Y Marks the Spot: Occupy the Bottom

Viva la Revolucion!

I want to preface this rambling piece by saying that, in over three decades of my existence, this is the first and only year that I’ve been genuinely interested in where America is going.  Sure, seeing Obama get elected was great, but it was still the usual game of token democracy trotted out with Leap Year regularity, and I don’t get involved in that (and I didn’t).  This year, I suddenly found myself bearing an overabundance of newfound pride in Wisconsin as hundreds of thousands of my fellow Midwesterners rose up to tell their tin pot dictator to go to hell.  And then, I’d say almost as a direct consequence, the Occupy Movement turned the greedhate nationwide.  It is simply breathtaking to see Americans get so pissed off that they’re willing to inconvenience themselves to pay more than the usual lip service to our ideals of freedom – and no, joining the Tea Party and trolling the rest of the country doesn’t count as this.

I hope we’re seeing the dawn of the next economic civil rights movement, but I have one pretty big problem with all the uprisings I’ve seen this year.  Okay, two; the coordinated police brutality of recent times has been pretty upsetting.  And while we’re on that subject: who the hell gave bike cops the authority to pepper spray protesters?  Has the world suddenly become a mad version of Pacific Blue?  Is Mario Lopez the new face of the modern police state?

Deep breath.  Back on topic.  Just about every time I hear otherwise wonderful economic insurgents discuss the menace of the current climate of unchecked corporate greed where damn near everything under the sun has been made for-profit, the fears and worries usually end up in one place.  The problem, they usually say, is that the middle class is in danger of disappearing.

I don’t know about you, but my heart doesn’t exactly bleed for the middle class.  It’s a nice enough concept, a subtle endorsement of share the wealth that we peasants could use a lot more of.  It’s also a pretty meaningless term.  In a parallel reversal of the truism that none of the insufferable hipsters think that they are insufferable hipsters, a whole lot of Americans seem to regard themselves as middle class when they aren’t even close.  I’d say that middle class ranges between affording a house and a quarter million dollars, but I think the popular definition has become being able to sleep in your own room, no matter how large or small that room may be.  I disagree.

More importantly, when I think of the victims of capitalism, my first thoughts aren’t of people who can (or who used to be able to) afford a house.  It’s of people who everyday are starving to the brink of death, who can’t afford even the most basic of health care, who live in Third World conditions in a First World country.  It’s the people who live under bridges because the government refuses to divert a cent of defense spending toward feeding and housing the people supposedly defended.  You’ll forgive me if my sympathy for the so-called middle class comes a bit late.

As one of these broke-ass people who live one disaster away from financial collapse, I can say that when I see these well-meaning people wringing their hands and loudly wailing about the gloomy future of the middle class, I get a little pissed and I feel a whole lot left out.  This is, of course, unless we’re fighting to expand the cushy middle class to encompass everybody, which would be a very comfortable brand of communism.  (We are the 100%!)

I know – and yet, still, I hope – that the American protests of 2011 are based on community and kindness and wanting to help out one’s fellow man.  Yet every time I hear the term “middle class,” my certainty fades a bit.  I wonder if these aren’t movements based on social justice but on envy.  I wonder if the suburbanites are just using the proles to skim more off the top of the pyramid.  I wonder whether the poor will once again be the dupes.  In the same vein, imagine bitching about the cost of your rent in front of a person who hasn’t lived indoors for years.  Could the homeless become the dupes of the minimum wage slaves?

One of the genius rhetorical moves of the Occupy movement has been moving past this potential class infighting to paint the conflict as everyone against the super-rich.  “We are the 99%” is a much more inclusive catchphrase than “Save the middle class.”  And as much as people think they’re unwavering bastions of conviction, well, they aren’t.  We’re usually stupid, malleable sheep in public, and as such words and tone matter big time in a mass movement.

Side note: As much as I love the idea of a horde of people shouting down public displays of aristocracy, I still cringe every time I watch a repeat-after-me Mic Check, even as I cheer.  I suppose synchronized disruption is better than blind obedience, but still.

Deep breath.  Back on topic. Summation: If you say you’re going to stand up for (almost) everybody, then stand up for (almost) everybody, even the middle class.  In America alone, that includes the millions of people that you don’t know, have very little in common with, and may in fact dislike intensely.  It’s damn near impossible to maintain that level of idealism.  If you want to get anything done, attempt it anyway.

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special

 

Film: Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (1988)

 

 

I’ll pretty much put up with anything that Pee-Wee Herman has to offer with a big stupid grin on my face.  I’m not saying that the inevitable Christmas special that came out of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was any different, but I will say that there were a few moments while I watched this extravaganza when I wondered what the hell was going on.  It’s certainly not half as triumphantly horrible as the Star Wars Holiday Special, though I’d have traded at least half of the special guest stars wandering through the Playhouse for one bartending Bea Arthur.  I would, however, gladly keep Pee-Wee’s opening segment featuring a dancing choir of Marines.

The logical place to start discussing all the madness is at that legion of guest stars.  Halfway through watching the Del Rubio Triplets prance around in the snow and croon out “Winter Wonderland,” I realized that I was watching what was supposed to be a kid’s show.  It would be a very strange child who would give a rat’s ass about any of these guest stars, save maybe Magic Johnson.

Here’s a list: Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello serve as Pee Wee’s slave labor; Little Richard whines about not being able to ice skate; Whoopi Goldberg, Dinah Shore, and Oprah get blown off by Pee-Wee via Picture Phone; Cher mysteriously shows up and demands to know the Secret Word before creeping off like a creep; K.D. Lang flails around in song like some cracked-out Lady Elvis; Joan Rivers is onscreen for about five seconds; Zsa Zsa Gabor hangs out with a cow; professional plastic surgery victim Charo twitches out a song; and Grace Jones sings “Little Drummer Boy” in a tit-suit.

What child wouldn’t be irrevocably scarred by this star-studded cast?

CHRISTMAS.

Of course, between the brief strobe flashes of old-timey celebrities there’s the usual half-assed story about learning the true spirit of Christmas.  In this case, it involves Pee-Wee not being such a greedy bitch that every other child on Earth is forced to go without presents.  Of course, he comes around and gets to ride off with Santa, blah blah blah.

The real conscience of the show is professional nogoodnik puppet Randy, who pulls the plug on the Christmas tree and rails about the shallow commercialism of the holiday.  Naturally, Pee-Wee quickly shuts down this unrest by showing him a video of white kids portraying the nativity in front of a bunch of Asian kids, which is somehow enough to calm Randy’s rebellious spirit.  Lame!

Still, I’ll take Pee-Wee’s Christmas celebration.  Most importantly, Pee-Wee’s in it.

 

The Designer’s Drugs: Christmas Music for People Who Hate Christmas Music

 

Medium: Album

Stimulus: Christmas Music for People Who Hate Christmas Music

 

If you have a job that requires you to work in a store in December, then you probably hate the seasonal onslaught of holiday music with a white-hot passion.  Me, I have a special fantasy involving a time machine, Bing Crosby, Nat “King” Cole, and a steel chair studded with nails.  Really, I’d expand that fantasy to include any jackass rock band who decides that the world just could not survive without its take on the classics (I’m looking at you, Barenaked Ladies).  Yet fear not, fellow Christmas sufferers, for there is holiday music out there that will not make you consider seasonal rampage!  Enclosed are my suggestions; feel free to sneak them into your store’s playlist.

 

Neil Diamond – A Cherry Cherry Christmas

 

Really, I only suggest this because I’m kind of a nerd for Neil.  Beyond the sheer joy that is Neil Diamond, this is a pretty square affair.  The only swerve comes when Neil appropriates Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song” – though he sort of blows it by endorsing gin and tonickah yet not supporting the smoking of marijuanikah.  Holiday double standard!

 

Tori Amos – Midwinter Graces

 

It’s a Tori Amos album, sad and full of piano.  Its holiday sensibilities run pretty pagan; it barely qualifies as a Christmas album, at least in the sterile modern sense.  If you like Tori Amos, you will like this.

 

Twisted Sister – A Twisted Christmas

 

I love this album.  Twisted Sister rules Christmas.  The songs aren’t much more than heavy metal versions of the old holiday standards, and for all their distortion they’re played pretty straightforward.  Still, there’s something joyous about hearing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” played almost exactly like “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”  This is the only Christmas album that will have you pumping your fist with joy.

 

Fred Schneider and the Superions – Destination… Christmas!

 

My respectful boner for Neil Diamond multiplies tenfold for Fred Schneider of the B-52s.  Besides having the benefit of being comprised entirely of original Christmas songs, Destination… Christmas! is a balls to the wall celebration of the absurd.  Schneider rocks it wild, singing about fruitcakes, murderous yetis, crummy trees, and lame relatives.  He lurches around like a drunken old pervert in “Jingle Those Bells” and subjects the listener to four minutes of nothing but French orgasmic moaning and jolly ho ho hos at the final track (“Santa, Je T’aime”).  Best Christmas album ever.

 

Julie Silver – It’s Chanukah Time

 

I only mention this one because I have a redneck friend whom I gave this to one Christmas as a joke on his suburban racism, and apparently he still listens to it.  Breaking down barriers!

 

Happy Holidays, and keep Mithras in Christmas!