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Topical Runoff - 2006 Archive

Remember that year. Us neither. Maybe this suff will jog our memories.

2006: A Year in Review: Part Two

2006: A Year in Review: Part One

The Secret History of the Cigarette

No Sympathy for the Record Industry

Steve Irwin

It's Spring

It's Easter

An Open Letter to the Oil and Chemical Companies

Winter Olympics Advertising

Dick Cheney

 

 

 

2006: A Year in Review: Part Two

Seven Disappointments

Iraq - apparently to control a religious civil war that's lasted for centuries, you had to rule a country with an iron fist. Who would've guessed?

Talladega Nights - Ron Burgundy must be spinning in his grave. Gary Cole was good, though.

Technology - Still no clean, renewable resources. What the fuck? Are all you scientists working for pharmaceutical companies now?

Basic cable - There is never anything worth watching on television except football and reruns of The Simpsons.

The Republican Party defeat in the November elections - a friend of ours was confident that these guys had Osama cornered for months and would suddenly capture him a week before the election. But they didn't even have that under control. For shame. Jesus had miracles to back up his big talk. These old white men couldn't even turn water into piss.

The weather - So Katrina comes by in 2005, and we all hold our collective breaths for the catastrophes of 2006. Instead we just had a heat wave. If New York isn't flooded by next fall, I say we lynch Al Roker.

Mice - Get the fuck out of my house! Stop eating my food and shitting everywhere (remember, mouse shit could contain traces of the Hanta virus)!

Dead People

We know the holiday season is a hectic time for all of us, but it seemed a bit too much for James Brown and Gerald Ford (two kindred spirits if we've ever seen a pair). Both shuffled off the mortal coil on Christmas Day, forever invoking the ire of Jesus Christ ('you've ruined my birthday!').  Now how would one go comparing the two? Who made more of an impact on contemporary America, Gerald Ford or James Brown? One represented the last stand of the old republican party. The other wrote 'Sex Machine'.

Saddam Hussein will probably have more written about him than both James Brown and Gerald Ford, but that's almost a give-in if you kill thousands of your own people, start semi-successful or unsuccessful wars, and live under a shitload of oil. Personally, all of us here thought he wouldn't be hanged because the appeals process would take months, which would mean he would turn seventy before he could hang, which in Iraq is the age when capital punishment ceases to apply. Seems like we confused the Iraqi legal system with the American legal system (apparently Iraq is just as corrupt, but much, much faster). Much has been made about how unprofessional the execution was carried out, but since this is Iraq, and the only person who died there was the person who was supposed to, I think we should count our blessings and call it a success. Hell, things have gotten so bad over there I would only be half surprised if the hanging didn't work and Saddam became some sort of semi-zombie, trying to eat the brains of all the judges in the room.

Who else died? Wilson Pickett (the poor man's James Brown), Kirby Puckett (the drug free Darryl Strawberry), Proof (the thin version of Bizarre), Syd Barrett (Timothy Leary with a guitar), Billy Preston (the seeing man's Stevie Wonder...shit, this was a bad year for black recording artists), Aaron Spelling (the retard's Aaron Sorkin), Kenneth Lay (bullshit), Red Buttons (the funny man's Aaron Chwatt), Mickey Spillane (a senior citizen's Elmore Leonard), Ed Bradley (the black man's Stone Phillips), Robert Altman (the C+ version of Stanley Kubrick), Augusto Pinochet (see Saddam? Proof you could have gotten away with it if you really tried), Peter Boyle ('what else can we throw down the well?') and JonBenet Ramsay's mother (meh...).

And finally, here's the list of people who we expected to die in 2006, but somehow beat the odds: Paris Hilton, Jesse Helms, Pauly Shore, Dick Cheney (in fact, he went on the offensive), Courtney Love, Dick Clark, Jerry Lewis, Mike Wallace, Pete Doherty,  Jann Wenner, and Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed. Good luck to all of you in 2007.

 

2006: A Year in Review: Part One

Michael Richards shot his mouth off in a club. Thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of American’s died in Iraq. Only one of these stories was run into the ground and led to an awkward apology on Letterman.

Headline News becomes Headline Prime, finally making Fox News a shining beacon of truth and honesty when compared to something.

I go to Amsterdam and get fucking stoned. At one point it was hard to physically walk out of the coffee shop. They should offer complimentary crutches to all patrons.

With their bombs due to expire next spring, Israel flattens neighboring Lebanon during that country’s tourist season. Remember how the whole thing began because of a couple kidnapped soldiers? Neither do I.

Britney Spears tries to keep up with the rest of the trailer park by getting two divorces under her belt before the age of twenty five.

Proof democracy is on the march: The Iranian elections weren’t nearly as crooked as everyone expected them to be.

Proof democracy has been hit by a truck and left for dead on the side of the road: America tried to vote again, this time choosing a cut and run party in a wheelchair over a stay the course party with severe mental retardation. Some people couldn’t vote because the computers were broken. C’est la vie.

A baseball team not from New York won the World Series. No one really knows who it was. We’ve lost their name to the sands of times.

The pope didn’t die. Good for him.

As a warning to his enemies, Dick Cheney shot his friend in the face.

Members of the Duke Lacrosse team are arrested for behaving like a Duke Lacrosse team.

Former Enron CEO Ken Lay dies of a heart attack after he is found guilty but before he is sentenced. What non-extradition country do you think ‘Kevin Lane’ is now living in?

Hundreds were killed worldwide in riots protesting a series of cartoons that caricatured the prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper. Says one of the editors, ‘good thing we didn’t publish the knock-knock jokes.’  

Putting the apocalypse on hold for a few more years, Donald Rumsfeld resigns as Secretary of Defense.

2006 will be remembered mostly as the year before Radiohead released their seventh album (hopefully).

 

The Secret History of the Cigarette

The cigarette was invented in a fit of rage in 1956 by Henri Renard, a French bus driver who once claimed to have domesticated the Dalmatian. His wife had recently left him, taking all of the furniture with her save a single wicker chair and a wooden dining table from the den that had its own sordid history. It was where the Guy Fawkes gunpowder plot was planned, where Pope Pius VI slapped a nun for breaking her sixteen year vow of silence by pointing out that the room just caught fire, where Alistair Crowley was conceived, and between the years 1938 and 1942 it passed secret allied documents to the Nazis (Goebbels attempted to give it a German medal of honor until it was found out to have been built by a Jewish innkeeper).

It is on this particular table that Renard sat and stewed. He was motivated by his wife’s constant (and at the time, accurate) accusation of him never amounting to anything. Eager to prove her wrong and then crush her dreams with his future wealth, Renard quit his job driving the number 12 bus and focused on exclusively on three get rich quick schemes. As the first two included him somehow being named emperor of a new European country that included 25% of Italy, half of Switzerland and the town of Chamonix, France, he spent most of his time on the third scheme, which dealt with finding a new way for people to enjoy tobacco.

Claiming he got the idea in dream where he had sexual intercourse with Marilyn Monroe (a point he stressed to his dying day: ‘Zut, elle etait tendue!’), Renard drew up drawings for a rolled paper stick stuffed with chopped tobacco and nicotine which was to be burnt, as before this time tobacco was injected via syringe directly into the bloodstream in a painful process that was usually fatal.

While the early prototypes were moderately successful, it was with the sixth design – the one that caused no third degree burns to the face and hands – that was an immediate hit when Renard – a large and brutal man – bullied local shopkeepers into selling the product beside the licorice.

Within two years the cigarette had spread across the globe and has enjoyed the same popularity up to this day. It was in 1961 that the United Nations passed a resolution proclaiming that such a product deserved a more dignified history, and undertook a massive, worldwide disinformation campaign. Over a ten year period, priceless four hundred year old documents and histories were carefully rewritten, novels subtly altered, and thousands of people were jailed or tortured in an effort to convince the world that the cigarette was introduced to the West by the English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh in the late sixteenth century. Much of the free world was told that the idea that the cigarette was a recent invention was nothing but a communist plot. Film stars were coaxed into re-shooting scenes from decades old movies, this time with a cigarette in hand. Humphrey Bogart was re-animated for the sole purpose of recreating his classic celluloid moments, as well as posing for fictional cigarette print ads from the nineteen forties (although Groucho Marx famously took advantage of this resurrection to ask if he left a hat at one of the parties Bogart hosted in 1947).

Bitter at the world for turning its back on his genius, Renard was only consoled by the tens of billions of dollars he received from all the major tobacco companies. He lost it all when he accidentally left the bag of money on a platform at a train station in Marseilles.

The table would go on to help run Richard Nixon’s failed campaign for senator in 1962.


 

No Sympathy for the Record Industry

Pop is dead. No, it really is. Now that today’s twelve year olds can (and do) download their favorite crap music for free, the recording industry has lost their last mega-demographic and must now pander to the 40 plus crowd, who still have a soft spot for vinyl and think that the CD is a big enough change for them, thank you very much. And as far as unearthing new bands, the internet again has shat on the old way of doing things. Why should bands pander to coked up, sleazy talent scouts from dinosaur record companies when they can pander directly to their audience? Myspace and similar ilk are doing the job of hundreds of people at Time-Warner, EMI, and Sony. The beasts are not being brought down by a great and powerful force. They are just being ignored (thanks to great and powerful force).

Is this a good thing? Well, the record industry is not ‘dead, dead’. Their future probably lies less in the actual making of music and more in the marketing of it (although I’m sure many will argue that this has been the case for a hell of a long time). With the power being returned to the artist in terms of control over the music and image, the only thing the record company can offer is managerial manpower and advertising and promotion in other mediums. An artist will show up to a record company meeting with several hundred thousand fans in tow (via the internet) and make their demands. If he or she doesn’t like the counter-offer, they walk, taking their fans with them.

The above might be the ‘dream situation’ for artists, and it will certainly be the exception rather than the rule. The music industry will still be an industry, and an industry’s reason for existence is to churn out consumable products in order to make a profit. In an effort to maximize and guarantee profit in a time when so many ‘real’ artists are finding new levels of success with the DIY format, we will still be force fed industry groomed pre-manufactured pop stars who rely on their record company like a scuba diver relies on his breathing apparatus. These stars will become celebrities thank to massive promotional deluge behind them. The record companies will still be attractive to up-and-coming artists who wish to professionally expand their audience, and depending on their ethics and demands, the artist may still be able to retain some level of control if it appears the record company can ensure proper monetary returns on their new investment.

So in other words the record company will still follow the same procedures of marketing and marginalizing as before Napster, but will do so on a much smaller scale. The boom is over. The only artists they will represent are those they feel can turn a profit, and they will hammer as many artists into promotional friendly shape as they can. Free music is not killing music, just the record industry. Artists will suddenly know who their real fans are: those that will pay to download their songs, as opposed to getting it free from Limewire. If recorded music on the whole becomes a less profitable endeavor, the live concert will supplant the album as the primary means of a fan connecting with an artist. Pop stars will require heightened spectacle to give audiences a reason to ‘see’ their music, while bands/groups that cut their teeth in front of dozens, hundreds, and thousands of fans every night will find themselves much more appreciated and in demand. Doing-it-Yourself already adds an aura of authenticity to a band’s image, and being able to kick ass live will only further solidify the reputation.

Although promised since the rise of grunge, perhaps we will finally see the emergence of independent record labels as a force to be reckoned with. The only danger is that the internet may do the job of underground promotion too well for the small labels to compete. Artists can now do exactly the same job as a small record company without that much more effort or money. A band can start up their own personal record label as easy starting up their own personal website. The Independent’s one saving grace is that while essentially acting like a major label for an aspiring artist, they are definitely not a major label. They have a level of authenticity and a less profit driven code of ethics that certainly appeals to a wide-range of bands. Perhaps independent labels will grow smaller as well, to the point where they only represent a handful of artists, all in the same sub-subgenre.

In summation, the future of music is fragmentation. Smaller and smaller musical niches are being dug into the bowels of the internet to the point where an artist could hypothetically etch out an existence based on a couple hundred fans world wide. ‘Punk’ is now considered an umbrella genre, spawning over forty subgenres according to wikipedia (from 2-tone to glam punk to scum punk). With the exception of the heavily promoted, Top 40 rotation, record company darlings like U2 and pre-manufactured one year wonders (one super-hit single supporting a sub-par album, followed by a mediocre second single and a couple TV appearances and then is forgotten by the time of their second record) multi-million album sales will become a thing of the past. If the record companies swallow their pride and start working for artists and not have artists working for them, they may be able to attract enough quality bands that could ensure some level of continued, peaceful co-existence. If not, these bands will strike out on their own and will happily take a little less financial success in exchange for seeing the hulking monster that is Sony or Time-Warner Music take it’s final breath and die spewing the same crap it’s always fallen back on when it fears the inevitable changes ahead.


 

Steve Irwin's dead. He was stabbed in the heart by a stingray. It doesn't sound possible, but he really did die doing something he loved. Despite the obvious risk that his profession carried, it still comes as quite a shock. I always thought famous Aussies could only die from alcohol poisoning.


 

It's Spring!

-the bugs are back in town, the bugs are back in town!

-the assholes who never left their apartments all winter clog up your favorite bar patios and play crap on the jukebox (note to everyone: Destiny's Child is NOT shitfaced-on-the-patio music, and please take a chance on a Skynyrd song that isn't 'Sweet Home Alabama')

-for men: women in shorter skirts and more revealing shirts/blouses increase the chances of UBA (unintended boner activity). for women: the creepiness of the idea of UBA

-Odds of contracting skin cancer are cranked up to 11

-crazy people are just a wee bit crazier than usual (it's probably the humidity)

-summer concerts means summer ticket scalpers ($700.00 each for decent radiohead tickets? You fucking parasitic bastards...there's a special circle in hell just for you...)

 


 

It's Easter!

Catholicism's popularity is waning! The church needs to modernize! Some ideas...

Physical activity isn't big these days. Instead of carrying the cross, Jesus can drive to calvary in an SUV! You can fit three crosses easily the trunk! Veronica can change the oil. Jesus can stall three times.

The Pope needs to appeal to a younger audience. New reality show: False Idol. Benedict XVI can judge all aspects of modern popular culture. Bring Paula Abdul aboard.

Just wine at communion? How about a decent open bar? Add more atmospheric lighting, maybe some upbeat music... and while you're at it, take out the pews and charge ten bucks to get in.

Jesus with a 'No Fat Chicks' truckers cap.

 


 

An Open Letter to the Oil and Chemical Companies
 
Money.
 
Do I have your attention? Just a minute or two, that’s all I’m asking.
 
Hi,
 
I’m an inhabitant of this planet who is finally coming to grips with the fact that it’s quite possible that by the time I hit middle age, I may need to wear ultra powerful sunscreen or scuba gear every time I want to go down to the store and line up for my weekly ration of soylent green.
So while I will concede that I am lazy environmentalist, I will proudly state that I am not a naďve one. Oil is important. Oil makes the world goes round. Not just for transportation, but for plastic. Plastics! Even the most ardent tree hugger has to have some sandwich containers in their kitchen. We love oil and a whole bunch of complicated chemical processes that are used in creating air conditioners, cell phones and whatever the kids are into nowadays. We need oil. Polymers kicks ass. But like all great drugs, we're using too much of them, and the health effects are showing. Removing oil from our plates completely in a span of any less than fifty years is impossible. Technologically it can be done in mere decades, but why should you give a rat’s ass about technology? Oil is a business. A world business. Millions of employees, from those at the refineries to those at the pumps, will be negatively affected if we suddenly decide to go green. But why should you give a rat’s ass about them. Oil is a business. Your business.
 
And your business is going to go belly up in a sea of shit if you don’t do something. We all wish global warming was some crazy liberal conspiracy, and we all got our fingers crossed that getting oil from politically volatile nations doesn’t result in another half-baked ‘war’. But who cares about politics? Oil is a business. Your business. And when lung cancer rates
triple because of billowing smokestacks and toxic SUV emissions, your business will plunge into the red. And not the kind where a round of firings will earn you that Christmas bonus. No private jets to Fiji. No company expense account. Nothing will set you apart from your fellow man except a tiny receipt from the last working bank machine saying that somewhere you have some green paper that has numbers on it that add up to ten million.
 
You don’t want that, and believe it or not, neither do we. So here’s the plan: Stay rich. Stay in power. Bribe whomever you want. Eat all the caviar and steak at the country club. All we want you to do is to steal ideas from all the scientists and engineers and find a way to charge us for, say, wind. Or sunlight. Or cold fusion. We don’t care. Picture oil but without all the negative health effects that cause your employees to bleed your insurance
plans dry. Cancer patients are horrible long term customers, and dead people are even
worse. Don't look at your industry as destroying the environment, look at it as destroying your revenue. And we aren’t excepting a sudden utopia, either, don’t worry.
Rip us off, have complicated subscription fees, increase service charges, treat all the new employees as shitty as you treated all the old employees, whatever. Have monopolies that earn nine of you billions upon billions of dollars per quarter.  We can worry all about that economic inequality stuff later. Poverty and AIDS in Africa? Later. Middle-East tension? Later. China’s rise as a superpower? Later. All this squabbling (whether with words or bombs) can be put aside; we can’t do any of that stuff on a planet that’s inhospitable, can we?

As said before, I'm not much of an environmentalist. The health of the earth as an abstract concept does not interest me. The pleas above are selfish in nature. I don't want to compete with my fellow man for scraps of food. I want to order a cheeseburger and have it cooked for me. I don't want to get skin cancer because chemotherapy would be a pain the ass to deal with, especially if three hundred million other people have it, too. And how the hell am I going save up for a vacation if my city's flooded?

So take a deep breath and stuff the money spilling out of your pockets into wacky new ideas like the sun and the wind. You know, stuff that we can't run out of (how's that for business forecast? You will NEVER run out of this product, regardless of the demand, which will be unending).

Changes in business are ruthless but necessary. You say that a lot. Put your money where your mouth is and save us all.

We have faith in you that your insatiable thirst for future money will show you the error of your ways.

Thanks for listening. Sincerely,

 

Everybody


 

The New York Times ran an article on February 28th reviewing the commercials NBC ran during the Winter Olympics (link). They are called - at one point - "unimaginative, derivative, [and] pedestrian". Okay, one, they're ads, not productions of Shakespeare. If McDonald's could get you buying their burgers by flashing their name for thirty seconds on a black background, they'd show that. And two, it's not exactly the most highly cultured event, either (they save the thirty second spots that explore the possible physical manifestations of love, truth, and justice for the Super Bowl). The Olympics are sports too boring too watch annually. Skating in circles, skiing fast, and luge. All done at such a speed that you can't tell who's the best without a quality stopwatch (the secret to luge: apparently pointed toes). That's why the ratings are down. Not because there's no dry, cool wit in an Applebee's commercial.


 

Last week Vice President Cheney implemented the controversial new procedure of stopping assassination attempts proactively. Over the next sixteen months, Cheney will visit every able-bodied man on the continental United States and shoot him in the chest with buckshot. Those in the highest tax bracket will be given the option of buckshot or rock salt.

 

 

 

writers are strange people, but they kind of have to be. it's their job to create people without fucking.