Let’s Get Ready for This Nightmare

Dorothy Parker is said to have commented, “What Fresh Hell is this?” any time someone came to her door. After 234 years of campaigning, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton should be used to this response. In fact, by the time of the third presidential debate, this wasn’t even Fresh Hell anymore. This was more like Clearance Sushi at Kroger. Not exactly the same thing as browsing the clearance aisle at Ross or TJ Maxx for nipple clamps. It’s just stale, and disturbing. The debate began with Chris Wallace, son of the great journalist Mike Wallace— a sort of sad, sloughed-off chicken skin who’s the most disappointing sequel since the Star Wars prequels.  Wallace started off by declaring there … [Read more...]

VP Debate 2016: Send in the Clowns!

Needless to say, somewhere Smokey Robinson is wondering “WTF?” or patting himself on the back for seeing into the future, maybe both. All over the heartland, real clowns are stalking the populace, horrifying rural and inner city populations alike.  The TV mini-series It turned 25 last year, and it’s as if the anniversary served as a dog whistle for a clown resurgence: a nation of Pennywises rising from obscurity. In almost parallel development, this year’s presidential campaign feels like an Edward Hopper painting, Stephen King novel, and three-ring circus all wrapped into one. The GOP debates functioned as a proverbial clown car with an array of insane candidates emerging to grasp an … [Read more...]

The Five Worst Cities in America

Cities are “back,” as you might have heard, following a long period when urban America was viewed by fearful observers in the suburbs as dangerous, dysfunctional, and generally addicted to crack.  We welcome the renaissance of many American cities—who could not applaud declining murder rates (well, at least until this year and, you know, all the time in Chicago), and the rise of a younger generation less wedded to cars, sprawl and fossil fuels? Even if cities are officially back, though, there are a few cities we wish would go back to wherever they came from.  We love New York and San Diego and, uh, Albuquerque, but there are some places in America so pretentious, unfriendly, boring, racist … [Read more...]

If Your Debate Lasts for More than Four Hours, Please Contact Your Doctor

“I'm all lost in the supermarket/I can no longer shop happily/I came in here for that special offer/A guaranteed personality - “Lost in the Supermarket”, The Clash from London Calling In the marketplace of retail politics, all we’ve received in this early election season is “guaranteed personality,” lots of flopsweat—I’m looking at you Rubio and O’Malley—and dubious personality—need I even point fingers for the latter? If “Lost in the Supermarket” served as a sort of platonic love song from Joe Strummer to Mick Jones (Strummer wrote the lyrics, Jones arranged the music), the closest thing we got last night was Bernie Sanders’s cry in the night regarding Hillary’s modern correspondence: … [Read more...]

The Orange Menace and the Angry Snowman: A Cautionary Tale

“Borderline/Feels like I'm going to lose my mind/You just keep on pushing my love/Over the borderline,” sang Madonna in the Gen X 1980s classic. In so many ways, last night’s GOP debate epitomized the Material Girl’s 1983 dilemma. Whether it was Mike Huckabee’s work as a bassist in a J. Geils cover band (“My Angel is a centerfold”… named Kim Davis), Teddy Cruz’s bizarre pronunciation of Ayatollah Khamenei—it sounded like Common Knee, who I am pretty sure was a Native American leader in colonial times—or Jeb! Bush’s uncanny Will Ferrell impersonation, the Republican candidates seemed to cross borders real and imagined all night. The orgiastic love fest for the late Ronald Reagan edged ever … [Read more...]

Alinsky, ACORNs, Sex, and Death at the Quicken Arena

It's fitting that one of this summer's breakout hits was George Miller's new Mad Max epic. Though Fury Road featured a nearly mute Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa stole the show, a one-armed terror rescuing her fellow women from concubine status and ultimately prying it away from the desiccated hands of Immortan Joe and his lackeys. Indeed, though the Mad Max series has had its share of female protagonists—I mean, Tina Turner in Beyond Thunderdome was epic—Furiosa's vision, grit and bravery routed more than a few men along the way. What does this have to do with the first GOP debate last night? Well, besides a cast of characters as bizarre as Fury Road, including Chris … [Read more...]

Every Country Deserves a Mulligan

The United States government might be about to default on its debt, but nobody’s perfect.  Sure, this could be a mess of a magnitude that makes 2008’s black swan look like the lovechild of Mother Goose and Alicia Silverstone.  At least in 2008 a frightened world could rush to the impregnable redoubt of T-bills—investments backed by the one nation presumed to be the last man standing in even the worst of scenarios.  We are, of course, not so sure about that nowadays.  But we’ve made mistakes before and people have forgiven us. Consider the 1850s in general, and particularly the long winter of 1860-1.  The country was coming apart at the seams, the political system had broken down, and … [Read more...]

Freebasing the South’s Empire City with Carly Jepsen and Killer Mike

Atlanta is a city once called Terminus—a name that rivals only Nitro, WV for unalloyed industrial-metal awesomeness in these United States.  But the city was restless, and full of shit.  It changed its name to Atlanta, even though, as even my brain-damaged little brother once noticed, it’s nowhere near the fucking ocean.  “Which way to the ocean, brah?” he asked.  I pointed east, from Cincinnati.  “Which way to Atlanta?” Yes, Atlanta could have been Terminus, but it turned out to be Goodie Mob minus Cee Lo at best, Raven Symone’s overappreciated fourth album at worst.  Like the city itself, I was restless and shit-stuffed when I touched down. “I threw a wish in the well/Don't ask me, … [Read more...]

Why White Southerners Are the True Victims of Racism

Like the Counting Crows, who were “Accidentally in Love,” Brad Paisley is accidentally racist.  His new country song is one of the most ersatz and unintentionally ironic pop culture meisterwerks to come down the pike in a long, long time.  And LL Cool J does possibly the strangest rap crossover cameo since Chuck D appeared on Sonic Youth's "Kool Thing," though LL appears to be more interested in assuaging the consciences of white listeners than challenging them. Racism is not often the stuff of bubblegum pop—at least not explicitly. It’s tough to stuff issues of race, ethnicity, identity, and inequality into the verse-chorus-verse format of popular music.  Yet  Paisley and LL have … [Read more...]

The Fallacy of March Madness or Why I Learned to Love the NBA and Stop Worrying about the NCAAS

I am a sinner, the lowest of the low, a man from the heartland who has abandoned the clarion call of March Madness.  This morning, I awoke to no busted brackets or regretful tears over Wichita State’s massacring of tournament expectations.  When the sound of Florida Gulf Coast alley oops fell silent in the face of a Florida team led by a guy who can’t act his way out of a UPS commercial (say it with me as woodenly as possible, “I-t-’-s a-b-o-u-t l-o-g-i-s-t-i-c-s”), I shed not a single tear.  No, for the first time in my life, I refused to fill out NCAA brackets and to be honest, I feel free, like a bunch of Disney starlets on Spring Break: “Come on y’all why you actin’ … [Read more...]