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Commentary Funny and/or Strange

Rick Santorum Explores New Presidential Run

In honor of Rick Santorum’s potential run (yet again) for the White House, I offer my very favorite cut and paste tribute to the spasmodically homophobic zealot.  If this isn’t the best headline, maybe ever….

Seminal Santorum

Rick Santorum. If you know me, or read this blog often, you know I’m not a fan, and I haven’t been since well before he slithered onto the national stage after his vicious and duplicitous campaign against Harris Wofford for a senate seat twenty years ago.  It was an ugly, negative campaign–beyond negative, it was brutal and desperately misleading, and it paid off.  The upright, distinguished Wofford, whose achievements dated back to the Kennedy administration and included the establishment of the Peace Corps, refused to play tit for tat, sticking to his vow to campaign on the issues and refusing to shrink to the level of Santorum’s shrill and angry personal attacks.  When Santorum ultimately won, his campaign staff scheduled a celebration the day after the election–in the lobby of the office building where Wofford’s campaign headquarters was located, forcing the Wofford’s staff to walk through catcalls and taunts in order to go home that afternoon.  It was outrageous, and it’s not anecdotal–I was there in the Federated Tower in downtown Pittsburgh that November afternoon in 1994.  I’ve despised the guy–not only for his politics, but for his angry, hysterical persona.  When he compared homosexuality to bestiality I wasn’t surprised, nor was I surprised when a reporter discovered that after his election Santorum moved his entire family to suburban Virginia, hiding the fact from the school district where he’d lived in Pennsylvania so they would keep paying cyber school tuition for his children.  Yep, this was the same Santorum who worked himself up to a lather denigrating single mothers who received benefits, and who desperately wanted to cut off social security benefits to folks under the age of 70, conning the system.  Nobody familiar with him was surprised.

I was thrilled to learn he’d be running again–he’s unelectable, of course, and his backers support him primarily as a tool through which the debates for the republican primary may be swayed to the right–because he’s a car crash waiting to happen every time he steps in front of a microphone, a stereotype of of thew swarmy, insincere politician conning his core constituency (white, racist, homophobic, teabagger christians) by playing to their fears and hatreds. If you’ve ever seen the brilliant political satire “Bob Roberts,” you’ll recognize a lot of Santorum as a living, breathing example of the disingenuous, cynical, power-mad con-man/politician whose willingness to crawl in the darkest, dankest mud and slime and shit in order to grab a taste of power.

More later.  (I have to go spend the day shopping for prom gowns.  Really.)

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Rod McKuen, RIP to the King of Troubadours

150129-rod-mckuen-poet-725p_796b820602c383d4fc91346b42951db1.nbcnews-ux-520-400Does the name Rod McKuen mean anything to you?  It should, if you’re in your mid forties or older and had a mother or grandmother (or were one yourself) with a pulse in the mid 1960’s to late 1970’s.  At that time, a modestly talented San Francisco-based self-styled troubadour played on his ruffled good looks, sandy hair, and unique, scratchy voice to cultivate a beach bum schtick that made the guy millions.  He sold books of cheap, heart-wrenchingly saccharine verse to armies of misty-eyed young women, and toured the a0407909312_10country to sold out shows in large theaters. In short, he was a cultural enigma–an American poet who enjoyed wild popularity and remarkable commercial success who also happened to be a throwback folk/pop singer.  He would later go on to compose, arrange, and conduct classical music.

There was nothing groundbreaking about McKuen’s folk music or poetry–he was more a performer than an visionary, and it is certainly easy to mock his songs as simple and derivative, and his verse as simplistic and more worthy of greeting cards than anthologies–and yet, he wasn’t a “pop” artist in the truest sense of the word.  He didn’t so much tap into the trends of the time as he mined the zeitgeist of the world around him, infusing his performances with soft-focus romanticism and and outwardly heavy-handed humor which, on closer inspection, was a lot more sly than it appeared at first glance.

The three women who live with me derive great pleasure from roasting me over my frustratingly emotional, sentimental, and romantic nature–despite all the efforts of my inner misanthrope to dominate the sniveling dweeb who cries at movies and can’t manage to lie about anything important while maintaining eye contact.  It is a failure I blame urlon my mother, who played Rod McKuen records around the house and had several dozen of his books strewn about here and there, as well as Rod McKuen himself.  If he hadn’t been a sap its quite likely that I wouldn’t be, either.  I mean: look.

And now he’s dead, and it’s a little depressing.  I’ve never returned to those books or songs from my childhood, but when I see them in thrift stores and estate sales, which is almost always given the volume of his retail success and the burgeoning mortality of his fanbase, I smile a little.  To myself.  Indeed, I just read an article that classified him as “a beat poet alongside Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac,” and nearly spit out my whiskey.  It’s difficult to imagine McKuen’s kitsch held up alongside Ginsberg’s Howl, for example.  Kerouac, a more sensitive soul who, like McKuen, suffered from bouts of depression, isn’t so much of a stretch–not if you’ve read some of his verse.

And there’s the fact that Orson Scott Card, that motherfletcher disprected McKuen mightily, which is as good a reference as any.

Or that Frank Sinatra covered his music.  And Neil Diamond.

So, I admit it, knowing full well that my mom is never going to know that I said this after all the crap I gave her over the years: I still think McKuen was a lousy poety, but that doesn’t matter.  I liked the guy, and I’m forced to wonder if I’d love poetry today with the passion and intensity that I do if all that lousy poetry hadn’t been laying around the house when I was a kid.  So thanks, mom.  And to you to, Rod.

If you want to read a great essay about McKuen, check out Claire Dederer’s “Rod McKuen Appears In The Desert.”

 

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Funny and/or Strange Photo I Like sheer awesomeness

The Boston Yeti.

There are things I don’t like about Boston.  Like the Patriots and…well, just the Patriots, really.  The Boston Yeti pretty much remedies the city–just goes to show you there’s no limit to what one man, or one Yeti, can accomplish.

It is things like this that undermine my goal of absolute misanthropy.  I’m dangerously close to feeling that, at this particular moment, I think people are pretty great sometimes.  I’m not saying that, but I’m dangerously close.  Perilously, even.
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And of course the Yeti has a Twitter account.

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Monday Meme: Right To Bear Arms

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It’s Gandalf Weekend Part 3

It is STILL Gandalf weekend.  Don’t you forget it, pal.

Part 1                                  Part 2                                Part 2

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Photo I Like

It’s Gandalf Weekend: Part 2

This is Part of of Gandalf Weekend, which began here>

Balrog?  Schmalrog!  Who’s afraid of an ancient evil?
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It’s Gandalf Weekend Part 1b.

The first post was supposed to have two pictures on it. It did not. Opps. Luckily, such things are easily fixed. We didn’t even need Eagles to bail us out on this one. For a change.

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It’s Gandalf Weekend: Part 1

It’s the middle of the freaking winter. I’m finishing my novel, among a million other things, so why not?  I need posts, man.  I need ’em bad.

When I was a kid I would have thought long and hard about admitting to someone that I loved Tolkien books–Dragons and Wizards and Elves and whatnot weren’t  the sort of thing I brought up in the locker room after football practice, you know.  But now they’ve got movies that made billions and action figures and internet memes and stuff so…um…oh, yeah: Suck it, it’s Gandalf Week.

He’s like your grandfather, if your grandfather was a demi-god with a magic staff and crazy powers and a really, really wild hat. He’s contemplative, but he’s a man of action.  He took the King’s favorite horse and there was nothing the King could do about it. You know you love this guy, and you’ll miss him now that he’s gone.

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Commentary

Feeling Political Today?

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“Don’t Go There, Guvna’!” Bobby Jindal & Mythical Euro-Sharia

I missed the whole “No-Go Zone” brouhaha of Fox News and Bobby Jindal in real time, having more important things to do like chase my wife around the house, russell-brand-indian-katy-perry-birthdaywhooping like a b-movie indian and accompany her on a quick lark of a trip down to Pittsburgh, an hour to the south, and back, for gourmet popcorn (I’m not kidding–add “standing in line for 25 minutes to pay $22 on popcorn” to the list of First World Problems), a bunch of Trader Joe deliciousness, and the best freaking shawarma and kibbeh EVER at Basha21 on Murray Ave.  I moaned like a sexed up reverend while I ate food cooked up by the owners, right in front of us, and vowed to give ’em a plug.  (This is it. This is the plug: eat some.  Fly into the city if you must, or take the train–just have some.

Anyway, I can’t leave the internet alone for more than an hour and it gets itself in trouble, this time by some asshat on Fox News, an “expert” who raised a great stink in assuring that there were large swaths of France and England which are essentially “No Go Zones” for anyone who isn’t Muslim, places where even local government and law enforcement fear to go, where Sharia law is imposed.  If that sounds like a April Fools story, you’re not alone. It turns out it was exactly that, and Fox News reluctantly walked back the story and apologized.

what? me worry?
what? me worry?

Not so Louisiana governor and republican presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal, a once-rising star in the GOP who, despite the earliness in the race, is already struggling for relevance in a post-Obama election where only one thing is certain: there ain’t no way right wing America is going to put another brown-skinned guy in charge, even if he was the second coming of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy himself.  I’ve got a better chance to be President than he does so, naturally, when confronted by journalists the dude doubles down.  Fox retracted, but not him.  It’s beautiful.

I posted this link on my personal facebook page. And couldn’t resist a little jibe:

I said, “For all you head-in-the-sand dirty rotten truth-deniers laughing at Fox News and Bobby Jindal this morning: “No-Go Zones” are absolute truth. We even have them in my small Appalachian university town. Of course, ours are enforced by Presbyterians, but…. #‎comedyisntthisfunny‬

I immediately got this response from a conservative friend: A Pilipino women (sic) from my church will no longer travel back to the Philippines to visit her family because of the large Muslim population and the threat Catholics feel from radical Muslims. There may be no such thing as no go zones but there are areas around the world where the radical Muslim population is high and Christians will not go unless they want to risk death.

No good joke goes unpunished, it seems, so I was compelled to a retort about which I ended up feeling proud:

Plenty of dark corners in the third world–including some in Louisiana. But Jindal wasn’t talking about Nigeria or the The Philippines, The idea that people hate and fight over religious constructs is hands down the most absurd element of humanity–and the reality that cynical politicians like Jindal all over the world, regardless of creed, employ fear and hatred as tools to galvanize support is the most disgraceful. One might even call it sinful. Yet that’s what this is all about: all this Caliphate and Sharia nonsense has been stirred up by leaders over there, in an effort to maintain and expand their influence, and we in the west respond with bluster and bombs, playing right into their hands. The people doing the actual fighting on both sides believe they’re being noble, but they’ve been sold a rotten bill of goods. It’s telling when someone like Jindal, caught in his misstatement, refuses to admit it when even Fox has issued a retraction, but that too is a political strategem: tell a lie long and loud enough and it becomes like the truth.

There’s little left for the rest of us to do but laugh. Like Elvis (not that Elvis, the other one) said, “I used to be disgusted, now I just try to be amused”