Thursday, December 28, 2006

Mystery: Where Is Bill?

I am in New Orleans, as a matter of fact.

Our residence has no internet connection. I have been compelled to rely on the kindness of strangers to post this update. A year after the great storm and flood, conditions in town are still rather primitive. But the communications company has assured me that they are hard at work on the problem, and my link to the outer world should be up and running by next week.

We shall see.

You may have seen some of the national news coverage regarding New Orleans. The city has lost more than a third of its inhabitants; former residents that were farmed out around the country after the disaster still await the federal dollars that will make it possible for them to return home.

If they want to. They may not want to. The city is still very dark. This is particularly true in the vast empty neighborhoods north of the Vieux Carre. We took notice of it driving into town from the airport at night. Looking down from the highway we could see nothing but block after block of darkened homes, punctuated by the rare occupied property decorated with Christmas lights.

Many shops have closed due to a shortage of employees and customers, but the oldest businesses continue to hang on grimly. Within the Quarter, the best restaurants and clubs carry on, and, as has been true for the last four hundred years--there is music. Sometimes it's ghostly music, but it's still there...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Movies: Great Minds Think Alike

James Dobson hosted syndicated conservative radio host Michael Medved and they discussed the new penguin cartoon movie, "Happy Feet":

DOBSON: There is a movie that's out now, called Happy Feet. It's about penguins. It's obviously designed to pull children in and yet, you don't like it. I've read some of the things you've said about it. I haven't seen it and don't plan to see it but from what I've heard, I don't like it either. Explain why.
MEDVED: Because it's depressing and it's dark.

(Now, up to this point in the interview, I’m 100% on board with Dobson and Medved. Like Dobson, I don’t have plans to see this movie—screw seeing a cartoon about dancing penguins, just screw it. And like Medved says, I’m sure it’s depressing and dark for the simple reason that it’s set in a land of eternal ice and snow, and I’m not paying to see that because I live in Minnesota. So screw you and your proposal that we go see the penguin movie, kids. But then Medved and Dobson go on:)

MEDVED: And then there's this whole subtext, as there so often is, about homosexuality. Not that the penguins are gay -- they're not gay -- but the one penguin hero doesn't fit in and the religious authorities -- the so-called religious right in the penguin world -- are very judgmental. They say, "You are not a penguin. You're not a real penguin." And then he makes this heartfelt plea, he says, "Dad, you have to accept me as I am. I can't change." And --
DOBSON: Are they getting at the idea that homosexuality is genetic? Is that what the subtle implication is?

Now here is where Dobson and Medved have crossed the line that divides “legitimate film criticism” from “mental illness.” The “religious right of the penguin world?”

You’ve got to remember—these men are two of the most influential conservatives in America. Millions of people look to them for news and counsel on US politics every day, they’re giving millions of voters guidance on support for the war in Iraq, the threat posed by Iran, et cetera--and THEY'RE WORRIED ABOUT THE PORTRAYAL OF "THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT OF THE PENGUIN WORLD?"

These guys have lost it! What do you think of political pundits who see that as a legimate issue and a possible threat? What would you think of the intelligence of millions of people who go to men such as these, in search of guidance and political wisdom? I tremble for my country…But wait, there’s more--run that last part back again:

MEDVED: And then there's this whole subtext, as there so often is, about homosexuality. Not that the penguins are gay -- they're not gay --

“They’re not gay?” How does Medved know whether these penguins are gay or not, just by looking at them? How can he state conclusively that these thousands of cartoon penguins are not gay--just from watching them for two hours onscreen? Do the thousands of penguins spend the two hours walking around the ice floe telling each other “I’m not gay,” “Well, I’m not gay either.”? I doubt it—and even if they did—what a giveaway that would be. (Just like that new James Bond movie; see article below.)

The fact is that there’s no way to tell whether these thousands of cartoon penguins are gay or not, unless Medved has really great "cartoon penguin gay-dar” or something. Just because a penguin isn’t “gay-acting” doesn’t mean he’s not gay. You need only check the penguin section of the personal ads to see that this is true. Look:

“MALE PENGUIN SEEKING MALE PENGUIN for “Tuxedo Junction.” Me: gay but straight-acting, adventurous, spontaneous but earthy. Likes: fishing, waddling, standing around ice floe, snow. Dislikes: sharks, tiger seals. I am looking for: some one cute, straight acting bi or gay under 32, to take trips to the other side of the ice floe and back, have fun, cuddling."

So Medved’s claim that he can tell a penguin’s sexual preference just by looking at one is ridiculous. The movie portrays thousands of penguins standing around an ice floe, as is their custom--all virtually identical in appearance. Couldn't there be two queers in there somewhere? PERHAPS EVEN IN LEADERSHIP POSITIONS IN THE “PENGUIN RELIGIOUS RIGHT”?

For all Medved knows it could be “Brokeback Iceberg” they're running up there, once the cameras stop turning. But thank God, in an news environment dominated by the death toll in Iraq, someone is keeping an eye on this cartoon penguin gays versus the cartoon penguin religious right situation. We can’t allow that story to get lost in all the media fuss about war and fighting terrorism. And remember—minds like those of Dobson and Medved are kind of minds that put George W. Bush in the White House in the first place.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Poll Results: Rove Got It Wrong

It’s been months since I did a new poll question. But there is a new one up today; you will find it at the lower right of this web page. Punch one of the little answer buttons, and make your voice heard!

The results of the latest poll conducted by Stillwater Tribune are now in. Participants were asked to comment on a statement made by Presidential adviser Karl Rove at the George Washington University School of Political Management. Rove had claimed that journalists play a "corrosive role" in politics and government. Rove also disputed the view that “that voters are dumb, ill informed and easily misled.”

Thirty-eight per cent of those responding to the poll said that they WERE “dumb, ill informed and easily misled.” Twenty-nine per cent said that they agreed that journalists played a corrosive role in American politics and that they should be silenced, except for Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter.

Thirty-three per cent of those surveyed expressed astonishment that there was a graduate school for people who want to be like Karl Rove.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

International: America's Next Top War Plan

This AP headline struck me:

Bush Quickens Search For New War Plan

Here's how I'll bet he'll do it. The show would be called “America’s Next Top War Plan.” Obviously, this would be based on one of the most popular reality TV programs, Tyra Banks’ “America’s Next Top Model”, in which lovely young things compete for the chance to become a super-model. (Bush, naturally, would fill the “Tyra Banks” role on my show.) But there's a twist, natch: instead of competing for modelling or recording contracts or that shit, the contestants on Bush's show would be competing to see who gets to decide America's Next Top War Plan. It's a sure thing, TV-wise!

Allow me to pitch an episode to you. We join the show a few weeks into the season. A few of the contestants have already been eliminated (Brittany, an aspiring porn star from the San Fernando Valley who did well in the “wet T-shirt” challenge but totally blew the “pacifying Shi’ites” event; Rasheed, who was eliminated when the judges discovered he was a Muslim, and Donald, a real asshole from Washington, D.C. whose “Stay The Course” strategy in Iraq turned out to be a bloody three-year dead end.)

The remaining contestants are still rooming together “in the house”, an oversize penthouse suite in Georgetown. The contestants are, in no particular order:

Jeff, a male model from Michigan. His proposed war plan is: “Make a deal with Iran and Syria, introduce a truly international peace-keeping force into the region, and then stabilize Iraq by building gyms and promoting body-toning fitness for its young people.”
Marvin, a nerdy policy wonk with a post-graduate degree in International Relations from Harvard. His war plan is: “Create independent federalized states based on ethnic and religious affiliations within the existing boundaries of Iraq, placing oil revenues and reserves in an international trust to be administered by an independent UN–sponsored governance commission.”
Dale, a guy from Georgia who runs a hardware store, lives with his mom and relies on conservative talk radio for all his political information. His war plan is: “Unleash hell.”
Heather, an undergraduate from the University of Iowa who was featured in Playboy’s “Girls of the Big Ten” photo spread. Her war plan is: “Build swimming pools and sponsor a national day of partying with the theme—“Hey, It’s the Middle East, It’s Sunny Out--Let’s Just Take A Moment and Chill.”
Condi, a former national security adviser and present US Secretary of State, who is on the show because she feels people don’t take her seriously enough and it would enhance her credibility. Her war plan is: “Continue to do whatever the President says, when he says it.”

(We see the roommates waking up in the morning, doing their morning ablutions, yawning, combing their hair.)
(Cut to Jeff knocking on the bathroom door, towel wrapped around his waist, clearly annoyed.)
Jeff: What the hell is Condi doing in there? It’s been a half an hour already…
(Close up of Heather. Subtitle: ‘featured in Playboy’s Girls of the Big Ten’)
Heather: There’s a lot less tension around here now that Rummie’s been eliminated. He was really gross. He was always going around bitching about Abu Ghraib and how he never got a fair deal from the media. And he used to leave his stinky old boxer shorts on the bedroom floor all the time. I mean, he was just gross, you know what I mean?
(Cut to Marvin, frying some eggs.)
(Cut to close up of Karl. Subtitle: ‘learned about politics from listening to talk radio’)
Karl: Marvin’s a real ding-a-ling, you know what I mean? I really hate his liberal ass. (mimicking) “Well, when I was at the Kennedy School of Government, blah, blah, blah”—who gives a (bleep), Marvin? Get over yourself and get a real job.
(Cut to Jeff, making a protein shake in the kitchen)
Jeff’s voice: “I think at this point everybody’s who's left is just trying to get through the day as best they can. Everybody here’s got a different vision for the Middle East and national security, but at the end of the day, only one of us can win the competition and we all know that. But what really bugs me is the way that some of these guys eat.”
(Cut to Karl alternately smoking a cigarette and chewing a Pop-Tart.)
(Condi comes into the kitchen, a towel still wrapped around her head, waving a little card.)
Condi: (calls out) Bush-a-gram, people!
(The other contestants join them in the kitchen as Condi reads it:)
Condi: “Howdy, y’all. Hope you’re feeling peppy, policy people. Big challenge tonight; one more of you will be eliminated at the judging afterwards, and only one of the others will finally pitch…America’s Next Top War Plan.”
(Jump cut from face to face of contestants—various reactions; confidence, enthusiasm, hope, anxiety.)
Marvin: I’m really nervous at this point. I’ve already been a finalist in the Elimination Room twice. I did okay with the questions on petrodollars and promises made to the Kurds during the first Gulf War, but I really blew that one about the stone Ben Affleck chose for Jennifer Lopez’ engagement ring.
(The contestants enter the Elimination Room and line up on platform before the judges, who are already seated before them. The judges are:)

The President.
Former Secretary of State and international diplomat Henry Kissinger.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Ohlmert.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
American Idol entertainment maven Simon Cowell.
Sixties fashion icon Twiggy.

Bush: “Good evening, finalists. Tonight we’ve got a really tough one for you. As you know by now, poise and presentation is everything when it comes to geopolitics and international diplomacy. So your poise and presentation is going to be put to the acid test, here and now. When that wall behind you opens up, each one of you is going to be faced with a mob of one thousand angry Sunni Arabs who want to know why, three years after I declared that major combat operations were over, basic utilities are still unavailable in most of Baghdad outside the Green Zone. Your job: calm them down--(uncovers something on the table before him)—while walking down the runway with this bowl of fruit balanced on your head.
(Close up of the bowl of fruit, synthesizer music sting. Close ups of each contestant’s reaction: confidence, anxiety, hope, etc.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Televison: Civil Discourse Conquers the Vast Wasteland

This week, as it must to all men, television came to your blog host, William Prendergast. I appeared as guest on a local cable television program, Atheist Talk. (My agent had assured me it was going to be the Letterman show; I am currently seeking new representation.)

The topic: Michele Bachmann. The guests: your working boy, and his “Dump Michele Bachmann” colleague, writer/journalist Karl Bremer. The host: George Kane.

We were greeted at the door of the studio by the twelve-year-old receptionist, who looked very much ill at ease without his Ipod and skateboard. He consulted his video schedule and sneered "Wait out in the hall until they come to collect you, Daddy-o." Bremer and I seated ourselves on a hard wooden bench outside and watched the passage of demi-celebrities with their own cable access shows as they exited the studio for the evening—a strange parade indeed, akin to the arrival of an under-funded circus in town.

Shortly thereafter, Mr. George Kane, a gentlemanly infidel, came in from the cold and gave us the scoop on how to behave before the cameras—no spitting or scratching, no plugs for upcoming film releases or quick weight-loss programs, no atheist jokes. (I only had one, but I was sorry to lose it: “Did you hear about the atheist’s funeral? All dressed up and no place to go.” When I told it to Kane, he smiled politely but tightly, pretended he hadn’t heard anything, and then gave the crew the signal to proceed with the taping.)

A host of volunteer unbelievers manned the cameras and sound system and began the countdown. Everyone was extremely patient with us and very gracious. No one sneered at us or ridiculed our belief in a Supreme Being, or slipped us any of their godless tracts. We were there to talk about Congresswoman-elect Bachmann and her stealth theocrat political agenda, which is a matter of concern to locals of any religious persuasion.

I think it went well, but I won’t know until I see the tape. Bremer came off better than I did; he has a convincing manner, a baritone voice that inspires trust, and he hasn’t been hitting the donuts as hard as I have the past forty-five years.

I’d begged him to come along and I am happy to say that he indulged me in order to calm my fears. I had no idea what effect the hot lights, the studio and television cameras would have on my normal sang-froid. I had had awful premonitions of running out of intelligent things to say about the evangelical political movement half-way through the program and of trying to fill up the remaining air time with my Bela Lugosi impressions and my “man trapped inside an invisible cube” mime.

As it turned out, the half-hour sailed by and we were able to fill it handily with information about Bachmann’s sectarian and extremist political roots. Kane was a fine host who kept the conversation focused and on the move--I hope that it comes off as interesting for viewers as it was for us.

I will plug the program here when I learn broadcast dates and times. What I really wanted to do was host a cable-access show for kids, with puppets and public domain cartoons and me honking a big old floogle-horn and wearing a bow-tie that spins when I tell jokes or riddles—but these atheists wouldn’t buy that.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

National: Bush Receives Report Card From Iraq War Commission

At an early morning meeting on the White House, the bi-partisan panel on the Iraq war presented the President with its official report on the progress of the Iraq war. The AP story on this event noted the following:

"Bush was flanked at the White House meeting by the panel's co-chairmen, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, and former Rep. Lee Hamilton in a remarkable scene — a president praising the work of a group that had just concluded his policy had led to chaos and risked worse."

We take you now to the White House, where the panel members are reading their findings to President.

Baker: (reading) “We have concluded that the President’s policy in Iraq is not working.”
Bush: Okay. I praise you, the members of the panel for the serious consideration you have obviously given to this issue, and for all the hard work that you have done in forming this conclusion.
Baker: (continues reading) “…After nearly four years of war and the deaths of more than 2,900 U.S. troops, the situation is grave and deteriorating. The ability of the United States to influence events within Iraq is not increasing; it is in fact is diminishing."
Bush: Yes, thank you. This is certainly an interesting view of the situation…
Baker: “The scope and power of terrorists has been increased, not decreased, by this misguided adventure in Iraq. Their recruitment is going up, not down, as a result of the idiotic decision to strike Iraq, a nation that had little or nothing to do with the terrorist attacks on the United States. This is a shit situation the President has put our country in…”
Bush: Fine. I praise you, I praise you again for pointing that out, I’ll certainly take that under advisement—
Baker: “…The President was warned about a million times before invading Iraq that it was a stupid, ill-conceived idea because it would plunge the country into chaos, cause it to fragment into a bloody civil war, and throw control of the region to our most powerful enemy in the region, Iran—“
Bush: Thank you, thank you, you fine members of the panel, for including that important historical perspective, and now I believe that there is a praiseworthy bus waiting for you outside—
Baker: “Your own father explained to you the reasons why Saddam’s regime was left in charge of Iraq after the first Gulf War and why you should not consider a pre-emptive strike and invasion of Iraq without first securing the backing of the United Nations and world opinion—“
Bush: Thanks once again. I am pleased with the hard work and objective analysis that you, the panel, have brought to the table—
Baker: “Nonetheless, you chose to disregard the experience and wisdom of your intellectual and political betters, and pursue a mindless and unjustified military non-solution, a non-strategy that was virtually guaranteed to cause the deaths of thousands of US troops in a hopeless attempt to suppress an inevitable native insurgency, and cause the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians in a murderous civil war spurred by centuries-old religious and ethnic hatreds and desire for control over billions of dollars of Iraqi oil reserves—“
Bush: Yes, yes, yes—as an expression of my gratitude, please accept these commemorative coins struck for this occasion by the Franklin Mint, now if you will excuse me, I believe the phone is ringing—
Baker: “—you have also weakened the position of your nation so seriously that we will now be forced to negotiate with two nations who are undoubted sponsors of terrorism, Iran and Syria—a thing we swore we would never do--in order to try and extricate ourselves from the bloody horrible mess that you, the American head of state—“
Bush: Thank you gentlemen, and now I really must be going—
Baker: “—or, ‘pinhead of state,’ as you might more accurately be described—“
Bush: (snatching at report) It doesn’t say that!
(Baker points to the line in the report, shows him that it does say that Bush releases the report, swallows and adjusts his tie.)
Bush: Well, I praise your complete candour, anyway, and I—
Baker: “--deliberately surrounded yourself with manipulative sycophants who only told you what you wanted to hear--"
Bush: Praise indeed--
Baker: "Members of this commission who served in your father’s administration watched you grow up and knew from the start that you were a spoiled, arrogant, dishonest little knucklehead who would screw this country right into the ground if you were ever given any job more important than answering the phone for Lee Atwater—“
Bush: While I may not agree with all of the findings in the commission’s report, I will certainly praise them for—
Baker: “’My God,’ we said, when the Supreme Court overrode the voters and appointed you, ‘That numbnuts is President of the United States!’”
Bush: Muchas gracias, fellas, hey, have you tried the buffet? I believe there’s--
Baker: “—and now you’ve really done it, you chronic f-up, you consigned the US Armed Forces to a military black hole and you even managed to wipe out the Republican majority in Congress in the process, too. This commission has concluded that this country would have been better off if you’d kept your original job selling sporting goods at Sears—“
Bush: Try the Eggs Benedict, it’s delicious, it’s the least we can do to thank you for--
Baker: “Everything you touch has turned to shit, your whole life, George W. Bush--.”
Bush: Well, that about wraps things up, I think. Merci beaucoup, praise a vous.
Baker: “The media conservatives who backed you for the past six years are morons; they should be fired immediately and sent to fight in Iraq. The people who voted for you should have their heads examined—“
Bush: Thank you once again, and now if you don’t leave, I’m calling the Secret Service. But thank you, thank you very much, for that fine report. Go praise yourselves.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Stillwater: Applying For City Council

Everybody always lookin’ out for da big dog, your main man, Billy P. One of my home boys plugged me in to the word on the street—they lookin’ for a new City Councilmember for Stillwater. So, in case my application to the School Board don’t pan out, I’m filing this as a back up, and that way all Billy P’s traps are “set,” waitin’ to spring, knowhutI’msayin’?

Name: _William Prendergast_______________________________
Address: _none a yo' mo'fo' business, you keep your junk mail__________
Home Telephone: __don’t give that out, either___
Work Telephone: __unemployed________
How long have you lived in the City of Stillwater? __too damn long__
How long have you lived in Ward 2? _not sure if I do_______ Yrs/Mo.

1. Why do you want to be a Councilmember for the City of Stillwater?

I heard if I get to be a city Councilmember, I get to decide where everyone else is going to live and get down with the hot tips on which parts of town are slated for development so I can tell my boys how to cut thesselves in on a a piece of dat. And I would like have the juice to veto restaurant applications to have outdoor tables and all dat shit, have all those guys kissing my white ass and so forth so they can hang their muthafuckin' restaurant sign, knowwhutI'msayin? Also—is it for real that if you’re a city Councilmember, you get a free jacket with your name sewn on it in cursive lettering on the front (in my case “Billy P”, with two l’s, capital P) and with the words “CITY COUNCILMEMBER” (“councilmember” is one word, you dogs think so?) in block cap letters on the back? Cause I am so down with dat.

2. What Stillwater community activities are you currently involved or have you been involved? Please include any offices you held.

Vice President, Stillwater Sunday Nite Liberal Circle-Jerk.
Grand Pooh-bah, Loyal Order of Telescopic Booty-licious Girl Watchers.
President, America’s Next Top Model Fan Club, Stillwater Chapter.

3. Describe any previous experience you have that is similar to serving on a representative or elected body.

Similar experience to bein' an elected official? I was a junkie, man, livin' out on da street sellin' my white ass to make the rent. How you like dat for "a similar experience?"

4. What do you think are the two most important issues for the City of Stillwater and why?

1) We gots to get some pay hikes for city Councilmembers.
2) Downtown traffic. We ain't down wit no more congestion, we gots to shag some bricks or some shit at cars with out of state license plates that get jammed up and shit at traffic lights during rush hour, and then get our City Councilmember asses outta there, and fast, my brothers.

5. What do you think are the two most important issues to the residents in Ward 2?

a. We got to find out exactly where Ward 2 is.
b. We got to make us a pre-emptive strike to stop Ward 3’s muthafuckin' “Weapons of Mass Destruction” program. That's some nasty shit they got goin on over there.

6. If appointed to the City Council, what would you like to accomplish for the remainder of the term (2007 and 2008)?

--We need to change some terminology: no more “city Councilmember”; let’s make it “City Council Member.”
--Fire the muthafucking cops who gave me tickets over the last six years.
--Rezone any whiny ass neighbors’ homes as “wetlands.”
--No more “pussy” bands at Lumberjack Days. Fifty Cent!! Fifty Cent!!
--start City Council newsletter for paid subscribers/real estate speculators—“Hot Insider Real Estate Tips From Your Local City Councilmember, or Council Member!” Cost to “subscribers” per issue: $20,000. (Get where I’m goin’ with this, boys? Wink wink, get us some of that dead Presidents action, knowhutI'msayin'?.)

7. Describe any other relevant information you would like the City Council to know.

--Two inches soft, twelve inches hard. Tattoo on the underside say “zoom!” or “zooooooooooooooooom!,” dependin' on my "mood."
--If I don’t get this job, lotta of bad things gonna start happening to a lot of innocent people—KnowwhatI'msayin'? Sniff, sniff—anybody else smell smoke?

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