Penguin Books guest author: All the World's a Grave, 9/11

My fourth post as the Penguin Books guest guthor.  "The Beauty Campaign."  It looks even better on the Penguin website: http://us.penguingroup.com/static/html/blogs/beauty-campaign-john-reed


Recap: I've just published this book, All the World's a Grave: A New Play by William Shakespeare. The project takes the works of Shakespeare, and remixes them into a new tragedy (all the lines are from Shakespeare). As the title suggests, it ends in the death of everyone. Wednesday, September 10, 2008 (yesterday, that would be): subatomic particles traveling at the speed of the light, set to collide. The 7.7 billion dollar experiment—employing a 17-mile long donut shaped Hadron Collider—is designed to duplicate conditions believed to have been present at the big bang. Scientists who object to the plan—Professor Otto Rössler, Dr. Walter Wagner—have mounted international lawsuits seeking to halt the experiment. The two predominant theories of our destruction: instant, via little black holes; or, after a four-year wait, a slow-simmering implosion caused by quasars inside the Earth.

Well, as it turned out, when they switched on the thing, they were only warming up the engine, which will take three months, so the world didn't end yesterday. It will end around the time we swear in the next president. Or, in four years and three months from now, when we swear in the president after the next president.

Obama: "You can put a pig in lipstick … it's still a pig."

Obama: "You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still gonna stink."

Democrats, prepare to face your doom.

On the order of full disclosure, I was a Clinton (Hillary) person. And I'm pretty sure we, as Democrats, blew it. The fact: Clinton and Obama weren't that different policy-wise. But Clinton was more experienced, was a far superior debater, and had a far more developed platform. So why didn't we pick her?

Obama's recent remarks, which the Republicans are right to highlight, characterize an unsettling centerpiece at the Democrat's table. This race, as the Democrats have framed it—the Democrats have defined the parameters of this election—is about physical beauty. Clinton, despite the long, long hours at the salon, the gazillions at the hairstylist, and the many anesthetized mornings under the knife of the friendly neighborhood Barbi-maker—was still no Barbi Benton. (And Palin? Striking resemblance, no? You may not be able to find "nude," "naked," "topless" shots of Palin, but Benton, no problem.)

This resentment towards Palin for being a beauty queen (who cares?) hits the raw nerve, already quivering with guilt—the Democrats rejected Clinton because she wasn't hot enough. They were willing to put up with a woman, but she had to be hot. And in their attempt to prove they weren't sexist or bigotted, they chose a black man—of course, they chose an incredibly handsome black man, which proves the point. Physical beauty. The Democrats made this campaign about physical beauty, and now they're running against Barbi Benton, and they're going to lose for it.

Palin Cougar by easyreeder

Even if it is the end of the world, it's hard to not appreciate the poetic justice.

To go back to the earliest known antecedent of Obama's pig remark:


     As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout,

     so is a fair woman which is without discretion.

          —Proverbs, 11: 22


The caution touches on a deep thread of misogyny in the bible, and pits the Democrats and Republicans in a battle of who can be punier. In that contest, the Republicans are sure to triumph.

And up to this very minute, the Obama supporters refuse to acknowledge the mistake, to admit complicity in this fundamental political stumble.


     You sign your place and calling, in full seeming,

     With meekness and humility; but your heart

     Is crammed with arrogancy, spleen, and pride.

     You have, by fortune and his highness' favours,

     Gone slightly o'er low steps and now are mounted

     Where powers are your retainers, and your words,

     Domestics to you, serve your will as't please

     Yourself pronounce their office. I must tell you,

     You tender more your person's honor than

     Your high profession spiritual: that 

     I do refuse you for my judge.

          —King Henry VIII, II: iv


To speak of Obama as a uniter, a healer in the cast of Robert Kennedy or Martin Luther King, while at the same time engaging in such petty-minded sniping, is to open Obama to justifiable accusations of arrogance and unfounded snobbiness.

Mr. Shankbone—a somewhat unstable once friend of mine—exemplifies the Obama supporter/Palin denigrator, and perfectly demonstrates the trifling insentience of a losing campaign. (I say this with some trepidation; Shankbone, a prominent Wikipedian, is as well known for his selfless dedication as his bullying tantrums. Wikipedians, please protect me from this brute.) From the very beginning, he was seduced by the "smooth dispose" and "manly voice" of Obama, where the "reed voice" and "mincing steps" of awkward Clinton left him bloodless. Shankbone and his ilk have set us on a long road of media-friendly presidential candidates. And as much as they may deny it, as much as they may hate it, as much as their panging guilt will have them cast aspersions at the beauty queen, Palin, they are the sponsors of this Pageant.

Who did they pick to run for President? Forget qualifications—all that aside. They picked the Armani model (Banana Republic on a bad day). And the Republicans? They picked the K-Mart model (Pottery Barn on a good day) and one has to appreciate the shrewdness, the broadness of their choice. It's no coincidence that Sabine Ehrenfeld and Sarah Palin look so much alike. Sabine Ehrenfeld, a spokesperson for Overstock.com, is the ideal American everywoman/superwoman. She sold us all Special K cereal—and Palin will sell us crap like that too.

A goodly medicine for my aching bones! O world! World! World! Thus is the poor agent despised! O traitors and bawds, how earnestly are you set a-work, and how ill requited! Why should our endeavor be so loved and the performance so loathed?     —Troilus and Cressida, V: x