Sunday, April 20, 2008

It's like being suicide bombed by the DMV

The April 16, 2008 edition of the Los Angeles Times contains this beauty of an article that has just absolutely made my day. It details a memo sent by Al Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef to a subordinate complaining about improper expense reports. It accuses the terrorist lackey of misappropriating cash, a car, sick leave, and an air conditioner, among others.

Some choice excerpts:

"I learned that you did not submit the voucher to the accountant..."

"...with respect to the air-conditioning unit... furniture used by brothers in Al Qaeda is not considered private property... I would like to remind you of the punishment for any violation."

From the article:

"They [the Egyptian Al Qaeda chiefs] may have imposed the blindingly obdurate nature of Egyptian bureaucracy."

"You see that in the retirement packages they offered..."

One memo accounts for a mislaid Kalashnikov rifle and 125 rounds of ammunition.

From a letter from a militant in the 1990's:
"Peace and god's mercy and blessings... praise to the Lord and salvation to his prophet... I have not received my salary in three months and I am six months behind in paying my rent... you also told me to remind you, and this is a reminder."

Translation: "Praise be to Allah. Now where is my money?!?"

Mustafa Ahmed Al Yahzid... ran the network's finance committee between 1995 and 2007

The questions this raises are legion. They hate us for our freedoms, but love us for our Form 1099's and subcommittees? What the hell is the retirement package for a suicide bomber? And, seriously, what is the punishment for misappropriating an air-conditioner, and would Doctor Evil approve?

I think we need more stories like this. Terrorist organizations rely on, well, terror to work. And, frankly, it's just a little hard to be terrorized of people who run finance committees. I mean, there's a reason we never saw Darth Vader signing paychecks for storm troopers.

Anyway, there's a great, very dark comedy in all this. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go put together a pitch.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bill Zehme, you are the wind beneath my wings

Some people are inspired by excellence, by the example created by masters. A painter looks at the works of da Vinci, or a trumpet player listens to Gillespie, and they think, "I want to aspire to that level of greatness."

Then there's me. I'm inspired by the awful and the incompetent. To this day, there's a part of me that wants to be a high school teacher because my own World History teacher was so incompetent that I said to myself, "I should be a teacher just so that those I teach won't be taught by this bozo."

In that same vein, I give you, from the April, 2008 issue of
Rolling Stone, Bill Zehme's feature article, "Chris Rock Isn't Laughing."
Because he has ceaselessly been proclaimed the Funniest Man Alive since his 1996 landmark Bring the Pain stand-up special, there comes for him a niggling responsibility to go be Funny in other places where people are also Alive but don't get HBO or his extraordinarily fine CW network coming-of-age series, Everybody Hates Chris (produced and narrated three seasons running by Rock) or film releases such as CB4, Pootie Tang, Down to Earth, Nurse Betty and last year's I Think I Love My Wife, his headstrong auteur remake of Eric Rohmer's French new Wave curiosity Chloe in the Afternoon.

Check the punctuation on that. Not only is it retarded ("...where people are also Alive...", what the hell does at even mean?), it's one sentence. One sentence that is ONE HUNDRED WORDS LONG!

But wait, there's more. And when I say "more," you better believe I mean a lot more. Again, these are single sentences, people.

These, of course, are mere droplets from ninety-plus minutes of Never Before Heard meticulously honed societal meanderings - topics ad infinitum traversing war, politics, pharmaceuticals, Roger Clemens, real estate, ejaculation, love, fatness, energy crisis, Anna Nicole Smith, gender discord, women gone missing, debt, careerism, entertainment gossip, SAT scores, gayness, racial correctness ('Now they're trying to get rid of the word nigger, my beloved nigger...'), Britney Spears and beyond - sprung from the ever-swirling Rock reservoir of dyspepsia, which has been damming up since the airing of his fourth HBO concert special, Never Scared, in 2004. (95 words)


Anyway, on this day and on two others I spent with him in different provinces, he wore a navy crew-neck sweater and navy sweatpants, the civilian uniform he favors most devotedly - possibly (but probably not) to compensate for the fact that "I am not blue-black," as he approximated his tint of flesh on the recent PBS Henry Louis Gates Jr. genealogical series, African American Lives 2, wherein he learned that his ancestry was twenty percent white European.

That last one is a succinct 89 words - practically taciturn by Bill's standards. Now, those sentences alone would be the length of a typical Rolling Stones feature article, but luckily, Bill Zehme graces us with more of his overwritten, rambling, pointless and painful prose. mortal, of course, sifts matters of class and skin divide with sharper acuity than Rock, who is black but sometimes employs the term "a fine mocha" because he is just that precise.

Chris Rock is black!?!

You may as well know, meanwhile, that the un-robotic Rock possesses the actual Obama personal phone number...

Chris Rock isn't a robot?!?

Rock addresses women of certain maturity as "ma'am." For example: "How you doin' ma'am?" he said to a diminutive white-haired matron whose face abruptly hovered beside him.

Chris Rock doesn't call old women "bee-

Or the riveting story of how Chris Rock ordered cranberry juice, but got white cranberry juice and didn't recognize it, so the waiter replaced it with red cranberry juice. Man, I get chills just thinking about it.

So, thank you, Bill Zehme. You are my inspiration, my reason to keep practicing, to keep striving to make it as a writer. Because every moment that someone is reading something by me, is a moment that they definitely aren't reading you - and I can think of no greater service I could offer.