Friday, December 29, 2006

A Ford, A Chevy, And Two Dicks In A Box

What to say about the late Gerald Ford? His defeat by Jimmy Carter was the first presidential election I was old enough to remember, so I wasn’t terribly “politically aware” during his administration. I do remember the Chevy Chase pratfalls on Saturday Night Live, but didn’t realize who he was spoofing; I just thought Chase being such a klutz was its own joke.

My limited opinions about Ford are tempered by his connection to Richard "Dick" Nixon, and his pardon of his former boss a month after his resignation. Ahh, the perks of having friends in high places!

Some have said Nixon and Ford arranged the pardon before Nixon resigned, giving Ford the presidency and Nixon nothing to worry about, from a legal standpoint. It wouldn’t save Nixon’s reputation, but it would save his ass from being thrown in the slammer.

Ford himself said he was trying to save the country from having to go through a painful trial. Painful for whom, exactly? The decision caused a lot more strife in the country, and probably cost Ford the presidency in 1976.

I don’t think it matters whether or not Nixon and Ford made a deal. I don’t think it matters if a Nixon trial would have been difficult for the country. All I see is yet another wealthy and powerful person who was able to avoid a penalty any average American would have been given for an equivalent transgression. You can’t tell me there aren’t dollar signs on the inside of that blindfold Justice is wearing.

As an alternative to trial, Ford could have used his imagination and given Nixon some suitable and satisfactory punishment, rather than just a clean slate. Exile comes to mind. Get out, and take that damned nose with you. Yeah, force him to live on a garbage scow anchored in the middle of the Potomac, with only whatever food, clothes and shelter he could find aboard.

Perhaps Ford was trying to spare the country further difficulties. In addition to Watergate, the Vietnam War was still raging at the time, and our participation in it came to an end during Ford’s administration. That could not have been easy to deal with. To live in a time of divisive, costly war and corruption at the very top of our government – it’s so hard to imagine.

On a related note, Ford did pardon Vietnam draft dodgers, and from a moral standpoint, he made the right decision. He also appointed John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court. Maybe these balance the Nixon thing out. I don’t know. I don’t have any particular ill will toward Ford, whatever the case. It’d be pointless now anyway.

I certainly would never have played golf with the man. No one in his general proximity was safe when he was wielding a golf club.

Meanwhile, over in Iraq, another former leader of a nation is about to die under very different circumstances. But who knows, Saddam Hussein's successor could always pardon him. That’d be cool, right?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

2006: Year Of The Ho?

Girls sure done gone wild in 2006, didn't they? At least, many of the ones in the public eye did.

We had Miss USA Tara Conner, whose title was on the line after she was spotted drinking and partying underage in New York City. This included swapping spit with Miss Teen USA Katie Blair. After mulling it over for a few days, pageant co-owner Donald Trump let the beauty queen keep her throne, presumably so she could kneel and barf in it after a night of hard partying. Conner agreed to go into alcohol rehab, as anyone under 21 who tries booze clearly must be an alcoholic.

Not sated by this penalty, MADD got very mad at Conner and at the pageant, and pulled their involvement (whatever that was). Indeed, MADD cannot stand the thought of young people dying behind the wheel here in the US, but could care less about teenagers dying behind the wheel of a Humvee in Baghdad. A beacon of moral clarity, aren't they?

Then there was the discovery that Miss USA Nevada Katie Rees had herself done some heavy partying a while back, with pictures to prove it. In the candid shots she's seen showing off her breasts and her thong underwear, kissing women (and not just on the lips, but in some cases on something that rhymes with lips) and simulating oral sex on and recieving simulated oral sex from others. Incidentally, this party took place just a few miles from my home, which leads me to ask, where was my invite? WTF, Rees?

Miss Rees did get the boot from the Donald; the case against her was just too strong. She has since spoken publicly about the pictures, saying she was young then and wants to be given a second chance. During her press conference, just a few days ago in Clearwater, Florida, Rees was wearing a turtleneck that would make Muslim women look immodest. I can tell you for sure, the temperature here didn't justify the outfit - it's been up in the 80s Fahrenheit - so she was clearly trying to show that she's changed (her clothes, at least).

Earlier this year, the soon-to-be-single mother of two Britney Spears was spotted partying with Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. A veritable tramp trifecta! While her two companions already had their party creds established, Britney merely had dropped her kids or driven with them sitting on her lap. She joined the club in a big way, though, by being photographed climbing into a car while wearing a short dress with nothing underneath.

Presidential supporter Britney Spears shows off her "Bush."

The aforementioned young ladies (and all others) would do well to remember that, with a small handheld device, anyone around them can snap a photo and post it to the Internet (i.e. the entire world) in seconds. And a lot of people have these devices. I do have to say, given the timing of the incident (with her seeking liberation from married life), and her company, I'm quite sure Britney's disrobe malfunction was intentional.

But hey, the sans panties practice is a nice way to avoid yeast infections. Good example for other young women to keep their netherlands healthy. (If she were smart - and judging by her political leanings and her choices in men she clearly isn't - Britney would have spun the story this way.)

Famous young people are often chided for their behavior, as they are expected to be role models. I'm not sure that's realistic. I mean, they ought to rein it in a bit, I think, but they're still young people with many of the same inclinations as their peers. Sometimes they show bad judgment, and they pay for it. We shouldn't act surprised by any of it. (OK, if some teen star turns out to be a serial killer, we can all act shocked.)

Beauty pageant winners, in particular, are held to high ideals. They look great in a fancy gown and can play the piano or twirl a baton, so they ought to be held up as a shining standard for all people their own age? The whole premise of the beauty pageant is flawed; people shouldn't be rewarded for being attractive, nor expected to act any differently than other people their own age.

A final thought as I contemplate a year of juicy controversy ahead: Where were all these bisexual exhibitionists when I was growing up? DAAAAMMMN!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?

Like all kids from families who celebrate Christmas, I always looked forward to that magic morning with utter excitement. Still, unlike some kids I was able to sleep the night before (making the morning come all the quicker) thanks to a little tradition called Midnight Mass. The daytime masses were trying enough for a little tyke; the late night ones were serious snore-fests.

The Santa stories I grew up with inevitably showed Old Saint Nick's elves industriously assembling wooden toy trains and boats in the days leading up to Christmas. In short, what I saw depicted in no way resembled what I usually found under my own Christmas tree. Not that I am complaining – far from it!

The items on my Christmas list had names like "Kenner," "Mattel" and "Hasbro" printed on them and were on store shelves all year long. Many of them tied in with movies and TV shows I liked. Whereas, the toys the elves created were, well, kind of generic.

When asked to explain this discrepancy, I believe my mother said there were so many children to make toys for that Santa’s elves sometimes came up short, and Santa had to get some pre-made toys from stores to make up the difference. Something to that effect, but a sensible enough explanation, wouldn’t you agree? I certainly bought it.

(Back then I should have asked her to explain why cartoon characters are always six feet tall and mute when you meet them in person. Stop waving and talk to me! Why won’t you talk to me? Alas…)

As I got older I discovered Santa had the inexplicable habit of giving the best toys to kids who were already well-off (i.e. most able to afford them). Benevolent as he was, Father Christmas was apparently also class-conscious. Though of Northern European extraction, Santa was obviously not influenced by any of their egalitarian social views. But I was never bitter; I got some great stuff for Christmas and have no complaints.

Here’s hoping the holiday season and 2007 leave us all with nothing to complain about. Enjoy.

PS: Looks like I got an early Christmas present this morning. My friends Finchy and Filly returned after a long absence.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Midweek Miscellanea

The panda cub born at Atlanta Zoo finally received her name last week. Like other pandas born outside China, she was given a Chinese name – Mei Lan (“Atlanta Beauty”). I understand that all pandas here in the US originated in China. However, if the Chinese were given, say, some American alligator or bald eagle eggs to hatch in their country, would they feel compelled to name the hatchlings something like “Frankie” or “Annette?”

In a perspective that’s not likely to win me any friends, I have to say, I don’t understand why mountain climbing is even permitted in this country any longer. It’s not just
recent events, but regular events that bring me to this conclusion. Mountain climbing is a thrill, I’m sure, but it’s very risky. And while I think those willing to take risks should generally be allowed to take them (e.g. go ahead and smoke, just not anywhere around me), the risks don’t stop with the participants.

Rescue operations for lost or stranded mountain climbers endanger countless rescue personnel around the world each year. In addition to manpower, this isn’t a cheap undertaking – helicopters, dog teams and all sorts of specialized equipment are often needed. If I seem like a swell guy for saying this, remember, we’re talking about something people do “because it’s there.” (I’d also like to make clear that I am not referring to
unfortunate individuals who simply got lost on their way somewhere.)

True, rescue work is dangerous by nature. But just as I don’t think we should put the military into danger except for a “good cause,” I don’t think we (being potential mountain climbers) should put rescue personnel into danger for something we want to do just to say we did it. That’s not a good cause. I don’t have an alternate suggestion, but this is something to keep in mind when contemplating a new hobby.

Don't mind me – I can't comprehend that some people believe the "fun" of things like skydiving and mountain climbing outweighs the risks. If I'm going to take a risk, it's going to be something like, I don't know, eating at Taco Bell.

What's happened to sportsmanship? As if doping isn't bad enough, now people are "gendering." An Indian woman who won a medal for running in the Asian Games has
turned out to be a man. A gender test is not one you can study for, and can fail in an instant.

I finish today with a question: Do the good folks at 7-11 realize that the whole point of the “pay at the (gas) pump” phenomenon, that being convenience, is lost if you have to go inside and ask an associate for a receipt each time?

Monday, December 18, 2006


Nicole Richie, socialite, reality TV star, serial dieter and adopted daughter of singer Lionel Richie, was arrested last week in Los Angeles for DUI. News of the arrest, complete with mugshot, have of course been posted all over the Internet.

What's not yet generally known is that Ms. Richie was only taken into custody after a profanity-laden, anti-Semitic rant against police officers at the scene.

During the tirade, Richie claimed that Jews were responsible for all the eating disorders in the world, with their "delicious bakery and deli foods." She added that since the officers had a box of glazed doughnuts in their squad car, they must be "a couple of those g*ddammed bakery Jews."

At the police station, Richie also allegedly cursed at a male officer, and referred to him by the term "sugar nuts."

Richie had been working on a Yucatec-language version of The Simple Life at the time of her arrest. It's unclear if her legal troubles will impact the show.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Radiation Is Sounding Pretty Tasty About Now

With the recent E. coli poisoning outbreaks – which can be caused by both meat and vegetables, and all segments of society eat one or both – it may be time to revive talk of food irradiation.

Controversial because it involves zapping foods with a dose of radiation before selling them to the public, irradiation allegedly kills dangerous bacteria such as E. coli. It’s that “dose of radiation” part that has a lot of us worried, though.

We’re told that the food doesn’t retain the radiation, but how we do know for sure? How do we know some agricultural concern isn’t really downplaying the danger simply to line their own pockets? Will eating irradiated vegetables cause us to end up with an unhealthy green glow?

It certainly gives a new meaning to "eating your greens."

The difficulties that dependence on foreign oil have presented to us revived talk of using nuclear power not long ago. Will our dependence on eating to live make us turn to nukes in the agricultural sector? I can see the protest signs now: "No cukes!"

Whatever the case, I think we owe
scallions an apology.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bond, Lame Bond

"Christ, I miss the Cold War." That's a line spoken by "M" in the new James Bond movie, Casino Royale. I kind of understand how she feels.

Bond has changed with the times. Cold War plotlines, for example, are no longer suitable. Overt sexism - somewhat tolerated in the days of Sean Connery and Roger Moore - is now frowned upon. And sleeping around in the day of AIDS can be more deadly than the life of a spy.

But I mourn the end of the gratutious, tachycardia-inducing masterpiece that was the main title sequence of the classic Bond movie. Remember those, fellas? Semi-nude women doing somersaults through space, gleaming female lips kissing smoking pistols. You know, that sort of subtle thing.

The new film, which is actually pretty decent as far as actioners go, has a lame playing card-themed cartoon as its opening sequence, with no females sans the queen. What the?

I also miss the Bond who could (and would) unzip a woman’s dress from across the room using a for-your-spies-only magnetic gadget. Typically the only protest the woman would muster was a halfhearted “Oh, James.” Yes indeed, Bond created a healthy, realistic view of sexuality for a growing boy like me. Women never say no!

This new Bond has very few gadgets, and certainly none likely to increase his nookie quotient. In their absence, he is left to use his looks and charm. The bastard.

I never saw what the fuss was about the possibility of a blonde Bond (in the form of Daniel Craig). Unfortunately, the first role I saw Craig in was that of a brutal gangster in Road To Perdition; he may have been typecast as a baddie for me then.

Further, Craig's distinctly Aryan traits – blonde hair and piercing blue eyes – say “Nazi” all over. Had Schindler’s List been made today, Craig would be ideal for the role played by Ralph Fiennes. Picture him in the uniform. Am I wrong? (Yes, I am aware he was in Munich as an Israeli assassin.)

But all this is neither here nor there, for I'm not judging Craig’s suitability for the Bond role, but the new Bond movie’s place in the overall Bond oeuvre. And I have to say, it's in a good place. It seems like a Bond movie, which is important, though it spends a lot of time at the card table.

The thing with James Bond is, though, men have always wanted to be him and women have wanted to be with him. (This Bond is more "ripped" than any I can remember.) Bond was always a fantasy, from the gadgets to the outrageous stunts to the ever-shifting exotic locales to the ease with which he beds women. So I ask, though times change, do fantasies really change with them?

Monday, December 11, 2006

It Couldn't Happen To A Nicer Guy

Augusto Pinochet, the butcher/dictator of Chile for much of the 70s and 80s, is dead.

The timing of this is interesting for me, as I'm currently reading a book on Pinochet’s assumption of power in a September 11, 1973 coup. Pinochet wrested power from Salvador Allende, a Marxist who had been democratically elected by the Chilean people in 1970; Allende died in the takeover.

Now-unclassified US government documents detail this country’s involvement in that coup, from financing opposition newspapers, to fomenting financial crises, to supporting terrorist acts within Chile to aligning ourselves with anti-Allende forces within the Chilean military.

One high-ranking Chilean military official, who did not wish to subvert the will of his country’s constitution by staging a coup, was assassinated as he drove to work one morning. It seems
René Schneider was just too democratically minded for his own good.

The US feared having a potential Soviet and/or Cuban ally in our basement, so we actively sought to overturn an undesirable though legitimate Chilean election, ironically, mimicking the Soviets in their interference in the affairs of nearby countries. In doing so, we helped install as the leader of Chile a man far less democratic and far more brutal than his Marxist predecessor. (We should remember Chile in case we have any designs on making Hugo Chavez the next Salvador Allende.)

Pinochet ran secret detention camps and tortured and/or disappeared thousands during his 17-year reign of terror. It's probably a smaller number of victims and certainly a shorter time span, but President Bush has done the same things, and for ostensibly the same reason - protecting his country. Pinochet had his communists and Bush has his terrorists. Disappearances are now simply called "extraordinary rendition."

This is also relevant now because we have a not-so-dissimilar situation with Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Since any enemy of Iran was a friend of ours, we supported Saddam, who had risen to power in a coup of his own, and who violently crushed all dissent thereafter.

Put simply, we have a history of supporting these assholes when it suits our interests. We’re still doing it today in the Middle East, with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (a monarchy rather than a dictatorship, but that’s just semantics) and in Eastern Europe. It's pure hypocrisy when we go against one dictator by supporting another. It's also un-American, un-democratic, and it's something we've already lived to regret.

Friday, December 08, 2006

On The Offensive

“Offensive” is one of the most overused words of the modern era. It’s supposed to pack a potent punch, but upon examination comes up decidedly lacking.

For starters, there are some who are easily offended. Often these people seem eager for a fight; they’re just looking for something to be angry about. I am thinking about people who are so
insulted by a satirical cartoon that they instigate deadly riots. Or who get miffed when others give them a generalized holiday greeting instead of a faith-specific one. Or who try to prevent women from feeding their babies. Or who try to stifle a message of peace at Christmas.

How should the offensive be dealt with? Hard to say, because it’s so damned subjective. There lies the honey-flavored barbecue rub.

In my experience, the way such things are typically handled is, if even one person complains, the offensive person/behavior/thing has got to stop and/or be punished. I know this is a bit muddled, but stay with me here.

As I
stated on a previous occasion, the existing practice is that when anyone claims to be offended, their rights automatically supersede those of the offenders. Why? Could not an offending party counter by saying that they’re offended that their rights are being curbed because someone else objected to their holiday display?

Far too many concessions are unquestioningly given to offendees. Offenders have rights, too, damn it. (You have probably already noted, I am not using “offender” here in the traditional sense of a criminal, but anyone who does anything deemed offensive by others.)

I’ve long felt that the prohibition of something should be directly tied to its capacity for demonstrable harm. So, while I generally feel people should be allowed to govern their own behavior, I agree with the ban on cigarette smoking in public places, for example, because of the discomfort and disease issues it presents.

Whereas, public breastfeeding may freak out some uptight people, it really doesn’t harm anyone. Sure, there are plenty of people around who “don’t want their kids (or selves) seeing that,” but they always seem to have a hard time explaining exactly what harm is being done to the viewers. They become indignant at the challenge, but rarely present a coherent, compelling argument.

Interaction with other humans will always require some give and take. And that means sometimes taking some shit you don’t like, because you’re also probably giving some of it to someone else. As long as no harm is done, we all have a self-interest in allowing it to remain that way.

Let me put it in other words: Lighten up, you lightweight, namby-pamby, pantywaist, c*cksucking, motherf*cking, grab-ass-tic pieces of amphibian sh*t. “You people” make me sick.

Man, I hope that didn't come across in an offensive way.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Nancy Plays Nice

Played up by consternatives as a fearsome dragon lady before the November elections, House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi has thus far not breathed terribly much fire. To start, she's offering two-month severance packages to outgoing GOP staffers; their Democratic counterparts were reportedly offered nothing more than boxes when Republicants took Congress in 1994.

Pelosi is also
allowing perv protector and outgoing House Speaker Dennis Hastert to have a primo office instead of a modest one. Though, Hastert’s own corruption and/or corpulence may ensure his occupancy of said office will be brief.

"Payback" is not always such a bitch, is it?

On more substantive matters, Pelosi has said Democrats will “absolutely not” cut funding to troops fighting in a Iraq. A real “cut and run” type liberal, this broad, eh? I guess that ballyhooed Democrat-led retreat from Iraq has been called off.

Pelosi also plans to make an
increase in the federal minimum wage a priority in the new session. Low-level workers of all political stripes have been making the same hourly wage for 10 years, even though the cost of everything else has gone up over that time, so this is welcome relief.

Many consternos seem to know more than I do about Pelosi. I have seen her in some confirmation hearings, and heard her name here and there, but like Harry Reid, she was pretty much a new face to me when she got promoted to House Speaker. I do remember her rankling me when she said impeachment for Bush was “off the table.”

However, assessing what I’m seeing of Pelosi now against the rhetoric I’ve heard about her from the right, I must say, "Oh, what a scary, scary woman.”

Finally, in other Democratic
atrocity news, House members will soon be required to work almost an entire five-day week like the rest of us. It’s about time, the lazy, overpaid, corrupt bastards. They’re already complaining, but I say, “Deal!” How are you going to clean up the big messes we are in now, including those within your own chambers, by continuing to put in a couple hours a week? My parting advice: Order in Chinese.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

This Is Just Redactulous

Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the release of emails between the White House and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) regarding White House visitor logs have now been met – with almost completely blacked out pages. It seems NARA, the agency charged with maintaining such records, is doing its best “Al Jolson” impression.

You've got to imagine NARA is just laughing about this now, saying, "Wait'll those suckers see this. Happy reading, folks!"

This release came about as the result of an earlier FOIA request for the release of logs detailing White House visitors, which remain undisclosed and in dispute.

Are lists of people visiting the White House something that could be used to compromise national security, and therefore require classification? Is the secrecy of communications regarding those lists of vital national importance, necessitating their release in heavily redacted form?


The only conceivable harm visitor lists (and related communications) could present would be to a person who had invited in, say, questionable guests. Since it’s the president’s house, he’s ultimately responsible for them, no? Bush could certainly be embarrassed or worse by the revelation of visits from such GOP-tainting figures as Jack Abramoff, Mark Foley and others.

This situation is reminiscent of one involving Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force meeting. The meeting, which occurred shortly after he took office, reportedly consisted of corporate energy interests (including Enron) giving their wish lists to the second in command. We don’t know exactly because, even after a FOIA request and a Supreme Court ruling against him, Cheney has refused to disclose complete details of the meeting.

We do know that no one who didn’t have a financial interest in the energy industry was invited to attend, i.e. no environmental protection or consumer protection groups or anyone else who was likely to make a fuss.

It seems to me that FOIA is a worthless piece of legislation if it doesn’t result in the release of some actual information. We classify material to protect our country from harm, not to protect individual officials from embarrassment stemming from their own questionable activities. This is an abuse of executive privilege and as such should be addressed by Congress when January rolls around.

And, while they're at it, recess appointments. And signing statements. And extraordinary rendition. Basically, all of this administration’s counter-democratic policies of secrecy, subversion and deceit. Which covers most of them, I believe.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Is That A Recorder In Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?

This post will probably be lost on anyone who’s not a huge music fan. FYI.

bootleg has long been the bane of rock music. I imagine sneaking a tape recorder into a concert has probably been going on as long as portable recorders have been around.

Often the intent is to sell these surreptitious live recordings to hungry fans at record conventions (or now, online). (A different type of boot, which I am not addressing here, involves stealing tapes from a recording studio.)

The quality of these recordings is sometimes unintentionally hilarious. Like when the people nearby the recorder are talking louder than the musicians are playing.

You hear people who don’t actually know what group they’re seeing; they yell out song titles of other groups. You overhear men brag of specific acts they’ve undertaken with specific women. All this is immortalized on tape for the ages.

Boot track listings are typically quite a treat in themselves. They are rife with typos. When a bootlegger doesn’t know the title of a song he’ll simply resort to naming it what he thinks the lead singer is saying. (What the hell is a "Pumpkin Black Clash?")

Digital recorders have sweetened the bootlegging deal. The bootlegger can capture an entire show without flipping the tape over, and with superior sound quality. Meaning there’s no music lost to the eventual boot owner.

As a person who doesn’t typically buy or trade boots, nor ever recorded a show himself, but who has received a number of them over the years, I know the pitfalls and the virtues of boots.

People like myself, who are serious fans of a couple bands, would gladly shell out cash for the legitimate equivalent of these recordings, if such products existed. But, they typically don’t.

King Crimson have made an extensive backlog of concerts available through their website for a fee; Frank Zappa and Emerson, Lake & Palmer have taken boots of their shows and put them out on their own labels. They are in the minority.

I was too young to see many of my favorite bands in their heyday. I missed tour after tour of bands that I would eventually come to idolize. How do you catch up for missing a heyday?

Sure, there are live albums, but they offer select tunes from select shows. People like me enjoy complete shows, sometimes featuring those odd songs the bands never seem to play anymore. If they are even around anymore.

Groups have complained that they are denied profits from the sale of these illicit recordings (see "People like myself..." above). But the approach that most take – prohibiting recording devices from their concerts – actually helps the boot market. If you let people who want to record a show do so, they won’t be buying it from a bootlegger.

Even in that scenario, there may still be a market for boots, but with the market saturated by so many recordings (facilitated by permitting recording, as bands like the Grateful Dead have done), it will be small and struggling. With choices available to consumers, sellers would be forced to lower their prices, or may find the hassle not worthwhile for their return on investment.

Some groups also complain about their fans getting an inferior product. But it’s not the fans who are complaining. For me, getting to hear an entire concert that took place when I was probably already in bed for Kindergarten the next day is an incredible thrill.

Many boots that were initially made for vinyl and sold for ridiculous prices are now available for download on the Internet for free.

Technology may eventually make the whole boot thing moot. It’s easy for people to download things onto/off of private servers. It’s also easy to create a CD from that. And another. And another.

Further, cameras and recorders, historically banned from concerts, are now integrated right into cell phones. And no one seems to be saying “No cell phones allowed” at rock concerts.

It’s conceivable one of these devices will soon have the capacity to store a significant amount of audio and/or video information. Then the whole thing may be over.

Rock bands, do protect your interests. But also take delight in the knowledge that there are so many people keen to hear your music out there.

Friday, December 01, 2006

May I Have An "N-Word" With You?

A number of black politicians, activists and entertainers are calling for the "n-word" to be retired forever from entertainment. I wish them luck; it's a noble effort, but one that won't be easily pulled off.

The question that immediately comes to my mind is, will existing works like Blazing Saddles, Roots, Richard Pryor's standup films, Quentin Tarantino films and myriad "blaxploitation" films, for starters, be grandfathered over? I hope so, because that's all good stuff in its own way.

As for future instances of the use of the "n-word," some will be tougher to discourage than others. An all-too-obvious example is rap music. Rappers commonly use the word in their rhymz, and don't take well to others trying to reign in their inspiration. Some artists even use it, or a variant of it, in their names. (Look up "NWA" if you don't already know what it means.)

The "n-word" obviously sprung from prejudice; I imagine the hayseed slave owners couldn't pronounce "negro," so they went with the closest thing they could muster. Many of them weren't big on the "booklearnin'" you see. Incidentally, feel free to correct me on any of this.

I don't know how the word got appropriated by and enmeshed into black culture, but I'm sure there have been many studies and theses to explain the phenomenon. It doesn't make sense, being as it's the word of the oppressor. It's kind of like adopting your abusive father's hurtful nickname for you ("Little Shithead," "Spawn Of The Postman," etc.), and giving it to others as well. Perhaps it's used in an ironic, mocking way?

Even if the "n-word" goes away, it seems prejudice will always be endemic to some forms of entertainment. What black standup comedian doesn't focus on his own "blackness" in his act? The same for Jewish comedians. The same for comedians of any non-WASP background. The same for obese comedians.

Typically, these attributes are the first thing the comic will point out about themselves. Then they'll go on to devote much of their act to related topics. This does not apply to all comics, of course, but those who don't focus on some issue that depends upon the prejudice or xenophobia of their audience are - forgive the expression - in the minority.

(For years I've thought that, if I ever did standup, I would start by explaining that since I am part-English and part-Irish, I like to plant bombs in my own car. Ba dum bum! A lot has changed in Northern Ireland, fortunately, making the joke now almost irrelevant.)

I think the "n-word" should be used sparingly in entertainment (as should quotes around controversial words, and parentheticals), and never in real life. But I am not one to limit the expression of others. I do think how you use a word and how you intend it to be taken matters. If you have a person saying it to demonstrate what prejudice is (as in Roots), wouldn't that be a legitimate use? Or maybe it's so hateful it does need to be banished? I don't know, but I just don't see that happening.

On a completely unrelated matter that doesn't warrant a solo posting, will Christians who were looking forward to seeing The Nativity Story at their local cinemas this weekend instead give the film an immaculate rejection now that the unmarried teen star has become pregnant? Who could support such immorality? For shame!