Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Appreciating Chuck Barris, Of Gong Show Fame - One Of World's Most Unique Characters

Chuck Barris died this week at the age of 87. He was
lowbrow, for sure, and I'm eternally grateful to him for that
Word arrived this morning that Chuck Barris, best known as the emcee of the very, very lowbrow 1970s talent contest television program "The Gong Show" has died at the age of 87.

I was a teenager when "The Gong Show" was on, so it fit my mentality perfectly. It was cruel, gaudy, annoying, anti-intellectual, druggy, stupid and a complete waste of time

In other words, perfect.

Most of the acts on "The Gong Show" were amateur, and many were not very good, to say the least.

One act involved two young women eating Popsicles very suggestively, which won them gongs, except of course from Jaye P Morgan, the, shall we say, sexually free regular judge on the program.

Panelist Phillis Diller gave the "PopsicleTwins" as they were called a score of zero on a scale of 0-10, but Jaye P Morgan gave them a 10, saying, "Do you know that's the way I started?"

Yeah, OK. And the show was really that tacky.

(For those who are somehow unfamiliar with the wonders of "The Gong Show," if a judge didn't like an act and couldn't bear watching it anymore, he or she would strike a big gong behind the panel, thus ending the act.

"The Gong Show" was impeccably chaotic. It was obvious that Barris, and many of the judges, were on something, and that something wasn't just a natural good mood. We're talking pharmaceuticals, folks!

By the way, there were some interesting judges on "The Gong Show," including David Letterman before he got really famous. Steve Martin played the banjo on the program. The band Oingo Boingo made a bizarre appearance.

Mare Winningham was on the show, operating under an alias on The Gong Show, singing at age 16. Pee-wee Herman, before he was Pee-wee Herman performed on the show as part of a jazzy duo called Suave and Debonair.

As Billboard reports, other celebrity judges that somehow got roped into doing the show included June Allyson, Milton Berle, Ruth Buzzi, Adrienne Barbeau, Dione Warwick, Sarah Vaughn, Joan Rivers, Tony Randall, Johnny Paycheck, Martin Mull, Wolfman Jack and Peter Lawford.

This is probably the reason we had all these luminaries on "The Gong Show": Whether you admit it or not, all of us like to wallow, to slum it from time to time. It's an opportunity to let your guard down, to not think, to take a break from always burnishing your image.

Chuck Barris understood this, which is why he had so many unlikely successes in life. And made us happy.

Very little of what Barris did with his life Changed History, but his life added plenty of color to plenty of other peoples' lives. Those were gaudy colors, and that was the point.

Barris kept popping up in American pop culture in random ways. He was kind of a smart, goofy, shameless but still loveable Forrest Gump.

As the New York Times reports, Barris first turned up as a guy to babysit a young ABC star named Dick Clark to keep him out of trouble during the Payola Scandal in the 1950s. (Though the Times reported that Barris mostly spent his time on that job drawing on pads of paper.)

The scandal involved the manufacture of radio hits by paying for radio play. 

Barris then wrote  the 1962 fizzy pop song "Palisades Park", performed by Freddy Cannon.

By 1965, Barris hit his glorious tackiness stride by created the television game show "The Dating Game," in which a bachelor or bachlorett would choose a date based on answers of three possible suiters hidden behind a screen.

After that, Barris created the equally lowbrow "The Newlywed Game," that beautifully icky game show that had newly-married couples test how in tune they really were with each other.

Then, in the mid-1970s, of course came "The Gong Show," which echoes on television today.

As the New York Times put it:

"The ghost of "The Gong Show" is evident in numerous reality-television shows of more recent vintage - the early rounds of any given season of  "American Idol", for instance."

See? Barris was a visionary of sorts.

New episode of "The Gong Show" were only produced for about two years, but the party lived on in syndication.

Barris faded from the scene a bit until he wrote the book, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" in 1984 where he claimed that in addition to his being a game show king, he was also an assassin for the CIA.

Now, that seems completely improbable, but with Barris, you have to wonder. Was he?  Barris never gave a straight answer, but the CIA says Barris had nothing to do with them. But you never know.   Just another bizarre chapter in an odd life

Nevertheless, a movie based on the book became a smash hit movie directed by George Clooney and starring Sam Rockwell as Barris.

He went on to write several more books in recent years.

The New York Times said Barris would have preferred to be rememberd as an author, but he knew - correctly - that he'd be remembered differently.

Barris said: "I think on my tombstone it's just going to say, 'Gonged at last,' and I'm stuck with that."

I suppose Barris can be partly blamed for the so-called dumbing of the American mind.

However, as I said, he gave us all many welcome chances to go slumming in the most kitschy, strange and dim resources of American culture.

My low brows are very low withiBarris' legacy.

And I'm eternally grateful to him for that.

To give you a refresher course on how delightful, stupidly wonderful "The Gong Show" was, here's a few clips.

Here, Barris, and the judges, are particularly taken by an act called "The Worms," so much so, that Barris kept demanding encore performances:

Next, here's juggler Hillary Carlip on "The Gong Show" performing a glorious, bad physical pun routine that still has me laughing out loud. (This might be my favorite Gong Show clip.)

And here's that "Popsicle Girls" clip, the one I mentioned in the narrative. It's the most cringe-worthy thing I've seen in ages. Also, TOTALLY NSFW

Apparently, God Is A Malicious Polluter Of Water

This Pennsylvania Congress Creature thinks God
is a malicious polluter of Chesapeake Bay 
Some GOP Congress Creatures on a mission to roll back environmental regulations, have apparently struck upon a foolproof argument in their favor.

Here it is: God is the real polluter here, and how in the world can you regulate God?

At least that's the tactic Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pennsylvania used during a town hall meeting last weekend.

One constituent asked whether we need a stronger Environmental Protection Agency, not a weaker one as Republicans are proposing.

Perry didn't directly answer that question, but spoke of the Chesapeake Bay strategy, regulations meant to clean up Chesapeake Bay, and how he said they were "forced on" states like Pennsylvania and how unfair that all was.

Then Perry said this:

"And by the way, some violators  - if you believe in, if you're spitual and you believe in God - one of the violators was God, because the forests were providing a certain amount of nitrates and phophates to the Chesapeake Bay."

As you can imagine, as reported in the Huffington Post, the crowd at the town hall could be heard shouting in disbelief at that remark. You can hear one guy say, "Oh, come on!" The video is at the bottom of this post.

For the record, some nitrates and phosphates are indeed naturally occuring substances, but most of the phosphates and such messing up Chesapeake Bay are from cities, farm runoff and other pollution sources.

But we can't regulate those! That would be like telling God what to do!

Here's the video of that town hall meeting:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I Immediately Liked Julia, Sesame Street's New Character. Here's Why

Julia, a muppet with autism, will join the cast of
"Sesame Street" on April 10. Welcome, Julia!
Ever since I can remember, I knew I was a little lot different.

When I was three, four, five years ago, I didn't understand it. What kid at that age would?

As I got older, I understood why I was different. I'm gay and have ADHD. 

None of that is really a problem. Only an ignoramous would care, or criticize me for being gay. Having ADHD is just a part of me. It's both a strength and a weakness, or maybe neither.  It's just there.

Everybody is different, but if you're too different, that could be a problem. At least for a few people.

Little kids -toddlers, the pre-school crowd, - really aren't worried at all about who's different and why.

As kids get older, they learn from adults, some of whom aren't as emotionally intelligent as young children. Some  people "learn" that gay people are perverts. People with ADHD are lazy, undisciplined, selfish, say some people. They're wrong of course, but you  have to deal with them.

However, everybody who's different and has watched "Sesame Street" gets an early education on why it's important to celebrate our differences, and see them as strengths, as long as you're strong enough to understand that as you get older.

A few people will not like you as you get older if you are "different."  But Sesame Street gives you the foundation to resist that.

Even at my advanced age - 54 - the welcoming, inclusive vibe of Sesame Street, which I watched religiously as a little kid, helps me out. In my weak, low self-confident moments, I  remember that friendly, gentle cast of characters, both humans and muppets, and my mental balance rights itself.

All this is why I love the fact that "Sesame Street" is introducing a new muppet, a little four year old girl named Julia.

Julia is a bright girl with, autism. Any youngster who has questions about why Julia is like she is, thinks like she does, is because she is indeed different.

Different here doesn't mean bad, or lesser, or weak.

Here's how NPR describes Julia:

"She's a shy and winsome four-year-old, with striking red hair and green eyes. Julia likes to paint and pick flowers. When Julia speaks, she often echoes what she's just heard her friends Abby and Elmo say..

It can be hard to get Julia's attention. Big Bird has to repeat himself to get her to listen, for example. And she sees things where other's don't. 'That's just Julia being Julia,' Abby said."

Julia began last year as a character in Sesame's books and digital offerings, NPR said. She was part of a campaign called "See Amazing In All Children,'" which gives children with autism and their families Julia - somebody to identify with. Julia also helps people without autism to understand people who do have it.

More from NPR:

"Sherrie Westin, an executive vice-president at Sesame Workshop who oversaw the initiative, said the campaign quickly struck a chord.

'One of my favorite stories is a mother who said that she used the book to explain to her child that she had autism like Julia,' Westin said, shaking her head slightly as she teared up. 'this became the tool for her to have a conversation with her five-year-old daughter.

And you'll love this: At the end her daughter said, 'So I'm amazing too, right''"

You betcha!

It's so nice to see the cast of Sesame Street grow like this. We're all different and not enough people celebrate that fact.

Maybe it's time for me to start watching the show again. Hell, the way things are going these days, maybe everybody should be watching "Sesame Street."

It might do us all good. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

What If A Woman Had Been That Expert Interrupted By The Kids On BBC

A scene from a parody of that famous Korean expert BBC
interview with interrupting kids if a woman had been the expert
Here, she defuses a bomb. 
Much  has been made of that expert on Korean politics who was interrupted by his kids while giving a policy interview with the BBC a few weeks back.

The kids came in during the Skype interview and the expert's wife frantically came in and scooted the kids out of the room while the BBC interview continued.

The viral video was funny, in that both the BBC reporter and the Korea expert unflappably continued the interview.

A nearly-as-viral video has surfaced that imagines how things would have worked out had the expert on Korean been a woman and how she would have managed various interruptions.

In the parody, the woman calmly explains the Korean political crisis to a BBC reporter while attending to the kids, cooking a turkey, cleaning a toilet, even defusing a bomb.

I think some busy women, and the men in their lives might relate:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Worst Ever Song In Support Of A Supreme Court Nominee Ever

This painful chorus, led by whack job Eugene
Delgaudio, is delightfully painful as hell.
You'll never be able to un-hear and un-see the video at the bottom of this post.

But I gotta tell you. Sometimes intense pain is sometimes entertaining. This is one of those times.

There's a whack job from Virginia named Eugene Delgaudio likes Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.  

OK, that's not all that weird. Lots of people like Gorsuch.

Delgaudio has taken things one step further, though, by giving us this video in which he leads the "Confirm Gorsuch Chorus" in a song - I can't believe this is true - to the tune of "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?" from "The Sound of Music."

It's unique, I'll give them that. I've never heard anything quite like it. The chorus is so off-key that it sounds like tornado sirens on heroin. Except worse.

Of course, Delgaudio is quite the character anyway. Wildly anti-gay, he comes up with some of the best stuff, I swear to God.

One of my favorite pieces of gloriously awful fiction was a fundraising letter Delgaudio put out in 2010.  He says this story is true, but my, what prose!

"One stormy night I drove to a mailshop hidden deep in a nearly deserted stand of warehouses. I'd heard something was up and wanted to see for myself.

As I rounded the final turn my eyes nearly popped. Tractor-trailers pulled up to loading docks, cars and vans everywhere and long-haired, earring-pierced men scurrying around running forklifts, inserters and huge printing presses. 

Trembling with worry I went inside. It was worse than I ever imagined. 

Row after row of boxes bulging with pro-homosexual petitions lined the walls, stacked to the ceiling. My mind reeled as I realized hundreds, maybe thousands more boxes were already loaded on the tractor trailers. And still more petitions were flying off the press. 

Suddenly, a dark-haired man screeched, 'Delgaudio, what are you doing here/' Dozens of men began moving toward me. I'd been recognized.

As I retreated to my car the man chortled, 'This time, Delgaudio, we can't lose.'"

Phew! Not with that bit of "writing" they can't.

Delgaudio also insists that the fact that  gay people got marriage  and other rights in recent years will all go around raping and murdering little boys and the courts will rule that such actions are OK because the homosexual agenda people say so.

Yeah, he's that type of guy.

But now, he's turned his attention to Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch. I'm not sure Gosuch appreciates the support from Delgaudio and his "chorus," but like everything Delgaudio does, it is something to behold.

Here's the video, if you can stand it:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Trump Troll Who Induced Epileptic Seizure On Journalist Arrested

Journalist Kurt Eichenwald was attacked via a seizure-
inducing strobe light via the internet last December.
The alleged attacker was arrested Friday. 
Back in late December, I talked about a journalist named Kurt Eichenwald, who's been tough on Donald Trump for a long time and also happens to have epilepsy

The form of epilepsy Eichenwald has can result in grand mal seizures trigged by certain types of light patterns.

So, some of the horrible people who are the most ardent Trump supporters sent him emails with strobe lights that trigger the seizures. 

Yeah, real cool. You don't like what somebody is saying about Trump? Make his illness worse, dangerous or even fatal.

Eichenwald's seizure wasn't just a momentary event. It was genuinely scary.  After the seizure, he was incapacitated for several days, lost feeling in his left hand and had trouble speaking for several weeks, reports the New York Times.

Trump is cruel, so are some of his followers. Assholes, to be honest.

Eichenwald fortunately fought back and he contacted the FBI about the people who sent him these emails.

I'm happy to report there's finally been one arrest in this case.

The Dallas Morning News reports that the FBI arrested John Rayne Rivello, 29, of Salisbury, Maryland, on Friday in Maryland.

Few other details of the arrest were immediately available.

Eichenwald tweeted that Rivello faces federal charges and would be indicted by the Dallas (Texas) District Attorney in the coming days.

According to The Verge:

"(Rivello).....allegedly sent a message to Eichenwal saying, 'You deserve a seizure for your post.' That message included the strobe. 

After pursuing a search warrant, police say they found Twitter direct messages in which Rivello discussed Eichenwald and said he hoped his message would send him into a seizure and that he was waiting to see if the writer dies. 

He additionally had a screenshot of a Wikipedia page for Eichenwald in which he altered it to say that the victim died on December, 16, 2016 (the day after he sent the strobe.)"

If all this is true, I hope they make an example out of Rivello. He needs to be in jail for a long, long time.  He could face up to 10 years in prison for the charges against him now, but people rarely serve the maximum sentence.

I also can't wait to learn more details about him.  Rivello is probably a real piece of work.

Rivello is about to be pilloried in the court of public opinion, that's for sure. It'll probably hurt him more than the seizure he induced on Eichenwald.


Eichenwald said he has forwarded information about 40 other people who have sent him the the strobe light emails to the FBI and other arrests are possible.

I'm sorry to say this, but there is an awful subset of Trump supporters who are both stupid and mean, which isn't a good combination.

Part of the resistance against Trump has to include calling out these rank and file idiots, to humiilate them and force them back under the rocks from which they came.

It's OK to be a fan of Trump. It's not OK to physically attack those who aren't Trump fans  There's a few people out there that don't know the difference.  As Trump himself would tweet, Sad!

There are consequences for that awful crew of wannabe fascists out there.

Friday, March 17, 2017

New Culture Of Denying Refugees Into U.S. Alive And Well In Vermont

Rutland, Vermont just said no to Syrian refugees,
following the lead of Donald Trump 
My hometown of Rutland, Vermont has been getting national attention recently over the intense debate there over whether to allow Syrian refugees to resettle in that small city.

Vermont has welcomed refugees from a variety of places over the past few decades, but as the Trump crackdown on refugees continues, it's affecting Vermont in a lot of ways.

If events this month prove anything, Vermont might be moving away from its embrace of refugees, too.

The debate over refugees has been pretty loud in Rutland right from the start. Vermont is generally quite liberal, but Rutland is kind of on the conservative side, at least by Vermont standards.

So the idea of Syrian refugees arriving there has gotten both lots of support, and lots of opposition.

Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras had aggressively championed the arrival of Syrian refugees in his city.

Make that former mayor.

Louras  was up for re-election on March 7 - Town Meeting Day - and his principal opposition came from David Allaire, a member of Rutland's Board of Alderman, who was against settling refugees in Rutland.

Allaire trounced Louras in the election. Allaire got 51 percent of the vote to Louras' 34 percent. Other candidates got small margins.

"I got smoked. Clearly I got smoked....It was a good old-fashioned political drubbing," Louras admitted to VTDigger, a Vermont news site. 

Part of Louras' problem was he never recovered from the fact that he was not particularly forthcoming to the public when the deal to bring Syrian refugees was being hashed out early last year.

But I'm convinced, and many others are, too, that just the idea of Syrian refugees in Rutland made many Rutland residents squeamish, to say the least.

Louras also told VTDigger:

"I think it just demonstrates that Rutland is still, as I said during the campaign and even before the campaign, Rutland is still a microcosm for the national conversation on refugees and immigration. I think the vote reflects that."

That Rutland is a microcosm, as Louras suggested, has certainly attracted plenty of national attention.

Breitbart, apparently Trump's favorite news source crowed:

"While Vermont is generally a refugee-welcoming state, the idea of dumping 100 Syrian refugees into this small city in Vermont that is already struggling economically seemed to defy common sense and logic, even to an area that preferred Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump."

Slate, on the other hand, has a completely different take on what's going on in Rutland, and what happened to Louras.

Says Slate:

"The city of Rutland, which went for Clinton by about 13 points, is 96 percent white. Its population is both aging and shrinking - down to 15,824 in the latest American Community Survey estimate from more than 19,000 in 1970. 

In this, too, it represents America: Cites and towns without immigrants are shrinking. Those that take them are growing. This is true even in the quintessential Sun Belt boomtown Houston, whose white population has dropped by 300,000 residents since 1980, even as total population grew by 500,000. It is certainly true of older cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. 

And it's true of small towns, which increasingly face a choice: stay white and wither, or get diverse and grow. 

Rutland is taking the former path."

Which is too bad. As a Rutland County native, this area of Vermont could have a lot going for it. It'll never be the Vermont manufacturing and railroad hub it was during the early 20th century. But, with the rise of rural tourism and arts, a resurgent back to the land movement of sorts, and an internet age where a creative economy can rise, Rutland has potential.

Rutland also doesn't have to look far away to see how an influx of refugees affected another small Vermont city: Winooski.

A couple of decades ago, Winooski was a down-and-out community on the northern border of Burlington, which is Vermont's largest city.

A thriving textile industry in the early 20th century had died out, just as a marble quarrying and railroad industry in Rutland did the same at about the same time.

Frankly, Winooski was a low-income mess, a place nobody wanted to go to. It was a place Burlington commuters got through as quickly as they could to reach their more upper crust suburban homes in places like Colchester, Essex and Jericho.

Then Winooski started welcoming refugees from all over the world. It was at first an economic decision: The Vermont Refugee Resettlement program figured they could house refugees in Winooski, because the bad economy meant rental prices were low.

And so they came. From Vietnam. Serbia. Bhutan, Nepal. Somalia. Other places.

I won't say this created a utopia. The Winooski school system had to struggle with a huge influx of students who had to learn English as a second language. That was expensive, too. There were cultural differences. Fears that the immigrants would take away jobs from people who had lived in Winooski for decades.

But a funny thing happened.  Winooski turned......vibrant.

Oh sure, part of it was because of a big downtown redevelopment project hatched by a visionary City Council and some developers.

However, much of Winooski's new prosperity came from those refugees. I hate to traffick in stereotypes, but many immigrants tend to be entreprenurial. Interesting restaurants, shops and events sprouted in Winooski.

That attracted interest, and other businesses arrived. Most of them were created by locals who are not refugees, like this really cool Winooski barber shop I now frequent. Other businesses opened because of newer refugees.

OK, Winooski, may have a few too many hipsters nowadays, but that's a lot better than the doldrums the community was in years ago.

Winooski is cool. Rutland could be cool, too.

People are afraid of change, that's just human nature. Plus, we shouldn't change things just for the sake of change.

Sometimes, though, we have to overcome our fears.

Progress in Rutland is stalled now, because of anti-immigrant sentiment both locally and nationally.

As National Public Radio reported, two Syrian refugee family settled in Rutland before Trump shut down that program and before Allaire became mayor.

To be sure, many Rutlanders welcome the refugees.

Says NPR:

"Speaking through an interpreter this week, members ofone family said they felt relieved to be in Vermont. 'At first, we came her and we were surprised bythe very, very warm welcme by the people of Rutland,' one Syrian said. 'The mayor, our caseworker, our host family, all came and welcomed us, and since then, it never stopped, and people have just welcomed us and helped in every way."

That's one part of Rutland. One part of our nation. The ones ready to judge on a newcomer's character, not background.

The other Rutland, the other nation, cowers in fear. Shut the door, and lock us inside, safe from the world.

But that just leaves us more unsafe. What we don't know CAN hurt us, much more than the risks we do know about.

Of course we shouldn't let in everyone and anyone into the United States. We have a long, long history of both embracing and combating immigrants.

It seems we do better durung times when we welome people from other countries.

Yes, vet the hell out of all would-be refugees to the United States. Yes, we don't need or want a stampede of millions of immigrants all at once.

But let's leave the door cracked open, shall we? The nation we save might be our own.