Stupid reality.

I was in California last week in the middle of a brutal heat wave, and was going to write a comical little ditty on that, but then I made the mistake of reading the Guardian, and about Karl Rove, and now I'm stuck thinking about him. They say that when you hate someone, or feel anger at him, he controls you. I agree with this, but Rove, in many ways already does control our lives.

As of yet, I have never once mentioned Karl Rove’s name to someone without the person responding with some sort of “who?” type question. Arguably the most powerful person in the country, and no one knows who he is. Now, as he is being attacked for revealing the name of the undercover CIA agent to the press to punish her husband for speaking out against the war, people only have a vague sense of somebody being attacked for this. And, invariably, the Democrats are going to labeled as zealots.

The thing is, going after Rove over this is about opportunity, rather than gravity of offense. It’s like Elliott Ness arresting Al Capone for income-tax evasion. Of Rove’s many, many terrible crimes and sins, this is not especially notable, but the administration has left him vulnerable. Because he is so behind the scenes and never leaves paper trails, there is never much opportunity to take him down. But now, Bush has said (oddly, since there can be no doubt that he knew everything) that if the person responsible for the act was connected to the White House, this person would be fired, the Democrats see an opportunity to take down the most dangerous man in the country. It’s unfortunate that it has to be a situation where there is no real legal case to make (it’s only a crime to blow an agent’s cover if it’s done with the intention of causing the agent harm – a very difficult thing to prove, and almost certainly not the case here, anyway), only a political one. And Rove has been practically the single-handed molder of the American political landscape for almost twenty years without any official political position – what is really to be accomplished by stripping him of it?

If you are reading this, and don’t know who Rove is, you have obligation to learn. If you believe that Texas is, and always has been, a conservative state, you need to learn who Karl Rove is. If you either think Kerry’s Vietnam War record is questionable, or can’t figure out why that was such a big deal in the election, you need to learn about Karl Rove. If you want to know why gay marriage is a big topic in politics right now...if you want to know why Christian hard-liners align themselves with the Republican Party, a party almost totally at odds with Christian ideals...if you can’t figure out how someone as dumb and unqualified as GW Bush can be president...

There’s an excellent article on him in the Atlantic Monthly a few months back, and a documentary called “Bush’s Brain” which are just two resources to look into.

Two examples from Rove’s career – “how did they turn the election into a question about Kerry’s military history, when Bush not only avoided Vietnam through family connections, but deserted the military, which is a federal crime?” It has long been standard practice to attack your opponent’s weaknesses. Rove teaches to attack their greatest strengths, if it has to be through innuendo and vague assertions, fine. If they’re proven to be untrue? Irrelevant. Once damage is done in the public mind, it’s done. One State Supreme Court race in Alabama that Rove was managing was against a man who had devoted his life to children’s causes. He had been a family court judge for many years, and the things he had seen done to children had prompted him to start several charities and homes. Rove instigated a whisper campaign. How these work is you send some people to college-campuses to spread rumors. College campuses are inhabited with people who A) are forming strong opinions and B) come from all reaches of the area and will take their new opinions home with them to spread there. This campaign was that the opponent was a pedophile. Totally unfounded rumor. It spread quickly, with no official link to Rove and his guy, then was as quickly dismissed as absurd (including by Rove and gang, who publicly decried such a despicable rumor). But now, every time someone saw an ad for this judge, with a child on his lap, or holding hands with kids, the association became slightly disturbing. He lost the race, charities soon distanced themselves from him. He was ruined, and countless needy and abused children were ruined in the wake.

“People say the 2000 election was rigged, but wouldn’t that be an almost impossibly intricate scam to pull?” He’s done it before on smaller scales. Also, I believe, in Alabama, Rove’s candidate lost an election – one of only a couple of elections he’s ever lost. Rove, on seeing that they’d lost, reportedly said, “It’s not over yet. If we can keep this thing alive in the media, I can deliver us the win.” Here’s a couple things they did: during the election, they did similar things as in 2000 - they distributed flyers in predominantly black and liberal neighborhoods reminding them to be sure to get out and vote – but accidentally listing a voting station that didn’t exist, typing the wrong date for voting, or reminding people that if they have any unpaid tickets or outstanding warrants they’ll have to pay those before they can vote (untrue). But then they still lost, so he found ‘outside groups’ to accuse the Democrats of trying to tamper with the results. It was important, though, that it be a slow burn – murmurs of wrongdoing, which grew and grew, tying it up in the supreme court for a while (populated mostly with judges that Rove had gotten in there), so that the public kept hearing and hearing and hearing that the Democrats might have tampered with the votes. When the Democrats came back with accusations against the Republicans, they sounded defensive and desperate. Finally they supreme court decided to hold the election over (there was another one where the court handed the victory to Rove’s guy, like Scalia in 2000, but that’s another story), and – since the Democrats, and by association, the democratic candidate, were now tainted with accusations, they lost.

A while back I was talking politics with some friends. One basically accused me of lying about Rove. Making it up. “If he’s so horrible,” she reasoned, “how come I’ve never heard of him?” Which is exactly what Rove counts on us saying. Which is exactly how he keeps succeeding.


Do humorously ironic curses really happen? You better believe they do.

M threw me a birthday party on Saturday. A semi-surprise thing. I know, isn’t she cool? She hates parties, I like them , so it was a truly selfless gesture. If it were a Hollywood movie and M had some curse on her it would be lifted, because it seems like in those movies the cure for every curse is doing a selfless act. Remember that if you ever have some humorously ironic curse placed on you.

It was set up as a small get together, but then people just kept arriving (hence, ‘semi-surprise’). There were forty or fifty indications that something bigger was afoot…my friend A called with no interest at all in talking to me. M spent four hours putting together shish-kabobs for a dinner that was supposedly going to be for about six people. One of the people I did know was coming called at one point, and panicked, not knowing if she was one of the “knowns” or “unknowns” and concluded the conversation by saying, “So, have a great day and uh, I’ll, uh, see you, uh, sometime.” And so forth. Did I suspect? Of course I did, at some level (hey, I sound like Robert Evans – “the Kid Stays in the Picture” guy. He always writes like that: Was I excited about my party? You bet I was. Was there cake and excessive booze? Oh my, yes. Come to think of it, Donald Rumsfeld does that too. Shit.).


I did suspect, but fortunately had a horrible birthday some years ago that cured me of believing in such things. My fifteenth birthday I was positive my parents were throwing me a surprise party. None of my friends would do anything with me for whatever reason – too tired, doing something with someone else, etc. – and my parents barely mentioned my birthday. In the interest of fairness I should point out that I told my parents I didn’t want to do anything for my birthday, but people say that all the time and it’s always, one hundred percent of the time, now unto the furthest reaches of time and space, a big fat load of crap and everyone knows it. The capper though, was that at one point my parents asked me to go to the store a pick up, like a little 99-cent carton of ricotta cheese or some nonsense. The store was about four or five mile away and I was just turning fifteen, so I had to ride my bike. This seemed like an obvious excuse to get me out of the house for a little while. It wasn’t. They just, apparently, really really really needed ricotta cheese and since I was just sitting around sighing they figured it’d be fun birthday adventure for me. The point is, that after this, people could be hanging “Happy Birthday, Byron” banners and I’d figure it was probably for something else.

Good party, Saturday, though. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I usually have to make myself mingle because chit chat is tough for me and one thing that sucks about being adult, though, is most adults are so God damn boring. A few people would not shut up about what kind of wood our floors are made out of. It’s my floor and I my interest in the conversation lasted about this long:
Guest: “Nice hardwood floors. What kind of wood is it?”
Me: “I don’t know. Cedar?”
Guest: “No, it doesn’t look like cedar to me. The red streaks kind of look like blah blah blah blah blah…”

I mentally exited at this point, but this conversation went on and on and on and people came back to it several times throughout the evening, and a couple guys were hunkered down, feeling the wood, listening to it, licking it, taking samples back to the lab and so on.

Also, someone did the obligatory freaky-weird flip out. Everyone’s getting along, laughing, and it’s like there’s some biological imperative for someone to go batshit. Remember in Jurassic Park when they fill in the Dinosaur DNA with frog, a type that can change its gender if survival demands it? And even though these are the most advanced minds on Earth it occurs to naught of them that this might happen, and then it does and everyone’s like, “Oh well, of course that happened. Silly us.”? I think that same idea applies here (the changing chemical make up to ensure special balance part, not the other stuff. The party was populated my neither hubristic scientists nor dinosaurs). The species needs someone to get all weird at every party, and if no one does it naturally, some internal switch flips and blam! Crazy time. Oh, the miracle of biology.


Stop the Madness!

A very sad, but I suppose inevitable, break up awaits me on Saturday. We’ve been together, God, has it really been sixteen years? These things happen, I suppose. It’s for the best, and I actually look forward to my new-found freedom, but there’s always a touch of sadness. Also, it’s hard to be told you’re the most important person in the world, that every interest and want and wish you have is so fascinating, so interesting and important, then – suddenly – be told that you’re as good as dead. That you’re just not as desirable as you once were – past your prime. That you are worthless.

This Saturday is my birthday. My 35th birthday. It’s a big one for many reasons but perhaps the most important, is that on Saturday I leave the coveted, primary advertising 18-34 year-old male target demographic. They don’t make cards for that, one, brothers and sisters.

Oh, Advertising, we had some good times, didn’t we? It’s hard to remember through all the anger, the terrible things I’ve said about you, through the lies and deception. Remember when you tried to convince me that Pepsi One was a manly, Gen-X hipster diet cola? It was kind of fun, but when you made Cuba Gooding jr. the spokesman I knew it was just bullshit – you weren’t even really trying, just going through the motions. Then there was the time you tricked me into buying a faux-vintage T-shirt. That was just mean. But there were the laughs, the times it really felt like you were talking just to me, like making me happy was the one thing you wanted most in the whole world.

But, as we part ways, I have to tell you a couple things. I owe you that much: to be honest. Advertising, you have problems. Serious emotional problems. I worry for you and for the people in your life, which is, well, everybody.
1) You’re obsessively there. You’ve got to give people space! We’re not going anywhere, just back off sometimes! There are whole think-tanks devoted to, what’s referred to as, ‘The Last Thirty Feet’. The average American’s car is thirty feet from his front door and this walk is the only time during the entire waking day that he is not exposed to advertising. And you regard this as a problem! You’re everywhere all the time, doing your little parlor tricks to get our attention! Getting angry if we don’t respond each and every time!

2) You’re too controlling. You’re not trying to make people happy, you’re trying to make them want what you want to give. That’s fucked up.

3)You think we’re stupid. Admit it. You have no real respect for us, it’s all about manipulation and talking down to us. Don’t deny it to try and make me feel better. I realize that it works most of the time, but that’s no excuse. You’ve got young men wearing their pants down below their asses, making them walk around looking and acting like they’re mentally retarded. Does that make you feel big and important?

4)You’re not funny. You think you are, and occasionally you’re good for a chuckle, but, God, once you say something mildly amusing you repeat it and repeat it and repeat it like it’s the holy grail of jokes.

But my biggest concern is one that you’re going to have to grow a little emotionally before you can do anything about, frankly. You’re destroying the people you claim to love. You’re stripping people of their identities, dulling their interests and homogenizing their dreams. You are spiritually killing the ones around you. You are mentally abusive. There, I said it. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. We deserve better. Maybe there’s a better form of advertising, waiting for us, somewhere out there. But we’re never going to find it until we learn to be happy on our own again. Maybe it will be you, if you can truly grow and evolve.

I’m saying this to you for our sake, yes, but also for your own. You don’t want to look back on your life and see only the pain you’ve caused, do you? I’m saying this to you today, not to be hurtful in our final hours together, but because for the next two days you still claim to care about what I think. But then, that’s why we’re splitting up, isn’t it? Because inevitably people get tired of your bullshit, of your lies and your abuse. But there’s always someone younger, more naïve, desperate for an identity to make you feel important and powerful.
You think you’re breaking up with me? Don’t kid yourself, Advertising. You lost me a long time ago; I just hadn't found the words to tell you.


Freedom - let that shit ring

The fourth of July…is there any holiday more pure in its tradition, sanctified in its meaning, and hallowed in it dignity? Truly the almost unfathomably beautiful meaning of liberty, of freedom and self-rule become clear on this, the celebration of the first modern democracy.

It’s easy to forget what it means to live in freedom, easy to take it for granted. It’s a remarkable gift to have a day to pause, reflect and celebrate this incredible gift that so many have fought, on the battlefield, in the courthouse, from the words of pamphlets and podia, to build and preserve.

I’ve always had to choke back a tear at the unified front we show as a people by the waves of “July 4th, 2005” t-shirts that people buy year after year. Oh sure, they know it’s silly to purchase a shirt for a single day, but they do it, not because it’s cheap consumerism, or because they’re victims of advertising, but to show a renewed commitment to Old Navy. Excuse me, I mean, America. I don’t know why I said Old Navy – a company whose products are made in China. Huh.

Every year I am inspired by the selfless citizens who, in an incredible show of self-sacrifice, injure themselves with explosives – perhaps first having a nip or two from the bottle to steel their nerves – to show empathy and solidarity with those who fought in the revolution. And to the countless throngs who leave their illegal explosives and beer bottles in the street strewn dangerously and carelessly about, as if to remind us what life could be like if we didn’t have laws and a society based on social-contract.

But this year…this year was special. We’ve moved into a new house and a house across the street and decided to dedicate the whole day to celebrating freedom. I was especially impressed to see a young child there to witness this dedication. It was around 2:00pm, while showing this young child how to hold a lit bottle-rocket, that, somehow – in this desert town that is suffering a drought – when one of their rockets landed in the dry brush of the 90 year old woman’s house next door, a fire started! Well, after M and I went over to put the fire out, these selfless citizens joined in with a cereal bowl full of water, by kicking some dirt, and by watching us. They, perhaps a bit discouraged by starting a fire, decided to refrain from explosives for the rest of the day. It saddened me, I must admit, to see their democratic fervor so easily tempered. But I needn’t have worried. The terrorists would be wise to learn that American pride is not so easily squelched! It wasn’t an hour or two later before more people had come to join the celebration and more, bigger, fireworks were being set off! Hurrah!

These brave patriots made sure that everyone around them understood the importance of the day through several acts like shooting bottle-rockets at passing cars shouting timeless phrases from our historical documents, such as, “Fuck you!” and, “Get a new car, asshole!”. It was still daylight, so there was no “rockets’ red glare” but they got the point. Then… I’m sorry, I must pause for moment. The kindness and spirit of the moment was almost too much.

Okay. Then, perhaps concerned that those around them were letting the momentous day slip by without proper reflection sent a wake-up call by – it would turn out – setting fire to four people’s homes and property around them with their bottle-rockets.

Including mine.

After dousing the fire I went over to show my gratitude. In a display of wonderful role-modeling for the young boy, they all showed how the revolutionaries used to evade the British through quick-thinking and subterfuge, by saying that, though they were holding fireworks in their hands (and one guy was hitting a roman candle with a hammer for some reason) that they had not been firing fireworks, but rather the neighbors had been. Going along with the jest, I said that if they happened to see these “neighbors” could they let them know that they had just set my fucking house on fire. At this point, a young woman – who may have been struggling with disability because she stumbled and slurred a bit – offered me advice. If my house was on fire, she said, I should “probably hose that shit down.” Wise counsel, young maiden. Wise counsel. And isn’t that part of what makes America great? That two people from such different backgrounds could come together to share knowledge and arrive at higher truth.

If someone has set fire to your home? Hose that shit down, brother. Hose that shit down.

While I was doing this, several neighbors phoned some of our civil servants – the police and fire departments, specifically – in order to show our gratitude for all they do. They got together with the brave patriots across the street and discussed several things I missed out on. I had to retreat to my deck and think about the ways we show that we have not forgotten how we got here, and what it means to have the things we have. Can we ever do enough? Can we?


"We Are Too Stupid To Survive" alert

Today I saw one of those big, oversized trucks. You know the ones I mean. Jacked-up, monster tires, hauling nothing. The double cab, nothing in the back. Sticker of "Calvin" pissing on something. Probably another brand of truck, or the word "Terrorists" (take that, Osama!), The Bush ’04 sticker. Etc. Etc. Etc. "So what," you say? On the bottom of the truck, just behind the rear axle, the owner had attached a large, fake, bull-sized scrotum and testicles. I’m serious. Jaw dropping. It defies comment. It out-parodies parody. Where is there left to go? How do you even mock or insult someone like that? How does someone that dumb get a license? Or even remember to breathe consistently?

I wanted to go on and on about these trucks and Humvees and relate it to our declining empire and it would be ever so deep and caustic, but I can't. Seeing this idiotic shit may have given me a stroke or something.

My head hurts. I have to go lie down now.