From the I Just Had To Click That Link file

Disturbing thoughts. Or, according to David Schmader:

The week continues with a creepy new real-life drama starring Andy Dick, the troubled comedian who was arrested early this morning on charges of sexual abuse in West Virginia. Details come from the West Virginia Herald-Dispatch, which reports the 44-year-old Dick was taken into police custody around 4:00 a.m., after two men accused Dick of groping them at the Huntington bar Rum Runners. In a press release, the Huntington Police Department reported “two alleged incidents of a patron engaging in nonconsensual sexual contact with a bar employee and another patron. Based upon statements of two victims and independent witness accounts alleging that he had engaged in unwanted and uninvited groping of the two victims’ genital areas, [Dick] was arrested and charged with two counts of Sex Abuse in the First Degree.” As the Herald-Dispatch reminds us, this is not Dick’s first alleged sex crime: He’s currently serving three years probation following his alleged sexual battery of a 17-year-old girl, whose tank top he allegedly yanked down to reveal her breasts. If convicted of today’s alleged gropings, Dick faces one to five years in prison.

I mean, four thousand jokes come to mind, and not a damn one of them any good. But part of me actually wonders what this guy is repressing. Really, why behave this way? Sure, “He’s an asshole,” serves well enough for many, but what is the psyche of an asshole? Does the detail serve as a punch line? Or is it just freaking sad?

Variations on a theme: Depravity

Two stories of a common theme, both from The Stranger‘s regular “Last Days” column, penned by David Schmader.

Last year:

FRIDAY, JUNE 1 The week continues with the aforementioned differently abled street brawler, thanks to the eagle eyes of Hot Tipper Genevieve: “As I was meandering my way through Westlake Center toward Pacific Place for this afternoon’s SIFF screening of the documentary Crazy Love (highly recommended) [Last Days seconds that recommendation], I saw a twentysomething woman in a kiwi-green halter top and tight capri pants who’d somehow managed to pick a fight with a slightly obese middle-aged woman in a wheelchair. And I mean a real fight. The sporty young woman would swoop in mantis-like for a strike only to be fended off with a skillful hook from her stationary adversary. Truly, the disabled pugilist dominated the fight, making solid contact with every blow, causing the other woman to dance back skittishly after failing to land a single solid punch. As I watched from a distance, I reflected on the epic proportions of the Manichaean duel taking place, thinking to myself that the meek shall inherit the Earth, indeed.”

And just a couple weeks ago:

SUNDAY, MAY 18 The week ends with an extraordinary tale of “religion gone bad and valiant community spirit” from that inexhaustible forum for freakery known as King County Metro, reported by heroic Hot Tipper Oscar. “I was riding the 18 headed downtown, when out of the corner of my eye I saw some movement. When I turned to look, I saw a man repeatedly hitting a blind woman seated at the front of the bus. An older gentleman seated next to the woman jumped up and tried to intervene, but a quick punch to the head knocked him back down into his seat. Once I realized that what I was seeing was real, I rushed the assailant and grabbed him by the arms while he yelled at me to ‘keep out of this. You got no idea what’s really happening here’ and the woman cowered and covered her head. He kept screaming about ‘being filled with the power of God’ and threatening to kill me for stopping him from doing God’s work. Three other passengers helped me hold him while another rider called 911. Another passenger was assisting the assaulted woman, who’d been hit so hard she was bleeding. The police arrived and apprehended the attacker, then took all of our names. While one young lady was telling her story, I heard her say that when the assailant got on the bus he saw the blind woman and said, ‘God says all sick people must die,’ then started hitting her. [Confidential to the psychotic assailant: Blind people aren’t sick, and all people must die. Back to Oscar:] The assaulted woman was checked by paramedics and declared physically okay, except for scratches and bruising, then got a ride home from a fire marshal. Thanks to all my fellow Metro riders who pitched in and stood up for someone unable to defend herself.”

You know, when I was a kid, I got the standard lecture about how bullies are just scared and desperate and looking for someone—anyone—whose misery might compensate for whatever the bully lacks. And this makes a certain amount of sense. But attacking the blind or the wheelchair-bound seems a particularly severe escalation that, at best, only testifies to a growing sense of depravity about humanity.

Don’t bother reading this

Rare kudos to FOX News.

A German retiree is taking a hospital to court after she went in for a leg operation and got a new anus instead ….

The rest of that sentence, in fact, is, “the Daily Telegraph is reporting”. The FOX version is nothing more than a slightly edited—for vernacular—version of the Australian newspaper’s short article. But the thing is that I picked this up from David Schmader at Slog, who noted that The Sun had the better headline. Indeed, the British tabloid’s staff reporter simply edited the four sentences of the Australian version.

So let’s do a headline comparison:

  • Daily Telegraph: “Pensioner gets bum’s rush on op”
  • The Sun: “Leg op woman gets bum deal”
  • “Woman Goes for Leg Operation, Gets New Anus Instead”

The headline says it allAnd, yeah. I have to go with the FOX headline. I mean, you don’t need to make any joke about it. The simple fact of the story is the joke. Well, sort of. As long as you’re not the pensioner who still needs the leg operation.

Well, that and even without the typographical omission, there’s something about the phrase, “Click hear Dr. Manny talk about medical errors” that strikes me just so. They ought to just give it up and go find themselves a doctor named Nick.

Pop Culture: For what it’s worth

I’m not one prone to celebrity gossip, but, having been awake through most of the night, I happened to see the headlines hitting in various stages, and it was the picture that finally set me off. The Stranger‘s David Schmader notes:

In other news, Britney Spears is desperately mentally ill. Last year, I wrote at least twice that humanity is forbidden to stand around and watch as Britney’s sucked into the same pathetic public death-trap as Anna Nicole Smith. This year, I think Britney will be lucky to have so dignified a death. After last night’s ruckus, I can easily imagine her being fatally shot in a McDonald’s parking lot by a man in a police helicopter.

Paramedics help Britney, strapped down on to a stretcher, into an ambulance after the siege in Beverly HillsYou’d think a critic of pop culture like me would celebrate the day Britney Spears was carted off to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation, but in truth I find her tragic condition a damning indictment of our culture. Pop stars are no longer people, as such. They’re products. And this is part of what cracks them. In addition to the grueling schedules and the isolation among people whose only regard is measured in dollar figures, there is the added pressure of meeting an impossible, undefined standard.

It would be embarrassing enough, I suppose, if someone posted a picture of your snatch on the web, but if you’re a Britney Spears, or a Lindsay Lohan, you don’t get to think of it the same way as if you’re Joan Q. Public. And, really, that was a fantastic picture of whichever Olsen twin that was, but that’s beside the point.

One of the strange things I see and hear is that, while we are willing to make the point that this or that star is crazy, for some reason people are less willing to indict the whole industry. Sure, it’s easy enough to pick on Hollywood, for instance, but in that notion we’re indicting the culture because of the people. We are not as willing, as a culture, to pause and consider that the people behave as they do because of the culture they’re in. Perhaps at some point in the past we could indict certain people for making it that way, but there are still parents who encourage their children to follow this or that dream, and one wonders whether they really believe their kid will be lucky enough to avoid the casting couch, or magic enough to get through it all without drugs.

If things keep up the way they’re going, we’ll get a porn film out of Britney before she either kills herself or, as Schmader has it, gets taken down in a sordid standoff. And for some people, this is great news. But she will never, ever get a chance to be human again. The closest she will ever be allowed is to be a washed-up, warmed-over has-been whose own reflection mockingly reminds daily that she used to be somebody.

The misadventures of child actors are something of a joke in the culture. The implosions of rock stars are the stuff of myth and legend. And yet, as we are easily reminded—if only we would pay attention—by everyday battles of seemingly greater importance, there are reasons why these celebrities collapse. There are reasons why they are dysfunctional, eccentric, and even downright nuts. They don’t call the music industry’s boilerplate a “slave contract” for nothing. To work so hard, day in and day out, to fashion a lie, a cheap fantasy bleeds the soul. In the end, the artists we admire are not the ones whose work bedazzles us. Instead of the music, or the drama, we are so often captivated by the image, a carefully-calculated product that you could stick anyone with half a voice and a smidge of rhythm into. This is the art of unseen hands and sinister, greedy minds. Genuinely talented artists will be lucky to only feel suppressed. Nearly all of them will feel exploited. And by the time they realize what has happened—by the time they are allowed to know the truth of what they’ve gotten themselves into—it’s too late to go anywhere but recklessly forward, pressing on and burning brightly until there is nothing left to give. And then they’re hauled off to the hospital for evaluation, and if they’re lucky, they haven’t burned everything away.

And this is what it’s worth. All so we can pretend to be cool.

• • •

A note of justification: I had originally composed this, as the first paragraph suggests, after avoiding the developing headlines through the course of the night in question. But I receive The Stranger‘s Slog via RSS, so it was hard to miss that ghastly photo, and, as I noted, it was the image that set me off. After composing my response to the situation, I decided the least I could do was verify the sources for the image, and following Schmader’s links, I landed at This Is London, a.k.a. the Entertainment Guide for The Evening Standard. Scrolling through the sordid article, which includes an ambush photo of Britney’s father that qualifies as morbidly hilarious, all things considered, I encountered another picture of Britney, on the stretcher, apparently mugging for the camera. At which point, ofOfficers escort troubled Britney to hospital, her sons followed in a car behind course, I gave a shuddering sigh and cursed myself for having been drawn into a paparazzi melodrama. As I lamented the episode Saturday morning, my brother made the point that mugging for the camera is pretty much all these dysfunctional celebs know how to do, and the thought struck me as sad. Eventually, I reconsidered my decision to kill this entry because, rather than being angry about feeling conned by a dimwitted skank pop star, it seems to me that here smile indeed represents something absolutely craven about her ilk. This really is all they know. And this really is all they can manage. If she lives to be some used-up whore aimlessly wandering the pier, a shadow of that smile will be all she has left. Maybe nobody will recognize her by name, but that smile will haunt them: “I don’t know who she is, but she used to be somebody.”