Saturday, May 30, 2009

Kim Jong Il Enjoys Art Performance Given by KPA Company Soldiers

Pyongyang, May 25 (KCNA) -- General Secretary Kim Jong Il enjoyed an art performance given by soldiers of the Kamnamu (persimmon tree) company of the KPA honored with the title of the thrice three-revolution red flag together with servicepersons of the KPA.

The soldiers of the company known to the whole country as a symbol of Kim Jong Il's loving care for the soldiers put on the stage chorus "Our General Is the Best", story-telling and song "General and Our Kamnamu Company", quartet and chorus "May Soldiers' Song of Happiness Reverberate Far and Wide", poem and song "The Blue Sky over My Country", instrumental music and song "Our Days as Soldiers", solo and chorus "Who Ever Taught Me?", chorus and dance "Song of Coastal Artillery Women", chorus "Footstep" and other colorful numbers of various genres.
Yeah, that's how my PR guys wrote it up. Let me give you my version:

I Would Totally Fuck All These Bitches

I didn't have very great hopes when I came out to this event. I know the lead singer: a cute, saucy female officer who I'd seen on parade long ago, determining that I would bone her, if I had the chance. And one other little cadet I know. A full-figured tart who was brought out of the sticks to work undercover security when we had the Burmese foreign minister in Pyongyang (Pig-fuckers are still pissed off about '83), and who's been on duty at my weekend palace ever since. But then as I look about the table at this after-party, it dawns on me that none of the assembled women here are beastly, and that given the opportunity, I would totally fuck all these bitches.

Friday, May 22, 2009

'The Forever War' and Dexter Filkins

I did not set out to write a book about dates and times and policy and what went right and what went wrong. I wanted to capture, in a very visceral and emotional way, the time that I lived in — beginning in 1998 in Afghanistan, all the way to when I left Iraq in late 2006. That was a moment in time and these were the things that I saw.
— Dexter Filkins,, 2008
Every war has its classic volume of war correspondence. As historians or just interested lay-readers, we have a tendency to assume that these famous tomes exemplify how everyone experienced their contemporary war. Often, we're mistaken to do so, superimposing a coherent, edited narrative on what was then informational chaos. What makes Dexter Filkins' The Forever War so good in this respect is that it seems to aim for thoughtful lack of coherence, deliberately undermining a certain overriding story even to the point that it's probably best not to think of it as war correspondence at all.

That isn't to say that "war correspondent" wasn't Filkins' job. First for the Los Angeles Times and later for the New York Times, he covered Afghanistan and Iraq from 1998-2007, watching the first country succumb to Taliban control and later American forces and the second country to American invasion, sectarian strife and later hints of the Sunni Awakening. Much of the content of this book is taken from pieces written for both papers, which explains the tight pacing, excellent short character profiles and beautiful economy of Filkins' prose.

The trouble with most war correspondences is that they both rely on the episodic nature of day-to-day reporting and also betray it. Pieces filed on a random day that later contradict what becomes known as the overall and "correct" story of the war and who won it get tossed out before the first draft. Instead of daily snapshots occasionally being wrong, focusing on the wrong people or events entirely, we as readers often encounter this episodic tale that's presented as if there was always an understood outcome.

Filkins plays with this by including snapshots that appear irrelevant to the driving theme of the day, offering the strange as counterpoint to the staged, seeming to delight in the very human tendency to go off-script pretty much constantly and whenever possible. But he's not doing this to be flip or because he can't make head or tail of the dominant themes of his time. Instead, seemingly bizarre and unnecessary vignettes open up the ideas later explored via conflicting details. Contradictory stories are there because contradictory stories were there; what makes Filkins' book good is knowing how to put the narrative at loggerheads with itself for a purpose.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Endut! Hoch Hech!

No reason at all.

Doesn't have to be a reason.

Auto-Tune the News

Here's one of the few bummers about the internet: everyone feels like they have to be a reporter. Remember in high school finding some fucked-up track on an album and having that moment of pleasure in knowing that you knew about this and you would be able to watch an expression of bewilderment and then wonder dawn on a friend's face as you played it for him? That's gone. It's been replaced with the sense that you've got to run that story as soon as possible.

Between Twitter and Facebook, not to mention internet-enabled phones, everyone's broadcasting anything slightly interesting they find at each other, whether because they lack any sense of filtering or because they're need to get to something first and ride some peripheral coolness wave for finding it. Granted, there's always a sense of contact-cool inherent in finding and sharing something interesting — as if it suggests that your role is Bringer of Cool Shit to the village — but the shotgun approach of "z0mg CLICK TIHS LINK!!!!!1" removes the personal aspect entirely.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Donald Rumsfeld, Church Group Member with MSPaint Promote Iraq War as Christian Crusade, Endanger Us All

From GQ:
ON THE MORNING OF Thursday, April 10, 2003, Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon prepared a top-secret briefing for George W. Bush. This document, known as the Worldwide Intelligence Update, was a daily digest of critical military intelligence so classified that it circulated among only a handful of Pentagon leaders and the president... The briefing’s cover sheet generally featured triumphant, color images from the previous days’ war efforts: On this particular morning, it showed the statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down in Firdos Square, a grateful Iraqi child kissing an American soldier, and jubilant crowds thronging the streets of newly liberated Baghdad. And above these images, and just below the headline SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, was a quote that may have raised some eyebrows. It came from the Bible, from the book of Psalms: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him…To deliver their soul from death.”

This mixing of Crusades-like messaging with war imagery, which until now has not been revealed, had become routine... At least one Muslim analyst in the building had been greatly offended; others privately worried that if these covers were leaked during a war conducted in an Islamic nation, the fallout—as one Pentagon staffer would later say—“would be as bad as Abu Ghraib.”
By the time you see this, there will be dozens of far more intelligent and informed people delineating what a horrible, nationally and religiously narcissistic and ill-conceived idea this was, but it bears repeating. President Bush had already employed the word "crusade" to describe America's counter-terrorism struggles before these briefings were created. That statement and his subsequent division of the world into a Manichaean vision of Good v. Evil, Light v. Dark, Us v. Them shaped the Islamic world's perception of America's policy as inherently a Christian crusade.

Meanwhile, the American military command structure fostered an increasing perception of itself as a Christian organization, an "Arsenal of Christianity," utterly exempt from the Establishment Clause. Jeff Sharlet describes the growth of this perception in the excellent "Jesus Killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian Military." And while domestically it's important to acknowledge the severe erosion of the military's former agnosticism and its internal hijacking by people determined to defend the constitution by undermining the first amendment, that attitudinal shift has enormous implications internationally.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

LOST: Let the Fear in

I have nothing to offer about the recent season finale, so I'll spare you speculation. Instead, I offer you this video a friend of mine first sent me months ago, probably years after it was hip or relevant. The audio is taken from an early episode of LOST. I'm not geek enough to know which one. But, because I'd seen this clip, I understood a point made in tonight's season finale and how it impacted a character. Here it is:

I love this clip. I love how it's creepy and weird and kid-unfriendly. Everything about it is good. Everything is so... crazy. So real.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Great Moments in Green Initiative, Trucking

I was awake this morning at about four a.m., slouched in a camping chair, feet propped up on a table, reading by the back porch light. I've always been habitually nocturnal, but recurring headaches this last week (it's a tumor; I'm going to die) have kept me up to the point of exhaustion. Under most circumstances, I'd take being obliged to be awake as an excuse to read more, but the headaches make print almost unbearable to deal with. On a computer, I can hit CTRL and + and magnify the fonts on a website, or I can type in 24pt. Book text remains stubbornly, space-efficiently small.

For whatever reason, I forced myself to read a book last night, in spite of the headache, to get shit done, to preserve my occasional reputation as someone who can get shit done completely, so that when strangers ask associates of mine, "Who is that man? What kind of man would you say he is?" they can reply, "He is a shit-done getter in such comprehensive ways that his shit-done-ing admits of no incompletion. He's a man who gets. shit. done. Completely."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Youtube Doubler V: You're Going to Die

Previous Doubler Posts:
Youtube Doubler II
Youtube Doubler III
Youtube Doubler IV:

Youtube Doubler V (Click image):

Or try a semi-familiar but thoroughly satisfying alternate take suggested by my buddy Robert.

Friday, May 8, 2009

'Mr. Mike's Mondo Video'; or, Were You There When They Crucified Jack Lord?

"Well, you see, there is no moral, Uncle Remus, just random acts of meaningless violence."
— Michael O'Donoghue, Least-Loved Bedtime Tales
There's an old saw about how all comedy is really just sublimated aggression. As Krusty the Clown says to Sideshow Bob's brother Cecil, before ordering a "pie job for Lord Autumn-Bottom," the "pie gag only works if the sap's got dignity." You can't laugh at the humiliation if it doesn't rob another person of his self-respect. As beautifully and succinctly as The Simpsons put it, probably nobody's career exemplifies the comedy-as-anger concept better than Michael O'Donoghue's.

Even if the name's not familiar, you can probably quote a dozen of his bits off the top of your head. O'Donoghue was the head writer for Saturday Night Live's first three seasons, and its inaugural sketch set the tone for the show while giving a perfect summary of his own vision of comedy. In it, O'Donoghue sits opposite John Belushi, who's playing a monoglot immigrant trying to learn English. O'Donoghue, pausing twice, reads out the helpful English phrase: "I would like... to feed your fingertips... to the wolverines."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Come to Libertarian Paradise!

For a couple of weeks now, liberal bloggers have had numerous viral images at their disposal, lampooning The Nuge or Glenn Beck, which they've used in response to libertarian commentators shrieking about "socialism." But unfortunately, such tactics merely attack the messenger instead of the message. Even if both are equally noxious, focusing on the former gives the latter a free pass. Now, thankfully, there's just a Youtube video they can link to, that wraps everything up nicely.

What's more, libertarians probably shouldn't complain about the treatment. As the INFO section of this Youtube video provides, the whackjobs at the Von Mises institute — the nurturing ideological bosom for racist, insane and destructive shits like Ron Paul — have long advocated that there is truly a nation that dares to create on this earth the magical realm of Libertopia. They call it Somalia.

Poor political cartoonists: once again, with libertarians, they mistakenly assume that the most offensively stupid and lunatic thing they can imagine will satirize the libertarian perception of reality, instead of merely describing it.

Jersey Bedeviled

For the longest time, I couldn't see the purpose in wearing a team jersey to a ballgame. Do I need to display my allegiance? I already bought the overpriced ticket to get in, and I plan on getting at least two beers at the game, too. That's like the down-payment on a hatchback. Displaying fealty by paying more money to a multi-million dollar empire seemed like a double-toll. Hell, between tickets and taxpayer-funded stadiums, in theory the team ought to run out there with pictures of random fans and the shape of the county on their jerseys.

To a certain extent, I still don't get the jersey impulse, in part because of some of the people wearing them. If you can rest a pitcher of beer on your stomach while standing, there is no message any sport's jersey broadcasts louder than the one your gut does. Football jerseys, as a rule, just seem odd. Baseball's a sport almost anyone can play, but it's hard to picture most people in a football jersey having played the game past 8th grade.

Baseball jerseys just work better. This is a sport where Prince Fielder is a superstar, despite looking like the product of the Michelin Man and an obese anthropomorphic brownie making babies. This is a sport where the 1986 World Champion Mets smoked cigarettes in the dugout. Almost all baseball jerseys look good on women, because they're basically like men's dress shirts; and all women are sexy wearing a man's dress shirt and nothing else.

Clearly, whatever my problems with sports jerseys, I got over them. Or maybe I just got used to them. Maybe the impulse to fit in wore down my snarky asides over dozens of trips to the ballpark. Sure, I often ask myself, "Why are people smaller than I am wearing XXXL jerseys," but now I usually follow that up with, "And where did they get them?"

The more I looked into it, the more I discovered how much of a problem getting team jerseys can be, both in terms of cost and presentation. My buddy Glenn illustrated this perfectly the other weekend when we headed out to the baseball mausoleum to catch the Rays hosting the White Sox. He wanted to wear a Rays jersey to the game and went shopping at the last minute. Balking at $150 for authentic team jerseys, he went to Wal-Mart and got a Rays jersey for $30. It was perfect — well, apart from the fact that the team's name was in cursive and apparently in the sort of electric pastels usually reserved for the side of a waverunner. At the sports bar, later, I think he got a high-five from a similarly economically minded fan.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Remembering Jack Kemp, via Twitter

I never really had much against Jack Kemp, except for most of what he stood for. True, once you peeled back his Chicago School economics, his advocacy for the nonsensical Flat Tax, his belief in the gold standard, his aggressive militarism, his support for the Contras, his anti-abortion stance and his bizarre fear about letting homosexuals teach in schools, he had some good ideas, like supporting affirmative action.

Views like this last one go to explaining how the last 24 hours have produced a hagiography of his "bipartisanship." It's a testament to how much conservatism has pushed rhetoric to the far right in America that someone who holds as many as three or four non-doctrinaire conservative opinions resembles something like a charismatically free-thinking renegade. Personally, having a few good ideas amidst an entire spread of noxiously bad ones suggests little more to me than that someone screwed up somewhere. Kind of like going to a salad bar filled with chum, separated organ parts, dead ants, roofing nails and tire-flattened bluejays, except for one dish of shredded carrots: the question then becomes not, "Where did all these ghastly things come from?" but rather, "Who's the dumbass who forgot to throw out these carrots?"

Friday, May 1, 2009

Alex Rodriguez Is a Smooth Criminal

I love Alex Rodriguez. Except for what he does on the baseball field, everything about him is plastic, incompetent and weird. Most of which is hilarious. Rodriguez might now be an overrated baseball talent, but his deeply underrated career as a whacko public figure is just beginning.

The unraveling began February, when reporter Selena Roberts came forward with the revelation that A-Rod had taken steroids while with the Texas Rangers. Rodriguez admitted to taking them for a couple years because he felt burdened by his insane contract and obliged to put up offensive numbers commensurate with the numbers in his paycheck. This turned out to be a lie. Yesterday, the New York Daily News reprinted information from leaked copies of Roberts' book, A-Rod, which detailed how he had taken steroids in high school, had taken HGH after leaving the Texas Rangers for the New York Yankees and — allegedly, amazingly — even had a quid pro quo agreement with other teams' infielders to "tip" pitches to them in blowout games to help up their offensive stats and bust through slumps.

While the details are somewhat shocking, the fact that more iniquities were revealed shouldn't be. A-Rod's always been a disingenuous bastard; this, after all, was the guy who wanted to be traded to the Yankees to "play for a contender," when it was his ludicrous contract that absorbed his current team's revenue and precluded their fielding a contender's roster. (If contending was really that important to him, he wouldn't have entered high pressure negotiations that created the implosion of his team's ability to pay for good teammates.) But it was the way he handled the February revelations that told anyone paying attention that there was more going on.