Barack–y Mountain Higgggghhh…..
So here we are once again in the midst of the cartoonishly overblown utter lunacy that is a presidential election. The intellectual dishonesty is flying thicker than fruitcake and badly sung carols at Christmas time, and I for one am happier that the proverbial pig in equally proverbial shit. I’m a nerd at a comic book convention, a stoner in a room full of pot smoke, a right-wing Republican surrounded by greased up, engorged male strippers.
And yet, it’s all been too much. There has been such a constant, massive flow of material — wave after endless wave — that I’ve been simply unable to write about it. I just keep taking it in, and taking it in, and taking it in … and I can’t get a goddamned angle on it! My brain, both of my typing fingers: it was all just shut down.
That is until I received word that eight people had been gunned down over a John Denver song. It was stewed prunes to my literary colon.
Yes, m’readers, once again a butterfly flaps its tattered wing over in Thailand and my mind is blown here on the other side of the world. Once more I look at an example of some of the worst that mankind has to offer and see it as nothing more or less than high comedy.
A gunman in Thailand shot dead eight neighbors, including his brother-in-law, after tiring of their karaoke versions of popular songs, including John Denver’s “Country Roads.”
John Denver Karaoke Night got somebody shot. Check. Karmically speaking, I’m already doomed here.
Weenus Chumkamnerd, 52, put his gun to the head of a respected female doctor and seven of her guests as they partied at her home in Songkhla Province, South Thailand.
Weenus? The guy who blasted a party full of people for singing John Denver songs is named Weenus? I mean, fine, I can almost grant him the whole “John Denver songs made me snap and execute a room full of people” thing on a certain sociopathic level. But Weenus? Holy fuck, man! I think I just solved my writer’s block! At the expense of my own soul, sure, but hey, it’s not like I was using it for much of anything anyway.
God damn it, why’d he have to be named friggin’ Weenus?! He could have been named Ham or Fred or some such thing, and I could have let the whole thing go with a raised eyebrow and not a byte more bandwidth wasted. But no... I’m stuck with it, and now so are you.
“When I began shooting, nobody pleaded for his life because they were all drunk,” he said after his arrest.
This has got to be the strangest criterion for the continuation of a killing spree I’ve ever heard. Not that I’ve heard that many. But how far beyond the friendly confines of relative sanity would any of us have to be to say, “Well, they were too drunk to complain, and I figured they didn’t mind. So I just went right on shooting them”? (I mean, other than if we were in a room full of Insane Clown Posse fans and happened to be packing a gat?)
He said he was so furious with their awful singing that he did not notice he had murdered his own brother-in-law.
A rage so blind, brought on by bad singing (okay, be fair, absolutely bloody fucking awful singing) that one doesn’t even notice that one has capped a member of one’s own immediate family…
“I warned these people about their noisy karaoke parties. I said if they carried on, I would go down and shoot them. I had told them if I couldn’t talk sense into them, I would come back and finish them off,” he added.
…even though one evidently WARNED said family member of his own impending doom should he not keep his tin-eared, full-throated Denvering antics to a minimum.
Mr. Chumkamnerd, who works as a rubber tapper, was arrested after going on the run after his killing spree in the town of Hat Yai, near the Malaysian border.
Weenus the rubber tapper? Jesus, man, I never had a fucking chance with this whole “refrain from mocking a bloodbath” thing, did I? Dare I even ask what, specifically, a “rubber tapper” might be? Yes, of course I dare. Anyone who’s known me for more than about five minutes understands that I’m compelled beyond my own volition to ask for clarification when a phrase (let alone a job title!) like “rubber tapper” lands in my lap.
So, in an effort to add to my ever-expanding wikipedic knowledge about the world around me, I went right to the source:
Rubber tapping is the process by which rubber is gathered. An incision is made in the bark of a rubber tree. The fluid then drains into a vessel.
In short, Weenus is a sap sucker. Holy shit, man, and it’s not even my birthday!
A neighbor said that the karaoke group normally sang Thai pop and southern Thai ballads, but one particular western tune could be heard often: John Denver’s “Country Roads.”
“Country Roads” is a hugely popular song in south east Asia, and the neighbor said the revelers had been singing it over and over again.
Of course! Because, y’know, when you and your reveler buddies are singing a steady repertoire of Thai pop songs and ballads, nothing brings it all together like a song about West Virginia written by a guy from Colorado.
Okay, let’s review: a tone-deaf bunch of Thai karaoke addicts got a stiffy for a John Denver song and proceeded to loudly sing it over and over again in a private residence. Weenus the Disgruntled Sap-Sucker, apparently already living way too close to the edge and bombarded with a nonstop Drunken Caterwaul Dance Remix of “Country Roads,” kicked in his neighbor’s door whilst waving a gun (“Chicago! Bang-bang!”). When the drunken crowd, oblivious in their Denverian reverie, failed to suggest to him that perhaps they’d prefer not to have a series of caps busted in their collective ass, the Ween-Man started shooting up the joint. Only after the smoke cleared did he realize that among the now-silenced karaokists was his own brother-in-law.
And thus was this author’s sense of Schadenfreude thawed out after a particularly long, ass-chapping deep freeze, allowing me to move on to subjects of deeper portent: American politics, of course, and the shenanigans that always seem to accompany it hand-in-hand. At last, the 2008 presidential campaign has focused itself into what it always was and should never have stopped being for me: unintentionally funny entertainment.
I do believe that Barack Obama is the only one who has any business being president, due largely to the fact that he’s the least likely to smash the place up while he’s in office. But beyond that aspect, there’s been a lot of bizarre shit to enjoy. I will, however, limit my observations to a merciful few.
First off, The John McCain Show. Somehow, some way, through some strange confluence of drunken and/or seriously-off-their-meds moments, the Republicans have managed to put up a presidential nominee who makes Bob Dole circa 1996 seem young, vibrant, and absolutely bursting with Leader-of-the-Free-World spunk by comparison.
But really, it's not so much that McCain is old as it is the fact that (despite the lingering shivers that it apparently continues to send up Chris Matthews' leg) his road-worn old maverick persona has finally fallen apart like the Bluesmobile right after Jake and Elwood abandoned it outside the Daley Center. What’s left is the integrity-free vote whore that John McCain has always been. He's not even bothering to try to keep his bullshit straight anymore, and this promises to bring us a cornucopia of ridiculous moments over the coming months.
The thing is, McCain's speeches are starting to sound more and more like outtakes from old Firesign Theatre albums, and as far as I'm concerned that's pure gold in itself. He sounds disturbingly like Phil Austin doing an addlepated corporate executive character, for one thing. Moreover, his material is just so surreal in its inanity that it literally does start sounding like an old Firesign script. From the repeated use of the phrase “my friends” to punctuate every other paragraph (which my brain filtered into the old Firesign equivalent “dear friends” ages ago), to the full, undigested chunks of pure batshittery that come tumbling out of his mouth on a regular basis, large swaths of John McCain's speeches could easily have been side three of “Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers.”
Yes, dear friends, John McCain is a man of such thoroughly stripped gears, afflicted by conversational skills so lumberingly elephantine, that in his little “prebuttal” speech on the evening that Obama clinched the Democratic nomination he actually said,:
Yep, he actually said that. Christ only knows what it was that he thought he was saying, but there it is: an almost perfect moment of rhetorical derangement. The only thing lacking was any sort of appropriate follow up. Something like, oh, say:
Because y'know, my friends, if there's one thing I learned during my period of self-reflection in Hanoi all those years ago, it's that nothing cures a case of dehydration quite like a good, old-fashioned scalding, just like mother used to give us.
Yo, Captain Maverick! I speak fluent Surreality, so how's about giving me a job as one of your speechwriters? Y'know, for when the rest of your team has to be back at the home to watch that afternoon's Matlock rerun? I'd gladly take their meds and pick up the slack for ya! Just say the word.
Next up, and even more hilarious, is the arm-flailingly out of control media during the entire campaign season (meaning, since about 30 seconds after the polls closed after the November 2006 midterm elections). I have rarely seen such puerile, infantile drivel passing for political analysis and interviewing in my life, especially when the Democratic primary was still going. The 24-hour news networks were so desperate for the primary to become as dirty a street fight as possible, for as long as possible, that they frantically fanned away at any little spark of controversy, hoping like mad for it to flare up into a full-on firestorm and turn the political landscape into Dresden circa January 1945.
And as always, the way they went about it was laughably pathetic most of the time. They tried and tried to light things up during the Democratic debates with their “Lets you and her fight!” approach to moderating. For those of you who were fortunate enough to be doing absolutely anything else besides watching those debates, they can basically be summed up as follows:
Senator Obama, imagine you were made of cake. Let’s say chocolate. And suddenly Osama bin Laden was coming after you with a fork and a thermos of milk.
Do you think that the United States could afford, at this time, in the middle of a war, with all the challenges it faces both at home and abroad, to have a president who is made out of cake? Particularly chocolate cake?
How do you respond to all this, and how do you feel that it affects your campaign going forward?
Yes, I made that up. And no, it’s not appreciably different than the kind of questions that debate moderators like the late Tim Russert actually posed to both Democratic frontrunners. You could practically see the “chatterati’s” expectant faces deflate every time Obama and Clinton refused to start clawing at one another like wolverines.
And you could also hear the collective boinnngggg! of these same people’s nether regions engorging with pure delight when the Clinton campaign suddenly realized that they were losing the primary, and decided therefore to begin heaving absolutely everything they could get their hands on at Obama. Suddenly the horse race had turned into Death Race 2008, and professional rubberneckers like Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough couldn’t have been more thrilled to exploit the Clinton campaign’s “kitchen sink strategy” and to help them out as much as possible.
Nowhere was this more evident than during the fiasco surrounding Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and some less-than-glowing terms in which he'd described various aspects of American culture and power brokering. Evidently in 2008 it is supposed to be unheard of for black folks, particularly older ones, to still harbor any sort of bitterness or resentment about the persistent racial divide in this country — at least according to white political commentators frantically scrabbling for a story.
Now, it's not like right-wing pastors don't regularly start waxing psychotic about how the Jews, the gays, the liberals, and “them thar Moozlims” are responsible for everything from hurricanes to earthquakes to the acid reflux epidemic. John McCain has had several of these chuckleheads on his campaign team so far, but all he had to do was to quietly ditch one or two of the most blatantly insane ones and the media basically forgot about it.
But when somebody from Obama's church was discovered to have leveled a few critiques at the U.S. power structure, suddenly everyone started getting the vapors and fretting as conspicuously as possible about what kind of Black Panther Manchurian Candidate Obama must actually be. I mean gadzooks! Obama’s pastor not only said something bad about rich white people, but he also criticized America! Get me to the nearest settee, lest I faint dead away into a big ol’ pile of scented petticoats and beauty marks.
And of course, by far the funniest part of this whole contrived brouhaha was the fact that Obama turned right around and responded to this nonsense by writing and delivering what may very well be one of the Great Speeches of our time. Somehow, out of the juvenile attempts of the Clinton campaign and the news media to turn the Democratic primary into the chair-smashingest Jerry Springer episode known to man, Obama managed to craft the single most statesman-like moment of his career thus far.
As I watched him giving his “A More Perfect Union” speech, shaking my head and marveling that something this honest and powerful actually came from a man who may very well be our next president, I couldn’t help but laugh at the cartoonishly cheap and petty political antics that had pushed him to give that brilliant speech in the first place. I was truly surprised to realize that coarse Schadenfreude and fine admiration can actually coexist within me.
As long as they shut off the goddamned karaoke machine by 10:00 on a school night, lest I end up having to go all Weenus on their asses. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.
Copyright 2008, Patrick Russell
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