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.

Friday, May 3, 2013

TNR: A Gay Athlete In The World's Most Macho Sport

When I wrote my final "America's Screaming Conscience" column for Gawker, I remember sitting at the keyboard, panicked about how much my world would be upended by simply changing my name. I knew some readers would instantly hate me, while others would resent having assumptions about me so radically altered.

In a frankly very lucky, if not privileged, sense, it was like "coming out" on an extreme micro level. That term just became the shorthand metonym in work emails about what I was writing—"the coming-out piece," "your coming-out piece," etc.—and I wound up using it myself. All the same, it still made me itch. This was all voluntary. Nothing I'd done was hardwired or determined by any biological imperative. I chose to admit to choosing to doing stupid things, and my five years of obfuscating my identity inhibited a little behavior online and virtually none in real life.

Part of my circumspection came from, just months earlier, standing in a locker room with a short man who'd just told the world he was gay before agreeing to a physical confrontation where someone could legitimately beat him, if not do death, then at least to crippling brain damage. No amount of my social or career discomfort—especially from the ether—could compare to his not only living some place where people like him were still beaten to death by other citizens but also going to work at a job where his very selfness could be motivation for someone to legally cripple him. I felt instantly both in awe of and impotently protective of that man. His name is Orlando Cruz, and last October he became the first active, out, male boxer.

I thought about Cruz this week when reading Jason Collins' moving coming out piece in Sports Illustrated, and I thought other people might enjoy reading about him. I was lucky to be asked by The New Republic to go cover Cruz's first fight after he came out, and unfortunately I wasn't able to share it with readers at the time because I had not.

Click the pic above to go to the New Republic article.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Criterion Recollection: Erosion, Explosion, Implosion

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 noted chair connoisseur and fiction author. 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.

Uncanny Eye Candy: Spine #640, Koyaanisqatsi (1983)


Last winter, Criterion released another of my favorite (set of) movies, the "Qatsi Trilogy" by the genius ex-monk Godfrey Reggio. Koyaanisqatsi, the first and best known of the trilogy, still makes its way through pop culture, both by direct reference in homages and parodies and by the innumerable pillaging of its technique by advertisers and filmmakers.

Despite its ubiquity, Koyaanisqatsi is often remembered and noted for its engrossing visuals, camera trickery and the outstanding score by contemporary composer Philip Glass. But the soul of Koyaanisqatsi, and the trilogy as a whole, lies in the message of the film, sometimes subtle, sometimes over-the-top, but always the same: industrial civilization and our obsession with technology and "progress" are destroying the world and us along with it.

The method by which Reggio as well as Glass and cinematographer Ron Fricke (both equal collaborators) unfold this picture of a world turned upside down by rampant acceleration of technocratic hegemony startles audiences even today. Koyaanisqatsi takes footage of everyday scenes and transforms them into amazing spectacles of beauty and horror. This transformation opens up a perspective of modern (1980s) life and pulls back the casual veneer of the quotidian, exposing the violence and sadness underlying the routine dehumanization that structures contemporary society.

The efficacy of these images comes from Reggio's avoidance of language in his narrative. The name Koyaanisqatsi was added only after the film was complete, as releasing an untitled film seemed untenable. He chose the word for two reasons: one, because it was completely unknown (an irony of the film's success, of course, is that the word is now well known and serves as a shortcut to confronting the languageless object it represents, precisely what Reggio wanted to prevent). Two, the word comes from a dying language, Hopi, a language representing the worldview of a traditional society, one apart from and destroyed by the world Reggio criticizes.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Destructo Salon: Does Matthew Yglesias Enjoy Murder?

Matthew Yglesias—a Norelco marketing experiment to see if a hand-drawn Sharpie beard on a peeled potato could sell men's earrings—wrote a morally and intellectually odious article at his second job yesterday. His Slate column, "Different Places Have Different Safety Rules and That's OK," addressed the deaths of 161 workers in a factory collapse in Bangladesh with the tone they so richly deserved: bored.

Writing off the death of 161 people with 370 words of vacuous unconcern requires the machine-like efficiency we've come to expect from places where pre-teens assemble Air Jordans. Yglesias' thesis, what little exists, is that the Bangladeshis are a people squalid enough that death is an acceptable randomly applied career path, and that dead Bangladeshis are what keep flat-front chinos at $29.99 at the outlet store. Our pants are cheap because their lives are, and cheaper things are innately good. Just think how much Upton Sinclair saved on hamburger as a young man. What an ingrate.

At best, one could chalk Yglesias' attitude up to the neoliberal worship of free trade, but ascribing any ideology to Yglesias is like trying to pin a Bad Citizenship medal on fog. He differs sharply from his Slate colleague Dave Weigel, who takes pains to acknowledge his affiliation with Koch-owned Reason. While Weigel seems like an affable guy who delights in mocking the ridiculous—and, with the GOP the party that forgot math, science and history, he finds common cause with the left—it's clear that liberals probably would not enjoy handing the budget over to him. This is how honest compromises are struck.

Yglesias offers nothing so concrete. He is a process acolyte, who never strays far from the orbit of Beltway centrist think-speak. His ideological bona fides extend to thinking that slightly-left people saying things identical to everyone else are slightly better than everyone else—all of whom are essentially right anyway, because why else would people agree? Ideas are less important than the formalism of tautologically explaining them, reiterating them, then deforming reality to accommodate them. His job is not to challenge them but hammer out a 500-word explainer detailing how wrong you are, while reassuring you that we're on the right track. Matthew Yglesias' voice is the same soothing one you use on your dog while the vet is euthanizing him.

That should bother you. Today, we hope to explain why in another "Destructo Salon." Please read on.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Busta Poesy: Amanda Palmer's Unpublished Paeans to What's on TV

In a week that saw major global earthquakes, a bombing at a marathon, a city shut down, a series of deadly shootouts, the defeat of even a toothless piece of gun-control legislation, the Internet and the New York Post proudly labeling several innocent people as terrorists, hate crimes against Muslims, and a massive and deadly explosion in Texas—well, after a week like that, it takes some serious stones to make it about you. Amanda Palmer doesn't have a modesty problem.

You might have heard of Amanda Palmer. A punk rocker turned folk singer, she embraced the leveling social-justice agitation of both genres, married it to Kickstarter's DIY funding, asked for $100,000 from fans to make an album and wound up being given $1.2 million. Then she used most of the money on frivolous shit and paying off personal debts, while expecting local musicians to play on her tour for free, and fans to feel rewarded by the same "HERE IS A GIFT CERTIFICATE FOR ONE (1) HUG" lazy compensation she was doling out for a donation total smaller by a factor of 11.

Palmer clearly exhibited significant difficulty in picking up context clues from even her own personal history in music. Thankfully, her degree of obtuseness extends beyond shitkicker balladeering and fan plunder. After bearing witness to the horrors in Boston, Palmer published "A Poem for Dzhokhar," addressed to the alleged Boston bomber who was captured in a boat after a frightening daylong manhunt. Her poem—35 aired-out lines of lowercase e.e. crummy—does an excellent job of cataloging the ennui of privileged insipidity. Which is to say, it sings a song of Amanda Palmer to Amanda Palmer that, one supposes, Dzhokhar might eventually overhear by accident. It is glurge clickbait, the kind of thing that appears in your inbox only after being forwarded by that one grandmother who had parts of her brain suffocate for a little while.

Naturally, we here at Et tu, Mr. Destructo? were flabbergasted. More importantly, all of us received extensive CIA training in remote viewing. Using only the power of extra-sensory perception, we were able to individually "hack" Amanda Palmer's brain, gaining access to as-yet unwritten poems dedicated to other tragic events in the national news cycle. We have presented these unpublished poems below. However, as remote viewing is sometimes inexact, we have added our names to each poem to account for how different viewers interpreted the raw Palmer data. Thank you for your indulgence.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cordial Greetings to 45 Pocket Toys of Death Merchants

Yesterday, the US Senate killed even a candyass, quintessentially senatorial approach to gun control. You could have cocked a single eye at the television with lid at half mast while falling into a K-hole and still had enough situational awareness to be furious at the lobbyist capture of our most venerated, sclerotic chamber full of war profiteering racists, foot-draggers and bozos. This was, after all, nothing new.

Yesterday's vote—against a treacly version of measures supported by 90% of the American people and even a majority of gun owners—had the virtue of malicious consistency. The essence of its unconcern was obvious to all because it came as a fulfillment of fate. In the face of real, existential problems, the United States Senate can be relied upon to sublimely split the difference between the cruelest act and the least difficult. In Washington, the blood rolls downhill.

Yet just because something is obvious or foreordained does not spare it from outrage. Given how far away it's possible to see stupidity coming only makes it that much worse when it inevitably arrives. As such, it's probably not terribly surprising to see people tackily lusting for violence. Especially when a walking anti-Habsburgian chin deformity like Mitch McConnell uses his Facebook page to do the public policy equivalent of "u mad, bro?" trolling about the tryhard epic "care" of people who have negative attitudes toward human flesh being torn apart ballistically.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Point-Counterpoint: Is Satire Even A Thing?

Last Monday, New Inquiry blogger Aaron Bady audited the word satire and made it clear. He wrote, "If something is not taken to be satire, it fails as satire. [It's] an effect, and everything depends on how the joke is received, what the author intended, what the circumstances were in which it was made, and so on."

It's an interesting definition, both for the way it's made and the assumptions on which it relies. He establishes criteria for the existence of satire based on its audience, citing people who mistake The Onion and The Daily Currant for real news as evidence for the genre's fragility, tying satire's ontology to whether it achieves food for thought for the permanently slackjawed. Leaving aside the fact that a satire's being mistaken for reality is often a satirist's dream, basing the existence of something on the perception of idiots is a powerful argument. Spend enough time hustling Gap jeans for the braindead in a deadpan tone and you could disprove the existence of sarcasm. Choose the right textbook, and there is no Enlightenment.

Needless to say, we were greatly exercised by Mr. Bady's essay. One of our contributors (Hitler) noted the date of Bady's essay's publication (April 1) and quipped that it says a lot about your criticism website when your jeremiad only works as satire—when one could only add argumentative heft to it by looking at the dateline and crying, "April fools!"

Even talking amongst ourselves, however, we noticed that our opinions on satire and Bady's argument were not in harmony. With that in mind, we chose to offer our first open-ended philosophical discussion. In so doing, we decided to examine the nature of satire via the old inquiry. We here at Et tu, Mr. Destructo? have always been partial to the old inquiry, wherein one asks questions or challenges the opinions of another in the hope of reaching consensus or synthesis. In the main, it is both arcane and bourgeois, but it is also a timesaver compared to newer inquiries, like asking a room full of people what something is, then asking them if the photographer has arrived yet. Then tweeting.

Come, join us for a free-ranging examination of the ideas that shape our media and ourselves, especially those of us in media. Welcome to our first ever "Destructo Salon."

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Sweet Smell of Failure: Dinesh D'Souza, Colonial Apologist and Right-Wing Loser

Note: Today, we, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo? turn for insight to our Managing Editor 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. He last joined us for a look at Big Mark Brendle's Radio Fragments.

Dinesh D'Souza: Portrait Of The Failure As A Done Man

In the pantheon of hard-right holy rollers who have spectacularly strayed on the road to New Jerusalem, Dinesh D'Souza—the Indian Mr. Bean—is a pitifully dull case. But Jesus wept all the same, anguished as he was by Dinesh D'Souza's wayward penis.

The lodestar of suck, the one that propelled this greased weasel to fame on the right-wing rodeo circuit, shines even on his tepid excuse of a sex scandal: he showed up at some Bible-thumping conference with an extramarital companion—the also-married Denise Odie Joseph—introducing her as his fiancee, before retiring to a shared Comfort Suite. This induced a collective case of "the vapors" among the Board of Trustees at King's College, the barely accredited evangelical diploma mill where D'Souza served as president. A marathon Board meeting, and it was all over: D'Souza was fired, stripped of his six-figure salary (he only took a vow of intellectual poverty), and booted back into the GOP scullery from whence he came.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Letters to Vogue: 'Come, Come, Nuclear Bombs'

In these times of economic peril—will the Dow crack 14,000 again? Where can I sell my plasma for cash? Can I volunteer for jury duty?—we, the creatives at Et tu, Mr. Destructo?, draw what succor we can from the only financial forecast any human heart needs: the word of the Prince of Peace himself, Jesus Christ. As the First Epistle of Peter tells us, "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble."

Wise words from a former fisherman, but you don't have to have such a broke-ass job to be a paragon of humility. If you're a humble person, flaunt it—say so, loudly and proudly. Telegraph your abiding modesty until your tasteful understatement cannot be ignored. And if you happen to be a scribbler at a glossy fashion magazine like Vogue, set aside your monkish ways just long enough for your multimillion dollar Brooklyn brownstone to be captured in a multipage spread for the February issue.

Thank God that landscape designer and Vogue Contributing Editor Miranda Brooks, as well as her Gallic concubine, the architect Bastien Halard, took my advice, selflessly opening their "four-story Neo-Grec Boerum Hill brownstone" to just such a laudatory write-up and photo shoot, penned by Murphy Brown's very posh daughter. And while the reactions are still pouring in, this whirlwind jaunt through a mansion stuffed to the rafters with Moroccan rugs, ponies and wonderful people has seemed to provoke one common reaction: readers want to smash all the windows out with bricks, throw dynamite in the furnace, and guillotine Miranda and Bastien in Prospect Park.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The General's Fiction: A Military Internment of Literature — No. 2

Note: Today, 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. He last joined us to explain how Christopher Hitchens should burn in hell, how we can help Andrew Breitbart get there and how killing Bin Laden was the last spasm in the American fever dream.

Pavane For A Dead Country: Mark Brendle's Radio Fragments

You probably know the holiday blues, if not personally, then at least by reputation. And you probably know them more acutely when the celebrations end, when there's no one left to lie to—winter without the trappings. Wallace Stevens wrote, "The world about us would be desolate except for the world within us," and in the twilight of an economically corroded and spiritually bereft America, it is more vital than ever that artists shine a light. Mark Brendle, an Oregon-based writer and colleague here at Et Tu, Mr. Destructo, has published a new book of poetry, Radio Fragments.

Radio Fragments consists of a few dozen prose poems beneath a lovely illustrated cover, depicting a cordon of riot cops forming a human abatis, as a ribbon of radio waves bends and curls between them. How is Radio Fragments? It is superb, because as an author, Brendle gets the stakes. This poetry is neither for the aloof liberal who sets great store in a few clean tweaks, nor the reactionary clinging to his long-dead liturgy. Radio Fragments is sad, strong, crystalline, beautiful, like the thick ice atop a dark lake. This is poetry for people who, in Andrea Dworkin's words, "Don't find compromise unacceptable—[they] find it incomprehensible."

The book's strength comes from its unity of vision—a dire one. In one of the book's final poems, "An Elegy For Cinna The Poet," the speaker plainly doubts the ability of any creative work to puncture the violence and anomie that has come to dominate our lives: "What are words to the angry mob, or anyone else for that matter? The patricians have been fighting with each other over their toys again." The poet is ignored, Caesar gets whacked by his equally loathsome usurpers, and "atomized, dissonant voices howl in the marketplace." As Brendle writes in another poem, "The equivalence of words brands us with proper nouns like Charlemagne, Babylon, Gilgamesh, Constantinople, Prospero." Let any dissidents bay; they've always been ignored in time for the next collapse. What change could a poet possibly effect?