Friday, May 23, 2008

Massachusetts Über Alles

While I was taking a canoeist's picnic on a Lower Colorado River sandbar last Sunday, out of the woods appeared a dude (heralded by the boundering arrival of his groovy mutt-hound) wearing a vintage "DK" logo Dead Kennedys cap. As one does when encountering strangers in the otherwise solitary wilderness, we talked. I mentioned all the great shows by that band I had seen during the years of "California Über Alles." Turned out he was more of a 70s dude who had gotten turned on to Jello Biafra's spoken word stuff, but we had a good chat about our shared secret spots of interstitial urban nature.

Thus began my official Dead Kennedys week.

One of my multiple personalities once worked as a staff lawyer for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which afforded me extensive close-up interaction with the remarkable physiognomy of Ted Kennedy. And the best way to explain that to a No Fear of the Future reader is to say that Ted Kennedy's head is something far more likely to have come from the pen and ink of Jack Kirby than the womb of Rose Kennedy. Perhaps these impressions are a byproduct of his larger-than-life personality, but I would swear they are literally true. Ted Kennedy's head is massive, like twice the size of other human heads. It has an anvil-shaped quality, with a massive mandibular edifice angling out like some sort of face guard of the lizard-man within, occupying the space normally used by the neck as it anchor the mask to his torso. Most excitingly, the Skeletor frame is padded with an insanely thick layer of skin, fat, muscle and blood. Imagine my life as a four-eyed C-SPAN extra sitting there during the Clarence Thomas hearings, watching the bloviated word balloons float out over the assembly with full gaseous noxion, "seeing" the senior Senator from Massachusetts but Seeing the Kree Supreme Intelligence, passing as an American political leader with only the thinnest of disguises.

[See also: "Separated at Birth? (Kree-Deutsch Edition)", NFOTF, 12-5-06)]

So I was relieved over the past 24 hours to have the ubiquitous ambient media blast me with actual photos of Ted Kennedy's brain. X-rays, showing the all-too-human tumor. I hate all so-called "political dynasties" as a matter of democratic/republican principal, whether Kennedys, Bushes, or Clintons (though I probably hate Hollywood celebrity nepotism beneficiaries more), and I never liked Ted Kennedy's political style, but I guess he's homo sapiens sapiens after all.*

But when the next story in the cycle rolls up (was it Lindsay Lohan's mysterious engagement ring or Chinese rubble miracle number 472?), the blue-grey images of Teddy brain won't leave my own. Why do they need to show us the guy's X-rays? How many other times can you remember when the announcement of a celebrity's mortal illness is accompanied by clinical imagery of the tumor itself?

The video Library of Babel in my head flashes back all the images of other Kennedy brains we have seen. The JFK clips of the thing sitting there on the stainless steel in the Army pathology lab at Walter Reed. The lurid descriptions of pieces of JFK's brain splattering across his wife's beautiful dress. The mathematical descriptions of the trajectory of the magic bullet through the labyrinths within.

In the operating room, some savvy orderly is going to grab the excised tumor from the bin, plastinate it, and sell it on eBay. Preserved as the last great corporeal talisman of the 20th century, a black little three-dimensional period marking the end of that particular cult of political personality.

*(And we will suffer without him using his Judiciary Committee seat to battle the new American racism hiding behind the Dobbsian anti-immigrant hysteria.)

P.S. -- In other news, who knew the summer's popcorn fair is going to include Mark Leyner doing Dr. Strangelove in the GWOT? NYT: "War, Inc. - A Hit Man in a War Zone That Could Easily Be Iraq"

Playing a classic lone gunman and kung fu master with a deadly glint in his eyes while Morricone-style cowboy music twangs in the background, Mr. Cusack still looks and sounds like a softy. His destination is the Emerald City (read the Green Zone) in the fictional Turaqistan (read Iraq), a country occupied by Tamerlane (read Halliburton), a corporation run by an unnamed former vice president of the United States (Dan Aykroyd, doing a dead-on parody of Dick Cheney).

Snarling out of one corner of his mouth while sitting on a toilet, the vice president boasts that the continuing conflict between Tamerlane and insurgent forces is the first war ever outsourced to private enterprise. As a trade show begins, a chorus line of women with prosthetic legs dances. Their prostheses are Tamerlane products.

His aide, Marsha Dillon (Joan Cusack), is an enraged sourpuss who suggests an exponentially more disagreeable Mary Matalin. Ms. Cusack’s harshly funny portrayal, and the performances of Mr. Aykroyd and of Ben Kingsley as Walken, an evil puppetmaster and C.I.A. honcho, are the movie’s strongest because their characters don’t have souls. This being a satire, why should they?

Hauser’s assignment is to kill Omar Sharif (Lubomir Neikov), an upstart Middle Eastern oil minister who wants to build his own pipeline through Turaqistan, thwarting Tamerlane’s intention to corner the country’s natural resources. Outside the Emerald City, where Hauser occasionally ventures, Turaqistan appears to have been already reduced to rubble. But the battle rages on, and chaos reigns.

The cover story for Hauser’s visit is his job description as producer of the Brand USA Trade Show, whose centerpiece will be the wedding of Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff), the Britney Spears of Central Asia. Ms. Duff breaks out of her everygirl persona to play this spoiled, squirming kohl-eyed vamp, who growls “I Want to Blow You Up” with every innuendo intact and travels with a posse of ersatz gangsters. Inside this predatory tramp, however, beats the heart of a lost little girl.

Hauser, the tough guy who swigs shots of hot sauce without shedding a tear, falls in love with Natalie Hegalhuzen (Marisa Tomei), a liberal journalist who shows up on the scene. When she is kidnapped and threatened with beheading after venturing outside the Emerald City, Hauser gets to play the hero.

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