I recently decided to take a stab at writing for Cracked.com. You rember Cracked, right? It was one of the many upstart competitors to MAD magazine from back in the day, publications with names like “Crazy” or “Stupid”, all of which tried to capitalize on MAD’s penumbra of insanity and which today would probably earn them a boycott by the NEA.
Cracked transformed themselves after very nearly being driven out of existence by terrorists. Now Cracked is the leader in list-based Internet humor, and they allow any any schmuck to submit to them. Why not me?
Sadly, that question has an answer: because I stink like skunk farts. Okay, that isn’t true (in this context), but my first submission to them did not meet their journalistic standards, which as far as I can tell are higher than the entire sphere of cable news. I will try again, but Seanbaby will not need to retire just yet. And fortunately, I know thousands of people who have no standards whatsoever: YOU!
So without further ado, please enjoy the first of what are sure to be many rejections as I claw my way to a level of fame somewhat higher than that of a forum troll. As you will see, my concept alone probably justifies my pariah-ship.
Five Ways That Enterprise Was Better Than Battlestar Galactica
Star Trek: Enterprise, which launched in 2001 on UPN, marked a new low for a franchise that could already have been teabagged by a caterpillar.
Following a Trek renaissance that began with Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987, this mother of all geek culture began to spit out ever uglier children, beginning with the marginal Deep Space Nine, followed soon thereafter by the seven-season yawn that was Voyager.
Enterprise just about caulked Star Trek’s coffin. A boring, retrograde saga of pre-Federation Earth featuring the least scintillating starship crew ever scripted, and with stories that babyproofed the already famously progressive Star Trek ethos.
The series ran for a mercifully brief four seasons, but shared it’s final year with an upstart resurrection of the 1980’s TV series Battlestar Galactica, which premiered on the Sci-Fi channel in 2004. Now here was a throwback done right! Vital, liquored-up characters turgid with emotion, fighting for their lives in an outer space both thrilling and menacing, and with Star Wars-level space battles to boot.
Contrasting Enterprise with BSG is like comparing My Little Pony to GWAR. But though Enterprise may have shot up its viewers’ cortexes with Novocain, at least it didn’t have a “Muffit” hiding in its closet. And it did crush Battlestar Galactica in a few ways.
#5. The Opening Credits
The title sequence for Enterprise was a departure from previous Star Trek series. Those consisted of beauty shots of starships flying past such cosmic vistas as a Mexican street artist might spray-paint onto cardboard for delighted gringos. Enterprise replaced this with a montage that followed humanity’s rise from humble mariners to a space-faring race and then masters of the damn Universe! Compare that to Battlestar’s downer intro of humanity being laid to waste by its own kitchen appliances and I think you will agree that Enterprise had the more uplifting message for a nation that was about to discover the consequences of electing a cymbal-clanging monkey for president.
Enterprise broke new ground with its theme music, too. Instead of a robust and brassy orchestral arrangement like it’s predecessors, this new Trek odyssey opened with a hand-clapping soft-rock tune that could have been lifted from The Greatest American Hero.
This innovation raised the hackles of a lot of Star Trek fans, but contrast that unconventional ditty with Battlestar Galactica’s opening dirge, which sounds like something the elves of Middle Earth would chant as they boarded their swan boats for the Land of Grey Tears. Fuck that gloom! Remember when we didn’t assume the future would suck? Kudos to Enterprise for giving us a tomorrow we could snap our fingers to!
#4. War on Terra
Enterprise and BSG both employed strong 9/11 metaphors in their storylines. In BSG of course, those sneaky Cylons infiltrate human society sleeper-cell style, sabotaging our defenses and allowing a sneak attack to make a mockery of the Colonials ludicrous defense build-up. On Enterprise, Earth also suffers a sneak attack at the hands of the Xindi, a collective species of apes, bugs, and lizards with pubes growing out of their heads. A Xindi weapon kills seven million Earthlings, causing the Enterprise to embark on a mission of revenge which, given what we know about the Federation, probably included a box of chocolates and a written apology on our part.
Viewers who thought that BSG’s reflection on the War on Terror–of a people in disarray, jumping at shadows, torturing their enemies and essentially looking for their lost soul–may have believed that this was space opera at its most urbane. What they didn’t realize is that the future portrayed in science fiction paves the way for the genuine article. Recall how the original Star Trek featured flip-open pocket communicators that could talk to outer space, magical replicators and omniscient female computers? Cell phones, 3D printers and SIRI. Star Trek didn’t predict our future, it ordained it!
So what do we have to look forward to thanks to the advent of Battlestar Galactica? A futile vision of ceaseless war, rusting technology and fucking corded phones! Why don’t we mail our surrender to Kim Jong-Un right now?
#3. Linear Time
Despite having a nebulous mindbender of a plot that lacked only Lost’s magic Lotto numbers, BSG finally got around to revealing that humans and Cylons are dancing in an eternal karmic spiral whereby the two are destined to create and destroy each other forever. (This means that it is God’s will that Commander Adama be reborn again and again to pick at his teenage acne and wind up with cheeks whose pockmarks become a star map leading the fleet to the Eye of Thundera, or whatever.)
“That’s the baddest fucking Eye of Jupiter I’ve ever seen!”
Enterprise knew that humanity’s only destiny is to be awesome, and that robots will ever be our slaves. On Enterprise, an agent from the zillionth century travels back to the year 2151 To enlist Captain Archer’s help in thwarting another time-traveling species that wants to steer history their way. We ultimately get a glimpse of that future, where a descendant of the starship Enterprise is putting down that cheeky alien species once and for all, after which the crew doubtless had their shoulders oiled and massaged by a servant class of Datas.
Yes, Scott Bakula’s Captain Archer was more boring than a glass of Metamucil, but at least we know that his future includes two captains, Kirk and Picard, who will never let the damned Toasters destroy our homes even once, much less throughout infinity, the way Adama does.
#2. Spooge Monster
BG gets a lot of praise for its riveting stories, intense human drama, and most importantly, for putting people ahead of props. This is highlighted by the fact that the world of Battlestar Galactica was intentionally low-tech and downplayed using sci-fi gewgaws (even the robots were humans!) This justified cheapish sets that made it affordable for the cast to chew the scenery as often as they did.
Enterprise distinguished itself by literally being the corny TV show invented for the movie Galaxy Quest (or rather, The Asylum’s version of Galaxy Quest), with Alzheimer’s-inducing performances, bland action and moments of humor that probably had cricket chirps written into the script.
Nevertheless, Enterprise did remember that it was set in the nuckin futz realm of outer space, and consequently was able to produce one episode that was ballsier than every brooding moment BG ever filmed.
Season One, episode 22 of Enterprise (“Vox Sola”) pitted the crew against an alien that was a nothing but a mass of tentacles dripping with white goo. The creature assimilates three of the crew, slowly merging itself with them, sliding its wet tentacles around and inside their bodies for nearly an entire hour, the crewmen growing gooier and stickier in what can only be described as the first ever Star Trek bukakke video (at least, the first sanctioned by Paramount).
Oh, they knew what they were doing.
Regrettably, Enterprise’s producers flinched at submitting any of the female cast members to this red-hot disgrace. Had Jolene Blalock been sentenced to the creature’s embrace, no one would remember the name “Battlestar Galactica”, and mankind would now be masturbating together, in peace.
#1. The Final Episode
Spoiler Alert: The Colonial fleet finally reaches Earth. Big whoop! You always knew they would, or else they would find that Earth is a special feeling in your heart. The point is that the finale to BSG was never in doubt.
But no one, not even Nostradamus on mescaline, could have predicted the double bong hit off a shotgun that was Enterprise splattering its brains across America’s living rooms.
The series finale of Enterprise was so self-loathing it could have justified a new category at the Emmy’s. Only Seinfeld’s parting shot even comes close, and then only because Seinfeld abandoned its raison d’etre at the moment of truth and made a show about something: themselves. Enterprise just throws up two middle fingers and tells the audience they’d have been better off huffing Krylon for the past four years.
The Star Trek series have often journeyed to the future in their final episodes. In the case of Enterprise, we are taken into the future’s past when, out of the blue, Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis show up to reprise their roles as Commander Riker and Counselor Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation, playing witness to the final adventure of the Enterprise crew in the form of a holodeck recreation.
Even by Enterprise standards the finale is preposterously boring, and Frakes’ upbeat performance is entirely at odds with the episode’s premise, which is for Riker to glean wisdom from the past on how to deal with a crisis from one of TNG’s weightier episodes.
Instead, Frakes and Sirtis yuk it up as they shove the (admittedly disposable) cast of Enterprise aside to feast like buzzards on the defeated show’s still-warm corpse.
Like a suicidal girl building up her will to cut her wrists one nick at a time, the agony compounds on itself. Captain Archer is forced to toast “the next generation” with his chief engineer, who later dies in the most tearless tragedy ever filmed. And all the while the episode ramps up to its intended vindication, when Captain Archer will deliver the inaugural address at the founding of the United Federation of Planets… only to be cock-blocked by Riker who ends the holodeck program just as Archer takes the stage!
Yes, in every way that matters, Battlestar Galactica will be remembered as the better television program. But for keeping alive the flame of Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic, Cold War America even as we were mothballing our space shuttles to buy more Cylon-like drones that will eventually decimate us, Enterprise deserves our grudging—painfully grudging—respect.
Last week the Syrian-level war within the conservative “movement” got a little bloodier and a lot more public.
On the front lines, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Laura Ingraham frightened the straights when Bill broke ever so slightly with the party line over gay marriage. After O’Reilly suggested that opponents of gay marriage need to rise above being mere “bible thumpers”, Limbaugh responded on his radio program by telling O’Reilly to “<insert whatever that chunk of ass blubber has said every day for the last 25 years>“, which was then followed up by Ingraham appearing on the O’Reilly Factor to back Limbaugh’s play.
Ingraham may be a frequent guest host on O’Reilly’s radio show, but that didn’t stop O’Reilly from talking over her, down to her and basically farting in her face. It is a beautiful thing to watch the right wing eat it’s own. Do watch.
On the more far-flung battlefields, things were heating up as well. Breitbart.com contributor John Nolte threw a hissy when another conservative, Ben Howe, dared to critique what initially appeared to be the trailer for the funniest fucking fail project ever: A Movement on Fire (below is the extended edition, which includes a music video).
What looks like a sweded version of The Matrix is, in fact, a faux-movie trailer that was shown at the recent CPAC conference (and which we can be sure was rewarded with roof-shaking applause, foot stomps and mongoloid grunts). Ben Howe did not realize this fact when he took to Buzzfeed.com to condemn this schlock for being the biggest embarrassment to conservatism since President-He-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named. Howe’s act of heresy incensed Nolte, who lambasted Howe for airing his thoughts on a non-movement approved website.
Going postal over someone’s critique of what appears to be a disaster in the making is hilarious enough, but are Howe’s objections to the trailer any less relevant when you realize it is merely a commercial for a right wing website? Howe’s fears that A Movement on Fire would damage ongoing efforts by conservatives to conquer Hollywood are well-founded. Despite the ersatz nature of the project, the trailer is still an accurate window into conservative delusions about art and politics. John Nolte isn’t really upset over the criticism; he’s worried that this crap will get wider exposure.
In his editorial “Another Terrible Conservative Movie”, Howe points out Movement’s similarity in tone to The Hunger Games (its name even evokes the spirit of Katniss Everdeen, the “Girl on Fire”), then worries aloud that general audiences will roll their eyes at this portrait of a manicured, post-Obama dystopia. But if this were a real movie, worse would be in store for conservatism than detached retinas. If A Movement on Fire really did hit the big screen, audiences exposed to it would probably turn the nation Bolshevik overnight out of spite. Even North Korea has classier propaganda than this!
First we are shown a woman (who looks like the prettier of Cinderella’s step-sisters) overlooking a city while a non-professional voice actor tells us that 15 years ago, “…Freedom died,”… or liberty or individuality or whatever. Then some jackbooted thugs come up from behind her to play peekaboo. We are supposed to want to rescue this Avatar of American Exceptionalism, but come on! Would you really risk a police beating for this ugnaught?
Lady Liberty or a white CCH Pounder?
Next we discover that the country of Shining City on a Hill is under the tyrannical rule of the Development Party, which has conquered freedom or self-reliance or whatever using the power of vinyl banners. (Banners are to this movie what telescreens were to 1984.)
The Neo of our tale isn’t going to take this lying down, though. Like the tyrants, he also has access to a Kinko’s, and after breaking his oppressive taxation card he and a team of revolutonaries embark on a campaign to overthrow despotism through the power of 99¢ color copies!
A society where a QR code is scannable? That’s hella futuristic!
Surplus Romney signage, do your thing!
What is interesting is that every act of “rebellion” the trailer shows is something that conservatives spit on in real life. Hacking computers…like Anonymous? Fighting authority with empty symbols… like V for Vendetta masks and Che T-shirts? And what’s all this about standing up to the police??
Who knew the Tea Party was so jealous of Occupy?
Dr. Benjamin Carson is black. Did you know this?
This fact has eluded many people, but it cannot be denied. In Ben Carson’s genome, the continent of Africa is being forcefully expressed. And yet amazingly, this new political media darling, whose name may well be forgotten three memes from now, is the newest hero not of the Democratic party, who will presumably one day found the United Federation of Planets, but of the Republicans, who would probably prefer the future envisioned in Gattaca, with its routine genetic purity tests (as long as they are performed by nice, sanitary corporations and not a federal bureaucracy).
What a difference two Novembers make! Obama’s re-election is now universally recognized as the triumph of demographics over race baiting, and the Intelligent Design of conservatism is being annihilated by census-driven Darwinism. It is time to adapt or die. Whether they are hyping Marco Rubio or Bobby Jindal (not to forget plucky pizza mogul Herman Cain), the Republicans are embarking on a full court press to make their cricket league look more like a basketball team, and Dr. Carson, the genial Christian neurosurgeon, is the latest draft pick for the Washington Elephants. (How’s that for an over-extended metaphor? Take a lesson, Friedman!)
Carson has been around for a while. He has authored five books and inspired documentaries and movies about his life’s work in medicine, and advances what appears to be a convivial evangelism that nonetheless contains many of the tropes of the radical right. But his coming-out party was in February when he spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast. There, in an overexposed address, and with Barack Obama sitting mere feet away, Ben Carson politely rebuked some of the Democrats’ platform, while humping for the Republicans by telling the President that God Almighty wants a 10% flat tax.
Ben Carson has gone on dazzle the right wing press through one talk show love-in after another, touting his spitting and roasting of the President as a thumb in the eye of “political correctness” (what could be more politically correct, however, than Obama’s obligatory appearance at a national religious spectacle founded and run by fascists?). But can he aid the GOP’s effort to rebrand itself as a political Snickers bar, becoming the chocolate coating on a pasty white interior wrapped around a core of nuts?
Despite being a celebrated surgeon who performed the first successful separation of conjoined twins joined at the head , the plain fact is that but for his skin color, Carson might rise to the heights of a keynote speaker at CPAC, but little higher. Intelligent and friendly, Carson’s contribution to the political dialogue at the national level is not awe-inspiring. Republicans, preferring as they do firebrands like Texas senator Ted Cruz (who recently endorsed skinning endangered lizards for which to make his boots) would be the first to toss mild-mannered Carson out with the soup bones if he didn’t serve a convenient role at this point in time, which is that he can wag his finger in Obama’s face and get away with it in a way that a blonde Arizona governor cannot.
If I sound like I am reducing Ben Carson to a piece of Machiavellian PR, then I am coming through clearly. No one can pretend that the biggest transformation happening in politics today isn’t the white power structure’s haphazzard attempts to share authority with those who came over on the Amistad and not the Mayflower (I’d include a vessel from the Mariel Boat Lift if I could name one). This is part of a long evolution in American politics to be sure, but Obama clearly upped the ante. Even black pop culture was dispirited about the chances for a black President in this century right up until Obama’s first nomination (all that “elected on a Friday/assassinated on a Saturday” jive). With the last hopes of the revanchist right and its billionaire generals exhausted by the 2010 Tea Party putsch (which sabotaged Republican hopes of reclaiming the White House), the entire Republican party is in play. And the first honest wind to blow through their think tanks is the recognition that the day of racial reckoning has arrived.
Things had to get pretty FUBAR to inspire that brainwave, however. The public face of conservatism is now safely in the clutches of the Joe Arpaios and Donald Trumps, and new conservative media is caught in a vicious circle jerk where founding journals like National Review compete with upstarts like Breitbart.com to out nasty each other, all in service of scoring the most picayune victories over the middling Left. Meanwhile, Rome continues to burn, and establishment Republicans must find a way to work with establishment Dems to avoid the next blow to the nation which, as the Cyprus debacle shows, could arrive at any moment. All this while the plutonium of the of the GOP base continues its meltdown, burning ever hotter as it does.
So the GOP is not merely reevaluating itself, it is faced with a self-inflicted existential threat, and they realize it. But can the institutional GOP conduct a Renaissance while its conservatives continue their jihad?
Possibly. The GOP is too big to vaporize overnight, and if nothing else, they love a good gimmick. That is why they will continue to position men like Ben Carson front and center. He is their new Sarah Palin. Carson even tickles their balls with hints that he might run for president, a joke which everyone enjoys, and which lets the GOP remind itself that when they aren’t organizing nationwide efforts to discredit a black man’s birth certificate, they can toy with being progressive too.
Carson’s day in the sun as poster child for a self-reflective Republican party is complimented by RNC chairman Reince Priebus’ freshly minted $10 million dollar initiative for GOP outreach into previously untapped minority communities. But this effort is at least half a generation late, with half as many dollars being pledged as needed (Jesus, when you think of the $20 million alone that shrunken apple doll Sheldon Adelson dumped into Newt Gingrich’s campaign to keep that turd afloat…!), and with the wrong chairman in charge of the task (should Michael Steele not have been permitted to launch this effort rather than being forced to drop and give Rush Limbaugh 20?)
The Republicans have tried every trick in the book to make themselves look like the party of inclusivity instead of the party of Voter ID laws, all of them shams. Now the real heavy lifting begins. When it does–if it does– the Republicans will come face to face with the reality of school lunches and public housing and migrant labor, issues they have only observed from the owner’s box until now. Conservatism will confront the final limits of its rhetoric as it tries to sell bootstrapping door to door, and the Democrats will not feel the effects of this for some time. After all, when you ask a white Republican to name a black Republican, they list names like Colin Powell and Condi Rice, struggling for a moment before they come up with Alan Keyes. When you ask a white Democrat to name a black Democrat, they list their friends.
…Speaking of torture–and why shouldn’t we?–how about Filibusterin’ Rand Paul? Not that I would imply that listening to a Libertarian flash his tinfoil on C-Span for 13 hours is torture (though I am, and it is), but since a filibuster is every Republican’s birthright, it is nice to see one do so by actually taking to the floor, exhausting their pipes and having the subject be something that a liberal can only fantasize about a Democrat addressing: death by flying robots. True, Paul was motivated by a Libertarian gold-monger’s delusion of Obama dropping hellfire missiles on a hypothetical American enjoying an iced coffee at one of America’s many beverage chains, but then again, WHY SHOULD THAT FUCKING MATTER? Are Americans more deserving of a casual afternoon spent at a cafe solving a crossword puzzle than the foreigners that we have been annihilating throughout the millennium for doing pretty much exactly that? Americans have watched first Bush, then Obama, blast innocent civilians and their children to Spaghetti-O’s in the name of war or getting-out-of-war for too long now. The whole exercise is a blur, the new normal. “Oh, are we effectively in World War III? How interesting. Well, it will have to end sometime.” Rand’s rant, which garnered some opportunistic support from fellow future presidential candidates like Marco Rubio, has got the Republicans all wet in the crotch. Some , like John McCain, are overflowing their Depends in rage at this smart-ass goosing the establishment. The Â Capitalist wing of the GOP, however, is damp with cooze juice. They Â think they have finally found a Tea Bagger who can hold the People’s attention long enough to freestyle some bullshit about the moochers and looters without interjecting a treatise on rape. However, the audience (both left and right) are fooling themselves if they think an ounce of dignity is about to enter the dialogue regarding our martial foreign policy. Obama, after all, has already fooled us twice. Do we honestly think a Republican dove truly exists, much less one who could budge his party when it comes to assassinations, when even bleeding-heart Democrats can scarcely be bothered to notice?
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