you can’t spell obsequious without IOU

Deep in the bowels of the Reagan White House, the future chief justice of the Supreme Court argued against co-opting the dignity of the office. It’s refreshing to see a public official stand up against corporate interests — seriously. Too bad we have to go back 25 years to find an example:

I hate to sound like one of Mr. Jackson’s records, constantly repeating the same refrain, but I recommend that we not approve this letter. Sometimes people need to be reminded of the obvious: whatever its status as a cultural phenomenon, the Jackson concert tour is a massive commercial undertaking. The tour will do quite well financially by coming to Washington, and there is no need for the President to applaud such enlightened self-interest. Frankly, I find the obsequious attitude of some members of the White House staff toward Mr. Jackson’s attendants, and the fawning posture they would have the President of the United States adopt, more than a little embarrassing.

Just a reminder: June 29 is Ashford and Simpson Day — despite John Roberts’ objection.

a new low for king kin

A few years back they sold their father’s words and image to a communications company — “I have a dream … that everyone will use Cingular wirless service.”

This is worse:

The family of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has charged the foundation building a monument to the civil rights leader on the National Mall about $800,000 for the use of his words and image — an arrangement one leading scholar says King would have found offensive. …

“I don’t think the Jefferson family, the Lincoln family … I don’t think any other group of family ancestors has been paid a licensing fee for a memorial in Washington,” said Cambridge University historian David Garrow, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of King. “One would think any family would be so thrilled to have their forefather celebrated and memorialized in D.C. that it would never dawn on them to ask for a penny.”

King would have been “absolutely scandalized by the profiteering behavior of his children,” Garrow said.

The profiteering has been going on for years, as Cynthia Tucker reported in a 2001 column.

Dexter King, second son of the famous civil rights crusader, had a dream. He wanted to turn his father’s legacy into a cash machine like Elvis Presley’s. So six years ago, he made two visits to Graceland, Presley’s Memphis home, to find out how to turn his dream into dollars. And now the younger King’s vision is finally taking shape.

Images of his father, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., are being used in commercials for Atlanta-based Cingular, a cellular telephone company, and Alcatel, a French telecommunications company. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, once a soul-stirring appeal to America’s conscience, is now nothing more than a cheap appeal to the nation’s never-satiated appetite for the latest consumer gadget.

In the Cingular commercial, King’s words are heard alongside those of Kermit the Frog.

mtv is evil, cont’d

Sullen emo (goth with less mascara and more fluid sexuality) girl and her Barbie doll mother don’t get along. Fake-tittied mom can’t understand; she’s just trying to look young so she can hang with her daughter. Besides, doesn’t she give her little princess everything she wants?

After much manufactured angst, emo chick learns (is manipulated) to accept her mother for who she is. They go shopping on Melrose before a final, awkward hug. They’re a strained mix of pastels and darks — giggles and groans — but both represent influential demographic groups that spend a lot of money.

If I’m to understand MTV’s consumer morality play, tolerance should extend to poor role models with deep emotional problems.

Coming up, idiot parents pay Zac Efron $1 million to strip at their obnoxious brat’s 16th brithday party.

they say this cat shaft is a bad mutha …

Not long ago Pete Wentz told me one’s ringtone says a lot about who they are. He even wrote a song about it. I was inspired. Finally, last week, I found my identity.

“Who’s the black private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks?” Must be for me.

Actually, I appreciated the new ringtone more than ever after it made a cameo at the now-infamous tavern peddling those Obama/Curious George T-shirts. I was interviewing some of the more, um, conservative elements of Marietta’s white community when my phone started ringing. They were puzzled — “what’s a white guy doing listening to black music?”

Unfortunately, I also received a call Sunday during Spelman College’s commencement address, which I was covering for the local daily. It was a tad inappropriate, considering the setting.

But hey, that’s me, a tad inappropriate at times. Just like my ringtone. I’m a complicated man and no one understands me. Damn, it feels good to finally have an identity.

Thank you, Pete Wentz.

pete wentz must die!

Radar Online’s Robert Lanham makes a strong case against millennials, who apparently think they’re as special as everyone tells them they are.

Though the writer indulges in too many lame generalizations, I share his frustration with Generation Y’s unblinking surrender to commercialism.

Today, when a hip band allows Outback Steakhouse to co-opt one of their most beloved songs, Millennials don’t call it selling out. It’s a cogent business decision. To Millennials, it’s perfectly acceptable to transform the lyric “Let’s pretend we don’t exist / Let’s pretend we’re in Antarctica” into the jingle “Let’s go Outback tonight / Life will still be there tomorrow.” (Et tu, Of Montreal.)

Perhaps most troubling, the Millennials have effectively transformed the no-logo idealism of Gen X into the mantra “no logo except Apple.” Embracing “hip” brands is what often passes for cool with today’s trendsetters.

Depressing, but not enough to spur my enlistment in some inter-generational conflict. Besides, I don’t want anyone thinking I defend the likes of Ethan Hawke.

I certainly wouldn’t object to a intra-generational squabble. Maybe it could attract a corporate sponsor, though Microsoft need not apply.