Though this may surprise regular readers, Red Dawn, the cheese factory hit of 1984 that traces the effects of a full scale Soviet land invasion of the United States on school spirit, is one of the Surly Bartender’s favorite movies. Piece of shit though it is, it has some hilarious scenes – and, as a special bonus, Patrick Swayze dies delightfully as the credits roll. My favorite scene in this Gooney-Rambo schlock-fest comes when Colonel Tanner suggests to budding young sociopath, Robert Morris, that all his anger towards the Russians is going to make him lose his marbles altogether.

The Scene: dramatic lighting around a bivouac campfire, whiskey passing around:

Colonel Tanner (commanding, stentorian): “All that hate’s gonna burn you up, kid.”

Robert (dark, brooding, borderline nuts): “It keeps me warm.”

The way young Robbie feels about those Leninistas in his locker room is the exact same way I feel towards talking heads on television (Olbermann excluded for his willingness to piss forcefully into a prevailing Right Wind.)  Television anchors make me violently crazy, but like a pain junkie, I just keep going back even while my head, like young Robbie’s, is boiling and boiling and boiling. Thus far the only one who has had to deal with the overflow is the Surly Girlfriend. On more than one occasion she has wrestled from my sweaty palms a baseball bat or an empty tequila bottle as I load up to flatten Bill O’Reilly’s fattened head.

Many things stoke the ire. There is the facile, de-contextualized, ahistorical blathering that passes as “reporting.”  Remember, embedded is a bad thing. As in, “someone embedded a chip in my brain” or “I think there’s a hand embedded in my ass. I must be a muppet.”

There is also the kowtowing to an “appearance of balance” when facts are fully out of balance. Consider, if candidate “A” infers that his opponent wants to kill and eat infants, and candidate “B” says that such an accusation is insane and incendiary, it is fully INAPPROPRIATE to run the story as, “Candidates Address the Baby Eating Controversy.”  Seems obvious, but I guess it’s not.

And then there is the ridiculous presumption that the square jaws and well-coifed locks of the anchors makes them worthy of respect. Dear CNN, Anderson Cooper seems like a very nice man, but can you claim that the son of Gloria Vanderbilt, former Ford’s model, one time CIA intern and host of The Mole was chosen for his journalistic chops?  That’s ridiculous on its face. He’s an anchor because he’s a) connected, b) handsome and c) prematurely gray – giving him that authoritative, yet boyishly sexy look. I challenge all viewers to watch a few hours of news while actively asking yourselves which anchors were chosen for their intellect, knowledge base and reason. It a pretty short list, made tragically shorter by the recent passing of Big Tim Russert.

But the sin that’s got my blood up today is the insipid parroting of banal catch phrases. I’m getting ready to do a Captain Kirk flying scissors kick at the screen if I hear one more of these asinine tag lines echoing from wall to wall in a chamber of stupidity. The Tourette’s of these verbal ticks must end, and so I make a plea to my readers to stop using them – and the next time you hear one of them, complain like someone is pouring lye into your brain. Here’s a short list:

1. The F-Bomb:  Depending on use, the word is fuck, fucked or fucking. There is no “bomb” in the word. It is said, not thrown. See? Nothing exploded, Fuck-o. If the censors won’t let you say “fuck” in your time slot, be creative – say something like, “Today Dick Cheney said that the New York Times Reporter was a Glucking Glasshole.”  Then wink or make inverted bunny ears. At least it would be funny.

2. The N-Word:  Depending on use, the word is either Nigger or Nigga. Now, I know this is difficult for some of you, but note, they are, by both the spelling and the pronunciation, different F-Bombing words. Nigger, the word most uptight fools on television reference when they say “The N-Word” is an offensive and derogatory term. Nigga is not. And, yes, white, black, yellow or red, you CAN call your friends (but only your friends) your niggas. The two words, regardless of origin, have no more connection today than “puke” and “puce.”  And if all you can muster is a sense of disenfranchisement that someone else can use a word more comfortably than you, please pout silently.

3. The C-Word:  There’s really no reason to ever reference this word in political conversation, unless you’re willing to discuss the fact that John McCain actually used it once to describe his wife. In front of guests. Maybe you should just let it lay.

4. The Race Card: Again, if you ever feel yourself about to use this facile term, do us all a favor and put a sock in it. When you start using coded language to discuss coded language you’re getting into a silly layer of semantics. Provably.

Let’s take this one apart: when a televised gasbag or paid political hack says that Barack Obama just “played the race card” what he is really suggesting is that by referencing his African ancestry – and all the baggage that it carries – the candidate has effectively and unfairly “trumped” the argument – preventing anyone from rebutting his claims.

But this is a game of two card monte, and you’re about to see some sleight of hand.

If you’ve watched the same shows as the Surly Bartender, then you’ve seen this a thousand times. It appears that maybe, just maybe, a public discussion of race and its long, persistent shadow is about to break out on a Sunday morning political talk show – then the Fool d’Jour says someone is “playing the race card,” and the conversation descends into utter nonsense.

Did you see the trick?  Read the paragraph again and watch my hands. Mentioning race, in general, isn’t “playing the race card,” as the conversation can continue – in fact, it normally does continue until someone is accused of “playing the race card.” That’s when the discussion grinds to an angry halt.

In reality, using the phrase “playing the race card” is “playing the race-card, card,” as that dissembling phrase trumps, and effectively ends, the original conversation.

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About the Author

Michael Tallon, Editor-in-Chief, head writer and delivery boy, of La Cuadra Magazine, expatriated from the States 11 years ago. After spending a year in Antigua gasbagging about wanting to start an English Language magazine, he hit the road and wandered about South America, India and Nepal before finding himself sipping tea in Darjeeling and realizing that maybe it was time to head home and pick up the career path. That ill-fated adventure in New York lasted about 6 weeks before he headed back to Antigua, Guatemala, where John Rexer had actually started the magazine in his absence.

After a few months, Mike took over the magazine and has been going slowly broke since. On that note, Mike would like to invite advertisers, readers and potential patrons to send him free money.