Friday, December 31, 2010

The Essential Weirdness of Christmas Music

After some time in the employ of some of America's finest retail clothing establishments, I went off Christmas music. I didn't stop liking it for what it was, but spending 240 hours with it blaring in the background, in the six-week period around Christmas, eliminated my ability to take much joy in it for a few years.

I imagine I otherwise might have gone to a store to buy CDs of Christmas songs, but over-saturation drove the impulse from me, for a couple of seasons. Besides, like any good family member, I spent most Christmases with family. Having my own copy of James Galway flautin' the bejesus out of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" was unnecessary.

So this year, as host of Christmas festivities, I had nowhere to turn when it came to listening to music I had long since come to enjoy again. I turned on the cable box and cued up the "SOUNDS OF THE SEASONS" channel. If you've purchased a digital cable package anywhere in America in the last decade, you know exactly what kind of channel I'm talking about. You also know exactly why the Christmas music I listened to might be plainly weird.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Idi Amin: 'Wal-Mart: the Ultimate Welfare Queen'

Note: unlike many guest pieces on Et tu, Mr. Destructo? today's article comes from a real, live person. Idi Amin Dada has a Bachelor's degree in political science, the rank of Field Marshal and was the last ruler of a free Uganda. Since his exile at the hands of imperialists, he has busied himself researching topics ranging from politics to philately. Fans can find him engaging in lively debates on FreeRepublic, Redstate, AIPAC, and Stormfront, where he blends in seamlessly. He has not eaten anyone since 1980.

Rolling Back Lives... One State Budget at a Time

You'd be forgiven for not hearing about a recent bill proposed by a Democratic state legislator in Ohio that targeted businesses whose employees are compensated so poorly that they rely on public aid. No story besides this transcriptless audio report on Northeast Ohio Public Radio seems to exist.

With continuing dire warnings from deficit hawks that found their voice the instant Barack Obama won the Presidency, with the Ohio state budget in such dire shape, and with newly-elected fiscal conservatives licking their lips in anticipation of taking office, a chance to reduce the state budget gap seems like it would gleefully be seized. But if you're Ohio state Representative Bob Hagan (D), such an offering has been rejected without a single sensible reason consistent with the political ideology of the Republican party, which doesn't publicly state that the only welfare it favors is the corporate form.

Friday, December 17, 2010

SomethingAwful: In Defense of Gringo Star

Possibly the ultimate talisman of uncoolness when it comes to music is finding out someone's dad likes it. As a result, the term "Dad Rock" has sprung up in online music-discussion communities as a cultural dealbreaker and devastating dismissal of the worth of a piece of music. Unfortunately, the term is almost meaningless. It's a term that defies age, aging and the musical content itself.

Nothing brought this to the fore quite like trying to talk about the Atlanta-based garage rock band Gringo Star, who manage to both be awesome and to have a sound that, when described online, invites the "Dad Rock" condemnation like no other. Click here to read the article and enjoy yet another example of why Pitchfork Media is full of shit.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wailing Walls: Flame Out

Note: As tensions again rise in the Middle East, we, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo? turn for insight to General Rehavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi, former Israeli Minister of Tourism. Having faked his assassination in the Mt. Scopus Hyatt Hotel, the General has been in deep cover, in Judea and Samaria, posing as an American goy pursuing graduate studies in the Middle East and slowly learning Arabic, focusing especially on settlement activity in East Jerusalem. In his free time, he enjoys saying very little about himself, because he's terrified of Kachist/Islamist extremist internet aficionados.

Eight Hazy Fights and the Inferno of 2011

The novice might be alarmed the first time they reach high ground in Israel, at David's Citadel or the Baha'i Gardens, and see black smoke in the distance. There's no stanching it though; it's a natural phenomenon, as dry, weedy ground catches fire under the Mediterranean sun. One of the most contested and targeted sites for Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, Mufti's Grove, is a scorched hillside, its olive trees charred cinder and the ground perpetually black, crunchy underfoot. It's as common as a racist cab driver or shwarma-induced diarrhea.

But Israel has a bad habit of confusing the routine for the permanent. Last week, an uncontrollable brush fire engulfed Mount Carmel, overlooking Haifa, Israel's most beautiful city. An evacuating prison bus careened off the road, roasting dozens of guards to death in the fast-moving flames. The inferno killed forty-one people, including the Haifa police chief. On the second day of the inferno, a spokesman for the city’s Fire Department admitted: "We have completely lost control of the fire."

Despite ample warnings that the Israeli home front was ill-prepared for such a disaster — forest fires fed by Hezbollah missiles had wreaked havoc in 2006 — the disaster completely surprised the government. And it came just as the shamelessly far-right wing Revisionist Likudnik government had finally appeared to outflank Barack Obama. Bibi Netanyahu, once frightened by Obama's focus on illegal Israeli settlements, had, with the GOP takeover of the House and the stalling of peace talks, finally appeared to slough the U.S. off his back. As the Obama brood sat down to Thanksgiving dinner, Bibi began Hanukkah picking apart roasted dove in a warm salon. And as the Carmel burned, he had to chew crow, appealing to the international community — even Turkey — for help.

Fortunately, with the fire extinguished, it appears Bibi has rediscovered his taste for vinegary "fuck yous" aimed at the chief executive of Israel's patron power. In exchange for a measly three-month settlement "freeze" (the previous one was barely observed through much of the West Bank, in spite of the importance placed upon it), Bibi's hawks clawed out a massive "incentive package" of military aid. In other words, in exchange for three months of knocking down a few hilltop settler trailer hovels (East Jerusalem settlement, incidentally, has been completely taken off the table by Obama as part of the freeze), Bibi would do America the favor of indulging in substance-less talks with a nearly lifeless partner. And all at the reasonable price of a few billion dollars in military aid from a nation with a deficit deeper than the Jordan Valley. Never mind that the package's twenty factory-fresh F-35 fighter jets, the most advanced warplanes in the world, have one glaring use to the Israeli Air Force, and it involves the nuclear program of a certain neighborhood theocracy. Terrifyingly destructive arms in exchange for the fleeting pretension of peace talks. And even that concession wasn't good enough for Netanyahu's government; they turned down Obama. Peace talks have officially failed.

Israel will be celebrating a much cooler holiday in the coming weeks, easily one of the most fun of all monotheistic religions: Hanukkah, the celebration of the Second Temple's rededication. As the story goes, having defeated the oppressive Syrians, the Second Temple's menorah burned miraculously for eight days, giving Jews just enough time to press fresh oil. It was one of the biggest squeakers in Jewish history, surpassed only by the defeat of Gore/Lieberman. But just as Haifa residents awoke last week to the unfamiliar and alarming odor of burning cedars, let us resolve to breathe in the bracing salve of failure. Each night, as a candle is lit, there is another wildfire waiting to break out, acrid fumes set to waft through the corridors of power.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

'Everything Is Going to Be Great'

The cover of Rachel Shukert's Everything Is Going to Be Great speaks to the reader in the same way that the "Don't Panic!" cover of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is probably meant to. Her memoir evokes the anxieties of the collegiate and post-collegiate, groups for which the dread of embarrassment, confusion and failure — of having tripped coming out of life's starting gate — is far more real than for fictional space travelers. They need some assurance that the journey will be okay, and so does the reader, both in a general existential sense and because so much of her book can induce cringes of recognition and sympathy.

Shukert is a klutz and a serial bad-decision maker. Despite a going-nowhere acting career (or because of it), she takes off to Europe with a touring company, performing as an extra in a play that sounds annihilatingly dull, the sort of tendentious theater that you imagine Europeans and thin New Yorkers alone like because it helps them to hate themselves and to hate the people who hate it. She travels to Vienna and has a quaint May-November affair with a Viennese man. She takes advantage of an unstamped passport (and thus unlimited time in Europe) and stays with two gay friends in Amsterdam for what seems like months. While there, she gets involved with a man already in a long-term relationship, stands in front of the Anne Frank house passing out coupons for bad American comedy, has a wrenching but meaningful moment with her visiting parents and finally stumbles across a happy ending.

That last item is meant literally, but given much of the book's content, it's perfectly understandable that someone might mistake it for a handjob euphemism. Part of what makes Everything Is Going to Be Great so rife with anxiety at times is that many embarrassing moments are graphically sexual. In the midst of a dental emergency, a jealous ex-girlfriend shrieks at Shukert before she's whisked through a dark doorway and, basically, tongue-assaulted at both ends by a pair of Italian partners-in-fucking. During her Viennese sojourn, she discovers what an uncircumcised penis is like, in the most profound and orally immediate way possible. The former event betrays a shockingly undeveloped danger sense, and the latter shows a surprising inexperience. Both episodes are the sorts of things the book's title is for: Rachel Shukert emphatically and reassuringly pledges a positive outcome because, in many parts of the story, she does some pretty stupid and worrisome shit.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Some Suggestions for Madden NFL '12

On Sunday night, as the Indianapolis Colts hosted the San Diego Chargers, I watched in amazement as San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers took off and ran up the left side of the field. It was a smart play; Indianapolis' coverage in the secondary was all over his receivers but was also drawn far back enough to allow him about ten easy rushing yards. What was startling to watch, though, was that Rivers squared his shoulders and ran toward the left sideline for a few steps, turned at the waist to make his shoulders face upfield, as if looking to make a throw, then squared his shoulders to the left again, then lifted his head and looked upfield again, then back to the left, then back upfield — again and again, seemingly after every second step.

Right then, I had one simple epiphany: "He needs to do jazz hands."

It was one of those plays that seems totally normal until you watch a lot of football. To the disinterested person at the sports bar, to the wife stuck with this shit on, in the background, for yet another Sunday, it was just predictable. Rivers was going to get the first down. Other people weren't there; he ran. That was that. It was how he ran that looked ridiculous. Just as he appeared seriously focused on the sideline, his whole body twisted upfield and seemed uplifted, as if he were gleefully shouting, "HEL-LO!" If he was playing against anybody, it was the Jets — not the team from New Jersey but the gang from West Side Story. If you told me that he'd actually been snapping his fingers left and right in rhythm, I would have to believe you.