November 07, 2006

American Democracy - Nice While it Lasted

So the Goon's wife shows up at her local polling place bright and early at 8AM today. It was a bit tricky to find - the location has been changed since the last US election, and it's down an obscure, winding road that doesn't show up on Mapquest. When she gets there, she's asked to fill out a card with her name and personal info. They tell her to make sure that she writes her name in exactly the same way as it's written on the registration list.

"Oh," she says. "Okay. So, can I see a registration list?"

"No," she is told in response. "You cannot. Our registration machine isn't working."

She then waits in line for an hour and a half. She's standing next to a lady who's walking with two canes. This lady's card says that she was born in 1922. Nobody offers her a place to sit down.

Finally, an 'official' starts walking up and down the line, telling people that of the eight voting machines at the poll, only two have been programmed correctly. This Helpful Public Servant offers the reccomendation that voters "try some other facility."

Were things any better in ths country when people who turned up to vote on the first Tuesday of November were told "Go away, nigger?" I suppose that we are at least a bit politer now. And that's what really matters, right? Right??

July 16, 2006

The Long Hollywood Gurgle

'Way back in the mid-nineties, when even chipper optimists like your friend the goon had all but concluded that Amrican popular culture was taking a header into the toilet (along with everything else of value in this remnant of a 'civilization') something odd happened. A bunch of young Hollywood directors started making very good popular films. With real-life (albeit talentless) American actors. And other people's money, which had apparently - get this - been invested in these works, rather than merely stolen.

Today in a masochistic frame of mind I was using my Google bookmark as a proverbial pointy stick, poking around on various entertainment websites in search of some vestiges of life amongst the carcasses. The following is a list of the 'projects' currently being undertaken by the gifted young artists behind those 'nineties films that I dared to enjoy:

David Fincher..................... Zodiac (serial killer movie)
Bryan Singer........................ Superman Returns
Joss Whedon....................... Wonder Woman
David Twohy....................... (nothing)

So what does our great nation demand from its most gifted and profitable young storytellers? Pictures of people in spandex underwear and stories of folks who kill (and preferably eat) other people. And, oh yeah, NOTHING.

Back to the ivory tower, stifling a groan.

May 04, 2006

The Bunk Files, Entry #3: The Social Sciences


Dramatis Personae

Noesus - A Social Sciences Professor
Publius - A wealthy lobbyist-turned-politician.


Noesus: The income gap in this country has risen by 17% in the past thirty years! Youth literacy is in steady decline! The incidence of violent crime in cities whose names begin with the letter "R" has quadrupled since the last outbreak of Avian Flu! Crack-smoking is on the rise amongst single Asian mothers of triplets! Dental hygiene is deteriorating amongst two thirds of Americans who can no longer afford to buy penicillin for their children!

Clearly, there is only one way out of the crisis: we must put the wealth of this great nation to work! We must reform our system of taxation in such a way as to redistribute essential goods and services so that they benefit the least advantaged!

Publius: Fuck off.

Noesus: Sorry! So very sorry...

The Bunk Files, Entry #2: Theoretical Physics

(sound of phone ringing)

A: Hello. May I speak to Professor Aloysius Sparkplume, of the Physics department?

B: This is he.

A: Professor Sparkplume! I.M. Butcher here, of BOOM! Corporation. I wonder if I might have a moment of your time.

B: Well, Mr. Butcher, I was actually right in the middle of an experiment. If you'd just...

A: This will only take a moment. We're very impressed by your work here at BOOM!, Dr. Sparkplume.

B: I...Well, why thank you.

A: In fact, I'm personally curious about the current direction of your researches.

B: It's very interesting - I'm presently exploring the behavior of a hitherto unnoticed subatomic particle, the Smoove Boson. It's emitted during reactions that take place...

A: I see. Fascinating. So tell me - does this particle of which you speak ever go BOOM?

B: Uh..."boom?"

A: You heard correctly. BOOM!

B: You mean, like a bomb?

A: We at BOOM! prefer not to use that word, Professor. We call them "matter-dispersing incendiaries." But you have correctly surmised the purport of my question.

B: You want to know if my research will help you blow things up?

A: You are a physicist, no? We at BOOM! want to place ourselves at the cutting edge - the exploding edge, if you will, heh heh - of your discipline. Our aim is to hire the brightest minds in contemporary theoretical physics to forge a spectacular bridge to tomorrow.

B: By...making things explode?

A: Well, Professor, as I'm sure you recognize, if you want to make an omelet...

B: I'm not interested in making omelets! I'm interested in uncovering the most deeply concealed secrets of the natural world! I want to seek out hidden truths! To discern the fine structure underlying all that we know! How dare you suggest that I abandon the quest for ineffable knowledge in order to help you spread rubble across the bosom of the earth!

A: We'll pay you $400,000 a year.

B: Sold.

The Bunk Files, Entry #1: History

Q: What happened?
A: Well, first of all, A. Then, B.

Q: Did A cause B?
A: Sorta depends on how you look at it.

Q: Why did A cause B?
A: Because people suck.


Memorize these three Q/A templates and you'll have mastered all of the intellectual skills necessary for a dazzling career in historical scholarship. Everything else is just a matter of sifting through people's dumpsters, underwear drawers, semi-literate newspapers and private correspondence, looking for factoids that were too unspeakably dull or terrifying for anyone to take any notice of during the times at which the relevant events were actually taking place. Or, alternatively, reading books written by other people who've done this dreary legwork for you, and mastering the art of trivial paraphrase.

February 17, 2005

A Modest Proposal

In 1729 Jonathan Swift proposed in a whimsical sort of way that the endemic social problems of Ireland could be permanently solved if only the good folk of the Emerald Isle would consider devouring their own offspring. If Swift had lived in contemporary America, the Goon suspects that he’d probably have written exactly the same essay, only without the irony.

The 2002 movie Orange County was not a massively well-received, nor even a particularly successful film. But in the drear and gloomy isolated college town (equipped with plenty of creaking belfries, ambulatory lunatics, ‘Smoothie’ bars etc.) wherein the Goon resides, it was a big hit amongst the normally catatonic student population. As a matter of fact, the local Formica-encrusted Movieplex let students come in to watch it for free for a few evenings. Succumbing as always to the ineluctable curse of natural curiosity, I rented a copy. And stared straight into the face of blackest evil.

Shaun Brumder is saddled with a vapid, pill-popping mother, a Christopher-Hitchens-esque father, a worthless stoner of a brother and a sweet-natured, bone-stupid girlfriend named Ashley who’s obsessed with fluffy animals. Strangely enough, he finds his life to be just a trifle unsatisfactory. Then he finds a book buried in the sand on a local beach. He reads it: it is magnificent. It makes him laugh, and teaches him how to dream. And it hints at the existence of a world beyond the blow-dried vacuity of suburban California.

This experience leads Shaun to reach the entirely sensible conclusion that it’s time he got the fuck out of Dodge. So he trudges off to Stanford in search of his new favorite author, who teaches there. Various monotonous teenage hijinks ensue that are too pedestrian to bother recounting. But the upshot of it all is that our hero realizes that Home (however unspeakably vile) is Where The Heart Is after all. The last scene puts him back on the beach where he first found his treasured volume. He promptly re-buries it, and then declares to his dumb honky beachmates, with a declarative passion usually reserved for marriage proposals and Shakespearean elegies, "I’m gonna go surfin’!" And the crowd of slack-jawed sophomores goes wild.

Film is the most powerful medium for propaganda that humanity has yet devised. The Nazis understood this; Americans apparently do too. The only difference seems to be this – the message of German propaganda films from the 1930s was "Foreigners are evil! Hide from them!" Orange County has an only superficially less contemptible moral: Don’t even think about deviating from your upbringing in even the very tiniest of ways. And for God’s sake, whatever you do don’t read anything.

February 02, 2005

Who Needs Hair Plugs When You Have 9/11?

Here’s Goon’s First Rule of Political Analysis: whenever something of fairly large-scale horribleness happens in the world and you’re wondering whose fault it is, you can settle on one conclusion pretty quickly: the relevant perpetrator will be
(1) between the ages of eighteen and fifty, and
(2) endowed with a penis.
The events of 9/11 provide us with much empirical support for the this venerable principle. What could be a more distinctively male desire than the urge to blow up a bunch of shit with a big ol’ plane?

After the attacks sensible women everywhere, and the occasional girly-man like yours truly, were content to express themselves in conventional tones of lamentation. The thought that we had was this – such horrors are as old as time, and there is thus a certain rather vile presumptuousness involved in trying to draw attention to oneself in the belief that one has something terribly novel or clever to say about them.

With these thoughts in mind, let us turn to the recent behavior of Christopher Hitchens. And Dennis Miller and Noam Chomsky too, but let’s for the time being focus upon the most repulsively eloquent member of this emetic little trio. The Hitch began his public life as a Trotskyite – a lively and controversial advocate for the huddled, underfed masses of the developed world. But since 9/11 he’s taken the proverbial icepick to this persona. No longer does he want us to be horrified by the prospect of greedheads in the Bush administration doing everything they can to increase the income gap. No longer should we worry about the fates of members of the working classes who join the military to pay their phone bills and find themselves the targets of mortar shells lobbed by gibbering loonies in Fallujah. Having reached his fortieth birthday, C.H. has apparently discovered that it gets a bit boring, sitting around waiting for The Revolution to go down. And as his clothing budget has skyrocketed, one can’t help but think he might have also noticed that the poor are, after all, just a wee bit grubby.

So now, our manifest destiny as a civilized nation turns out to be quite a different sort of thing. We must, it seems, drive the U.S. economy to ruin and put a lot of poor folk into harm’s way so that we can kill the asses of a bunch of foreigners. Hands up, all those diligent students of history who have heard this kind of song before.

The Goon, you will be pleased to hear, has his own mid-life crisis thoroughly planned out. Bright red sports cars will be involved, as will expensive liquor, a membership at the gym and as many loose housewives as can be seduced by the ineluctable charms of his rhetoric. He therefore offers this advice to the Hitch, from one leftist rabble-rouser to another: the old ways are the best ways, friend. Shut your vain, frivolous mouth and get some hair plugs, for God’s sake.

January 26, 2005

Death of a Salesman

So Johnny Carson has finally coughed his way off this mortal coil and up onto the big buff-colored soundstage in the sky. Let us pause for a moment, gentle friends, and reflect upon the Great Man’s legacy.

This task might actually prove rather difficult, once one really tries to get into it. Was Carson a great humorist? Only if you’re fond of the wheezy, "baDUMP-bump" style of jokery that might have given your grandparents a few feeble cackles after the evening’s third glass of cheap bourbon. Was he a kind and generous human being, a pleasant companion and a benefactor of the weak and vulnerable? "Colossal, drunken asshole" seems to have been the preferred classificatory term used by everyone who ever actually socialized with the man. Did he permanently transform the landscape of popular culture – was he a Bob Dylan, a Jim Henson, a Steven Spielberg or a Raymond Chandler? On careful reflection, I’d have to say that he was more of a Clifford Suggs. What – you’ve never heard of Clifford Suggs? Well…all right, neither have I.

Here’s one thing Carson did better than anyone before or since, though – he managed to persuade Mr. And Mrs. America that advertising is really entertainment! Consider the format of The Tonight Show. Guest arrives. If guest is male, guest makes a few feeble, formless wisecracks; if guest is female, guest tosses hair and gives the camera a flash of barely concealed tit. Guest then proceeds to shill for some ghastly movie, book, pop record or (sweet mother Mary, help us) speaking tour for about ten minutes. Then we pause for…what?…surely not…a commercial?

My suggestion for a mourning ritual, then, is this: everyone who feels the need to grieve should set aside an entire day to do nothing but watch pre-recorded infomercials. In slow motion. Without the aid of alcohol or human companionship. Until well after their normal bedtimes.

January 24, 2005

A New Addition to the Western Canon

I knew that I had to start up this blog - with the sort of deeply mystical insight usually reserved for Hebrew prophets, Otis Redding and shivering men in rubber rooms who soil themselves regularly and believe themselves to be in permanent conversation with demons named Bruce - the very moment that I read this unutterably puerile article in The Weekly Standard about Bush's second inaugural address (click on the title above to go and take a look at the wretched piece).

So now our President gets props for being a Great Philosopher. Never mind that as far as speechwriting goes, he's even more of a ventriloquist's dummy than most modern presidents. Never mind that his remark about Christ being his favorite Deep Thinker was so callow a piece of political rhetoric that it should have made an eight-year-old sneer. And never mind that Jesus' one genuinely novel idea (not really a "philosophical" one, since the J-man seems to have preferred just announcing his opinions from hilltops, rather than muddying his feet by engaging in actual argumentation) was that you should learn to love your enemies. As opposed to, say, bombing the shit out of them, cutting their medical benefits or disenfranchising them when they try to vote against you.

Could the level of public discourse sink any lower in this country? Clearly what the world needs now is a for a few brave men and women to sit up slowly off their couches of contemplation, rummage around in the cupboard until they find the dusty Bullshit Detectors that they acquired during their college days and oil up those neglected machines for immediate use. I have set myself this chore herein - go now, beloved reader, and do thou likewise.