Saturday, February 28, 2009

Michelle Bachmann: Proving That Republican Racial Understanding Basically Equals That of Professional Wrestling

Poor Michelle Bachmann. She's not like us. In our post-modern hugger mugger of sending tweets to bisexual lovers we met on Facebook, we lack the perspective to understand a decent Minnesotan hockey mom who just wants to bring back McCarthyite witch-hunts to cull the un-Americans from our national herd and to send strangers Christmas form letters where she talks about her pre-teen daughter's 14" hips and her desire for another daughter to never leave the home and spend her life in her parents' servitude.

I know what you're going to say: "Couldn't you have just tweeted this at me?" And you know what my response will be: stop being such a bitch about this, Julian. In any event, Michelle Bachmann is relevant because initially she wasn't even going to be the most insane thing about this weekend's CPAC (or Conservative Political Action Conference), the annual assplug- and dildo-filled logistics meeting for how the republican party is going to continue gangbanging America for another year without it getting all wet and sticky and gross again—like that Katrina thing.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pimping in Brief: Cormac McCarthy Goes to a Birthday Party

I've never really subscribed to the idea that blog entries should be about single-paragraph thoughts. It goes against my desires as a reader. When I read someone else's blog, I want something I can sit down and sip a beer through, have a cup of coffee with, see that I've got 10 minutes to kill and can fill them by diving into this text. I accept that I won't get that most of the time, but that's my ideal experience.

That's why I try to post longer entries. This isn't to say that I think of something to write and then wrack my brain finding filler to make it wind up the requisite length. I might indulge in a needless but amusing footnote for the hell of it, but it owes nothing to meeting an assigned word length. No, instead, I try not to write something unless I know it's something I can sit down to, for a while, and something others will be able to spend a little time with. If I think of something and know that it'll just be a paragraph and nothing more, I'll pass on it and hope that maybe later, down the road, another subject will come up that lets me fold that single paragraph into it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

One Half a Day of Doink-Doinks

You've probably heard the Law & Order sound at least twice in your life. If you heard it only once, it got cut off for some reason. You have not heard it properly and must try again.

The Law & Order sound is the strangely reverbed clanking thingy that accompanies black title screens on episodes of Law & Order and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit that indicate a sudden scene change. E.g.:

McCarren Residence
4132 Some Place in New York
[Time — optional]
*Law & Order Sound*

According to IMDB, the noise was created by mashing together about a dozen different sounds, one of which featured a bunch of monks stamping on a floor. This is by far the most interesting fact about the sound, but of course, since it's IMDB, you're never going to find even slightly more explanation than that. For years, fans online referred to the sound as the chung-chung, until the USA network started running promos featuring some of the cast. In them, Dann Florek, who plays Captain Donald Cragen (appearing in the first three seasons of the original show and in every season of SVU), referred to the sound as the doink-doink, and the name's pretty much stuck.

Law & Order is on nearly 24 hours per day, and while it isn't the greatest show by any means, it usually can be relied upon to not suck. Thus it worms its way into fans' lives: the show that's always running as a marathon somewhere, sometime, the show that can always be put on in the background while you iron some clothes, dust, make dinner, tinker with something. In this way, you wind up hearing a lot of doink-doinks. I couldn't sleep one night because my mind simply wouldn't shut down, and I found myself watching — you guessed it — Law & Order reruns because every other option involved trying to sell me something extremely absorbent or a twiggish blonde woman walking through a world filmed in blue and seeing dead people and then putting them to rest by asking inane questions of living people who she'd meet and then magically see them as their past selves. So I started to wonder, how many times have I heard that doink noise during my life?

Thank you, Internet: Outrage Edition

This comes from a discussion about favorite products that no longer exist. Pretend this was written by Ignatius J. Reilly (all emphasis mine):
Now, before everyone berates me over the fact that this product is still sold, allow me to inform you of some interesting "facts". I have been eating this brand of Lentil Soup for, well I guess about 20 years, and have always enjoyed it. A few week ago my wife bought a few cans of it, and my eyes were immediately violated by the new packaging they had slapped on the can. Worse yet, when the bowl of soup was placed before me, I saw, to my horror, that the soup was a totally different color. It was a reddish-brown! The Progresso Lentil Soup I know (and love) was always a muted gray. And then I tasted it. Words cannot describe my the shock my taste buds endured when an alien flavor assaulted my mouth.

I don't know what they have done to my beloved soup, but things have changed, they will never be the same again. Why did they tamper with perfection?!?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

'Dollhouse' and Joss Whedon's Commitment to Garbage

If you spend much time online arguing about television, you eventually have to deal with the phenomenon of Joss Whedon. The creator of such series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and its spinoff, Angel) and Firefly finds rabid defenders on message boards and usenet groups and from all kinds of demographics. He's even earned the allegiance of a group of fans called The Browncoats, who dress up like the rebel freedom fighters from Firefly and attend Comic-Cons and all other kinds of -Cons, agitating for his show's resurrection. Whedon is something of a television idol to thousands, which is baffling, because his shows are mostly terrible.

Not categorically so, mind you. Amongst Buffy, Angel and Firefly, there are probably 30 episodes of television that I think are great. (I own the fifth season of Angel and the third season of Buffy on DVD without apology.) Regrettably, they're surrounded by hundreds of episodes of not-so-good, and even then, they're still acted by, executed with and premised on the often-bad. Much the same could be said for his newest series, Dollhouse, except for the fact that there's just one episode so far.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Stop Saying 'Epic Fail,' You Retards

Most people in their thirties probably look at their music collections and wonder how they only bought five albums this year when ten years ago they might have bought five albums per month. Not feeling old yet finding twentysomethings indecipherable incites sudden panic. Thankfully, the internet functions as a conduit that spews youth across all demographics, counteracting unhipness with easily co-opted slang that you can wave about on your Facebook or in IM as if to suggest, "Yes, for another year, I'm not totally lame."

The impulse to try to embrace young and hip things as you age seems perfectly understandable. But using "lulz," "for the win (FTW)," "full of win," "moar plz," "epic," "fail" and "epic fail," makes you sound exactly like people turned on by embracing young things — like children.

All of these expressions and many of the memes that attend them — lolcats, for instance — were popularized by 4chan, an image board that Encyclopedia Dramatica neatly describes as "the asshole of the internet." These memes might not have started there, but they were branded and distributed there, and they ineluctably remind anyone of the culture of that board, which, apart from hackers and people trawling for amateur porn, is dominated by children — and which was, although founded by one person, essentially created by a community of members banned from SomethingAwful for loving animes about children under ten being raped in every orifice.*

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Onion Can Still Bring It, 2/12/09

Despite having mined virtually every possible topic for humor and having wrung out all the easiest jokes already, it's nice to know that The Onion can still periodically bring it and deliver an article that stays consistently funny after the headline and the lede.

Japan Pledges To Halt Production Of Weirdo Porn That Makes People Puke

"We honestly had no idea people did not enjoy this stuff," said Cultural Affairs Minister Kazuhiro Nakai, expressing regret for the thousands of hours of bondage porn, rape porn, utensil-rape porn, food-rape porn, frozen-food-rape porn, vomit-enema porn, elder-care-coma-patient-rape porn, and the kind of a porn in which a nubile youth is kidnapped, stripped, tied down in a wading pool and raped. "We are deeply ashamed for whatever it is about these films that has made people around the world vomit so vigorously. Please know that the content was only intended to entertain and arouse."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Horrible TV Quote of the Day

"The way you stared down that lightbox was like nothing I've ever seen."
— Joshua Jackson as Peter Bishop, after watching Anna Torv as Agent Olivia "I WISH TO MERGE WITH THE BISHOP UNIT TO EXPERIENCE THESE THINGS YOU CALL 'FEELINGS'" Dunham look vacantly at a plastic box for 45 seconds, Fringe.

The lessons, as always, are that:
1. There is nothing else non-reality-based on TV on Tuesdays.

Gwen Ifill's 'The Breakthrough'

If you paid attention to the Vice-Presidential debate during last year's election, you probably heard the mini-controversy about Gwen Ifill's moderating it. It was known that her next book would be titled  The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.Conservative commentators suggested it made her a ruthless partisan who would exploit Sarah Palin. If they'd been given galleys of the book, they probably would not have worried. Ifill's book is neither revolutionary nor controversial.

Even without the book, the controversy over her moderation proved meaningless. Only a whacko could have found Ifill's conduct advantageous to either side, while most of the country doubtless focused on Palin's inability to answer anything without resorting to a meaningless word salad of talking points and spastic winking. And, in any case, the title of Ifill's book is slightly misleading.

The "Age of Obama" refers less to a coming reign or Pax Obamicana than it does to the concepts that his candidacy and victory embody. These preceded his candidacy and find expression in it, but they are by no means bound by his personality. Ifill instead focuses on black candidates who capture imaginations beyond the traditions of black political activism and harness new coalitions of voters that aren't hustled out by the old party figureheads. She not only profiles up-and-coming public figures but also examines the generational breakthroughs within the black political community and the interest-group struggles facing racial and gender-based activism.

But what she has to say isn't unfamiliar to anyone who's been paying attention to race-based politics; it's just formatted more digestibly. Ifill doesn't present revelations so much as she re-presents the necessary evolutions of interest groups and their candidates. Newshounds of any racial background probably already understand the people involved and the process. This book synthesizes the experiences of both in an objective and unobjectionable survey.

While Ifill devotes whole chapters to some broader concerns, her focus wanders through anecdotes about various personalities. Perhaps because much of the book's subject matter draws from her own news articles, her attention to greater socio-political themes seems to hold only for a thousand words at a time before introducing a new event or public figure. While this, combined with chapters that profile individuals, tends to fragment her thesis, Ifill nevertheless proffers three main concepts:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Restitution

Following baseball for the last few years makes shock at any new steroid revelation virtually impossible. Pretty much everyone could plausibly have been juicing, and unless you're someone like 85-m.p.h.-fastball-throwing Greg Maddux, jaws aren't liable to drop if you're implicated. Which renders Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez's admission that he took performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in 2003 — his MVP season — kind of quaintly predictable.

Rodriguez started out as a shortstop. He was only forced to move to third base to accommodate the generous all-for-the-team shortstop Derek Jeter's desire to stay at the position despite Rodriguez's unquestionable superiority. The position is important because shortstops traditionally aren't power hitters. In fact, they're usually the worst power hitters on the team. If you have a lithe and rangy frame capable of covering a lot of territory very quickly, you probably don't have the torso that usually accompanies slamming 50 home runs per season.* To be blunt, A-Rod was already sort of a freak. So, again, that's what makes the PEDs thing predictable. That isn't what makes it fun.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Voices in the Spotlight: Alan Greenspan

Note: we, the good people of Et Tu, Mr. Destructo?, like to broaden our coverage of the national discourse by occasionally turning to voices and viewpoints not represented by our regular contributors. To discuss the Obama administration's proposed bailout and his own stimulus package, this week we turn to a noted economist and former chairman of the federal reserve.

I Used to Fuck the Shit Outta Ayn Rand

I've shunned the public eye since October when I testified before congress that I'd found a flaw in the free market capitalist model: “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organizations, specifically banks and others, was such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and the equity.”

With one careless admission, I tore down the foundational principle of the libertarianism I've always believed in: that rational economic actors would check present greed to ensure stability in the future. I realized that, in a sense, I had screwed libertarianism and the objectivism of my youth with one line. Which, later, was funny to me, because even back then I used to fuck the shit outta Ayn Rand.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Late Reflections on the Super Bowl and the Steelers

Easily the first two things that occurred to me when turning on the Super Bowl pregame were the words, "Matt Millen?"

In NBC's continuing effort to drown out the only three people in their commentator booth who shouldn't be launched into the sun — Cris Collinsworth, Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann — they stuffed the Super Bowl pregame with former head coach and anthropomorphic walrus Mike Holmgren and, incomprehensibly, Matt Millen. If you haven't been watching football since the early 1990s, you probably think of Millen as a pretty decent TV analyst and a guy with four Super Bowl rings. If you've been paying attention since, you recognize him as the worst football executive in at least half a century.

Millen first raised his ignominious head above ground for NBC's analysis during the playoffs, and the appearance was nothing short of baffling and galling. Just weeks earlier, Millen had been fired as the President of the Detroit Lions. During his tenure, the Lions put up the worst record of any team since WWII. Millen's rolodex didn't have the number of a single coach that wasn't terrible, and he couldn't get through a season's draft without doing something unbelievable. If I'm not much mistaken, Detroit has traded for 12 first-round picks through 2013 that all have to go to wide receivers because "Joey Harrington needs more weapons." For years, fans demanded he be fired. He was so bad at his job, fans of rival teams supported him. And when he emerged in NBC's booth and Keith Olbermann asked him if he would have fired himself for his performance, his answer, yes, insulted anyone even remotely interested in football. Millen wouldn't have fired Millen because he never made a good personnel decision in his life. He wouldn't have fired himself because, even after seven years of unambiguous failure, he accepted a contract extension. Then the team went 0-16.