Saturday, October 30, 2010

At Last! Mike Watt's long-awaited opinion of the firing of Juan Williams!

At the behest of no one, I thought I’d weigh in on the Juan Williams/NPR/Fox News debacle.

As you may or may not know, Juan Williams is a journalist who, up until October 21 of this year, worked as a news analyst for National Public Radio and a paid commentator on Fox News. On Fox, he was considered a Liberal and provided a talking point against those who would criticize the “right-heavy” news-ebrities like Bill O’Reilly and the permanent post-partum depressive Glenn Beck. “See?” They could say, pointing at Williams, “He’s a Liberal! We’re not slanted—oh, he is too a Liberal! Look how not-white he is.”

From NPR’s point of view, Williams was a conservative, and therefore, a detriment. So much so that they played hockey with his title—first he was a correspondent, then a news analyst—and demanded that their call-letters be in no way identified with him when he appeared on Fox News. Since he first appeared as host of Talk of the Nation on NPR, they’ve been tugging at their collars, worried about what un-PC thing he’d say—or think—next.

On October 20, Williams appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s show against every rational person’s better judgment and added the final straw to the camel’s back that is NPR. He said, right there, on TV, in front of God and everybody, that seeing people on an airplane “in Muslim garb” made him “nervous”.

He then went on to admonish himself for such feelings and decry anyone who gave in to such knee-jerk impulses, but that part got left behind during the ensuing hoopla. To NPR, Williams having such a human reaction was intolerable, and speaking his mind about it was… well, unspeakable. So out he went.

And, of course, the rest of America went crazy scrambling from one goal post to the other in order to take sides. The Right demanded that the government immediately “unfund” NPR, even though the amount of Federal money allocated to National Public Radio via the National Endowment of the Arts barely accounts for 2% of their annual budget. Sarah Palin called it “shameful” that such censorship was paid for by tax dollars. Which, as any loyal listener will attest, is almost completely untrue, of course. As John Oliver put it on The Daily Show, NPR holds fund raisers “11 months out of the year!” Tax money? Not so much. Private donations, certainly. And with every donation of ten bazillion dollars or more, you get your choice of a free coffee mug or NPR tote bag.

On the Left, folks squirmed, declaring “good riddance” to the dissenting viewpoint. How dare Williams subject them to the other side of the argument? “He’s making us see both points of view again! Make him stop!” Others were uncomfortable with the idea of such obvious censorship, without bothering to look up the definition of the word, and thought that NPR should cool their jets and offer Williams his job back. To the latter, Right opponents shouted, “Screw your apologies! This is war!”

Meanwhile, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, admonished Williams and defended her decision at a press conference wherein she said, and I’m paraphrasing, “He had no right to express such an outrageous opinion. That’s something he should discuss with his publicist or psychiatrist!”

Which seemed to translate as, “We fired this conservative schmoe for being a whoring nutjob.”

As a less-than-impartial observer, a fellow journalist, a loyal NPR listener and someone who can process oxygen into carbon dioxide as opinions with the best of them, all I was able to do over the last week or so, amidst the arm-waving and garment-rending, was shake my head.

Fox News doesn’t pretend to be anything but a Right Wing Noise Machine. In fact, that might be their mission statement. (Personally, I try to avoid more than a couple of minutes of that channel because I end up wanting to buy Glenn Beck a puppy and tell him everything’s gonna be okay, fork over my lunch money to Bill O’Reilly so he doesn’t beat me up behind the gym, or send a box of desperately-needed vibrators to Gretchen Carlson so she’ll, well, exhale once in a while.) The one thing they don’t pretend to be is unbiased.

NPR, on the other hand, prides itself on being a balanced news outfit, and, for the most part, it is. At least, they tend not to sneer too audibly when discussing G.O.P. strategies, and they’ll call out a Democrat for being a dolt just as quick as they will a Republican. My all-time journalistic hero, Steve Inskeep, has cornered such luminaries as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Nicholas Sarkozy without flinching, and then sing pun-filled songs about moray eels to the tune of “That’s Amore`”. Inskeep doesn’t just call a spade a spade, he slaps it around and declares it to be a goddamned shovel. And I usually dig the shows “All Things Considered” (not to be confused with Doonesbury’s “All Things Reconsidered” with Mark Slackmeyer) and the occasional dose of “Fresh Air” and not just because I’m tired of the other Pittsburgh radio stations playing “Highway to Hell” on every rotation.

I rarely paid much attention to Juan Williams. I had heard a couple of his “Right-of-Left” opinions in the past but, you know what? Other people’s opinions don’t generally send me leaping from a car going 75 m.p.h. down I-79 (which is how and where I usually listen to NPR). If Williams thinks that Michelle Obama dresses like “black militant Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress”, that’s his right, I suppose. It ain’t particularly funny, but it didn’t make me sharpen my pitchfork either.

NPR’s position was that Williams’ conduct on Fox News, particularly making that single “nervous” statement, was counter to the company’s position of journalistic neutrality. Basically, because he worked for NPR as a news analyst, he was never off the clock. When he appeared on Fox News, he did so as an NPR representative, whether they were publicly proud of this fact or not. Oddly enough, Fox News didn’t have too much trouble with him presenting “Left-of-Right” viewpoints on NPR, when he had them. But Vivian Schiller, wringing her hands and condemning the kooky concubine, felt that Williams was way out of line, feeling the way that he did and telling people.

She gave Fox News the opportunity to play hero, riding to Williams’ rescue with a $2 million dollar job offer and some high ground on which to stand. But while Williams took the job, he squatted on the high ground and accused Schiller of racism, leftism, and elitism. “I don’t fit in their box,” he spat. Okay, said, but there was some saliva utilized. Schiller backpeddled, gave a grudging apology for having handled the manner with fists of ham, and the two turned their backs on each other, arms crossed and breath held. O’Reilly, on the other hand, wrote “NPR” down on his list of “People and Things Who Should Die Because I Don’t Like ‘em”.

And all of this brings me to the question at hand: when is a journalist allowed to express personal opinion? In the Edward R. Murrow days, perhaps, a respectable reporter did not say, “That Hitler’s a real asshole,” he simply reported what he saw, in Murrow’s case, bombs dropping around his ears and past relatives waving him on into the light. But what of such upstanding gentlemen as Walter Winchell, who had public figures so terrified of offending him that they invited the little weasel to every function and applied lipstick to his tuchis at every opportunity? Winchell had no trouble expressing his opinions to Mr. and Mrs. America, not to mention all the ships at sea.

From NPR’s point of view, Williams was supposed to be a neutral party, what Heinlein defined as a “Fair Witness” in Stranger in a Strange Land. If he is asked, “What color is that barn?”, he is supposed to answer, “The side that I can see is white. I cannot speak for the other sides.” He was to be a “Fair Witness” at all times, on and off the clock, because he is a public figure and a journalist. A reporter. He was not meant to editorialize.

Fox News, of course, has no trouble editorializing, declaring everything short of wax fruit an instrument of that Satan Obama, and it isn’t too far of a stretch to think that Williams was a bit of a pansy for qualifying his “nervousness” in the face of burqas. In fact, that he didn’t shove the Muslims and their garb out of the plane in mid-flight each and every time he encountered him was likely seen to the O’Reilly camp as tantamount to treason.

But was he wrong for expressing this very natural and human feeling of brief xenophobia? Williams, by the way, if it matters, is black. So any NPR-hurling of “racism” at him would be looked-upon as a pot-kettle issue. If you stop his opinion mid-sentence, though, that’s just what you’re doing. Without giving his follow-up statements of “but I realize that I’m being silly and not every Muslim in the world—very few of them, actually—is a terrorist eager to blow every JetBlue flight out of the air” the proper sound bite, that’s exactly the brush he’s being painted with. You can turn it into a “Left-Right” issue or a “PC-Non-PC” issue, but what it really comes down to is, a man, who works as a reporter for two diametrically-opposite news outlets, said something one didn’t like and got shitcanned for it. That he’d said other things they didn’t like in the past should, perhaps, be taken into consideration. If Schiller had indeed warned him in the past of going on Fox with O’Reilly and discussing the inherent evil of the Democrats—“do that and we’ll fire you and take away your Carl Kassel answering machine message faster than you can say “Wait-Wait, Don’t Tell Me’”—maybe he was playing with fire.

But we can’t pretend that journalism has evolved since Murrow, though perhaps not much since Winchell (though they share roughly the same points in history). In these days of the not-so-wild West of the Internet, where “Gonzo Journalism” has been taken up as the new name-calling, it’s difficult to find good, impartial reporting without some degree of opinionizing. It’s even taught in journalism classes (currently the second-most useless major after “Flugelhorn”): it is permitted for first-person commentary to be inserted into a non-fiction piece to provide the “human element”, so that the reader knows that Google just found your article and didn’t actually generate it, whether that’s actually coming sooner or later is a different discussion. In the era of 24-hour news shows, that line between play-by-play and color is even thinner.

So where did Williams trip? By accepting one job while working at the other? Thinking that bipartisanism and rationality still existed in the media-crazed human? Thinking that dissent was some sort of a Constitutional right (Dear Christine O’Donnell, show me where in the Constitution it says “Freedom of Speech” or “Freedom of the Press”!)? Or does it really come down to sugaring one employer’s gas tank too often and finally getting caught for spitting on the sidewalk?

I, for one, certainly miss impartiality in the news, but these days when actual “news” is so rare to encounter, I’ll take even the resemblance of fact that I can look up later over what Lindsay Lohan is fucking today.

I don’t feel a whit of sympathy for Williams. I mean, really, how could I? I say stupid shit every day and no one ever hands me $2 million dollars. And I have no intention of ceasing my patronage of NPR, whether they “censored” Williams or simply “censured” him. And since my own columns are read less frequently than a Surgeon General’s warning on a pack of cigarettes, I figure I’ll say whatever the goddamned fucking hell I please. But if I ever go to work for NPR, I’ll think twice about applying for a night job at Fox. Or vice-versa. Because, quite frankly, if I were a vegetarian, I’d have a hard time working for Oscar Mayer.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Recommendations for the Last-Minute Procrastinators who will surely spend eternity in Hell for the idleness of their hands.

It’s Halloween! I have a few suggestions as to how you should spend it. Because, you know, without my keen insight and advice, how would you even have the motivation to get up in the morning?

For Pittsburghers, my I recommend that you visit some of the finest haunted attractions in the area, particularly:

The Hundred Acres Manor, in South Park, PA. As seen in Splatter Movie: The Director’s Cut (also perfect for the Halloween season!), the Hundred Acres Manor features a long, twisty-turny jaunt through your worst nightmares, including a pitch-black maze!

Or, if interactivity is more your style, take a trip to Castle Blood, where you become part of the spooky adventure!

But if you only have time for one attraction, because you’re obviously terrible at time-maintenance, by no means should you miss Scarehouse in Etna. Voted one of the “Scariest Haunted Houses in America” by Haunted Attractions Magazine (new issue on sale now, boasting a number of articles by yours truly), Scarehouse takes you from traditional scares (courtesy of Creepo the Clown), through the twisted mind of Delirium (in 3-D! Yes, I know it’s already… shut up and go, you’ll see!) 
and into the battleground of future past in Rampage! The lines can get very long, particularly around the holiday and since you were too lazy to go early, you should pre-order the R.I.P. tickets from the official site and skip to the front. Otherwise, you might be best-served to bring a book along for your wait (like Phobophobia, or the newly-released Suicide Machine—both of which are at least as riveting as the articles I wrote for Haunted Attraction).

If you’re one of those layabout types that likes the fright to come to you, switch over to Turner Classic Movies, hide the remote, use a shotgun to turn out all your lights, and settle down for a long marathon of Hammer and classic horror like Doctor X, The Vampire Bat and Isle of the Dead.

OR, even better, put on some new classics like the aforementioned Splatter Movie or The Resurrection Game (for the zombie fans) or A Feast of Flesh (for the lesbian vampire fans). Sure, you could pick up Bikini Bloodbath Carwash or Bikini Bloodbath Christmas (for the fans of bloodbaths in bikinis), in fact, it’s a fine idea! In fact, you should do that as well as order Happy Cloud Pictures loot. As a matter of fact, stock up on Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated, A Sea of Dust, Vindication, The Absence of Light, Deadwood Park, The Colour From the Dark, The Chainsaw Sally Show and The Blood Shed as well!

Because Halloween only comes once a year and that’s probably Obama’s fault too!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Psychology of Democracy via the Box Office

Building on yesterday’s head-shaking grief at the pervading disgust of society…

From an observer’s standpoint, I can see where society wants to go. You don’t have to listen to pundits on either side and you don’t even have to talk to your neighbors. Take a look at the box office returns.

Entertainment has always reflected society. If you want to understand the over-all attitude of any given period, study the most popular entertainment.

We, as a nation, no longer believe that “one person” can do anything to change our situation. Which is why Salt failed to perform. And they don’t feel that one “normal” person can do much of anything, which may explain the underperformance of Knight and Day. There certainly isn’t much faith in the younger generations. We need past heroes to step forward and band together. Which may explain why people flocked to The Expendables and are currently flocking towards Red.

We want the comfort of the familiar, but don’t just regurgitate. We want Piranha 3D, not The A-Team.

For the younger generation, even romance is too tricky a minefield to navigate (sorry, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), but hanging out with your friends and fucking around at least takes your mind off the problems of the world around you. And if you’re a member of the current crop of “lost generation” folks, those once referred to as “X”, you need idiotic diversion more than ever because the world today is way out of your control. (Jackass 3-D) There are few comfort zones left anyway. By the time we schlep home, all we can do is veg on the couch and see what old friends are up to. Therefore, The Social Network reinforces that we’re not wasting our time. And the younger folks even feel justified in the attention paid to Facebook.

We want to feel smart (Inception). We want to feel loved (Toy Story 3). Folks want to know that their pain and loneliness is recognized and understandable (Twilight: Eclipse).

Change by voting? Vote for who? The loudmouth on the right or the moron on the left? The guy who wants to spend and raise taxes, or the one that wants to send poor people to the salt mines of the rich? There’s no choice there! At least with American Idol or Dancing with the Stars, you get some feeling of your voice being heard. And if everyone in charge is either malevolent or incompetent, is it any wonder our entertainment super-villains are impotent too (Despicable Me, MegaMind)?

The unpredictable tastes of the audience has Hollywood, as usual, running around in tight little circles, unsure of what to do. Just like the governments state and local. But going to the movies—or not—is the only way we can exercise Democracy and actually see it matter.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Yeah, I'm talking about GLEE - what's it to ya?

Because I’m married to a heterosexual woman, I am, on a weekly basis, subjected to Glee. This would happen were I married, legally or no, to a homosexual man, so really there’s no escaping it short of a divorce or a sex change.

As far as television goes, it’s no more or less ridiculous than most shows on the air. It has an atmosphere that feels fresh and while I don’t have a favorite character, I don’t have a least-favorite either. I’m not as enamored of Jane Lynch’s psychotic “Sue Sylvester” character as most of the world seems to be, but then again the show in general will throw any character under the bus in order to propel their plots, so if she’s inconsistent from one episode to the next (in which I mean more over-the-top one week and almost-rational the next), it can be overlooked if not forgiven. Even Buffy and Angel were guilty of out-of-place characteristics once in a while to keep the story going, even if those were so few and far between and largely David Fury’s fault that they’re hardly worth mentioning.

Since I possess well-rounded and complete DNA, I actually enjoy musicals. Not all of them; I’m not a fanatic. I cannot turn off Singin’ in the Rain if pops up on TCM, but I’ll gnaw through my own leg to escape The Sound of Music. So the frequent nondiegetic intervals of Glee bother me not in the slightest and I enjoy them more often than not. As the songs are always covers, the familiarity is comforting (unless they’re singing something that came out in the past five years—or, in some cases, minutes—then I’m completely at-sea as to what that song might be) and on average I end up liking the Glee version better than the original because the actors on the show are real singers and dancers, hired away from Broadway or elsewhere due to their musical ability. True, some of them are “auto-tuned” well-beyond droid-speak, and there is the occasional electronic distortion employed that would irritate Peter Frampton. Lea Michelle is clearly the standout on the show and they make not only good use of her voice but her endearingly-insufferable character as well. On the flip side of that, Cory Monteith, who appears to be older than most of the teachers and may well have an AARP card in his wallet, is electronically enhanced for every song to the point where he might as well be singing into a fan.

While I successfully managed to avoid their tribute to Madonna and only watched the illogical Britney Spears love-in with half an eye, I was actually looking forward to their Rocky Horror episode in a perverse way. I discovered RHPS in the very early ‘90s when I was in high school myself, back when I was the age of the characters (rather than now, when I’m the age of the actors). As the ostensible head of our Drama Club, I actually pushed to perform Rocky as our Spring production, partly because I loved the music and the phenomenon, but because I knew it would upset parents and teachers and anyone god-fearing who happened along.

Photo Copyright 20th Century Fox Television

When you’re 17-18 years old, Rocky Horror is subversive and taboo. You feel like you’re part of a secret club, venturing out every Saturday midnight to swear and dance and yell your head off. If you were straight, you felt like a crusader for equal rights because you knew gay friends. If you were an outcast or a misfit, as you invariably were if you were drawn to the movie, RHPS was the place you fit in. A room full of freaks who accepted you as a new member of the family. At its best, RHPS is a large group of square pegs.

Granted, somewhere along the line, everything that was cool and obscure and underground has been moved into the light, placed on a display at Hot Topic next to the Twilight merchandise and had all the awesome drained from it by corporate mosquitoes. And RHPS is no exception. The minute I walked into a Spencer’s Gifts and saw a Rocky Horror lunchbox sitting right next to a Bettie Page clutch purse, each sporting $20 price tags, I knew my young adulthood was over. To purchase my first Rocky Horror t-shirt, I had to take a bus into downtown Pittsburgh, walk several blocks to the incredible and incredibly seedy Eide’s Comics and Records, run the gauntlet of the homeless outside and the seemingly-homeless inside, and scour the racks of uniformly-black T-shirts sporting band names I hadn’t yet heard of to find the one I was looking for—one lonely shirt with its silk-screened pair of lips, most likely a bootleg courtesy of one of the employees.

If I want an official RHPS t-shirt now, I go to Amazon. Two clicks and it’s at my door in 3-5 days, depending on how much postage-rape I submit to.

The same goes for any of the myriad of different soundtracks—the coveted foreign-cast albums of the stage play that we’d bootleg for and from each other, or the extremely expensive 4-disc CD set released for its 15th anniversary. And then there were the nth-generation dubs of the movie taken either from Japanese Laserdisk or the grossly-expensive “official” VHS, from which we practiced our slavishly-replicated moves for our various shadowcast performances. We were devotees of Rocky Horror, both the movie and the play, and loved all of the incarnations, debating if the “Roxy Cast” L.A. recording was superior to the original London cast album or if the original mono soundrack of the movie was better than the stereo track that arrived on VHS and the almost-brand-new film print at the theater. This is what “cult” meant. Those who weren’t in the cult—parents, friends, relatives, clergy—didn’t get it, wouldn’t get it and refused to get it. And that made the cult that much better.

So I couldn’t help but be disappointed in the Glee take, but not for the reasons many Rocky and Glee purists seem to be. I didn’t care about the changes they made to the “suggestive lyrics” (although, for a show that depicts two cheerleaders in an ongoing casual bisexual relationship, replacing the phrases “heavy petting” and “seat-wetting” from “Toucha-Touch Me” just seemed silly). I was even able to get past the obvious lunacy of a) a Middle America high school attempting a performance in the first place (which the show addressed) and b) the manufactured hysteria of (a) about the play’s raunchy nature. Although that the ultra-conservatives who arrived to stir up the controversy were played by RHPS’s Barry Bostwick and Meat Loaf was inspired casting.

(As a digression, I am not one of the legions of folks who found the Glee GQ photo spread offensive or, as the Parents Television Council put it, “borders on pedophilia”. “Tacky” is not the same as “offensive”. Neither are likely to bring about the end of civilization, either, so dial down the hysteria, Mrs. Lovejoy.)

What disappointed me the most was that, with the sole innovation of casting African American diva “Mercedes” (Amber Riley) as Frank N. Further, giving the character a Tina Turner spin that was just fantastic, the arrangement and the choreography was all directly-inspired by the movie. As versatile as the endless stage performances have proven this show to be, and for a show that more often than not thinks outside of the box when it comes to its covers, to simply imitate the movie, down to costumes and sets (with some bizarre—*cough*Columbia*cough*--exceptions), struck me not only as lazy but pandering.

If it was done simply to satisfy the die-hard Rocky purists, surely the producers would know that’s impossible. Unless the Tim Curry from 1975 was cast as a guest star, there would be no satisfying the hard core. For many of us who’d “come of age” with the movie, who found our identities—or, at least, the path to our identities—through the cult of depravity and subversive wish-fulfillment, it’s the reinvention of the show we’ve come to look forward to. If we wanted perfect mimicry of the movie, we could just leave the house on Saturday night and go to any number of theaters across the country.

For those of us already in irreparable culture shock from seeing the film broadcast uncut on VH-1 in 2005, having a mainstream television show devote an hour to the silliness of Rocky’s drag and sexual misidentity was already tragic enough to comprehend.

Yes, the argument has and will be made that the trial-by-fire of RHPS is the dead-on replication of the movie by the shadowcasts. Only after that perfection are the performers permitted to make the characters and the film their own. Non-conformity through odd conformity.

But the cast of Glee aren’t outcasts, they merely play ones on TV. So I expected a bit more innovation from this revolution. If you’re going to thrust my underground cult into the mainstream, at the very least give it a jolt that I haven’t seen hundreds of times before. 

Photo courtesy Molly Alvord's Facebook Gallery

Arm-waving, teeth-gnashing, chest-beating and undirected hatred

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about humanity.

Because I want to be a well-rounded person, I like to know both sides of an argument and make my mind up only after I have all the facts. Like most people, though, I suffer from the occasional knee-jerk, emotional gut reactions that shut down intellectual reasoning. I found myself taking up arms against the insensitive notion of a “Mosque built near Ground Zero” before I learned that 1) it wasn’t a Mosque; 2) it wasn’t going to be built but placed in an already-standing structure; 3) it wasn’t at Ground Zero but a couple of blocks away; and 4) there were already genuine Mosques open for worship in that area. Still, my inner Helen Lovejoy beat my inner Sherlock Holmes to the door, shrieking “Won’t somebody think of the children?!” before I knew all the facts.

But once I received more facts, I adjusted my hysteria accordingly. To some people, this is known as “waffling”; others see it as “being rational”. Some people will argue both sides depending on how it suits their needs at the moment.

Which is called “being human”.

I understand that. On an intellectual level. We, as a society, as a species, are a nervous, hysterical wreck right now. Frustrated and impotent with outrage. The global economy is a mess. Global—with a “G”. It ain’t just this group of people or that, it’s everybody. And everybody is reacting accordingly: looking for someone to blame because there isn’t anything any of us, singularly, can do about it.

We can’t just go “get a job, hippie!”—there are fewer jobs to be had than even during the Great Depression. Naturally, part of this is because that there are exponentially more of us on the planet than there were eighty years ago. The rest of it can be explained by the international market collapses, businesses playing things close to the vest to see if the economy will recover, or any number of rational reasons. On the irrational side, we have everything from the blanket “It’s Obama’s/Bush’s/Limbaugh’s/Lady Gaga’s Fault” to “the Flying Spaghetti Monster has grown angry with us.”

None of it is helpful.

Knowing intellectually the cause/effect doesn’t change the situation. Pointing fingers and screaming won’t either.

But, of course, I understand the screaming, too. At this point, what’s left for any of us to do?

The most counter-productive thing I’ve noticed—that impossible to not notice—is the bile-spewing hatred coming from both sides. Beyond name-calling and gallows humor the abject, black-hearted misanthropy is purely disturbing.

For the past few months, those that post on Yahoo news stories seem to be the angriest (not taking into account the pure right or left-leaning folks who exclusively read Glenn Beck’s site or The Huffington Post).

This in response to a story about the potential hazards of iPhones:

“Health risk?.......what about current National policies?.....that's a health risk-period!” - GNowak

This in response to a report of a Tsunami in Indonesia:

OH NO, not again.

Now obama will come out and open his mouth about this, and we all know what it means when obama opens his mouth....there goes another 100 billion dollars or so of our tax money!” – Bob

This from a story regarding a national poll questioning whether the “system” is at fault or our elected officials:

“Like so many of Obama actions I do not understand. As reported in various press articles only 2% of the popular vote is Gay with up to 10% closet gays if you add them all together how is this going to help him be reelected. He is tearing down our government little by little makes me wonder if how much Muslims are paying him to serve. Then it make me wonder where all his money came from to run for office too.

I never understood how a man who refuses to salute the Flag so many of our brave Veterans have died to protect could be elected to office anyway. Every fundamental policy of our government has been brought down by this administration, Judges who are overturning laws that were passed by popular vote in a democracy as if this is a dictatorship. Obama support for EVERYTHING MUSLIM, Support for gay marriages after it was banned in California by popular Vote and allowing a reportedly Gay Judge to overrule the Law. This just does not make sense.

It really brings to Question his motives for it can not be to serve the American Public. Has he been paid off or sponsored by Muslims to do everything in his power to see that America Falls. It is all too much and to overwhelming to be a normal actions of a sane man who is in Political office unless there is an hidden agenda somewhere.

I advise any Democrats to distance themselves from this man or suffer for his foolishness. I mean heck there are more unemployed Americans than there are gays, he should be trying his best to assist them than supporting this unpopular policy on GAY RIGHTS. Where does it end I don't support GAY RIGHTS for sure, but I don't really care if they gay, I just don't want my children exposed to it and required by law to see it as NORMAL and I think I have more right to this than most after serving in Vietnam. I have earned the right to have my own opinion and it sure does not come close to this PRESIDENT's Policies.” - Eamo K

Posts regarding Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

“this is a BAD thing!!!! this will destroy alot of the unity and trust in units! yes servicemen/women knew they served along side gays/lesbians, but it wasnt known or spoken. this will weaken our armed services not strenghten them and cause problems just watch. and yes i served in war and am a disabled vet so i have been there!” - Dennis C Tue Oct 12, 2010 02:21 pm PDT

“This lawsuit might mean something if the bill to repeal the law weren't already halfway through Congress. It has passed the House and is now waiting for Senate to vote. Instead, the lawsuit is simply a dog and pony show by the GOP to show the world how active they are in promoting gay rights. Excuse me? It was Vice President Cheney, the person the GOP put in the office of Vice President, who lambasted gays in the military and was accutely embarrassed when his daughter came out of the closet. Where was the GOP when it was time to revamp healthcare, where was the GOP when millions of unemployed (formerly hard-working folks) needed their benefits extended, where was the GOP when Warren Buffet himself said Bush's tax cuts for the rich would do nothing to stimulate the economy or create more jobs? They were busy being the PARTY OF NO. Now that the backward Republican Party has finally realized it can not be too anti-gay or its only supporters will be fundamentalist Christians and right-wing extremists, some of its members have filed a lawsuit. Rather than hurting President Obama and the Democratic Congress, I think this lawsuit helps them. It is a clear waste of taxpayer dollars and another example of where the GOP is so out of touch, they actually file a lawsuit when the legislation has already passed the House and is currently before the Senate. People will see the lawsuit as frivilous and another GOP dog and pony show. Anybody want some popcorn???” - Victoria Tue Jul 13, 2010 01:25 am PDT

“Solution: put them on the front line” - FollowMe Tue Oct 12, 2010 02:20 pm PDT

“Another step backwards for mankind,and our country. How about asking the TROOPS, they are the ones that have to deal with this insanity, i've been there i know their vote, to us don't ask don't tell was ridiculous, they shouldn't be there period. You can thumbs down call me racist i care LESS, i'll continue to speak up for what i think is right.I care less what you fairies do, if you want to be an abomination fine, but you don't belong in our military.Liberals are leading to the downfall of one of the greatest nations ever. How tolerant do we have to be? Better learn that answer in Chinese you liberal traitors to this country.” - S
This from The Washington Times online:
g9w6 says: “another plan that will cause American deaths in the name of political correctness! why is it that everything the socialists do ends with our people being killed? i was in the military and i can promise you that the straight rank and file soldiers will never be "convinced" that the gay lifestyle is either normal or acceptable! no soldier is going to want to be associated with two guys strolling down the boulevard hand in hand! and in uniform to boot! how humiliating for our troops and our flag! thank God i'm to old to have to deal with this insult in person!”
[Grammar and spelling, incidentally, untouched.]
The invective hurled from both sides is often frightening. I posted some of the tamer ones I ran across in the hundreds, if not thousands, of spoutings. Everywhere you go on the web, inevitably you’ll run across someone invoking Howard Beale from Network: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!”

But the only solutions seem to be “Vote ‘em out!”(referring to any incumbent regardless of party), “Send ‘em back!” (referring to anyone who isn’t, in general, white and Christian), or, not to split hairs, “Kill them!”—either by our or “God’s” hand.
Maybe the bigger question is, have humans always been this hateful and the lovely anonymity provided by the internet finally gives them endless forums to express it? The cynic will doubtlessly say yes and the cynic will probably be right. “Polite society” is nothing but a mask, apparently. If you can’t be held accountable for your words, you can say whatever you want, no matter how horrific the sentiment. Bile-spewing keyboard jockeys make members of the Westboro Baptist Church look courageous in comparison. At least those bigots have the balls to vent their spleens out in the open.

I want to by sympathetic to the frustrated. I’m frustrated too. But as has been pointed out here and everywhere else, it’s not just the country in trouble, it’s the world. We’re all sharing the same sinking boat and, as usual, those in steerage will drown long before those in First Class, but we’re still going to drown unless something is done. “Every generation needs a new revolution.”—Thomas Jefferson. By my count, and obviously by the count of many others, we’re several dozen revolutions behind. But the trouble is we have too many enemies and too many things to change.
Which brings to mind two other quotes:

“Things are more like they are today than they have ever been before.”—Dwight D. Eisenhower.
“We have met the enemy and he is us.”—Pogo.

Which is to say, I don’t know what the solution is either. But the hate-fueled calls-to-arms definitely isn’t it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

“It Ain’t Over ‘Til The Fat Zombie Sings: Evenings in Quarantine: The Zombie Opera”

Just when you think that the zombie subgenre has nothing left to offer, someone comes along and proves you dead wrong. October 15, 2010 will see the premiere of Evenings in Quarantine: The Zombie Opera at the Grey Box Theater in Lawrenceville, just outside of Pittsburgh.

The creation of artistic directors, Pittsburgh natives and alumni of Duquesne University, Bonnie Bogovich and Elizabeth Rishel, Evenings in Quarantine: The Zombie Opera promises to be an exciting blend of live stage, neoclassical opera and multimedia. The Pittsburgh association is almost a given, seeing as how the former Steel City is the unofficial Zombie Capital of the World, thanks to George A. Romero and John Russo giving birth to the whole undead flesh-eating trope in the 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead. We’re talking about a city that hosts a fan-run “Zombie Museum”, housed within the landmark Monroeville Mall—a structure by itself that attracts devoted pilgrims from across the world due to its starring role in Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Zombies are part of Pittsburgh’s DNA, something that Bogovich and Rishel recognized when brainstorming for a Halloween-themed show. “’Zombies’ [were] the obvious subject to tackle,” as Rishel told

Joining forces with screenwriter and editor Barry Bogovich, special effecs makeup designer Arvin Clay,  Director of Photography Edwin Huang, the group put together a show to tell a classic story of a zombie apocalypse in song. “The story of Evenings in Quarantine: The Zombie Opera follows the plights of Ronnie, Izzie, and Charles, three college friends, as they navigate their way through the infected streets of Pittsburgh, PA,” reads their official press kit. “Each character must take stock of their priorities as they grapple with the living dead and each other, on their way to a military-controlled safe zone.” In the meantime, continual news footage playing on a video screen provides the Greek Chorus to the action, drama and horror.

Bogovich and Rishel proved just how versatile the zombie mythos could be even within their own structure when they gave convention attendees a sneak preview of the show at the October Horror Realm con. Dubbed “A Zombie Cabaret”, the cast performed a stripped-down highlights version of Evenings in Quarantine in a small but nearly-packed conference room. Keeping the gore to an impressionist minimum—utilizing crimson scarves for spraying blood in a way that would make Puccini proud—and switching up the costuming to that of ‘20s and ‘30s garb, the company’s presentation was inventive and, dare we say it, even cultural. They turned the hordes of walking dead (represented by a trio of extras in removable masks) into a black-tie affair.
But make no mistake: the full production is bloody, gory and everything you’ve come to expect from a full-fledged zombie outbreak. “Liz came up with this break-away corset,” Bogovich gleefully told me at Horror Realm, “so when it comes apart, innards and intestines can spill out on stage.” Combined with the professional props created for the show by the Pittsburgh-based costuming house, Specter Studios, this ingeniousness should make for a grotesquely high-brow evening.

For ticketing information and more about Evenings in Quarantine: The Zombie Opera please visit