Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Year End Pirate Awards, Part 2

Song of the Year: I Need a Dollar by Aloe Blacc. Buttery neo soul with a killer flow. This is the anthem of 2010 -- particular in the throes of The Great Recession -- on the real. It is not inconceivable that it will be this era's anthem not unlike "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" was the soundtrack to the Great Depression, back in the thick. Honorable Mentions: that infectious little international thug anthem "Now That's Some Gansta Shit"; Thomas Ad├Ęs: Tevot, Violin Concerto, Three Studies from Couperin, Dances from Powder Her Face (melancholy, stately); Milk Teeth by The Japanese Voyeurs, Deerhunter Desire Lines and, of course, Ce-Lo, Fuck You.

Mi Vida Loca: Diane Von Furstenberg, "Huntress". Hyperkinetic, she lives a fast paced jet-setting life; she's taking on China. This fashion-forward lady with the killer cheekbones doesn't do pause. The self-described "Huntress" lives an unconventional -- and hugely interesting -- life. Her husband, Barry Diller, also has interesting vacations (please Barry, don't crack our skull). From PageSix Magazine:

Diane has also spoken about her wild, flirtatious life in New York City after the divorce, and the dalliances that may have given her more sympathy towards (Ali Von Furstenberg's) little games. "I had fun with men," she told Town & Country. "I was a very, very big huntress," she said of her thirties.

... Regular rules that guide family life don't seem to apply to the von Furstenberg clan, where prolonged engagements can last for years, happily married couples live in separate apartments, and even exes remain close to the fold. Diane and Barry met for the first time in Manhattan in 1975 at a party. She was 28. He was the 32-year-old future billionaire chairman of the board of Paramount Pictures. "I was the first woman he was with," Diane told Interview in 2008. They were regulars at Studio 54, where their crew included Warren Beatty and Calvin Klein. The couple dated for five years and split. But he was always there, she says, waiting for her to tire of her momentary flings. "Barry has loved me unconditionally for 34 years," says Diane. "I did leave him, and I went with other men, but they always ended up being jealous of Barry, and not the other way around. At the end, he got me, and I'm happy he got me. He's the pillar of our family."
She finally married him in 2001 as a birthday present. For their wedding, Barry gave Diane 26 wedding bands, representing all the years they were not married. Today, Diane wears a few of the bands on her right hand. "I moved them because I broke this finger," she says, explaining why she wore no band on her left ring finger. "None of that is important. What's important is the love and the commitment. Not the outside."

Huntresses of the world, hunt on.

Stench of Desperation: Vanity Fair's Tiger Woods' Mistresses Story. Yawn. Graydon, apparently, goes in for the breast-and-cheesecake combo, which is not on the menu at The Waverly Inn.

WTF: Is this the only way to get African-Americans in the pages of VF? The huntresses of an athlete? And -- mirabile dictu! -- these "huntresses" don't even make cool wrap-around dresses for career women! Someone alert the media! Id-oriented sports stars cheat? This isn't something that everyone already knows? The comments section of the online edition of the story make my argument far stronger than anything The Corsair has to say on the subject. Mitigating factor: As dumb as this story is, it is still better than another Vanity Fair dead celebrity cover.

Manuever of the Year: President Obama Tacks to the Center. The President tacked left out of the gate in 2008. Now, with political realities changed in the House and Senate, he moves the ship of state back towards the Center. With two major legislative victories at year's end how could this award go to anyone other than Barack Obama?

Don't hate the player, hate the game. If men were angels we wouldn't need Social Security and the products of The New Deal. Men are not, and we do. The progressive left -- bless their idealistic souls -- cannot underswtand that in order to make such legislation Presidents have to descend from the ethers and cut deals in the United States Senate.

Gettin Old: Howard Stern. Though he is only 56, Howard Stern certainly acts like he is twice that age. Waah, the poor guy, getting paid $80 million a year in cash to put on a 5 hour a day 4 day a week live radio show. I fucking blog more than that; a lot of people do. Now Stern wants to lessen his hours and/or work later on in the day, after morning drive time when most people are on the way to work, waking up to go to work longer than 5 hour days and really could use a dose of adult humor. His lack of drive, the drive that got him to the top of the radio heap is childish and dismissive of his fans who now pay for the privilege of hearing him. With all due respect to the so-called "King of all Media": piss or get off the pot, Mr. Potty Mouth. You are not setting a good example for your fellow Baby Boomers.

Most Interesting Idea:  Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson call the 'winner-take-all economy.' It takes a lot to make foreign policy -- with its high learning curve -- sexy. This idea, posited by two political scientists is that, and more. Agree or disagree with the conclusions of their thesis, their data is spot on and worthy of robust conversation. Their theory, from Foreign Policy:

The wealthiest Americans, among them presumably the very titans of global finance whose misadventures brought about the financial meltdown, got richer. And not just a little bit richer; a lot richer. In 2009, the average income of the top five percent of earners went up, while on average everyone else's income went down. This was not an anomaly but rather a continuation of a 40-year trend of ballooning incomes at the very top and stagnant incomes in the middle and at the bottom. The share of total income going to the top one percent has increased from roughly eight percent in the 1960s to more than 20 percent today.

This is what the political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson call the 'winner-take-all economy.' It is not a picture of a healthy society. Such a level of economic inequality, not seen in the United States since the eve of the Great Depression, bespeaks a political economy in which the financial rewards are increasingly concentrated among a tiny elite and whose risks are borne by an increasingly exposed and unprotected middle class. Income inequality in the United States is higher than in any other advanced industrial democracy and by conventional measures comparable to that in countries such as Ghana, Nicaragua, and Turkmenistan. It breeds political polarization, mistrust, and resentment between the haves and the have-nots and tends to distort the workings of a democratic political system in which money increasingly confers political voice and power.

It is as American as apple pie of the gourmet variety, of course. Populists will have a field day with this; centrists and conservatives will cavil against -- let the great conversation begin!

Feud of the Year: Gore Vidal versus Christopher Hitchens. Christopher Hitchens, whom I interned for at The Nation in 1995, attacked Vidal. He did so in the pages of Vanity Fair, a glossy make-believe place where Gore used to write, adding insult to injury. The feud was significant because Vidal and Hitchens are two of America's foremost intellectuals, heralded the world over. Also, Gore had previously declared Hitchens his "intellectual heir," his daupin -- a position now vacant. Hitchens accused Gore of being a crackpot for his controversial theory about the September 11th attacks. Vidal duly disinherited Hitchens. It was old school.

Gore Vidal is hard to classify. A first Amendment semi-Left Libertarian, Gore has a bit of patriotic America First in his blood. He is a literary intellectual (as is Hitchens) and in this age of economists, he is a rarity harkening back to an age when well-read literary intellectuals did combat in the gladiatorial fundament, actually showeing up in media precincts as unlikely as late night network TV (pre-Charlie Rose). That age has past, and this feud is most significant for the lack of attention it actually received in the popular media, which is presently more obsessed with the size of Kim Kardashian's ass. Perez Hilton -- heaven help us -- is now our public intellectual. And we are much the poorer for it.

Alas, both intellectual combattants are on their way, exit stage left (or, in the case of Hitchens, stage neo-right by way of an awkward leftward entrance). We will probably not see thier likes again. People no longer read -- or fight, for that matter -- with the intensity and headiness of these two last and best of breed.

Mystery of the Year: Is Bayh a quitter? No one quite expected much of Governor Palin, a maverick, a wild card, a minor Governor of a small renegade province at the outer periphery of Our Empire. But Senator Evan Bayh is another kettle of fish altogether! He is beltway royalty and knows the Game and plays at a high level (Democrats didn't always have ease in winning office statewide in Indiana, yo; fer realsies).

Which leads us to the question -- Whither Evan Bayh? His monumental boringness notwithstanding (mitigating factor: Bayh's inscrutible Senator Hair), Evan Bayh seemed perfectly poised to be somewhere -- either at the top or holding up the rear -- on the Democrat Presidential ticket in 2016. And then -- what? The Corsair is still a bit confused as to what actually happened. Why did he decide not to even fight for his Senate seat in 2010? I wrote, then:
Is Evan Bayh really a Centrist? True Centrists, to be sure, are politically quite wise and philosophically quite principled. They eschew the fringes and value compromise.

Does that describe Senator Evan Bayh? Or is he -- as many think -- a son of a politician (Not unlike Al Gore during his unremarkable Senate career but not so much now) who grew up acutely aware of the wedge issues that caused their fathers' campaign defeat? Is he seeking, above all else, to avoid take a stand on a politically fraught issue? In other words, is Evan Bayh's centrism deterministic, a masterful navigation of a second-generation pol seeking to never get caught on the controversial side of any issue on the example of his father?

Fathers and Sons. A story older than the Republic.

The What the Fuck Award: HBO's True Blood. I get it -- True Blood is flossing a serious Gothic trailer trash Danzig vibe. The theme of the show is decidedly grotty and roadhouse and backcountry. Really, I get that. Class and race are up for grabs in their broad satirical canvas splattered with sanguinary red. True Blood is essentially depicting the type of voters that Hillary Clinton went after in 2008, only, of course better looking when naked (Averted Gaze).

It's all good.

That having been said, it seemed like the only superpower that African-Americans have on this show populated by meta-humans is the uncanny ability to fucking cry in moments of great adversity as well as take phenomenal amounts of torturous sexual punishment. And the whole werewolf-Nazi storyline is just plain creepy -- and not in a good way. It's creepywhen Pat Buchanan says Hitler was "terrible" in his most theatrical voice, then adds, in closing, "but he was a great man"

I would like to say here and now that I have watched every episode at least once. The Corsair was one of the few people who defended the show on the Gawker commenter boards, back when the shadenfreude ran thick. Now, of course, everyone there loves the show -- it is even a premium advertiser on Gawker Media. But the lack of a strong and serious African-American character on the show rankles.
Crying is not really a superpower African-Americans would like to have. It's a long story, guys. So -- can we have an episode in the upcoming season in which Tara is not crying and being raped and Lafayette is not doing his most uncanny impression of Stepin FetchitThanks.

Best Political theater: Bill Clinton. Bill can't help himself, the man has appetites! Jay Z once said quite accurately that everyone can relate to Bill Clinton, everyone has an uncle like Bill. And on Thanksgiving it is the matriarch of the family that makes sure that our good old Uncle Bill is not left alone with any of the young girls in the family. And that old uncle Bill doesn't oversalt his plate or drink too much whisky.

When Obama allowed Bill to share the lecturn he probably knew what was what. Obama needed a face, an optic for his radical policy shift. That optic was Bill, who, of course, would never say no to being center stage once again. Journalists in search for a great headline of course couldn't resist in making a bigger deal out of it all than it actually was. Howie Kurtz wrote: "You could practically hear Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow in the background."

Right. The 90s. That magical wonderland of irrational exuberance where everyone could buy several homes on credit and companies like were all the rage (The Corsair sips a vivid Chardonnay). Oh Bill Clinton, how the age mirros the man.

Still, it was tremendous political theater.

And speaking of political theater ... The Oedipus Wrecks Award: Mugabe. Dictators, like supermodels and pop music stars, are recognized by a single name. If Zimbabwe was a play it would be a farce and it would be called "The Race Mousetrap," with genial nods to William Shakespeare.

But this is more ancient and more evil than anything in the essentially idealistic oeuvre of Shakespeare. It is actually astonishing how accurate Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus -- the West's literary masterpiece nonpareil -- becomes when applied as a template to the actual political situation that is any dictatorship in general, but Robert Mugabe's in particular. The unholy mega-evil that is political dictatorship -- the rule of a dead soul over an entire hostage nation -- actually, literally poisons the land. The AIDS rate in Zimbabwe is a perfect metaphor for the plague in Oedipus' Thebes. Tragedy and Politics are one.

The thing that drives The Corsair to distraction is how many serious politically-minded observers turn to jelly when Mugabe brings up the subject of race on the southern tip of the Dark Continent. Their eyes sort of roll back in their heads, a sharp tone of anger enters into the debate and they begin to lose focus on the fact that the man who is making this spurrious argument is. A. Dictator! Keep your eye on the prize people -- the freedom of the people of Zimbabwe.

Yes, British colonialism in Zimbabwe was swinish, filthy, disgusting and humiliating. Yes, the West -- particularly Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party -- went into the fetid bed with Mugabe, even as his excesses were on plain view for the world to see in the Daffy Duck logic that prevailed during the Cold War where the entire continent of Africa was but a minor pawn in the Great Game between the United States and the then-Soviet Union.

But Mugabe is a dictator who'se iron grip has held Zimbabwe for three decades! Don't be caught in the racial mousetrap directed by the brilliantly evil political theater's "owner," Robert Mugabe.

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