Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Unpassion of the UStians

Just as the Dems are maybe, kind of, sort of showing some barely visible signs of momentum, along comes a past leader to show the left how to conduct itself. How does the left react? By playing right into the hands of right-wing spinmeisters and treating the event as if it were DeanScream II.

And you know what? The first DeanScream was nothing but a manufactured move to take the spotlight away from an early charismatic possible candidate. The fact that the move was made by the Dems themselves, makes the whole thing all the more deplorable. Howard Dean was merely expressing excitement at his early success, and rallying the troops with essentially a pep rally speech.

Now this.

Bill Clinton goes to the lion's den, FOXNews, under the auspices of interviewing with Chris Wallace (why did this formerly respectable journalist take a contract with these fuckers?) about the successful close of the three-day Clinton Global Initiative* conference, and instead gets asked about the latest right-wing charges that he did not do enough to prevent 9/11.

Given that the right-wing has been promoting this view of history for the last few months, including foundless allegations that he was too distracted by Lewinskigate to do the right thing regarding Osama bin Laden (compeletely not true), Clinton reacted with more than a little heat. Expectedly so. (Here's the vidclip of the exchange.)

Right-wing spinmeisters did what they could with it, and now it's being parroted by all their pundits as a loss of face for the former president. Even some left-wingers are picking up on it, though it's too early to say whether or not it's going to become a tidal wave or if the anti-Clinton movement will be reversed. I truly don't get this. Left-wingers should be heeding this as a clarion call for further indignance at what has become of this country; as a momentum builder instead of something to hurriedly cover up and distance themselves from.

PalJoe sets up a typically brilliant gag, regarding this event, with the statement "I don't think Clinton did himself any favors by getting so riled up." I use this not as an example of a left winger admonishing Clinton, but of the kind of thing that's being said out there.

Perhaps this will better illustrate my point: Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, while being interviewed by Keith Olbermann**, said "I‘ve had Clinton lose his temper in interviews with me. And they called them purple fits in the Clinton White House....It‘s just part of his personality...He‘s got so many appealing qualities. This is one of his less-appealing." [Emphasis mine. - TBO]

Are you fucking kidding me?

You know what Clinton and Dean dared to do in front of a national audience? Become demonstrably passionate.

When the hell did it become a faux pas to be passionate? Or sincere, for that matter, but that's another entry.

Their line of offense is very simply stated, and quite subversive in its ability to instill doubt where there shouldn't be: "Do you want someone this close to being out of control to have his finger on the button?" You know, because a logician makes much better sense under these circumstances. I'd rather have someone who gave a shit about the world around them steering the big ship than not.

But I veer away from the point here, in that the examples of Dean and Clinton being "out of control" are nothing of the sort. That just because they reveal themselves to be human, for fuck's sake, is not three steps away from seeing them yell "kill the fuckers, rape their babies, DIE! DIE! DIE!"

In this age of perma-access to anything and everything a politician does and says, it's easy to forget that even the most popular presidents of ages past had their fits of passion, be they positive, negative, defensive or offensive. The ideal of a cool and collected leader who is able to keep his shit together while crisis after crisis present themselves is a fantasy on a level not seen since Hubbard released Dianetics.

Besides, the cold and logical approach does not work for the left. Thus far, it has gotten us two candidates whose ideas are worthy, but do not translate to overwhelming success and approval. I'm thinking of the line of well-intentioned presidential candidates the Dems have given us starting with Mondale, and continued with Dukakis, etc.

Far better to stoke our passion for a better reality, in my opinion. Let's not be scared into thinking otherwise.

Meanwhile, I trust you've heard about this whole NIE fiasco, right? This guy has. The finding inspires one of the loudest "no shit, Sherlock" I can imagine. Unsurprisingly, the move to discuss it has been voted down.

*for example, Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin enterprise, committed the corporate profits of Virgin Airlines and Rail for the next 10 years to the CGI. The CGI's purpose? Merely to alleviate poverty, disease, and religious and ethnic conflict while cooling off global warming. Lofty, sure, mayhaps a little naive, but tell me who else is doing something about these problems...

**Mr. Olbermann shows more than a little of his own passion in
his reaction to the Clinton Backlash. Worthy of a good look and listen. I know people are starting to criticize Olbermann for his lengthy, erudite manner and his lifting of Ed Murrow's signature line (something he's been doing for a while); but until he starts frothing at the mouth, I find his input to be more than bracing and encouraging in this apathetic climate we find ourselves in.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Diebold Follow Up

I've been unable to locate footage of Howard Dean learning to corrupt EVMs; but I think I've done one better.

Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy just released its study on the corruptibility of Diebold's Touch Screen Voting system.

Here's some footage.

Source: This Salon article by Brad Friedman.

PS - RIP Anne Richards, probably the last sane politician to come out of Texas for a long while. - TBO

Sunday, September 10, 2006


It took 45 minutes for it to sink in.

I woke up and headed to the Cambie's breakfast eatery and got some diner food, then I went and sat with the crew. We watched the ubiquitous footage for a couple of hours. There was a pretty pointless newspaper piled up on the table. I read the sports headline. "Hey guys, great news! Michael Jordan's coming out of retirement." Joe laughed, at least.

I started reaching a saturation point. The repeated footage gave me nothing new, and there was nothing coming out of the newscasters' mouths that added any knowledge to the situation.

I wish I could remember the rest of that day...I just recall wandering around Gastown at one point and stepping into a nearly deserted pub. At some point the bartender said, "all right, that's about enough," and he muted the news. I thanked him.

That night, the crew went to the Blunt Bros. It was open mic night, and eventually, some hippie went up to the mic, and read a piece that amounted to an "I told you so" to the US...Not the best of timing. (I mean, it was open mic night at Blunt Bros. What else was going to happen?)

Talk of cancelling the rest of the run and heading back over the border started amongst us, and, again, I found myself in the minority. I wanted to stay, and I wanted to keep our original ending. Fuck it. It added to the wrongness of the comedy, which made it better for me. I think B agreed with me.

The others not so much, and I don't blame them, I must say. The material, as it was, would definitely cross the line, in terms of taste (but, I still wish for a remount, not that it'd happen, but it's a wish).

What followed over the next few days could best be described as pointless wandering. We went to see a movie; we'd visit downtown; Joe and I went to see a horrible pageant show at the fest; we played pinball all day, and Joe sold his soul to the South Park gods...

I'd been flirting with a local, and we made plans to meet on the 12th. We met up and she led me on a tour of the Castro...It was kind of awkward, but the Castro impressed me as a pretty cool neighborhood.

Time was coming, though, and if we wanted to get the rest of our money back, we had to make a decision. We called it quits. The emotional drain, tied to the bedbugs, tied to exhaustion, tied to the disappointing run...it was just too much.

We finally leave on Friday. I went to the breakfast joint for the last time, and I got into a discussion with the staff. I confess that I didn't necessarily want to leave, and they start telling me not to. That I could stay there and work under the table for a while, until something good came along.

This became one of those points in my life where I now wonder where I would be if I followed my instincts that day...I still think about it.

I came back, though, for better or worse. Joe's then fiancee (now wife) had been accepted to a law school in New York, and he left within a couple of months. C and her husband C moved to Chicago not long after. So did J and K. Skot got married...

We all moved on, essentially.

[Edited to add: As a final thought to the 9/11 trilogy, I can think of no better encapsulation of my thoughts than Keith Olbermann's latest diatribe. Lengthy and sometimes a little sanctimonious, Mr. Olbermann's words still strike deep into the matter of the Great American Duping of the 21st century. Thank you, sir.--tbo]

Friday, September 08, 2006

Where Were You...?

As August wound down, the Disgruntled Bit Players, the sketch comedy group I co-founded with Joe, were on the heels of our most widely heralded show, Gate 17. We had a very short break after closing, as we were planning on taking the same show up to the Vancouver Fringe Festival, if for no other reason than to a) see if the show traveled well, and b) make more money.

After a brief rehearsal period, where we added new material and worked in our talented director into the cast, up to Vancouver we went. I should say, the majority of us went; there were still a few people who had "jobs" they needed to tend to (for example, this guy), so they joined us on the day of our first show.

We arrived on Tuesday, the festival opened on Wednesday, and our first show was on the night of Thursday, September 6th.

We stayed at the Cambie Youth Hostel in Gastown, an area that became the site for quite a few silly shenanigans over the coming days (I was the first to fall prey to the japery, though it was entirely my own fault) . The Cambie is all right, however, a couple of my friends were subjected to the bedbugs, a danger I imagine is common to hostels in general. It sported a pub, which featured 1) a bathroom stall dedicated to being pissed on (literally, there was an impressively full pint glass atop the toilet), and 2) a couple of pinball games, a Lost In Space tie-in (mind-bogglingly easy) and South Park (Joe sold his soul to master it).

It was also half a block away from this bar, the name of which escapes me, and which has apparently changed its milieu several times over in the five years since we were there. At the time, it featured a vague midieval atmosphere, New Wave-y Britpop on the speakers, and cheap cheap well drinks...

Considering the success of the Seattle run of G17, I think we hubristically expected to take Vancouver BC by storm...Not because we thought we were big shit, but because the show was so good, that we figured once people had the chance to see it, the buzz would build itself.

Well...A combination of various misunderstandings conspired against us...Even though we took pains to plaster our poster anyplace we could, we simply didn't get the word out...In retrospect, there were newspapers we could've contacted, but hadn't, assuming that the festival would take care of us in that sense. Also, none of us were too fond of the gladhanding flyer distribution system that we were encouraged to adopt. We were hoping to do some busking with our "Gay American Boyscouts Sing 'Oh, Canada!'", but apparently busking was discouraged on festival grounds, for reasons unfathomable to me. Add to this the fact that the festival had moved from its home in the Castro district (Vancouver's equivalent to Seattle's Capitol Hill) to Granville Island, which was more posh and central to Vancouver's downtown core.

We were hoping to get a review, any review, from either a festival flunky or a local newspaper (see note about our newspaper naivete), but it hadn't happened by our Monday show.

More than anything else, however, was our venue, cleverly named something misleading, but was actually a tent. A tent which had doubled as a horse stable in some recent fair. I remember we ended up in this venue because we felt that the first option given to us was too small and remote. Well, the tent was better located, sure, but it was cold, cavernous, and stank to high heaven.

The combined audience during our first weekend was still less than the number of people in the cast. Kinda hard to do comedy of any kind in those circumstances.

And so, we came to Monday's performance pissed and more than a little demoralized. Ironically, it was our best performance up there. The group had finally said "fuck it, let's have some fun." We did. (E and Skot still giggle at the memory of steam literally rising from my head.) The audience, our biggest at five, may not have known what to do with us, but we didn't care; our first stretch was done.

At 6:30p, on Monday, September 10th, after G17's denoument (consisting of elderly terrorists blowing up the titular airport terminal, followed by a loosely choreographed dance number), the Disgruntled Bit Players unwittingly took their final bow to a smattering of applause, despite having four more performances to go.

We retired to the Cambie, where the responsible "job" folk packed up their stuff so they could head back to Seattle. Afterward, we went to Mideival Times, and had some mead before they took off. We finished up, they left, and the rest of us paid a brief visit to the Blunt Bros. cafe just before they closed for the night.

We were still wired, and decide to go to the common room, which was unusually empty. We met a couple of charming kids, one from England and his mate from Australia. Group discussion varied between music, colloquialisms and accents, general US v. UK/AUS stuff, Hollywood, and most coincidentally, geopolitics, how the US generally behaves in the world, how UStians seem to prefer to be in the dark, and the incredible amount we were all worried about GWB.

In the midst of all this, the limey wanted to get high, and had finally woken up his roommate in order to retrieve this "fat doob" that was handed to them. We dutifully smoked it, and at some point we noticed a kind of aggressive energy, some of us were grinding our teeth. The brit heads over, picks up the roach, sniffs at it and claims "yeh, it's laced. Probably with coke, but I think it's speed...it doesn't feel like anything heavier."

We stayed up. I finally went to sleep at 5am Pacific time...

Two and a half hours later, L is shaking me awake...Hmmmph? "Terrorists have crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center..." What? "Terrorrist have crashed into the World Trade Center, Jose'." Oh...Did we get reviewed?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Winter of Our Discontent*

The time is nigh, oh yes it is.

I've been ranting and raving, to anyone who would listen, since that fateful day in November 2000, when the Supreme Court hastily decided that re-counts and allegations of voter fraud were just so much folderol avoiding the inevitable, that things were not going to be pretty. That what happened in Florida back then was merely a herald of the kind of highjacking we could expect in our future.

"Oh, calm down," I was told, as half a nation simply shrugged in the face of the subtlest coup d'etat in history. "Things won't get that bad...they can't get that bad, and besides, in four years, he won't get voted back in." A lazy response to a DefCon 1** situation.

I had to admit, however, that I may have been overreacting, so calm down I did and settled on a DefCon 3 state of mind. Then came 9/11, a date and time that found me in Vancouver, BC under the influence of a "doobie laced with coke," to quote the young Englishman in my group's company. I recall the ambivalence I embraced that day with, especially in comparison to my comrades in arms...Living in 1980s West Germany prepared me for both terrorism and its after-effects. Bugs Bunny saying "of course you realize, this means war," kept playing through my head those days.

And so, it was with alarm that I viewed the first US flag on an antenna, mere miles after crossing back into the US. I prepared myself for the times to come by watching Three Kings, Starship Troopers, and Duck Soup in quick succession. DefCon 2.

I stayed at DefCon 2 through the months ahead, and the initial attack on Afghanistan, and then my attitude quickly went South the moment I started hearing rumblings about going back into Iraq. I've been ranting and raving ever since.

Now it's four and a half years later, and finally, a number of things are appearing from within the fog of war (a quick skim-thru of my pal Adam's blog merely provides scratches on the surface). Finally, the army of jesters fronted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert is joined by a "legitimate editorial voice" in Keith Olbermann***. Finally, the population's growing dissatisfaction is turning from a Popularity Poll Percentage into a disgruntled yell of unrest. It's sad that New Orleans had to be fucked by Katrina in order for this to start happening.

However, what we're doing is not enough. There's two years left in the Chimp In Command's regime, and there are two extreme outcomes: a) W's religiofascists' desire for apocalypse becomes true or b) the chimp is impeached.

While I recognize the remoteness of the latter's chances, I say we don't make it any easier for the asshole and his cronies to achieve the former.

It starts in November. Just as the pendulum swung extremely to the right in 1994, it's now time for it to swing the other way. Are the Democrats ready? Most decidedly not, but we don't have a choice. It's time for us to throw a bucket of cold water into the face of the Dems' and kick their collective scrotum into the sack.

This is not a time for equivocation. This is not a time for hesitancy. This is not a time for "yes, but." Our country's fucked; we are fucked, and no one can help us but us.

There is no time to lose.

*I wish I were enough of a scholar to come up with a less cliche' Shakespearean quote.--TBO
**Contrary to popular belief, the lower the DefCon number the higher the state of defensive awareness. Please refer to either Wargames, or Wikipedia.
***I should say that there is currently no one ringing the clarion bell louder than he is. Others may have been vocal, but KO's broadsides are the ones currently getting the attention.--TBO