Friday, September 12, 2008

Blog #53: Posting ahead of the storm

Because Hurricane Ike is bearing down on Houston, and threatening to shut down power for an unknown amount of time, I’m going to post Saturday’s blog a day early. It’s either that, or wait until power comes back, which could be days, or perhaps even a week or two. In the meantime we wish all of you who live in Houston good luck. And if you live in Galveston, I hope the hell you got safely away. There are two basic subjects for this week’s post. The first, still more ruminations on the presidential campaign.
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It would have been so simple. There would have been nothing to it. Those hard fought Democratic primaries between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had resulted in record breaking registrations on the part of the Democrats. Barack was winning heavily among the young and after initially holding back to see if he was for real, finally blacks began crowding into his corner. Hillary was winning big with older women and with white men, especially blue collar white men, and she especially won the large, populous states like New York, California, and Massachusets, etc. (And Hillary’s Massachusets win was a particularly impressive one for the state’s three leading politicians, governor Deval Patrick, and Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry were all actively supporting Obama, but Clinton won the state anyway.)

Barack had the dreams, Hillary had the experience. So what would you have done when you finally got around to choosing your running mate? John Kennedy went against his grain and made sworn enemy Lyndon Johnson, who had campaigned bitterly against him in the primaries, his running mate. And George Herbert-Walker Bush who had campaigned bitterly against Ronald Reagan in the primaries (remember his calling Reagan’s economic program “voodoo economics?”), saw Reagan in turn make him his running mate, paving Bush’s way to his own presidency eight years later. Both men, for different reasons, had sailed into the presidency. Even Wolf Blitzer of CNN had called it like it was, the potential of a ticket featuring both Barack and Hillary he called a Dream Team.

If Barack Obama had only had the guts, the balls, the self confidence to have included Hillary Clinton on his ticket, those legions of white blue collar men and those pantsuits brigades of women, as Hillary herself defined the army of middle class females who had flocked to her support, would have put the presidential race securely in Obama’s pocket, and considering the increased Democratic registration, he would at the very least have had an 8 to 10 percentage point statistical lead over McCain in the polls. But no! In his regal omniscience Barack Obama passed over Hillary Clinton leaving many Democratic women with bruised noggins as Clinton and her followers bumped heads against that seemingly unending glass ceiling. Clinton’s campaign against Obama had truly helped define him, but Obama expressed his thanks by not even considering her. And whereas it is true that when he selected Joe Biden, he got foreign policy expertise plus gravitas with the white, catholic working class types of the industrial states, but in bypassing the legions of women who had supported Hillary, his Biden appointment did nothing for the many Hillary supporters who he had cast adrift.

And so what did John McCain do, but the unthinkable? He annointed the female governor of Alaska, a real energizer bunny type, with the vice presidency on his ticket, and dangled her alluringly before the legions of the Hillary brigade as if to tempt them: “Red Rover, Red Rover, why don’t you cross over?” Talk about lipstick on a pig, as everyone seems to be doing these days, Ms Palin seems such a natural, and John McCain must be lovingly patting himself on his own backside all the way to the polling bank.

However we will say this, Ms Palin certainly does know what pork is. When she was mayor of Wasilla she hired a lobbyist to go to Washington and lobby for more US taxpayer dollars for her tiny Alaskan village. And she has a few other qualities to distinguish her from your average Hillary supporter. For one thing she’s a creationist , and would you believe? A creationist who speaks in tongues? And what could possibly be next, a charter membership in the Alaskan Flat Earth Society? But best of all for the Christian right, she’s venomously against a woman’s right to choose, and, get this if you please, she’s even against a woman’s right to know. Meaning that she has come out strongly against the teaching of sex education in schools, as well as the use of all kinds birth control paraphernalia. And at least two of her own children reflect her bizarre positions.

She claims to have cut the fat out of Washington’s state government, and she even put the Alaska governor’s private jet up for sale on eBay, to much loud Republican applause, but it turns out that she didn’t sell it on eBay after all, but she actually sold the jet to a friend for far less than it was worth. She has also proven herself to be not the least bit shy as she attempted to have her state trooper ex-brother-in-law fired and when the State’s Public Safety Commisioner wouldn’t fire the man, she fired him. And her hand-picked replacement left shortly after being appointed over sexual harrassment charges.

And so as a direct result of Barack Obama’s shortsightedness in failing to put Hillary Clinton on his ticket, the Republicans must be ecstatic to be getting their chance to bamboozle the American voter one more time. In this corner meet John McCain, newly labeling himself an Agent of Change. Could you possibly believe that? If so would you please give me a toke of whatever it is that is you are smoking? After agreeing with and voting with George Bush 90% of the time, NOW John McCain is suddenly declaring himself an Agent of Change, AND PROUD OF IT! PUL-EASE!! But as absurd as that claim might seem, a certain percentage of the American electorate must be buying it, for McCain now seems to have the Big Mo (Momentum) on his side, and in spite of all of his advantages, what with that beautifully orchestrated Democratic convention behind him plus the increased registration and the nation’s inherent hunger for change, Barack Obama is either tied in the polls with John McCain or he’s leading by a percentage point or two.

Meantime Ms Palin has tongues wagging up and down the web, and Charlie Black and McCain’s other Republican handlers must be positively euphoric that their traditional slash and burn tactics consisting of lies, distortions and doublespeak are once again working like the proverbial charm. And undoubtedly thanks to that energizer bunny Sarah Palin, McCain has caught up to Barack Obama in the polls, even eking out a lead of a point or two in some polls.

I wish I had an answer for all of this. Of course, the Obama campaign needs to l0se its distaste of offending Republicans and relentlessly parade the truth in front of the voters of this country. But damn it, after 82 years of mostly watching Republicans pull the wool over our national eyes, and seriously damaging the structure of the federal government in the wake of their victories, I am damn near ready to give it all up. When, oh when, are the American people going to wake up and smell the coffee and see where their true interests lie, and then cast their vote accordingly.

For a Republican’s true interest lies not in helping the average American with their problems. In spite of numerous denials, every Republican’s true purpose in running for election is to serve the very rich and the large corporations, entities which already have all the power they need and all the support which their money will buy. The few regulations that have been put on the banking and financial institutions and other businesses, were put there only after abuses by said industries were serious enough to cause people to demand regulation. And yet with every reelection Republicans continue to try and strip these regulations away, so that those carefree robber baron days of yesteryear can return full bore, I suppose. So that they can attempt to replicate the wild excesses of the nineteen twenties, which of course will likely cause a massive depression like what happened in the nineteen thirties, which, also of course, will likely bring on even tighter controls.

Unfortunately, it seems as if it will take a massive depression like the one of the nineteen thirties to truly wake the nation up and see its people voting their true interests. Bill Clinton was an exception to that rule perhaps, but he was aided by George Herbert Walker’s complete lack of knowledge of the price 0f a dozen eggs, and also by the recession caused in the wake of the first Gulf War. Clinton’s presidency was charmed, delivering eight years of that winning combination, both peace and prosperity, albeit under incessant scrutiny by the Republican Smear Machine piloted by Kenneth Starr, which ended in a House Impeachment trial which failed in the Senate.

However, Al Gore’s rejection of the Clinton record was certainly a major factor leading to his subsequent defeat by George W. Bush even though Gore had won a majority of the popular vote. And John Kerry’s fatal ignoring of the Republican Smear Machine in 2004 until it was too late, lead to his defeat. (In all fairness to Kerry, it would seem unbelievable that a group of rich Texas oilmen and disgruntled Swift Boat veterans (who had turned on Kerry because he had turned on the Vietnam War) could spread such absurd lies about Kerry’s record that they would lead to his defeat, especially since the man he was running against was a well known Vietnam slacker of the first order, George W. Bush, who had used his father’s position as Congressman to secure himself a place in the Texas Air National Guard. And it was a position to which George W. eventually went AWOL from. No novel or motion picture would have been declared believable with such a plotline, but in 2004 the voters evidently bought it hook, line and sinker.)

And so is it really going to be the destiny of the American voter to suffer deja vu all over again? Are we doomed to another four years of a weekly 10 billion dollar handout to Iraq, a skyrocketing national debt with the auctioning off of still more of our country to foreign entities like China and the Saudis. And for what it is worth, four more years of the GOP’s chipping away at that institution which really belongs to all of us Americans, the federal government. All of this with the undercurrent of knowing that if something should happen to John McCain during the next four years that combination creationist, bloodthirsty hunter, and violent opponent to a woman’s right to control her own body will be catapulted into power. The big question that Republicans don’t want you to ask is this: do you really want a person of such mentality in power in Washington? Think about it. Time is running out. November lies just around the corner.
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Enough of politics, if you love comedy, and music, I would like to tell you about a real find. The first season of NBC’s Saturday Night Live is available on DVD. lists the series new at $49.99 and lists 88 new and used copies from $27.97. Amazon lists only Dan Aykroyd and three muppeteers, Jim Henson, Frank Oz and Fran Brill, but of course all of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players, who really weren’t ready perhaps at the very first, but who certainly warmed to their roles as the season went on, are there. In addition to Akyroyd, of course, they are, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Garrett Morris, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, and Gilda Radner. And of course, all the the first year’s hosts parade by: George Carlin, Paul Simon, Rob Reiner, Candice Bergen, Robert Klein, Lily Tomlin, Richard Pryor, Elliot Gould, Buck Henry, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Dick Cavett, Peter Boyle, Desi Arnaz, Jill Clayburgh, Anthony Perkins, Ron Nessen (Gerald Ford’s Press Secretary), Raquel Welch, Madeline Kahn, Dyan Cannon, Louise Lasser, and Kris Kristofferson.

I should at this point note that Saturday Night Live has a special place in the hearts of my sons and me. As a divorced parent I got to take my boys from Friday after school until Sunday morning, when would I deliver them to their Sunday school. And 1975-76 was the inaugurating year of the program. The local NBC station was Channel Two, and the program ran Saturday nights from 10:30 to midnight, central time. And as a bonus, Channel Two followed SNL with Monty Python’s Flying Circus, 30 minutes of delightful aburdity which also knew few bounds. Most of SNL’s first year’s programs I saw live, and so running into them again was a super treat.

Watching the series in order is a real revellation. Every minute of every one is here. The very first show, hosted by George Carlin, had little else but Carlin’s running monologue as the Not Ready for Prime Time Players were busy living up to their name. Show number two turned out to be an extended musical concert, with a Simon and Garfunkel reunion headlining the program, but also featuring appearances by Randy Newman and Phoebe Snow. Very important in those early shows were Jim Henson’s Muppets featuring Frank Oz. The Muppets created the land of Gorch, and of course, the Great Favah, a rubberized face bearing a remarkable resemblance to Nelson Rockefeller, then Governor of New York, who dispensed favors in response to chickens and other gifts. The skewed Muppets of Saturday Night Live were really one of the highlights of the early shows, but by mid season they had left for England, where they ended up syndicating their own television show, The Muppet Show. Early SNL shows were also brightened by appearances by Andy Kaufman, back when he was hysterically funny.

One of the remarkable features of SNL was the wide variety of the musical guests it featured. Producer Lorne Michaels had each guest host pick the musical guest of his choice, and the result was sweeping. Janis Ian, Billy Preston, Gilbert Scott Heron, Randy Newman, Leon Redbone and Phoebe Snow were just a few of the many guests gracing that first season. And of course a highlight of each show was the opening monologue, especially those of George Carlin, Lily Tomlin, and Richard Pryor. Pryor’s show was especially funny, containing a skit with Aykroyd, Curtin, Belushi, and Radner where Aykroyd raved about how the neighborhood was turning black, and members of his family would leave the room, only to return having turned black, with Aykroyd failing to notice the difference. Various police lineups during the show always ended with the victim picking Pryor, the one who was black and handcuffed. But the sharpest routine of the night had Chevy Chase as a job interviewer and Richard Pryor as the applicant. Chase played a word association game, where Pryor was supposed to respond with whatever word came into his head: “Dog?” “Tree”, “Bean?” “Pod”, “White?” “Black.”, “Tar Baby?” (Pryor’s face twists suspiciously at this point.) “OhFay!”, “Colored?” “Redneck!”, “Jungle Bunny?” “Pecker Wood!”, “Burr head?” “Cracker!”, “Spear Chucker?” “White Trash!”, “Jungle Bunny?” “Honky!”, “Spade?” “Honky, Honky!!”, “Nigger?” “Dead Honky!” Well, you get the idea, I’m sure. Another gem on this show is Richard Pryor as a priest in Exorcist II, with Laraine Newman as the bedeviled child.

The honor for one of the best opening monologues in the first season belongs to Lily Tomlin. A few of her better lines follow, but although they read well off the page, the real treat is in watching Ms Tomlin as she delivers them on the show, and so we would urge you to make your haste to Amazon. “I wonder what it would be like if we all became what we wanted to be when we grew up. I mean, imagine a world filled with nothing but firemen, cowboys, nurses and ballerinas. . . . . I’ve decided that New York is always knowing where your purse is . . . . And I’ll tell you something else. I resent losing the ozone layer just so we can have Pam. . . . . Have you ever actually seen someone laughing all the way to the bank? . . . . Being a New Yorker is never having to say you’re sorry. . . . . And most important of all, wouldn’t it be nice if all those people who wander around the streets of New York talking to themselves were paired off in couples, so it would look like they were having a conversation?”

A high point of all of the shows were the pseudo commercials, and particularly funny was the one with Tony Perkins was host, announcing the Norman Bates School of Motel Management. Gilda Radner and Larraine Newman did a pretty funny one with Chevy Chase about Gilda’s “uvula” which, as Chevy explained was on the fritz, and which Gilda promised to take better care of. On one program the film showed a SNL flatbed truck roaming the suburbs with the crew on the truck shouting “Show us your guns,” and one after another people showed them. (This was a parody of a deodorant commercial of the time where men in a truck went around asking people to show them their deodorant.) New Dad was another fun commercial where Dad Dan Aykroyd after a family scene with son and wife, is suddenly out of the picture. However the family had a New Dad insurance policy, and Chevy Chase bounds in making up for the emotional loss of old dad. A picture of Akyroyd and wife suddenly has Chevy’s face pasted over it, and the legend “New Dad – Tops in Pops! apppeared.”

Among the high points of the first season was a skit entitled The Final Voyage of the Star Ship Enterprise. John Belushi was Captain Kirk and Chevy Chase Mister Spock. The enterprise sensors picked up a vessel coming upon them, which the computer identified as a 1968 Chrysler Imperial with a tinted windshield and retractable headlights. In spite of all attempts to elude the vessel it caught up with them. It was the NBC network’s head of programming, played by Elliott Gould. He announced that the show was being dropped, two years short of its stated five year mission. He had the stage hands disassemble the set, and he removed Spock’s ears. Captain Kirk’s final log follows: “Captain’s Log, Final Entry. We have tried to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before, and except for one television network, we have found intelligence everywhere in the galaxy. Live long and prosper. Promise!”

And on that happy note we will leave this week’s blog. If you have no money SNL is available on bit torrent. We are sorry to have to check out early, but I do have one or two things to do before Ike comes roaring in on us. Have a good week, and we’ll see you when we can. When my lights come on again I will ad an addendum to this p0st reporting on surviving the storm. Cheers.

Post scriptus to Blog #53: Hurricane Ike had come on shore at Galveston Island late Friday afternoon, and hit Houston some seven hours later. My house, at 12022 N. Fairhollow Ln., is well built enough that I didn’t notice the high winds and excessive rain, and I slept peacefully. Power went off sometime between 12:45 and 3:25 on Saturday morning. It was off all day Saturday, and came on for about 10 seconds on Sunday, Sept. 14, at approximately 7 a.m. It stayed on just long enough for my computer to begin the startup process, then it turned off again. Power came on again Monday, Sept 15, also around 7 a.m. and remained on for about 25 minutes, which was long enough to get me a pot of coffee ground and dripped before yet another blackout. Power came back for good on Monday at 1:07, and hopefully it’s now on for good, however although I have my trusty computer working as if it had never stopped, the internet is down, as is cable service itself plus we also have Comcast for our phone service. The magic trio. All kaput. So I guess the Mighty Comcast has a problem or two on its hands. Or three. (A call to Comcast got a recorded message that cable, the telephone, and the internet service may be off for as much as two weeks. I guess Hurricane Ike must have sent their satellite dishes a’flying.) If and when internet service resumes I will post a little addendum to my blog to let one and all know we survived the Mighty Ike.

Addedendum II: Cable, the internet, and my telephone returned Friday, September 19, at 4:30. I posted this addition to my column at 5:10. Tomorrow morning I will post a more complete story of my week “without.”

The Real Little Eddy

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