Sunday, November 28, 2004

No! No! No! I Said I Wanted You Two

The Clinton Presidential library opened about two weeks ago, in a grand ceremony to honor our 42nd president. Many dignitaries attended, and entertainment was provided by an Irish rock duo: Dave Evans and Paul Hewson .

Interestingly enough, I’ve followed the careers of Evans and Hewson for about two decades now and I never realized they performed as a duo. Usually they recorded and performed with Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton as a quartet that goes by the name of U2.

As you may have suspected Evans and Hewson perform under the stage names The Edge and Bono. Despite the fact that The Edge is not a name, I am more annoyed by Hewson’s adoption of the surname of Cher’s first husband for his nom de plume. (Editor’s note: my favorite all time nom de plume is none other than Norm DePlume.)

So how do I feel about the more famous half from the world’s most popular rock band performing at the presidential gala? Curious, in a word. Why didn’t the entire band play? There are several possibilities.

Scenario 1: The rhythm section may have declined to perform on political grounds. This scenario is possible, but unlikely, given the fact that the band spent the 1980’s railing against the military buildup of the United States. They rocketed to stardom atop their 1983 LP titled “War,” a scathing critique of Ronald Reagan’s militarism. With President George W. Bush in the audience for the Clinton dedication, U2 less 2 played the biggest hit from “War,” the protest anthem Sunday Bloody Sunday.

Playing an anti-war song while the country is at war in front of the president who authorized such a war was a strong political statement. Surprisingly, they did not follow up with another title from that album, Surrender. A far superior choice given the president they were commemorating would have been the song One from "Achtung Baby." This lyric works on so many levels:

Did I disappoint you?
Leave a bad taste in your mouth?

George H.W. Bush was also in attendance. I'm sure he was thrilled to see Bono, who made a habit of in-concert calls to the White House switchboard demanding to speak to him during his administration.

It is possible that Clayton and Mullen decided that making a statement in this manner was too disrespectful or feared embarrassment by their band mates likely childish antics and tactfully declined to participate in the ceremony.

Scenario 2: The performers were paid, so the Clinton Library staff cut the costs by refusing to pay the members of the band they regarded as less important. I'm not sure whether performers are routinely paid for presidential command performances, but I doubt it, especially for performing a mere two songs. Even if the library picked up travel expenses, it wouldn't have cost much to add the band mates, as they could have shared the private jet they most certainly took and any additional room and board expense would be minor. Although I sincerely doubt the validity of this scenario, I do not have enough information to exclude it.

Scenario 3: The Clinton folks didn't think anyone would notice or care that the rest of the band was gone, as long as the stars showed up. Therefore, with multitudes wanting to attend, they cut where they could and ditched the expendable members of the band. I believe this is the most likely scenario. Remember folks, the main ceremony took place outdoors (a cover of the Beatles' Rain was the other song the duo performed, to cleverly commemorate the weather) with masses of attendees in bleacher seating. After the ceremony, a few select VIPs toured the facility. I'm sure that those VIP passes were scarce and wasting two on backup performers is not President or Mrs. Clinton's style.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Anger Over Michael Savage?

The Weekly World News, in my opinion, is America’s best supermarket tabloid. While the others rely on celebrity gossip, WWN adds more bizarre stories about space aliens, devil worshippers and human oddities. Over the years, they have featured a hilarious political column by a writer using the pen name Ed Anger. Ed’s column was titled “My America,” and it was clearly inspired by Archie Bunker.

In the 1980s when I began reading the WWN, Ed Anger first appeared, following a predictable format. His would jump right in to his subject, explaining that some event or person had got him mad. He described how mad he was in a colorful, yet rube-like way, for example: “I’m madder than a LaToya Jackson in a talent contest.” When he was angriest, he would declare himself “pig biting mad.“ Then he would detail the outrage that upset him and how it impacted his family. Some of his recent column titles include:

America Should Be a Bad Ass Cowboy
Molesters Should be Butchered Like Hogs
Put the Gipper’s face on the $100 bill

In 1996 he published a book titled, “Let’s Pave the Stupid Rainforests & Give School Teachers Stun Guns.” It featured those two classic essays plus:

Fry Death Row Creeps in Electric Bleachers
Keep World Cup Soccer out of the US
Let’s Drop an A-Bomb on France

Ed Anger was a hilarious send-up of the far right. It is funny, not because it’s true, but because it represents the perception of middle America that the extremist liberals on the coasts have. They think we are ignorant hicks, racists, and thugs who believe might makes right. They see no difference between mainstream Christianity and radical Islam. When exposed via an Ed Anger parody the results are often hilarious.

Recently, some friends and I engaged in an e-mail string about talk show host Michael Savage. Some suggested that Savage was dangerous to the conservative cause, as ignorant people that are his fans have come to be true believers in his cult of personality. Maybe this is true. I’d prefer to think that people listen to him for the same reason they read Ed Anger. To me Savage’s rants are no different than this beauty of Ed‘s:

Well, folks, I say it's high time for Uncle Sam to proudly tell the world he is a cowboy. A bad- ass cowboy who's not afraid to shoot first and ask questions afterward is exactly what the world needs right now to get rid of tough hombres like Saddam and all those murdering terrorist thugs. Let's come right out and say there's a new sheriff in town, buckaroos. And I'm not talking about a squeaky-clean lawman like the Lone Ranger who used to shoot the guns out of bad guys' hands with a silver bullet. I mean a modern-day Clint Eastwood-type cowboy who growls, "Make my day" before pumping six shots into some creep's back. Or remember Walking Tall, where that tough sheriff Buford Pusser kept moonshine-making hillbillies in line with his trusty 2 by 4?

Well, Uncle Sam oughta do the same thing -- only instead of whacking heads with a big stick, clobber sense into them with a nuclear missile. I mean it, gang. From now on, any of these fool countries step out of line, we shove the biggest nuke in our arsenal right up its old wazoo. It's no more Mr. Nice Guy. Nice guys finish last -- just ask Jimmy Carter.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


With all apologies to Jacques Derrida, today the world lost a man who was perhaps the most nihilistic soul ever. Per Associated Press wire:

The rap artist O.D.B., whose utterly unique rhymes, wild lifestyle and incessant legal troubles made him one of the most vivid characters in hip-hop, collapsed and died inside a recording studio Saturday. He was 35.

Something tells me his death was not of natural causes. AP?

The cause of death was not immediately clear, but O.D.B. had recently finished a prison sentence for drug possession and escaping a rehab clinic. He would have turned 36 on Monday.

O.D.B. — also known as Ol' Dirty Bastard, Dirt McGirt, Big Baby Jesus or his legal name of Russell Jones — was a founding member of the seminal rap group the Wu-Tang Clan in the early 1990s. With his unorthodox delivery — alternately slurred, hyper and nonsensical — O.D.B. stood out even in the nine-man Clan, which featured such future stars as Method Man, RZA and Ghostface Killah.

One must love a man who goes by the aliases O’l Dirty Bastard and Big Baby Jesus. AP continues:

But as his fame increased, so did his erratic behavior, and fans came to expect the unexpected from O.D.B. When MTV News followed him around at the height of his popularity, he took the camera crew and several of his kids (he was said to have more than a dozen, by numerous mothers) to the welfare office — in a limousine — to get an allotment of food stamps. And he received them.

The segment of MTV News in question was one of the greatest moments in TV history, and especially surprising, given the network’s ultra-liberal leanings. It occurred around the time welfare reform was passed, the same time that Wu-Tang Clan had several rap hits and a top rap album out. They set it up as an interview with ODB. As their reporter interviews him (a difficult task), he announces that he needs to take his babies to the welfare office. The reporter questions him remarking that he has a top selling album out. Mr. Bastard begins literally crying about how people are trying to take the food out of his babies mouths. He packs up several young children and MTV shows him en route to and in the welfare office. The fact that he gets the food stamps leaves the MTV reporter in amazement and exposes a huge problem with the welfare system, one so large that President Clinton soon signed the welfare reform legislation to tighten eligibility. The entire segment lasted about ten minutes, and ODB utters few intelligible words, despite his incessant talking. More from AP:

In February 1998, he crashed the stage at the Grammy Awards and hijacked a microphone from singer Shawn Colvin as she accepted an award, apparently upset over losing the best rap album Grammy to P. Diddy (then known as Puff Daddy ). He complained that he spent a lot of money for new clothes because he thought he was going to win. The rapper later apologized.

Over the years, he was wounded in shootings and arrested on a veritable laundry list of charges, including menacing security officers, illegally possessing body armor, driving with a suspended license, shoplifting and threatening a former girlfriend.

In 2000, after escaping a court-ordered stint in a California rehabilitation center, authorities searched for him for a month. He was finally arrested in Philadelphia — three days after performing in a New York City concert with his Wu-Tang clique.

He was sentenced in 2001 to two to four years in prison for drug possession, plus two concurrent years for escaping from the clinic. He was released in 2003 and immediately signed with Roc-a-Fella.

From what I’ve seen of ODB, it’s hard to tell if he was dangerous to others or just himself. Certainly, music lovers of the world will miss his slurred, nonsensical, yet hyper rapping. A baker’s dozen or more kids will miss their daddy, although most would probably have still missed him if he was still alive. Numerous ho’s will miss their man. On the other hand, security officers can breathe a bit safer and taxpayers will have to shell out a bit less on food stamps. All in all, Ol’ Dirty Bastard is far more deserving of a kind eulogy than Yasser Arafat.