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Archive for September, 2009

Misguidance Beck-ons

Please tell me you don’t watch Fox News. If you do, hopefully it’s for some kind of sick comic relief or to stare at the legs, breasts, and hair of the ridiculously good-looking women strategically placed around discussion tables, at bars (yes, they have a financial show that takes place in a “bar”), or just batting their eyes at the screen as they bring you the “news.” Or maybe you watch Glenn Beck.

Glenn Beck

If you do, I’m sorry. The man is certifiable. It shouldn’t come as any surprise, however. A suprising majority of Americans will listen to just about anyone blab on about the Apocalypse, financial destitution, and how the president wears socialist boxers beneath his capitalist suit. Apparently, even though you can barely get a job outside of MacDonald’s without a college degree, somehow the media allows just about any idiot with a strange personality, a loud voice, and a tricky use of rhetoric to tell the American people how they should feel about current political, economical, and international issues. Be an overbearing asshole with a penchant for causing hysteria in the overwhelmingly less educated and spongy masses and a primetime slot is yours.

Glenn Beck boils a live (?) frog! How to rearrange “Obama” to “Aroma”…and it smells bad

Glenn Beck is just one of the many, but he’s one of my favorite political commentators to hate on. Mostly because he’s just silly. The man scrawls his political demonstrations on blackboards like he’s directing football plays, jumps around his set  so as to nauseate his viewers, and makes the stupidest analogies that usually get him into trouble with the censors, PETA, or his own sponsors. Not only are his methods bad, but so is his information.

Glenn Beck calls himself a libertarian and a conservative. Hmm. He says he is “fighting for individual rights.” Raised Catholic, Beck became a drug addict and alcoholic in order to deal with the early death of his mother and suicide of his brother. Beck never went to college. After getting clean in 1994, he turned to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (or the Mormons) and was admitted, under the suggestion of Joe Liberman, to a special program for non-traditional students at Yale University. He took one theology class and dropped out. Clearly, he has a great love of the education system. And he’s giving millions of viewers advice?

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I’m all for people who can make their way in this world without attending college. I don’t think college is right for everyone, nor do I think that just because you learn how to take tests or bullshit through courses, you will be an excellent member of society. I do think, however, that if you are going to be giving hoards of hungry people a meal, you should at least know how to cook. Would we let a high school graduate teach our kids in public school? Hell no. We have standards.

The problem is that the media is accessible to every Joe Schmoe with a pair of rabbit ears or a radio frequency. Our culture is bursting with the ideologies of extremist commentators and their ideologies are getting pressed more and more heavily onto an increasingly busier and less interested American society. Our society is 24/7. You missed the 6pm news? It’s ok, they’re still playing the same thing at 3am. We don’t even have time to flush our own toilets anymore (ok, so maybe public hygene has more to do with it than anything…but still), so we certainly don’t have time to follow every bill through the Senate, every comment made by Joe Biden, or what Obama says is going to happen with our healthcare system. So who do we turn to? The media. Unfortunately that means we turn to the Glenn Becks.

When his show was on CNN’s Headline News in 2006, Beck was actually billed an “entertainer” who could present the news in an amusing fashion. Kind of like Carrot Top doing standup. He teams up every Friday with Bill O’Reilly (yikes) for a segment on The O’Reilly Factor, and according to mediabistro.com, Beck’s show is the highest rated in his time slot beating CNN, HLN, and MSNBC. And this is a man who called our president a “racist.” If his sponsors pulled out, shouldn’t we?

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MichaelJacksonDeadSilverGloveI realize that a certain amount of reverence is required when MJ comes into conversation these days. Apparently it is sacrilegious to question the morality of the “King of Pop” when he so recently took up his place amongst the choir in the clouds, but excuse me for being curious–when did Michael Jackson regain his status of “greatness?” Somewhere among the bankrupcy, child molestation charges, bizarre public displays of child endangerment, naming his “children” things like “Prince Michael Jackson” and “Blanket,” Neverland Ranch, and the mouseketeer attitude, I distinctly recall the words “weirdo,” “creep,” even “Bizarro” (a take off of his nickname “Jacko”). “Great” certainly wasn’t a part of the MJ vocabulary any more.

Now I’ll grant the fact that the child molestation charges were never fully proved. That he was a little boy without a childhood who sought to recreate it in his adulthood…but come on. If he weren’t Michael Jackson, international superstar who created the moonwalk and “Thriller,” he would have suffered an OJ Simpson times ten. We don’t take kindly to men who possibly want to touch our little kids. And if my memory serves, MJ did suffer a huge public downfall. At least here in America. Overseas his singles were probably still being frequently spun on dancefloors (since Europe curiously seriously digs old American pop music) and since Europeans tend to laugh hysterically at our outdated puritanical ideas of what deserves rotating 15 minute spots on CNN, Fox News, HLN, etc, I’d bet MJ prefered to spend some time abroad. He still had it over there.

I was in London this summer studying abroad. Posters were everywhere for Michael Jackson’s concert event at the O2 Stadium. It was a huge deal. I even saw a small British child start crying hysterically when his mother told him the concerts were sold out. I was born in ’85 and even I have only been able to listen to Michael Jackson as a relic of the 80s and early 90s. But this kid…KID…really wanted to go. These posters were slathered all over doubledeckers, tube stations, tourist merchandise…it was the show of the century in the UK. Even I admit it would’ve been a cool experience to see him live. But that was more out of a desire to see if he could still dance his ass off…I have to say, in recent years I wondered if he was still able to sing and groove. He always seemed so frail. Not to mention he hadn’t performed since I don’t know when.

I was in Paris when MJ died. The first day in Paris we took a bus tour of the city. MJ was still alive and the shows were still big news. Our guide decided to give us a “special treat” and take a detour from the usual route to show us the hotel where Michael dangled Blanket over the balcony by his (her?) ankle. That night, apparently, he was pronounced dead. It was strange because the whole time I was studying abroad, I never once saw a TV. I relied on my Yahoo! home page for keeping up with the most serious of stories…I had just wanted to disappear for a little while. So, instead of news coverage of his death–which I hear was crazy extensive here in the US–I just heard “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” and “Man in the Mirror” everywhere I went. Italian restaurants…french bakeries…pubs…Hyde Park…Harrods. Instead of Sherlock’s yellow fog, London was haunted by white gloves and crotch grabbings. It was weird.

I cannot deny the man’s contribution to music. He is a legend. Even today he is a major influence for performers. In the same vein as Madonna (another icon I just can’t understand), MJ did something for music that is still trembling just below the surface. He has donated millions of dollar to charities like any good celebrity, and has always been an advocate of children and minority rights. He has certainly given tons of kids rides at Neverland Ranch (yes, he has actual amusement park rides) or let them pet whichever animal they’d like (at his zoo),  but come on. Michael has gotten more positive press than he has in a decade and the wave of sympathy is akin to Princess Diana’s death, and she was a freaking international humanitarian and former royalty.

Were we really still that in love with Michael Jackson? When’s the last time anybody busted out “Bad” at a party? When is the last time somebody didn’t snicker when you watched one of his music videos (“You are Not Alone” anybody?!)? Who hasn’t had a conversation about whether he has a real nose or a prosthetic? When is the last time you didn’t see an interview with him and just think what a sad, sad man he must be because he was forced into stardom by a pushy father and then suffered a very public series of personal oddities–mostly brought on by himself and the only-too-eager media. It always suprised me how little he chose to comment on his actions. In interviews he breaks down and you can see how emotional it made him to talk about the treatment the press gave him. But he wasn’t giving us very much else to go on…

I completely understand remembering the guy. He deserves to be remembered. He is an intregal part of culture not only in the US, but internationally. I guess he was a bit like an Elvis…but only in hindsight. We love to poke fun while we still have the punching bag, but the minute it deflates, we set it in a gilded frame on a high wall right over our mantles like a prized posession. Michael Jackson’s coffin is made of gold, by the way.

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I admit, I’ve read Twilight. I’ve read the shit out of Twilight. Four books, hundreds of pages, and less than a week of my life later, I was in love. A relatively small budget, overnight-success of a film was made, and I loved it, too. I spent a good three months shrieking with delight at any media mention of Stephanie Meyer’s novels and almost considered tattooing Edward Cullen’s name on some unmentionable part of my body. And then one day, maybe some Tuesday in February of this year, I was over it.

Maybe it was being stuck behind an elderly Ford Taurus with an “I drive like a Cullen” bumper sticker, or maybe I just couldn’t stomach pretending a vampire story was really worth so much adoring energy, but suddenly Twilight was laughable. Sickening, really. Sure, Stephanie Meyer  has created quite the story–she tapped into a voraciously thirsty population of teens (and I begrudgingly must add, myself) who were no longer happy with the current “bad boy” stereotype and ate up something like loveable vampires and angst-ridden forbidden love. I give her props for threading together vampire lore in a halfway creative way; it’s not easy to do something that’s been done to death. But Twilight pretty much sucks everything cool out of being a vampire in the first place.

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I digress. I really don’t care to talk Rice versus Meyer. What I think is so fascinating about the Twilight novels is how many people LOVE every sentence, every syllable of them. Do a google search of Twilight fan fiction and your computer practically crashes with the sheer volume of nerds and nerdesses who have continued the stories way, way, way past the original content of the novels. I mean, it’s a mecca of  homoerotic fantasies, sadomasochism, and really, really lame dialogue. It’s hurl-worthy. And they aren’t just a handful of pages. Some “fanfic,” as it’s called, is hundreds of pages long. These people are serious.

I remember overhearing a woman in a Barnes and Noble after the release of the final novel, Breaking Dawn. Her daughter (who couldn’t be more than 14) was pleading with her to get the book–yelping something about neeeeeding to know if Edward finally dismembered the bitchy girl vamp. The mom sighed and added the book to stack in her arms. “Oh, what the hell,” I guess she thought. I wanted to ask her what part of her daughter’s plea made her want to spend the $24.  When I was fourteen I probably still read The Babysitter’s Club.

I fail to see what kind of merit the Twilight novels evoke for readers in many ways. Bella sets women’s rights back at least 100 years. Because of her love for Edward she literally wants to die. Excuse me, become undead. No college. No children (even though they do somehow have a half-breed baby…don’t even get me started on how exactly Edward’s century-old sperm was capable of that). Bella, in fact, cannot do anything without Edward. She’s useless, boring, whiny, reclusive–a terrible role-model for all those teen girls who idolize the fact that she won over Edward Cullen’s unbeating heart. Apparently, it says volumes about the teenage girl’s perception and/or fantasy of “true love,” self-image, and individuality.

Then there’s Edward. He crawls in Bella’s window at night to watch her sleep, is insanely over-protective, and constantly has to fight the urge to suck her dry. Sign me up. When the pair finally “do it” (after they’re married of course…vampires have a remarkable moral code), Bella wakes up the next morning to horrible bruises, cuts, and a display of destroyed pillows…Edward, see, is hard as marble (my, how dirty that sounds) and cannot help himself in the throws of passion. He feels bad about it, of course, and refuses to sleep with Bella again, which only makes Bella more horny.

I could deal with the insanity of the above described characteristics of this thing called Twilight, but it crossed a whole other line when a friend of mine told me girls at her little sister’s middle school were actually asking their boyfriends to give them bruises like Edward Cullen. Apparently, the more physical abuse you show, the more your boyfriend loves you. Because Edward loves the hell out of Bella. He just can’t help himself. Those are the wounds of love. Someone should tell Oprah.

Despite the truly bizarre, undoubtedly harmful psychological effects a ravenous love for such a novel could potentially have, Twilight has been devoured by pop culture. Rob Pattinson (movie Edward) can’t wiggle a toe without the paparazzi drooling over their lenses and for some reason even news outlets can’t help themselves from feeding on the frenzy. Twilight has become a household name–even people who haven’t read it know a shockingly lot about it–and with the popularity of the movie (s), it’s become almost inescapable to anyone with a working set of eyes and ears. It’s a cash cow, to be sure, but isn’t it more a testament to the power of popularity rather than deserving quality? I have to ask: have people actually read this thing? Are we that hungry, empty, desperate, or perverse that we actually allow something like Twilight to fill it, regardless of its merit as literature or even moral fiber? Just because our culture is in love with love, and there’s certainly an abundance of it in Meyer’s world, do we really let ourselves be swept away by anyone with half a talent for writing overtures and scarily psychotic romantic advances?

Maybe we’re all secretly looking for that overly-devoted, wounded creep who has a violent love for the weirdest, ugliest parts of ourselves. We can watch each other sleep, bruise each other unconsciously, and slowly suck the life out of each other. We can become blood-thirsty night owls that have hardened like marble against the pains of the world. Oh. Shit.

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