It's time for Dictator Doings, where we see what's doing with the world's dreamiest dictators!
Category Archives: Writing
Sunday night in my house is reserved for viewing of cooking competition, cute animal, or kooky-vet shows. Last night's feature was the "celebrity" portion of Chopped's Ultimate Champions Tournament, which included Carnie Wilson trying to win money for her chosen "charity," the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America. Thing is that by promoting the WLSFA, she's shilling for a twisted corporate scheme designed to take money from the ill and desperate.
Carnie Wilson, for those lucky enough not to know, is the daughter of Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson and former member of the hell-shat vocal band Wilson Phillips, whose video for their 1990 emetic hit single "Hold On" I was subjected to endlessly by my niece during babysitting sessions. After Wilson Phillips broke up in '93 under threat of invasion from extra-terrestrials who'd intercepted radio broadcasts of "Impulsive," Carnie went on to pioneer the field of modern trash celebrity.
She began avoiding real work with her extremely short-lived mid-90s tabloid talk show Carnie!, the exclamation point of which plead guilty to 26 misdemeanor counts of creating a public nuisance and was last seen sleeping outside the Santa Monica Blvd. impound lot. Carnie then spent a decade appearing on select TV show, her selection criteria being that no mentally functioning human had any interest in watching them. She hostined a revived version of The Newlywed Game, judged Karaoke Battle USA, and appeared on oodles of reality shows from Celebrity Wife Swap to the no-I-swear-it's-real Celebracadabra, on which she lost the title of Greatest Celebrity Magician to blackface performer C. Thomas Howell.
My favorite of the Puppet Nation sketches I've written. Every president occasionally needs to leave therapeutic voicemails.
My hometown newspaper the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is running a series of articles this week about obsessive-compulsive disorder. Today's installment, about Pittsburgher and OCD sufferer Amy Iannuzzi-Tingley, will seem familiar to anyone who's fought the disease. And that's a great thing.
When people newly dealing with OCD contact me for support, they're anxious,1 filled with worried questions, and afraid that their particular situation is viciously unique. But it never is. It's always typical, so much so that I tell them I could cut and paste a response from dozens of emails I've written to other OCDers. In fact, I sometimes do.
That might sound dismissive and upsetting, but only if you don't have OCD. If you do, you know how deeply comforting and important it is to learn that someone else has experienced the same thing you're experiencing and made it out the other side. Which is why I'm happy that there's one particular sentiment that I most often cut and paste a response to. It goes like this, from actual emails I've received:
- "You described so many symptoms that I've been experiencing for years and silently suffered through. It helped me so much to know that you've managed to control your OCD and live your life."
- "I suffer from similar symptoms. It is really comforting to know others have fought through this battle successfully."
- "Some of your descriptions match identically with feelings and thoughts I have. I was so glad to hear I am not the only person who suffers from this. "
- "I'm in the same boat. It's nice to know I'm not the only one."
- "It was cathartic to reach out to someone and 'hug them' over the internet."
I could cut-and-paste part Ms. Iannuzzi-Tingley's story with parts of my own, or vice versa, and nobody would notice the changes. All of us with OCD start out feeling confused, afraid, and alone. But as soon as we realize we're not alone, we stop being confused. Then it's only a matter of time until we're no longer afraid.
Read about my own experiences with debilitating OCD in my essay "My OCD."----
- Duh. [↩]
Bruce Springsteen has releases a special vinyl EP every year for Record Store Day. Despite my massive Springsteen fandom and bruceosexualism, I usually ignore them, because I don't own a record player and can only rub discs of black plastic all over my oiled body so many times. I aggressively ignored this year's EP American Beauty because it's largely composed of songs that didn't make Springsteen's latest album High Hopes, which itself is largely composed of songs that shouldn't have made the album. But American Beauty eventually hit Spotify, and last week I gave it a cursory listen.
The fourth and final track "Hey Blue Eyes," as I half paid attention sounded like a sleepy summer love song with a dreamy come-on of a chorus, "Hey blue eyes, what'cha doin' tonight?" It seemed like it could've been pulled from Bruce's mostly forgotten Devils & Dust or Working on a Dream, and I was about to forget it too, when the last line caught my attention: "Don’t worry, they’ll have their bags packed and be long gone / Before the real fucking begins."
That made me hit repeat and go find the lyrics. It turns out that "Hey Blue Eyes" is only masquerading as a love song. The seducer whispering that chorus to us the American government, luring us to lay back and close our eyes as it sells us out for greed and power. Written as a furious indictment of the Bush administration while Dick and W were still in power, it now plays as much as an indictment of us for letting them get away with what they did.
In this house the guilty go unpunished, blood and silence prevail
Here the dead remain nameless, the nameless remain jailed
This week, media gastropod 21st Century Fox made an offer of $80 billion to buy fellow media gastropod Time Warner. The bid was rejected, but it's by no means dead. Rupert Murdoch's scaly talons don't release prey easily, so he's likely to find a way to chew up Time Warner.
To demonstrate what that massive consolidation would mean to the already way too consolidated media industry, I put together the chart below showing control of my world: the TV industry. To keep it simple, the unit used in this graph is ownership of TV networks/stations available to Los Angeles cable customers.1
That big blue wedge belonging to Fox/Time Warner represents close to 25% of all channels, which by the way are pumped into my 42" LCD LG by Time Warner Cable.
Which goes to show that this graph doesn't come close to showing just how much control over these five corporations wield over your TV.2 For example, while you probably figured that the Big Five produce many of the shows on their own networks, did you know that they produce shows for each other's networks? ABC's hit sitcom Modern Family is actually owned and produced by Fox. Modern Family is much more successful than any sitcom on any Fox network, but you can see posters for it hanging in the executive offices on the Fox studio lot. That kind of thing isn't by any means unusual.
(For those who care -- the eight unlabeled segments making up the roughly 43% of TV networks or stations not owned by the Big Five are, from largest to smallest: corporations owning 1% or less of total networks, independent/public, CBS, Starz, Discovery, Scripps, AMC, and Univision.)----
UPDATE, July 16, 2014 - A late-breaking fourth reason: In my hometown of Pittsburgh, Uber decided not to await the results of its application to operate and just go ahead and start illegally doing business. Hit with a cease-and-desist order from a judge, Uber whipped out cosmically massive balls and claimed that its inability to operate in the city constituted a public emergency. Yesterday the Public Utilities Commission publicly suggested that Uber fuck off.
ORIGINAL POST, July 15, 2014:
Do you still use "ride-sharing" service Uber despite its business model of dodging every law protecting workers and consumers? Despite its attempt to replace the very system of employment that our economy is built on with one in which corporations don't actually pay, support, or give half a shit about the people that do their work? And despite my very incisive anti-Uber meme that I worked really hard on? Then consider these three new reasons to immediately delete the Uber app from your phone:
1) Price-gouging during public emergencies is part of Uber's profit plan.
When passengers complained that the company jacked up prices during snowstorms that hit the Northeast this past winter, resulting in per-mile rates as high as $35 and/or one gonad, Uber
Grand Douchebag CEO Travis Kalanick responded by telling customers to either pay up or start training a team of huskies.
In the Nineties, every indie-rock kid at WNYU-FM loved The Karl Hendricks Trio. I spent all my spare time there between classes at New York University, but it wasn't until years later that I learned the band was from my hometown of Pittsburgh. It never would've occurred to me. The KHT seemed too cool to be from Pittsburgh. The only people who'd heard of them were people with interesting hair who listened to the bands no one had heard of, a hipness commendation rarely awarded to any musicians from southwestern Pennsylvania. But Karl and his guitar were from Pittsburgh -- are from Pittsburgh, because he's still there, pursuing his music in a way that lets him create what he wants while still living the family life he wants.
I mention his family because I can't think about Karl without thinking about his family. I'm lucky enough to know Karl a little bit through our mutual friend, his bass player Corey Layman.1 I'd always see the Hendricks clan at Layman-household get-togethers, so I don't think of a Karl as a musician, but as a guy who loved being with his gregarious wife and two exceptionally bright daughters.2 I'd usually end up talking to his girls about books, and I'll always remember the oldest giving me a trenchant summary of Twilight before I'd ever heard of it.
When you get to know enough successful artists -- especially in cut-throat arenas like the music or TV industry -- you eventually realize that the ones you like being around are the ones you don't think of foremost as artists. The ones who are happy hanging out on the couch with family and friends and friends of friends, drinking a beer, talking about whatever. Because they're the ones who haven't sacrificed life and humanity for their art, and vice versa. They're special. They're good people. Like Karl.
Which is why it makes me sad to type that Karl Hendricks is being treated for oral cancer. From what I gather he's doing well, but his medical bills are piling up and he and his family and the employees of the record store he runs could use some help.
Please make a donation of any amount via the widget on this post or via the GiveForward fundraising page to help Karl keep living his life.----
- Coincidentally, a few years ago I got to know the great Pittsburgh artist Wayno and even convinced him to draw some character designs for an animated pilot of mine. It wasn't until later that I realized Wayno created the covers for the KHT's most beloved albums. [↩]
- I last lived in Pittsburgh six years ago, so he might have more now. [↩]
This CNN article about a patient with severe OCD seeking treatment through deep brain electrical stimulation is required reading for anyone who wants to understand the disease. More specifically, for anyone who wants to understand why it's frustrating and hurtful when people call themselves "so OCD" because they keep a grocery list. To wit:
At 12, Larsen was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. It causes anxiety, which grips him so tightly that his only relief is repetition. It manifests in the smallest of tasks: taking a shower, putting on his shoes, walking through a doorway.
There are days when Larsen cannot leave the house.
"I started worrying a lot about my family and loved ones dying or something bad happening to them," he said. "I just got the thought in my head that if I switch the light off a certain amount of times, maybe I could control it somehow.
"Then I just kept doing it, and it got worse and worse."
The disease hijacked Larsen's life (he cannot hold down a job and rarely sees friends); his personality (he can be stone-faced, with only glimpses of a slight smile); and his speech (a stuttering-like condition causes his speaking to be halting and labored.)
Read about my own experiences with debilitating OCD in my essay "My OCD."