Monday, April 20, 2015

Papa Don: This Week In Mad Men Speculation

This episode of The Flying Nun was playing in the background of last night's Mad Men.

In it, Carlos Ramirez -- a wealthy playboy with a good heart who solves all of his problems with money -- is anticipating the arrival of his foster daughter from Korea.  His accountant had sent a few dollars to the foster care service every month over the years (because why not) and now that his foster daughter is paying him a visit, Carlos is getting ready to play Disney Dad to a little girl for a few days by stocking up on stuffed animals and dolls and consulting with his staff on the subject of merry-go-rounds and roller coasters.

But the foster daughter who shows up is not a little girl; she is a grown woman.  Attractive, subservient and looking for a husband.

If you can get past the OMFG 1970s racial stereotypes and the fact that this was a featherweight comedy where all problems are always resolved to everyone's delight and amusement in 23 minutes, this is the situation in which Donald Draper now finds himself: living as a wealthy aristocrat/arrested adolescent in a world rapidly filling up with actual young adults for whom he is responsible. Young people whose anxieties and desires he is only too happy to exploit for his clients as one of the Lords of Madison Avenue, but who he barely comprehends as a father even as one of them stands in front of him, laying the bill for for his years of negligence and indolence at his feet.

What else was on teevee in the background of this episode of Mad Men?
  • The Flying Nun --A bachelor raising a foster child (war orphan) with the help of selfless nuns.
  • The Brady Bunch -- Two, single-parent families raising kids with the help of selfless housekeeper.
  • Harlow (1965):  The child of a broken and exploitative home rises to fame and fortune, and falls from the pinnacle of her career through a series of failed relationships before dying of alcoholism at a young age.
You can read what you wish into all of that.

All I would note is that, as I have written before, by the time the mid-1960s arrived, shows about happy stable nuclear families like Father Knows Best were disappearing from teevee almost as fast as happy stable nuclear families were disappearing from the real world.
Of course, teevee single parents almost always have terrific jobs that afford them an enormous amount of free time and economic autonomy.  And they're usually assisted by aunts or maids or other adult helpers who are only too happy to pitch in as surrogate parents for little or no remuneration.  However it is amazing but true that even as the America of 1969 was desperately struggling to keep the facade of the Idealized Nuclear Family Nixoned firmly in place, on teevee the "Father Knows Best" template was quickly vanishing in favor of Family Affair (an uncle raising orphaned nieces and nephew), The Courtship of Eddie's Father (widower), The Beverly Hillbillies (widower), Julia (widow), Bonanza (widower), The Andy Griffith Show (widower), My Three Sons (widower), The Brady Bunch ( a widow and widower, although all references to previous marriages are kept deliberately vague), etcetera.

It's a long damn list.

And so we find ourselves in June, 1969, watching a system shuddering on the verge of implosion because it is a system which took some of humanities oldest and proudest achievements -- art, storytelling, psychology, technology -- to warp the basic rhythms and desires of human life in order to serve post-WWII America's shallowest and most transient commercial interests.  And as the need to be human comes into more and more direct, violent conflict with the Mad Men imperative to go along with system at all costs, our characters find that their lives don't work, their marriages don't work, their jobs are killing them and even shopping barefoot through the stone canyons of the city at the pinnacle of the American Empire only makes them miserable and gets their feet hobo-dirty.

And so, as the credits roll, we meet the two, contending visions of the American Family which will dominate our cultural and political landscape for the next 40 years.

One is the family-of-choice: the mutants and strangers and bastards and imperfect darling ones with whom we gather because we love them somehow, and they love us somehow.  We are with them, scars and secrets and all, because we choose not to be alone in the good times or the bad times.

The other is the Bob Benson's Erector Set Family. The family that comes with a set of prefabricated parts and an instruction manual -- all you need to do is slide it out of the box, put the pieces together as directed and, bingo, you're on your way to a perfectly constructed, loveless marriage, a mansion in Detroit and a little freaky on the downlow to keep you from blowing your brains out.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

10 Years After: 2013 -- Sunday Morning Still Comin' Down

The 10th blogiversary fundraiser continues with the Snowden Year of 2013.  

In 2013, I was still on the Sunday beat.  Getting shin splints and my back wasn't what it used to be, but still at it...

Sunday Morning Comin' Down

24 Hour Petty People Edition

Congressional inaction finally worked against me personally this week when the Worlds Greatest Deliberative Body -- exhausted from weeks of dozing fitfully in Congress during their 3-day work week -- packed up themselves off to spend a month of quality time with their lobbyists' families and forgot to reauthorize my government "Loyalty Stipend".

Damn you Barack Obama!

10 Years After: 2013 -- Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Conservative Bums

The 10th blogiversary fundraiser continues with the Snowden Year of 2013.  

Through some evolutionary backroom deal, some members of the media who absolutely have no business being there continue inexplicably stay in the spotlight, year after year.  And the journalists who sit across from them and could take the opportunity to ask these people some amazing questions about how fucking wrong they have been continue to sit on their hands and say nothing.

Those journalists ald never, ever respond to questions about why they refuse to ask those terrible people the most obvious questions.

And with that, Ben Domenech...come on down!

Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Conservative Bums*

Box Turtle Ben Domenech never goes away.

I used to think that he might that rarest of exceptions -- one of Conservative pseudomedia's Bam-Bams who had screwed up early enough and publicly enough in his meteoric rise to mediocrity that they would kick him to the curb just to spare themselves the paperwork. But I stopped losing sleep worrying that poor Box Turtle Ben would ever miss a meal, when I noticed that:
  1. The now-defunct John Stossel/Andrew Breitbart/Brad Thor Award Factory was finding creative methods of slipping checks into his pocket and,
  2. Chicago's premiere Randite Chop Shop -- "The Heartland Institute" -- put him on staff cranking out cranky crankery on "Healthcare Policy", and,
  3. Ben's pal Young Ezra Klein had started working on ways to put him on my Liberal TV for absolutely no damn good reason.
So for all my worrying, I figured the kid was gonna be fine.

Just fine.

Until, of course, he inevitably turned up in the middle of yet another embarrassing, public, Conservative pseudomedia fuck up.

10 Years After: 2013 -- Bad Writing is More Than a Matter of Shit Syntax and Faulty Observation

The 10th blogiversary fundraiser continues with the Snowden Year of 2013.  

As I wrote a few posts back, David Brooks is not just the worst of the Beltways hacks.  Instead, column by column, prestige teevee appearance by prestige teevee appearance, lecture by lecture and radio address by radio address, Mr. Brooks  is creating the context in which the the worst of the Beltways hacks operate.

One of the critters who lives in (and profits from) that context is David Frum, and in 2013 he was still gamboling merrily along,

"Bad Writing is More Than a Matter of Shit Syntax and Faulty Observation;"

“...bad writing usually arises from a stubborn refusal to tell stories about what people actually do― to face the fact, let us say, that murderers sometimes help old ladies cross the street.”
― Stephen King, On Writing
Ever since David Brooks firmly staked out the genre of Republican Alternate History for himself with his award-ready series of  "Whig Fan Fiction Revisionist Adventures for the Young and Non-Very-Bright Conservative", the question political science fiction fans have asked themselves has been,"Whither the future?"

Where is the lean and hungry young wingnut with the chops to make up fake Republican tomorrows with the same fact-free, devil-take-the-hindmost gusto with which Mr. Brooks has remade its yesterdays?

And because there was apparently literally nothing else to write about, Mr. "Axis-of-Evil" took his his shot at that title with, "How Teddy WreckSpin Became Preznit Because Dirty Hippies."

No kidding.

10 Years After: 2013 -- Aaron Sorkin Screws the Pooch

The 10th blogiversary fundraiser continues with the Snowden Year of 2013.  

In 2013 Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom crawled under the porch and died.


The Entire Season Finale of "The Newsroom" In Six Seconds

(Original Video No Longer Available)

As Breaking Bad aficionados know, Vince Gilligan's epic tale of Walter Hartwell White's long, murderous fall from grace is now in it's final act, with its outstanding plot and character conflicts being mercilessly resolved with hammerblow payoffs that are now coming a mile a minute thanks to the ferocious dramatic engine the writers and actors of "Breaking Bad" have meticulously constructed since the first season.  

The Newsroom, on the other hand, has chosen an entirely different approach to the dramaturgical task:  namely methodically smothering every bit of tension that Aaron Sorkin's shambling mess of a show still had knocking around inside of it with with big, sugary ACN throw-pillows of ludicrous coincidence and love-love-love.  What remains behind is as flaccid and soporific as David Gregory interviewing David Brooks about David Broder. On Valium. While in a hot tub. Recorded at 45 RPMs and played back at 16.

10 Years After: 2013 -- You Forgot Noonan!

The 10th blogiversary fundraiser continues with the Snowden Year of 2013.  

Jeez, I almost finished off this retrospective.fundraiser without mentioning the Dolphin Lady.

Of course, everyone knows the redoubtable Tengrain has owned  clear title on Peggers practically since Charley Kline sent the first successful internet message from Boelter Hall (UCLA) at 10:30 pm on October 29, 1969 (I believe it was a request for internet porn to be invented with all deliberate speed.)

But every now and then and with great respect to the lord of the manor, I like to try my hand at the genre...

I Wonder How Many Of Petaliters Of Grey Goose

It took for Peggy Noonan to "forget": --
It is hard, if you've got a head and a heart, to come down against a strong U.S. response to Syria's use of chemical weapons against its civilian population. This is especially so if you believe that humanity stands at a door that leads only to darkness. Those who say, "But Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons—the taboo was broken long ago," are missing the point. When Saddam used gas against the Kurds it was not immediately known to all the world. It was not common knowledge. The world rued it in retrospect...
-- that while "all the world" may not have known that Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons, her greatest hero and former employer Ronald Reagan

sure as shit did.

Knew about it, sold him the chemicals to make them and then drew him a big, black "X" on the fucking map.

And all the world knows about that now, just as all the world knows about La Noonan's foolproof method for coping with scary facts that she does not wish to see:

Just walk on by.

Just pick up your check from The Wall Street Journal...

And ABC's This Week...

And NBC's Meet The Press...

...and walk right on by.

10 Years After: 2013 -- Andrew Sullivan, Now More Than Ever

The 10th blogiversary fundraiser continues with the Snowden Year of 2013.  

In 2013, Andrew Sullivan still wandered the landscape, saying silly things, wielding heretofore unheard of magical powers and refusing to ask directions from the Liberals for whom every amazing new step into the unknown territory outside of an ideological two-mile-radius around his house was all well-trodden ground 30 years ago.

Because even in 2013, it was still not good for one's bank account to be seen in the company of Dirty Hippies

Andrew Sullivan: Then and Now

Mr. Sullivan is currently reprinting a few of his pro-war, America-Fuck-Yeah-and-fuck-those-fucking-traitor-Liberals posts from his salad days as Dick Cheney's biggest fan and Dubya's most loyal nad-buffer.

So good on him for that.

The problem, of course, is not that Mr. Sullivan got the Bush Administration completely wrong: the problem is that he got and continues to get virtually everything about American Conservatism completely wrong. Which has got to be both personally embarrassing and professionally perilous for someone whose CV, business card, letterhead, and, presumably, obituary all stand a fair chance of carrying the phrase "Andrew Sullivan, the Conservative..." somewhere in their first lines.

So, for example, as you watch how Mr. Sullivan gleefully embraces the "Vast Left-wing Media Conspiracy" pillar of American Conservatism back when that particular bit of batshittery was popular and profitable...

Saturday, April 18, 2015

10 Years After: 2013 -- The Word For Bobo Is Forest

The 10th blogiversary fundraiser continues with the Snowden Year of 2013.  

2013 was another banner year for David Brooks.  Already the most ubiquitous Conservative public intellectual (and co-winner of the 2012 Prize for Civility in Public Life) Mr. Brooks added "Yale Professor of Humility" to his resume.

And there was much rejoicing.

Also in 2013, Jonathan Chait started to notice that Mr. Brooks is insane.  Which, I suppose, is something.  

As some of the more astute readers have noticed, I tend to focus on Mr. Brooks even though I am 100% certain that it will do no good whatsoever.  At this point, Mr. Brooks -- and Brooksism -- is an unstoppable force and no amount of spitballs thrown at it by some obscure nobody in a cornfield is going to change that.

So why do it?

Because David Brooks is not just the worst of the Beltways hacks.  Instead, column by column, prestige teevee appearance by prestige teevee appearance, lecture by lecture and radio address by radio address, Mr. Brooks  is creating the context in which the the worst of the Beltways hacks operate.

They are the thieves and butchers and monsters who are breaking our country.

Brooksism is the forest in which the hide.

And to get at them, we first have to burn that forest down.

Here are a few samples from my Brooksian Ĺ“uvre circa 2013 (with a h/t to the amazing Ursula Le Guin for the title)

And, finally, David Brooks also doesn't know shit about movies either.  This goes double when he tries to analogize movies he doesn't know shit about with other shit he know nothing about.  Like unemployment.

David Brooks' Mind is Aglow

With whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention...which he uses to clumsily bolt together two completely unrelated subjects to pad out his bi-weekly, 800-word contractual obligation to the New York Times.

At the top of today's column, Mr. Brooks offers us a tepid, below-average review of "The Searchers".  At the bottom, some patented, Brooksian word-spackle about values and virtues and the problem of male unemployment.  It the middle, a ludicrous, whiplashing transition that would have bought Mr. Brooks an "F" and a long note from the teacher about seriously considering another course of study in any competent English comp class in America.

But since the inherent absurdity of the plutocracy's softest and most obsequious manservant padding around his vast spaces for entertaining dictating a column on a John Ford western, male unemployment and a failure of the manly virtues to some dead-eyed intern almost buries the needle on comically oblivious myopia all by itself, it is impossible for me to proceed further without first pausing at the altar of that other Mr. Brooks: the one who camps out the extreme opposite end of the talent spectrum from the one at whom the New York Times continues to inexplicably throw bales of cash:

So let's begin with "The Searchers", which is a fine movie but an amazingly poor choice onto which to paste a column about adult American men in the 21st century being remaindered and left to die by an economy geared to service the 1%.

10 Years After: 2013 -- The Sorcerer's Apprentices

The 10th blogiversary fundraiser continues with the Snowden Year of 2013.  

In 2013, a few Republicans became momentarily famous for acting stunned to discover that the Republican Party is full of Republicans.

"Their Rigidity is Killing Them."

"It’s either holy purity, or you are anathema.”
Sound like anyone you know?

Actually, this is a quote from pissed-off Republican lobbyist and George W. Bush's former ambassador to Brussels, Tom Korologos who is one of many, cranky members of the Party of Personal Responsibility cited in a new column by Tom Edsall's entitled "Has the G.O.P. Gone Off the Deep End?"

For the uncharitable among us, the column is like tucking in to a ten-foot-long schadenfreude hoagie, trimmed with everyone from a former Tom DeLay aide to Bloody Bill Kristol, all weeping great big Burkean tears and bitching to beat the band about how the inmates have taken over the asylum.

10 Years After: 2013 -- The (Tea) Party's Over

The 10th blogiversary fundraiser continues with the Snowden Year of 2013.  

In 2013, the Tea Party came to an end.

Of course the fact that There. Never. Was. A. Fucking. Tea. Party. made filing the death certificate kinda tricky...

The End of That Which Never Was 

(UPDATE: Welcome Crooks and Liars readers!)

Once there was a dream called Teabaggistan...

It was a fertile land at the confluence of the mighty rivers Styx (the River of Hate), Lethe (the River of Forgetfulness)  and Mississippi (circa 1840) whose mingled, healing waters were said to be able to wash away the most persistently adhesive "Bush/Cheney 04" bumper-stickers while leaving your paranoia, rage and sense of aggrieved, racial entitlement miraculously intact. 

And these miracles were not just one-time dealies!  The Tea Party guaranteed its followers that they could say amazingly fucked up things up over and over again as many times as it suited them, secure in the knowledge that they could hop right back into Sylvester "Dick Armey" McBean's "Fabulous, Tea-Baggulous Bush-Off Machine" for quick re-re-redemption:

For the price of their souls and a couple of bucks
The Bush-Bellies could now buy some nips and some tucks.
From the Bush-Off Machine they tumbled like fresh laundered sheets
Screaming about deficits! Taxes! And those awful elites!

They had never liked Bush, no not even a little...
...they shrieked from mouths flecked with Patriot Spittle.
They'd never voted for him, nor swallowed his dirt.
You don't believe me? Just look at my shirt!
But the midwife of the dream that was Teabaggistan pulled off their steering wheel as they flew too close to the sun and crashed its political Lexus into the olive branch of its value proposition.

Or so might Tom Friedman have written of the end of the Tea Party Caucus.

But he did not.

Instead, Dave Weigel wrote this:

The Tea Party Caucus is Dead and That's Okay

By David Weigel | Posted Wednesday, March 20, 2013, at 9:44 AM

Two-odd months ago, I asked a Republican Hill staffer what had happened to the Tea Party Caucus. Launched with great fanfare in 2011, it was often cited in Michele Bachmann's introductions on the presidential campaign trail -- "she's the founder of the Tea Party Caucus!" -- and it brought luminaries like Antonin Scalia in to educate Republicans. At its height, the caucus had 60 members, but 10 of them lost their 2012 elections.

So how many members remained in the caucus?