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President Ann Monrovia

July 30, 2010

ann prez 2

soundtrack

Ann’s handlers are worried. The cover of this month’s Time magazine features a gorgeously cropped Annie Leibovitz photograph of starving Nebraska farmers who – as the story inside explains – have been cannibalizing one another and then swallowing insecticide to kill themselves.

But one of the more optimistic (and less empathic) public relations consultants – a brilliant fund-raiser named Brandon Vapidinski – commissions an eye-watering speech for this presidential crisis.  Before President Ann delivers it, the Oval Office’s marketing people hold focus groups to make sure the speech will change public opinion in a way that helps her approval ratings.

“Whenever I’m feeling bad about myself,” Ann faux-candidly tells the charmed TV audience, “I like to go out and buy a whole new outfit, from top to bottom. Sometimes, high price doesn’t matter when you’re feeling low.”

These words will be covered by all major media outlets. And for weeks afterward, teachers in the private schools in the few states that still have childhood education will ask students to explain what these words mean “in your own words”. 

The new outfit that Ann deploys has been strategically crafted by a cabal of international designers. It’s obvious that they’ve done their homework. Ann’s stunning shoes are brilliantly carved leather tributes to manifest destiny, and the rest of her outfit has been tailored to fit the contours of Ann’s PR needs, rather than just her perfectly-doctored figure. Even her watch yells out for approval and respect as she pushes back her ample bangs with her left forearm.

“I think that the more depressed you are, the more you should spend on fashion,” she later tells David Letterman, while sitting beside Henry Winkler on his show. At one point, while she’s sharing a scripted personal story, the Fonz places one of his hands on Ann’s thigh and says “Aayyy…” to rowdy applause.

Ann abruptly wakes up, her friend Pam sitting beside her holding a plastic bowl and a jar of Miracle Whip. “You must have eaten too many pizza pockets and passed out, Ann. You kept saying ‘fifth amendment’ and giggling while you were out.”

“I dreamed I was the president of the USA and got to buy marshmallows again.” In her dream, marshmallows had been extinct for two decades, along with barbecue sauce and cheeze ritz.

Ann’s Eleventh Grade essay assignment is sitting next to her bed in a plastic Starsky and Hutch satchel.

ann prez small

Why I want to be president

By Ann Aipac Monrovia

Submitted to:

Mrs. Polegato

Eleventh Grade Enriched English,

Deering High, Portland, April 4, 1979

I have always wanted to help people be the best they can! For that reason, I always thought I’d make a fine president, or even a decent two-termer like Richard Nixon or Alexander Graham Bell.

“What? A woman president? Wouldn’t that give everyone cooties?” you’re probably wondering.

The answer is no, it would not. My being a woman is just a way to show the guys that whatever he can do, we can do better! And I can do this without burning a bra or smoking a joint!

Upper middle class women are just as capable of being James Bond as the guys are! A female prez could just as competently use American foreign policy to help less educated people in poor countries learn valuable life lessons with the help of Q and our military. You don’t have to have snails and puppy-dog tails for brains to do something clever like that. You just need to want to help other people.

In conclusion, I think a girl president would be nicer to people but still able to carry on the torch of American Destiny. And then we wymyn will finally be free from the kitchen and bathroom, and all the other rooms of the houses we will no longer keep.

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My American Dreams

August 5, 2009

dream header

soundtrack

My American Dreams
By Ann Aipac Monrovia

Submitted to:
Mr. Tomley
Twelfth Grade Enriched English,
Deering High, Portland, May 15, 1980


My first American Dream happened after my first ever nightmare! When I was about six years old, I had a recurring nightmare where my mother gets squished by a giant Lego block.

The child psychologist at school told my parents that this was because I felt ashamed to grow up in a one-story house. So, my first American Dream was to live in a two-story house where Mommy would be safe from the blocks.

When I was seven, I got my dream! We moved into a larger bungalow with a finished basement and I stopped having that nightmare, which I later found out was a Socialist one. The new house had the same stereo system as the one that my mother dreamed about (from the Lucy Show) and had a carport which my dad dreamed about watching I Dream of Jeannie. I love to make my dad egg salad sandwiches and bring him fresh Tang when he’s thirsty, just like the very dreamy Mary Tyler Moore used to do between commercials.

Then, my American Dream of 1972 was to own an Easy-Bake oven. I cried and I cried every time I saw one on TV. But, through prayer, crying and promising not to pull my little sister’s hair, that wonderful empowering dream came true! And – not coincidentally I think – it came true on the savior’s birthday ! American Dreams are related to Jesus !

And then there’s the story in Iran. They used to have a pro-Western Shah who was in favor of Easy-bake ovens and Lite Brite. But then the people went crazy because they don’t have Christmas, and then they stopped making toys, and the people couldn’t dream correctly any more. What a tragedy for dreams.

Now, my brother Allen wants to have a phone with no wire like the crew on the USS Enterprise. Of course, it’s still just a dream, but this is America. And I’m sure that one day, he’ll be able to bravely call people who have never been called before! (Just like on the show!) Or maybe not, but it doesn’t matter. The dream lives on.

A lot of people criticize the media, but it helps us find our dreams. It’s sort of like the song “Dream Weaver.” The media weaves together the dreams of all the audience members into one big, great dream that is fantastic for everyone who watches movies and eats ice cream. And that dream is called America, and it happens every single day !

tortureland 2

..

Mr. Tomley, her draft-dodging English teacher, wrote:

Ann, you didn’t really fulfill the assignment criteria. You were supposed to discuss a modern world problem. And though you do touch on the Iran problem very briefly, you haven’t really made this the main bulk of your essay. Nonetheless, you obviously care about this subject, and you did such a good job, that I’m giving you an A.

Tourne la page !

June 25, 2009

soundtrack

tourne la page

June 24 is Quebec’s national holiday – Saint Jean Baptiste Day. Like a lot of other national holidays, it’s a time for fireworks, parades, alcohol and…franco-rock.

At my job, we listened to trance music and lounge on that day,  like we always do. It keeps the customers calm as they reach for their wallets. But the staff is pretty well 100 percent Quebecois, so we ended up talking about Quebec music, and which songs and artists we like.

For me, what really stands out in the world of franco-pop and franco-rock are the silly commercial ballads that are fed to empty-headed look-alike pop stars. Shotgun marriages between vapid, small-scale celebs and superficial, lowest common denominator pop craft says more about consumer society and the texts that spawned it than any sincere and whiny folk song about whales and women named Suzanne.

One of my favorite mind-worm songs from franco-AM radio is the soundtrack – a last-gasp of celebrity backwash from the brother-sister team of Nathalie and Rene Simard.

Let’s ignore the sexual abuse from Nathalie’s manager (a star’s gotta do), as well as brother Rene’s post-boyband media whoredom, and take a quick glance at the lyrics’ subtexts and the hidden meanings that can be discovered using only a microscope, an atom-smasher, and a bit of imagination.

First the title: Tourne la page. This is a French expression that means, literally: turn the page. But its connotative meaning is more like: move on, or carry on, or even keep moving. This refrain, like the refrains of so many other pop songs from this era and every other era, urges the listener to continue on his trajectory no matter what the consequences. It is manifesto for zombiehood.

While this may at first seem encouraging and empowering, it is more accurately the voice of an industrial Leviathon telling workers to continue on their suicidal and life-denying course no matter what their instincts say. Just keep on working – turn the page – nobody’s gonna break-a my stride – I will survive – carry on our wayward son… etc. However it’s phrased for whatever market, it always boils down to Back to your cubicle, you survivor you.

I’m sure the foremen on Egyptian pyramid-building teams had similarly encouraging words for their worker bees as well. “What happened? Your foot got crushed by that massive brick? Just turn the page!”

So it was a slave-creating text the Simards delivered to the Quebec people. And they belted out this soul-stifling message in their naturally-occurring angelic voices just so they could stay rich and famous for five more minutes.

The only interesting thing about their horrible lyrics is how they discreetly underline the relationship between slavery and text. For the Tourne la page narrative to work, the listener has to imagine that personal experience is no more valuable than a book with pages that can be quickly turned and forgotten whenever you don’t like the content. Of course, we all know that life is more serious and more complicated than a page of a novel (even novels are more complicated than Tourne la page makes them sound), but the Simard’s have ingeniously interpreted this parasitic relationship of text-preying-on-reality as a kitschy, throw-away pop song. They have spoken the unspeakable by disguising it as trite, disposable garbage. Landfill memes for better social health.

And for this reason – on the day immediately after this very important day – we thank this incestuous singing duet for their hollow and stupid words. Merci, les mercenaires!

Tourne la page

(René:) Un oiseau d’acier raie l’horizon de la plage
Griffe les nuages avion sauvage
Il trace à la craie la dernière ligne de l’histoire
Sur tableau noir comme au revoir

(Nathalie:) Un avion déchire le soir
(René:) Emporte quelque chose de moi
(Nathalie:) Un signal dans ta mémoire

Tourne la page…
(René et Nathalie:) Tourne la page

rest of lyrics

Stay-Awake Chewing Gum

April 15, 2009

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gum

When I was five, I couldn’t stay awake late enough to watch some of my favorite TV shows. This sucked, but what can you do when you’re five years old. I yearned, and I suffered.

Sure, we had normal chewing gum. But there was still no product on the market that could make your breath smell fantastic, give your jaw a good workout, and also keep you wide awake so you could watch adult TV shows with bad words and the occasional inappropriate sexual situation.

Luckily, aspartame and caffeine are part of our chewscape now. So are chemical mint flavors, and – importantly – names with Xtreme in them. This superlative suggests that sugarless chewing gum has advanced to the next level – has become a product with a mission: to push the gum-chewer to their absolute limits.

Sexism is a by-product of chewing gum

The girls who chewed gum in my high school would all have to endure being called sluts, and the guys who chewed gum were expected to suck everyone else off… eventually… when they got over their self-conscious homophobia.

Was it like this in your high school as well?

Now, I’m not suggesting that there’s a link between promiscuity and chewing gum – sugarless Xtreme or otherwise. But what I am saying is that commercial advertising constructs this link by plopping busty models into their ads, often blowing large, breast-sized bubbles.

And yet, gum is so unsexy – at least, to the gay mind that’s inside my head.

Fake History of Gum

Gum appeared in the American diet just as the worker found himself working too many hours a day, and in too high-stress a social situation, to brush his teeth regularly.

I am always surprised at how few people brush their teeth at school, on the job, and in other social situations. A toothbrush and toothpaste don’t take up that much room, and it only takes five minutes to brush your teeth.

People spend hours looking for cheap parking for their cars, but they can’t seem to find the place for a toothbrush in their pocket or purse. And it is into the illusion of time-poverty that falls the miraculous product that is Stay-Awake Chewing Gum.

The Model

gum chart

I think this graph really says it all.

Chewing gum is all about forgetting the important things, and concentrating on the most trivial: the sound of your own mouth muscles. But you can always refer to this graph when you start to feel like chewing gum is just meaningless consumption.

The math is where all the meaning lies, and this chart captures that math really well.

Stay-Awake Chewing Gum has math on its side, and that’s like having God standing right behind you with a big smile on His face, isn’t it.

Madonna’s Foreign Policy

March 24, 2009

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madonna fo po

Madonna is a global cultural ambassador – a hyperreal diplomat – providing a quasi-American voice to dance-floor citizens all over the lycra-clad world.

She is vital and complete, the product and producer of a perfect uber-culture.

Je suis désolé …[French]
Lo siento …[Spanish]
Ik ben droevig …[Dutch]
Sono spiacente …[Italian]
Perdóname …[Spanish]

Madonna first chooses French,  Spanish,  Dutch,  and Italian to apologize to the outside world on behalf of America.

The text is pretty vague as to what Madonna/America is apologizing for.  The vagueness,  a regular feature of mass-market blandness,  gives the lyrics their polysemic versatility, which is of great value to my lazy and self-indulgent interpretation of them as political signifiers.

What pray-tell is Madonna/America guilty of?  As she carefuly explains in the lyrics,  Madonna/America “doesn’t wanna know.”

She is apologizing for the sake of good form rather than out of remorse, and she is apologizing without really considering the harm that she has done or how to make amends.

Anyway, after quickly and condescendingly apologizing to France for whatever, Madonna/America says she’s sorry to Spain for – maybe – involving its citizens in a virtual war against a virtual enemy,  or something.  The vagueness is anti-intellectual and stunningly incomplete – this is a manifesto for not thinking about stuff too much. It is instinctive and cosmocentric – the clarion call of a new age of pyramid building and sore feet. I mean, just look at those slave-like abs.

As a further sign of Madonna/America’s global hegemony,  the Dutch translation of “I’m sorry”  is a poor one that actually means “I am sad” rather than “I am sorry.”  Not that Madonna/America can’t afford to hire a real translator, but why would she bother?  She’s Madonna/America.  She can do whatever she wants and just try to stop her. Bad translations – like bad intelligence – is a sign of her power, not of her weakness.

This Dutch-in-lieu-of-German snub,  like so many other linguistic themes,  is merely implied in this dance song, and never explored or explained. The depoliticizing effect of this omission is symptomatic of the general depoliticization of America’s Madonnafied imperial culture.

The political amnesia in the song says: “Madonna’s sorry for whatever, now get back to your cubicle.”

If Madonna were to post a sign at the entrance to Abu Ghraib, it would read: “Work makes you free to buy Madonna/America’s CDs.”

A Tribute to Milton Friedman

March 11, 2009

A loving tribute to Milton Friedman, my favorite modern philosopher.

Featuring the sounds of Stevie Wonder!!!

Friedman tribute

Wikipedia: “Milton Friedman (July 31, 1912 – November 16, 2006) was an American economist, statistician and public intellectual, and a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. …”

Friedman was a great modern philosopher whose currency-velocity-seeking Enlightenment “argument” places him somewhere between Machiavelli and Bob Barker.

He was the kitsch, Jewish-American version of  Sayyid Qutb who sabotaged the colonizing escapades of the modern liberal West with bad advice cleverly branded in the dialect of soundbite manifesto.

soundtrack 1

stevie wonder

Sir Milt

Money is a world within itself
With a language no one understands
With unequal opportunity
For some to sing, dance and clap their bloodied hands

But just because a record has a groove
Don’t make it in the groove
But you can tell right away at letter A
Which philosophers get the loot

Makes them suffer all over
Makes them suffer all over, sheeple
Makes them suffer all over
Makes them suffer all over, sheeple

soundtrack 2

stevie wonder

Isn’t He Money

Isn’t he money
And isn’t he log-i-cal
Isn’t he science
With truth that is quickly sold

I never thought through math we’d be
Making some lives so heavenly
But isn’t he money, made of gold

The guru speaks.

Milton Friedman was an impressive spokesmodel for greed. The glasses, the shortness, the round, bald face… all were surely chosen by the marketing team because they read as complex and yet affable genius to the average American businessman.

His marketing people knew that his most loyal supporters would be more interested in the ends of his sizzling “theories” than the means, because his clients were the ends themselves.

Friedman’s bold new interpretation of common sense demonstrated that lack of smartness doesn’t have to prevent an idea from being well received.

Or perhaps his irony wasn’t blatant enough for his time, and the people who  “didn’t get the joke” ended up ruling the world with Colonel Klink by their side.

milton friedman sig

Friedman and dumb-ox-cracy

Does Anyone Know This Plane?

March 9, 2009

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the plane

I had a few drinks with this plane at a hole-in-the-wall bar in Manila last year. The plane told me it was in a relationship that wasn’t really working out very well, but that it was totally dependent on this relationship for a place to live and fuel.

So we got a bit drunk, and I ended up contracting a nasty case of rivet rust which is highly contagious.

Does anyone know anything more about this plane?

Update:

The plane just wrote on my wall on Facebook.

“The plane is thinking about playing poker online.”

How did I get hooked up with such a normal aircraft?

Update 2:

Planes are ruining my life. Every time I open my eyes in the morning, I can see the oil stains on the pillow beside my head and it makes me cry jet fuel and microwaved coffee.

(If you know anything about the whereabouts of the plane, please leave the information in the comments at the bottom of this post)

Why People Buy Luxury Brands

March 7, 2009

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lux flood

At some point in your adult life, you realize you’ve sacrificed most of your personality in the name of economic considerations whether these considerations are real or constructed – biological or status-seeking.

It’s at this point in your lifestyle-and-career that you begin to need inanimate objects that seem to have a personality – just the thing you lost over the course of your Consumerist “life.”

So I posit that the “need” for BMW, Prada, Disney, Iphone and Haagen Dazz is created by people who’ve lost their souls to Consumerism, and are aggressively trying to buy it back.

Sadly, I’ve never seen this strategy succeed in replacing the real personality that a consumer drone lost in himself. You can’t buy back a lost soul. You can only stop being distracted by snake-oil salesmen mythology and wait patiently as it (hopefully) grows back.

For many people, luxury items like cars and mansions are a “need” that they have, though it can’t really be logically demonstrated how the possession of these objects really helps improve their lives. Most owners of automobiles – for example – spend a quarter of their waking lives driving, parking, or paying for their life-improving object.

Hard to believe humanity is willing to sacrifice most of its free time in order to buy the “luxury” of spending time listening to CDs in traffic. It may be true that leather is more “luxurious” than cloth upholstery, but it’s also true that free time is far more important to anyone’s happiness than leather upholstery.

All of this identity-seeking-via-products is constructed via marketing and branding. These products have little to do with relieving any craving that people just naturally have. Cavemen didn’t sit around pining for the day they could tear around corners at 120 kmh in Corinthian leather. They were just happy being able to eat food, hang out, and live out of water.

Of course, some would say we’re so much more sophisticated now because of our sudden attraction to brands and machine pedigree. Others might ask, “Why do we have to leave our homes because of the floods?”

:: Capital, Volume One
:: Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen
:: A lively PoFo discussion on this essay

thanks for bumper cars

Author pix

March 4, 2009

cell portrait

mullah fist

autographed portrait

saint germain


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