Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Friday Buzzkills: Burn it to the wick

As we've heard repeatedly, it's been a great week to be a conservative, a woman, and especially a conservative woman–and even you ultra-liberal Tina Feytishists are probably feeling a bit lightheaded thanks to that morally confusing blood flow to your politically challenged extremities over V.P. candidate Sarah Palin. Yet while all this maverick-y talk of Washington outsiders putting lipstick on dogs and demanding that their bridges lead to somewhere because they have to get their kids to hockey practice may have supercharged both the "rah rah 9/11 boom bah" and the "hate-fuck" sides of America's collective brain, allow us to interrupt that never-ending Big & Rich concert in your head with a liberal dose of liberal whining. See, right now this land of ours may be God-fearing and gun-toting and ready to field dress a moose at a moment's notice, but–to paraphrase Fred Thompson–there's still a few alligators in the swamp. And here at Friday Buzzkills–"community organizers" [pause for laughs] of the disenfranchised–it's our patriotic duty to drain that swamp and drag us back down into the mucky-muck lying just below the surface. Drill, baby, drill!

- Of course, not everyone is in love with the McCain/Palin ticket–and we're not just talking about Democrats, insulted former Hillary supporters, parents of "special needs" children who don't appreciate being pandered to, Oprah Winfrey, pro-choicers, animal rights activists, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and people with ears. No, a far more powerful lobby is throwing its considerable weight (sorry) behind a backlash: Rock band Heart, who don't appreciate the campaign adopting their hit "Barracuda" as the de facto theme song for Sarah "Barracuda" Palin during the convention. Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson had already previously asked the campaign to stop using the song, so were aghast to hear it being played once again after McCain's acceptance speech. Today they responded with a statement given to Entertainment Weekly saying they feel "completely fucked over," adding:

"The song 'Barracuda' was written in the late '70s as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women. (The 'barracuda' represented the business.) While Heart did not and would not authorize the use of their song at the RNC, there's irony in Republican strategists' choice to make use of it there."


Indeed–and who loves irony more than the modern "We've got to get rid of those fat cats in Washington!" GOP? But honestly Wilsons, at the risk of sounding like a Republican apologist, this "controversy" only serves to highlight your own hypocrisy, considering you've already allowed the song to be reimagined as a soulless, corporate promotional anthem: for Shrek The Third, no less, as performed by soulless, corporate poster child Fergie–even dueting with her on the living embodiment of all that is soulless and corporate about the music business (American Idol). So while you may have legitimate cause for complaint at your song being co-opted without your permission by a party whose politics you disagree with, let's not pretend that your own record of integrity when it comes to "Barracuda" is unassailable. What's more, by repeatedly publicly stumping like this, all you're really doing is joining the Palin panoply and not-so-subtly encouraging more downloads of the song–a typical music business maneuver that can only be described as… well, you know.

- But as kinda-sorta hot as the idea of a fight between the Wilson sisters and Sarah Palin is, that's nothing compared to the recent spat between two reigning queens of British pop: Lily Allen returned to headlines after a remarkably shitty year involving visa troubles, miscarriage, and breakups (and tellingly, not a whole lot of music-making) with a joyous night of public drunkenness and telling Elton John to "fuck off" at the GQ Men Of The Year awards. Allen, who's been under considerable scrutiny for her problems with alcohol in the past, spent most of the ceremony very visibly quaffing a bottle of champagne, prompting John to sarcastically ask if she was about to "have another drink?" Allen retorted, "Fuck off, Elton. I am 40 years younger than you and have my whole life ahead of me." Video highlights below:

So…Sassy repartee or just thinly veiled hostility that quickly turned really, really awkward–especially when she then later pissed off her future sister-in-law on the same stage? Most blogs went with the latter, stirring in a bit of "Amy Winehouse Redux" for good measure, but Allen herself insists in her (ridiculously frequently updated) MySpace blog that the real assholes here are all those showbiz journalist "bullies" enacting "character assassination" by making her "feel like a bad friend and an embarrassment to my friends and the people who support me"–all because Allen chose to get drunk and say embarrassing things at a big awards show in front of a bunch of cameras which then very unfairly broadcast those images to the rest of the world. But yeah, while it's always refreshing to see someone take the wind out of the puffed-up sails of this sort of self-congratulatory circle jerk, we've definitely been down this "poor, persecuted pop star" road before–too frequently and too recently, we might add–and it's become more than a little wearying.

Look, Lily: We actually kind of like you (though not necessarily for your music). We've always found your air of "can't be arsed" oddly charming, and compared to vacuous "female empowerment" fakers like Natasha Bedingfield, you're practically punk rock. But it's time for a serious talk. Perhaps if you're so sick of being "bullied," in the future it might behoove you to not court public ridicule by getting shitfaced and slurring insults at a musician who's so respected he's been fucking knighted and generally acting like a childish ass. Either that, or learn to embrace your bad reputation and use it to your proudly bitchy advantage–but of course, that would involve not crying to MySpace every time you get your feelings hurt. (Oh, and making another album so you don't become the post-millennial Debbie Gibson would help, too.) In the meantime, remember that there's a fine line between empathy and pity–and pity, rather quickly, almost always turns to scorn.

- If there's anything positive about that squirmy exchange, it's the hilariously quotable gauntlet John throws down at the end–namely, "I can still snort you under the table." But according to revelations made this week, there's another queen who could probably rise to that occasion: Helen Mirren, she of Oscar-bait historical epics and GILF fantasy-inspiring bikini shots, who this week found herself splashed across headlines like People's not-fucking-around-anymore banner "Helen Mirren Shocker: I Loved Coke And Was Date Raped." The quote comes from a recent interview with the British GQ, wherein the current grand Dame of cinema freely admits to indulging in pot, LSD, and frequent shoplifting in her teens, then relates how fond she was of cocaine in the '80s before she realized that her habit was lining the pockets of Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie. Naturally, no one's going to fault Mirren for her openness–particularly about drug abuse that occurred decades in the past (and which only serves to make her seem super cool, because drugs are awesome)–but it's the second, more rape-y part of that headline that's currently causing the most stir. Recounting how she was twice "locked in a room and made to have sex against my will," Mirren nevertheless seemingly blows off any lingering ill feelings about it, and even expresses her doubts about reporting such crimes, saying:

"It's such a tricky area, isn't it? Especially if there is no violence. I mean, look at Mike Tyson. I don't think he was a rapist… I don't think [a woman] can have that man into court under those circumstances. I guess it is one of the many subtle parts of the men/women relationship that has to be negotiated and worked out between them."

Of course, some have argued that expressing such laissez-faire attitudes toward rape when so many of its victims already tend to avoid reporting it out of shame is dangerous, but hey, such critics have clearly forgotten those many delightful vagaries of young love, like: Who should pay for dinner? Should we kiss on the first date? How soon is too soon to meet the parents? Does raping you mean I can expect a visit from the police? What a magical time, etc. etc. How dare these cynics try to take the romance out of it!

- Speaking of awesome, refreshingly candid confessionals, Mirren had an exceedingly high bar to clear after the New Yorker's exhaustive (though not exhausting) profile of Alec Baldwin, which you are hereby commanded to read. In it the actor is remarkably forthcoming about his various film roles ("I did The Shadow. That was a bomb. In '94, I did Heaven's Prisoners. That was a bomb. In '95, I did The Juror. That was a bomb") and charmingly self-effacing ("I don't think I really have a talent for movie acting") in a way that makes you wish every Hollywood movie star hated himself even half as much. But while most found themselves engrossed in his "being famous kind of sucks" rant, one reader was less than amused: My Name Is Earl creator Greg Garcia, whose show received a tossed-off tongue-lashing from Baldwin while lamenting the fact that NBC treats 30 Rock like a "red-headed stepchild," but:

"They've gone out of their way to wring the last drops out of My Name Is Earl and Scrubs. Those shows are done! They're cooked! Yet they do a one-hour episode of Earl! You've got to be fucking kidding me!"

To avoid exposing our obvious bias in the battle of which show is better, we won't add further comment to Baldwin's no-punches-pulled opinions on Earl (though like many of us, even Zach Braff can't wait for Scrubs to be over at this point), but the tres-classy response Garcia recently gave to Defamer is, shall we say, less-than-convincing in this escalating war of words:

"Maybe the reason enough people aren't watching 30 Rock to make Mr. Baldwin happy is because Alec Baldwin is so unlikable as a person. 30 Rock is a really funny show. And Alec Baldwin is funny as long as someone else is writing his words. When left to his own devices, he sounds like a psychotic narcissist who whines about being rich for 8 pages in The New Yorker.

Instead of blaming NBC, I think Alec should consider that some people in America may not want to watch a man who cusses out his own 11 year old daughter on a phone message, calling her a 'rude thoughtless little pig.' It's a shame that the people who produce such a funny show have to put up with such a distasteful man on a daily basis. It makes me thankful to have such a wonderful cast on My Name Is Earl, a show that is still going strong and has helped bring an audience to 30 Rock over the last few years. You're welcome, Alec.

Oh, and the reason NBC occasionally puts on an hour-long episode of Earl is because an hour of Earl gets better ratings than an Earl followed by a 30 Rock. It's called math, stupid."


As Earl's Jaime Pressley would say (about a dozen times per episode, until it's ceased being funny and become a sort of meta-commentary on how creatively bankrupt and reliant upon catchphrases, guest stars, and painfully protracted fantasy scenarios her show has become), "Oh, snap!"

- It's been a week fraught with so much of this tiresome bickering that it's a relief to see someone finally burying the hatchet–like Kanye West and MTV, who finally agreed to patch things up this week. In case you've been too busy leading your own insignificant life to remember, in 2007 West–a man whose blackness occasionally stands in the way of his getting-a-chance-ness–initiated a "boycott" of the Video Music Awards after getting upset that his performance took place on an unbecomingly small stage (in a room filled with models in a giant skyscraper circled by helicopters), and also that he somehow failed to win any awards despite being Kanye West. And true to his word, Kanye West has refrained from performing at the Video Music Awards ever since–a show of commendable willpower helped slightly by the fact that there's only one VMAs per year. But still: He took a stand! Like Rosa Parks, the marchers from Selma, and the SDS, he fought back! And as if to underscore what a landmark year it's been already for civil rights, today comes word that West's tenacity won out: Kanye will indeed return to close out this weekend's Video Music Awards, finally bringing the national nightmare of this long, arduous stalemate to a close. (We'd call it a storybook ending–but in West's words, that might alienate "PEOPLE LIKE ME WHO DON'T LIKE 2 READ ALOT!!!")

- And speaking of things coming to an end prematurely, TV Guide passes on sad tidings from Flight Of The Conchords' Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, who say that the show's upcoming second season–which has been bumped to 2009–will probably be its last, given the "creative struggles they've encountered in making it." According to the duo, writing new songs has proved "difficult," and they're already considering the next 10 episodes to be "enough" to end on, a sentiment the group's many diehard fans will no doubt strenuously disagree with. But take heart, fans of sitcoms about bands playing slightly fictionalized versions of themselves! Noted comedy team The Jonas Brothers have recently signed on for their very own Disney Channel series, J*O*N*A*S, described by Joe Jonas ("The One Named Joe") as being "a funny show" that's all about "us as a band, but dealing with normal things like trying to take out the trash and not get hounded by fans"–a premise that's sure to stay fresh for many seasons to come, or at least until the band enters its self-serious, "latter-period-Hanson" phase sometime in 2010.

- As a reporter for CBS News, Icarus "Ike" Pappas covered many historical events ranging from the Vietnam War to the Kent State shootings to the assassination of Martin Luther King, but his most famous moment came as eyewitness to the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby. Pappas was only a few feet from Oswald in the basement of the Dallas jail on the morning of November 24, 1963, while reporting for New York radio station WNEW, and he had just asked the alleged JFK assassin, "You have anything to say in your defense?" before he was suddenly shoved aside as Ruby leapt forward and delivered the fatal blow. Pappas' shouting of, "Oswald has been shot!" (and his understated follow-up "Holy mackerel") became an indelible part of JFK assassination lore, and Pappas was later called to testify both in Ruby's trial and to the Warren Commission. Pappas later joined CBS' Washington bureau, covering the CIA and Pentagon beats, and even played a reporter in the 1988 Richard Dreyfus comedy Moon Over Parador. He died this week at the age of 75.

- Beginning in 1940 at Harcourt, editor Robert Giroux established himself early on as a man of taste and considerable skill–so much so that when he left to help create publishing house Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, over a dozen writers followed him to his fledgling company, including giants like Flannery O'Connor, Bernard Malamud, and Giroux's close friend T.S. Eliot. In his many years working for FS&G;, Giroux published some of the most noted authors in literature, many of whom often turned down a higher-paying publisher for the chance to work with him. Some of the now-classic books which he edited included O'Connor's Wise Blood, Malumud's The Natural, and Jack Kerouac's The Town And The City–though he legendarily passed on Kerouac's On The Road after complaining that there was no way he could possibly edit the author's mammoth scroll (Kerouac called him a "crass idiot"), and a higher-up at Harcourt unfortunately vetoed his interest in a little book called The Catcher In The Rye. Giroux died today at the age of 94.

- Proclaimed by the Guardian as "one of the strangest people in Britain," Ken Campbell was an eccentric writer and performer whose plays and one-man shows reflected his love of improvisation and bucking the mainstream. Campbell got his start with his eponymous ensemble The Ken Campbell Roadshow (featured in The Secret Policeman's Ball, and whose members included Bob Hoskins), but his lifetime love of science-fiction led him to co-found the Science Fiction Theatre Of Liverpool, where he staged epic plays like the eight-hour Illuminatus cycle and the 22-hour Warp, as well as an adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. He also found work in television, appearing in Fawlty Towers as the annoying "Roger," taking a recurring role on the 1980s sitcom In Sickness And In Health, and presenting numerous programs on science and the paranormal such as Reality On The Rocks and Brainspotting. Campbell died this week at the age of 66.

Have a super weekend!