Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cargo cult comedy

At last, the long-awaited Daily Show rip-off has arrived on Fox News. Produced by 24 producer Joel Surnow, The 1/2 Hour News Hour runs with the tagline: "Unfair. Unbalanced. Unserious."

Apparently they should have added "Unfunny" as well. The kindest review I've seen so far comes from the Washington Post, which declares:

"In a nutshell: It isn't terrible."

Wow, high praise. Other than that, reaction seems to be universally bad, even from right wing blogs like this one:

"It is SO not funny. And it should have been hysterical. There are so many brilliant, funny conservatives. How did they pick this bunch?"

And this one:

"Finally, while there is work to be done to make the show 'workable', the initial offerings or 'taste tests' have left a very sour taste in my mouth as well I'm sure many others. If I were the head of FOXNews I would strongly consider pulling the show and working out some of the kinks before launching a show that appears to be an amateur offering."

Here's a bit of fun pigpiling from the left side...

Not surprisingly, the second biggest (fake?) laughter of the show came in reaction to the title of a spoof magazine called BO: Barack Obama Magazine. I just snarfed, because B.O. is too funny. Here's a perfect example of how Republicans don't understand satire. If Senator Obama was known to have body odor, then the joke would've been funnier. But to my knowledge, he doesn't. Then again, he is a black and they're usually all stinky and black-smelling, aren't they? Seriously, it's a terrible joke.

So why use it? Because body odor is funny. If you're six or, evidently, a Republican.

Here's a clip for you:

When I first saw this, my immediate thought was "They're doing cargo cult comedy."

A refresher on cargo cults, as told by Wikipedia:

The classic period of cargo cult activity was in the years during and after World War II. The vast amounts of war matériel that were airdropped into these islands during the Pacific campaign against the Empire of Japan necessarily meant drastic changes to the lifestyle of the islanders, many of whom had never seen Westerners or Japanese before. Manufactured clothing, medicine, canned food, tents, weapons and other useful goods arrived in vast quantities to equip soldiers — and also the islanders who were their guides and hosts. With the end of the war the airbases were abandoned, and "cargo" was no longer being dropped.

In attempts to get cargo to fall by parachute or land in planes or ships again, islanders imitated the same practices they had seen the soldiers, sailors and airmen use. They carved headphones from wood, and wore them while sitting in fabricated control towers. They waved the landing signals while standing on the runways. They lit signal fires and torches to light up runways and lighthouses. The cultists thought that the foreigners had some special connection to their own ancestors, who were the only beings powerful enough to produce such riches.

Like a cargo cult, Fox News is imitating the form that produces results, and they hope that the results will naturally follow. The show LOOKS very much like The Daily Show, the hosts use the same style of wry smarminess that works so well for Jon Stewart, and there is laughter. But there aren't any jokes, just sarcasm.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Why do they keep insulting our troops?

Three times yesterday, I turned on C-SPAN while futzing around in the kitchen. All three times, there was a sanctimonious legislator giving a speech -- once in an interview, twice on the Senate floor. All three had an "R" next to their name, and all three were saying something nearly identical. It went something like this:

"My Democrat [sic] colleagues are destroying troop morale by arguing against this war. The biggest enemy our troops have is not foreign fighters, but lack of resolve at home. Every time we discuss plans to end the war, we are helping the terrorists win."

After pondering this for a while, I have decided that one of two things must be true:

1. They think that our troops are complete cowards. It would seem that the troops can face a hostile foreign populace, car bombs, and IEDs, but they run away screaming when they hear a Democrat say "The president has not handled this war well."
2. They think the troops are not very bright or cannot handle debate. No matter how the war is actually going, the troops should be shielded from any frank discussion of progress, unless the news is good.

The thing is, I don't think any of these speakers has attempted to produce a serious case that the war has not been badly botched, nor an actual plan for winning apart from "We'll throw 15% more troops at the region and then all the problems will miraculously clear up." A few months ago supposedly we'd "never been stay the course". Now apparently we are again.

So they haven't actually done anything to make the war either go better or end; their only tactic is to react in shock, horror, and indignation when somebody says that the war is not going well. They're not concerned about fucking up; but they're deathly afraid of hearing someone say that they fucked up.

And one more thing. What's up with all the comparisons to Vietnam by Republicans? Years ago, anyone who suggested that the war was anything like Vietnam was automatically dubbed as narrow minded and shallow at best, or more usually an anti-American idiot. Today, the Republicans are falling all over themselves to say that Iraq is Vietnam all over again. "Didn't we learn anything from Vietnam?" they ask. But instead of learning the lesson that you should pick your battles intelligently, apparently the "lesson" of Vietnam is that no one should criticize any action taken by a sitting president, ever. Because, you see, the right thing for people to do is smile and go along quietly for a 16 year war, and even if things look bad after all that time, you'd better smile and accept the possibility that it could continue indefinitely. Clearly wars are never lost except by popular opinion. Historians take note.

I guess what I'm asking is, why do Republicans hate America so much?

Monday, February 05, 2007

People will try anything

I've often said that arguing with fundamentalists is like trying to nail jello to a wall. However, I never expected anyone to actually try doing that.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

See Al Run

Run, Al, Run!

On Monday, Al Franken announced that his show's last episode will be February 14. Air America is still rolling under new management, and not expected to go down any time soon despite the recent bankruptcy filing. Thom Hartmann will be filling Al's time slot.

At that point, Franken was still being coy about his intentions, saying: "If I make a decision before the show ends, I'll make sure you, my listeners, are the first to know... after Frannie. And my kids. Okay, my listeners will be the eighth to know."

I expected this day to come, and I wish him great success in his campaign. I am, however, a bit saddened. Franken frequently comments on his show "We have to repeat things sometimes because we know that nobody listens to all three hours." Ironically, I have heard this comment over and over, because I do listen to all three hours via podcast. In fact, I don't believe there have been any episodes since the show's inception that I have not heard at least a part of. It is the only daily show that I make a point of not missing. I also had the pleasure of seeing the show produced live a couple of years ago, with guest Molly Ivins, who sadly just died yesterday.

So long, Al, and give Norm Coleman hell.