How to Score While Seeing Atlas Shrugged

Last Friday, The Atlasphere (the Ayn Rand-fan singles website) sent me an email with some keen ideas on how to use the premiere of Atlas Shrugged: Part I to band together under the aegis of Ayn Rand and subsume my identity to nationwide collective action.

It also had suggestions for pulling mad trim.

Because if a movie version of a yam-shaped old Russian woman’s brick-sized verbal bean-flick over futuristic Gilded Age-style mass murder of liberals and poor people doesn’t moisten a bunch of Galt’s Gulches and prop some pants with Rearden metal, well—well, honestly, I can’t even finish that thought because I just succumbed to a grand mal of scoffing.

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Rick Scott Can’t Stop Doing You Favors

Two days ago, Rick Scott claimed he helped avert the shutdown of the federal government. It’s funny for two reasons, beyond the obvious fact that it’s a boast so comically disproportionate to reality that even the kid on the elementary school playground who says he had sex and that his dad is a spy and an NFL player wouldn’t even touch it.

One, this claim represents Scott dipping back into his campaign playbook, one that consists of at most three gambits. This one is called, “Save Florida by running against Washington DC.” The major idea emanating from his gubernatorial campaign seemed to be that Barack Obama was a really crappy Florida governor. By electing him to run Tallahassee, Florida would put a stop to all the bullshit that Washington does. The entire pitch sounded like a babysitter knocking on your front door and explaining how her taking care of your kids on Fridays would make sure that your supervisor at the Tropicana plant, Mr. Rentzell, would stop getting into their closets and making a mess out of their Legos.

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Slouching from Benghazi: The Magical Monied Muammar’s Comeback Tour, or, ‘The Most Disgusting Story Ever Told’

Gaddafi has spent the past fifteen years ingratiating himself with the “good guys,” flipping over small-fry terrorist schemers, churning the oil, scrapping his two-bit nuke program. This is a pretty impressive feat for a guy who made his name sponsoring full-throated bloody murder against American and British civilians. Those governments might not give a shit about anyone else in the world, but killing their people is sure as fuck off-limits. Gaddafi nearly killed Margaret Thatcher herself through his IRA support, hit U.S. servicemen several times in Europe, and downed Pan Am Flight 103, at a cost of two hundred and seventy Brits and Yanks.

We live in a world where Obama’s kaffeeklatch with toothless ex-Weatherman Bill Ayers was a major campaign issue, yet Gaddafi — a man so radically unhinged and pathologically vainglorious that he makes Saddam look like Thomas Pynchon — was embraced by a startling coalition of Western elites. The difference was that he could buy them. These supplicants pocketed blood money ripped from the heart of Libya. The darkest stain, the damn spot that won’t come out for decades, came from Gaddafi’s billfold, crumpled and stuffed into the pockets of owl-eyed trans-Atlantic mediocrities dispatched to Tripoli with all the dignity of a bachelor party stripper van. Gaddafi has spent the last two decades buying respectability, and my, what a bargain it is when you know the right people. They deserve to be hounded into suicides for this, to never live this down. So let’s name names.

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Teaparties, Race and a Union Rally in a Tiny Tampa Park

Thanks in part to union demonstrations and outrage in Wisconsin, as well as Florida Governor Rick Scott’s criminal and imperial dismissal of the obligations of office, bizarre disdain for even bipartisan legislation and ruthless de-funding of public services, even Floridians have evinced anger strong enough to drag them out in public. Last Tuesday, thousands of citizens organized in dozens of cities across the state for simultaneous protests against Scott’s fiscal war against the Florida school system and his ideological war against unions and collective bargaining.

Labor union members face potential physical intimidation and the elimination of collective bargaining rights in this country. The funny thing is, if anyone should be wandering around with Hitler signs, it’s probably them and not the teapartiers. The first things the Italian Fascists and Nazi Party did was attack socialist and communist parties, burn down workers’ meeting houses, destroy labor unions, criminalize their labor activity, and fold existing unions into state-administrated and -sanctioned unions whose rights to bargaining and free assembly were drastically curtailed to serve the interests of plutocracy. They accomplished this through a partnership between national corporate interests — I.G. Farben, Krupp, all the good guys — and on-the-ground populist thuggery, uniting the bottom-line interests of the top with the economically pinched, racialized, nationalist interests of the bottom. (Sound familiar?)

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Wailing Walls: The Slow Death of a Fat Failed Pharaoh

General Ze’evi weighs in on the events in Cairo, the terminal fate of the expected Mubarak dynasty, and how Newsweek clown Fareed Zakaria can’t stop flattering strongmen just as this not-yet revolution has fulfilled America’s decades-long demands for change in the Arab world.

The Mubaraks are finished, and have been for over a week. The pharaohs of ancient Egypt thought they would live on, even after death. Staring at Ramses II’s mummy in the Egyptian Museum, it is difficult to see how. Mubarak, the ancient authoritarian, thinks like a pharaoh, thinks the world is owed to him. You can almost smell the mothballs and dust when he opens his mouth to speak. He thinks he is going to live forever, even if it takes killing everyone in his country. Hosni Mubarak is a dye-job Dracula, his inky hair as contrived as that mummy’s perm.

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A Century of Despair Doesn’t Make You Interesting

The enduring palliative of the Cubs fan is that baseball needs the Cubs fan, celebrates the Cubs fan and is metaphysically enriched for being proximate to the Cubs fan. The Cubs fan is a narcissistic boor.

This history of the last year in which the Cubs earned a championship not only tweaks the volubly agonized Cubs fan but also describes a baseball world lost to the ages. It’s violent, controversial, stupid and totally, totally baseball.

It’s totally worth reading.

Vonnegut, Fanboyism and Just Enough “Literatureness” to Count

In a recent blog piece in which I confessed my enjoyment of totally schlocky detective novels, I wrote:

Those who can go from reading Roland Barthes to John Barth to The Song of Roland without a stop in between for an unauthorized history of You Can’t Do That on Television will always have my admiration. At some point, though, I need to read about people punching each other or an heiress’ one fatal mistake with a phial of digitalis. I’ve tried to keep my junktime reading respectable. Evelyn Waugh and Kingsley Amis both wrote hysterical and light literature. Vonnegut works as a palate cleanser.

This prompted a reader to write in, asking if I was labeling Vonnegut as genre fiction. I wasn’t; I actually meant to say that he was definitely a “literary” author “without any of the density that makes literary books less than breezy” and with a textual and topical complexity that “hit right at about the 8th-grade reading level and [stays] there.”

However, since I was already there talking, I went on:

Vonnegut seems to be the one literary author that people who almost exclusively read sci-fi/fantasy will actually enjoy. It’s not just a genre-based thing, either, since fantasy fans embrace him just as fervently [as the sci-fi fans]. I suspect it’s because, again, Vonnegut books keep the linguistic challenge safely at the middle-school level but also makes unambiguous declarations about what each book means, while making sure that ideas in them are held to a minimum and then repeated early and often. Vonnegut falls right in that sweet spot of having the allure of sophistication while spoon-feeding relatively simple ideas to people disproportionately proud of themselves for thinking about them. The guy whose library looks like it’s made out of GENRE STUFF+VONNEGUT probably also has a copy of Bill Maher’s New Rules and a Myspace he stopped updating three years ago that’s still wallpapered over with quotes from Bill Hicks records.

This is not to suggest that I think liking Vonnegut is stupid. His books are respectable and vibrantly humane. Yet they’re also fairly self-evident, exceedingly patient in explaining and re-explaining their self-evident epiphanies and contemptuous of established authorities and any sorts of revealed truths that take a while to uncover and hone. In short, they guarantee for a reader the complete inability to fail to “get it,” while offering the securely swaddling self-affirmation of thematic truths the reader has probably already discovered himself, delivered to him by a warm authority figure who simultaneously derides all the other authorities that have challenged him, questioned him, demanded standards to be met and chores executed.

Which is too bad, because Vonnegut’s pretty great, but as the years pass he’s started to signify less about himself and his ideas than about his fans. Much like how Brave New World is usually the only Huxley book anyone under 20 has ever heard of (excepting Doors fans) and almost always signals that some inchoate adolescent tirade about media or drug policy is about to follow, the conspicuous stack of Vonnegut novels tends to say something about a very circumscribed worldview. After a certain age the adoption of Vonnegut as one’s sole foray outside of space and swords and orcs — which is by no means a rare or unique condition — is like a bike with training wheels on it. There’s nothing expressly wrong with its condition until you see the age and experience of the rider.

Even More Things I Want to Do When I Grow Up

I’m gonna tell everybody you drink Dr. Thunder.

I want to make all steampunk clothing accessories suddenly viable working machinery. I don’t care how many people are scalded with burning oil and dropped to the ground by hundreds of pounds of metal.

I want to sneak into an elementary school and hide notes in every lunch bag that read, “Your father and I are getting divorced.”

For one quarter of one game, I want God to replace Ben Roethlisberger’s head with a fat stupid-looking potato with a beard and see if anyone notices.

I will force Kelly McGillis to set the Guinness world record for most consecutive hours spent playing the bassline to Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away.” She will also do this while dressed all Amish again.

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The Essential Weirdness of Christmas Music

If you listen to Trans-Siberian Orchestra, you are probably part of the problem. Their music is like going to a Restoration Hardware and saying, “Hello, I would like one (1) unit of dad-safe metal, please.” This is exactly the music you would hear in the background of a violently stupid FPS when you entered “The Christmas Level.” I would pay heavyweight boxing pay-per-view prices to see the entire Orchestra flattened to death by a literal Mannheim steamroller. There should be a new version of Guitar Hero where if you can perfectly play through their entire oeuvre, the game rips your balls off, because you obviously will never have any use for them again.

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