Longtime MAD Senior Editor, Joe Raiola Reflects on the End of the MAD Error

Joe Raiola at an editorial meeting at the MAD office in 2017.

Joe Raiola at an editorial meeting at the MAD office in 2017.

As has been widely reported, MAD Magazine will soon disappear from newsstands. This raises the question of how long it will be before newsstands disappear, but that is a topic for another day. As an editor and contributor to MAD, the world’s best-selling magazine with that title, for 34 years starting in 1984, the news (GAK!) hardly came as a surprise to me.  

That MAD survived and remained relevant for as long as it did is a testament to the oddball editorial team that was rooted in the Bill Gaines era. Against overwhelming odds, unfavorable market forces, and an exceptionally poor snack selection from our vending machine, we somehow managed to keep MAD going through the end of 2017, when Rolling Stone called it “America’s best political satire magazine.” 

For 65 years, starting in 1952 when Gaines and Harvey Kurztman created MAD, it had a remarkable continuity of talent, including editors, writers and artists. But that came to a furshlugginer halt when DC Comics, which took over MAD after Gaines died in 1992, relocated the magazine from New York to Burbank in January 2018. 

With the exception of a newly hired Production Artist, Bern Mendoza, no one from our team was willing to relocate. DC had first tried to bring MAD west in 2014, when the entire company packed up and left. However, when every member of the staff, except for Production Artist Doug Thomson, declined the invitation, MAD was given an unexpected reprieve in New York. 

In June 2017, a new editorial group, led by Bill Morrison, best known for his work with Bongo Comics (which he co-founded with Matt Groening and others) and as Art Director for Futurama, started to take shape. With such impressive credentials, Bill was widely regarded as an excellent choice to lead MAD.

But from the perspective of those of us on the old MAD staff, bringing in anyone from the outside was a bad move. The distinctive MAD voice, the voice that makes MAD MAD, is not something that can be assigned. It is a voice that can only be passed down from one generation to the next in the ridiculous comedy trenches of MAD itself. I knew the MAD voice very well when I started out as an editor in 1985 with my writing partner, Charlie Kadau. But I still had a lot to learn. 

Over the years, I received a kind of “MAD transmission” from John Ficarra, who received his “MAD transmission” from Nick Meglin and Al Feldstein. Feldstein, who was at the helm of MAD for 28 years and whose roots go back to the legendary EC Comics days, took over in 1956 when Harvey Kurztman departed. Sam Vivano, who became Art Director in 1999, had already been a MAD illustrator for nearly 20 years and had learned from previous Art Director, Lenny “The Beard” Brenner. We were all nourished, in unlikely and outrageous fashion, by Gaines. The younger members of the MAD staff, who never met Gaines, knew him through us. They heard Gaines stories; they understood his twisted MAD sensibilities. 

Bill Morrison and his team would not have the benefit of that essential experience. As talented as the team was, not a single member had ever written ever written for MAD. (That included the aforementioned Doug Thomson, who had left MAD a few years earlier and joined the new team as Design Director.) In sharp contrast, our team had five seasoned MAD writers, all of whom had contrbuted to MAD before becoming editors. To make the new team’s task even more difficult, members of the old team were prohibited by corporate rules from contributing material to the new MAD for a full year.

The fact is that there was a veteran junior team in place -- Dave Croatto, Ryan Flanders, Jake Lambert and Patty Dwyer – that had learned from us and was ready to take on the daunting challenge of keeping MAD alive. But DC never offered anyone from the junior team editorial control. Instead, the junior team, along with Charlie and myself (not John Ficarra or Sam Viviano), were asked to move to California, this time to report to a new editor, who at the time of the invitation was unknown. But knowing the identity of the new editor being hired from the outside wouldn’t have mattered.

The only conceivable way that any of us would have perhaps considered moving to Burbank was if a member of our team was given the opportunity to succeed John Ficarra. MAD was familial and that is a core element of what made it unique and beloved. Only we knew how the MAD sauce was made and the only way anyone could learn the recipe was to work with us for a while. 

During my last few months as Senior Editor, I met with Bill Morrison several times, doing my best to help him prepare to take hold of MAD’s editorial reins. I knew the odds were stacked against the new team, even more than they were against us, but I wanted it to succeed. I did not want the magazine that I loved as a kid, and spent nearly my entire professional career working at, to bite the dust. . 

In fairness to the new MAD team, it inherited our core business problem of declining readership, one that we were never able to solve, as much as it did our creative legacy. While dealing with the inevitable corporate pressure, the new team did its best to address the former while honoring the latter, and that is all that we reasonably could have asked of it.

To its credit, in its first year the new MAD team had a high-profile success with a parody of ”The Gashlycrumb Tinies” by Edward Corey called “The Ghastlygun Tinies.” Written by Matt Cohen, who was an intern for our team many moons ago, the piece commenting on gun violence was an instant MAD classic. 

At the risk of blowing my own horn, I will mention that MAD was commenting on the proliferation of guns as far back as 1992, when Charlie Kadau and I co-wrote a parody of a popular NRA campaign that featured a striking photo of an armed deer by Irving Schild. (“I’m the NRA -- “Nature’s Revenge Association.) The NRA promptly threatened to boycott MAD’s advertisers, which at the time were none. We loved it when stuff like that happened.  

With the publication of “The Ghastlygun Tinies,” The New York Times proclaimed that MAD suddenly had “a boost of relevancy,” which was proof positive that The Times wasn’t paying much attention to MAD in recent years. However, just like the new team, we had to continually deal with the endless comments about the loss of readership and how we weren’t as funny as the version of MAD that came before us.

It would be pure hubris and bluster for me to maintain that MAD would now be thriving had the comedy lineage not been broken by corporate forces beyond our control. The reality is that the MAD I loved and worked on for so many years may have collapsed even had the old team been retained. As I frequently said in the office, “we’re running out of numbers,” by which I meant sales. 

And so, I feel badly for the new MAD editorial team, which had to take over MAD on the fly without the necessary experience. And I feel even worse for the old MAD editorial team, my colleagues and friends who were not given the opportunity they richly deserved to run MAD themselves. 

The bottom line is that everyone involved did their best to keep MAD going and the news that it will soon vanish from newsstands is especially tough for any member of the MAD staff, old or new, to take.  

I am reminded of an exchange I had with Bill Gaines in the last interview he ever gave not long before he died, which was with me and remains unpublished:

Me: Do you care what happens to the magazine after you retire or die? 

Gaines: Of course, I care. MAD is one of my children. You think I wouldn’t care about one of my children?

Joe: What would you like to happen to MAD?

Gaines: I would like it to continue to be successful and go on forever.

Joe: Is that what you’d like for yourself, “to continue to be successful and go on forever”?

Gaines: Sure, but it won’t happen. In fact, it’s totally shocking that I’ve lived as long as I have.

Yes, it was shocking that Gaines lived as long as he did and perhaps even more shocking that MAD lived as long as it did. It was a marvelous 67-year run of subversive silliness.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not add: “What, me worry?”  

With Their Non-Stop Apologies and Humorlessness, Democrats Are Planting the Seeds of Their Own Defeat

The official Democratic campaign slogan for 2020.

The official Democratic campaign slogan for 2020.

Joe Biden is the latest Democratic presidential hopeful to say he’s sorry. But his apology for invading the space of several women by being too physically affectionate has generated lousy reviews from liberal apology critics. 

Biden’s apology was this: “I’m sorry I didn’t understand more. I’m not sorry for any of my intentions. I’m not sorry for anything that I have ever done. I’ve never been disrespectful intentionally to a man or a woman.”

The New York Times called it a “mixed” apology. CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote that Biden’s remarks “just made things worse.” Nancy Pelosi, who recently suggested that Biden stick to shaking hands, said his apology is “not an apology.” And Lucy Flores, who is Biden’s most vocal accuser, and please note a former Bernie Sanders supporter, tweeted “It’s clear that @Joe Biden hasn’t reflected on how his inappropriate and unsolicited touching made women feel uncomfortable. To make light as something as serious as consent degrades the conversation women everywhere are courageously trying to have.”

Right, that was Biden’s other unforgivable crime. He made some jokes.  As he took the stage to make his apology, Biden hugged Lonnie R. Stephenson, the president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and then quipped, “I just want you to know I had permission to hug Lonnie.” The audience applauded and chuckled, but liberal apology critics were not amused. The only jokes they enjoy are those at Trump’s expense. 

Later, upon noticing children in the audience and welcoming them to the stage, Biden put his arm around a young boy. “By the way, he gave me permission to touch him,” he said to more chuckles. But to liberal apology critics, the wisecrack served as further irrefutable proof that Biden was not taking seriously the extremely grave charges against him. 

And so, it has come to this: Joe Biden, the one Democrat who can almost assuredly beat Donald Trump in a national election, is being destroyed for being a warm and genuine person. Biden now feels compelled to issue light-hearted disclaimers before touching anyone in public. We’re told that he is not in-synch with the sensibilities and sensitives of modern liberalism. And actually, he’s not.  As an old, white, heterosexual, Christian man who touches women in public and has a sense of humor, Biden is everything that the new left doesn’t want in a presidential candidate. So, of course, he’s being vociferously defended by the gang at Fox And Friends

Liberals are empowering the fringes of the #MeToo movement while beating themselves up in the process. A recent headline in The Nation proclaimed, “Some Democrats Haven’t Learned The Lesson of #Me Too.” The article was written by a friend of Lucy Flores, who we’re supposed to think of as some kind of hero now for coming forward after five years to tell us that she felt “embarrassed,” “shocked,” and “confused” after Biden planted “a big slow kiss” on the back of her head.

Flores says that she does not mean to suggest that she felt “sexually assaulted or sexually harassed” by Biden. She felt “invaded” and I take her at her word. Some women receive Biden as good ol’ Uncle Joe and some receive him as a dirty old coot sneaking in hugs and nose-rubs. Assuming the worst is true, should Biden now be regarded as a hopelessly out-of-touch male pig from a bygone era? 

The Democrats are running against a toxic misogynist who has boasted about his unwelcomed pussy-grabbing and who habitually insults and debases women.  A cursory recap: 

Trump on Carly Fiorina: “Look at that face. Would anybody vote for that?” 

On Stormy Daniels: “Horseface.” 

On Jessica Chastain: “Not hot.” 

On Arianna Huffington: “Unattractive inside and out.” 

On Omarosa Manigault-Newman: “A dog.” 

On Mike Brzezinski: “She was bleeding badly from a face-life.” 

On Megyn Kelly: “Bimbo.” 

On Hillary Clinton: “If she can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” 

On his then 16-year old daughter: “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” 

Trump has apologized for not one of the comments above. Meanwhile, liberals treated Beto O’Rourke as if he were Jack The Ripper after he made a good-natured joke on the campaign trail that his wife, Amy, was back home raising their three kids “sometimes with my help.” Before you could say “spineless liberal,” Beto had delivered an utterly nauseating apology, shamefully admitting that his joke was “ham-handed.” By the way, as a vegetarian, I demand that Beto promise to refrain from making reference to luncheon meat in his future rhetoric. Has he ever even visited a factory farm? 

Elizabeth Warren has apologized for claiming that she was a Native American. Kirsten Gillibrand has apologized for her previous positions on guns and immigration. Bernie Sanders has apologized for the mistreatment of women during his 2016 campaign. Tusi Gabbard has apologized for previously supporting gay conversion therapy. The only people who apologize more than Democratic presidential candidates are comedians.

So now, I want to take this opportunity to apologize myself, not just for anything I have written in this essay that has offended anyone, but for my general insensitivity, ignorance, flatulence, forgetfulness, rudeness, crudeness, not covering my mouth when coughing, shoplifting, deceitfulness, anger, lack of discipline, stupidity, lack of gratitude, prejudice, coming on to women too strong, not coming on to women strong enough, my previous eating of chicken, jumping the turnstile, making fun of avocado toast, and crossing the street against the light. I’m very sorry.

None of this bodes well for the defeat of Trump, a mutant president with a perverse life force, who is as unapologetic as he is sociopathic.

National Emergencies I Would Declare Right Now

Our nation faces many many dire emergencies that a man of my hair should quickly address.

Our nation faces many many dire emergencies that a man of my hair should quickly address.

Donald Trump has declared a national emergency at our country’s southern border, even though there is none.  Meanwhile, there are actual national emergencies that he, and most everyone else, has overlooked. If so empowered, I would immediately declare the following national emergencies and take the actions prescribed below to remedy them. You’re welcome. 

Emergency: The average length of a baseball game feels longer than the Mueller investigation.

In 2018, the average length of a regular season baseball game was three hours. The average length of a postseason baseball game was three hours and thirty-one minutes. All of my well-reasoned solutions to pick up the pace of play – most notably, having a ball hit into the stands caught by a fan be ruled as an out – have been flatly rejected or ignored by the owners, players, or both. My emergency declaration would shorten the distance between bases to nine and a half feet, allow outfielders to wear jetpacks to increase the chances of them catching fly balls hit high over their heads, and mandate home plate umpires to declare a forfeit if a hitter steps of the batter’s box or scratches his crotch between pitches. Also, starting immediately, Manny Machado would be required to run to first base.

Emergency: We have a nationwide epidemic of drug commercials. 

According to USA Today, drugmakers spent over $6 billion in advertising, mostly for television commercials, in 2017. In 2019, it is projected that they will spend that much just to air spots during Morning Joe. Many of the drugs are for fictional ailments, such as Pink Tongue Syndrome. Drugs that are for real diseases either don’t work, you can’t afford, or have undesirable side effects, including numbness or tingling, vision problems, chest pains, shortness of breath, hives and itching, unusual bruising or bleeding, tuberculosis, loss of body fat and muscles, blood in phlegm, diarrhea, constipation, burning when you urinate, and thoughts of self-asphyxiation next Tuesday. My emergency declaration would require drug companies to actually show a drug’s side effects in their commercials rather than healthy people kayaking and shopping for antiques.  

Emergency: You can’t get a regular exorbitantly priced ticket to any concert you really want to attend. 

You were willing to debase yourself by spending $189.95, plus $106.25 in Ticketmaster fees for a seat in row ZZ in the upper tier mezzanine for The Eagles umpteenth final reunion tour. But the concert is sold out, even though tickets went on sale a mere 4.8 seconds ago. However, tickets are plentiful at Stubhub, or at a seemingly infinite number of other secondary ticket market websites. In fact, a truly sensational pair of seats to The Eagles umpteenth final reunion tour is yours for just $2,250.50, with the convenient option of having the tickets shipped to you overnight for as little as $42.99. As for that lousy seat you were hoping to get for $189.95, plus $106.25 in Ticketmaster fees, it can still be yours for the new bargain price of $475. My emergency declaration would direct all secondary market ticket-sellers to pay every cent they have ever collected above the face value of their tickets to concert-goers as compensation for their Ticketmaster fees. 

Emergency: It is impossible to find a restaurant that serves organic, gluten-free avocado toast. 

A recent review of menus from America’s 100 top-rated restaurants confirmed that not one of them currently offer organic, gluten-free avocado toast. While it is unclear when avocado toast actually became a thing, self-diagnosed gluten sensitivity has been intensely annoying since even before the inexplicable advent of coconut water in 2011. While organic farming began at the turn of the 19th century, it did not officially become a total pain in the ass until the launch of Whole Foods in 1980. Out of respect to organic, gluten-free, vegans, my emergency declaration, which I don’t really have to do, would mandate that all restaurants not serving organic, gluten-free avocado toast be required to post an illuminated sign on their front window which reads: “Sorry, we do not serve organic, gluten-free avocado toast.”  

Emergency: Most of the calls you will get this year will be from computers. 

It is estimated that nearly 50 billion robo calls will be made this year, two billion of them to you. CNN reports that the FCC reports that about half of the calls you will receive in 2019 will be robotic. The IRS may have issued a warrant for your arrest. Or you may be able to refinance your home while getting your penis enlarged. Or perhaps you’re a grand prize winner in the “international lottery” and the good news is that all you need to do to collect your winnings is provide your name and social security number. On the plus side, you don’t answer your phone or listen to your messages anyway, so no worries. My emergency declaration, on which I may get a bad ruling in the lower courts but maybe a fair shake in the Supreme Court, would make robo calls, as well as sending any email from “Express Pharmacy,” a crime punishable by death – in Oklahoma. 

Emergency: Unreturned shopping carts have created a horrific national parking space shortage at grocery stores. 

Drive into any supermarket parking lot and you will find countless unreturned shopping carts carelessly strewn about, blocking otherwise desirable parking spaces and causing millions of Americans to uncontrollably swear, even in the presence of their children. This well-known but seldom discussed social scourge often results in there being no carts for shoppers at a store’s entrance, which frequently induces further uncontrollable swearing, followed by an overall loss of faith in the decency of humanity. Supermarkets have tried addressing the issue by adding cart receptacles to lots, but the problem continues unabated. My emergency declaration would be to institute a variation of the airport luggage cart system at all supermarkets, requiring a payment of $5 for the use of a shopping cart, the full amount which would be repaid upon the return of the cart to whomever returns it. I know, it’s pure genius!

Emergency: Alec Baldwin’s Trump impersonation. 

The biggest threat to our nation, believe me, isn’t Donald Trump, it’s Donald Trump impersonator, Alec Baldwin. If you doubt this, just ask the poor schmuck that Baldwin punched in the face last year in a dispute over a parking spot. While America’s national security may be threatened by Trump’s lying, racism, misogyny, ignorance, and incompetence, it is Baldwin’s outrageous (and maybe slanderous?) spoofing of his lying, racism, misogyny, ignorance, and incompetence that is of far greater concern. Keep in mind that no other modern president, with the few exceptions of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon and John Kennedy, have been subjected to such comic mockery. My emergency declaration would be to immediately remove Trump from office, thereby ending Baldwin’s dangerously unhinged reign as America’s Commander In-Chief impersonator. 

The Most Pressing Question of our Age: What is a Wall?

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Not since Bill Clinton infamously wondered what the meaning of the word “is” is has America been so caught up in the definition of a word: What is a “wall?” 

Look to your left and right at this very moment and you will probably see a wall, but what is it? Have you even bothered to give this vitally important question any thought?  

Many walls connect to a ceiling, which raises the question, what is a ceiling? Paul Simon famously observed that “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor.” But if you live on the top floor, Simon is flat-out wrong. 

A ceiling, regardless of whether it’s another man’s floor is actually a horizontal wall above one’s head supported by vertical walls, usually four. Viewed in this light, it may be said that a floor is a horizontal wall below one’s feet used for walking, or just standing around aimlessly. It must be noted that depending on which floor of a building you’re on, the wall beneath your feet (aka floor) may be supported itself by other vertical walls, usually four (see above), or it may rest on solid ground, in which case vertical walls, still usually four, to support it are not needed. 

My point is rather obvious, so I won’t waste the reader’s time by stating it. However, I do feel that given the current controversy over what actually constitutes a wall – for example, would mere “steel slats” do? – that we should turn to the dictionary for guidance, and not just any dictionary. This is America, and the question at hand as to what qualifies as a wall is as American as a mass shooting, therefore only the American Heritage Dictionary will do.  (The Oxford Dictionary, having originated in the United Kingdom, would provide a questionable European perspective and serve only to further muddy the already fetid waters.) 

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “wall” as “an upright structure (oops, this kills my theory that ceilings and floors are walls, sorry) of masonry, wood, plaster, or other material serving to enclose, divide, or protect an area…”  

This definition may be helpful to some, though is ultimately insufficient to deep thinkers, because in stating that a wall may be made from “masonry, wood, plaster, or other material” (italics mine), it suggests, wrongly it seems to me, that a wall can be made of anything, even cheese.

For a moment, let’s go with the cheese wall example. Assuming its purpose is to be eaten, perhaps with a corresponding wall of saltines, a cheese wall could serve as an appetizing novelty. But would any nation, except possibly France, build a wall of cheese, even hard cheese, to protect its borders from hungry refugees who would simply eat their way through?  

In terms of border security, by “wall” we generally mean “barrier,” or if not barrier, then barricade. It would serve us well then to remember that while a barricade is a barrier, a barrier is not necessarily a barricade.  A barrier may be a common fence, railing, or row of shrubbery, none of which is a barricade, or a wall for that matter. Under ordinary circumstances, this would bring me to the fascinating subject of partitions and ramparts, but at this pivotal time in our nation’s history the conversation is moot.

The sobering truth is that I don’t know what a wall is and neither do you. Perhaps a wall is like pornography in that it’s impossible to define definitively but you know it when you see it. Unless you don’t and end up walking into it head first. And that really hurts.

  

Louis C.K. Has Lost His Comedy Compass

Louis C.K. on stage a Governor’s. His set went well until people actually heard what he was saying.

Louis C.K. on stage a Governor’s. His set went well until people actually heard what he was saying.

Having spent my entire professional life in comedy, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that humorists are moralists. I am thinking of my 33 years as an Editor at MAD Magazine when I had a regular outlet to express my deeply felt moral outrage over every President from Reagan to Trump. We mostly liked Obama at MAD, but we still made fun of him and took him to task when he pissed us off. 

George Carlin was liberal, but he made fun of feminists, environmentalism and political correctness.  The greatest stand-ups, most all of whom are liberal, understand that satire is a non-partisan art form because hypocrisy, corruption and foolishness are not limited to any one political party or ideology. That said, Rush Limbaugh is no Chris Rock.

At MAD, it was always self-evident to us that there was no point in making jokes at the expense of the homeless, the terminally ill, victims of disasters and tragedies, or the politically powerless. That’s why the Marx Brothers never made a movie in which they caused mayhem at a soup kitchen. The upper-crust assholes of high society made for a much more deserving target. Likewise, when the Three Stooges were cast as plumbers called to fix a leaky faucet and ended up flooding their clients’ house, the homeowners were not humble and impoverished immigrants, they were pompous and rich American fat cats.   

This brings me to Louis C.K., a more talented and successful humorist than I ever was or will be, albeit one credibly accused of forcing female co-workers to watch him jerk-off.  C.K., who not long ago sold-out Madison Square Garden, is currently attempting to revive his stalled career by playing comedy clubs. Yesterday, a recording of a recent performance of his was posted online that will likely prove to be the most damaging to a comedian since Michael Richards’ infamous racist tirade in 2006.  

For reasons known only to him, C.K. decided that the student survivors of the mass shooting at Parkland High School were ripe for satire. He compares them unfavorably to the high-schoolers of his youth, who in his own words were “idiots, getting high and doing mushrooms.”  So, what’s his problem with the Parkland kids? As he put it:

“They’re going to testify, in front of Congress, these kids? What the fuck? What are you doing? You’re young, you should be crazy, you should be unhinged, not in a suit saying, “I’m here to tell…”  “Fuck you!” You’re not interesting because you went to a high school where kids got shot. Why does that mean I have to listen to you? How does that make you interesting? You didn’t get shot. You pushed some fat kid in the way. Now I have to listen to you talking?”

Perhaps I shouldn’t be, but I’m shocked that a standup as gifted as C.K. could make this kind of error.  How could he have ever thought it was a good idea to make fun of and undermine teenagers who have responded to a horrific tragedy by becoming social activists? 

The function of satire is to reveal truth through exaggeration and humor. There is no way that Louis C.K. doesn’t know that. But what is the truth revealed in this monologue? Is it his truth? That the students who survived Parkland did so because they used the fat kids as shields? Or that the Parkland kids should be more like C.K. and his pals were in their youth and get high rather than putting on suits and working for positive social change?

You would think such sickening, tone-deaf material would have bombed, but it didn’t. In fact, it was received by much uproarious laughter. The Parkland bit came well into C.K.’s set, after he had won the audience over. And once an audience starts laughing, well, apparently, they will even laugh at this.

The backlash has been swift. These days the backlash is always swift when a comedian makes a joke that many people find offensive. Just ask Samantha Bee, Michelle Wolf, Bill Maher or Kathy Griffin.  But not all jokes that offend are created equal. Of the aforementioned comedians who have recently been in hot water, only Michelle Wolf refused to apologize because she was credibly able to stand by her material. But when a comedian is unable to do that, they have no choice but to apologize or withdraw from the scene in disgrace. 

Will Louis C.K. stand by this material? Of course, he won’t, though he has a lot more important issues to address than the quality of his wisecracks. First, he needs to address the charges of sexual misconduct against him. And then he needs to find his comedy compass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby, It’s Politically Correct Outside: More Christmas Songs That Should Be Banned

Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalbán perform the holiday date-rape anthem, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in MGM’s  Neptune’s Daughter.  While it is hard to believe, it was widely seen as acceptable in 1949.

Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalbán perform the holiday date-rape anthem, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in MGM’s Neptune’s Daughter. While it is hard to believe, it was widely seen as acceptable in 1949.

Now that Frank Loesser’s holiday classic “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” originally performed by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalbán in MGM’s Neptune’s Daughter in 1949, has been banned because it promotes date rape, it is time for a long overdue yuletide musical reckoning. Like it or not, we must admit that many of the most beloved Christmas carols, including traditional hymns, encourage sickeningly immoral behavior, especially when viewed in the luminous light of our modern, highly evolved social standards.

‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ is merely the tip (and forgive me, I do not mean to offend anyone with the word “tip,” which I use here only in the loosest possible sense, and for which I sincerely apologize) of the proverbial iceberg.

WDOK Christmas 102.1 in Cleveland was absolutely right to ban the song. Its disturbingly ribald content is so vile that it was sung as recently as 2014 by Michael Bublé and Idina Menzel for a revoltingly perverse video featuring an underage boy and girl that generated over 36 million views. Disgusting!  

Desiray, a host at WDOK, explained why she supported the ban of the song: “People might say, ‘oh, enough with that #MeToo,’ but if you really put that aside and listen to the lyrics, it’s not something I would want my daughter to be in that kind of situation. The tune might be catchy, but let’s not promote that sort of idea.” 

Exactly right! Just because a song is catchy, highly entertaining and great fun to listen to does not mean that it should be heard and enjoyed. Before clearing a holiday song for broadcast, radio station Program Directors must first do their due diligence by interpreting and evaluating it with current contemporary moral sensitivities.    

It is with that in mind that I humbly offer the following list of Christmas songs, which in the interests of total decency, equality and sensitivity, must no longer be played. As a public service, I have provided irrefutable reasons explaining the outrageous offensiveness of each song.

“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” 

In a country in which over half of marriages end in divorce, this Christmas ditty, written by Tommie Connor in 1952, blatantly celebrates infidelity and sexual depravity. An underage child sees “mommy kissing Santa Claus,” and then what? We can only imagine. The emotional pain and suffering this song understandably causes Mrs. Claus is reason enough to forbid it from airplay. But when you consider that it suggests sexual intercourse, and perhaps even sodomy, it is hard to believe that it was ever cleared for broadcast. 

“White Christmas”

The idea that the most possible festive Christmas is white is, at its core, racist. Need we be reminded that the Ku Klux Klan wore white? In the light of Black Lives Matter, Irving Berlin’s unsettling lyric, “may all your Christmases be white,” is exclusionary to African Americans and all people of color. I myself am dreaming of an ethnically-diverse, multi-racial Christmas, and so should you. 

“The Christmas Song“

Composed by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells in 1945, this ugly holiday carol unapologetically advocates the slaughter of innocent turkeys. In response to the lyric, “Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright,” one can only ask: Was the turkey free-range organic, or fed hormones before being brutally murdered at a factory farm? And free-range organic or not, the idea of eating a bird is repulsive to vegetarians. At the very least, there should be an alternate version of the song with the lyric, “Everybody knows Tofurkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright.” 

“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

With complete and callous disregard for municipalities and the impact of snow on sanitation crews, this radical song celebrates dangerous weather that often results in gruesome accidents and deaths. The song also fails to consider the soaring costs of snow removal, which in New York City is an estimated $1.8 million per inch. “Let it snow” may have been an innocent wish when the song was written by Julie Styne and Sammy Cahn in 1945, however it can now be regarded as only a tone-deaf call for black ice and the frantic hoarding of bread and milk. 

“Deck The Halls”

The once universally beloved Christmas classic should serve as a reminder to us that the true meaning of holiday songs shift over time. Since 1862, “Deck the Halls” has been widely regarded as a sincere call to good cheer. However, given the rise of the radical homosexual agenda, “don we now our gay apparel” may now only be interpreted as an unapologetic encouragement to dress in sadomasochistic leatherwear in preparation for bondage and whippings in queer dungeons.  Even the seemingly innocent “fa la la la las” take on a troubling new meaning when viewed in this context.   

“Run Run Rudolph” 

One of the writers of this unsettlingly dark song, popularized by Chuck Berry in 1958, was Johnny Marks, who also wrote “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Marks clearly hated reindeer and wrote about these magnificent creatures as freakish outcasts and mistreated beasts of burden. In “Run Run Rudolph,” Santa Claus cruelly pushes Rudolph to his limit and beyond, demanding that he “hurry” across the sky merely because he (Santa) is “reelin’ like a merry-go-round.” I have sent the song to PETA for further review and comment. 

“The Little Drummer Boy”

In 1941, just three years after Congress finally ratified a law prohibiting child labor, American composer Katherine Kennicott Davis wrote this chilling song with its stomach-churning first line, sung by a poor boy, “Come they told me.” The lyrics go on to detail how the child was forced to play a drum for an undetermined period of time in unsanitary conditions for no pay. This song’s graphically bleak imagery certainly has no place on modern radio.       

“Frosty The Snow Man”

This macabre telling of the slow, torturous demise of a jolly snowman may be fine for adults, though it is without question inappropriate for children.  The repeated “thumpety thump thumps” may frighten young minds and inspire nightmares of death caused by melting.

 “O Come All Ye Faithfull” 

The reasons for banning this song are so blatantly obvious, I won’t even bother stating them.  

Kellyanne Conway Blames the Murder of Jews On Me, My Colleagues and, of course, the Jews

The Queen of Alternative Facts blames comedians for the mass shooting of Jews and the hosts of Fox and Friends agree.

The Queen of Alternative Facts blames comedians for the mass shooting of Jews and the hosts of Fox and Friends agree.

No, I did not storm into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and start gunning down Jews, but as one who has spent his entire professional life as a satirist, I am largely responsible for the horror that unfolded, and not just me. All comedians, especially those traitorous late night talk show hosts, are responsible for the unspeakably bloody act of anti-Semitism that left 11 dead. It is time that that we humorists took a good look in the mirror and committed to toning down our wisecracks before another Jew is senselessly slaughtered. 

Yes, it has come to this. Kellyanne Conway, who has been shamelessly whoring for Donald Trump since she dumped Ted Cruz in 2016, has conjured up a doozy of a new alternative fact: Comedy killed the Jews. And we all know who is mostly responsible for comedy: Atheist liberal Jews who hate God and want to take away your guns. 

The toxic nonsense that Conway served up to the sickeningly feckless hosts of Fox and Friends was this:

“The anti-religiosity in this country that it’s somehow in vogue and funny to make fun of anybody of faith, to constantly be making fun of people who express religion - the late-night comedians, the unfunny people on TV shows - it’s always anti-religious. And remember these people were gunned down in their place of worship, as were the people in South Carolina several years ago. And they (the victims) were there because they're people of faith and it’s that faith that needs to bring us together. This is no time to be driving God out of the public square, no time to be making fun of people.”  

In other words, Bill Maher, even though you’re not a Jew, this is mostly on you, however the atheist liberal Jews who run HBO and give you a platform to spew your comedic hate are accomplices. Obviously, it is the atheist liberal Jews who have driven God out of the public square and we all know that leads to terrorism. A lot of people are saying that, a lot of people. 

Mike Huckabee, a man so moral that he raised a daughter who lies for and defends Donald Trump for a living, comes to mind. We should not have been surprised by the mass shooting at a movie theater in Colorado, he once said, “since we have ordered God out of our schools and communities.” The following year, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, he said, “We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?” 

This is the logic of a moron at the top of his game, though with all due respect to Huckabee, it was his sanctimonious mentors Jerry Fallwell and Pat Roberston who created the template that Conway is using now. In their infamous rundown of those who were to blame for the 9-11 terrorist attacks, it was the pagans who came first, even before the despicably evil abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians. Somehow, comedians were left off the list, but adding them to it now seems like a natural extension. Actually, it was that Jew comedian Jon Stewart who flew the first plane into the World Trade Center and somehow managed to parachute out just before impact. Feel free to use it Kelly, it’s another alternative fact. 

Kellyanne Conway is an Orwellian. Like Trump, she has no discernible interest in reality and any truth she speaks is incidental. She is a free-agent mouth piece for whichever Republican can pay her the most, though she seems to have found her true calling in being the staunch and vulgar defender of a lying sociopathic fascist.  

While Trump is not responsible for the synagogue shooting, he consistently foments violence with his rhetoric. After all, there are some “good” Jew-haters out there, right? That’s what Trump told us in the aftermath of the ugly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.  And let’s not forget Trump’s arch enemy, namely the “fake news media.” Who runs that? And let’s also not forget that Jew, George Soros. Before an insane Trump supporter sent Soros a pipe bomb, Republican Congressman Matt Gates accused him of paying women and children to storm the US border, a lie that Trump, of course, did nothing to disavow. 

Since we’re on the subject of blaming Jews, let’s not forget MAD Magazine, where I was an editor for over three decades. It was started by William Gaines and Harvey Kurtzman, both Jews. When Kurtzman left in 1956, another Jew, Al Feldstein, took over and hired Jew artists and Jew writers. Think of all of the damage to our culture those Jews did, satirizing politics and revolutionizing American satire.

In the twisted worldview of Kelly Anne Conway and Donald Trump, even when Jews are murdered in cold blood, it’s the Jews fault. They won’t come out and say it, but their meaning is clear: the Jews, especially those comedy Godless Jews, of which I consider myself one, did this to themselves. The Jews will not be safe until they stop making comedy.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

As America Burns, Trump's Sense of Victimhood Knows No Bounds

Donald Trump, who never laughs in public, found reason to smile wryly while speaking about pipe bounds sent to his political opponents.

Donald Trump, who never laughs in public, found reason to smile wryly while speaking about pipe bounds sent to his political opponents.

In the days after pipe bombs were sent in the mail to Donald Trump’s political opponents and mere hours after a mass shooting at a Synagogue that left at least 11 dead, President Sociopath was at a campaign rally in Illinois in support of an incumbent Republican congressman. Rampant domestic terrorism certainly isn’t going to stop Trump from doing everything he can to avoid being impeached, and that means keeping his Republican enablers in control of the House at all costs. 

It is sickening to watch Trump, a man incapable of empathy or self-reflection, aside from looking in a mirror to primp his hair, calling for unity in the aftermath of a mass shooting. “We can’t make these sick, demented, evil people important,” said the sick, demented, evil President to his adoring rally crowd.  

As I have written previously, Trump is more symptom than cause. He is a malignant tumor in a nation with a compromised immune system. The bigger concern is the American immune system itself, but that can’t be properly attended to until the tumor has been removed. For that to happen, it must be clearly seen and understood that a tumor of the size and with the perverse life force of Trump is a grave danger to our nation and the world.

“If they had protection inside (the Synagogue), the results would have been far better,” Trump claimed without feeling. Can you imagine a person more ill-suited than Trump charged with providing comfort to the families and friends of victims of gun violence? 

In Trump’s delusional view, the standard NRA insanity, the only possible solution to the epidemic of American mass murder is to have armed guards at every school, house of worship, shopping center, concert arena, nightclub, transportation hub, business and, of course, along the southern border to guard the wall.  And even that would not be enough. We need armed teachers and Rabbis now too. We will be safe only when every citizen has the firepower in their pocket to blow someone to smithereens.  

Whether having an armed congregation would have prevented the mass murder in the Synagogue “is a dispute that will always exist,” said Trump, who never met a dispute that he didn’t relish. He enjoys the fight, whatever the fight is for, far too much for person with his unchecked power. 

Remember when the worst thing a President had ever said in an attempt to capitalize on our divisions was Obama’s remark about disaffected small town residents in Pennsylvania who “cling to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or antitrade sentiment to explain their frustrations.” It sounds almost quaint now.     

Think of how Obama, or even Bush, conducted themselves after a national tragedy. There was not a thing I liked about Bush or his policies and, to be honest, I couldn’t imagine a president worse than him at the time. But I was wrong. Bush was not emotionally dead. Bush did not willfully seek to divide the nation more than it already was. Bush did not spew hateful rhetoric as part of his daily routine. I did not agree with Bush’s worldview or support the direction in which he led the country. Bush wanted to turn America into Texas, which I think is a terrible idea, though nowhere near as terrible as turning it into Trumpistan.  

What distinguishes Trump from any President in the modern era – in addition to his racism, misogyny, ignorance, stupidity, anger, lying, shallowness, vanity and persecution complex – is how he stokes existing resentments between liberals and conservatives, blacks and whites, and men and women. Even with the Obamas and Clintons being targeted with pipe bombs, Trump felt compelled to say, “I get attacked all the time. In fact, I’m just thinking, come to think of it, who gets attacked more than me?” 

One can’t help but wonder how long this ugly madness will go on. The Republicans, in their ruthless efficiency, have figured out how to win Presidential elections, despite losing the popular votes – by nearly a half million in 2000 and nearly three million in 2016. If the trend continues to 2020, Trump may well lose the popular vote by an even wider margin than he did previously and still win.   

It is more than our institutions and social norms that are under siege by Trump, it is truth and human decency itself. Simply put, this center cannot and will not hold. As that great American folksinger, Arlo Guthrie, sings in “Times Like These,” a song written in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane: 

When leaders profit from deep divisions

When the tears of friends remain unsung

In times like these, it’s good to remember

These times will go in times to come

 

Game 3 of the 2018 World Series Was Not A 'Classic,' It Was A Disaster

Don’t be deceived by the scoreboard clock. It was 3am in Boston.

Don’t be deceived by the scoreboard clock. It was 3am in Boston.

While many are already calling it “a classic,” the fact is that game three of the 2018 World Series, a literal snore-fest between the Red Sox and the Dodgers, was symptomatic of baseball’s two core problems. The games start too late and take way too long. 

Imagine, if you will, a playoff game in basketball, hockey or football – even one that went into double overtime, or a major golf tournament that went to sudden death, or a Grand Slam tennis match with extended tiebreakers, ending at 3:30am eastern time. It’s beyond absurd. Baseball schedules its most compelling and important games, even if they take the standard 9 innings, to end when much of its fan base is entering into REM sleep. 

Baseball, the sport I love and the sport now utterly obsessed with analytics, might process this astonishing bit of data: Game 3 of the 2018 World Series took longer to play than the entire 1939 series, a Yankees sweep over the Reds. By the way, the second game of that series, with a score of 4-0, lasted 87 minutes.  One can imagine that Monte Pearson, who started for the Yankees, did not spend much time on the mound shaking off his catcher.

An argument can be made that last night was an anomaly. After all, the teams played the equivalent of two games. I ain’t buying it. The game lasted a stupefying seven hours and twenty minutes. That’s longer than two Springsteen concerts, including encores. Sure, you love The Boss, but enough is enough. Can anyone appreciate the nuances of a pick-off move at 1:15 in the morning?  

The bigger problem is this: Cut the time of last night’s “long day’s journey in a 3-2 score” in half and it still would have run three hours and forty minutes, and ended close to midnight on the east coast. Why don’t these games start at 7? Why aren’t extra innings games decided by a home-run derby – or purists, if you hate that idea because it sounds too exciting – why not suspend games, I don’t know, say after five hours and twelve minutes or 2:01 in the morning, whichever comes first?  Why not mandate that managers visit the mound on hoverboards? Why not do something anything, to add some novelty and speed up the game? 

Statistics are not currently available for what time last night’s post game show ended, but here’s a safe bet: It was an absolute thriller, albeit the longest post-game show in post-season history, ending just as the sun was rising over Beantown. And still, baseball doesn’t get it. 

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said, “It was a great baseball game. People back home are probably waking up to the end. But it’s probably one of the best, if not the best, game I’ve ever been a part of.” 

Alex, it’s lovely to hear that you enjoyed yourself, but it’s not about you. If a chef makes his best meal ever and his guests fall asleep in the soup because they’re too tired to slurp it, the supper has not gone well. 

Likewise, last night’s game did not go well. It was an interminable slog into Morning Joe’s start time, though Morning Joe himself, a rabid Red Sox fan, was undoubtedly asleep at Mika’s side when the game mercifully ended. To add insult to injury, the game ended about 20 minutes before monastery monks traditionally arise, so even they were unable to enjoy the scintillating finish.  

Following the game, former MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn said, “I’m glad I‘m dead so I didn’t have to sit through it.”

Lucky him.  

 

 

In Defense of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's 'Woman is the Nigger of the World'

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A few days before accused sexual assaulter Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, Better Midler tweeted this: 

“Women are the n-word of the world.” Raped, beaten, enslaved, married off, worked like dumb animals; denied education and inheritance; enduring the pain and danger of childbirth and life IN SILENCE for THOUSANDS of years. They are the most disrespected creatures on earth.

In quoting John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s once banned song — it was actually Yoko who said “woman is the nigger of the world” before John sang it — Midler obviously meant to make a bold pro-feminist statement. But the backlash on Twitter from some prominent African Americans was fast and unrelenting. 

Levar Burton replied, “I believe you meant well. Still, you crossed a line AND gave the impression that your suffering is commensurate with that of my ancestors.”

Frenchie Davis lamented, “Bette Midler’s choice of words broke my heart today and proved my theory that Black women can’t afford to trust White feminism.

And DL Hughley quipped, “Bette Midler says women are the niggas of the world! Nah! Niggas are still the niggas of the world!” 

Midler, who is a friend and admirer of Yoko Ono’s — she performed at Yoko’s birthday concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2010 — deleted the tweet, and then defended her deleted tweet in second tweet that she would also delete:

"Women are the…etc” is a quote from Yoko Ono from 1972, which I never forgot. It rang true then, and it rings true today, whether you like it or not. This is not about race, this is about the status of women, THEIR STORY.”  

This served only to pour gasoline on the proverbial fire. If Midler was standing by her original tweet, then why did she take down? With the pressure mounting, Midler served up an explanation and mea culpa:

“The too brief investigation of allegations against Kavanaugh infuriated me. Angrily I tweeted w/o thinking my choice of words would be enraging to black women who doubly suffer, both by being women and by being black. I am an ally and stand with you; always have. And I apologize.”

There is a lot to unpack here. However, before doing that, this is probably a good time for me to disclose that I am the co-creator and producer of the Annual John Lennon Tribute in New York City. The Tribute started as a neighborhood event a few blocks from the Dakota and has since evolved into a full-scale charity concert attracting top talent and fans from around the world. 

At last year’s Tribute, Patti Smith, the recipient of the 2017 John Lennon Real Love Award, took the stage and performed a mournful rendition of “Woman Is the Nigger of the World” to a receptive overwhelmingly white audience. In singing the song, was Patti Smith guilty of “disregarding the experiences of Black women,” as Bette Milder was accused of by Ohio Democrat Nina Turner? Was her audience complicit?  And if yes, then what of John Lennon, who sang “Woman Is the Nigger of the World” in concert in 1972 at Madison Square Garden? I remember it well, because I was there. 

The concert was a benefit for the WIllowbrook School on Staten Island, where mentally handicapped children were living in filth and squalor. Opening acts included Roberta Flack and Stevie Wonder. By their presence, were they enabling Lennon to express disregard for the suffering of African Americans? Would Stevie Wonder have joined John Lennon on stage to sing “Give Peace A Chance” had he believed that were the case? And, by the way, are we going to hold artists of 1972 to 2018 social standards? 

Times and sensibilities have changed. We now live in the era of Black Lives Matter and #Me Too, both necessary and important responses to a social and economic system rigged against people of color and women. I am not going to wander into what I regard as a senseless debate over who has suffered the most in our culture. As a white man, I know for sure that it has not been me. That said, make of this what you will: Black men in America had the right to vote before all women. Also, we had a Black male president before a woman president. American patriarchy, in its virulent toxicity, rules at the expense of women of all races, who remain second class citizens, “slaves to the slaves,” as Lennon sang, and as was originally noted by Irish revolutionary James Connelly.  

Is it any wonder then that “nigger” and “cunt” are the most forbidden words in our language? Both words have an ugly history and have been used to degrade and oppress African Americans and women. Consequently, and undeniably, African American women suffer doubly. And yet those emotionally-charged words remain in use and, notably, not exclusively by those who use them pejoratively. 

While many African Americans and women feel strongly that “nigger” and “cunt” can never be used by anyone in a socially acceptable manner, many others are on a mission to reclaim the words for their own use. This strategy, which I am sympathetic to, remains controversial. But whatever your view on this, can anyone reasonably accuse Chris Rock or Eve Ensler of being insensitive, mean-spirited or clueless for using the words “nigger” and “cunt” in their art?  Of course, Chris Rock being black, and Eve Ensler being a woman, gives them a license that I do not have. A white male using the word “nigger” or “cunt” is immediately suspect. So, I accept that I am somewhat out on a limb here, however unlike Bette Midler in her tweet, I will stand by my use and choice of words in this essay, even though some may find it offensive. 

I have spent my entire professional life in comedy — I was an editor at MAD Magazine for 33 years and have performed my First Amendment show, The Joy of Censorship, in 44 states. Among my greatest stand-up heroes are Dick Gregory, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Richard Pryor. They were all fearlessly self-expressive. No one — not the cops, not the clergy, not the government and not anyone in their audiences who were outraged, White or Black — could take their words away. Each of these comic masters used socially unacceptable language to expose and satirize racism and sexism. Notably, when John Lennon was under fire for “Woman Is the Nigger of the World,” it was the Dick Gregory, who had called his auto-biography “Nigger,” who came to his defense and posed with him for the cover of Jet. 

 Lennon himself, outspoken and insistent, refused to apologize for the song. He appeared on the Dick Cavett Show and read a statement by Ron Dellums, the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus: "If you define ‘nigger’ as someone whose lifestyle is defined by others, whose opportunities are defined by others, whose role in society is defined by other, the good news is that you don’t have to be black to be a nigger in this society. Most people in America are niggers.” 

What was not widely known in 1972 is that the provocative line was first spoken by a female character in African American author Zora Neale Hurston's 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God — “De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.” Whether Yoko was familiar with that is unclear. In any case, it is something that Yoko fervently believed to be true and, eventually, so did Lennon, who was in the midst of an unlikely and remarkable journey, evolving from a misogynist to a feminist to a househusband. Lennon actually modeled the journey that countless American men need to make. In half a life, he went from writing “I’d rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man” (a line he lifted from an Elvis song), to “woman, I can hardly express my mixed emotions at my thoughtlessness, please remember I’m forever in your debt.” 

Lennon’s shocking declaration that “woman is the nigger of the world” signaled a pivotal juncture in his personal transformation. His unassailable point that regardless of their race, nationality or religion, women are shamefully oppressed and mistreated by men, remains as true today as it was nearly a half century ago. Women are second class American citizens, black women even more-so. What’s the argument here?

In “Imagine” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” Lennon made passionate and poignant pleas for equality. He was an outspoken supporter of Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panthers. Are we really going to get into a debate over whether “Woman Is the Nigger of the World in its time was in any way racist or misogynistic? It most definitely was not.   

Part of the problem here is that Bette Midler decided to start this conversation on Twitter, which doesn’t allow for any meaningful nuance or context, though that may not have mattered in this case anyway. Thirty-eight years after his death, Lennon’s songs remain controversial, and not just “Woman Is the Nigger of the World.” “Imagine,” with its secular message of love and peace continues to piss-off many conservatives around the globe — you can look it up. 

 All this said, regardless of your position on Lennon’s use of the forbidden word, the lyrics of "Woman Is the Nigger of the World” still cut painfully and disturbingly deep. As Lennon passionately implored us, “Think about it, do something it.”