Spiraling Toward Irrelevancy

Never has a blog title spoken quicker to the absolute truth than "Spiraling Toward Irrelevancy" ...


"Al Franken for Senate (?)"

Wednesday, 21 February 2007
715 words

As Al Franken sat broadcasting his last radio show, one couldn’t help but get a tingly, “our long national nightmare is over” feeling. Air America started as an intellectual abortion and continued downward from there, failing at every conceivable turn to implement financial restraint or quality control measures, in the end deciding it was easier to beg liberal billionaires for more funding than to make itself worthy of free market success. Good riddance to bad rubbish, and all that.

But Franken, not one to know when he’s overstayed his welcome, took the occasion to announce he’s running for Senate. And if that weren’t funny enough, he’s seeking the Democratic nomination – which is interesting, because one would think he’d feel more at home lingering amongst Communists, hoping to secure their approval. Or the Socialist Party of Minnesota, or the Greens, or some other small, loosely confederated band of filthy malcontents too drunk or high to build and maintain an official website.

Question: Why do people who couldn’t win a one-man race for dogcatcher insist on running for important offices? Ask Franken that question and he’ll probably recite for you the exact number of times Bill Clinton was told he couldn’t win the Democratic nomination for president. Next thing you know, Clinton is second only to Paul Tsongas in New Hampshire and a few months away from winning High Office. No doubt Franken thinks he can shock the world, but whoever has the job of telling Franken the truth is falling far short of their duties. Bill Clinton was a once-in-a-lifetime politician, that combustible yet oddly attractive blend of snake oil salesman and cool step-dad; a frivolous man for frivolous times.

Not only is Al Franken not Bill Clinton in frivolous times, he has the great misfortune of being Al Franken in very serious times. Granted, lesser men have been elevated to higher positions; and granted, Franken has spent the last few years familiarizing himself with Minnesota politics. He’s also terrifically unpleasant and shrill, and when not being unpleasant and shrill, so boring he brings the listener to tears. Take his campaign announcement (please). Someone somewhere may find it compelling, but after about four minutes the tedium becomes unceasing. It’s no wonder he has three number one bestselling books and a failed radio show; even for true believers, Franken is best seen and not heard.

So Franken will have to discover and strike a delicate balance between shrill tirades and monotonous chants, or invent an entirely new campaign persona, all while keeping his eyes to the prepared text. More than anyone else hoping to unseat Norm Coleman, Candidate Franken must employ scriptwriters he can trust – if left to his own devices, he’s incapable of censoring himself before it’s to late. (In political terms, “too late” is that moment just after you hear yourself muttering “Hymie Town,” or similar.)

You can take the man out of comedy, but you cannot take comedy out of the man. Though significantly more stilted in delivery now than when he was younger and interesting, Franken’s first instinct is still to find and deliver the most provocative line. (If you’ve seen him interviewed on Hardball at any point in the last few years, you know what this means.) Which is fine when you’re cracking wise and defending yourself against drunks at the Chuckle Hut, not so much if you’re trying to convince fellow Democrats you’re better than the other candidates. It’s one thing to preach to the choir, those 37 Minnesotans who listened to his radio show on a consistent basis. It’s something else altogether to make yourself appealing to moderates, about whom Franken has virtually no knowledge.

That Franken cannot win is a foregone conclusion (the Clinton paradigm aside). Only fellow travelers will ever find him the most attractive candidate; in other words, old world socialists who were willing to follow him off a cliff long before he ever announced a candidacy. For thoughtful, reasonable Democrats, the endgame is to defeat Norm Coleman in November 2008, not to nominate a man who would be vivisected by his own words months before Election Day. For those so inclined, Franken will provide an ideological chortle here and there, but on the whole should be out of the race before Minnesota Democrats make their decision.


Anna Nicole Smith: Still Dead (And Other Observations)

Surprise! Here's a column, making the post of two days ago a complete lie. I starting sketching this column out Tuesday night, and was able to finish it in about three hours here on Wednesday. It seemed foolish to sit on it until next week; so here you go.

"Anna Nicole Smith: Still Dead (And Other Observations)"
14 February 2007
830 words

When conservatives go on about how too many Americans linger far too long over unimportant and silly things, the death of Anna Nicole Smith is precisely what they have in mind. Had you turned on the news last Friday, ignorant of the matter and blind to the screen, you wouldn’t have been wrong to guess a former president was found hanged in a bathhouse, such was the tone of the coverage. Come to find out, no, it was just Anna Nicole. What a relief. Not wanting to be altogether insensitive on the matter, I text messaged an acquaintance and asked if she’d thought enough to include Smith in her 2007 Dead Pool. (Gallows humor. Not quite to the level of, “Other than all that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” but close.)

Anna Nicole Smith had nothing inside her recommending fame or fortune. She was all looks, when she had them, and when she finally realized there was nothing else to her, she hid behind drugs and plastic surgery to keep herself from having to think about it.

Smith went from the trailer park to Playboy, to Guess jeans ads, then to the strip club (which is often par for the nude modeling course). Whilst swinging around a pole, she managed to restore some long lost feeling to the groin of a dilapidated old billionaire, and the next thing you know she’s in line for an inheritance. Shockingly, the groom dies before the bride. The billionaire’s son, sensing an old-fashioned money grab, takes Smith to court and hilarity ensues. (Not to say the son wasn’t making a grab of his own. Never underestimate the sheer will of a stuffy older child unwilling to allow his old man the luxury of fondling a much younger wife in his final years. That old man knew exactly what he was getting, and why.)

The court cases wound through several levels with several different verdicts, eventually ascending to the Supreme Court, one of the sillier occasions in that august body’s illustrious history. Between court dates, the E! network taped, and inexplicably aired, The Anna Nicole Show, whereupon viewers watched as an overweight, slurring, drug addled Smith was forced out of bed and made to perform like a circus seal in failing attempt after failing attempt to make herself appear interesting. Alongside attorney Howard K. Stern (henceforth, The Enabler Stern), a declining Smith found a new home, had said home decorated, fawned over the old man’s ashes, got a tattoo, went to a strip club, et cetera.

Season one of The Anna Nicole Show was stole right out from under Smith by a poofy, spectacularly gay (and unintentionally hilarious) interior decorator named Bobby Trendy. But in the end, not even Trendy could keep the train from veering off the tracks. Two things were made clear from the first episode forward: 1) Smith was quite unwell, and 2) The Enabler Stern controlled her every movement, either as a means of saving her the trouble or to keep Smith from making a further mess of herself.

A couple years pass. A thin Anna Nicole turned up in TrimSpa commercials, but at no point in her final years did she appear even remotely sober, except for the time she spent walking into and out of the Supreme Court. (In fact, Smith was so sober for the occasion she couldn’t even bring herself to tolerate the media throng that normally found her so stumblingly compliant.) Putting it in a roundabout way, the Court greased the skids for Smith to be awarded $480 million of her dead husband’s fortune. She died without seeing a single penny.

* * *

The only interesting aspect of all this is the ongoing battle to claim a genetic connection to the heir, an infant daughter born last fall. The Enabler Stern claims paternity but is hiding behind Bahamian law to keep from proving it. An old boyfriend claims he’s the father, as does someone called Prince Frederic Von Anhalt, married to Zsa Zsa Gabor. (Yeah, well, if I were married to Gabor, I’d be looking for young mistresses, too.) In a press conference, the prince not only stated he could be the one, but frankly said that any one of “twenty or thirty” men could ultimately prove to be the donor. But when Von Anhalt appeared on The O’Reilly Factor Tuesday night, the B.S. meter swung off the chart with his every utterance; it’s more likely he’s making a sick attempt to horn in on Smith’s death than making a real claim of responsibility.

Poor child. The swarm of media obsession swirling around the baby will die down long before she’s cognizant of her surroundings, but sooner or later she’s going to wonder whatever happened to Mommy. If she’s at all bright, the child will eventually realize she was never so much loved for who she was, but claimed because she was the vessel to a fortune. And that is the one true tragedy of this story.


New Columns Delayed One Week

As so artfully mentioned in the above title, new "In Dissent" opinion columns have been postponed by one week, to next Wednesday, 21 February. What happened was that I wrote half of a great column, but then wrote myself into a corner. Better not to force the issue; so we'll try again next week.


Is Anna Nicole Still Dead?


"The Unabrian Manifesto" / "In Dissent" & BrianWise.com / "Lincoln's Tomb"

Preparations have begun to ready The Unabrian Manifesto for paperback publication, perhaps late this Spring. Everything is tentative. Only a very few will be produced, but the entire book will have to be reformatted. The mad search has begun for quotable blurbs to print on the back cover, other than Bernard Goldberg's. Further updates as they warrant.

Starting next Wednesday (2/14) and continuing for eight weeks (through Wednesday, 29 March), the "In Dissent" opinion column will be back in production. This is a "feeling out" period to see how it feels to write on a regular basis, how the column is received, whether people will still read it, et cetera. At the conclusion of the eight weeks, I'll talk with a few people close to the occasion and decide whether to continue on a weekly basis. If so, I'll take a few weeks off before starting up again. If not, then not.

A slight update will be made to the front page of BrianWise.com to mark the occasion; the remainder of the website will be untouched.

Pending a full update on the Lincoln's Tomb page at BrianWise.com, I will simply say that work has begun on the first chapter and is going forward, though slowly.


Who Wins?

Me: Indianapolis Colts
My son: Chicago Bears
Victor Palau: Chicago Bears
Victor Palau’s son: Indianapolis Colts
Silent Robb: Indianapolis Colts
The White Yoko: Indianapolis Colts (last quarter rally)
My Brother: Indianapolis Colts
Smitty: Indianapolis Colts (38-27)
Jeff Curran (former co-host, TGO Radio): Chicago Bears
Red Haired Girl: Chicago Bears