Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo: O, Minnesota!

Note: every week, news aggregators address hundreds of worthwhile stories or opinions that never catch on, either because they lack an obvious follow-up or because sites that live off ad revenue would rather bang high-traffic drums over and over. Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo provides a summary of good stuff you might have missed. He has a Bachelor's degree in political science, the rank of Field Marshal and was the last ruler of a free Uganda. He has not eaten anyone since 1980.

Land of 10,000 Corpses

Perhaps to invigorate old people on death's door with a sense of empowerment, nursing homes want to ensure that employees receive less care than residents. To this end, they've sought exemptions from obligations to provide care to workers, who are already so terribly compensated that one in three don't have any health insurance at all. The ironic occupation of uncared-for caregiver gibes neatly with an existing program pioneered by Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), in which congressional cafeteria busboys and servers were replaced by people who are starving to death and paid in useless 20-lb lead ingots they are too weak to lift.

Speaking of Minnesota: Republicans proposed cutting the rolls of MinnesotaCare, which provides poor and indigent state residents with health care. Instead of leaving them sick and dying like people with normal private health insurance, they thoughtfully gave them vouchers to purchase private health insurance, whereupon they could be denied care just like a successful person who's going to die of a treatable illness in his own home. A Democrat brought forth an amendment to test the effectiveness of this method of money-saving by also putting members of the state senate on that same voucher program. It was a failure, just like other attempts to replace public health care programs with private insurance vouchers.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo: Let's Get Sick

Note: every week, news aggregators address hundreds of worthwhile stories or opinions that never catch on, either because they lack an obvious follow-up or because sites that live off ad revenue would rather bang high-traffic drums over and over. Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo provides a summary of good stuff you might have missed. He has a Bachelor's degree in political science, the rank of Field Marshal and was the last ruler of a free Uganda. He has not eaten anyone since 1980.

Welcome to America; If You Drink the Water or Breathe the Air, You Will Die

• Fracking sounds awesome, like the thing you do with a lady, or when playing Call of Duty and you headshot some guy, or a thing you say when some bandit gets on your tail in a flight simulator game. It's also a lot more environmentally neutral than "hydraulically injecting rocket fuel into the ground," especially when the process results in people being able to set the water in their kitchen sinks on fire.

Undaunted by his inability to launch cap-and-trade and give our homies at Goldman Sachs another market of non-things to buy, sell and gamble on, Barack Obama is still determined to be your environmental president. Despite existing peer-reviewed studies on the process that deem it basically stupid and evil, Obama's appointed a panel to seriously study the issue. Thankfully, the panel's stacked with people either tied to energy companies or sitting on their boards, so this way everyone can skip the boilerplate about incinerating dirt-poor West Virginians to focus on the more detail-oriented stuff: how, like, totally safe it is, brah.

The Sierra Club asked Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA) to revise its cap and trade program, which corporations and the Environmental Defense Fund love — the same EDF which houses the environmental representative on President Obama's fracking approval research panel.

Enjoy for a moment a must-read tale of a Republican governor who stood up to energy companies, which held a deathgrip on the state's economy, by booting out corrupt elected officials and implementing a heavy tax on their profits. This tax subsequently turned the state into the most well-off in the country during the current economic depression. It carries a $12 billion surplus, $8 billion of which came from that governor's new taxes. The state is Alaska, and that Governor was Sarah Palin.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wailing Walls: Bela Lugosi's Dead, Part I

Note: After the death of Osama Bin Laden, 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. He last joined us for Slouching from Benghazi, Part III: The Libyan War Is Decadent and Depraved.

A Shadow of Ourselves

"Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue."
— Robespierre

The warm waters of the Persian Gulf deserve better than the pollution of Osama Bin Laden's leaking carcass. The return of that croaked wraith to the sea marks but the final sunnah in his jihad against the world — against the blue Satan. It is criminal that Bahrain's placid pearl oyster beds, or the verdant coral reefs of Marrawah, or even the rusting, awesome shells of supertankers sunk during the Iran-Iraq war, may someday house a shred of Osama's beard. An image shadows me, of a serene whale shark, peacefully gliding along the seabed, filter feeding upon krill and algae, ignorantly sucking up a Bin Laden testicle. The miasma of his putrefying body will infect fish eggs and psychologically warp bottlenose dolphin calves, twisting them into angry teenagers their parents will not recognize.

Osama Bin Laden, the Most Evil Man in History, is fish food, will never be seen again in any recognizable, corporeal form. The fear, the banality, the panic he provoked will remain behind, streaks of blood in the water charting his descent. Many village experts have obligingly explained to us that Bin Laden was a failure. This is true one minute and false the next. The Arab revolutionary movements of this year are a more bracing repudiation than two Navy SEAL stingers to the eye; they killed Bin Laden before we did.

But we must face it: Bin Laden tossed a pocketful of seeds and woke up in a rainforest. He wagged the dog. If anything, the failures of his nearest and dearest efforts, frightfully modest in comparison to the destruction of the American Empire, only serve to highlight the enormity of the scalps he pocketed. Historians will be hard-pressed to find an agitator who castrated an empire using less money and exerting less energy than Bin Laden. His jackal pack induced a full-court psychological meltdown with a disgusting ease. His coalition of Salafist mutants, rejected from polite company in every corner of the Middle East, conspiratorial failures of Arab capital who could've stepped out of a Conrad thriller and kept on bumbling — this was the drifting garbage mound that beggared a superpower.

Here is the cautionary tale the last decade has telegraphed to every person on the face of the earth with working eyes, ship-shape ears, and no cable: a reedy rich boy Tusken Raider with a voice like static can burn three thousand helpless human souls as if they were garbage, find comfort in the arms of America's South Asian allies, then spend six years in a leafy dacha growing tomatoes, dyeing his beard and napping.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Criterion Recollection: Silent Bob Strikes Out

Note: We, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo? are proud to present Criterion Recollection, an analysis of the popular Criterion Collection of historic and unique achievements in film. Your guide is Mark Brendle, a former media critic for BarnesandNoble.com and a short-fiction writer. Brendle lives in the Pacific Northwest in a small post-recycled yurt adjacent to America's largest family-owned retail video and book store, Art Trough. When not writing or staring purposefully at culture, Brendle works as a fair-trade coffee beanist. You can follow him on Twitter.

Pretentious Farts from a Stupid Dick: Spine #75, Chasing Amy (1997)

Watching the Criterion logo fade into this waste of celluloid brings a single, artificial tear to my eye, much like when Jason Lee's character Banky poignantly asks Ben Affleck's Holden MacNeil, "Girl?" Criterion introduced Chasing Amy into its collection early on, in the laserdisc days, and I see its inclusion in the same light as Armageddon and The Rock: a movie that exemplifies its genre, even if it lacks individual merit in spades.

It would be hard to count the number of times Kevin Smith has justified his filmmaking by explaining in his Comic Book Guy voice that he just makes "dick-and-fart joke movies" and that taking them seriously misses the point. If only this were true. The problem with Smith's filmmaking, evident in Chasing Amy, is that he actually does think his movies are more than dick and fart jokes; he makes a point of forcing his juvenile ideas of morality, social commentary and intelligent dialogue into his already jumbled and mismanaged work. That he also utilizes an excessive amount of dick-and-fart filler to offset the pretentious emptiness of his dialogue and plot proves only that he has the faintest glimmer of awareness that his movies suck and, as such, need sufficient cushion to repel critical barbs.

I won't dwell on the whys or hows of Clerks' success, but its unlikely acceptance into the usually hermetic world of filmmaking launched Smith's career and developed a cult following that has maintained its adamant support all the way down the steep trajectory of his oeuvre. After the abysmal failure of Mallrats, Chasing Amy almost did not get made at all. But low budgets and independent productions can be positive aspects of a film. One of Smith's stated influences, Richard Linklater's Slacker, proves that a movie does not require a big production to be good. It does, however, require some kind of unique insight and respectful self-awareness, the lack of which can only produce pretentiousness, something that seems as much an integral part of Smith's "Askewniverse" as hockey, skeeball and inside jokes.

Ostensibly, Chasing Amy tells the story of Ben Affleck's giant face, complete with goatee (or, as Smith angrily points out on the commentary track, a "van Dyke"), mugging the camera for a consistent two hours, under the laughably allusive name Holden MacNeil, while one of the women Smith somehow convinced to touch his penis, Joey Lauren Adams, rambles incoherently in her trebled screech about gays and lesbians, much to the chagrin of homosexuals everywhere. Adams' Alyssa is the comfortable sort of movie lesbian: she's blonde, good-looking, politically null and evidently just a little bit of pitched-woo away from not actually being a lesbian.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tuesdays with Marty: Monday NBA Edition

Note: Tuesdays with Marty is a recurring segment on Et tu, Mr. Destructo? highlighting the opinions of our publisher, Marty Peretz. Mr. Peretz wishes to make it absolutely clear that he is neither responsible nor liable for any content in this site, including but not limited to words, ideas, images, and things implied by said means of communication, in addition to other forms of communication not involving the above methods, whether established or theoretical in nature.

A Baller Without Title for a Title Without True Ballers

Again after a major confrontation, the basketball punditry luxuriates in condemning that wandering leader of an uncelebrated franchise, LeBron James. It is no secret that the tide of public opinion has turned against the former boy prince and uncrowned king, but, as with all scurrility and moral cowardice, critics bury the direst of their malignancy amongst the obvious. No one can doubt a visionary ballplayer, but it is because his cause and gameplay are beyond doubt that the whistles blown against him must be dog whistles and the penalties against him all phantom.

Last night, the Chicago Bulls served the Miami Heat a stunning 103-82 defeat, during which LeBron went a mere 5-for-15, scoring only 15 points total. Deng, of the Chicago security council, smothered his offense, committing no shortage of crimes against LeBron's legitimate right to post up or even own the court, all to the salacious satisfactions of those who believe it morally just that LeBron be denied his place in the sun.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo: Floridapocalypse

Note: every week, news aggregators address hundreds of worthwhile stories or opinions that never catch on, either because they lack an obvious follow-up or because sites that live off ad revenue would rather bang high-traffic drums over and over. Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo provides a summary of good stuff you might have missed. He has a Bachelor's degree in political science, the rank of Field Marshal and was the last ruler of a free Uganda. He has not eaten anyone since 1980.

Starve a Disabled and Illiterate Child for Just Pennies on the Dollar

Drug testing welfare recipients: coming soon to Florida! You've got to love public policy drafted to punish hoary dog-whistle campaign scare tactics. We need to drug test welfare recipients, because you wouldn't be on welfare if you weren't also on drugs. Good people don't go on welfare. Good people live in gated communities and buy a new Honda Odyssey every five years, because they practice the rhythm method and love Jesus Christ.

Here's one of the many problems with this: to administer the drug tests to everyone would cost more money than it could potentially save. Naturally it will come as no surprise if Florida Governor and Buffy the Vampire Slayer villain Rick Scott's wife's trust in er his former? company Solantic Urgent Care wins a lucrative contract to administer these tests, much like the one it will probably get for testing state employees and managing the privatization of state Medicaid. You don't have to be crazy to think this makes sense — in part because being crazy in Florida is incredibly hazardous to your health.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger Glitch

Since early morning yesterday, Blogger's suffered significant site problems, which has eliminated posts and post comments, caused account information to go missing and to change the names of post authors, often to random gibberish. It's made navigation difficult and shutdown reply functions.

In terms of Destructo-specific problems, it's claimed the life of a preview sending readers to a joint piece by Mark Brendle and me about Youtube's VEDA project, or, "Vlog Every Day in April." There's no need to rewrite the preview until it's obvious that the original piece can't be restored, so for the time being, please click here to go to "The Men and Women Without Quality" at SomethingAwful.com.

Lastly, the blogger glitch also claimed the life of both the graphics and the last 250 words or so of the second installment of "Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo." Again, until it's certain that Blogger is unable to restore the data, there's no point in rewriting and tweaking things. So stay tuned over the weekend for its remarkable Lazarus-esque recovery or a rewritten version where the last two links have really bitter and impatient-sounding summaries. Either way, you should have some good links to pick through on a lazy and (if you people are who I think you are) hungover Sunday.

Whoops, looks like the Something Awful preview article appeared again. This is like when people claim that the Mary Celeste loomed at them, from out of a fog, in the Bermuda Triangle. Only I assume that the article itself doesn't suffer nearly as much weevil-infested food, corporal punishment and sodomy.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

SomethingAwful: Youtube and Vlogging Every Day in April

Every year, thousands of Youtube users participate in VEDA, "Vlog Every Day in April." While its purpose might be to promote community ties, compel users to practice making Youtube content and, of course, drive up interest and pageloads on Youtube itself, it mostly turns into a horrible collision between vanity and inaptitude. Many of these people have nothing to communicate but, on top of that, lack the means to communicate anyway. The question is: why do they do it? Why expose themselves for so little?

Mr. Destructo book and film reviewer Mark Brendle attempted to answer this question, and eventually I tagged in to try my best to help understand these often accidentally funny, alarming and vulnerable people. It's at once a heartening and disheartening spectacle. People yearn to connect, dazzled by the possibility of finding accidental celebrity just for being themselves — educated by a television culture that runs on such a self-evident and free-form paradigm — but they lack the means to make a connection, as well as ideas alluring enough to establish one with others. Also, the videos are pretty funny.

Click here to read the article at Something Awful.

Special thanks to Andrew Miller for arranging the numerous embedded VEDA Youtubes, as well as Kak, JHVH-1 and BlastYouVileWoman for finding many videos and, lastly, Beowulf LaGrange and Chandelier Stuntin (aka Woodmuffin) for writing blurbs for the article.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bill Simmons and Grantland

In the last few days, ESPN began the soft launch of Grantland.com, a "sports and culture website created by Bill Simmons," their in-house blogger/everyman writer and Boston mega-fan for the last nine years. It has a lot of problems.

The basic appearance alone can look discouraging to someone who's never read ESPN or Simmons. The banner quote is tiny, something sure to be fixed but also something that only takes 20 minutes to tweak before a soft launch and constitutes your visual branding. To those familiar with Simmons, other problems leap to the fore, such as the very idea of his tackling a culture website of any kind.

Even fans of his would concede that a Bill Simmons Culture Museum could be housed in a newlyweds' guest room, with four walls tacked with Bobby Orr, Pedro Martinez, Tom Brady and Larry Bird jerseys, with a single chair facing a TV/DVD cabinet stocked with copies of The Shawshank Redemption, The Karate Kid, sports movies, John Hughes movies, Pacino/De Niro movies and a complete set of Miami Vice and The White Shadow episodes. Die-hard fans can probably name only five non-sports books he's ever read (and three of them are by Malcolm Gladwell). On the TV front, Simmons spent a few years proudly reminding people of his refusal to watch shows like House, The Wire or Arrested Development.

Creating a culture site when you essentially have no interest in an entire medium and celebrate your willful blindness to acclaimed work from other media means it can only operate if the intent is actually to be bad at it. In one sense, Jack Kevorkian is an incredibly flawed doctor, but if you approach him from a different frame of reference, he's a specialist with an incomparable track record. Similarly, Simmons so regularly mauls subtlety and complexity with ham-fisted prose and wads multi-faceted concepts into gut-level inanity that maybe his purpose here really is to reduce culture to a kind of gray-lighted broadcast accompanied by a undifferentiated white-noise frat obscenity — like a rocky seashore whose breaking surf gives off the soothing noise of a constant fart.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo

Note: every week, news aggregators address hundreds of worthwhile stories or opinions that never catch on, either because they lack an obvious follow-up or because sites that live off ad revenue would rather bang high-traffic drums over and over. Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo provides a summary of good stuff you might have missed. He has a Bachelor's degree in political science, the rank of Field Marshal and was the last ruler of a free Uganda. He has not eaten anyone since 1980.

Cut-Pains Courageous; Rep. by Divine Right; and 'How, Redman — Put Down That Firewater'

The Guardian wonders why the Republicans' budget, from gee-whiz kid Paul Ryan, which balances the budget over a very long period of time via radically slashing social services, is called "courageous" in the American media, while the Congressional Progressive Caucus's budget, which balances the budget much faster and in a fair manner, is all but ignored.

Courageous is an old refrain, and it's the wrong one. Ryan's budget plan has been touted for over a year, with stuff like "analysis of it" only reluctantly dragged into mainstream discussion in the last month. The New Republic's Jonathan Chait even went so far as to bite his magazine's GOP overlords by noting that Ryan used to justify the exact same tax cuts to avoid a budget surplus. Regardless, there's nothing courageous about rephrasing Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign platform. Celebrating tax cuts in America is a gesture of the moral castrati. A really ballsy gesture involves vowing to keep one's promises even to American citizens who lack deep campaign paychecks and vowing to do so by putting the soft screws to someone in a bespoke suit and Sulka tie.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Black Caucus has released an almost completely ignored budget proposal that's so good you should fucking cry, because nothing close to it will ever be enacted. By the reasoning of Beltway "common sense," it's probably because black people are cowards.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Get Ready for the 'Maritimers'

From the New York Times (emphases mine):
Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the most devastating attack on American soil in modern times and the most hunted man in the world, was killed in a firefight with United States forces in Pakistan on Sunday, President Obama announced.

A crowd gathered to celebrate outside the White House Sunday night as news of Osama bin Laden's death spread.

In a dramatic late-night appearance in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Obama declared that “justice has been done” as he disclosed that American military and C.I.A. operatives had finally cornered Bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader who had eluded them for nearly a decade. American officials said Bin Laden resisted and was shot in the head. He was later buried at sea.
You can write this script in your head. Our non-American president fabricated the non-murder of the greatest enemy of all Americans to distract from "real" truths about his birth certificate. Barack Obama fake-killed Osama bin Laden to keep us from noticing how much of a Muslim or a fake American he was all along.

I know! It almost makes no sense, but that's what makes conspiracies true. You keep adding multiple implausible conditions because you can't help it. A true thing is what happens when you say white is black. But a dire conspiracy is when you say that you're not a Kenyan Muslim because you went to college in New York and you killed a guy near Islamabad, but you ditched his corpse in the Indian Ocean, and you're totally home free. Connect the dots.

Or not. Get ready for the "Maritimers." They'll know the truth about bin Laden's body. They'll read it off blogs and everything.

EDIT: from The Guardian:
Burial at sea is rare in Islam, though several Muslim websites say it is permitted in certain circumstances.

One is on a long voyage where the body may decay before the ship reaches land. [Ed. Like a journey to America.] The other is if there is a risk of enemies digging up a land grave and exhuming or mutilating the body – a rule that could plausibly be applied in Bin Laden's case.

Twitter Ephemera: Bin Laden's Dead—A Whole GWOT'a Love

The head of a virally propagating organization is dead, doubtless already replaced by a lieutenant trained to do just that. The organization itself has for years been superannuated and supplanted by more vigorous, less known and less hunted organizations. And for all the adulation about killing a voice and a grainy image nearly 10 years out from their last crime and 17 out from their first, it cannot undo the fact that their Mission Accomplished moment took only a day, in what seems like another lifetime.

The object of terror is to use an enemy's fear to leverage himself into positions into which you cannot put him by direct force. With two-score men, borrowed planes and some lessons down in Florida, a millionaire recluse clown with bizarre hairstyling convictions tantalized and lured a nation of 300 million people into breaking its back economically and militarily on a nation that hasn't been conquered — at anything other than its own pleasure — since the days of Alexander. The economic woes and military overextensions engendered by our lust for vengeance remain. So, too, do the main tools of recruitment for Islamic terrorists, according to a study by the Bush/Rumsfeld Pentagon: American troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as our uncritical support for the state of Israel.

Bin Laden is dead. Long live Bin Laden.

To anyone paying attention to the Middle East over the last decade, this conclusion was inescapable even in the full rush of excitement in the moments after bin Laden's death. And if that's the case, all ensuing parties are an absurdity — like high-fiving someone for acing a years-out-of-date Bar Exam practice test for a state he doesn't live in. At that point, all you can do is make a joke: the rush of emotions are weightless, suspended by nothing. You look up and wonder how the coyote can keep walking across an empty chasm, between two cliffs, separated by ten years, and you realize that it's only because he isn't even curious enough to look down.

But it's hard enough to express simpler ideas than this on Twitter, so the jokes below had to suffice. Clicking the timestamps will direct you to the original tweet and its place in the timeline.