Watch Out for Bears & Allergy Medicine


What starts as a nature video tracking a bear in the wild becomes an ad for allergy medicine, which becomes hilarious, then terrifying, then…your guess is as good as mine.

Hit play and prepare to watch for 10:39. That’s longish in terms of internet videos but trust me: you won’t be able to stop.

Discussion topic: What the fuck is going on?


Behind the Seams with Marc Maron


Not long into Marc Maron’s set at Portland’s Aladdin theater last night (Feb 28), the comedian spied a teenager named Avery in the front row and struck up a conversation. How old was he? What was he into? Did he do sports? From then on the show became a conversation between Maron and the shaggy-haired 16-year-old.

A mostly one-sided conversation, but Avery’s presence, along with Maron’s addressing so much of what he had to say directly to him — often while hunkered down right in front of the boy — invested the comedian’s lost-in-the-un-funhouse-of-consciousness musings an unexpected, and powerful dimension. Maron was talking to himself, really, and his news was tough, but ultimately good: Don’t be afraid of the bullshit in life. Bring it on, climb inside and master it from the inside out.

So this is what Maron does, both on the stage and in his increasingly well-known podcast ‘WTF.’ The podcast is an interview show, once devoted almost entirely to comedians and comic actors (he’s branching out these days, which is good). But when Maron has the right guest he’ll draw them deep into the muck, often prompting revelations. Chatting with Tom Green (famed for his MTV pranks show during the ’90s) a few weeks ago, Maron started the show by admitting that he had never cared much for Green’s work or what he’d seen of his character. No matter, he treated Green with typical warmth, drawing out his guest’s tales of glory and then his ugly, semi-redeeming run-in with testicular cancer.

Maron also gave Green the leeway to reveal how shallow and at times unpleasant he can be. Asked about his marriage to, and speedy divorce from Drew Barrymore the former TV star explained their split (which came after Barrymore’s supportive role in Green’s cancer battle) by wondering aloud how his host would feel being tracked by his wife’s paparazzi all day every day, and having the resulting stories being almost entirely about her. Weirder still, the cancer survivor spoke enthusiastically about taking up cigarettes, and the electric non-smoky cigarette he now uses. And proceeded to suck on during the interview, leading to weird gaps in his responses and an odd, choked tone in his voice.

So yuck. But once again Maron had led his audience so deep into  Tom Green’s flinty humanity the experience seemed revelatory. Not just because Green sounded like a dick, but because he sounded so puzzled about the whole thing. He’d flown so quickly to the top of his game, only to have the rules changed. His dream-come-true went sour and even now he has no idea what to do about it. I know that feeling. I’d wager you do, too. The big question for us is the same one Green still can’t find a satisfying answer for: what do you do next?

At the Aladdin show Maron tossed fistfuls of emotional crud onto the stage. Vivid tales of pornography and masturbation; the wonderful/terrifying burdens of romance and marriage (as symbolized by a nauseous helicopter ride above the island of Kauai), and the many mythologies people use to make it all make sense. Much of it was really funny, of course. Maron is a master of being simultaneously wise and outrageous, and when he went deep into the downside of pornography (you know you’ve lost your grip when you see your naked girlfriend in bed and look around to see where the dude is) or the crazy aggressiveness of evangelical vegans and atheists, the place twisted and flew like a roller coaster.

But it doesn’t all work. Maron is only now healing a decades-long reputation for blatant and unapologetic nastiness. His ongoing feud with Jon Stewart — they were once seen as quite similar, and Stewart often won jobs Maron really, really wanted — reveals far more about Maron’s shortcomings than anything else. That he refuses to back down, even after 14 years of sobriety and publicly distributed amends, is a bit dismaying.

But no one gets it right all the time, and Maron is nothing if not transfixed by his own, often gory, imperfections. You have to root for him, not just because he’s so smart and funny, but also because he knows how grating he can be. Everyone looks like a monster when they shed their skin, and his own personal horror, and great gift, is that he knows this all too well.

Now Avery does too. It might not save him from all the angst and hassle of real life. But it can’t hurt, so what the fuck.

Balloon Boy Dad's Reality Show – Now More Than Ever!

Dad of the year!

First of all, can I just point your attention to last Friday’s edition of the blog, in which the author proposed, with no evidence and yet a healthy gut feeling: “…if you’re not sensing another shoe in mid-air, and heading south, then you’re either not as cynical as me or else you’re not paying attention.”

So who, media people, is your daddy now?

Not me, maybe. But at least it’s not Richard Heene. For whom I suggest we skip right past the contempt stage and head directly to pity. Because we love victims, and in this case I’m thinking that the real victim in this child-manipulating/media-manipulating/FAA manipulating/panic inducing scam is, in fact, the alleged perp himself.

In short: this one is society’s fault.

Because Richard, who we will resist referring to as Dick even though it’s just extremely tempting, is only a product of our media-saturated media. Which has grown so accustomed to rewarding all of its best goods and services to the account of anyone/everyone who is willing to do and/or say anything to get them (see also: Beck, Glenn; Palin, Sarah; Moore, Michael; Plus Eight, Jon and Kate; Kardashians, the; everyone who appears on virtually every reality show aired over the last, oh I don’t know, decade or so, and etc.) .

Face it: In 21st century America the race goes to the shameless.

Climb on your own faux UFO and follow the jump for more. . .

Which, let’s also face this meta-fact,  kind of explains the existence of, plus the endless self-promotion I will be engaging in virtually non-stop, whether anyone likes it or not, regarding a certain Paul McCartney bio, until it either shifts massive units or else someone actually duct tapes my fingers together and/or shuts me up.

So Richard Heene dragged his family on “Wife Swap.” Liked what happened there, and decided to go for the gold and pitched himself and family as the subjects of their own wanted a reality show. Conducted pitches. Was passed upon. Decided that wasn’t anything close to acceptable, and figured out another way to grab for the gold ring. Hid the kid. Released the phony UFO. Called for help – okay, just a few ticks after he’d called the media. Priorities, you know. The media came running and a day-long horror show-turned-heartwarming-family drama ensued.

And now I’m writing this and you’re reading it and so voila. It worked a treat!

But wait. He fooled us! He dragooned his own kid into the scam! Worse, he manipulated the media – which could have spent the day talking nonstop about Michael Jackson’s hair, say, or something interesting about Jet Travolta’s brain tissue, or whatever. And we are so very, very upset.

Possibly because we deserved it. Because a society that so gleefully and endlessly obsesses over such nonsense – as opposed to, say, solving its health care problems – deserves what it gets.

So I say: Richard Heene SHOULD have a reality show. A “Truman Show” style docu-oddity about one normal man’s bizarro journey through a media world full of amoral scammers and sub-Barnum types who care nothing about how their quirky moral codes affect the people who get sucked into their fun machines.

Just imagine the fun: Richard hatches silly reality show ideas, creates media stunts to gain attention; takes meetings with adoring network chiefs and becomes a demi-celebrity! Only then gets found out, and segues into the anti-hero of a real-life legal drama! Gets a lawyer/media pro to defend and explain his actions; rides the celebrity wave even further; heads to the clubs with Kim Kardashian and her LA Laker hubby of 72 hours!; appears on the Surviving Jackson Brothers’ new variety show; (We love you, Michael!); and on and on and on.

Do you doubt this could be the greatest reality show ever? You shouldn’t. Because what we’re talking here is apotheosis: In which Falcon and friends don’t just fly close to the sun – they zoom right over the bastard and keep right on going.

Springsteen chronicles part 2: "American Skin (41 Shots)"

“We need some quiet.” 

Springsteen at Madison Square Garden, about 20 bars into his as-yet-unrecorded political ballad, “American Skin.” Written as a seething response to the NYPD’s accidental shooting (41 times) of Amadou Diallo, an African man they confused with another dark-skinned man who had been up to ill-deeds in Queens. Diallo was reaching for his wallet, as requested, to let the cops know who he was. But when they saw a mysterious black thing in his hand, they thought GUN, and went for theirs, and drilled him on the spot. Forty-one times. Automatic weapons are like that.

Springsteen ran through all the typical responses — outrage, grief, finger-pointing — before reaching the heart of the matter. That the tragedy affects the shooters as much as their victim. In the first verse, even, he projects himself into the boots of the gun powder-stained cops: “You’re kneeling above him in the vestibule/praying for his life.” And from there, into the chorus: “Is it a gun?/Is it a knife?/Is it a wallet?/This is your life.”

The killing is bad enough. But what it represents — disconnection between the races, between classes, between law enforcement and the people they’re sworn to protect and defend — is an even bigger tragedy. “You can get killed just for livin’/In your American Skin.”

All of which swam back into my mind this morning when I read this NYT story about New Jersey governor candidate Chris Christie. A huge Springsteen fan. And a conservative Republican. Which seems odd to me.

Follow the jump for more. . .

Let’s think again about that moment in 2000 when Springsteen debuted “American Skin (41 Shots)”. I was living in New York then, it was a particularly brutal and ugly moment. The head of the NYPD police union called Springsteen “a dirtbag” and, better yet, “a floating fag.” John Tierney, then a conservative/libertarian columnst for the NY Times, ridiculed Springsteen for focusing on the number of shots that killed Diallo (“He is firmly on record against the extra bullets”) and accused the musician of ignoring the plight of working class cops. . . though of course that is the opposite of what Springsteen had done (“you’re kneeling above him in the vestibule/praying for his life. . . “)

I don’t know anything about Tierney, but in this instance: What an asshole. He seems to have deliberately ignored/misconstrued the most significant aspects of Springsteen’s song — while accusing his antagonist of doing the same to the NYPD — in order to ridicule him. Give Tierney credit, I suppose, for being ahead of his time: It would take other conservative mouthpieces years to figure out that you don’t really have to deal with the complexities of the world if you simply ridicule your opponents (Socialist! Nazi! Fascist! Etc!)

But anyone with a functioning connection between their ears and brain has to understand clearly that Springsteen, among virtually all modern American musicians, is a serious left-winger. He’s a Steinbeck/Guthriel/Depression-era progressive. A working man’s artist with tragedy in his eyes and social justice on his brain. Always has been, though he’s become much more vocal about the specifics in recent years.

So how does a supply-side, laissez-faire conservative like Christie go to show after show, pumping his fist in the air as his hero contradicts everything he believes, really loudly? I have no idea. Do power chords trump policy? Does a handful of party songs outdo a litany of serious, often subversive political statements?

Is anyone thinking clearly? Besides Springsteen, I mean?

I saw Springsteen at Madison Square Garden about five days after Tierney’s piece ran, right in the middle of the ruckus. Ended up in the top deck, sitting just above a foursome from, I’m guessing, Staten Island. The women with frosted hair. The guys with prominent guts. Struck me as off-duty law-enforcement. Or possibly construction workers. People who were helmets to work. Anyway, there was some light-hearted grumbling before the show about his “fuckin’ politics,” then a lot of dancing and singing to the less challenging (or too poetic to parse) songs. Then Springsteen got to “Born in the USA,” which he was performing that summer as a raw, slide-guitar blues. No kick-ass beat, no seeming heroics. Just a lot of dead-end towns, dogs that have been beat too much, etc. And when he got to the chorus, the “Born in the USA!” chant, the one guttiest guy put his chubby hand up to his mouth and shouted back:

“And if you don’t like it you can fuckin’ leave!” 

What he didn’t understand is that Springsteen’s dismay is fueled not by contempt – the contempt shown him by the NYPD, by Giuliani, and Tierney — but by his love of this place, this people, and the dream of life that holds us together.

“We’re baptised in these waters/And in each other’s blood…”

Where was Tierney then? Where was Christie?

Kardashian Dreams, And Other Pop Culture Notes

So I’m at the grocery store checkout line the other day and I see this: 

And I realize afresh something that’s occurred to me a few times over the past few months: I have absolutely no idea who the Kardashians are. And yet here they are on the cover of a major magazine. And it’s not the first time, either, because I know I’ve glanced over their names and cleavage in the not-distant past. And always with a weird frisson of guilt because: I kind of write about popular culture; I used to work at People magazine, the very epicenter of popular culture; and who knows, maybe a quick, withering reference to the K’s in some other piece (a thoughtful analysis of the works of, say, renewed financial regulation in a post-crash environment) might come in handy. But as I tossed a box of Honey Nut Shredded Wheat onto the belt I knew, shamefully, that I was not equipped to do so.

So reporting commenced. A visit to Kim Kardashian’s official website. A glance at some of the nearly 14 million (!!!!!) hits achieved in a Google search.

And here’s what I learned:

1. There is a rich, somewhat notorious and now dead father.

2. A grasping, publicity hungry mom.

3. An array of sisters, most/all of whom have names starting with a ‘K,’ even when it stretches traditional English spellings to, and beyond, the breaking point. (e.g., Kourtney)

4. None of them seem to work, beyond being socialites and camera targets.

5. Nevertheless, they hang out with mainstream New Age guru Deepak Chopra.

6. Which makes me feel infinitely worse about MNAG Deepak Chopra.

7. None of the K girls seem to mind being naked in front of a camera. Kim, in fact, has her own notorious bootleg (allegedly) sex tape in circulation. Which, critics point out, isn’t particularly hot.

8. And yet, I suspect, if the K’s didn’t exist, a whole other family of women would (and in fact are currently gearing up to) take their place.

9. Because this is how we roll in the good old Western Civ.

10. And there’s an interesting essay/analysis on why this is true, and maybe why it’s not an entirely bad thing. Or maybe it’s a hideous thing, even worse than we think. Or, to put it another way, how’s that health care reform coming?