The Riff - May 2009

The Gospel According to Twitter

| Mon May 11, 2009 3:41 PM EDT

What, you thought godless liberals were the only ones maniacally tweeting away?

Lord, no; Twitter's evangelical wing is just starting to flap. From online mega church Streaming Faith's e-newsletter:

Pastors John Voelz and David McDonald of Westwinds Community Church decided to spend the past two weeks educating their congregation on how to use Twitter to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ on Sunday morning by allowing them to actually log on during service and send out "tweets"....Now more than ever before, we as believers have brand new opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ like never before when we leverage these sites appropriately...This is the church's finest hour to build influence with those who we once considered to be outside of our reach.

Thus far, Streaming Faith's tweets range from the usual church-flavored banality:

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White House Boos Sykes 9/11 Joke

| Mon May 11, 2009 2:10 PM EDT

Comedian Wanda Sykes is getting some grief for joking about Rush Limbaugh at the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday Night. Sykes, referring to Limbaugh's infamous claim that he hopes Obama fails, suggested that maybe Limbaugh was "the 20th hijacker" on 9/11, and offered that she "hopes his kidneys fail." It took the right wing about 24 hours to figure out that kidney failure means death, and then they switched right into gear. Drudge breathlessly linked to a couple articles taking Sykes to task, asking "What was Obama thinking" for chuckling at the joke, and Fox News quoted unnamed sources calling her "mean-spirited," "hateful" and "disgusting." And today, sadly but perhaps inevitably, the White House just caved. Robert Gibbs made a statement as part of his daily briefing today saying that 9/11 is one of "a lot of topics that are better left for serious reflection rather than comedy." Oh come on, didn't anybody see The Aristocrats? When Gilbert Gottfried did his whole schtick right after 9/11? That was genius.

People are giving Sykes rave reviews for her bit at the dinner, but her languidly-paced softballs about giving the Queen an iPod seemed kind of tame to me, especially compared to Stephen Colbert's head-spinning praise/takedown of George W. Bush back in 2006. I love Wanda, and let's not forget, Openly Gay Comedian Speaks at White House Correspondents Dinner, but her jokes were about 50% throwaways, I thought. More signs of the Obama Comedy-pocalypse, or just her mellow style not really grabbing the audience? Watch the video and decide for yourself after the jump.

David Corn and James Pinkerton on Star Trek and More

| Mon May 11, 2009 9:14 AM EDT

Last Thursday, the American Conservative's James Pinkerton and our own David Corn had another one of their frequent bloggingheads.tv diavlogues. Among the topics discussed: Afghanistan, Pakistan, the missing torture memo, and, of course, the new Star Trek movie, which opened this weekend to rave reviews:

Their Mamas Didn't Raise Them Right

| Mon May 11, 2009 8:18 AM EDT

If you thought Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg couldn't top this, you were wrong. Check out their 'ode' to Mother's Day. I watched it Saturday and hit rewind four times, snorting Diet Coke through my nose each time. I only stopped because my stomach hurt so bad. Today? Five times and counting. It's so, so wicked.

If you're feeling less subversive, check out Jimmy Kimmel's take on honoring Mom. It's weirdly sweet and mildly genre-bending. A keeper.

My Mother's Day? Well, my son's birthday is always the day before, so until they're older, Mother's Day doesn't really exist. Thankfully, their school did an incredibly sweet assembly where we were all given roses and escorted by our munchkins to the gym. Then, the kids did the most snot-inducing songs ever. One of them was to the tune of "My Baloney Has a First Name," but still. It killed. When my son's 2nd grade class (he turned 8 on Saturday) did this song, you could barely hear them braying off key while everyone wept and blew their noses. Not me of course. Didn't affect me at all. Sniff. At least not until he stopped singing to just stare at me like I was the most wonderful creature on the planet. Then, he ran to me before the song was even over, took my face in his hands and said: "Now do you know how much I love you?"

Stupid Mother's Day.

Justice, Texas Style

| Fri May 8, 2009 8:29 AM EDT

Tenaha, TX has apparently been using the state's forfeiture law to fleece—guess who? Mostly blacks and Latinos.

From CNN:

Strange Bedfellows in the Parent 'Hood: Two New Memoirs

| Thu May 7, 2009 10:16 AM EDT

I've mentioned my girl-crushes before, haven't I?

No?

Hmmm...eyelash flutter...stentorian throat clearing.

Ahem.

Well, as Liz Lemon on 30 Rock would say, consider me bi-adjacent/curious where Rebecca Traister is concerned, as well as Heather Havrilesky, Amy Poehler, Samantha Power, Wanda Sykes, Ani DeFranco, Anne Lamott, Dolly Parton, and Bjork. (Or so their attorneys tell mine.)

Awesome as Traister is (and we've Salon-overlapped in person a few times. She rocks in person AND on paper), each week she wows me with her insights. Finally, this week, I had to blog my frickin' heart out over her. She's talking about two bad-mommy/bad-daddy memoirs that just came out. (Mom's here. Dad's here.) Damned if her childless ass doesn't see through to the heart of things:

Like Hillary Clinton, who proposed healthcare reform that made her a pariah in 1993, and 15 years later found herself campaigning against half a dozen candidates using her ideas as a model, Waldman may have found that her outrageous reputation has been eclipsed by a blogosphere drowning in bad mother confessionals. But she is still a true lightning rod, and her new book is generously studded with Ayelet-astic grenades. She writes of aborting a baby at a comparatively late stage because of a genetic abnormality, and in her ensuing grief and guilt, wreaking havoc on other women suffering similarly by joining their online "heartbreaking choice" support group and then insisting that they use the word "abortion" to come to terms with what they had done. Waldman writes about how she gave up her beloved criminal defense job not because she was anxious to slough off her professional responsibilities or because it was a pragmatic necessity, but because she was jealous of her work-at-home husband's days alone with their baby. She writes about her disappointment at the fact that her children are not exceptionally gifted, and the stages of denial, grief and anger upon learning that one of her kids had some learning issues. She confesses her surety that she will one day be jealous of her son's wife, and her fears that her kids will inherit her bipolar disorder.
Waldman remains an invaluable answer to Caitlin Flanagan, the silver-tongued specter of maternal servility. From the first, she admits to escaping the doldrums of her self-determined stay-at-home motherhood by developing her writing career, something Flanagan rarely cops to in her profitably published paeans to opting out. Where Flanagan flogs her formula for marital bliss, which is that if you serve your husband hot meals, keep his house, raise his kids and give him blow jobs, he will repay you by remaining faithful and caring for you through illness, Waldman's considerably more appealing equation is that if your husband cooks a hot meal, does a load of laundry and shoulders his half of the childcare, he will get a blow job.

Take that! Fucking Flanagan.

Lewis (whom I idolized at the dawn of my New Republic-launched career), Traister channels thusly:

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Note to Young Skinheads

| Thu May 7, 2009 9:32 AM EDT

When will bigots come up with slurs our children can relate to? From the Raleigh-Durham News and Observer:

In American Violet, Roses for Nicole Beharie

| Wed May 6, 2009 1:33 PM EDT

In a homespun start to the movie American Violet, Dee Roberts (the exceptional Nicole Beharie), a young mother of four, lovingly waters her potted violets. Before the roots have drunk their share, a police task force has swooped into Dee's housing project in Melody, TX, and conducted a military-style raid. Dee's daughter, caught in the eye of the storm, holds her grandmother's heirloom pottery in the parking lot. There are gunmen on all sides. She is saved; the dish breaks. This overwrought metaphor of family ruin is realized when Dee is then arrested at the diner where she works, charged with distributing narcotics in a school zone.

Once in jail, Dee is assigned to a court-appointed lawyer who, the film suggests, is really there to represent the local DA's interests in furthering prosecutions. Claiming that the police have incriminating audio tapes, the lawyer urges Dee to accept a plea bargain that would spring her from jail. But Dee will have none of it. Innocent, she'd rather wait it out in jail than accept a guilty plea that would label her a felon and deny her future government assistance. Who will win, Dee or the slimy DA? Is the answer a surprise?

20 "Street" Terms From the White House Drug Control Policy Office

| Wed May 6, 2009 12:55 PM EDT

I've recently had to spend a great deal of time on the Web site of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The ONDCP is, frankly, fascinating. It's a source of an incredible amount of information. Of course, it is not always the information you're actually looking for, but it is thrilling all the same.

It contains, for instance, the office's official list of drug street names. Below, let's see what the least drug friendly institution on the planet has decided to let concerned citizens know about the "word on the street." What's today's lingo?

Barry Levinson on the "Unholy Alliance of Politics, Celebrity, and Media"

| Wed May 6, 2009 12:35 PM EDT

The Daily Beast is reporting on Barry Levinson's new documentary about the good and bad of celebrity political involvement, something most of us have probably been long of two minds about.

While I automatically dismiss the right wingers like Tom Selleck, Bo Derek and Pat Sajak, even the lefties often give me the heebie jeebies. I still get nauseous when I remember Susan Dey on some talk show in the 80s stage-weeping while talking about "looking into the eyes of the homeless." Puh-leez. Just another stage for their never-ending need for attention, their belief in their own press reports and the conviction that they hadn't really needed the educations they never got before heading to Hollywood. Still, it's undeniable that celebrity helps, even more so when it's a celebrity of substance, like Susan Sarandon or Oprah. If only there were more of them. Here's a good nugget supporting this point: