Asawin Suebsaeng

Asawin Suebsaeng

Reporter

Asawin Suebsaeng is a reporter at the Washington, DC, bureau of Mother Jones. He has also written for The American Prospect, the Bangkok Post, and Shoecomics.com.

Full Bio | Get my RSS |

A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., Asawin came back to DC with hopes of putting his flimsy Creative Writing major, student newspaper tenure, and interest in human rights and political chicanery to some use. He started cutting his teeth at F&M's student-run weekly, The College Reporter, serving as editor in chief. He has interned at The American Prospect, been a reporter for the Bangkok Post, and scribbled for ShoeComics.com. His favorite movie is either Apocalypse Now or Pirahna 3D, depending on the day or mood.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

12 Things Obama Used To Distract From Benghazi, According to Conservatives

| Wed May 14, 2014 3:29 PM EDT

Earlier this week, former tea party congressman Allen West contributed to the chorus of right-wingers accusing the Obama administration of using wily tricks to distract us from Benghazi. "Consider all the scandals facing the Obama administration, especially Benghazi and the Select Committee, which Rep. Nancy Pelosi referred to as a 'political stunt,'" West wrote in a blog post. "So what better time than right now, to create the straw man of Boko Haram, another distraction for which no real action will take place."

Cool story.

Here are all the things Obama has used, or deployed, to distract America from his #Benghazi cover-up, according to conservatives:

Even Big Bird was in on it. Just when you think you know someone...

John Oliver Explains Why He Attacked Mitch McConnell With an Old, Wrinkly Penis

| Tue May 13, 2014 6:02 PM EDT

On Sunday's episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver and his crew got... graphic.

During one of the segments, Oliver discussed the state of the American political attack ad, and argued that as more money floods into the system, the quality of the ads declines. He said that the only way attack ads could get any worse would be if they were shown on cable TV, which doesn't have to abide by network content standards. To demonstrate the point, the LWT crew made a pair of fake attack ads for the Kentucky Senate race between Alison Lundergan Grimes and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"For too long, politics in Washington have been dominated by old, white, wrinkled dicks," the narrator says in the fake anti-McConnell ad. "And no dick is older, whiter, or wrinklier than Mitch McConnell's."

And then viewers are treated to a shot of an old, wrinkled penis that is supposed to represent Mitch McConnell.

Watch:

Try unseeing that. You can't.

Anyway, I talked to Oliver on Tuesday to get the inside scoop on the humor and the horror that is his show's old, wrinkly attack ad. Here's an excerpt of our conversation:

MJ: Whose idea was it, if you recall, and whose penis did you use?

JO: Okay, those are two excellent questions. The first one, I'm not sure, and it might help to just [go with] collective responsibility. I don't want to go with a sort of "I am Spartacus" moment but I think plausible deniability might be useful at that point. The second is the much more interesting question. And that is that, of course, you do need to cast a penis. And to do that you have to be presented with a selection of penii—I don't know if that's the collective term. And so then what you're looking for—it's amazing—when you look at then you start judging them for the purpose, because you want something that is funny but not sad. Because, you know, a sad penis does not help the comedy. No, it makes you think about the person the penis is attached to. So really, you just want a representative old man penis. And I'm not sure that sentence...has ever been said out loud before...We got to one that we liked, and the owner of that penis was generous enough to model it for us.

MJ: How did you get to one you liked? Like, what is the process of "getting" penii?

JO: We went through photos. It was basically the penis version of a headshot.

MJ: So this was like models?

JO: Models, basically. And you go through and say, "This one's good, this one's good, let's get down to a short-list. Okay, it's between these three. Um. I like this one." And then what you do is you make a decision, you walk out of a room, and you stare out a window and question what the fuck you're doing with your life...That's basically how it goes.

MJ: I'm assuming you weren't in the room when they shot it?

JO: I actually wasn't because we were having to write...But apparently the man was very happy...I just came back and our editor, she had to live with that footage for a few days, but she did a fantastic job.

MJ: Has she recovered, psychologically?

JO: Yeah, she was very good. She's called Cori [McKenna], and she actually edited both the commercials...The other commercial was basically a chainsaw massacre in a mine involving a kitten, and I think she found that slightly less alarming to cut together than a sequence of beautiful tracking shots of an old man's junk.

So there you have it.

My full interview with Oliver with be featured on Friday's episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast, so stay tuned.

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne in "Neighbors" Are the Best On-Screen Couple in Years

| Fri May 9, 2014 4:03 PM EDT

When you think of the greatest on-screen couples in TV and cinema history, a handful of pairs jump to mind: Bergman and Bogart in Casablanca. Cusack and Skye in Say Anything... Chandler and Britton on Friday Night Lights.

You can add Rogen and Byrne to the list.

In the new comedy Neighbors (directed by Nicholas Stoller), Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne play Mac and Kelly Radner, a married couple struggling to adjust to a new era of parenthood. When a rowdy fraternity—led by Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) and Pete Regazolli (Dave Franco)—moves in next door, the two houses go to war in hilarious fashion.

Although the film's advertisements don't make it look bad, necessarily, Neighbors is much smarter and emotionally deeper than its TV spots and trailers would have you believe. But what sets the movie over the top is the pairing of Rogen and Byrne. As the two plot and execute their campaign of revenge against the frat boys next door, their moments of scheming are infused equally with a delightful chemistry and a sense of strained, fumbled maturity.

And the reason this works so well is because the filmmakers didn't treat the female lead as a comic prop or as some stereotypical wet blanket, as is the case with so many male-centric comedies: She's as devious and committed as the boys. "From the start, they wanted to make my character very much a part of the story," Byrne told the New York Times. "From Day 1, Nick [Stoller, the film's director] and Seth were both like, 'She's as in on this as everybody else—and as irresponsible as everybody else.' That was really exciting."

You can catch glimpses of the Radners doing there thing here:

Their best scenes actually have nothing to do with plotting physical destruction against their neighbors. In one sequence, Kelly and Mac awake following a night of heavy drinking. A hungover Kelly goes to breastfeed their newborn, only to have Mac intervene, warning her that at this hour her breast milk would be like a "White Russian." In pain from the excess milk, she orders Mac to milk her. The sequence, including the aftermath of the deed, is a thing of comic beauty—chaotic, appropriately horrifying, and just cute enough.

Anyway, the whole movie is very good. TheWrap calls it, "an instant classic." Slate dubs it, "a surprisingly progressive take on bro privilege that still has lots of dick jokes." I'm inclined to agree.

"The Simpsons" Producer Responds To Insane Conspiracy Theory That His Show Helped Start the Arab Spring

| Thu May 8, 2014 4:19 PM EDT

There is a new theory that an episode of The Simpsons (one that aired on February 25, 2001) predicted the Syrian uprising and civil war, and also that the episode is proof of a massive international conspiracy that laid the groundwork for the Arab Spring.

You read that right.

The conspiracy theory was recently proposed by anchor Rania Badawy on the Egyptian TV channel Al Tahrir. Badawy insists that the Simpsons episode "New Kids on the Blecch"—in which Bart, Nelson, Ralph, and Milhouse are recruited into a boy band called the Party Posse—contains clues that suggest "what is happening in Syria today was premeditated."

Here's the segment, which was flagged by the Middle East Media Research Institute:

In the episode, the boys star in a music video for "Drop Da Bomb," a pop song that seems to encourage heroic bombing of hostile Arab countries. ("Your love's more deadly than Saddam / That's why I gotta drop da bomb!") The chorus of the tune is "Yvan eht Nioj," which is "Join the Navy" backwards; the Party Posse turns out to be a secret project by the US Navy to boost recruitment numbers through subliminal messages.

Badawy, the astute television anchor, noticed that the soldiers bombed in the music video (posted below) have a car emblazoned with a version of the Syrian flag that looks an awful lot like the ones Syrian rebels and protesters waved in 2011. "How it reached this animated video nobody knows, and this has aroused a debate on the social networks," she says. "This raises many question marks about what happened in the Arab Spring revolutions and about when this global conspiracy began."

Not that you need it at this point, but the New York Times has a thorough rundown of why—when you factor in "crucial aspects of both Syrian history and details of the Simpsons episode"—this is all so silly.

Still, I thought I'd ask Al Jean, a longtime Simpsons executive producer, what he thought about this interesting theory. Jean sent along the following brief statement:

Yes, we had the amazing foresight to predict conflict in the Middle East.

Somehow, I doubt the heavy sarcasm in Jean's admission will register with certain conspiracy theorists. There are also wacky theories out there that The Simpsons predicted the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Also, there's a fun post on the 11 times The Simpsons "predicted" the future of technology.

Now here's the "Drop Da Bomb" music video that is complicit in the bloodshed in Syria, I guess:

Tue Nov. 27, 2012 7:08 AM EST
Thu Nov. 22, 2012 7:08 AM EST
Fri Nov. 16, 2012 7:24 PM EST
Fri Nov. 9, 2012 4:47 PM EST
Mon Oct. 22, 2012 7:34 PM EDT
Fri Oct. 5, 2012 10:17 AM EDT