Thursday, April 30, 2009

who's the stupid vice-president now?

Joe Biden's ridiculously uninformed comments about the swine flu epidemic, are further proof (like a Cheney/Hannity interview) that there are absolutely no intellectual qualifications required in order to become Vice-President of the United States.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

closet minded

The Fox Network, which stills bills itself as a news corporation, has decided not to carry the Presidential address tomorrow evening, but will instead air an episode of Lie to Me. Lie to Me, for those who may not know, isn't another appearance by the mope Dick Cheney on Hannity, but rather more like a lite version of 24. Lie to Me attempts to offer the same demands for the truth as the wacky 24 but without the torture, threats, and explosions.

Speaking of Hannity. He now offers a service, called Hannidate, that purports to bring like-minded conservative singles together. A quick check of the site revealed that there are no single conservative women within a 25-mile radius of the Warrior Ant Press World Wide Headquarters. Is this because all the true conservative women are all happily ensconced in dutiful marriages?

But strange thing; Hannity must be a bit of a hypocrite. Try this for fun. Change the search terms to search for same sex encounters and viola! a huge list of willing prospects comes out of the wood work, or in Hannity's case, out of the proverbial homophobic closet.

Monday, April 27, 2009

privatizing the imagination

Artists played a largely unheralded role in Obama's victory. But they had been tugging the national unconscious forward for decades, from the multiculturalist avant-gardes of the 1970s and '80s to the hip-hop rebels of the '90s and 2000s, plying a fearless, sometimes even unruly kind of polyculturalism. By the final months of the election season, these artists had secured Obama as the waking image of change.

Every moment of major social change requires a collective leap of imagination. Political transformation must be accompanied not just by spontaneous and organized expressions of unrest and risk but by an explosion of mass creativity. Little wonder that two of the most maligned jobs during the forty years after Richard Nixon's 1968 election sealed the backlash of the "silent majority" were community organizer and artist.

Obama was both. So why haven't community organizers and artists been offered a greater role in the national recovery?--Jeff Chang writes in the May 4, 2009 edition of The Nation

I won't pretend to speak for community organizers. Or artists for that matter. But I will say this. Many artists are engaged, enthralled, even moved by the opportunity to effect change. However the Office of the Presidency is a centrist collective that defines America around an abstract, advertisable notion of America. Change has permitted us to color these advertisements with a broad swatch of diversity but as a whole it's the family value meal that graces our tables.

Interestingly enough, the number of Americans who claim to be full-time artists is nearly equivalent to those who claim to be farmers (about 2 million). Real farmers, those with a isolationist view of their lifestyle and a second job in order to maintain it, have more in common with most artists than the typical farmer depicted on television. Seed corn hats, cotton print dresses, and children who respect their elders cross all demographics. People who fail to understand that are the only ones surprised to learn that courts in Iowa have upheld same-sex marriage. That said, the farmer, or at least his corporate surrogate with the K-street lobbyist, is still given a place in the national dialogue. This while the collective conscious seems to believe that artists take pride in selling their drawings on the street corner to keep themselves in cigarette and beer money.

All this could change with in a hurry with a President, or First Lady, who had the temerity to befriend artists, invite them to the White House, and give them a stage to talk about their work, what it means to them, and to America.

Everyone has to eat. That's frequently the rationale for why farmers are so important, which is true, but sadder still when when what's for dinner is so often pre-fab food. Since pre-fab America is still tottering on verge of bankruptcy let's just go ahead and bury it for good.

I propose a weekly dinner at the White House. Or a luncheon. Call it Farmers who Lunch and the Artists who Cook for them. Every week the White House kitchen is turned over to artists who then, in cooperation with small, independent farmers who grow food that isn't livestock feed, cook a meal together and following that, sit down at the table, the big kitchen table in America's White House, and discuss the matters of importance to America. The First Family, White House staff, and a rotating group of Congress are invited to join them, to listen, and to learn.

the creativity stimulus

Minnie Black, luffa sponge man.
Shawn and Clarissa Langley Family of the Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy Farm.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

eric rosen is waiting for guffman

So says my daughter. And she might know. Let's hope for Mr. Rosen's sake that the wait is still on for Guffman.

After the frisky staging of Mary Zimmerman's telling of The Arabian Nights, the Rep has turned in two dreary performances that have left me befuddled. Granted Mr. Rosen, as the Rep's Artistic Director, has every right to bang his own drum. Rosen did have the conviction to turn Sherwood Anderson's classic novel, Winesburg, Ohio, into an unlikely musical, but unfortunately for audiences, the sound and fury of the recent Rep staging of this show was muffled, dreary, and uninspired. Anderson's work served as an iconic inspiration for many teenagers, myself included, seeking a path out of the close-mindedness of Midwestern small towns. Rosen's musical, on-the-other-hand, reminded me of why I seldom return to visit. It's just not that interesting of a place.

Rosen and the Rep deserve credit for working hard to bring new and younger audiences to the theater. Eleven pm performances at the Copaken Stage are a smart approach to liven the Power and Light District with real culture. The typical Rep crowd, which appears to be composed mainly of folks who got close to, but never achieved incredible wealth, scares me with its excess of tweed jackets and designer pantsuits. But as a whole, this doddering crowd has never frightened me as much as the mediocre production of The Borderland at the Copaken Stage.

More than once during the second act I keep thinking that a mass execution will occur and redeem The Borderland from the plodding, unsympathetic characters that moped around the stage during the first act. No such luck. If only the script could have kept up with the sound and lighting in this show it might have been worth a late night. Instead, the plot was completely improbable, the characters unlikeable, and the catharsis irredeemable. Lacking theater, there wasn't much reason for the effort.

Friday, April 24, 2009

muscle up

Invicible from DTroit. A smaller carbon footprint than the Pontiac TransAm and the ablity to shapeshift.

whatever it is we did, errr do...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

the long-term pain and suffering inflicted on the USA by the Bush Administration

The recently declassified Bush Administration torture memos contain startlingly precise descriptions of the proposed interrogation techniques. The memos, prepared by Bush lawyers to justify the techniques, read like one giant cover your ass corporate document for a litigious society.

Before the written memos that gave the OK to torture, there were a couple of face-to-face (alluded to in the memos themselves) meetings between Bush lawyers and the CIA client and no doubt, a few phone calls. One can only imagine that at some point during these talks the Justice Department lawyers politely asked Bush Administration operatives,

"now let me see if I understand exactly what you're describing. You're going to strap someone to a board so they can't move, cover their face with a towel, and then slowly pour water into their nostrils. Is that correct? And from what I understand you've said, the prisoner, no matter how much training they have had, no matter that they may be aware of how the process works, the prisoner will react as if being drowned? Correct? The reflex can't be stopped? The prisoner will believe they are drowning, about to die, and will react according except they are strapped to a board. And you also say that you'll do this technique, 'waterboarding is your preferred term?', for about 30 seconds until the prisoner thinks they are about to die and then you'll stop, lift the towel just long enough for the prisoner to gasp three or four breaths, and then you'll pour water down their throat again so the prisoner again has the sensation of death-by-drowning. Correct? And this process will continue for as long as 20 minutes or until the prisoner capitulates? And you wish to know if this is torture?"

The lawyer then goes on to explain that even though water-boarding is designed to, and will result in, the prisoner believing that their life is threatened by imminent death, the technique does not "inflict severe physical pain and suffering". The reason--here is where the fancy lawyering comes into play--is that the term severe physical pain and suffering has been defined by the Bush Administration as one that has lasting mental or physical manifestations. How one can expect a prisoner to believe they are getting ready to drown, spill their guts, and the process NOT leave a lasting mental mark on their pysche is a little unclear. Under this scenario, the process is designed to be so scary as to extract a confession, yet subtle enough that the prisoner wakes up the next morning with no memory of the event.

One really has to wonder about the logic that went into the Bush Administration conclusion that these interrogation techniques weren't torture. The rationale that waterboarding doesn't cause long-term pain and suffering is based on the notion that the US military subjects some of it's own operatives to intense training to let them know what they might expect to happen if they were captured and tortured by the enemy. Waterboarding is used an example of the kind of torture they might have be expected to endure. We expose them waterboarding as an EXAMPLE of torture.

Hindsight is always twenty-twenty but at some point it would have been nice if the 'family-friendly' Bush Administration had taken a poll of what they loved to call real Americans. The could have described the process to the mother of a US service member who's either going to, or currently serving in the armed conflict, and then asked the parent, OK, if your son/daughter is captured and these same techniques applied, would you consider waterboarding to be a form of torture?

Note to the Obama Administration. The President, regardless of the precedent the Bush Administration tried to establish, does not decide who gets prosecuted for violations of US laws. That decision is better left to the Department of Justice.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

half-hearted torture

Recent revelations about the CIA engaging in torture indicate just how far US hegemony fell during the Bush Administration. Despite the yelping dogs who crave a bloody fight, the memos prove that Cheney and his pasties repeatedly lied to the American public about engaging in torture. But YOU already knew that. To the same end, Puppet-Boy Bush may have repeated lied to the American public but his excuse may just as easily turn out to be, as with the weapons of mass destruction, that he was too gullible to know the truth, not intellectually engaged enough to demand a proper answer, or just too dumb to be trusted by Gepetto who was yanking his chain.

That said, if the best the US could do in a 7 year long war to end-all-wars, a war-like-no-other, a war-with-no-borders, was to only torture 2 combatants and then to have to resort to torturing them over 200 times just to extract whatever information was extracted, then maybe we should just give up the practice. One could almost imagine at some point Donald Rumsfeld going over the numbers and then deciding that it's just not cost-effective to torture the captives so let's continue with the bombing missions.

Monday, April 20, 2009

elvis costello's christmas album?

Let's hope this doesn't come to pass but one has to wonder if Elvis Costello's recent appearance on Praire Home Companion doesn't mark his slow decent into musical obscurity, sorta of the equivalent of making a Christmas album.
Sure Elvis has a Sundance channel program (Spectacle) and an album (Secret, Profane & Sugarcane-June 6 release) to promote, but busking to the PHC crowd doesn't seem to follow from Elvis' tendency to take musical chances.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

warrior ant press: spring reading list

Even though we've spent way too much time in front of movies and vintage tv shows over the last few months, we've still managed to read a few books. Here's some you might want to check out.

Topdog/Underdog, Suzi-Lori Parks. Theater Communications Group, 2002. This play, about two black brothers named Lincoln and Booth, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002. The play remains fresh and poignant as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth and the rise of the Obama nation. The clumsy, younger Booth hopes to follow the success Lincoln, his older, wiser brother, as a smooth operator of three-card monte. The reluctant Lincoln though, has forsaken the street life for an 'honest' life as an Abe Lincoln impersonator in an arcade show, even though it is one that requires him to wear whiteface. The audience acts as the mark as the brothers perform a bit of street theater.

Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson.2008,
Growing up in a small town and reading Anderson's character tale, I was charged to find a way out of the 'burg and into the world. But after seeing Eric Rosen's musical of the same name and re-reading this classic, I found that even if you can go home again, all too often, it's just not that interesting.

Snuff, Chuck Paliacke.Doubleday, 2008. A quick read that wavers on the edge of political incorrectness and a feminist view of sex as an aging porno star vies for lasting celebrity (and personal redemption) by attempting to break the record for most sexual partners (600)in a day.

The Forever War, Dexter Filkins.Alfred Knopf, 2008. OK. This book came out last year and made a bit of a splash. With good reason. It's about the war in Iraq which may, or may not, be winding down as promised. However, considering that it seems likely that we'll be in Afghanistan forever, it's still worth reading.

The Farther Shore, Matthew Eck. Milkweek Editions. 2007. More resonant and universal than Tim Obrien's The Things They Carried, more real and intense than Meditations in Green, this is one book you'll want to keep in your library.

Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line, Martha A. Sandeweiss. 2009. The story of Clarence King, the first Director of the US Geological Survey, who first found happiness in the golden California hills and then later in the arms of a black woman. King lead a secret life of philandering that neither his wife nor his professional colleagues was aware. The exception to the mystery appears to have been former Secretary of State, John Hay, who make payments for years in King's honor to keep his illicit family from the poorhouse. Makes John Wesley Powell, the one-armed Colorado River raft-runner and 3rd director of the USGS, seem provincial by comparison.

The Reader, Bernhard Schlink. Vintage International Paperback, 1997. Just because Kate Winlett won an Academy Award for her role in the movie adaptation of the book and just because it's been translated into 37 languages doesn't make this book any better. Mediocre books make for mediocre movies.

Lush Life, Richard Price, Picador Paperback, 2008. With this novel, Price sets the tone for the street patois he would later master in writing for the HBO series The Wire . There are some differences. The novel is set in New York's lower East side and centers around a robbery gone awry; the series plays out in the Baltimore drug trade. Unfortunately for readers, the series is better than the book.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

michael jackson invokes mc hammer

Can't touch this.

What is it about famously rich pop singers and bad taste? Surely I wasn't the only one who found the Kind of Pop's secret fetish for bronze figurines of children holding balloons to be creepy.

tea-bagging is fun AND profitable

Now that the weird National Holiday has passed, conservatives are massing at the border to make at run at Facebook. Hey, why are you surprised? Your parents tried to ruin it, so why not Glenn Beck?

OK. I don't purport to be an expert on the tea party business but it does seem that whenever these folks are quoted in the media (sometimes they are the media) they offer no specifics. They're just unhappy with the government. Yesterday, the local organizer for the Mission, KS event was quoted as saying "no, it wasn't about taxes" (this while standing in front of the post office on tax day) but instead was about "government spending".

She went on to complain about TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) and pork-barrel spending. We have to get government spending under control. Then she stated that what she wanted was for more of the tax dollars to stay local - which is kind of funny, since that's exactly where the TARP and pork-barrel dollars end up. And the sad truth about the facts which typically get left on the floor when the rhethorical banner gets hoisted. Federal taxes haven't gone up. The taxes that continue to increase are state and local taxes. It's a weird thing.

Monday, April 13, 2009

deliberate, careful, and scientific

An atomic approach to stimulating our nation's economy.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

portugese water torture dog

Another sign of the differences between the Bush and Obama Adminstration. Bush was a cat person; Obama a dog lover. Also, the Bush Administration was fond of water-boarding as a form of torture and the Obama Administration announced today that the latest addition, after Katherine Sebilius, to join the team is Bo, a Portugese Water Torture Dog.

For those of you who may not know, the Portugese Water Torture Dog is a working breed. Although originally a seafaring breed, with the economic downturn and loss of many pleasure craft due to the expensive of maintaining them, many Portugese Water Torture Dog have been forced to take on second jobs to assist their owners with the cost of maintaining their elegant lifestyles. One of the most popular jobs, given the affable nature, stamina, and water skills of the breed, has to been to work as magician assistants - which is the reason for the recent name change by the American Kennel Club.

The most famous Portugese Water Torture Dog was Houdini the Hairy Black and White, who perfected the trick for which the breed is named. In this trick. the dog's owner is first shackled, and the submerged upside down, in a large glass tank. The dog then has six minutes (less if the owner is not in near perfect shape) to free his master from the tank. If successful, it's typical for the owner to reward the animal with a fancy dog treat.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

money shot

Surprisingly, none of the pundits who were cheering for a Michigan State victory over North Carolina in Monday's National Championship as a metaphorical symbol that Detroit was on the road to recovery and that a State victory might mark the beginning of a much needed turn around of the US auto industry, have gone on record to reinterpret the meaning of a loss. Carolina, which in two games this season, drubbed State by a total of 52 points, drove the symbolic last nail in the good-old-days coffin. If folks were hoping to find a Spartan dancing around a pot o' gold at the end of the financial rainbow Monday evening, it did not happen. Although, a small miracle did occur near the end of the celebration. Rainbow Head John 3:16 was there as the trophy was hoisted and managed to find his way into the money shot.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

band of brothers: ethan hawke, kris kristofferson, toby keith, and willie nelson

Here's the latest on the story that rocked the Country Music Channel this past weekend. It's Country Music's biggest controversy since Alabama discovered that Shania Twain was Canadian and Vince Gill learned that Patsy Cline's protege, k.d. lang, was gay.

Toby Keith says report of exchange with Kris Kristofferson is "100 Percent Fiction"

According to the Rolling Stone article, Toby Keith emerged from the theater's basement to wish Nelson a happy birthday before telling Kristofferson, "None of that lefty shit out there tonight, Kris." The report goes on to say that Kristofferson replied, "What the fukc did you just say to me?" and that Kristofferson followed it up by asking, "You ever worn your country's uniform?" Kristofferson reportedly then told Keith, "You heard the question. You just don't like the answer," and asked again, "Have you ever served your country?' The answer is, no, you have not. Have you ever killed another man? Huh? Have you ever taken another man's life and then cashed the check your country gave you for doing it? No, you have not. So shut the fukc up!"

And now Kris Kristofferson says the "dispute never happened."

So last evening, to settle the dispute once and for all and to get our citizens once again focused on the Flag as a symbol for All That is Good in the World, a first in the history of the Grand Ole Opry occurred. A wrestling ring, yes, a full-sized WWF wrestling ring was erected center-stage at the Opry and the three men at the center of the controvers squared off in a Country Music Celebrity Death Match.

"It's a country death match, like chicken-fried steak with a side of gravy," Vince Mann announced to the crowd, "no one leaves the ring until the truth has been told or the last man perishes trying."

And this is the way it went down. For the first 5 minutes of the match Ethan, Kris, and Toby trade round house blows and flying kicks. Each spends significant time lying prone on the canvas only to be rejuvenated just seconds prior to being counted out. Then, just when the wiry Hawke appeared to have gained the upper hand on his larger, more muscled opponents, Kris and Toby simultaneously agreed to go at Hawke together. Togther they pummelled Hawke relentlessly for the next 5 minutes, opening cuts in Hawke's forehead, until finally they grabbed the near lifeless actor and heaved him over the ropes like a sack of potaotes. Hawke landed on the press table which collapsed in a heap and sent reporters scurrying for saftey.

Kris and Toby then strutted around the ring to the tune of I'm an Okie from Muskogee. Hawke slowly regained consciousness after which he grabbed a reportor's mike and proceeded to tell Kristofersson that he was a pussy-whupped old man and that Toby was his back-room, flag-as-a-hajib wearing, secret lover. Toby and Kris beckon Hawke to the ring so they can kill him, but Hawke knew better. For the next 5 minutes, Hawke pranced around the perimeter of the ring until both Keith and Kristofferson were foaming like rabid dogs and the crowd was yelling for a quick kill. Of Hawke.

Then suddenly, much to every one's surprise, but mostly Kristofferson's, Hawke suddenly slide beneath the ropes, and kicked Kris's legs out from beneath him. Hawke then quickly jumped on Kris's stomach and when Kris moved to protect his sensitive parts, Hawke did a real stomp on his face, breaking the aged crooner's nose in two places.

When Toby tried to counter attack, Hawke threatened to break Kris's arm. Toby momentarily dropped his guard just long enough for Hawke to pull a flying reverse kung fu move that dropped Keith into a quivering, unconscious heap on the canvas. Hawke, who now appeared to sense the potential for complete and utter vindication of the liberal lifestyle then positioned the big men on top of one another with Keith's face nestled in Kristoffeson crotch.

By now, the crowd was going absolutely berserk and semed ready to bum rush the ring. A chair came flying into the ring. Hawke snatched it up and placed in on Keith's back and then Hawke climbed the corner turnstile and prepared to launch himself into space and simultaneously crush both men. Miraculously, at this moment, Willie Nelson emerged from a backlit stage, and proceeded to stun Hawke into submission with his cane. Willie then grabbed the mike and started singing. Willie's song, albeit horribly off key, had the effect of slowly waking first Kristoferson, and then Toby.

Willie then took off his flag bandannas and wrapped the injured Kristofferson's head. The two then joined Willie center ring as they sang a moving, teary-eyed tribute of medleys to our fallen soldiers. The crowd joined in, everyone stood, and the Oprey house spontaneously erupted in a the chorus of America the Beautiful. Someone passed a flag to the ring, which Toby grabbed and ran around the ring like he's just won the Olympic Gold Medal. The crownd noise was nearly defeaning.

However, Willie, always sentimental after smoking some good weed, quickly stopped Keith, took the flag from him and attended to the nearly unconscious Hawke. Kris doused Hawke with a lite beer, also handed up from the crowd, and together Willie and Kris were able to resuscitate their fallen comrade.

Hawke, now wearing the colors that never run about his shoulder, apologized to Willie, Toby, Kris, and the assembled throng of fans. He begged forgiveness but the crowd just jeered. Only after Hawke announced that he would donate the proceeds of his next film to a non profit dedicated to helping homeless vets does the crowd begin to soften. Mikey Rourke, sitting ringside, then climbed the corner of the ring and began pounding his chest like a 15-year old. The crowd responsded mightily and roared unconditional love as Kris, Toby, and Ethan Hawke slowly faded into the wings like a Band of Brothers. In the end, Willie looked up at Rourke balancing precariously on the edge of the ropes and yelled to the crowd, "I'm the best in the world!" which enticed Rourke to launch himself immediately at the old troubadour and thus Round 2 began.

Monday, April 6, 2009

your tax dollars at work

The Obama administration, reversing 18 years of military secrecy and media manipulation, has begun to allow the press to cover the return of fallen US soldiers. Bringing the true costs of the war home to American citizens is one of the ways the Administration hopes to garner public support for our eventual withdrawal from this conflict.