Saturday, December 5, 2009

On the use of Presidential Privilege to destroy Christmas

For the record, no, President Obama did not deliberately pre-empt "A Charlie Brown Christmas" as part of a concerted effort to further eliminate religious references from the public media.

But it WAS a spectacularly boneheaded play.

He had an important message to give, he requested the time from the networks, and his media team either didn't realize what he'd be talking over, or they figured it wouldn't be a big deal.


It's exactly the kind of thing that that people LOVE to grab on to and blow up into importance. It's pointless, stupid, distracting, and serves only to elicit an emotional response - perfect for the 24-hour media cycle.

Once again, this is another play in the concerted campaign to prove that President Obama can do NOTHING right, positive or helpful to the American people. Any and everything he does or doesn't do, via action, speech or unspoken thought, is actively intended to destroy America. While I could easily go for the "Big Lie" comparison here, it's just too damn easy (and tends to veer the discussion off the rails) so I'll pull out the Brave New World quote - "62,400 repetitions equals one truth." The theory is, if ENOUGH little unbelievable accusations fly at the same target, more and more people will start to think, "Well if THIS many stories are popping up, surely SOME of them must be true". And that's all you need, the suspicion.

The President tends to ignore these stories, or has his lackies address them. His lackies do not have much patience, and it takes very little to make them sound shrill and insistent. And shrill and insistent people tend not to sound believable. Just listen to the people who call in to Talk Radio. They talk progressively louder and faster, as if trying to get in their point before they're cut off.

No, Obama should not address each of these issues personally, it does tend to give them more credence. But once in a blue moon, in inverse ratio to the importance and plausability of the charge, he ought to come out against one with such withering sarcasm that it makes anyone who tried to put the accusation forth look like a damn fool.

I'd love to see him at a press conference, answering the Charlie Brown Christmas accusation by clearing his throat and saying "Mwah-wah WAH wahwahwah waaahhh."

But again, since he's under the Everything He Does Is Wrong attack, even THAT would somehow mean he's demeaning those who love the special. Humor has become a casualty of the political process. Half the time, the opponent of a politician can not grasp that an opponent can be telling a joke, and the rest of the time it's just them trying to convince YOU that he can't be telling a joke.

ABC is doing the EXACT right move in the wake of Charlie-gate- taking shameless advantage of the mini-frenzy and re-running the special TWICE - once on December 8th, and again a week later, both at 8PM, and both on the real ABC, not pawned off on ABC Family or something. And I'll lay odds it'll get better ratings than any time it was broadcast in the last five years. It's AMAZING the reaction people have when you take away something they haven't looked at in years, but simply expect to be there. If it's not called "New Coke Syndrome", it should be.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On the Spectacular Return of the Homeless Shopping Spree

I'm a big fan of Opie and Anthony, the morning radio guys appearing on XM/Sirius Satellite radio on channel 202, known as "The Virus". As Howard Stern's closing time on regular radio descended into talking more about himself (I always compare it to the end of Lenny Bruce's career where he would read the transcripts of his court appearances, neglecting to make them funny), O&A filled the hole with rampant funny. With Jim Norton's savage and unfiltered wit as part of the mix, the show is a guaranteed laugh for me, with equal parts news commentary, strong interviews, and the sage knowledge that a well-placed joke about bodily fluids will ALWAYS be funny.

Aside from the ever-mentioned bit that got them thrown off WNEW back in the day (look it up yourself; that bus has left the depot and they've been thrown under it enough), one of their classic recurring bits has been the Homeless Shopping Spree. The concept is simple - gather up a number of homeless people, give them a sizable amount of money each, bus them to the most upscale mall the show can find, and set them loose. Stores would lose their fudge as these unkempt forgotten men tottered towards the Ralph Lauren polo shirts. Some would pull their gates down, keeping other people from shopping, not to mention trapping people inside, rather than let these indigent inebriates sully their cookware. Bear in mind, these men were being chaperoned at all times, not only by staff of the radio show but often scores of fans and Friends Of The Show (who would usually contribute to the homeless shoppers' billfolds), so there was no chance of anything really unpleasant happening. But inevitably, security would arrive, and these propertied gentlemen, some sporting HUNDREDS of dollars to spend, would be ushered out of the establishment in a blaze of hypocrisy.

They'd be accused of exploiting the homeless, exposing them to ridicule, and endless other claims. But these well-meaning busybodies never grasped that no one was laughing at the homeless. Like Borat and Bruno, it's "candid camera comedy" - the humor is not in the homeless people, but in the reaction of those around them. The comedy was not in these homeless guys getting enough money to buy warm coats and clothing for the wonter but in the reaction of the shop-workers who would stop short of lighting firebreaks to keep them out of their stores.

It's a gag you're heard before - some smart-ass invites ACTUAL homeless people to a buffet benefit for the homeless, and the partygoers all act frightened and uptight. The Homeless are a group that most people want to help, but not actually interact with, preferably not see at all. The stores and people at those malls likely donate sizable sums to help the poor, they just assumed that the money would be spent...elsewhere. Some "elsewhere" far from their golf courses and Neiman-Marcus locations.

In protecting their wares, these stores make themselves look like rich, entitled Sissy-headed Ninny-hammers. And that "Not in my Back Yard" mindset is then broadcast nationally. A smart store would find out the event was happening, and (after making sure that indeed the event was being well controlled; that's only fair) offer the stars of the day sizable discounts in their establishment. Instead, like the targets of Michael Moore's ambush interviews, they come off looking like the villains. Which is, of course, what makes the whole thing hilarious.

The Homeless Shopping Spree is returning this year. Considering the level of skittishness XM (and the entire radio industry) has right now, it's possible there will be a great deal more "advance notice" given to the mall in question. Indeed, it'll likely be just as entertaining to hear about the malls who decline to participate - I hope those phone calls are recorded and played on air as part of the build-up.

Althought this year, considering the ever-mentioned "state of the economy", more stores might come to the realization that it doesn't matter how smelly the person who has the money is, as long as their money is going in the store's coffers. The whole thing might just backfire into another form of comedy, as malls and Big Box Stores actually jockey for the right to have a busload of homeless spend money in their establishments.

Merry Fuckin' Christmas.