Thursday, September 25, 2008

Politically Appropriate Pop Detritus

- Season 1 of 24. The Plot: The nation's first black Presidential candidate gets stuck in some terrorist related hullaballoo, his life is threatened, his family life implodes. Through these cataclysmic events, his true character as a bad ass, ice in the veins, tough choice making muthafucka is revealed. He goes on to win the election.

- During these roller coaster days of political dadaism, I think back to a particular bit of Obama lore: The Setup: Hillary Clinton had been running some negative ads (which, in perspective, seem like child's play now), and Obama got to talking about it. I imagine he's doing a fair number of these in his head these days:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Perils of a Deregulated Market - A Garish Reminder

It's been nearly a century since the last time class conflict reared its head in the US in a major way. As a nation, though we still feel the psychological repercussions of The Great Depression, most don't remember the union busting activities of the era, the role that the Pinkerton agency played in all of that, and just how tumultuous a time it was for the country. Some would argue that it was the unfettered and open free market that led to both the Dickensian corporate practises of the times, as well as the violent repercussions.

It proved to be a necessary revolution, for out of these bloody times, there emerged the 5-day 40-hour work week, a minimum wage, and the strengthening of unions in the workplace.

Somewhere along the way those lessons were forgotten, however, leading to a frenzy of de-regulation that took place over the last 30 years, and enacted in order to create massive profits in the private sector. It should be noted that politicians on both sides ended up embracing de-regulation (though some more fervently than others). The end result is obvious; leaving aside the massive economic breakdown that we've been experiencing this year, the chasm between the upper and lower classes has probably not been wider since the beginning of the Industrial Age.

Perhaps someone should remind the proponents of the radical free market of the violent protests that could take place on our very shores should the chasm be allowed to grow wider still.

Frankly, we're already on the precipice, and it's only a matter of time before people stop lashing out at each other and pinpoint exactly where the source of most of their troubles lay.

Consider this a public service announcement.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

If You're Not Watching Rachel Maddow...

Look, I'm not going to force anything on you.

All I'm saying is if you were to go to, found the MS-NBC tab, clicked on "The Rachel Maddow Show", played the selections "Drill, Dems, Drill?" and "Friendly Fire?", I would bet you'd be entertained in some way. You may end up hooked, maybe not.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D)NY: I wanna tell you, I am so taken with algae. Did you know...How am I doing so far?
Maddow: Whoa-waitwait I do want to hear why you're taken with algae, that's the best lead in ever. But - hold on - [Ms. Maddow gets back to the point.]

Ms. Maddow is the face of your friendly neighborhood tough journalist.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

All About Fletch

I think it’d be fair to say that I was affected by Gregory McDonald, the man responsible giving the world Fletch, the barefoot reporter with cheek.

Yes, the same Fletch that inspired that mid-80s Chevy Chase movie (one of the few good movies he ever made) and its cheesy sequel. The quintessentially 80s synth soundtrack is now playing in my head, in fact.

Initially, I had no idea that the movie was based on anything until I saw the paperback at the PX and thought I’d give it a quick look.

I became hooked. McDonald wrote 11 Fletch books, and I’ve read each of them at least twice (with many of them having been read upwards of a dozen times). Same applies with the Flynn series of books, which are a spin off from Fletch. Of his other material, I’ve only read Merely Players, from his trilogy of Shakespeare inspired novellas. I will be rectifying that in the future.

McDonald’s pulp world consumed me. Without delving too heavily into the Dickensian aspect* of my life, I didn’t have a strong male presence to model after. In my mind, Fletch became that guy. Clearly, there’s something slightly off about doing this…

Mostly because Irwin Maurice Fletcher (aka – “Fletch”; “Earwig”) was the kind of breezy charismatic young man who’d have things fall his way more often than not. The forces against him occasionally got the upper hand; after a couple of quips though, Fletch would again wiggle out triumphant, and infinitely cooler than the competition, and usually on the way to hooking up with some smart, acerbic and ultimately comely young woman.

There is simply no way to emulate this kind of behavior in real life, not like I tried, but I did spend inordinate amounts of time wishing I lived in a light noir world where the ladies would be naturally attracted to me and my slightly daffy sense of humor. High school sucked.

As an adult, though, the world of Fletch and Flynn grew in scope for me. Still light and breezy, but the adult view of the world became clearer, and the romance I’d attached to that world when I was younger dissipated. It was only after growing up myself that I saw that the murders that surrounded Fletch often served as his cues to adapt to the world. This is particularly true in the case involving the Widow Bradley.

But what nailed the series for me is the story told in Fletch, Too. It is the last book McDonald wrote before giving his marquee character a son, and is also the book during which we see Fletch at his most exposed. In this story, Fletch goes to Africa in search of his long lost father…Whether he finds him or not isn’t important. Or at least it wasn’t for me. For me, the story’s resonance brought the character full circle, and I found myself identifying with Fletch more strongly than before.

Here was another bright young man who had learned to make do without a proper father figure to provide some kind of hint as to how to get along with life. You can’t buy that kind of identification, you either get it or you don’t. Fletch had it in spades, as far as I’m concerned.

Gregory McDonald passed away on Sunday, September 7th. No information on cause of death has been released; I'm willing to bet it was natural causes.

Thanks for the enjoyment and inspiration you brought to me, Mr. McDonald.

*Nod to S5 The Wire. I still get consumed by narratives, obviously. - TBO

B. Jones: THIS?!?

You're a fucking multi-billionaire with a hair up your ass to put your podunk hometown on the NBA map. In typical robber baron fashion, you spend just the right amount of time and money lying your ass off to the populace whose team you intend to steal. After battling it out for who knows how long, after gaining a reputation as one of the world's biggest douchebags (second only to the comissioner whose ass you essentially dined from), you finally win, AND ALL YOU CAN COME UP WITH IS THIS PIDDLY ASS BULLSHIT?

You, sir, deserve all the bad breaks coming your way.

Shit heel.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Reasons to Love Mad Men #30

From the AV Club recap to this week's episode:

In 1958 a young Jim Henson created a series of short, weirdly violent commercials for the Washington D.C. coffeemakers Wilkins Coffee, concepts which he revamped and sold to local coffee merchants in other markets, including Martinson in New York. Here’s some samples of the Wilkins campaign:

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Entering The Polblog Fray

So, I know things can get kind of random on this blog (if not downright arid), what with a sports entry following a pop culture entry following some deeply personal story following a recommendation to visit another site.

However, with the presidential campaign mere minutes from going full bore, I've decided it was a good idea to create a space for all of my political rants during the weeks ahead, and bring two like-minded peers along with me.

It's called The Savvy, The Extreme, & The Idealist, and the team of writers are me, Deni, and JJ. There may be more writers added to the slate as time goes by.

The idea is to supply a space for the newly politically aware to view a condensed menu of relevant news stories and articles, with both neutral and lefty commentary, and links to some featured items.

Think of it as a political Cliff's Notes.

It also provides a place for Deni, JJ and myself to vent our spleen away from our respective blogs.

Anyway, drop by, take a look, and for pete's sake, leave a comment.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

TVDoaN: AVC, Hulu, Gina Torres, A Guilty Pleasure

So, I've been staying out a lot more lately, in a show (which closes this weekend), and have been spending most of my off time over at the AVClub. Of which I am a junkie, through and through. PalBrannon has, I have the AVClub. I seriously can't turn away from the fuggin' thing, the staff and community speak my language, and eerily seem to be aware of most every nook and cranny of my subconscious.

In the last month, they've finished reviewing the first two seasons of Buffy and Newsradio, have had a Woody Allen retrospective, done a feature on the Watchmen comic book, as well as weekly reviews of all things pop cultural. It's like freebasing all things geekly on a daily basis. Who needs work productivity?

It is through the AVClub that I discovered the joys of Hulu. Not that I hadn't heard of it before, but I truly didn't know the utter joy of the damned site until I was bored, between Netflix arrivals and looking at a recap of Mad Men, when someone mentions that it's possible to view episodes on the

Highly doubtful, I went over to check it out, and lo and behold: Current episodes of the Daily Show and Colbert Report; nearly full seasons of Newsradio, Heroes, 30 Rock; some Barney Miller, full seasons of Arrested Development, along with other cultural detritus like Love Boat and Fantasy Island...Egads, it has Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show (I'll explain the significance later, if I can remember it). And, yes, even, one of my favorite bits of brainless, worthless TV.

Most people became aware of Gina Torres as the Firefly phenomenon crawled across the nation; they then recognized her from Matrix: Resomething as the girlfriend of that guy who did things (she's married to Laurence "New CSI Guy" Fishburne, btw). Before that, she did a smattering of things, though a legion of assorted dorks and lesbians met her as either Nebula or Cleopatra in the Sam Raimi produced Hercules and Xen universes, respectively.

After Xena was cancelled, the Raimi team decided to take the budget of a typical Xena/Hercules episode (never all that high to begin with), split it in half and run two shows for the price of one: Jack of All Trades and Cleopatra 2525. How to describe these shows in a way not covered by Wikipedia...Think ElectraWoman and Dynagirl or Dr. Shrinker, with a tongue in cheek, more CGI and a hell of a lot more cheesecake.

I mean, check out the lyrics to C2525's theme song:

In the year 2525
There are women with the will to survive
Fighting for a brand new day
Nothing's going to get in their way

Hey, it's low budget feminist pulp! Why the fuck not? And the first act goes on to deliver on that premise, with Gina Torres and Victoria Pratt playing 26th century scantily clad Xenas who shoot some kind of loud plasma something out of their bracelet-weapons. They fight flying robots called Baileys.

So far, so dumb, but it's not like Xena was The Closer or anything.

Then you meet the titular character (pun pretty much inadvertently intended), Jennifer Sky plays an aspiring actress from the 21st century who, for unexplained reasons, is not woken up from an anesthetized slumber. She went under for a boob job, you see. She wakes up in the 26th century, and her first impulse is to look under her form-fitting top and mutter "good work."

It isn't long before she's aping Dirty Harry and screaming her fool head off. Good lord does she scream. Then you realize that Cleo is actually a pretty vapid heroine, sex- and looks-obsessed, and besides obviously synced mimicry as a "talent," doesn't really bring anything to the action portion of the program.

For a few episodes at least, then she starts kicking ass like Torres and Pratt. How the "plot" develops from there I'll leave for you to pick up. Odds are likely that this show is the reason why Torres initially passed on Firefly; she's quoted as saying that she had no interest in doing some cheesy sci-fi thing until she read Joss Whedon's script.

Yet, for all of that, I can't say that I don't enjoy C2525's no-brain appeal. It isn't just the cheesecake alone (though I'm sure plenty will accuse me of just that). There's just something about the show that clicks for me in the same way Blossom and Fresh Prince did when I had nothing better to do.

Maybe it's the fact that the bimbo hero gets elevated to bad ass status as the show goes on...a sort of feminist subversion masquerading as 14-year-old male fantasy (making boys comfortable with strong women by objectifying them). Which is all well and good, but the show is so dumb that it nearly makes this line of thinking ludicrous, especially when it seems that this is far more thinking than what the creators put into producing the show.

Ah well, who cares? I enjoy it.

[/dork stream of consciousness]