Lying Media Bastards

January 30, 2004

Bookkeeping

I was at a Barnes & Noble yesterday, exchanging a book I'd received as a birthday present. As you might guess, I started by looking for the political section.

The closest thing they had was "Current Events." Every book was turned so that its spine faced outwards-- except for two. These two had their covers facing outwards, taking up more horizontal space on the shelf and more easily catching a shopper's eye.

The two books: Ann Coulter's "Treason" and Bill O'Reilly's "Who's Looking Out for You?"

This aggression would not stand.

Instead of complaining to the sales clerks about pushing such inane books on the public, I decided to get a little creative. I began to search for a book I could place along Ann Coulter's that might add additional... context.

So, I placed a small book on the shelf next to Coulter's, also facing foward: "The Concise Autobiography of Adolf Hitler."

Yeah, cheap shot, but it was fun. But I'm still kicking myself for not tracking down a copy of "Politics for Dummies" to stick next to O'Reilly's book.

Posted by Jake at 11:59 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 29, 2004

"When a man tells you that he got rich through hard work, ask him whose."
-Don Marquis, Journalist

Posted by Jake at 08:41 PM | Comments (0)

Off to See Elvis and JFK

Let us all bow our heads in respect.

Eddie Clontz, editor of the Weekly World News, has died.

WWN is the publication that broke such vital stories as the man who found a miniature mermaid in a hoagie, the Catholic church's plan to end the pedophilia scandal by using robot priests, and that space alien that endorsed Bill Clinton's presidential run back in 2000.

Good night, sweet prince. And flights of Bat Boys sing thee to thy rest.

Posted by Jake at 03:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The new site is like 97% done. I wouldn't say that I'm excited about it, because I don't let myself get excited. But I am smiling like an idiot for no reason, so that's something.

Posted by Jake at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2004

LALALA I'M NOT LISTENING!!!

Wow.

Blind into Baghdad is a really long article in the most recent issue of the Atlantic Monthly, by former editor of US News & World Report, James Fallows.

It is a very in-depth look at the history of the US government's planning for post-war Iraq. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the government did a huge amount of research, speculation, and planning for rebuilding Iraq and turning it into a working democracy.

But these reports showed that the process would be very complex and difficult, and would possibly require a postponement of the war to properly prepare for the smoothest post-war transition. And the loyaly-mad White House saw this as betrayal. Saying that the reconstruction would be hard, arguing that more time was needed, wondering if the tasks were possible, these were seen as "anti-war", and therefore as the works of the enemy.

So, the White House took every scrap of information that these teams of experts, from specialists inside and outside the government, and ignored them. Thousands of pages of predictions (which mostly turned out to be true), warnings (often correct), and plans (which would likely have been reasonable and helpful) went unheeded. And now American taxpayers, American soldiers, and every Iraqi must suffer the consequences.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that ignoring this mountain of information that could have avoided so much conflict and destruction, was one of the most irresponsible acts in history.

Posted by Jake at 01:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Toh-May-Toh, Toh-Mah-To

In an earlier post, I claimed that Michael Moore's quote about Bush being a "deserter" was incorrect, that Bush was in fact "AWOL."

It turns out that it's much more stupidly complicated than that, and determining what exactly defines AWOL or deserter is, well, sort of like defining what "is" is. I've seen raging debates on various websites, citing all sorts of military legal documents and so on. I'm not going to roll up my sleeves and dig for the truth on this one, as this controversy strikes me as fairly pointless. Maybe Bush was "AWOL", maybe he was a "deserter", or maybe he doesn't fit either of those technical definitions. What seems to be undeniable (well, it could be deniable if anyone brought up any evidence to the contrary) is that Bush was absent for some of his National Guard time, and was let out earlier than his contract called for. I think I'd simply call that "Daddy's got connections".

Posted by Jake at 01:20 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 27, 2004

Cautiously Optimistic

Blogger Steve Gilliard has made it through his heart surgery successfully. Go Steve! Here's hoping that he'll have a speedy, painless, and long term recovery.

Posted by Jake at 09:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Conglomerates Smash!

FCC proposes $755,000 fine against Clear Channel- yes, the American radio behemoth (coming your way, Brits, watch out) has run afoul of government regulators and face their wrath. What was the crime? Monopolistic practices? Political bias? Censorship? No no. The FCC was angered that four Clear Channel stations in Florida aired "indecent material" of some sexual nature 26 times on their show "Bubba the Love Sponge." (they didn't specify what they found indecent, exactly, but perusing Bubba's page, I would guess perhaps it was the segment where he had women call in while masturbating with dildos. From the look of it, Bubba is an asshole)

Corporate Radio Doesn't Suck- an LA Weekly columnist discovers a new "indie" station in Los Angeles, 103.1 FM. Sounds like it's college meets hipster meets aging alt-rock snob, which is probably enjoyable to listen to. But "indie" it's not. Surprise surprise, it's owned by Clear Channel Inc., and run by Entravision Communications Corporation (which oddly is a Spanish-language-centric media corp). Don't know why you'd listen to 103.1 when you could listen to 104.7... sometimes.

Fox News: Attention, Wal-Mart Shoppers- not content to destroy the world in their own respective fields, Wal-Mart and Fox News have formed a partnership in which Wal-Mart will play Fox News segments on the TVs in their stores. In other news, Sauron and Cobra Commander are throwing a barbecue this weekend, and you're invited.

Media ownership: Deal loosens limits, but less than FCC wanted- I really should've covered this story better. I knew it was going down, but didn't write about it. Long story short: in the spring, the FCC changed broadcast regulations so that it was legal for a single company to own media that reaches 45% of Americans, up from the previous limit of 35%. Amazingly, Congress took them on, threatening to pass bills that would drop the limit back to 35%. Then, a "compromise" provision got snuck into the recent Spending Bill (y'know, the one that if not passed shuts down the entire federal government), which knocked the limit down to 39%. Coincidentally, News Corps (Fox) and Viacom (CBS) reach 38% of Americans...

Posted by Jake at 09:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Maybe Not Coming to a Theater Near You

I want to see this movie...

"Darkly humored" documentary about what corporations are, what they've done, and how they operate. "In law, the corporation is a 'person'. But what kind of person is it?" they ask. And their apparent answer is "a psychopath."

The movie won an award at Sundance, and features interviews with a bunch of corporate execs, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Naomi Klein, Howard Zinn, Vandana Shiva, and more. It's playing in Canada now, but we Americans might have to wait for DVD.

Posted by Jake at 08:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Meta

The whole concept of blogs and blogging is getting a lot of coverage these days. Last night, NPR broadcast a two-hour special on blogs and politics ("The Blogging of the President 2004"), and our pal Billmon reports that the global elite networking soiree known as the World Economic Forum actually had a panel discussion on the topic "Will Mainstream Media Co-opt Blogs and the Internet?". So now is as good a time as any to write about the topic.

First of all, I feel kinda stupid writing about this at all. I'm a blogger, I have a blog, and I'm writing about the significance of blogging. Navel-gazing at its finest, with a tendency to self-congratulate, self-promote, and let one's self-importance soar. I'm not a proud man, and I've always preferred to let my work speak for itself, rather than try to point out to others how good or important or profound it is. I do what I do, people can like it or don't, it's not going to affect me that much. Several people have told me that my work has had great impact on them, which makes me feel good, and helps validate my own opinion that I do indeed write some good stuff.

Second of all, only a fraction of all blogs are politically-themed, a fact which is completely lost on most political bloggers. When political bloggers refer to blogs, bloggers, or the vague network of political bloggers often called "the blogosphere", they ignore everyone else. Truth to tell, most blogs are 14-year old girls gossiping about what happened at school, their latest celebrity crush, and the results of their "what kind of popstar/gumdrop/winged lizard are you?" personality quiz.

Which I suppose begs the question "what is a blog?" It's simply an online, web-based journal. Most are written by a single person, some are done in groups. They're really not much different than personal homepages (which were also championed as the end-all of personal freedom and democracy some years back), except that homepages were fairly static, while blogs add content frequently.

But in the world of political bloggers, and journalists who pay attention to political blogs, this is potentially the next step in media and journalism. Which in my opinion, is nonsense.

1) Bloggers are usually not journalists. We can be, but we usually simply absorb mainstream media, filter it, analyze it, critique it, mock it, pee on it, knit it into a nice scarf, etc. We also have the power to amplify certain stories. When we work together (usually in a non-organized, non-planned fashion), we can take a story that would be quickly forgotten and ignored, and give it new life.

2) Bloggers can influence bigger actors. Sometimes, a big name blogger will write or focus on a certain topic/issue/event, and a mainstream opinion columnist can take that nugget and run with it (sometimes the big name blogger got the idea from a less popular blogger, sometimes not). And once the columnist has written about it, it might actually get a decent amount of mainstream news coverage. Likewise, it's not inconceivable that a number of bloggers could have an influence on people like politicians.

3) Blog networks help put all news into a singular context. (Jeez, my years in academia are showing) When a person reads a number of related political blogs, written by authors who have similar opinions and/or worldviews, each news story gets jigsawed into a larger puzzle. Maybe bloggers aren't opinion makers or opinion shapers, but perception shapers. After reading half a dozen far left blogs on a regular basis, current events seem to fall into place more neatly.

But overall, I don't see bloggers and blogs as anything that hugely different or important. I was writing news and opinion articles and ranting about politics on the radio for years before I started blogging. Blog software made it easier to publish articles online than coding each article into a separate html page. And given the common features of the "genre", I could take some journalistic shortcuts (instead of explaining each term, person, organization, etc., I could just make the name a hyperlink to another page which gave details). And when I started my blog, I decided to use it primarily as a way to blow off steam while spending most of my time on "serious" journalistic articles, so the blog had a whole lot of attitude (which again, dovetailed nicely with the genre). And at a certain point, I saw that the blog was getting many more hits than my site of "legitimate" journalism. And the blog was a hell of a lot more fun. And that's how Lying Media Bastards Man came to be.

In conclusion,

Blogs. Eh, whatever.

Posted by Jake at 12:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 26, 2004

01-26-04

Seat Belts- Tank
Soundgarden- Girl U Want
The Coup- Hip 2 Tha Skeme
Country Joe and the Fish- I Feel Like I'm Fixin to Die Rag
Tomahawk- Mayday
Erik B & Rakim- Let the Rhythm Hit Em
Fishbone- Lemon Meringue
Bauhaus- Kingdom's Coming
Mojave 3- Love Songs on the Radio
The Smiths- Sweet and Tender Hooligan
The Black Keys- Heavy Soul
Quarashi- Stick Em Up
Roni Size & Zack de la Rocha- Center of the Storm
Paris- Sheep to the Slaughter
The Von Bondies- Going Down (live)
System of a Down- Sugar (live)
Reverend Horton Heat- Big Little Baby
Against Me- Baby, I'm an Anarchist

Posted by Jake at 05:12 PM | Comments (0)

It's Funny Cuz It's Mean

This is freakin' hi-larious:

It certainly will be a sad day when Kucinich drops out. I can't remember who, but someone recently observed that he looks like a Star Trek villain. That's dead on, though Batman Arch-Criminal might be as accurate. You just know that if he had his way he'd wait till just the right moment before whipping off his suit in one deft motion, to the sound of trumpets, revealing the Arch-Criminal outfit underneath (a black unitard covered with infinity symbols, maybe); then he'd have all the other candidates tied to giant chess pieces, or fed through a player-piano score printing machine. Or, in response to a question by Brit Hume, he'd announce that he has developed a special germ that makes all women beautiful and kills all men over 4'6". "Only I have the antidote, Mr. Kerry. So I would choose my next move very carefully if I were you. We are not so very different you and I... more cognac?"

I like Dennis Kucinich (well, as much as you can like someone who wants to rule you). He is (in my opinion) one of the only candidates who sees the huge scope of the problems facing our nation and world and realizes the huge changes we need to make to even survive the coming storms.

But damned if that description above ain't funny.

[edit]

That quote came from the blog of a fellow calling himself "Dr. Frank". Who is apparently the lead singer of the band The Mr. T Experience. Weird.

[/edit]

Posted by Jake at 03:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 24, 2004

Pointless Campaign Follies

The past few days, the media have had guns a-blazin' on two fairly insignificant happenings in the world of Democratic politics.

Well first, let's mention the part that does matter. Just about every pundit and commentator predicted that Howard Dean would easily win the Iowa caucus, followed by Kerry and Gephardt. They were really, really wrong.

The point I want everyone to take away from this is "the media doesn't know what they're talking about." All sorts of commentators make predictions about how certain events will come out, they're frequently wrong, and then they live to predict another day. These guys need warning labels: "Accuracy Rating 24%" or whatever.

Now, onto the fluff.

1) The Dean Yell

Probably everyone with a TV has seen it. At the end of post-Iowa caucus speech, Howard Dean started talking real loud and excitedly, and then let out some sort of whooping yell. It was pretty funny to watch, and of course became fodder for late night comedy talk shows. But then it got picked up by real live pundits who claim to have real live political knowledge about real live politics. They began to debate the meaning of this excited yelling, how it would be interpretted by voters, and some pundits even proclaimed that this yell had ruined Howard Dean's political career.

He was giving a speech before a number of his supporters after a disappointing result. He gave them a fiery pep talk to boost their spirits and hold on to their allegiance. He sounded silly to everyone else, and maybe even to those supporters. This wasn't high tea with the duchess, it was a rally, it's okay to be rowdy. But the media seem hell-bent on talking about the speech and its damage, and they more they do, the more credibility this stupid idea gains. Nuff said.

I'll also post a link here sent to me by reader Gary, that shows video of Dean's speech from an amateur videographer at the rally. From this fellow's viewpoint, in the midst of boisterous, raucous fans, Dean's speech doesn't look so out of place (or, if you're on the Dean Smear Team, it makes it look like his supporters are crazy and unpresidential too).

Gary's email also included a first-hand account from someone at the Dean rally. This account argues that Dean was yelling for a reason: the thousand or so members of the audience were cheering and talking so loudly that Dean needed to yell to be heard. And when the professional TV people used their tech to to filter out the crowd noise, it made Dean like the lone yelling fool.

2) Clark and Moore and "Deserter"

Wesley Clark is campaigning to be the Democratic presidential candidate. Film/trouble maker Michael Moore supports Wesley Clark. In a message to his fans, Michael Moore called George W. Bush a "deserter", referring to a period between 1972-1973 where Bush was enrolled in the Texas Air National Guard, but did not report for duty. And at the Democratic Presidential debate on January 22, moderator Peter Jennings tried to trap Clark, asking a question that essentially said "Bush wasn't a deserter, and unless you denounce the lying Moore for his scummy act, we will drag you through the gutter." Clark sidestepped the trap, saying that Moore could say whatever he wants, and that Clark didn't know much about these allegations.

The whole next day, the news focused on the way that Clark dodged this question, and tried to pin him down, and force him to repudiate Moore for his lying smear. And it looks as though Moore might have been technically incorrect: when you leave the military during active duty, you're a deserter; when you leave during inactive duty, you're Absent With Out Leave (AWOL). So Moore probably should have said that Bush was AWOL, not a deserter.

But the fact remains, that there is about a 12 month gap in Bush's service record while in the national guard. Moore has created a page on his site which reprints many articles which support the AWOL claim, you can judge for yourself.

But Clark is not in any way responsible for what his supporters say. Why is the press pretending otherwise? One possibility is that the press, being forgetful or having never looked into the issue in the first place, thinks that these are spurious allegations made by a scoundrel about our honorable President-in-Chief. Blogger skippy describes this exchange between CNN's Wolf Blitzer and former Clinton official Jamie Rubin. Wolfie interrogates Jamie about the "deserter" claim, and Jamie catches Wolfie by surprise by turning the tables on him:

wolf asked jamie directly: "do you believe it?"

jamie fired back: "i haven't looked into it either. have you?"

imagine! asking a journalist if he has researched the facts about a point he's making!!

wolf, taken aback for a second, could only mumble "i'm asking the questions here." meaning of course, no, he hasn't done any investigative work into the very issue he's bandying about to try to trip up candidates.

Which probably explains exactly what the issue at hand is here. When a politician makes a public mistake-- they misspeak, they say something offensive, they contradict themselves, they have ethical lapses-- that's news. And it's a kind of news that reporters can manufacture themselves and then ride for days and weeks, if they can trick the candidates into making such a mistake.

Bastards.

Posted by Jake at 04:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I'm Back... and Thanks

Hey folks,

Returning to the blog. As I mentioned, I was on hiatus, then wanted to leave those posts about my mom up so that they wouldn't be immediately lost and buried by the new stuff. But life and my writing obsession go on, so here we are.

Thanks for all the support and well-wishes. And maybe you should turn that support and optimism to someone who needs it right now, fellow blogger Steve Gilliard. Steve has consistently provided some of the most insightful blog political commentary I've seen, but right now he's facing surgery next week for a previously undiagnosed heart valve problem. Let's all hope he pulls through okay.

But for my part, I'm back. We're still working on the site redesign (I 'm lazy, my generous volunteers are swamped with other work, bad combination), and there's a fairly lengthy article about the non-profit I run over here.

Back open for business. Bring it on.

Posted by Jake at 11:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 23, 2004

The Union, State of

Last year I did a real blow by blow analysis of Bushís State of the Union address, inserting my own comments and context in between relevant portions of the speech. I began taking on a similar task with this yearís SOTU, but after several attempts, Iíve realized I donít have much interesting to say on the subject (well, except maybe my little historical tidbit*).

The only thing of substance I could do would be to analyze some of Bushís domestic proposals (his foreign policy stuff is mostly self-congratulatory lies). You can read some of the fine print of these proposals on this page of the White House website. But take it with a grain of salt, as Bush doesnít need to show his full hand until he shows his whole budget plans in early February, and then the dance really begins. I might revisit those later.

The only non-domestic proposal worth mentioning is his increased funding for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Which is really something of a front organization for supporting factions in foreign countries whoís goals match those of the US government (i.e. the NED might give money to a pro-free-market political party in another country to help American business make a profit in that country).

But I canít let you go away empty-handed. Hereís a bunch of good links about the SOTU done by others. Read the first one (a parody) or youíll regret it.

The 2004 State of the Union Address- the satirists at whitehouse.org are inside Bush's fucking head. Prepare to laugh and wince.

The Kitchen-Table State of the Union- how the nation looks to regular working families, mainly on economic issues.

Bush's Defiant State of the Union- Nation magazine editor David Corn tears into Bush.

Behind the Address- USA Today does a little fact-checking...

State of the Union 2004: Myth and Reality- "author and anti-war activist" Rahul Mahajan's rebuttal to Bush's claims. Mahajan seems to have just started his own blog called Empire Notes.

IPA Takes on the State of the Union- the Institue for Public Accuracy is a left-wing organization that encourages journalists to look outside the box and interview less common, less conventional folks for alternative points of view on current events. Here are some short comments by some of those "less" folks.

Warnings During Wartime- Village Voice says that Bush's speech was mainly plans to enrich the wealthy and promises to exploit the conservative Christian vote.

The White House's Truth Deficit- blogger Calpundit finds that Bush's plans to decrease the deficit by 50% by 2009 will not only fail, but will actually increase it slightly.

* From 1801 to 1913, there were no State of the Union addresses. Thomas Jefferson thought it was the sort of thing that a king would do, so he just sent written copies of his address to both houses of Congress and let them read it themselves. 112 years went by, and the for some reason, Woodrow Wilson decided that he ought to give his address as a speech.

Posted by Jake at 11:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 19, 2004

01-19-04

The Evolution Control Committee- Rocked by Rape
Desmond Dekker- Israelites
System of a Down- ADD
Billy Bragg- The World Turned Upside Down
50 Cent- In Da Club
The Von Bondies- R & R Nurse
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Rich
Public Enemy- By the Time I Get to Arizona
Martin Luther King Jr.- Beyond Vietnam
Unkle- Bloodstain
Rancid- Lady Liberty
Dr. Oop- Run This
Jet- Cold Hard Bitch
Lightning Bolt- Thirteen Monsters
Orbital- The Box
Rage Against the Machine- In My Eyes

Posted by Jake at 05:10 PM | Comments (1)

January 15, 2004

Intro

Please read the two posts that follow this one.

They are very long, personal and sad, so if you're not in the market for that sort of thing, maybe read it later, or come back next week, when I resume regular posting on the site.

So please give the next posts a read, they'll be at the top of the site for the next week, and then I'll start my usual ranting and commentary again a week from now.

I'll be doing my radio show this Monday, and continue to do so regularly, go ahead and tune in.

Thanks much,

Jake.

Posted by Jake at 11:20 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Final Curtain

Sheíd been fighting cancer off and on for about ten years, but it was never as scary as this past March, when they told my mom that she had about six months to live. When my dad told me over the phone, I think I dropped it. I donít remember dropping it, but I seem to remember picking it up from the floor with numb fingers. So I drove to my parents' home in San Diego to try to help out however I could. As always, my weird work-from-home style job came in handy.

Honestly, momís cancer was usually manageable. It would just be a few tiny spots on a lung or a vertebrae, but it was dangerous to let those go without treatment. It was the awful paradox at the center of her condition: she was sick yet felt fine; and to make her fine, they had to make her feel sick.

But this time was different. I still donít like saying it. Cancer in her brain and spinal fluid.

We emailed my brother, who had barely begun his long-anticipated trip to Europe. He and his girlfriend were slated to spend six weeks traveling about. I hoped that heíd never stop at an internet cafť to read our message, because the longer he remained ignorant, the longer he could continue enjoying himself. Obviously, as soon as he received word, he made plans to head back to the States.

Momís condition got worse. Her headaches became severe. She was increasingly confused, and sometimes said things that made no sense. He balance got so bad that we had to settle her into a wheelchair and roll her into her doctorís appointments. It was as though someone had replaced my momís 50 year old body with an 80 year old one.

The pain sometimes reached dizzying levels. Thereís nothing that will make you feel more helpless than seeing a loved one scream and cry in pain, and thereís nothing you can do to make it any better. Nothing.

It was hard, emotionally wrenching just about every day. I tried to maintain both lives, the one of family, worry and doctorís appointments in San Diego, and the one of work, friends and politics back home in Los Angeles. I would spend about half a week in each location, then drive back to the other. It was exhausting, and I frequently woke up in the middle of the night, with no idea where I was.

Miraculously, her conditions began to improve, thanks to a combination of radiation, drugs, and chemotherapy. Her pain receded, her balance started to return, the confusion was less frequent.

Then, the doctors apparently gave her an overdose of the chemotherapy, which put her into a state somewhere between autistic and catatonic. She laid there in the hospital bed, sleeping, and when she awoke, she wouldnít speak, just looking up at us with bewilderment, like a newborn baby. We didnít know what was wrong or how it had happened. Was it temporary or permanent? Would it get worse? These were the scariest two days of my life. She did come out of it by the end of the second day, but it was only something of a relief. This weirdness had come on so abruptly, so mysteriously. There was no guarantee that it wouldnít happen again, so I felt sick and scared all the time.

But momís healing resumed. In fact, after a few months, she seemed out of the woods, back to what weíd come to consider "normal". Unfortunately, "normal" for us meant mom receiving frequent doses of low-level chemo and making near-daily trips to the doctor, with the rest of the family taking turns to transport her there and back. But still, it seemed as though the doctorsí grim predictions had been wrong, and things were going to be okay. One nurse even tossed around the term "remission." We all began to relax and settle back into our old routines.

Until October.

Mom was having trouble on her feet again, and took a couple of bad falls. During the springtime illness, the doctors said that momís lack of balance was a side effect of some of the medication they had her on. This time, they said that it was due to the illness itself.

My brother called me a few days later, after my parents had returned from an important doctorís appointment. "I think you should probably come down," he said quietly, "when they came into the house, mom was crying hysterically and they went straight into their bedroom, and they havenít come out since."

Oh fuck.

I came home and dad laid the news on me. The doctors had essentially told her "You are getting worse. Our current chemo treatment doesnít seem to be having an effect, and we donít have any back-up treatments to replace it withÖ You should probably get your affairs in order."

Yet at the same time, the doctors had also said "but donít give up hope, weíre going to keep on fighting this thing." Yeah.

My parents both resolved to maintain a hyper-positive attitude, that we were going to beat this thing, somehow. But this time I could not muster a shred of hope. Maybe that was wrong of me, maybe I should have tried harder. But this time it seemed that optimism was a pipe dream. Sure, I knew that it was possible that my mom would get better, but I didnít really believe she would.

We spent the next three months watching my mother die in slow motion.

My father took his vacation time, then his sick days, and then just quit his job to stay home and take care of her. It wasnít even an issue. He became her primary caretaker. My brother had moved in with my parents after his curtailed European vacation and stayed there, working part-time while making plans to attend law school this coming fall. And I came back, this time spending nearly all my days in San Diego, with just short weekly trips to L.A. to check my mail and make sure my apartment hadnít burned down. Again, I felt fairly helpless, because there wasnít much I could do. Dad took care of Mom, so I did what I could to take care of Dad. I suppose it was helpful for me to cook and shop and launder, but it sure didnít feel like much.

We did have a bit of help from the State health departmentís nurses, and later by nurses with the local hospice. I canít thank these people enough for helping with my mom, and helping take some of the pressure off of dad.

My mom slowly degenerated, losing her strength and coherence. In early October sheíd been almost fine, as functional and outwardly healthy as you or me. By mid-December she was confined to bed, sleeping most of the time, barely moving, barely able to speak. I could sometimes get her to say hello to me, and sometimes even get her to give me a one-word response to "how are you today?" And then even that went away. Sometimes Iíd hear my dad talking to her, or reading to her, hoping that sheíd hear or respond. It broke my heart a hundred times to hear that.

Mom went to sleep Christmas eve and didnít wake again. We noticed Christmas night that her breathing had gotten very labored. It got worse, louder. We all sat by her side, terrified and sad, knowing that each single solitary breath she took might be her very last. Us watching, one breath, then another. Perhaps an hour later, she stopped breathing altogether.

I guess it was about as good as we could have hoped for. She died peacefully, with (hopefully) little pain, at home instead of a hospital, surrounded by the family she loved. I can be morose and say that she died late Christmas night. Or I can say with a tiny smile that she was strong enough to make it all the way through her favorite holiday before passing on.

So thereís some light shed on my slightly mysterious ways this past year. All the trips to see the family, the unexplained time in San Diego, all the doctorís appointments, the weeks of infrequent and shoddy blog posts, the numerous missed radio shows, references to personal misery and dark days. Itís been a shitty year, and I only hope that as I round the corner into 2004, that things might start to get better. They certainly couldnít get much worse. But I donít know how long I have to walk before I feel the warmth of the light at the end of the tunnel.

So most of you are probably wondering how Iím doing. It varies from moment to moment. Overall itís a sharp-edged muddle. Itís like a break-up, like a natural disaster, like a holiday, like every other day, like a reunion, like a sickness, like a fury, like betrayal, like forgotten songs, like happy reflections, like a defeat, like aging, like losing a limb, like numbness. Like thereís a knife party in your heart and everyoneís invited.

But feelings and perceptions shift. Sometimes a whole day passes as usual, work and play and laughs and routine. Sometimes Iím quite mood swingy. Some sights, words, memories rip right through me or crush like a cave-in. Most embarrassingly, you start being moved by idiotic things, finding deep emotion in the words of a stupid sitcom character, or the photo on a billboard.

And it was not easy sitting through Return of the King, with its constant themes of death, loss and friends gone forever. Great movie, but I probably had a lot more emotional investment in it than most.

All of this, my experiences and the fictions Iíve seen on TV and movies during this time, have led me to one conclusion that seems profound: the most deeply sad words in the English language are "but I donít want you to go."

To the friends whoíve helped me through this (and continue to do so, of course), I love you like youíll never know. Sorry you always have to deal with my stoic, stony exterior, but I need that covering to keep my fierce fires inside. If you ever doubt how much I care, just say the word and Iíll give you an embrace that will burn us both to ashes. Yíall are what make my life worthwhile, and I thank you for everything.

Iíll get through all this, I know I will. And so will my brother. But I do worry about my father. This has been hardest on him, as heíd made my mother the very center of his entire world. So Iíll continue spending most of my time in San Diego to try to help him out, if thatís at all possible.

I do have to return to normal, maybe slowly. Life does go on, moment by moment.

If you want to do something that would have made my mother happy, Iíd say donate some money to the American Cancer Society. Or, this summer, she went on a minor crusade about a Congressional bill sheíd heard about that would cut medicare funding for cancer patients. If someone wants to research that for me and let me know if the bill is still alive to oppose, Iíd appreciate it (email me and Iíll give you the details).

If you want to do something for me, Iíd say examine your life and if possible, find a way to cut out behaviors that expose you to carcinogens. The ACS is fine and all, but they are all about treating people once theyíve been diagnosed with cancer. Iíd prefer that you avoid it altogether. Iíll do some research on this and post my findings, but you know the general threats: hormone additives; fatty meats; low exercise; smoking; toxic pollutants; large electromagnetic fields, etc.

The post below this one will be a eulogy for my mom, Iíd appreciate it if youíd read that too. Itís not good enough yet, but Iíll probably spend some part of the rest of my days trying to make it just right.

No good way to end this one. Find someone you love, tell em how you feel about them, and donít let them go till they know. Go ahead and blame it on me, if you have to.

Posted by Jake at 11:07 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Andrea L. Sexton 1950-2003

Andrea Sexton was born May 9, 1950, in Newark, New Jersey. She lived with her mother, father and older brother, next door to her aunt, uncle and two cousins, and just one street down from her grandparents. They were all very close.

After high school, she went to Trenton State University and got a degree in education. That summer, she and some friends took a vacation to Europe, and while there, they made friends with several young Californian women that they ran across. Some time later, my mom visited these gals in California, where she met my father. While many folks my age can talk about their parents as young hippies, my dad was more of a young biker. Well, when his bikes were in working order. Seemed motorcycles enjoyed breaking down on him.

After getting to know my mother, my bike-less dad hitchhiked across the country to see her, from California to New Jersey and back. And the following year, he did it again. They eventually married in a lackluster ceremony at a California courthouse, then got married the "proper" Jewish way the following month in New Jersey. And because of this, every year they celebrated two anniversaries, one in late January and another on Valentineís Day.

Settling in southern California, she began substitute teaching, but soon gave this up to raise my brother and me. Justified or not, my mother was impossibly proud of her boys, and spent most of the next few decades as a mother and housewife.

How can I describe my childhood with my mother? First of all, letís say that itís a miracle I didnít die in the womb of sarcasm poisoning. I of course, picked up her sarcastic nature with a vengeance.

She was kind and loving, if super-protective. That last caused me no end of frustration as a kid. Well, as an adult too. Even in her final weeks, when she could barely speak, she found the strength to tell me ďdrive carefulĒ before traveling back up to L.A.

My mother and I were very different people. There wasnít a lot of common ground between us, which sometimes made it hard for us to spend time together. But we loved each other, so we both did our best to bridge the gap.

Mom was extremely outgoing and friendly (especially when compared to her husband and children). I canít count the hours I spent as a child trying to entertain myself as mom ran into yet another friend she hadnít seen in years while we were out at the grocery store. Or the bank. Or the library. Or a movie theater. Or a parking lot. I sometimes wondered how it was possible to know so many people. She was a very loving and giving person to her family and friends, but good luck arguing with her once sheíd made up her mind.

But I canít paint her as a saint, itís just not in my nature. She was a caring, friendly, generous person, but some of her traits and behaviors were so infuriating that I dedicated part of my life to embodying their opposite. My motherís tendency to guilt-trip led me to try to make my every relationship, every request and every suggestion utterly devoid of obligation or coercion. If a person doesnít make a decision truly freely, it is dishonest and worthless. And despite her generosity, my mother managed to also be very self-centered. I am too, but my motherís version involved making everyone else focus on her as well. While she was a self-centered pied piper, I became a self-centered loner, making no efforts to make people do what I want to do.

As her kids approached college age, Mom began teaching again, as an aide in special education classes for children with severe learning disabilities. As you can imagine, that sort of work can be an emotional roller coaster ride. She loved the children, she loved getting to know these kids, to see their determinations and passions and joys. She often marveled at their talents or kindness, giving them the care and attention that many of them didnít get at home. But the teaching itself was extremely frustrating; some of these kids had such learning difficulties that even the simplest tasks was like asking them to fly to the moon. I remember one time that sheíd spent a whole lesson with one child, on a single math problem, and the boy finally started to catch on. And the next day, he had forgotten it all. He was so angry, because he knew that heíd understood this material just 24 hours before, but try as he might, he couldnít remember how to do it.

It would be easy for anyone with a teaching job this frustrating to sort of give up, to simply go through the motions of teaching, figuring there was no use putting in effort to teach kids who "couldn't learn." But my mom never succumbed to that. It never made me prouder of her than to hear her tell a story of a classroom breakthrough, of having gotten one of these young struggling minds to learn and grow.

As I reflect on her now, I see my childhood and think of the ways in which she taught me too. She took Adam and me on frequent trips to the library, encouraging us to read and learn everything we could get our hands on. Weíd go as often as twice a week, and Iíd leave with as many books as my little arms could carry. Her severe punishments when she caught me lying surely taught me how important honesty was to her, and lead to me to value the truth just as highly. And her example taught me that you were supposed to help out other people whenever you reasonably could. I do my best to live up to that ideal today.

Iím probably most thankful for a moment we had last year. At a time where her illness had receded, Mom organized a trip for the whole family to Maui. She loved Hawaii, making her prime vacation spot. She had imbued it in her mind with magical relaxation qualities. She began talking it up to me in the springtime, although we didnít make the final plans till the fall. She told me about the condo weíd be renting, where she and my father had stayed before. She told me about how great it was, so close to the water, with such a great view, a balcony, etc. Some days later she told me about it again, and I politely listened again. And then again. She mustíve given me the identical monologue seven times before we went, making me pretty damn irritated with her.

And then we arrived. And it truly was amazing. Our balcony was maybe 100 feet from the lapping waves. The coastline stretched for dozens of miles in either direction. Deep blue sky, blue-green water till the horizon. Gently shifting palm trees, warm air with a calm, cool breeze. As night approached, the sun sunk lower, spilling deep reds and purples into the air, I turned to mom and said "I finally understand why you couldnít stop talking about this place. You were right." She was thrilled. Sheíd finally shared something with me that mattered so much to her, and weíd connected. This is how Iíll best remember Mom, at this moment we shared of tropical peace and understanding.

I know that my mom was deeply fulfilled, proud of her two kids and devoted to her husband.

I can only hope that all the support and care we gave her during these last difficult years let mom know how deeply she was loved.

Posted by Jake at 10:57 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 14, 2004

Self Serve

My birthday is this Saturday. If anyone wants to buy me any bright shiny objects, I've got one of those online wishlist things here.

Or, if you don't got the dough to buy me stuff, maybe you could go make a sandwich and give it to a homeless guy. That would be nice too.

Anyone who says "what's it feel like to be another year older?" will get the ignoring of a lifetime.

Posted by Jake at 11:04 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 12, 2004

01-12-04

Primus- Here Come the Bastards
Public Enemy- Welcome to the Terrordome
Billy Bragg- The World Turned Upside Down
AC/DC- TNT
Counterspin's Best of 2003
Jet- Are You Gonna Be My Girl
Johnny Cash- Boy Named Sue
J-Live- Satisfied
Bad Religion- Automatic Man
Refused- Coup d'etat
Ani Difranco- Serpentine
Primus- Tommy the Cat
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club- Suddenly
Against Me- Those Anarcho Punks are Mysterious
Halou- Half-Gifts

Posted by Jake at 05:09 PM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2004

Almost There

I'll be resuming my radio show this Monday, January 12 (tomorrow). 2-4pm PST at www.killradio.org. Please tune in. Politics and music.

And shortly after that, I'll get back to some blogging. Got a few more things to take care of first.

Posted by Jake at 03:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Lying Media Bastards is both a radio show and website. The show airs Mondays 2-4pm PST on KillRadio.org, and couples excellent music with angry news commentary. And the website, well, you're looking at it.

Both projects focus on our media-marinated world, political lies, corporate tyranny, and the folks fighting the good fight against these monsters.

All brought to you by Jake Sexton, The Most Beloved Man in America ģ.


contact: jake+at+lyingmediabastards.com

Media News

January 29, 2004

Off to See Elvis and JFK

Let us all bow our heads in respect.

Eddie Clontz, editor of the Weekly World News, has died.

WWN is the publication that broke such vital stories as the man who found a miniature mermaid in a hoagie, the Catholic church's plan to end the pedophilia scandal by using robot priests, and that space alien that endorsed Bill Clinton's presidential run back in 2000.

Good night, sweet prince. And flights of Bat Boys sing thee to thy rest.

Posted by Jake at 03:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
More Media News

Quotes

"When a man tells you that he got rich through hard work, ask him whose."
-Don Marquis, Journalist

More Quotes

Media News

 

Obligatory Blog Links

 

Snapshots

The new site is like 97% done. I wouldn't say that I'm excited about it, because I don't let myself get excited. But I am smiling like an idiot for no reason, so that's something.

More Snapshots

Columnists Of Note

 

References

Sonic Resistance

 

Dead Trees

 

Heavy Rotation

Archives

 

Squiggles of Insight

SubvertWare

Credits

Design and Layout by Mark McLaughlin and Quang Tang
LMB Logo by Quang Tang

Alt "One Hell of a Leader" logo largely stolen from Obey Giant.
All other material by Jake Sexton (unless otherwise cited)

hosted by nice dream