leaving a fertile field of Republican bullies ready to whip holy hell on Communists, sodomites, licensing firearms, and unlicensed vaginas. Not to mention Ebola.

I know what you're going to say: there are so many options already! That's true. There's Wall Street creep Mitt Romney. There's (probably a) crook Chris Christie. Almost certainly a crook Scott Walker. There's serial-plagiarist and bong-level political science theorist Rand Paul. All those are good candidates. Very good candidates. That's an impressive roster. But let's get real: not one of those guys is a slam dunk.

I know of some people who are, and a tweet I wrote on Election Night reminded me of them. Last year, Mr. Destructo contributor Dan "General Gandhi" O'Sullivan, Classical editor David J. Roth, nomad political writer Alex Pareene, and SBNation writer Bill Hanstock and I, amongst others, collaborated on a world-beating slate of 2016 GOP candidates. Not just candidates for president but candidates who could run the table in every open Senate seat as well.

This is the future of the GOP. This is your future, America.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Time the Duck Dynasty Guy Saved America with a Boat

So we all know Duck Dynasty's patriarch Phil Robertson is a bigot, and a homophobe (I wrote about him in The New Republic, if that's something you care about), and a fraudulent country club Republican dressed up like a bayou redneck to move more units of redneck product, and generally he's about as useful to the rest of the world as a copy of The Second Sex is to his audience the minute they realize there are no pictures in it.

It's not in spite of this that Sean Hannity has him on his Fox News show but because, since Robertson's brand of retrograde politics moves the same number of duck calls as it does Hannity merch. It's tempting for people on the left to see Robertson on Hannity's show as some kind of error or the bad luck of last-minute booking—which is mostly the fallacy of liberals thinking that the things they belly laugh at can't be cherished and defended by someone else with just as much sincerity. Robertson unironically calling on America to convert-or-kill ISIS as a means of dealing with the horror of ISIS converting-or-killing everyone else is a welcome opinion to the right set of ears, and college-boy tittering about how this sounds like Innocent III scouring the Languedoc of Albigensenes or any previous Pope scouring the Holy Land of Muslims amounts mostly to smug nerds playing to their liberal audience as much as Robertson's duck call goes out to his people on a certain frequency.

Which is to say that, since no minds will change and nothing will be accomplished in any meaningful way, the most you can do is goof off. If there is a larger point, it will be lost, and it was probably a stretch to even assume it was necessary, so go have fun or go home.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I Don't Even Own A Television: 'Those Who Trespass'

Ordinarily I'd assume that I did a good enough job last time selling you on my friend Jay W. Friedman's podcast. And I would likewise assume that the new page for podcast appearances I put up would be a sufficient resource for finding out where and when I'd droned on and on like an asshole about something. But this time I joined Jay to talk about Bill O'Reilly's Those Who Trespass, and nothing about O'Reilly comes easily. Except his women.

Here's the thing about Bill-O: despite Jay and I spending an hour busting on his godawful prose, his sexism, his casual racism, his uncritical love of police strong-arm tactics, his bunkum facts about David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani, his racialized image of crime, his historical clunkers, his incredible vanity, his stereotypical straight-outta-suburbia Irish-American fawning over the Ould Sod and his bad sex scenes, we could have gone on for another hour without breaking a sweat. Because he's really that awful in his fantasyland version of reality, too.

Jay touched on something in Those Who Trespass that I wanted to supplement with a bit from real life. In it, O'Reilly's Gary Stu character has a black friend named Jackson Davis, one who Bill's narration takes pains to describe as articulate. He's one of the good ones basically for no other reason than that he behaves like Bill O'Reilly's vision of a good white guy. And I really don't want anyone to walk away with the sense that this was an accident of bad writing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I Don't Even Own A Television: 'Pregnesia'

Some of you may know my friend Jay Friedman. For those of you who don't, he's one of those exasperatingly prolific creative people who's always doing something interesting when you're doing things like marathoning Magnum P.I. on Netflix for no reason.

In addition to working a full-time job, Jay might as well also be a full-time MC. And when he's not releasing another mixtape under the name Satellite High, he's doing things like helping me out by recording a diss track of World Net Daily birther rappers "Wolverines" or tag-teaming a fatuous American Enterprise Institute list of the "21 Greatest Conservative Rap Songs" for a piece in The New Republic.

So, with all that on his plate, naturally Jay started a podcast about books. Fantastically bad books. Because of course he did. And I'm pleased to say that I was the inaugural guest on I Don't Even Own A Television.

In a previous life, I wrote reviews of current events and public affairs books for Barnes & Noble's website. (Under yet another pseudonym.) And while neither those nor my reviews on this website prepared me for the kind of texts that Jay had in mind, it's nice to know that the critical reading skills honed in that job and during the long slog through my history thesis haven't completely atrophied. Basically, I brought a thoroughly misguided level of critical analysis to a discussion of a Harlequin Intrigue title named Pregnesia.

Monday, January 13, 2014

And Yet More Things I Want to Do When I Grow Up

As you may know, we the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo? conduct an annual personal test of our abilities. We do not remark upon things as we see them and ask, "Why?" We look at things as they have never been—a machine that makes my ex-girlfriend STACY think about me when she hears any song on the radio, even "Thick As A Brick"—and ask, "Why not?" Then we create that machine.

In the above case, that machine is called the simple human heart.

Nevertheless, the conundrum facing the Destructo crew for several years was this: How do we find newer feats of mental daring and near-impossibilities of time and space that we have not already accomplished? And how, given our 100% success rate in meeting our goals, can we ever outline new goals in which our readers might see the faintest glimmer of failure? What happens when a shadow no longer falls between the idea and the reality?

An idea presented itself in January, 2013 when journalist David J. Roth wrote to regret that his submissions for January, 2012, sent by passenger pigeon, had been unavoidably delayed by that species' extinction for 99 years and that he would try to forward them via "interior crocodile alligator." The denial of an object or goal seemed to be a goal in itself.

We thought of embracing the noble truths of the Buddha, but abandoned that concept when we realized that there is no documented evidence of that man ever wearing a shirt. Instead, we chose to embrace a state of post-accomplishment, a place beyond goals, neither above nor below metrics but askance from them. We chose a heaven where nothing ever happens.

Needless to say, 2013 would have been an unqualified success if indeed success or failure had been possible. And, despite the overwhelming likelihood of each pledge below being satisfied thoroughly, early and often, 2013 opens 2014 to the possibility that maybe—just maybe—what you're about to read may, this once, just be words.

Everything below was written by Jeb Lund, General "Bro_Pair" Ze'evi, Cory Harris, Justin Shapiro, David J. Roth and Mark Hengge. We renew our respects to our fallen comrade, Mark Brendle (RIP), who at this time in 2013 was killed in a tragic midchair collision.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Let Them Eat Pussy: The Moveable Feast of Rob Ford

I feel conflicted about Rob Ford. On the one hand, it's impossible not to feel a wrench of pity and also a sense of self-loathing creepiness at bearing witness to someone's total self-destruction. On the other hand, Jacobin neatly outlines all the ways in which Ford is a civically and socially destructive asshole of the first order. If he's going to do his damnedest to blow everything else up, the motherfucker might as well take himself with it.

Then we also have to admit that everything about Rob Ford is strangely awesome. Not in the approving, "Rad, dude!" sense of the word, but in the original sense of inspiring a kind of bewildered awe. Beyond any sense of body-shaming, Ford is awfulness writ large. He has the decency to do gross things grossly, where there's no chance of anyone arguing inference and insinuation on the part of critics. You couldn't find a lustier representation of the I-enjoy-now, you-pay-later schtick of modern conservatism. Someone gave Falstaff a city, and all he had to give up in exchange was his brain. It's fun.

Maybe this is just me. I remember basically enjoying everything about Marion Barry. He was with a prostitute; who cares? She got paid, and she was an adult. He was doing drugs; big deal, everyone I knew admitted to having done drugs. I enjoyed the fact that he was pissing off a bunch of Reagan Democrats who spent the sixties smoking grass and the seventies taking Seconal. Meanwhile they were threatening to sue teachers who used harsh language at Caitlin or Brantley, while sporting huge hard-ons for high school principal Joe Clark because he was threatening black "thug" kids with a baseball bat. Not that this was about race.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Progressive's Guide to the 2013 Election

Note: Today, we, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo? confront the fact that we stopped caring about politics after Mormon Flanders lost the 2012 election. But, like aging and death, democracy doesn't stop; it even happens during odd-numbered years. Thus we turn for voting advice to Robert Wheel, a Brooklyn resident who went to law school when his job in the Kerry White House didn't pan out. On the bright side, now he's really good at knowing when a campaign is going to lose on Election Day.

Races Democrats Tried to Screw Up Only to Have the GOP Foil Their Incompetence

You're probably vaguely aware of the 2013 elections. Odds are that the only election going on in your area is a municipal one, and you really don't care who's on the local water commission. (Although you probably should!)

Regardless, there are a few elections nationwide that you should pay attention to, both because they affect a lot of people (8 million of us in New York, it'd be nice if the mayor were a Democrat), and because they might be signs for future elections and for the future of the only political party left not helmed by a Texan suicide cult leader dressed like Pagliacci. Anyway, here is your Progressive's Guide To The 2013 Elections.

Hey, you might have heard about this one! You probably know the story—former Sandinistabro Bill de Blasio won a Democratic primary over his more conservative rivals and he's poised to be the Elizabeth Warren of New York City. Well, not quite. The most liberal candidate in the field was hampered by a fundraising scandal that he likely had nothing to do with. De Blasio is about as liberal as third-place finisher Christine Quinn, but she decided back in 2009 that she should run as the heir to Mike Bloomberg, thinking that Democrats would like to elect another imperious plutocrat. Oh well, then.

But de Blasio did a really good job of positioning himself as the champion of those left out of the Bloomberg boom years. He kept saying that New York was a tale of two cities, even though I don't think he even read the book. He's got a cute biracial family and told New Yorkers of color that the cops shouldn't just be allowed to stop them because they look funny. And he proposed a tax on rich people that he knows would never get approved by the state legislature because a) Democratic primary voters love that shit and b) the handwringing in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times from out-of-touch plutocrats about the tax was fucking hilarious. I don't care that the tax won't pass; I applaud him just for freaking them out.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering 9/11, 2011

I never seem to do anything for 9/11. I know I should. Call some friends, agree ahead of time to get together, have some kind of blast for 18 or 19 of us, but it always escapes my mind. I used to be better organized.

I can never seem to remember where I was on its anniversary, either. Take two years ago: I'm pretty sure I was at a ballgame, but I couldn't tell you one way or the other. I know I published this piece at two in the morning; after that, I'm unsure. The only "where I was on 9/11" piece I've ever read worth a tinker's damn was David J. Roth's, and, aside from that, all others read like the works of self-aware wannabe talking heads who cast their eyes at a burning hellscape and said, "Memorize where you were at this moment, precious voice, because this can be your generation's JFK assassination."

I know I was at a ballgame somewhere around September 11, 2011, because last night, purely by accident, I found an old note I'd dictated on my iPhone for myself, and it immediately brought back the circumstances surrounding it. I was standing in line at a Tampa Bay Rays game, waiting to go to the bathroom.

Monday, July 15, 2013

An Anthology of Things I Know About Stevie Nicks

I have not always liked Stevie Nicks, and I wouldn't blame anyone for suspecting that I bear her animosity to this day. For years now, I've been writing what amount to Bill Brasky jokes about her, inserting her into situations wherever something stupid seems like it would be funnier if a proper name were attached. I need to describe someone rabidly beating a monoglot au pair? Sure, have Stevie Nicks do it with a WWE Championship belt. Someone's driving a Smart Car through a co-op and screaming, "WE WON THE WAR SO WE COULD EAT STEAK"? Make it Stevie again. Great.

All of this is assuredly unfair to her, since of course Stevie Nicks has done nothing to me short of getting "Gold Dust Woman" stuck in my head in inappropriate venues, like funerals. But, for whatever reason, I started telling jokes about her in real life (and later on Twitter) years ago. Only lately, working on a longer piece about Fleetwood Mac, did I start to wonder why.

Which, of course, made Vulture's June publication of a profile of Stevie Nicks feel just about perfect. Because, on top of being interesting in its own right, it confirmed almost every impulse to make up absurd factoids about Stevie Nicks with paragraph after paragraph celebrating everything sui generis about her you could possibly imagine.

For example, culled from just that article:
In Your Dreams has two songs referencing vampires, including "Moonlight," inspired by a tear-filled viewing of The Twilight Saga: New Moon...

Her look...has influenced fashion designers from Anna Sui to somebody's brother's girlfriend who gave her an organically dyed silk poncho during tour rehearsals because Nicks had inspired her to go into fashion... A woman in the U.K. named Johanna Pieterman paints Celtic-style portraits of Nicks with your spirit animal of choice (usually an owl, wolf, stallion, or unicorn)...

She communicates with her fans by handwritten letters that Johnston [an assistant] scans and uploads to the Internet. She hasn't had a driver’s license since 1978 ("Where would I go by myself?") and is only reachable by phone through landline or Johnston. I was with them once when Johnston's cell phone rang; Nicks harmonized with the ringtone...

There are Buddhas everywhere. She's not a believer, she says, "but I probably will be someday."

Above her bathtub is a sign reading "DON'T PISS OFF THE FAIRIES."
The article is an embarrassment of Stevie Nicksness, and the first thing it made me do was go through my Twitter archive and the Mr. Destructo Facebook page and find every Stevie Nicks factoid published there in the last few years. I realize that this might seem silly to you, but I feel very strongly about sharing all of it. Thank you.

Monday, June 3, 2013

SBNation: I Watched Every 'Fast and Furious' Movie in a Day

Well, strictly speaking, not every Fast and Furious movie. It took another day to be able to see the sixth one. But, for one thirteen-hour period, I watched the first five Fast and Furious movies in a row, for the first time. It was a journey of discovery and endurance. And, despite beginning under such silly and inauspicious circumstances, it was my pleasure.

Click the pic to continue to the article at SBNation:

Also, immense thanks to Graey Dave for making the intro the intro.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

TNR: 'The 21 Greatest Conservative Rap Songs'

Conservative pundits seem especially fond of a type of filler article: the list of works in some form of entertainment that argues for a Republican bedrock that is the foundation of our art. Forget a story of marginalized immigrants creating a mirror government to protect them when they're shut out of the real one, The Godfather is actually about family values. Look, they all eat dinner together! And it's always positive. Except with Turk!

None of this is necessary. In music, while country and southern rock are hardly homogenous, they teem with red-blooded red-state fare. In TV and film, while "issue" episodes/movies might trend toward the liberal, it takes little effort to find a procedural or thriller with police abuses of searches and good cops who just want to hug kids who sleep with an under-pillow holster, dreaming with exquisite trigger discipline. In traditional art, Thomas Kinkade is not just a painter but a painter of light. Conservative work abounds; if you have to go looking for it, you're probably reading your own beliefs into what you encountered.

Such is the case with the American Enterprise Institute—home of countless slam-dunks on the Iraq War—and Stan Veuger's list of the "21 Greatest Conservative Rap Songs." His piece is a weightless exercise, devoid of context, expropriating meaning to serve his cause when he's not simply making things up. While he surely wants to provide a short list of handy GOP talking points so that vampires in Brooks Brothers and blonde haircuts can seem "rap-positive," he also implies that he has the right to define a demographic in the absence of that demographic's will. It's disgusting.

Because I don't know half as much about rap as some of my friends, I enlisted my buddy Jay Friedman, a/k/a Satellite High, to help break down everything wrong with (at the time of writing) Veuger's first nine entries. (You may remember Jay from his awesome diss track on the Birther rap group "Wolverines.") Together, we worked up a good guide to how thoroughly wrong the list is.

Continue to The New Republic...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Let's Talk About Angelina Jolie's Breasts

Early this morning, the New York Times published an op-ed from actress Angelina Jolie in which she announced that she had undergone a double mastectomy, the surgical removal of both breasts. Those people who might joke that Jolie is best known to male moviegoers of the Internet generation for her breasts have a good point, and they get right to why her op-ed offers a welcome gesture.

Even as we mature as a society and try to de-stigmatize mastectomy, it is still often—at least tacitly—seen as the unwomaning of woman, a defacement of our vision of womanhood, somehow more unavoidably profound than hysterectomy. If we still, in some retrograde and shorthand way, define women by shape, then that "object" necessarily becomes something else when it is "misshapen." Mastectomy has always been the ontological death of women in a shallow culture. Seeing someone who has been a celebrity of that same shallow culture attempt to reject that objectionable definition is a step in the right direction.

People still won't get it. When it comes to woman and femininity, there is so much so many people want to not get. Even in the short 60 minutes following its publication, Twitter commentary found several things wanting with Jolie's op-ed, most of them misguided. Let's look at them.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Twitter Theft (And How HuffPo and BuzzFeed Steal)

For the vast majority of users, Twitter is not important. I understand that. In the same way that I find scrapbooking a life-draining expense of time and creative effort, I can understand someone looking at my Twitter feed as 30,000+ depressing examples of life pissed into a void.

But, just as scrapbooking gives a mode of expression to its fans, we have to acknowledge that Twitter provides a unique medium for creative discourse that people would otherwise not find. There are Twitter clichés, subcultures and superstars, and as absurd as it seems even within them, they all have value for people. Which is why, as in any other circumstance in which we establish value, theft is shitty.

Last week, someone created a Tumblr called Borrowing Sam, a clearinghouse of screenshots for plagiarized tweets made by a Twitter user named "@Prodigalsam" Sammy Rhodes, a campus minister at the University of South Carolina. Go. Read it. It's damning, and it's sad.

Prodigalsam defended himself in a Tumblr post in two ways. We'll get to the second later, but for now he wrote:
Part of what I think has happened in terms of the tweet theft accusations is that for years now I’ve been doing tweets that are pretty clearly inspired by the tweets of my twitter heros.
It would be a heartening explanation if it weren't thoroughly unacceptable. Inspiration is not editing or reframing. (It would be more heartening if this didn't happen instantly after the apology.) When one is inspired by an artist, one tries to create something new in his or her style. Simply rewriting what that artist already said is plagiarism with minimal effort.