Party Over Osama, But Not With Obama?

Sunday night I was at a comedy show in Brooklyn when I heard the news that Osama bin Laden was dead, apparently killed in a cross between a Call of Duty video game and the final scene in Scarface.  I just had no idea that the death of a terrorist was a reason to party.  There is nothing I hate more than terrorists, whether they be KKK members, Islamic fundamentalists or my ex fiancee.  But I can’t help but be a little uncomfortable with our boisterous celebration of death.  If this were an isolated incident I would not sound so sanctimonious about it, but our culture has become one that is far too ready to celebrate violence.

Now don’t get me wrong – bin Laden was obviously a villain, though I sort of feel like I did at the end of the movie In The Line of Fire.  John Malkovich was the villain and was killing nice people, like the chubby bank teller who “shouldn’t have been from Minneapolis.”  And Clint Eastwood was the awesome hero that I rooted for, but at the end I realized I would not hear any more telephone calls from John Malkovich.  I think having read so many brilliant books on Al Qaeda and bin Laden (The Looming Tower is my favorite book) I had a strong intellectual curiosity about the terror movement and its modern leader, but that said, his death feels like a deserved punishment.  And any amount of comfort that it can provide the friends and families of the victims of 9/11 is welcome.

I suppose I just would have preferred a slightly more muted response to the news.  Obama’s response was one of measured dignity and even the NY Post knew enough to just go with “We Got Him,” which is the NY Post equivalent of a lobotomized statement (I heard their first choice was “We finally fistfuc*ed that terrorist piece of sh*t!”).  But there seemed to be a celebratory feel to the people taking to the streets (especially young folk who, based on lots of Tweets and Facebook updates I saw seemed just happy for an excuse to party in front of the White House and tweet about it) that felt slightly inappropriate.  I am in no position to say what the response is, but if my parents were murdered and a jury delivered a guilty verdict (or the criminal were executed) appreciation and reflection would probably be my response before taking to the streets like the Yankees won the World Series.

But I think our country really just has a deeper respect and love of violence than other (civilized) nations.   MMA is our fastest growing sport, we restrict bare breasts in movies more than open bullet wounds and we party when a murderer is executed.  I just think it would be nice if our country could find a way to rally around something that doesn’t involve death.  Universal health care?  Incredibly divisive.  Protecting our environment?  Not a chance.  Tighter gun laws to protect citizens?  Not unless you want a bullet in your head.

So my advice for Obama is every time there is an important social issue that will effect Americans much more than killing a terrorist who was in his nursing home days, he should take a Republican into a steel cage and beat the sh*t out of them.  Americans do not respect intellect, reason, nuance or long term benefits.  They understand might and force.  That is what we respect.

The feeling I had watching celebrations and chants of USA was not unlike the feeling I had at a Pittsburgh Steeler game and when I heard a Caucasian Steeler fan next to me refer to the Cleveland Brown’s Josh Cribbs as a nigger.  I was still rooting for the Steelers, but I felt just a little uneasy about it for the rest of the game.  That is sort of how I felt, to a lesser degree, watching celebrations on Sunday/Monday.  This is a country where a quarter of the people question the birth of our president because he is African-American and millions slurred with him with the untrue (but not insidious on its own) claim that he was Muslim, but along with the immature twenty-something tweeters partying, these are the people now willing to give the President his respect (or at least some, because he killed a bad guy.  I just don’t feel like partying to celebrate death, especially when many of the partygoers are people that would not want to party with the President if he was not killing someone named Osama.


J-L’s Time Person of the Year

One of the most anticipated magazine issues every year, besides the 114 that discuss whether Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston will get back together, is Time’s Person of the Year issue.  The criteria, according to Wikipedia, is  a person, couple, group, idea, place, or machine that “for better or for worse, …has done the most to influence the events of the year.”   Now clearly Time has not always honored that, most notably when Osama bin Laden lost in 2001 (rumor has it he will never attend the awards banquet ever again) to Rudy Giuliani – which was basically the Dances With Wolves over Goodfellas of  Time’s POTY.  But this year I think Time can get it right.

Many people got talking when the finalists were announced – on my Facebook page LeBron James got a lot of attention (ironically people obsessing over him for the last 6 months thought it absurd that he could be a finalist).  But for me the winner should be obvious.

My pick, of the numerous finalists, is Lady Gaga.  Now in 2001 Time clearly feared their choice would be seen as an award, rather than as mere acknowledgment and the fear of appearing a joke may stop Time from naming Gaga, so here’s the argument for her.

First off, she won a bunch of MTV video awards and in a year without Kanye West interruptions, that makes her the biggest music story of the year.

Now technically that is basically it for her actual accomplishments this year.  She is a hard working performer who has become a major force in music.  But that alone would just make her a minor irritant.  However, what she represents is basically the direction of  our entire culture.  Here’s why.

1) She has become the dominant figure on the Internet.  All due respect to Mark Zuckerberg, who created the Internet’s most pervasive medium since e-mail, but Gaga dominates all of our pithy forms of communication.  Her video Bad Romance is the most watched video on all of YouTube.  She has the most Twitter followers on Twitter (President Obama is 5th).  In other words, in a society that is increasingly turning information and entertainment into 140 character brain farts and 30 second, seizure-inducing visuals intended to keep the attention of morons, she is the Queen.

2) She takes pithy political stands.  In a country that is increasingly mired in a struggle to choose the less complex answer and choice for increasingly complex problems she took the brave stand of asking for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  It is nice to use your fame and clout for good social issues and I think that is a worthy cause, but for a pop star who is next in line to lead the Kingdom of Gay Dance  Clubs (should Queen Brittney Spears die) I don’t think it is a particularly bold stand.  But that is our politics – does it affect me (Gaga’s dancers and fans)?  Is it already fairly popular or at least popular enough that I will not feel like an outcast if I join?  Then Yes!

3) She could have written the anthem for the anti-Immigration movement.  In a country where many people are anti-Immigrant and come out of the woodwork every election cycle, one of Gaga’s big hits of the last year was “Alejandro.”  The chorus:

Don’t call my name.
Don’t call my name, Alejandro.
I’m not your babe.
I’m not your babe, Fernando.

Don’t wanna kiss, don’t wanna touch.
Just smoke one cigarette and hush.
Don’t call my name.
Don’t call my name, Roberto

We get it Gaga – you don’t like Latinos.  Perhaps you could do a concert for the militias that patrol the border.  Just don’t bring your gay dancers.

4) She is a distraction.  The days of musical artists being relevant beyond the current minute are here.  Unlike Madonna or Michael Jackson or the Rolling Stones or the Beatles artists today are just flashes in the pan, in part because of a lack of creativity and perhaps even more due to our lack of attention span.  Madonna would take years to come out with a new album.  If Lady Gaga took years to release her next album, her next album would not come out because a dozen copycats would have taken her place.  Lady Gaga’s tireless effort is an acknowledgment that she, like the Justin Biebers of the world do not have staying power (at least as musical artists), both because of us, as well as themselves.  Madonna could change her image over a decade. Gaga changes her image every commercial break both because we need it to stay focused and she needs to do it to stay in the spotlight.  She labeled her album the Fame Monster and that is appropriate – because she is a monster and American consuming society is her Dr. Frankenstein.  So her influence is technically our doing, but she should accept the recognition on behalf of our culture.

5) Bad Romance is a pretty good song.  Got to give the devil her due.

Of course – if I were a betting man, I would guess that Time will go for an intellectually safe, discussion-creating choice like…


Lambert vs. Lakers

The last night of American Idol has arrived.  Last night Adam Lambert did what he had to to defeat Kris Allen (i.e. prevent the release of compromising gay sex photos, which is the only thing that could hold off Adam last night).  His version of A Change is Gonna Come was great, with the exception of a wailing part where he looked on the verge of awwkward tears (phew – just his musical theater acting chops shining through).  Kris Allen did well, despite the John Mayer/Muppet faces he made while singing.  However, the deciding factor was the final big “I can do it, I can beat the odds, I am a champion” song that both contestants have to sing (why does American Idol insist on the first single from every season being something that sounds like it belongs on the Karate Kid III soundtrack?). Not only did the scope of the song better fit Lambert’s big voice, he also provided the best unintentional comedy for the season this side of Scott McIntyre’s fangs when he sang the lyric, “You can go deeper; there are no boundaries.”  Was this song written before or after Glambert was voted a finalist?

So I voted for only the second time in an American Idol finals (the first was for Carrie Underwood) and it took me 75 minutes to get through, which I did in between two of the harshest sets I’ve performed (I have officially eliminated every possible topic from my “off limits” comedy folder).  What is amazing is that I had to wait 90 minutes to vote for Obama.  So for the first time in 8 years we have a president who is more popular than American Idol.  Take that cynics.  Although I guess the true test will be when the American Idol front runner is a handsome black man (interestingly enough the only black man winner is one of the least popular, but probably because he is fat and sweaty).

But all the good vibes from American idol and infanticide jokes wore off late last night when I watched the Los Angeles Lakers eke out a two point victory over the Denver Nuggets.  Normally I would root against a team with as many tattoos as the Nuggets (JR Smith looks like he has a skin condition and Chris Anderson, Carmello Anthony and Kenyon Martin look like members of the world’s best prison basketball team – especially Carmello who sports a Warna Brotha (WB)” tattoo encouraging kids not to cooperate with law enforcement – the NBA, where caring happens.

But the Nuggets are playing Kobe, Sasha and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers.   To put it in perspective I look at the Nuggets like Sunni insurgents and the Lakers as Al Qaeda.   Sure I don’t like either team, but am willing to make a deal with the insurgents to defeat Laker Qaeda.  To continue this ridiculous, and possibly offensive analogy, I will now refer to Kobe Bryant as Kobe bin Laden.

So hopefully Lambert wins tonight and the Nuggets can get ther sh*t together and defeat the evildoers tomorrow.