Monthly Archives: July 2003

GONE PHISHIN’: Blogging will be

GONE PHISHIN’: Blogging will be unusually light through Monday because I’m leaving soon to head up to Maine for IT, the two-day music festival being put on by the band “IT.” I may bring my laptop and attempt some WiFi blogging, but that’s iffy.
It’s funny, that I keep going to these Phish shows. I like their music, but I wouldn’t put them among my 40 favorite bands. I’m far from a countercultural character of any kind; I don’t have a beard, I practice a decidely non-leftist politics, own not a single tie-dyed T-shirt, don’t secretly wish I’d grown up the ’60s, and don’t really like to do drugs. I’m 25, which will likely put me in the oldest 10% of the crowd at IT; I’m also gainfully employed, and have never quit high school, college, or a job in order to follow Phish on tour.
So what brings this unlikely member into the Phish cult? I think it’s that Phish shows are a true community experience, the sort of thing that bonds people together in the way few other current cultural phenomena are able- and I’m heading up there with three close friends, all of whom I’ve seen Phish with before. The previous Phish festival I went to, at Big Cypress in Florida in 1999, took place just a few months after the Woodstock ’99 debacle, and was marred by none of the violence or rioting of its predecessor. Not to mention, Phish plays the sort of mellow music that’s condusive to 70,000 people, together in a field, just chilling out.
This weekend may very well be my last-ever Phish show- I’m getting a little old for it, and besides, I find it sort of hard to justify that I’ve seen Phish five times in my life and Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan only once each. But I’m very much looking forward to a hell of a good time up in Maine with the rest of Phish Nation. If anyone reading this is planning on heading up, shoot me an e-mail; plans are already in the works for a mini-Blogger Bash.


SCARBOROUGH FAIR (AND BALANCED?): I’ve been watching a lot of MSNBC lately, due mostly to “Hardball” (where a presumably drunk Chris Matthews last week asked a guest if the WMD evidence was “bullshit”), and my new favorite cable news show, “Countdown With Keith Olbermann.” Funny, irreverent, and refreshingly non-ideological, “Countdown” is clearly the best utilization of KO’s talent since he left SportsCenter 6 years ago. Keith even beats the blogosphere to offbeat stories at least a few times a week.
After that one-two punch I often find myself catching the late-night replay of “Scarborough Country,” the unabashedly conservative show hosted by former Florida congressman Joe Scarborough. In it’s first few months the show was a note-for-note carbon copy of “The O’Reilly Factor,” right down to the opening monologue, closing mail segment, and literally all of the host’s mannerisms. But more recently “Scarborough Country” has carved out a new niche- virtually non-stop Hollywood-bashing, taken to a logical extreme when Joe took the show out to LA for a week earlier this month to interview many of his “enemies” face to face.
Hollywood-bashing has always been a popular, crowd-pleasing conservative cause. Even beyond its pandering to the family-values crowd, it allows righties to play the “liberal elite” card, and pursue the fiction that an evil cabal of elites in “Manhattan and Malibu” is actively seeking to subvert “the rest of America.” References to nefarious “cocktail parties,” by the way, are always- always– included in such rants.
Right-wing anti-Hollywood arguments fall into several general categories: Hollywood has a shocking, shameless “liberal bias” that’s “out of touch” with the rest of America. Hollywood liberals are idiots who should “just shut up,” because “no one cares what they have to say.” And their movies suck anyway- especially Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Janeane Garofolo, etc.
To that I’ll answer the charges question by question. And no, I’m not a Hollywood person, nor a lefty by any stretch of the imagination. But I know idiocy when I see it…
Does Hollywood have a liberal bias?
Of course it does. But unlike, say, the news media, the motion picture industry is under no professional obligation to be “objective” or “apolitical.” A majority of Hollywood is liberal because creative types tend to be left-leaning- accusing Hollywood of having a shameless liberal bias would be like accusing Wall Street of having a shameless conservative bias.
Are Hollywood stars “out of touch” with “normal Americans”?
Sure they are- but not just when it comes to politics. Most Americans, for instance, don’t make that kind of money or have that kind of lifestyle. You could also say, again, that CEOs, or athletes, or astronauts, are out of touch with “normal Americans.” Since when was “being in touch with normal people” part of the job description for being an actor?
Okay, so are Hollywood stars out of touch with the politics of “normal Americans”?
Depends which stars, depends which Americans. Many Hollywood stars are liberal, some are conservative, most are apolitical. I’d say, yes, that Michael Moore is “out of touch” with most normal Americans, but he’s hardly representative. But is the average Hollywood liberal out of touch with the average American? They’re out of touch with conservative Americans, sure, but this line of reasoning implies that no one in the whole country outside Hollywood is a liberal. If that were the case, the Senate would be 98-2 Republican, as opposed to 53-47.
Hollywood people should just shut up. Who cares what they have to say?
Apparently, Joe Scarborough does, because he seems so obsessed with the subject that he devotes about half of his show each night to the political stances of the Hollywood left. Clearly, anything celebrity-related is a ratings bonanza, which is why it’s on TV whenever Martin Sheen or Tim Robbins has something to say about President Bush.
And if it doesn’t matter what actors have to say about politics, why do the O’Reillys and Hannitys of the world always make common guests of minor and/or has-been celebrities (Dixie Carter, Bo Derek, Lee Greenwood, etc.) who happen to be openly Republican?
Obviously, nobody cares more about Hollywood liberals have to say than hard-core conservatives. I mean, does anyone else but looking-for-outrage righties read Barbra Streissand’s website rants?
Are Hollywood liberals idiots?
Clearly, people like Streissand and that lunatic Garofolo, with their al-Saeff-like counterfactual vituperation, aren’t doing their cause a whole lot of good. But others, like director Rob Reiner and actor Ron Silver, are intelligent and articulate spokesman for the liberal cause. Buried in this is the deeper question of whether liberals or conservatives are more likely to be idiots- and I’m not touching that one with a ten-foot pole.
Is there some correlation between being a Hollywood lefty and making bad movies?
O’Reilly has tried to argue that George Clooney has had some kind of career meltdown since “coming out” as a liberal, though the facts don’t bore that out- and besides, I can’t wait to see Bill humiliated on Ludacris’ upcoming album. Sure, a lot of the major lefties have made bad pictures, but three of the most vocal (Robbins, Sarandon, and Sean Penn) collaborated on a masterpiece (“Dead Man Walking”). Before his recent descent into madness, Michael Moore directed the near-legendary documentary “Roger & Me.” And many of the great directors of the ’70s were closeted, if not open, Marxists.
The careers of Garafolo, Alec Baldwin, and others have suffered lately, but that’s not necessarily ’cause of their politics.
In his book Hollywood vs. America Michael Medved made many of the same points, but did it in a much more balanced, less mean-spirited manner than Scarborough, O’Reilly, etc. Ripping Hollywood on TV makes for effortless, fun, preaching to the choir, with high ratings to boot. But a huge blind spot for the American right remains its utter inability to understand popular culture- and this phenomenon of symptomatic of that.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Anything that contains the word ‘universal’ is bad but especially universal nudism. Can you imagine a world without clothes. It isn’t hard to do. Think of all the cellulite, all the bauxite, the scabs, the oozing pussy sores, the butt pimples, the smelly genitals, the back hair, the under-wiped arses. You get the picture. Oh, sure, every once in a while you’ll see a hotty but is it worth seeing the dregs of humanity nude? I don’t think so. That reminds me, I used to think being a gynocologist would be a cool job. No more. Have you ever seen a eighty year old naked woman? I just know that only octogenarians would visit my practice and I would finally have to beat myself to death with those barbacue tongs they use to pry open the labradors (beaver lips).” -The World’s funniest blogger, Bill Cimino.

WHERE’S WILBON?: I thought I

WHERE’S WILBON?: I thought I was lucky getting three weeks of vacation at my job, but I’ve got nothing on Michael Wilbon- apparently the noted sportswriter has gotten the entire month of July off from both of his employers, ESPN and the Washington Post. His last Post column ran on June 26; and he hasn’t assumed his chair on “Pardon the Interruption” since a few days after that.
In his stead, on the real best damn sports show period, we first had a week of Tony Kornheiser and various co-hosts, then one of Tony and Norman Chad, then yet another week of both hosts out (and replaced by surprisingly funny NBA reporter David Aldridge and WCCO legend Michelle Tafoya). This week it’s TK and Chad again. I don’t mind the other people, but Norman Chad really drags the quality of the program down- he’s not funny, and not particularly knowledgable about any sort of wide range of sports. But I do appreciate that, in his short-lived 1996 (actually ESPNET Sportszone) column, Chad included a letter from me, in which I made the wildly inaccurate prediction that Barry Switzer would be fired as coach of the Dallas Cowboys and replaced by John Madden.
Wilbon’s perspective has been missed, on issues from the Kobe Bryant case, to the Sprewell trade, to the Pete Rose pseudo-trial, to the whole “hunting bambi” fiasco. So get back soon Mike- and in the meantime, why not give StatBoy a shot at the co-host’s chair?


FIRST “OZ” GETS CANCELED, AND NOW THIS…: Congress earlier this week approved the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, a bill designed to eliminate what has long been a defining feature of prison life. The new law is expected to immediately end the career of comedian Norm MacDonald*.
The bill passed both houses of Congress unanimously, which means that yes- even Rick Santorum voted for it.
(*Though on second thought, if there’s any truth to some rumors I’ve heard about the Kobe Bryant case, this may in fact be in its infancy as a joke phenomenon…)

WHO? WHAT?: The World Health

WHO? WHAT?: The World Health Organization has declared that they intend to eradicate instances of polio worldwide by 2005. Which brings up the natural question- wasn’t polio eradicated 50 years ago? As Chris Rock said, “we haven’t had to worry about polio since the first season of ‘Lucy.'”
After ’05, expect the WHO to devote all their best efforts to finding a cure for scurvy.


DANCE PARTY AT TARGET CENTER!: Just when you thought the Timberwolves were unstoppable after adding Sprewell, Cassell, and Olowokandi, they’ve finally made one more addition that’s certain to put them over the top into championship glory: Yes, on Monday night the Wolves signed ex-Laker “Dancin'” Mark Madsen to a free agent contract.
Yea, you may laugh now, but keep in mind: the Wolves’ top 7 players have a combined two championship rings (both Cassell’s) among them; Madsen has three.


LET THEM EAT YELLOWCAKE: A few things to say about this whole WMD/uranium-from- Niger controversey: first of all, I’m sick to death of people referring to their opponents, their enemies, or anything they don’t like as “weapons of mass destruction”- even if such things are neither weapons, nor massive, nor of destruction. It’s the “otherwise the terrorists win” of 2003. I’m referring specifically to a speech by Congressman/alleged presidential candidate “Crazy Dennis” Kucinich, to whom apparently everything is a weapon of mass destruction other than the actual WMDs themselves:

Joblessness is a weapon of mass destruction. Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Hunger is a weapon of mass destruction. Poor health care is a weapon of mass destruction. Poor education is a weapon of mass destruction. Discrimination is a weapon of mass destruction

By that rationale, so is civic bankruptcy- like the one Kucinich precided over as mayor of Cleveland in the ’70s.
We’ve also heard the silly modifier “weapons of mass distraction,” the porn parody “Weapons of Ass Destruction,” and so on. But that scandal has fallen off the front page in favor of the “16 words” President Bush said in the State of the Union address: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
Now notice: even though the now-debunked intelligence had Saddam purchasing uranium from the West African nation of Niger, Bush said not the specific country but rather “Africa.” Why’s that? Well, it’s obvious- Bush’s speechwriters clearly didn’t trust the president to correctly pronounce Niger, as opposed to, uh, another word that sounds sort of like “Niger,” only with one more “G.” Such a faux pas, previously committed in a speech by California Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante, could hurt Bush’s presidency more than all his previous Bushisms combined; it was indeed a wise move by the speechwriters to sidestep it. After all, we all know how much trouble Bush has had pronouncing that other, highly-loaded N-word: “nuclear.”