Satirical Shallow

Coming Soon to a Theater Near Iowa

“The Love Story of 2004!” -CNN
“Almost as hot as Howard Dean!” -Ain’t it Cool News

Grave Unintentionally Hilarious

Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, vol. 12



Bush and his electorate

MAIN PHOTO: U.S. President George W. Bush points the way for his dog, Spot, before boarding Air Force One on January 3, 2004 in Waco, Texas. Seeking to tout his domestic agenda in an election year, President Bush said the education bill he signed two years ago was spurring reform at local schools. ‘We have recently received test results that show America’s children are making progress,’ Bush said in his first radio address of the new year. (Mike Theiler/Reuters)
INSET: While Democrats stump to replace him in neighboring Iowa, President George W. Bush begins the election year on January 5, 2004 by visiting Missouri to promote his education reforms and raise campaign money. Bush leaves St. John’s Church in Washington, January 4. (William Philpott/Reuters)


Sarah Silverman, narcoleptics’ best friend

“Ms. Silverman also confirmed that her friend [Lizz Winstead] is narcoleptic. ‘Did she tell you that?’ Ms. Silverman asked. ‘She has no problem taking pills to make her stay awake. Otherwise, she’s out by 9.’ Ms. Winstead’s condition was diagnosed about 15 years ago,” Lefty Radioheads Bite Back by Rachel Donadio, The New York Observer Jan. 7, 2004.
“[Jimmy Kimmel] did not own a jacket, and besides, he’s mostly colorblind. He is also narcoleptic, but that’s another story,” In the Land of the Insomniac, the Narcoleptic Wants to Be King by Bill Carter, The New York Times Magazine, Nov. 3, 2002.


Older and Wiseass

mortsahl.jpgComedian and free-range provocateur Mort Sahl is interviewed by Stephen Thompson in this week’s Onion A.V. Club (which may or may not be a reprint of an older interview). Having recently watched the 1989 documentary Mort Sahl: The Loyal Opposition as part of Trio‘s “Uncensored Comedy Month,” I was expecting some great insights from the man who pioneered radical political humor fifty years ago at a time when most comics were still wearing tuxedoes on stage and asking us to please take their wives. (You can watch a Quicktime clip of him in action here.)
With his everyman uniform, relaxed posture, and ever-present newspaper under his arm, Sahl was the living embodiment of Norman Rockwell’s painting Freedom of Speech, questioning, mocking, and needling pieties of the Right and the Left. As shown in the documentary, Sahl sort of went off the rails after JFK was killed, reading lengthy excerpts from The Warren Commission Report onstage. Eventually, he retreated into a satellite-TV equipped fortress of solitude where he continues to read dozens of news magazines a month, keeping up on current events but keeping his opinions mostly to himself.
Unfortunately, The A.V. Club interview is sort of slow going and, in some passages, a bit incoherent. I’m not sure whether this was due to difficulty editing down a long interview, or if Sahl’s thoughts ricochet at such odd trajectories that following them is impossible. Also, Sahl repeatedly contradicts himself: despite Thompson’s admirable attempt to nail Sahl down on why he’s written jokes for Ronald Reagan and George Bush (it’s not specified if they’re talking about Bush 41 or Bush 43), he somehow wriggles free and never quite answers the question. (“Reagan had a pretty ready sense of humor, although they were basic jokes—anti-Communist jokes and all. So I just found it easier…”)
Reading the whole thing, though, I was able to pan a little gold. Here’s Sahl talking almost directly to his closest contemporary progeny (both in intellectual and linguistic nimbleness and political Rightward slouching), Dennis Miller:

I dare say that if most comedians today, the gifted ones, were to sit down and write, they’d learn more about their craft. But what happens is they get out there before they learn what their viewpoint is, if any. They’re all sort of pseudo-Republicans. In case they make money, they’re Republicans. In the unlikely event they’re successful. [Laughs.]

And here’s Sahl talking to Conan O’Brien, Tina Fey, and David Letterman:

You’ve got a society that not only isn’t courageous, but even the apprehension of discomfort makes them roll over. Three years later, the late-night comedians are still making fun of George W. Bush being dense, right?
When people write comedy from neutrality, it just gets kind of silly. A lot of the guys are invested, like that Saturday Night Live crowd, in rebellion against authority, and that makes them indiscriminate. They only hate a guy because he’s in leadership. But they don’t really pin the fact that he’s a war criminal on him.

One last thought from Mort before he disappears back into isolation: “The relentless liberalism of the comedians is awful, too. We could use one good Leftist instead of all those liberals. [Laughs.] Or one good Rightist, if he had a sense of humor. The righteousness is what kills me in a lot of these people. They’re so right about everything, and so pious. Where did the fun go?”


(Hopefully) Revealed: Contents of the Egyptian Burrito

Fans of Shopsin’s, the totally sui generis restaurant-cum-mad scientist lab in the West Village are about to have their favorite spot’s cover blown big time.
As readers of Calvin Trillin’s amusing New Yorker article, “Don’t Mention It” (April 15, 2002) might recall, Shopsin’s is an extremely eccentric little restaurant where you can experience Cotton Picker Gumbo Melt Soup or Pecan Chicken Wild Rice Cream Enchilada, or literally dozens of other dishes you will never see anywhere else. (According to blogger Rachelle Bowden there are over 100 soups on the menu which is available as a PDF file on their Web site. It’s 11 pages long and denser than a Dr. Bronner’s Soap label.)
In addition to the weird menu, there are the weird rules. Writes Trillin:

For years, a rule against copying your neighbor’s order was observed fairly strictly. Customers who had just arrived might ask someone at the next table the name of the scrumptious-looking dish he was eating. Having learned that it was Burmese Hummus—one of my favorites, as it happens, even though it is not hummus and would not cause pangs of nostalgia in the most homesick Burmese—they might order Burmese Hummus, only to have Eve shake her head wearily. No copying. That rule eventually got downgraded into what Ken called “a strong tradition,” and has now pretty much gone by the wayside.

Shopsin’s is about to go huge as I Like Killing Flies, a documentary by photographer, graphic artist, and music video vet (and notorious O.J. Simpson Time Magazine photo manipulator) Matt Mahurin is now part of The 2004 Sundance Film Festival’s Documentary Competition.
I hope I Like Killing Flies gets distribution, since I’m curious to see it and learn more about the inner workings of Shopsin’s and Kenny and Eve Shopsin, the owners and sole employees. I’m a bit surprised they agreed to the film, since Trillin paints a portrait of Kenny as, how shall I put this, a tad publicity shy: ” I’ve managed to write about Shopsin’s from time to time, always observing the prohibition against mentioning its name or location.” (Later in the same piece, Trillin admits that Kenny softened towards the press after he was forced to briefly close and relocate his restaurant: “[N]ot long ago Kenny told me that it was no longer necessary to abide by the rule against mentioning the place in print.” Phew!)
Here’s a prediction: We can expect articles on Kenny and Eve Shopsin cropping up in The New York Post, New York Magazine, Will Ferrell behind the counter at the grill, perhaps?) and elsewhere in the months following Sundance. I hope Shopsin’s can weather the publicity storm. But then again, after doing their own thing for so many decades, it’s probably pretty gratifying to see people lining up outside their restaurant. I just hope everyone remembers to turn off their cell phones and keep their parties under 4.


I give this quote three stars

Further proof that critics sometimes actually speak—and think—in blurbs, The Times‘ A.O. Scott goes back to his lit crit roots in Slate‘s annual “Year in Movies”:

I happened upon this piece, in which Louis Menand breezily mocks the conventions of year-end list-making (without, of course, deigning to suffer what he rightly calls the “anguish” of making his own list). The piece is funny and well worth reading, if a bit glib.

Somehow I think that if articles had posters, this quote would be shortened to “‘Funny! Worth Reading!’—Slate. (Of course Peter Travers said of the same piece: “Astounding! Will Make You Stand Up and Cheer—Even if you’re reading it on the Toilet!”—Rolling Stone)


On Behalf of the entire News Corporation Family, we offer our condolences

A tearful Regis Philbin bid a fond farewell to his family’s beloved cat, Ashley, on yesterday’s “Live with Regis & Kelly.”
Regis Loses a Cat
I was moved yesterday by Regis Philbin’s announcement that his cat, Ashley, had passed away. I remember the early stories of Ashley when he had to have a tooth pulled. Regis is an excellent imitation of him then. That’s more than 15 years ago. My sympathies to Regis, Joy, JJ and Joanna. (Roger Friedman)


Linguistic Terrorists

First off, this is not some right-wing reference to Noam Chomsky.
Rather, consider this a well-meaning notice to pundits and politicos that it may be time to refrain from your excessively liberal usage of the loaded lexicon of “terrorism” and its popular siblings, “terror” and “terrorist”.
In last year’s State of the Union address, for instance, President Bush made use of this “terror trilogy” a striking 21 times, according to the LA Weekly.
And last month, researchers at Syracuse University pored through Justice Department records to better examine Attorney General John Ashcroft’s braggadocio-inducing, supposedly “successful” prosecution of the War on Terror™, I mean, “Terror”. Their results may be considered surprising, at least if you’re the sort of overworked and under-relaxed American who occasionally watches CNN when not flipping through the 11PM local newscasts or 6PM Moesha reruns.

“TRAC data shows that convictions in cases the Justice Department says are related to international terrorism jumped 7 1/2 times compared with the two years before the attacks – from 24 to 184 – but the number of individuals who received sentences of five or more years actually dropped, from six in the two years before the attacks to three in the two years that followed.
When crimes the Justice Department said were related to domestic terrorism are included, convictions jump from 96 before the attacks to 341 after. Despite that dramatic increase, the number of those individuals who received sentences of five or more years dropped from 24 to 16.
…In what authorities describe as a strategy of prevention, potential or suspected terrorists are being charged since the 2001 attacks with minor nonterrorism crimes to get them off the street or out of the country.
…Federal authorities in New Jersey initially included attempts by 65 Middle Eastern men to cheat on an English-language entrance exam among their “terrorism-related” cases, briefly boosting terrorism prosecutions in that state from two to 67. The categorization was changed after it was reported in the media.”

And then there’s this verbal gadfly from today’s Arizona Republic, in what very well may be the straw that broke the terrorist’s back:

“Family members of slain soldier Lori Piestewa lashed out at the media Wednesday for practicing ‘domestic terrorism’ by televising a tape of the badly wounded Piestewa in an Iraqi hospital bed shortly before her death.
‘This terrorism was not from any foreign group wishing to harm the United States but from our own people wanting to make a quick buck off the misfortune of two young women,’ a prepared statement from the Piestewa family said of NBC’s decision to air the tape on their Nightly NewsTuesday. Several cable channels picked it up, but local affilliate, Channel 12 (KPNX) decided not to air the footage.”

As early as October 2001, Nation columnist Bruce Shapiro foresaw these sorts of problems arising when he discussed a bill pending before the House and Senate–one which had not yet come to be known as Ashcroft’s original PATRIOT Act.

“The point is simply that terrorism is a term of politics rather than legal precision. But in Ashcroft’s vision, it appears to be a label to be applied indiscriminately. Ashcroft’s initial bill defined terrorism as any violent crime in which financial gain is not the principal motivation. The House adds more precise language: To qualify, crimes or conspiracies must be “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion or to retaliate against government conduct.” Yet even this definition is big enough to drive a parade wagon through. An unruly blockade of the World Trade Organization could bring down the full force of antiterrorism law as easily as could a bombing.”

Orange Alert be damned. Let’s try some of that compassionate conservativism and lay off the liberal usage of “terrorism” for a while.


The Paperwork was longer than the marriage

[via Gawker]