11.25.2008

Death-Meme

I found myself, in a moment of desperation, writing the word MEME in all caps on the board today. I was at a loss to explain to my students why I knew so much about "Sarah Palin's Children," "Ted Bundy," "Natalee Holloway," "Tblisi, Georgia," and "Radical Neo-Con Pundit Arlo Harshenstein," and to be honest, the months of trying to express myself openly with them about the interlocking truth behind all media had driven me to a state of caffeine addled madness anyway. I intentionally left out that hyphen.

See. I've lost it, my work is inexplicably spilling across all boundaries, flooding me as though the proverbial Noah's Ark of my consciousness has been cracked open upon the stalwart rocks of indignant, persistent, cold reality, spilling the many paired animals of my better nature into an utterly unfit aquatic evolutionary ecology.

But I wrote MEME on the board and this act seemed to recenter us. And I realized that old truth, that bits of absurdity amplified by redundancy have always defined us as a species, however one configures the gaze--that for every cliched expression there was some idiot who got wasted and died in Aruba who "broke the mold" in the setting of "the mold" as it were.

After classes today, as I was having dinner with a few of my colleagues, I actually found myself saying, in all sober seriousness, "I think, in thirty years, people will look back on 2005 as the most significant year for the transformation of human culture ever." I went on to elaborate, for reasons long since tired (but nevertheless somehow still refreshing), why the year was so special, how the bizarre amplification of insignificance on the part of the 24-7 Blogomedia in an unanticipated way re-humanized us, let us experience the Natalee Holloway directly instead of through the intercession of a reporter. What was it they said, "Everyman his own columnist"? Oh those halcyon days. And remind me, what did this pave the way for, in terms of internet-based something, something laughed off after 2004, perhaps?

Yes it turned, and it turned most of all with Schiavo, with the conservative movement's un-ironic reductio ad absurdum of its "principled" valuation of "any life" over the needs of all the desperately living. Terri Marie Schiavo was not someone about whom any of us should have ever heard. Her pseudo-tragic story should have ended privately. This is obvious. But we did hear about her and of little beyond her for many months back in those early mements of 2005, with Bush just re-sworn-in and a conservative hegemony in Congress sustained. We heard, and they took proto-McCain-Campaign-Suspensionary action, opening an emergency session on Palm Sunday in order to pass some absurdly invasive law in order to reroute the jurisdiction governing the case... I mean, really, they did more then in terms of theater and unified action than we have seen during this whole ridiculous economic crisis... But anyway.

That was the moment we should have known the jig was up, that we had seen one too many Video Professor ads and we had finally decided to "try his product", to speak euphemistically. I have been cynical about politics for a long time, but in my recent reflections on 2005 and what has happened since then, it has become all too clear what has swallowed all of us. We are like Schiavo, permanently vegetative, caught in the vice-like tug of an indifferent whirlpool, unaware we should be screaming for our lives.

Short Dream

I dreamed I read on TrueHoop that Brian Windhorst of The Cleveland Plain Dealer was dying of a terminal illness.

I may have actually read this, but as far as I've been able to tell with the help of Google, it isn't true. Yet.

11.24.2008

Loss of Web Innocence: Addendum

I just wanted to add one final point about this whole topic, and that is about Cable News. When one watches Cable News, one is amazed at how beautiful everyone on the screen is and how smoothly they carry themselves. They may be blathering idiots, but they present themselves well. This is why most of the pundits I read online can never be on TV. If I, a New York Jew, am horrified by their Jewiness, over-educatedness, wormsiness and whininess, a grandmother in Omaha would have a heart attack if she saw any of them on her television screen! "Charles, make it stop! MAKE IT STOP!"

The only two online pundits who have managed to cut it in TV are fivethirtyeight.com's Nate Silver and The American Prospect's Ezra Klein, probably because Silver is smarter and more self-aware than most of the other pundits, and Klein is from California. It's like these guys managed to take a nail file and file down the overgrown Jewiness, the out-of-control wormsiness, and the ingrown wormsiness. As for the others, fortunately for us, their TV careers are a pipe dream.

Loss of Web Innocence

As any good web addict is wont to do, I check my core sites every morning. I know that the traditional understanding of the web is as a place where individuals from around the globe sitting down at their computers spread information and ideas.

But from my perspective, it has always seemed that the web is actually one big Computer Oracle. Matthew Yglesias does not exist as a person. Tyler Cowen does not exist as a person. Emily Bazelon does not exist as a person. There is only the YglesiasBot, the Cowen algorithm and the Bazelon program. Every morning these marvels of high technology send out some new content for me to read.

So imagine my horror when some of my core sites started putting PICTURES of their writers on the sites! I'm reading an article on Slate about Treasury Secretary appointee Timothy Geithner, just minding my own business, enjoying myself, when all of a sudden the article ends and WHAM! A picture of Daniel Gross's fucking vile face right there on my screen! I shuddered and quickly closed the window. I thought maybe it was an exception. I could maintain my belief in the GrossBot, I thought. But I kept reading Slate and it wouldn't stop. Jacob Weisberg's smarmy grin was staring right at me. I practically had a breakdown. You mean these articles and posts are actually written be living, breathing, sweating, asthma-having human beings?

I was just getting myself comfortable with that idea, but I figured I should go back to my comfort zone of pictureless sites with just those bylines. I pulled up The New Republic. I read an article about Obama's press operation, and I peeked at the bottom of the page... No picture! Whew. Confident that I was back in the bubble of the Oracle, I figured I'd check TNR's blog The Stump Ahh, the ZengerleBot is speculating about the Secretary of the Interior appointment, the PlumerBot is on about the environment- ha! my old faves. And then I saw it. An embedded link to a VIDEO of a BloggingHeads.tv debate between TNR's Noam Scheiber and Politico's Ben Smith. I didn't want to look. But I couldn't stop myself. I pressed play. What I was treated to was the most horrifying ten minutes of my life. My Computer Oracle vision of the Web was once and for all completely shattered. Now let me preface this by saying that I roll with a pretty over-educated, Jewy, wormsy, whiny group for sure. But I came to realize that every morning I was reading the writing of a group of people whose over-educatedness, Jewiness, wormsiness and whininess were OFF THE FUCKING CHARTS. My friends and I are just not even in the same league in any category. It's been a pretty awful realization.

So I am just adjusting to this new reality. I am making sure I don't see the worst of it. For instance, as you value your sanity, do not watch TNR.tv, TNR's web video series. For those of you with a strong stomach, I'm linking to a particularly gruesome example. Good god I can't even look at Jonathan Chait's whiny Jewy face in the screenshot behind the logo! I need to sit down....

11.20.2008

"Team of Rivals"

We have a Death-Media exclusive. Doris Kearns-Goodwin drops by the Huffington Post studio to discuss her oft-mentioned masterpiece, "Team of Rivals" with Arianna, and boy do the sparks fly! Check it out:Team of Rivals - Huffington Post Radio

Special thanks to Dan for audio engineering this broadcast. Share, repost, but most of all, enjoy!

11.17.2008

Worst Possible Guest Host

So I was watching some senseless pop culture program on TruTV (how I miss thee, CourtTV), when I realized it was almost 9:30 and that I was missing my favorite show (according to Facebook), Rachel Maddow.

You can imagine my chagrin when on tuning to MSNBC I found Arianna Huffington ensconced in Rachel's normal throne. Don't get me wrong, I "respect" what a liberal media juggernaut she has crafted, and I love the in-your-face headlines her site employs. That said, the woman is a complete flake, utterly prone to shifting with the political winds. Think of her as a less substantive, Greek-accent-having female Mitt Romney. Yes, I said less substantive.

On top of the accent, the woman absolutely cannot read a teleprompter to save her life. Where Rachel is quick, vivacious, wonderful, Arianna is slow, dead, dull as tears. But I guess she is still a pretty big player, as she's had on not only mega-baller Nate Silver but Google CEO Eric Schmidt in the torturous half hour that I've been watching. But this figures. Each is a power in his respective field, and if there is one thing Arianna knows, and craves, it's power.

And I have proof of this. Years ago my parents were conned into hosting some kind of book release party for Arianna by one of their artist friends. It ended up costing them a lot of money, and they are still pissed about the whole thing, but I'm not. You see, prior to hosting the event, my parents went to a dinner at some fancy Boston restaurant to meet Huffington and her then husband Michael.

As I prodded my dad recently for more details about this meeting he was like, "Karen, remember how they hadn't made a large enough reservation for us, and they had to put two tables together? That was really classless." Alas, lack of proper etiquette aside, other memories of this meeting are more hazy. Except for the best part of course.

You see at the time my parents were getting ready to move to Maryland. Arianna found this very interesting, and, seated next to my father, broached the subject in the following memorable way:

"Oh, Stuart, so you are moving to Washington?"

"Yes, Arianna."

"I see. Do you like to be near POWER, Stuart?"

My father, a bit taken aback, hesitates for a second before answering.

"Why yes. Yes I do!"

"Good. I love to be near POWER. And Washington is the center of POWER. You will love it. Michael is going to be President someday, you know..."

Just imagine Arianna saying that in her thick Greek accent and you will know my image of what it is to be alive.

Needless to say, Arianna is one of the worst guest hosts in history, infinitely worse than the totally bland David Shuster (whose right eye is more open than his left). Video complete with blistering ridicule when MSNBC posts it. Let's all hope Rachel is back soon.

11.16.2008

Another Strange Dream

This one is more fragmentary than usual, while also being more coherent. I am on a tour of a Hollywood studio museum of some sort, a place where sets from old shows are set up and tourists can wander through. I don't know if such a place exists or not, but surely it must.

In any event, the people I am doing this with are quite interesting: post-racial comic Michael Richards, Leonard Nimoy, and William Shatner. Shatner and Nimoy are dressed in immaculate 1970s suits, Shatner's brown, Nimoy's black. Shatner has on a yellow mock turtleneck, and he seems to be about 45. Nimoy is closer to his present age, and is wearing a white shirt with a striking yellow tie that almost glows, magnetically enticing my eye.

Michael Richards on the other hand is dressed as Kramer, and his hair has the perky vivacity of his erstwhile glory. Otherwise he seems a sad, lonely man, perhaps depressed about the Obama victory (or my Obama dream).

The first set we wander through is an amalgam of the living room from Charles in Charge and the front room of the apartment from Laverne and Shirley. Nimoy and Shatner are snapping Polaroids and everything, pointing to favorite features of each familiar imaginary home. Kramer stands as if dumbfounded, with a look of quiet complexity and gall lingering in the corners of his eyes.

The next set we come to (these sets aren't really in a building, rather they form a sort of linked island amidst a desert of blankness) is the apartment from Webster, with that awful blue carpeting. Shatner motions back to us and we follow him into what should lead into the bedroom of Alex Karras and his wife.

Of course it leads directly onto the bridge set from the original Star Trek, and Nimoy and Shatner are both like "Oh man, I can't believe we're back. This is so great." Even Kramer seems to cheer up a bit, sort of smiling and nodding as the emptiness behind his eyes is momentarily replaced by a dollar sign, or a piggy bank on fire.

Suddenly a voice comes across the speaker and some trouble is afoot. A maniac has taken over the museum and is demanding Shatner and Nimoy put on their costumes from Star Trek and act out some bizarre scenario. Shatner removes his jacket to reveal he is already wearing one of those ridiculous shirts with the insignia and everything... He sits on the bridge, and before I can get out of the way the late Deforest Kelly, suspiciously reanimated, is wheeled out inside of a bizarre cat-scan-like healing tube where only his head is sticking out the end and his body is swallowed by the electronics laden tube.

Nimoy refuses to change, but all eyes are now on Kelly, who is like "Jim, my lifeforce really shouldn't be used in this way." And Kirk is like "I know, Bones. You have to go first. It's the only way the rest of us will make it."

Kramer nods, his mind a sea of melting plastics.

11.14.2008

Do me a favor...

...if you become a famous and wealthy celebrity, don't ever open a restaurant. 9 times out of 10 it's a complete disaster and it's never worth it, by any measure.

Thank you. That is all for now.

11.10.2008

Out of Context Finnegan Quote Redux

That's right it's that time again America. Gather round, Grandma, Daddy, and little Jenny. It's another exciting installment of Out of Context Finnegan Quote. Ready? Here... we... go!

"if that's what you're conditioning your input on, what your credence function will give you back is Black Pericles"

11.09.2008

Obama Dream

Shockingly Obama was in my dream last night. I have no idea why.

Basically, I was up at my grandmother's home in Maine for a classic family gathering (all of my dreams of late have taken place at odd family gatherings in either the Vineyard or Maine. My background is sickening.)

I say hello to my grandmother, who thinks I am my brother and that my younger brother is me, but this isn't a sign of senility but rather of a kind of twisted and powerful new logic that is beyond me. I am led to understand this gradually.

Then I am off on a boat, sailing through the harbor of the town. Obama is along for the ride, and we are debating whether he should stick around Maine for a while, you know, relax after the long campaign. I'm all for this option.

But he's like "Maybe I should go to New York, you know, and start working on things." I'm like: "I just came from New York. Trust me, you don't want to visit that teeming cess-pit. It's hot, it's awful. Don't even get me started." He's like "Got it."

We sail the harbor with a remarkable, Flight of the Navigator like speed, seemingly gliding across the water without touching it. It is glorious, and Maine's rocky, glacier carved coast is resplendent in the autumn afternoon.

Suddenly we are in a classroom. Apparently Obama has a teaching gig at the University of Maine Orono. He seems to be teaching some variety of civics, and I am in the class, desperate to seem smart. So very desperate!

In the back corner of the room there is a very intense Arab-looking student, who has some very pointed opinions about American government. Not very favorable opinions, in the nature of things, and he seems especially eager to slam Obama's pro-America rhetoric. Obama is all like "Look. That's fine. But it's dead wrong. Could not be more wrong."

Nevertheless, I am struck by how intelligent and ardent the student is. He is clearly much smarter than I am, and however radical his ideas are, it seems that Obama knows this also.

Strangely, we are then back in the cabin of the boat for Obama's office hours, where I say something to the effect of "Oh, isn't the Arab so smart? Much smarter than me." And Obama says: "Smarter than you? Perish the thought! That crazed egomaniac is another Hitler in training, don't worry about it. He's being taken care of..."

I see the Arab in the hall, and I'm like, "You aren't going to ruin this for me. I've passed on taking this class three years in a row, and no way is your radical ideology going to wreck my enjoyment of it."

And the Arab is like "What the fuck are you talking about?"

11.05.2008

Obama Wins

Still in shock, kind of, but the inevitability of "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" gaffe sinking McCain has finally sunk into its obviousness.

After watching results with dear friends ACTUAL God, Tom, Rich, and That Girl (and many others), Death-Media correspondents Dan and I headed out to a spontaneous celebration that broke out in Union Square. Horns were honked by many a cab as small groups melded together to briefly hold a chant and share in a moment of celestial gratification, freed at last from the abominable slumber of thought that has wracked the nation's psyche for too long.

Here are your faithful correspondents amidst the frenzied ebullience:

Nostradamus
Dan