Blogs

Why Not Smoke 'Em Since you Got 'Em?: The "Boys of Satire" Returning to Work Much, Much Too Soon

| Mon Dec. 24, 2007 11:07 AM EST

For an armchair sociologist and culture critic, I'm hilariously wrong about how people will behave.

When I heard that Stewart and Colbert were returning to the air just after the New Year, I had two responses: bafflement and fear. First, my bafflement.

Given the pace, the stress, the monstrous pressure of being funny four nights a week about stuff that had happened only hours before, I'd thought the 'talent' would be secretly thanking the gods for this unplanned vacation from their own success. I assumed that was why they were being so ostentatiously generous with their support of the writers - so they could stay out til spring and the big names could sleep for six months and luxuriate in their ignorance for a change. I pictured Colbert and Stewart showering their gleeful families every morning with confetti made of unread NY Times, then spending the day in their jammies ginning up fake emails from the network brass dissing the writers and threatening their families. Instead, these guys are so desperate to get back on the air, they're willing to humiliate themselves to do so. I know these guys are innately funny, but nightly-broadcast-with-no-help funny? Why on earth are Letterman, Colbert et al so desperate to get back on the air?

Y'all know I love me some satire shows. So much so that, pre-strike, I worried about my boys spiraling into drugs, drinking and sordid sex scandals - VH1 Behind the Music-style - from all the pressure. Turns out that they're as addicted to what they do as we are to watching them do it. I 'spoze I shouldn't be so surprised. God knows I churn out book after book, post after post for far less money and with every chance of being either ignored or excoriated (see: your comments). Wrong again. Note to self: performing is as much an irrestible calling as punditry. Who knew?

Now, my fear. I'd been trying to wean myself off television for a looong time now. With a personality as addictive as mine, It's such a time waster; I want my kids to grow up watching only in moderation, unlike their mother. I'd sooner show you nude, secretly snapped photos of me than tell you what, and how much, I watch. So, once the strike hit, I cravenly made the plunge, knowing I wouldn't miss much this time of year. Smugly, I dragged my 'leventy-seven boxes back to the cable folks. You'd have thought I was donating both kidneys to Iraqi war refugees the way I carried on. No one expected the strike to be over before the end of January by which time I figured I'd have detox'd enough to resist the siren call of Battlestar Galactica, 30 Rock and...never mind. I couldn't wait to lord my cultural ignorance over you lowly TV gawkers at dinner parties - "The Office? What office, I don't understand. Oh. TV. I'm reading Proust" - obnoxious as those wankers who spend a semester abroad (in Canada) and come back pretending to have forgotten English.

I could never have given up TV with late night satire still airing, never.

What the f*&^ am I supposed to do now?

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Elephants Get Safe Passage

| Sat Dec. 22, 2007 3:20 PM EST

asia_india_elephant_400h.jpg More than a thousand wild elephants have officially been given safe passage. A wildlife corridor linking two reserves in Karnataka, Southern India, has been handed over by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) to forest officials. WTI reports this is the first time land has been bought by a nonprofit and signed over to the government to protect the habitat of the endangered Asian elephant. "This is a great step forward for elephant conservation in India," says Vivek Menon, Executive Director of WTI and elephant biologist, "and a model I hope other wildlife groups will follow. One of the greatest threats facing Asian elephants today is the shrinking and fragmentation of their habitat. Protecting corridors that link these "inland islands" is vital to ensuring the species' survival." … Happy holidays.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Listen Up, Pandas, You Need to Fight

| Sat Dec. 22, 2007 2:59 PM EST

panda01.jpg Scientists in China may use a police dog to teach pandas to fight. This after the first artificially-bred panda released into the wild was apparently killed after a battle with other animals, reports Reuters. The Wolong Giant Panda Breeding Centre plans to have four pandas live with a specially trained police dog or other animals. The pandas would learn how to protect themselves by observing the dog. Five-year-old Xiang Xiang, the world's first artificially bred panda released into the wild, was found dead in the snow early this year after less than 12 months of freedom… Hmm, can we train them to attack bad people too?

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Missing a Testicle? Say Goodbye to That Tour in Iraq You Were Hoping For

| Sat Dec. 22, 2007 12:59 AM EST

Hey, guess what? The Army isn't just intolerant of gays and transgendered Americans. It appears to object to anyone who has any sexual abnormality, no matter how large or small or completely unrelated to job performance. Here are examples of people who do not meet the official standards in the Army's Standards of Medical Fitness (available here):

Women who experience unusually heavy menstrual bleeding, or bleeding at irregular intervals, or no periods at all.
Women born without a uterus.
In men, "Current absence of one or both testicles, either congenital (752.89) or undescended (752.51) is disqualifying."
And, for both men and women: "History of major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia such as change of sex (P64.5), hermaphroditism, pseudohermaphroditism, or pure gonadal dysgenesis (752.7) or dysfunctional residuals from surgical correction of these conditions is disqualifying."

As Obsidian Wings puts it, "Unless I am very, very wrong about what exactly service in the military involves, I can't see that an undescended testicle would affect a soldier's ability to perform his duties."

Merry Christmas From the U.S. Military

| Fri Dec. 21, 2007 10:20 PM EST

Politically%20Incorrect%20Guide.bmpIf you are a soldier in Iraq, is it alright to wish people a merry Christmas, or would "happy holidays" be better? Like, whatever dude. As Ann Coulter says on a poster hanging on the door of the military police office in Fort Riley, Kansas: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity." It's Jesus time!

That, at least, appears to be the way the military is heading according to a bevy of findings released by the of Military Religious Freedom Foundation this week, just in time for the holidays. MRFF founder Mikey Weinstein (see our recent profile) believes the military has been colonized at all levels by evangelical Christians bent on converting it into an army of God. The group's recent findings certainly support the idea:

Hide the Condoms, Syphilis is Back!

| Fri Dec. 21, 2007 7:51 PM EST

Syphilis is making a comeback. The Associated Press reports that the all-but-forgotten STD is breaking out in major cities in Britain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and to a lesser extent, the United States, which reported about 10,000 cases last year. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that reported cases of the disease increased by nearly 12 percent in 2006, mostly afflicting the South and urban areas. Considering that half of new STD cases affect 15- to 24-year-olds, you'd think that we'd be passing out condoms left and right in order to stop the resurgence of syphilis, right? Guess again.

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No More Sexy Time?

| Fri Dec. 21, 2007 7:43 PM EST

Ali G, Borat, Bruno

It's being reported (thanks to a Drudge Report top-line link, natch) that British actor Sacha Baron Cohen is "offing" two of his most beloved characters, Ali G and Borat, but looking at the original quote in the Telegraph, I'm not sure there's a story here. Here's what Cohen actually said:

All I Want for Christmas, Part 4: New Balance Joy Division

| Fri Dec. 21, 2007 7:05 PM EST

You Can Run But You Can't HideLately, when I've been jogging, I seem to keep forgetting about, you know, the horror. But if you too need a reminder during your exercise sessions that "a loaded gun won't set you free," why not pick up these special edition New Balance Joy Division tennies? They're snazzy white and gray sneakers with the artwork from the Div's first album Unknown Pleasures on the tongue and the sole. Actually, it's just a prototype, but perhaps if we all lose control we can cause enough disorder so that they'll make these shoes before the, um, new dawn fades... ugh, are they sure a loaded gun won't set me free?

(Via HypeBeast)

Bill Richardson Is Pissed

| Fri Dec. 21, 2007 4:11 PM EST

Remember when Bill Richardson was calling for the Democratic candidates to lay off Hillary Clinton and generally sucking up to her as best he could? As this incident with New York Times reporter Pat Healy demonstrates, that period is ovah.

I just got a phone call — unprompted — from Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a Democratic candidate for president, blasting Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for saying she would withdraw nearly all American troops from Iraq within a year of beginning redeployment.
"Senator Clinton's comments are a stunning flip-flop — she's been saying she would keep troops in Iraq for five years, until 2013, and now she comes up with an inconsistent, incredible turnaround," Mr. Richardson said.
Mrs. Clinton has maintained that she would leave a residual force behind in Iraq to pursue narrow missions, a position that her spokesman said she still holds. As her aides have done before, the spokesman declined to say how many troops Mrs. Clinton would leave.

Clinton has never really said that she would keep troops in Iraq until 2013. She's just said that she won't commit to pulling them all out by 2013.

Richardson, who hasn't caught fire in Iowa or elsewhere, must believe that (1) his campaign needs an adrenaline shot, or (2) his chances to be Clinton's VP pick are declining due to Clinton's lack of interest or decreasing poll numbers.

Just goes to show the trustworthiness of that old saw, hell hath no fury like a potential vice presidential candidate scorned.

Not Even Toastmasters Will Help Gonzales

| Fri Dec. 21, 2007 3:14 PM EST

gonzales-100.jpgAfter watching his lethargic public speaking engagements before the U.S. Congress, it is, perhaps, no surprise to learn that Alberto Gonzales is a wash-out on the college lecture circuit. The former attorney general has signed up with a talent agency that's been trying to gin up lucrative speaking engagements for him on college campuses, for $35,000 a pop. Gonzales needs the money to pay his legal bills stemming from the multiple investigations into his tenure at the Department of Justice, but the students aren't biting, reports the Washington Post. Not only are the schools refusing to pay his hefty fee, but when he has spoken recently on campuses, he's been greeted by hecklers. Gonzales is slated to speak in February at Washington University in St. Louis, where students are already looking forward to major protests of his appearance.