Pop Philosophy

What Bush's choices for inauguration music say about the next four years

The emperor has no brains Some scribes are suggesting we place quotation marks around "President" Bush's title in order to show how slim his margin of "victory" was. In a recent issue of The New Yorker, cartoonist Art Spiegelman also recommended putting double quotes around the "vice" part of Mr. Cheney's title to show who's really in charge. (By picking Cheney, Bush seems to have made his Secret Service bodyguards completely unnecessary.)

While it may be too soon to predict how this folly of an administration -- which I'm proposing be called Evil and Eviler-- will work out, a quick look at the inaugural festivities may offer a few clues.

The big coup of the week, of course, was the "Prez" persuading hot Latin lover Ricky Martin to live "la vida loca" onstage at his swearing-in. Considering Dubya's alleged coke-snorting/booze-swilling/swerve-driving past, he couldn't have chosen a more apt song; in fact, it's a wonder he didn't use it for a campaign theme. Most likely, Papa George nixed it, as he is rather embarrassed by his "brown" relatives. Martin probably got the call because someone on Dubya's staff recognized that the best way to get a higher percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004 was to lure in all of Ricky's 14-year-old fans.

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Sample of Half Japanese's "Firecracker," from the CD Greatest Hits. Click the "play" icon in the control console below.

<p align="center"> If your browser doesn't display a control console, <a href="http://www.sfweekly.com/media/2001-01-24/halfjapanese.mp3"> download the MP3 file</a> to be played by a separate application. </p>

Find more information, or order the CD, at www.dragcity.com/bands.html.

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Of course, in four years the fans of fellow inaugural participant and country singer Larry Gatlin may all be dead. OK, maybe that's overstating it; I really haven't the faintest idea who Gatlin's fans are or how lively their trigger, um, voting fingers are. As for Lyle Lovett, I can't imagine why the Texas singer agreed to take part, unless he wanted to dedicate his song "Ugly From the Front" to Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris.

During a recent interview, Dubya said he wants everyone to know he's "going to be the president of everybody." This is certainly good news for those who felt disenfranchised during the recent election. The vulnerable -- I mean venerable -- Mayor Willie Brown may have put it best when he described the inaugural events as "a minstrel show," with the (very) occasional black performer paraded before the nearly all-white audience (inJustice Clarence Thomas had to be around somewhere, giggling gleefully). By performing at the inauguration, the R&B trio Destiny's Child said more about its desperation for crossover sales than its political leanings.

Maybe I'm being too hard on the incoming "Prez." Maybe Dubya's just the white guy in the wrong place. Maybe he's even ... punk. See, on Saturday night I watched a rockumentary called Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King. It's an inspirational movie about two real-life brothers who, despite not knowing how to play any instruments at all, founded one of the best underground rock bands ever. That's when I saw Dubya in a new light: No one has ever risen so far on so little talent. He's the Johnny Rotten of American leaders.

Of course, you do remember what Johnny Rotten's last words as a Sex Pistol were, don't you?

"Ever had the feeling you've been cheated?"

No static at allIt happens a lot this time of year -- at dinner parties, before the previews start in movie theaters, in the middle of nowhere on long drives. Most likely, it has something to do with the birth of the new year and that moment when you realize, "Yeah, those cuticles are a bit too long," and decide to change everything. I'm talking about playing the game Would You Rather?

It's a simple game that requires no ornate pieces -- although I'm sure some exec at Milton Bradley is trying to put together a commercial version. To be sure, any board edition would be too bland, since no gaming stooge could come up with a question as odd and specific as, "Would you rather have sex with Bea Arthur or Leonardo DiCaprio?" (This is a question we usually ask straight men, but I see now that it could work with gay women as well.) The idea of the game is to provide two things equally hideous or splendid from which to choose. For example, "Would you rather have incredibly long nose hair that you couldn't ever trim or be forced to wear a hat that reads, "I like it in the poop chute'?" Or something less grotesque, perhaps, "Would you rather record only one great song, like the Nightcrawlers' garage-pop classic "Little Black Egg,' or not have any kind of hit but play to decent crowds at the Holiday Inn in Novato for the rest of your life?"

By now, it's probably obvious that Would You Rather? is just a subtler version of Truth or Dare, without all the embarrassing actions that dares require. It often brings up interesting ethical questions, such as, "Would you rather look really stupid performing in a puffy jacket with a pimp cane during Run-D.M.C.'s playoff football halftime show or keep your "hip hop roots' to yourself?" Stephan Jenkins, lead singer of Third Eye Blind, I'm looking in your direction.

 
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