Sunday, June 25, 2017

Can leftists be artists?

In the last episode of Seinfeld, Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer watch an overweight man get robbed in a small town in Massachusetts. Kramer videotapes the incident. Rather than to anything to help the overweight man, the four friends make jokes about the victim, in particular the victim’s weight. He’s not part of their circle—their sophisticated, ironic, well-to-do, elite circle—and so he’s an “other” to be mocked and ridiculed, even as he’s being violated.

Compare this to the reaction from leftists whenever there’s violence directed at Republicans in general, Trump supporters in particular. There is ridicule. There is derision. There’s attempt after attempt to not just rationalize the violence, but to justify it. As Symone Sanders said on CNN while watching a notorious clip of a white Trump supporter being pulled from his car and beaten by leftists, “Oh my goodness, poor white people.” This is remarkably similar to the reaction of Jerry et. al seeing the overweight man get mugged:

Do you remember the reaction to the final episode of Seinfeld? It was heavily criticized, to the extent that it still bothers Larry David. A big part of the backlash against it was that the socially elite tastemakers—the magazine writers and newspaper “journalists” who lived in New York and LA and saw a lot of themselves in Jerry and his friends—couldn’t take being satirized in this manner. The final episode of Seinfeld showed that the self-absorption and narcissism depicted on that show wasn’t “funny” or “cute.” Those characters were never characters to be emulated (especially after Susan Ross died and the friends casually and callously just accepted her death and went out for coffee), but to be abhorred. They were object lessons, not aspirational figures. And in the final episode we saw depicted the end result of that self-absorption: The inability to empathize with a victim of a violent crime, even while watching that crime occurring.

The final episode of Seinfeld was painful satire. Critics panned it because it was satirizing them—it wasn’t satirizing the overweight man from flyover country (literally—the only reason Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer are in Massachusetts is because their plane malfunctioned and they had to make an emergency landing) being victimized. So it was viciously attacked. It was a disappointment. It was the worst series finale of all time! In fact, it set a dangerous precedent, and the reaction was a sort of warning shot. No matter how popular, rich, and famous you are—if you satirize the New York and Los Angeles elites in the mainstream legacy media they will come after you.

On June 9 in Austin, Texas at something called the ATX Television Festival, a collection of TV producers and writers got together to whine about the fact that they can’t accept that the hopelessly corrupt, lying, felonious, Hillary Clinton lost the presidency. Trump is basically making them cray-cray, and they’re just having a heck of a time concentrating on their privileged, glamorous, and high paying TV and movie jobs.

“How can I possibly focus?” said Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Lost). “There’s a lot of stress eating involved … more than anything else, the torrent of news and information is about the stuff you do to mitigate your stress to be effective.”

Please bear in mind that these are the same people who want coal miners to just shut up and take it when their jobs are being stripped away, and want low-skilled, low-educated workers to just graciously accept the influx of low-skilled illegal immigrant workers competing for their jobs, and who want IT professionals to train those who come into the country on H1-B visas to replace them in their jobs. That kind of stress... is racist.

Beau Willimon (the creator of House of Cards—the American version, not the original British version) shared this insight, also apparently without any hint of irony:

“We have a president who has never known what it means to hold a real job and to struggle … I think some stereotypes are true — Hollywood does lean left — but ask yourself why it does … artists are people who read a lot … who are curious about the world and when you write you’re imagining what the world could be, for better or worse…and that’s what being ‘in touch’ is all about … the only way our president attempts to do that is at 140 characters or less.”

This attitude that artists lean left because they read a lot and they’re curious about the world is pervasive self-aggrandizing pandering. Maybe they do read a lot—, Huffington Post,,, Daily Kaus—but does that mean that they’re satisfying “curiosity” about the world, or they’re reinforcing their own prejudices?

If you read the article from which I took the above quotes you’ll see small-minded bigotry masquerading as well-rounded insight. This is a trick of leftists—claiming for themselves one mantle, while projecting their own worst characteristics on their “enemies.” For people who claim to be “in touch,” they are remarkably and almost proudly ensconced in their provincial bubble, telling themselves that Trump is evil, that his followers are evil or at best stupid, and that they are enlightened and have to imagine what the world could be. Willimon says “for better or worse,” which would tend to suggest that he strives for realism or at least authenticity in the art he’s helping to create. But is he really—and does that apply to all popular artists? Or are they just creating stories to tell themselves, and those fatties in flyover country can like it or lump it?

The in-touch, well-read leftists who create the Comedy Central show “Broad City” are showing their enlightenment by literally denying the existence of reality.

"There's no airtime for this orange (person)," [co-creator and star Ilana] Glazer says. "We bleep his name the whole season."

Broad City is turning Trump’s name into a profanity to be bleeped. The Online Etymology Dictionary defines “profane” in this way:

mid-15c., "un-ecclesiastical, secular," from Old French (12c.) and directly from Latin profanus "unholy, not consecrated," according to Barnhart from pro fano "not admitted into the temple (with the initiates)," literally "out in front of the temple," from "before" (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward," hence "in front of, before") + fano, ablative of fanum "temple" (from PIE root *dhes-, forming words for religious concepts). Sense of "unholy, polluted" is recorded from c. 1500.

It is fantastically appropriate that leftist entertainment is making “Donald Trump” an “unholy, polluted” word, because leftism shares so many attributes with religion. It’s a belief system based on faith, not on facts. (There's a lot more evidence for the existence of God than the "wage gap," for instance.) It has its holy texts which are read by those who are “in touch” and “read a lot.” Its adherents have to believe in all its tenets no matter what—or they face excommunication. 

Speaking of excommunication, look at what’s happening to Laci Green, the sex-positive feminist YouTuber who had been a beacon of leftism for several years. Then something happened.

First, she notoriously sent out these two tweets, within a few hours of each other, the night of the presidential election:

I suspect that the reaction to those tweets and the outrageous hypocrisy that they displayed caused Green to do some actual soul-searching. She began reaching out YouTubers who were critical of her positions on certain issues, and found, to her surprise, that people could still disagree with her without being racist, sexist homophobes. She actually befriended some of these people.

For this “unholy, not profane” attitude, the mob of Twitter leftists demanded that she be cast out from the initiates. She faced a barrage of hateful, misogynist criticism—from the “in touch” and “curious” people who claim that they are fighting against misogyny and hate.

As I’ve said, projection is another aspect of leftism. Back to Broad City:

But the inclusive comedy hasn't been afraid to get political in the past, even inviting Hillary Clinton on for a brief guest spot last year in an episode where Ilana pledges to campaign for the then-presidential hopeful. One episode, which premiered at Colossal Clusterfest in San Francisco earlier this month, deals with the idea that "a witch is really just a woman who's in touch with her womanhood," Glazer says. "Ilana's 'powers' are decreasing during the current administration because it's just so hard to (orgasm) when you know so many people are in such danger. So Ilana works through her Trump-related (hang-up) and it's wild."

This is a show which featured an embarrassing, fawning cameo appearance by the charmless and felonious Hillary Clinton, the most corrupt presidential candidate in history—yet one of the characters on the show can’t orgasm because people are “in such danger” because of He Whose Name Shall Be Bleeped? Was Ilana able to orgasm while Hillary Clinton was using the Haitian earthquake to line her own pockets? How was her sex life when Hillary Clinton destroyed Libya?

My suspicion is that the people “in such danger” that Glazer is referring to are TV writers who are having such a hard time getting it up creatively. For a show that’s described by the “journalist” who wrote the story as “inclusive,” it seems to be displaying remarkable small-mindedness and bigotry.

Broad City isn’t the only cable show that will be taking a “brave” stand by towing the ecclesiastical Hollywood line. The next season of American Crime Story, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, is going to be a “bracing cold slap” (not just a cold slap-- a bracing cold slap, which is the worst kind of slap!) against He Whose Name Shall Be Bleeped:

“I think it does open a discussion and I think it’s the perfect timing based on this president we have,” says [creator Ryan] Murphy. “One of the reasons I wanted to do this was I felt that Obama was a president who I revered. He was my president. I felt there was so much progress in terms of gay rights and rights for any marginalized group of people. Suddenly, it felt like Trump is inaugurated and the door closed and there’s fear again and they’re trying to take away everything that we fought for for so long. This is a bracing cold slap against the policies that the current government has. We celebrate gay people and gay creativity. So I think it’s the perfect time to put that on.”

Kudos, I suppose, to Murphy for saying Trump’s name. But beyond that: Obama, the president that he “revered” was re-elected in part thanks to his stated opposition to gay marriage. He was a cold, calculating, cynical opportunist who used gay rights as a wedge to divide people—taking their money for his re-election campaign then turning his back on them. Trump was elected as a champion of gay rights and gay freedom. He got a standing ovation from the Republican national convention audience for specifically pledging to protect members of the LGBTQ community. Peter Thiel was a featured speaker at that convention.

Oh, but Peter Thiel isn’t one of the good gay men, is he? That’s the leftist attitude: if you don’t behave as you’re supposed to then you’re fair game, and if you’re a member of one of those “marginalized group(s) of people” then you’re in for particularly vicious, hateful attack. Language decried as “homophobic” will be gleefully employed against you.

#FakeSatire purveyor Stephen Colbert made some remarks that were construed by some as homophobic in relation to President Trump and Vladimir Putin. Maybe this joke is anti-gay and maybe it’s not. But what’s most telling about it is the fact that it’s premised on unreality: That Russia “hacked the election” and Trump submissively participated in the act. There’s absolutely no evidence of this occurring. (In fact, there is mounting evidence that Russia conspiracies were concocted by Democrats and perpetuated by Democrats to excuse their loss and undermine the democratically elected President.) In order to be effective, satire must be based in reality. The #FakeSatire that Colbert deals in is actually leftist propaganda, designed not to comment on the world but to shape a perception that pushes a leftist agenda. Colbert thinks he’s channeling Swift—in fact he’s closer to Riefenstahl. 

“The left” has been in control of the mainstream legacy media for some time, as Willimon admits above. It has mostly pushed a progressive agenda—an activist state that uses the force of the government (i.e., the threat of property confiscation, imprisonment, and physical violence up to and including death) in order to achieve its goals of forcing everyone to conform a certain type of morality. Leftism, by contrast, actually eliminates the middle man. Today, “the left” is openly promoting direct violence against anyone who opposes them. This is where the “punch Nazis” meme started. It’s why leftist mayors tell the police to “stand down” when leftists are attacking people and destroying property. It’s why Johnny Depp feels perfectly comfortable publicly musing about Trump's assassination. It’s why Kathy Griffin felt comfortable doing her ISIS-inspired propaganda piece.

All the while, as they promote this fascist violence against those with whom they disagree, they pretend to nobility. They claim that it’s in fact Trump and his supporters who are the violent ones. They claim that Republicans who vote to “repeal” Obamacare are committing “legislative violence,” and that shooting to kill those people is somehow “self-defense” that was "self-inflicted." It’s telling that Obama has yet to opine on the attempted assassination of Steve Scalise. This is a religious war that they’re engaged in, and they’ve been told that they are righteous in their hatred. It is a mainstream Democrat party position.

To try to understand why someone might be opposed to allowing unelected bureaucrats to make unaccountable decisions about the literal life and death of over three hundred million individuals, to try to understand why someone believes that only documented citizens with proper ID should be able to vote, to try to understand why someone believes that a private business should not be forced to actively participate in the promotion of speech to which they are personally opposed—that is “normalizing” an opinion that strays from their groupthink. And that is a form of betrayal.

This is all coming after eight years of Barack Obama comparing those who disagree with his policies to terrorists who are “holding the country hostage.” It’s been boiling for awhile. Now with the constant barrage of propaganda masquerading as entertainment, it’s getting worse. And leftists lack the empathy to see the world from another person’s perspective. And they lack the intellectual curiosity to even try, because they’ve built themselves an infrastructure that not only protects them from dissenting opinion, it also has mechanisms in place to punish anyone who might even consider examining what’s happening outside that infrastructure.

While leftists are weaponizing popular culture to push crazed satanic-ritual-abuse levels of absurd conspiracy theories regarding Trump and the Russians, the depraved criminality of Obama and his administration is going largely unexamined. Obama spied on private citizens using government espionage programs. He funneled money from the government into Clinton’s campaign. His justice department ordered the FBI to pretend Clinton wasn’t under investigation. He lied repeatedly about the Iran “nuclear deal.” He lied repeatedly about Obamacare. Clinton, through her “charitable foundation,” sold government favors in exchange for money. She destroyed Libya in an illegal “kinetic military action.” She enabled a husband who is at best a serial predator and at worst a serial rapist. She obstructed justice in the so-called “investigation” of her private email server, over which she sent multiple pieces of classified information. She destroyed evidence in that investigation. The Democrat party claims that Russians hacked their servers, but refused to allow the FBI to examine them, instead using a Democrat group to “analyze” them.

And yet Trump, He Whose Name Shall Be Bleeped, is causing Hollywood leftists to be too stressed to eat. Trump is the one that they’re bravely taking a stand against. Obama, the lying criminal, was “their president.” 

Liberals have long claimed that in order to create art one must be a liberal. Curiosity about the world is crucial to creating art, and liberals are more curious than those closed-minded, provincial conservatives. You need empathy, and it takes real empathy to want the government to take property from one person, run it through a vast unaccountable bureaucracy, then turn around and give a few scraps to those impoverished by government regulations. But leftists have no empathy. And insist that to show empathy is a form of collusion with an enemy that it is perfectly acceptable—even noble—to violently attack. By definition, leftists cannot be artists. And the mainstream legacy media is being over-run by leftists.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Steve Ditko as Baron Mordo

FYI: This post contains “spoilers” regarding the Doctor Strange movie and the final chapter of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's famous Eternity storyline. This shouldn’t bother you, as great art can’t be “spoiled” (everyone knows that Macbeth creates Frankenstein’s monster, but that doesn’t stop us from re-reading Gulliver’s Travels) but, regardless, you’ve been warned.

Dr. Strange was the first Marvel movie I’ve watched all the way through since the first Avengers film, which was so terrible, fatuous, and stupid it put me off the MCU entirely, once and for all I thought. I gave Civil War a chance on Netflix, and made it about twenty minutes in—those twenty minutes embodied everything I hated about Marvel movies.

I expected to spend maybe twenty minutes on Dr. Strange, which is also streaming on Netflix. To my astonishment I ended up watching the entire film and actually enjoying it. For a huge budget blockbuster film it actually exhibits some creativity and genuine trippiness. In many ways, although it deviates from the original Lee/Ditko source material, it captures its spirit. The ending, with the confrontation between Dr. Strange and Dormammu was reminiscent of the classic panels from Strange Tales #146, in which Dormammu battled Eternity as Strange dealt with the consequences. It was a lot of fun seeing that brought to life.

How beautiful this is!

The biggest of the movie’s improvements on the original Lee/Ditko source material is the portrayal of Baron Mordo. Actually in the movie he’s not yet a Baron, I guess—they just call him Mordo. It helps first and foremost that the Intellectual Property is embodied by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who has a compelling presence and is a good actor besides. At the start of the movie he’s a faithful follower of the Ancient One and a partner and friend to Strange. But when he learns that the Ancient One has been taking energy from Dormammu’s Dark Dimension, and that faith is shaken. Then, when Strange bends time to trap himself and Dormammu in a Groundhog Day-style loop—despite repeated warnings that YOU SHOULD NEVER MESS WITH TIME—Mordo walks away from Strange. As far as Mordo is concerned, Strange has committed a serious breach and while he might have saved the day this time, his actions could lead to devastating consequences down the line.

Mordo, then, is a rigidly moral and uncompromising man who believes that one should stick to their principles, regardless of the cost.

The reasons why Doctor Strange co-creator Steve Ditko left Marvel are not entirely clear and the source of a great deal of conjecture. In one version Ditko, an Objectivist, didn’t think that Doctor Strange’s mystical world was worth exploring, when there were so many horrible if mundane things happening here in reality, where A should equal A. Another version of the story is that Ditko didn’t appreciate Stan Lee’s re-writing his suggested dialogue on the Spider-Man stories he, Ditko, was plotting and drawing. Ditko, apparently, wanted Spider-Man to be a more aspirational figure, as opposed to a “realistic” one. Ditko believed that heroes should be figures that we look up to, not figures that reflect our own weaknesses.

But remember: in the early 1960s there were no royalties or bonuses for comics creators. Stan Lee, as a "company man," was doing all right for himself. Ditko, as a freelancer, wasn't. And Ditko, seeing his comics creations make tons of money for Marvel, and seeing them be licensed as TV shows, felt he was entitled to a greater cut of the proceeds. He also wanted to be fairly credited for his role in creating the work.

Whatever the specifics, Steve Ditko did not believe he was being treated fairly by Marvel. Rather than compromise his principles, he walked.

Despite the fact that Ditko was a smashing success with Doctor Strange, and, especially, Spider-Man, he left Marvel to strike out on his own, doing work for hire at DC and getting a pittance at Charlton in exchange for full creative control. In fact, Ditko’s material at Charlton featuring Blue Beetle and the Question is among his best work.

I don’t know if the creator’s of the Doctor Strange film had this in mind, but it’s easy to see the similarities between Movie Mordo and Steve Ditko. When Stan Lee I mean Doctor Strange is willing to bend the rule to achieve some success, Mordo sees this not as a success to be savored but as a failure to be ashamed of, and he refuses to play along. Disappointed and disillusioned, he strikes out on his own, to chart his own path.

Steve Ditko has stuck to his own principles throughout his career, unwilling to “cash in” on his past successes. It’s interesting to consider whether or not the filmmakers at Marvel Studios—many of whom surely know their Marvel history—decided to use him as a model for one of Doctor Strange’s top villains.

One of the few recent photos of comics legend Steve Ditko?

Live It Down available now!

Duke Redmond, former professional wrestler, lives a solitary life in Los Angeles in 1976. His body is broken and battered from years of entertaining the masses during wrestling's golden age of the 1950s and '60s, when he wrestled as the flamboyant heel "Duke Continental."

Sara Sota, the widow of Duke's former colleague Larry, known in the ring as "Steele Trapp," asks Duke to look into the circumstances of Larry's death. Duke has no reason to think that Larry's death is anything other than a suicide, because after all, wrestlers don't die of old age, or natural causes. And Duke himself has occasionally thought of putting an end to his own miserable suffering, for which he self-medicates. Nevertheless, Duke begins looking into Larry's death and soon begins uncovering information that suggests maybe Larry didn't go crazy and kill himself.

Then, Duke's niece Honeysuckle shows up unannounced from Iowa, declaring her intention to enroll in classes at UCLA. Duke reluctantly makes room for her in his cramped one-bedroom apartment. But she hasn't come into town to study; she wants to be a dancer. Her attempts to create a new life for herself bring her to the attention of a porno producer who wants to use her in his latest endeavor which will be distributed using the freshest entertainment technology-- videotape.

This is the premise of my crime novel, Live It Down, which is available now for the kindle for $2.99 and print for $8.99. The first chapter is below. If you're interested in professional wrestling, porno, the 1970s, or feeling good all the time, give it a read.

Jose couldn’t remember a time in his life when he didn’t instinctively know that things were totally cracked the fuck up. But every so often and just for the hell of it the world gave him unnecessary verification. This time it was Larry Sota’s suicide that did it. The poor, stupid bastard just could not or would not see that everything doesn’t always fit together the way you think. Look close and you can see the cracks.
James’ and Marco’s deaths weren’t part of any conspiracy. They had nothing to do with Larry or anything Larry might have done and they damn sure didn’t have anything to do with Jose. The only thing all four men had in common was that they’d made the unfortunate decision, in the long ago murky past, to entertain the masses as professional wrestlers. And that decision, made mostly of their own volition, led to many other bad decisions. Decisions that always seemed reasonable and even rational at the time, but were in fact monumentally cracked the fuck up.
Training is hard. You lift weights, you spar, you practice your moves, you perform. Well, your body gets tired and sore, so what do you do? Give it time to recover, or take something to ease the pain and give you a little boost so you can keep going the next day? And while you’re turning that over in your mind you might also want to ask yourself: What are the other guys doing? You know, the guys who are after your spot on the card? That’s right, and if you’ve got any sense at all you’ll take that goddam Dianabol yourself; just enough to keep up. Then maybe a little more, just to get that edge. And you know what, if the Dianabol works that well, imagine what uppers will do for you. Then pretty soon you start to realize that uppers are nice, but what you really need is cocaine, then the cocaine isn’t enough so you try a little heroin—right between the toes so no one can see the telltale marks; this is entertainment for the whole fucking family, you know. And all of that, the drugs plus the alcohol you drink between matches and at the parties is doing nothing but good for you. You don’t even notice the cuts and bruises, the pulled muscles, the concussions. You just keep on, and you and every other poor stupid bastard who came before you thinks it’s never going to end.
Then all of a sudden it does end, and you’re nothing at thirty-five. And those drugs that helped keep you going, easing the pain and speeding your recovery? Turns out those motherfuckers have made your body too old and decrepit to do anything at all. Oh, and those blows to the head that rang your bell and made you see stars? You thought you were just shaking them off, but guess what? They’ve made you too goddam stupid to learn to do anything else.
If James and Marco could be said to have been murdered by anything, it was the lifestyle. By signing on and getting into the business they’d condemned themselves. Wrestlers don’t die of old age. They don’t die of natural causes. There was Artie Haley, whose brain hemorrhaged while he was driving, and he plowed his goddam car into a schoolbus when he was thirty-one. Jeff Parker had a heart attack while sitting on a public toilet, injecting heroin into a vein in his ankle when he was thirty-eight. Danny Marshall got shanked in prison at thirty-five. Joe Masur got it into his head that he could fly, and jumped off the roof of his house when he was thirty-six. Chris Thomas was crushed by an overweight prostitute when he was thirty-three. Eddie Stark had a heart attack while walking up a flight of stairs at forty-six. Poor Lincoln Holler had fallen into a coma five years before, when he was forty.
And now add Larry Sota to the list. Went crazy; completely batshit crazy. Convinced beyond all reason—and totally immune to any sensible argument—that some mysterious someone was out to get him, at fifty. Christ, what took him so long? Fifty is a ripe old age. Comparatively, he was one of the lucky ones. Then he went and proved just how fucked up the world is by tying a noose around his neck—hell, not even a real noose, with a proper goddam loop, but just one half-assed knot (Jose shuddered to think about how painful that must have been, how determined Larry must have been to end his own fucking life when the coroner said that he’d spent at least an hour on that rope; shit, after forty-five minutes wouldn’t you just say, Enough’s enough, I’ll try it again tomorrow?) and ending everything himself.
“I’m gonna die,” he’d said. Poor deluded, batshit crazy Larry (hey; maybe that wasn’t such a bad wrestling name) had called Jose almost out of the blue, after seven years, and slurred “I’m gonna die. You’re gonna die.”
“What’re you talking about, old friend?” Jose had tried to sound comforting, but he knew there was no comforting the man who owned that pathetic voice on the other end of the phone line.
“They got James,” he’d said. “They got Marco.”
Jose had heard about James and Marco. “They died, Larry, but that’s got nothing to do with you.” He’d taken a drink from his can of Pabst.
“It’s because of what we did!” Larry had whined. Deep voice, but the man whined.
“That night. The night, it was...” his voice trailed off, vaguely. “Back in Kansas.”
Jose had been in Kansas only four times in his life; the last time was nineteen years before. Half his lifetime before. He’d smiled at the memory.
 “That was an... interesting night,” he’d said.
Larry gasped. “It’s getting us all killed!” he said.
“You can’t really believe that what happened that night has something to do with Jimmy and Marco?”
“He’s doing it in order—”
“Who is ‘he’?”
Larry had ignored Jose’s question. “The order that we went that night. First it was James... Then Marco... Then, oh gawd, it was—”
Jose had heard Larry sobbing on the other end of the line. In response he had laughed lightly. Didn’t want to belittle the poor man, who was obviously batshit crazy, but still. “Larry, you’re letting this get to you. It’s too bad about Jimmy and Marco, but for god’s sake, it’s got nothing to do with you, or with me...”
“You’re after me,” Larry had asserted.
Now Jose really laughed, he couldn’t help himself. “I’m not after you, Larry, my friend. I assure you, I’m not after you.”
But that’s not what Larry had meant. He wasn’t accusing Jose; he was warning him. “They’ll come for me next, and when they do, you get yourself ready,” he’d said.
“Christ, Larry, first it was ‘they,’ then ‘he,’ now it’s back to ‘they,’ which is—”
“I’m getting myself ready,” and Larry’s voice sounded clear for the first time during the call. Cold and calculating, like an accountant toting up column A. “I’ve set up a will. I’m getting everything in order. Talked to my kids for the first time in almost a year. I told my son I love him for the first time—” and the coldness left his voice again, and he was sobbing.
Whether Jose had thought the man was crazy or not—and clearly he was crazy—was beside the point now; Larry was hurting real bad, and there was not one goddam thing Jose could do for him. It made him a little resentful. We’re dying before our time? Wrestlers do not die of old age. He couldn’t bring himself to say it out loud, but goddammit Larry knew that as well as Jose did. None of them would be able to live down their pasts. Try telling me something I don’t already fucking know.
 He’d wished Larry hadn’t called, and he didn’t want to continue the conversation. “Hey, listen, Larry, thanks for the call, and the warning and all that, but I really got to get going now. Why don’t you give me a call later this week?” Maybe when you clear your head and stop with all this insane bullshit. Then: “Maybe we can get together. You’re still up in Pasadena, right?”
“Maybe you can come to my funeral,” Larry had said. “Maybe you’ll get the chance before they hold yours.” The line went dead.
Then, two days later, Larry went dead. For god’s sake, he killed himself. To ensure he wouldn’t die of old age? To pre-empt whatever he thought was coming?
The call to Jose was his fucking suicide note, and Jose hadn’t done anything about it. Not one goddam thing. He could have told someone. He could have called someone. Larry had a wife, maybe he could have called her. Maybe Duke. Hadn’t Duke worked at the VA Hospital for awhile? Might have been able to get Larry some help.
That was why Jose couldn’t bring himself to go to the funeral. Sure as hell wasn’t Jose’s fault, but Jose had a sort of flaw in his character and he felt guilty. Crazy as he was, Larry had reached out to him, but Jose had turned away. Had hung up and finished watching Barnaby Jones, or some bullshit like that, killed off a can of Pabst and then opened another one. Had spared poor batshit crazy Larry about five seconds of thought before going to sleep that night, but didn’t think of him again until he’d gotten the invitation to Larry’s funeral.
He should have told someone about that call. But he didn’t.
Jose didn’t believe that Jimmy and Marco had been killed because of what happened that night in Kansas. He was no psychiatrist, but it seemed obvious to him that Larry must have felt guilty about that for a long time, and Jimmy’s and Marco’s untimely but hardly unexpected deaths had given him an excuse to dig at himself about it. But goddam, there was no reason for that guilt shit. The girl had wanted it. She’d wanted all of them. Lots of girls had hot pants for wrestlers. Today they were called groupies or starfuckers or whatever. Jose couldn’t remember all the strange he’d gotten out on the road. And plenty of them went with more than one guy in one night.
It was true, that night was unique. And that girl was unique. She’d taken on five of them, all by her sweet little self. For Larry’s sake, he cast his mind back. He tried to remember specific details. What about that night, that event, that wild young girl, could have caused Larry so much fucking grief? The answer was simple: Nothing. But to someone who’d had one too many concussions, and taken one too many uppers, that didn’t matter. And if it hadn’t been about that night, Larry would have made it about something else.
But then the night of the funeral Jose got another phone call, and goddammit he just couldn’t help himself. He started to wonder if maybe Larry wasn’t so batshit crazy after all.

Duke Continental's embarassing headshot from 1963 plays an important part in the book.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Twin Peaks: Don't let Stupor Cooper win!

Cool poster.

The original Twin Peaks was an exciting, unique program that, even in its lesser moments (there were quite a few!) still felt special—even important. This despite the fact that it was a network TV show, and the network suits were messing with it, especially in the second season, when they forced Lynch, Frost, and et. al. to explicitly reveal Laura Palmer’s killer. Those couple of episodes, in which Leland Bob horribly murdered Laura’s cousin Maddie, featured some of the series’ most indelible moments. Whatever Ray Wise was paid it wasn’t enough.

After that, the show began to really develop/explore the mythology of the Black Lodge, going into surprising detail about what was actually happening between this reality and that one. The final episode was half Black Lodge—that stuff was brilliant. Maybe the best portrayal of dreaming ever captured in any work of art. The other stuff, with Doc Hayward seeming to kill Ben Horne, the stuff with the Miss Twin Peaks competition, Annie’s kidnapping, the Nadine Hurley stuff, the stuff with Audrey and the bank bomb, etc, doesn’t make much sense— even less sense than Twin Peaks usually made.

There was a sense that the show was becoming even more remote. The current season seems to be taking everything that might have been accessible about the show and jettisoning it in favor of, uhm, I don’t know.

Apparently, Lynch and Frost wrote the new season as one long 18-hour movie, and Lynch directed everything, then broke the result into one hour chunks. And it shows. None of the episodes feel like individual works. So I’m not sure how fair it is to judge based on what’s happened so far. I’m also not entirely sure what’s been happening so far. It seems to be moving at a simultaneously turgid and breakneck pace. Some things are set up and then completely dropped, presumably to be picked up again later (the stuff with Principal Hastings, for instance, the stuff with Ben Horne’s new secretary Beverly Page), while other things are set up and then paid off almost immediately (the glass box).

It was fun seeing Cooper make it out of the Black Lodge. But since he’s appeared in Las Vegas, taking over the life of “Dougie”, he’s been in a complete stupor. And Stupor Cooper’s storyline is completely inane. Las Vegas is the real world, not the Black Lodge. Someone in such a near-catatonic state would be taken to a doctor by—the people at the casino, his wife, his co-workers—SOMEBODY, for crying out loud. And by the way, I’ve never won $425,000 playing the slots over and over, but do they really just give you he money in cash without taking your information, especially your social security number?

This was a major problem for Twin Peaks, especially in the second half of the second season: It completely lost interest in “reality,” and the non-Black Lodge stuff became, essentially, one damn thing after another storytelling. The “reality” stuff needs to be grounded for the Black Lodge stuff to have any impact. If Stupor Cooper could walk around in such a catatonic state in the real world, then there’s no reason for all the Black Lodge stuff.

Bob Cooper is kind of fun, but again, it seems that Lynch and Frost aren’t all that interested in how the real world works. How is Bob Cooper able to dial into government computer systems? He’s been Bob Cooper for twenty-five years, presumably doing this stuff, so why hasn’t he been caught? How does someone like him stay off the radar? Is it just because he seems to associate entirely with loathsome, depraved rednecks? Since the original Twin Peaks aired the PATRIOT Act has passed, and Obama’s NSA has spied on and “unmasked” millions of Americans. How did Bob Cooper evade that?

Bob Cooper: How has he been able to elude capture for 25 years? Where is the NSA?

What the new show needs is more grounding. Where is Big Ed Hurley? Where is Invitation to Love? The stuff with Wally Brando was a lot of fun (and the best use of Michael Cera since Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World), as was the stuff with the new Sheriff Truman’s wife ranting about the leaky pipes and the bucket. We need more of those moments—and they need to connect to something. 

Matthew Lillard as Principal Hastings has been very good. Hastings has apparently committed a horrible act of brutality without his knowledge or consent, and Lillard has portrayed that confusion and sadness in a surprisingly moving way. Hopefully we’ll get more with Jane Adams’s Constance Talbot, the joking Buckhorn, South Dakota crime scene investigator. The other cameos haven’t made much of an impression on me as yet. But, again, this is an 18-hour movie, not a TV series. Except for the terrible Brett Gelman, who couldn’t get a series on Adult Swim, so he very publicly announced that he was leaving the network because of “the misogyny of their policies.”

The original Twin Peaks premiered in April, 1990. It opened with the discovery of the body of Laura Palmer, the beautiful blond high school girl, wrapped in plastic after having been dumped by the side of a lake. As the series wore on, viewers learned that Laura Palmer was promiscuous, took photos for a skin mag called Flesh World, had an abortion, was a drug addict and so on and so on. Imagine the Mary Sue and Jezebel think pieces that would inspire—the woman whose body is a commodity (packaged in plastic!) who is punished for the sin of exploring her own sexuality. On top of that, Twin Peaks is full of attractive, young women in peril. And the scene in which Maddie is killed is harrowing.

If Twin Peaks were to begin today, it would be think-pieced out of existence. People like Brett Gelman would stroke their chins and complain on social media that David Lynch and everyone else involved in the endeavor hates women. Also, there’s the fact that the Black Lodge stuff borrows heavily from Native American folklore—in other words, it’s cultural appropriation.

Lynch subtly addressed some of this in the scene between his Gordon Cole character and David Duchovny’s Denise Bryson. Cole plans on taking the young, attractive FBI agent Tammy Preston with him to investigate the appearance/arrest of Bob Cooper, and Bryson mentions that Cole has gotten into trouble or nearly gotten into trouble with attractive young women before—a nod to the fact that, indeed, the show and the Fire Walk With Me film experienced some criticism of the portrayal and representation of its female characters. It’s a funny scene, but it’s also a bit sad. In 1990, an artist could be messy, could follow their muse to wherever “problematic” places it might take them—even to a certain extent on network TV. If Twin Peaks were just starting today, none of the artistry and uniqueness would matter to the think-piecers and the social media mobs. If it doesn’t advance their preferred (leftist) narrative, it must be strangled before it can build any momentum.

So my question is, why is Brett Gelman on the show at all? And what do other SJW’s think of it? Actually, scratch that, I don’t really care.

At this point, five episodes in, Twin Peaks is a frustrating, fun experience. Stupor Cooper definitely needs to snap out of it (there was one moment, at the breakfast table when he took a drink of coffee, that I thought he was going to snap out of it, but, alas). I mentioned earlier that I want to see Big Ed, and Invitation to Love, but what the show is really missing is AGENT DALE COOPER, the real Cooper, not Bob Cooper or, most especially, Stupor Cooper. 

Stupor Cooper: Please snap out of it!

It’s entirely possible that it will end up being more fun than frustrating, but I’ll only know that after having watched the full eighteen hours. I understand why Showtime is releasing it as a weekly series. For crying out loud, I added Showtime to my Amazon Prime just so I could watch the show, meaning they’re going to get at least four months’ worth of subscription fees from me. But if ever there was a show that needed to be “binge watched” it’s this.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Who knew Kathy Griffin could be so funny?

Kathy Griffin is, let’s say, an acquired taste. I have neither the self-loathing nor the masochism required to acquire that taste (I prefer Doug Stanhope, Paula Poundstone, Norm MacDonald, and Kevin Hart myself) but, hey, some people find her entertaining, I suppose. I never did—until her recent performance I mean press conference.

It’s the funniest thing she’s ever done.

Her opening act introduced herself as “civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom,” just so everyone is clear what her name is, what she’s done, and where she’s coming from. She modestly neglects to mention that she’s the daughter of Gloria Allred, for which she shouldn’t necessarily be held responsible. She says she’s very proud to represent Ms. Griffin, although I’m not exactly sure why a wealthy, famous, privileged “comedian” who posed for some “edgy,” ISIS-inspired images targeting the current president of the United States, should need an attorney to represent her, let alone a “civil rights attorney.”

Ms. Bloom sets the tone of the performance by hailing Ms. Griffin as “one of the funniest humans alive.” That’s a matter of taste, as I mentioned before, but I’d be curious to see some polling on that. Regardless of whether you think she’s funny or not, Ms. Bloom also assures us that Ms. Griffin is “a bold advocate for women, the LGBTQ, people of color, and VETERANS.” Ms. Griffin has apparently traveled to “entertain” the troops in some very dangerous-sounding places. Kudos to her for doing shows in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan. I guess that means she should get a free pass in whatever she does for the rest of her life.

Ms. Bloom seems to be dog whistling the dumb rubes in flyover country: “Hey, dumb rubes in flyover country, don’t you know this WOMAN that you’re attacking SUPPORTS THE TROOPS just like you claim to do while you beat up gay people and deny women contraceptives????”

Then Ms. Bloom goes into a harangue against Donald Trump. Oh, the vicious things that man has said! These are troubling times! Donald Trump needs to be shown beheaded—it’s a cathartic release for all sensitive, thinking people. Ms. Griffin entertained troops for crying out loud. Her motives are pure.

And the photo was actually really deep, when you think about it, as Ms. Bloom explains to those veteran-supporting flyover state rubes who were too stoppid to get it— she was wearing a PUSSY BOW BLOUSE when she posed for that photo! It’s a reference to those “grab them by the pussy” comments! You stoppid Philistines! 

Ms. Bloom says that Ms. Griffin was “fine with” her “edgy” work being interpreted many different ways—then in the next breath says that Ms. Griffin “never imagined that it could be MISINTERPRETED as a threat of violence against Trump.” You stoppid morons! There’s many different ways to interpret this work, but you’re MISINTERPRETING IT BECAUSE I’M TELLING YOU THAT’S NOT HOW YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO INTERPRET IT AND I SUPPORT OUR TROOPS.

The backlash against Ms. Griffin and her appalling “edgy” photos is nothing but pure unadulterated misogyny. “Many male artists have created far more disturbing images,” Ms. Bloom assures us. Just as with her assertion that Ms. Griffin is “one of the funniest humans alive,” this is a matter of opinion. I actually found Ms. Griffin’s image to extremely disturbing—more disturbing than any of the stuff that Ms. Bloom mentions.

“A Marilyn Manson video shows him beheading a Trump figure.”

“The band Municipal Waste has an image of Trump with a bloody gunshot to his head on a band T-shirt.”

“The band Gee-Double-You-Ay-Are (I think she means GWAR, fellow kids!) has had violent images like this for president after president for years.”

“They’re all just considered ‘bad boys,’” Ms. Bloom asserts. Maybe by her and other leftists who find this kind of thing “edgy.” But if she bothered to read any conservative leaning websites or watched any conservative leaning media she would know that there has been a sustained outcry about all of those things mentioned, and a few others besides. (And why by the way doesn’t she mention the most infamous of all—Snoop Dogg’s video in which he shoots a clowned-up Trump figure? Is it because Ms. Bloom is a racist who doesn’t acknowledge Snoop Dogg’s contributions to excessive Trump-bashing because he’s a black musician, and those others she mentions are all white?)

“Unlike these male artists, Kathy has endured the most powerful man in America, and his family, using their power to target her and her employers AFTER she apologized.”

After eight years of leftists hounding anyone—including hounding them out of their jobs—for daring to make any criticism of any of the Obamas, or to criticize any of the tenets of leftism, it’s a bit disingenuous to suggest that Ms. Griffin is being singled out in an unprecedented way. What is incredible about this is that Ms. Griffin’s bit of ghastliness was finally able to break through and hold a mirror up to liberals, to allow them to see what leftists are doing to the political discussion. Those other things that Ms. Bloom mentions were essentially shrugged off. For one thing, they weren’t nearly as graphic as Ms. Griffin’s image—it really does have the look of someone holding a real severed head. For another thing, Ms. Griffin is far more famous (inexplicably!) than any of those “bad boys” that Ms. Bloom mentioned. Ms. Bloom doesn’t even pronounce GWAR’s name correctly. Marilyn Manson hasn’t been relevant in maybe twenty years—if he was ever relevant—and I hadn’t ever heard of Municipal Waste before I read about their gory but cartoonish T-shirt on a conservative-leaning site in January last year. Moreover, those other images didn’t recall the numerous ISIS severed-head images that have been used as propaganda by that terrorist group. (Maybe I’m “misinterpreting” what she did, but I certainly saw echoes of ISIS imagery in Ms. Griffin’s photo.)

Those other efforts barely broke through to the mainstream, and when they did it was to play up the “conservatives sure are touchy” angle. But this one’s different. This one has really bothered people. This one was taken seriously.

Ms. Griffin was taken more seriously than any of the “bad boys” who have, through their art, depicted the violent death of the current president. Isn’t that the OPPOSITE of misogyny?

Ms. Bloom also claims that Mr. Trump et. al. are “hoping for a chilling effect” on our freedom of speech. Again, this is a tactic that leftists have been employing for years now. It’s a bit disingenuous for leftists to start decrying these tactics now.

Ms. Griffin then takes the microphone and claims the mantle of the martyr. In a male-dominated field she’s had to deal with “older white guys trying to keep” her down her entire career. She’s “an in-your-face comedian,” she says. Which suggests “confrontation.” She claims that “what’s happening to me has never happened in the history of this great country.” A private citizen being "attacked" by a sitting president.

That is, of course, not true. Not true at all. How many times did the previous president compare those who disagreed with his policies to terrorists and radical religious zealots? How many times did he suggest that the private citizens who wanted to affect change in their government at the grass roots level were "holding the country hostage"? Which president was it that weaponized the IRS against tea party groups? Which president used the national spying and surveillance apparatus to spy on and "unmask" his political opponents?

Moreover, Obama had the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, et. al. to go after people who dared to stand against the preferred narrative. From Joe the Plumber, to that rodeo clown who wore an Obama mask, to that woman who wrote on Facebook that one of Obama’s daughters shouldn’t look so sulky in public, to so many others, we’ve seen cultural elites hound and destroy average, everyday people for going after the president. We’ve been told that a political map with a “target” on it is a call to violence—while Ms. Griffin is “edgy”. We’ve been told that Tea Party members attending town hall meetings with their elected representatives was creating a “climate of violence,” while today the previous Democrat presidential candidate is proudly proclaiming herself a member of “the Resistance,” which includes violent, fascist oppressors like Antifa and BAMN.

Ms. Griffin is famous. She’s privileged. She’s rich. She’s powerful. She’s a leftist. This kind of thing just isn’t supposed to happen… to her.

She goes on to make some “edgy” jokes—about Trump’s hair. Then she says, “So that’s what I do guys…I improvise, I try jokes,” desperately, as if trying to reassure not just the audience of “journalists,” but also herself, that she really is funny, really, really, even if those veteran-loving flyover country rubes might not get just how clever she is, she really is, she means it.

Then, once she’s finished with her heartfelt plea for artistic freedom and integrity, the first question is about something that Ms. Griffin said about Donald Trump’s youngest son, who is now eleven years old.

“Now more than ever we must absolutely go for all the absurdities,” Kathy Griffin told Vulture at the Equality Now Gala Tuesday night. “For me, that’s Trump and all things Trump. It’s not about trying to be an equal-opportunity offender anymore because Hillary got such a beat down. It’s his turn. So I’m happy to deliver beat down to Donald Trump — and also to Barron. You know a lot of comics are going to go hard for Donald, my edge is that I’ll go direct for Barron. I’m going to get in ahead of the game.”

You’ll note that Ms. Griffin didn’t say this on stage during her act, as Ms. Bloom seems to suggest (with such righteous indignation!) during the performance I mean press conference. Ms. Griffin said this during an interview with Vulture. It is her stated tactic to attack a child as part of her “edgy” “art.” That’s never happened in the history of this great country!

So, yes, Ms. Griffin’s performance yesterday was her most amusing ever, not that that is saying much.

Bonus: Serious hypocrisy from Ms. Griffin. When it suits her, the president deserves respect!