Monday, August 29, 2005

R. Kelly—Portent of Doom

The time has come to start scanning the skies for winged horsemen. Lo! the end is upon us.

You know something god-awful has happened if Hurricane Katrina, cutting her inexorable path of destruction toward the city of New Orleans even as I write this, is only the second most obvious sign of the impending apocalypse. That something would be R. Kelly's debut of the sixth installment in his R&B soap opera Trapped in the Closet on MTV's Video Music Awards Sunday night.

Kelly arrived on Diddy's white carpet wearing a t-shirt that read "I'm Rick James, Bitch," which would have been funny if it wasn't so uncomfortably close to the (alleged) truth. Unavoidably (and, I fear, unintentionally) hilarious, however, was Kelly's VMA performance in which he lip-synced to his inexplicably popular bed-hopping melodrama, acting out all the roles himself in an absolute car crash of a one-man show. (Click here to read my review of the first five chapters of Trapped in the Closet, in which I establish my R. Kelly-hater cred.)

The highlight of the performance was the unveiling of the sixth chapter of a promised (threatened?) ten-part urban morality play. The new episode picks up at Cathy and Rufus' apartment after our Glock-toting hero has left to confront his own cheating wife. Reverend Rufus is torn (literally) between his wife and his gay lover, Chuck, who pulls a knife and threatens to kill Cathy. The segment ends with Rufus kissing Chuck (the only act that R. wouldn't pantomime, proving that there actually are limits to his spirit of sexual adventure) before telling him that he's going back to his wife.

Chapter 6 provided a little taste for his fans to whet their appetite for the final four episodes while leaving several questions for people to ponder. What will become of our hero and his unfaithful wife? Will he confront the cop who is her lover? Will it be physically possible to listen to all ten chapters in a row without bleeding from the ears? Only time will tell.

Other highlights from the Video Music Awards:
  • Sean Puffy Puff P. Daddy Diddy Combs changed his name again. Did you notice? His name is now Diddy, but I hear he also answers to The Flop.
  • Jessica Simpson was waylaid backstage and had to give her presentation wearing only half a dress. It was not sexy. I only hope her good-girl image doesn't suffer because of it.
  • Apparently Hillary Duff was also assaulted backstage and had to present with only half of her cheekbones.
  • MC Hammer still retains the power to embarrass himself, after all these years.
  • Oh, I think they handed out some awards, too. Here's the list if you care. Don't know why you would, though, what with the end of the world and all.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Future of Literature

The world needs fewer Dave Eggerses and Jonathan Franzens, and more of this brilliance.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

R. Kelly—The Guerrilla Remix

Ryan's guerrilla remix of R. Kelly's abysmal R&B soap opera "Trapped in the Closet" is about as close to pure genius as you can get. Probably a bit closer to the truth as well.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

PTC Handcuffs Grand Theft Auto

I was a bit overwhelmed when this story first broke, but a message from my favorite right-wing mailing list brought it all rushing back. The PTC—short for Parents Television Council, a fanatical gang of tight-assed media scolds led by the humorless ultra-conservative L. Brent Bozell III (as if you could have a good sense of humor with that name)—spent much of their latest weekly missive crowing over the great victory they won on behalf of lazy parents everywhere against the scourge that is Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

For complete coverage of the whole fiasco, read Matt Paprocki's commentary over at In a nutshell, Rockstar Games was forced to change the rating of this game to "Adults Only" because it's possible to download a code from the Internet which, when loaded into the game, activates a secret mission in which the player can make two characters have sex that is, shockingly, about as graphic as what you can dream up between Barbie and Ken—assuming that Ken keeps his pants on throughout. Seriously. If you're over 18 and want to see what all the fuss is about, click here to see a video of the infamous "Hot Coffee Mod."

It would not be an exaggeration to say that this is milder than what passes for titillation in many R-rated movies. GTA: San Andreas originally carried an ESRB rating of M for "Mature," which means it is not suitable for children under 17—the exact same standard as an R-rated movie. Thanks to pressure from the PTC and born-again conservative Hillary Clinton, the game now carries an A, or "Adults Only," rating, which means it is only suitable for people 18 and older.

In addition to protecting the tender, unspoiled minds of America's 17-year-olds, this ratings change has one major effect: while many chain stores like Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target carry M-rated games, they do not stock games with an A rating. The PTC's campaign against GTA is not actually about protecting children, it's about damaging the commercial viability of Rockstar Games and, ultimately, bringing us one step closer to their not-so-wet dream of a future in which all media are suitable for children 100% of the time.

As always with the PTC, the irony of their mission escapes them. While claiming to advocate on behalf of parents, their true goal is to cede the responsibilities of parenting to the government. I humbly submit that if a kid is able to go out and drop $49.99 on this video game without their parents' knowledge or consent, those parents aren't doing their job. And if a child is able to go on the Internet and download the "Hot Coffee Mod" without parental supervision, there's a damned good chance that they're looking at German fecalphilia porn, snuff films and Drudge Report as well.

Parents, do your job and stop screwing things up for the rest of us!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Proof of God's Existence

My first inkling came as I watched the low-carb products moldering on the back shelves at the supermarket—dislodged from their once-proud perches near the premium toilet paper and imported sharp cheddars. Oh! How the mighty had fallen.

The news today that Atkins Nutritionals has filed for bankruptcy merely seals the deal. (Classic copy from the Daily News: The company filed for protection "apparently because it doesn't have the bread to pay its debts." Priceless.)

Dr. Atkins, who gets svelter by the day, must be spinning in the grave where he had been, until today, providing carb-free food for the worms.

Death to a pleasureless existence! Death to Atkins Nutritionals! Pass the Wheat Thins.

A Fatwa Worth Following

It is likely that most Westerners first encoutered the Arabic term fatwa in February, 1989, when Ayatollah Khomeini sentenced Salman Rushdie to death for the crime of writing fiction. It's no wonder, therefore, that the word has sounded sinister to Western ears ever since.

It shouldn't, though. A fatwa is simply a ruling on Islamic law issued by a Mufti, or Islamic legal scholar. There have been a number of fataawa issued on the subject of terrorism since Sept. 11 (and before), but none, perhaps, as important as the one issued by the Fiqh Council of North America on Friday (click here to read a .pdf of the fatwa and the list of 168 US Muslim organizations that have added their support to the decree).

At first, the Fiqh Council's fatwa mirrors those issued by other Muftis by speaking out against the perpetrators of terror:
Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians' life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram — or forbidden — and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not "martyrs."
What makes the Council's decree unique is what follows:
In the light of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state:

1. All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam.
2. It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence.
3. It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians.
In points two and three, the emphasis is shifted from the terrorists—who would likely ignore the fatwa anyway—to the Muslim community as a whole. Not only is terrorism forbidden (duh!), but so is suppoting it, tacitly or otherwise. By including the general population in this fatwa, the Muftis of the Fiqh Council prove that their proclamations are meant to be so much more than empty pieties. The number of American Muslim organizations that have signed on to the Council's decree suggests that it represents the mainstream of Islamic thought in this country.

The Fiqh Council's words also provide an emphatic answer to the question issuing from places like FOXNews and the Rush Limbaugh Show: Where's the Muslim outrage and condemnation? Well, here it is, in plain language for all the world to see. Here's hoping the world listens.
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