One State Two State, Red State Blue State

Poetry and limericks were replaced in popular culture by television, music lyrics, and cultural consumerism long ago. But just as modern-day poets keep fightin' the good fight and Anne Carson successfully reinvigorated the epic poetic form with Autobiography of Red, scribes such as Don Davis are struggling to bring back the art of rhyming satire.

Thus, Davis' One State Two State, Red State Blue State: A Satirical Guide to the Political and Culture Wars is a bold attempt to render contemporary American society in rib-tickling verse. But how receptive, really, will today's society be?

To quote the ever-present Sex and the City, wherein lead character Carrie Bradshaw's erudite suitor tries to turn her on to the finer aspects of metric verse:
Carrie: How about I read you a little bit of my favorite poetry?

Aleksandr: Please.

Carrie [Reading from a Vogue magazine]: "Cocktails at Tiffany's calls for classic charm. Oscar de la Renta, sleeveless silk full-skirted dress with black patent leather bow belt." Now that is pure poetry.
Ah, yes: products and fashion. That is poetry to many. Or should I say, "too many"? Red State Blue State, then, may be a change of pace that not everyone can appreciate. But for those willing to plunge into the depths of Davis' old-school comedy stylings, many chuckles await, with chapter headings along the lines of "Was Jesus Red or Blue?," "Can There Be a Culture War Without Any Culture?," "The Age of A-queer-ius," "Iraqnaphobia," and "Desperate Democrats" signaling the many topics being wittily marinated, skewered, and barbequed.

If Red State Blue State has a weakness, it namely lies within its timeliness: Jokes about Bill Clinton and Al Gore are already growing dreadfully stale, pop-culture references quickly lose bite, and John Kerry is barely a memory. Once George W. Bush and the current crop of congressmen leave office, Red State Blue State will likely lose its relevance.

And yet it's hard to fault the writer for this failing since it's the same trap that snares most of-the-moment cultural and writing—becoming timeless while staying timely is near impossible. The book is funny because it's timely, but that timeliness is also what marginalizes the material since you have to understand its social and historical context and it's many little news references in order to get the jokes.

On the other hand, if Hilary Clinton and/or Jeb Bush run for the presidency within the next decade and the Iraq War and Al Qaeda terrorist conflicts remain unresolved—all of which seem likely—then Bush, Clinton, and Mid East gags will automatically become relevant all over again, so Red State Blue State may be able to keep some of it's edge for a few years to come.

That said, the best time to read the book is now, while it's still fresh. And when you're done flipping through it, it'll make a perfect little gift for your hard-to-shop-for political-fanatic compadres. One caveat: Although Red State Blue State heckles both the left- and right-wings of society, the book saves it's sharpest and most frequent jabs for the conservative right (the author is a New York Blue Stater). For me, that's perfect. For namby-pamby Republicans, it might be a problem.

Political affiliations aside, it's of interest to remember that Red State Blue State has antecedents in the works of famed wordsmiths like Shel Silverstein and Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), who wrote rhymes for children that appealed across generations, but also worked in the realms of social and political satire. In turn, this makes me wonder if Davis should have taken a cue from those esteemed men and laced his verse with inventive drawings.

Clever illustrations would make Red State Blue State a superior gift and worthy coffee table piece. The most memorable Silverstein and Geisel works, editorial cartoons, Joel Andreas' hilarious and frightening Addicted to War graphic novel, and illuminate biblical scriptures all benefit from artistic renderings juxtaposing against text, and the lack of detailed, risible art is what makes the numerous pages of Red State look more imposing and less entertaining than its lighthearted contents actually are.

I'll close this review by stealing the inscription from the opening of Red State Blue State: "You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it." – Art Buchwald

Like Red State Blue State, that quip is witty, sad, and awfully, wryly, kinda true.


Hardball, Crossfire, The McLaughlin Group
All yelling at the top of their lungs
Would the national dialogue be better served
If we simply cut out their tongues?
But on second thought, all this white noise
Really does serve the nation
After all, man can't live by smut alone
He also needs mental masturbation...

...The media's coverage of politics
Is usually like a horserace
Who's up, who's down, who's leading the pack
Who's falling down on their face
But if an ambitious reporter attempted
To boil down a candidate's views
She'd find herself off the network
Covering cooking on the local news...

...But for those truly worried
About the Red/Blue Divide
It's not quite time
For National Suicide
With erectile dysfunction
And wardrobe malfunction
This whole country may be obscene
But one thing is clear
What we all hold dear
Is not Red or Blue, but the GREEN.


Check out "Dr. Seuss Went to War" (political cartoons) and "The Advertising Work of Dr. Seuss," both curtesy of the Mandeville Special Collections Library's Dr. Seuss Collection.

Also, many of Shel Silverstein's adult works were stored at (regrettably this website disappeared at the end of 2006, but most of the site's content can still be found via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine), while info on his magical children's books can be found at

And author-lawyer Don Davis has a new blog up and running, The Satirical Political Report: An Offbeat Look at the Hot-Button Issues of the Day.


Note: The review portion of this post will be mirrored at and

Et tu, Coulter? (Repub Nutters Have Bush's Back)

Our story thus far: The politically right-wing, so-called-conservative Republican Party has obtained unprecedented power in the United States of America, having gobbled up top spots in courts across the land and both houses of congress, in addition to landing George W. Bush a second term as president of the country.

Now, secure in their supremacy, Republicans with so much as even an ounce of ethical morality and/or half a brain feel confident that occasionally they can speak the truth about the hypocrisy and financial absurdity rife within the Bush/Cheney Administration. However, not all True Believers of the supposedly God-loving, "normal guy" Bush are ready to hear any remarks of ill repute concerning their Beloved Leader. Thus, many conservative commentators have taken to sugarcoating their Bush jabs with left-wing/liberal jokes to help the medicine go down:

Alright, so I just read the updated version of "Kwanzaa: A Holiday From the FBI," an anti-liberal and anti-Kwanzaa screed by Ann Coulter, author of How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must) and other grandiose wackiness loved by Repubs and loathed by Dems. Her unraveling of the possible truth behind Kwanzaa was originally written back in 2001, I believe, but the article gets passed around maniacally every year during the holiday season, and thus it's back once more. (Originally the column began by referencing President Clinton's Kwanzaa greeting; now it references Bush's nearly identical greeting) .

Good ol' Coulter is a funny writer. Witty. And she can be so lambastic, I often wonder if she's not a liberal secret agent determined to make the right look bad by proclaiming herself conservative while acting like a nut. (A brief aside: I was hoping that I'd just coined the term "lambastic" -- a combination of bombastic and lambast -- but it looks like this word is used frequently all over the Internet. Everywhere but in dictionaries, that is.)

For instance, I'm a far-left liberal. A socialist with certain libertarian leanings and a Green-party voting record. I live in NYC and work in the media and arts. And I don't have anything to do with Kwanzaa on a regular basis. So why does Coulter say this is "a holiday for white liberals, not blacks"? Who are these mythical liberals that the wide-eyed Republicans are always blathering on about?

Look, I'll admit this: The facts the author presents are little known by many, and thus should be discussed; she compiles the information nicely; and I love a good FBI conspiracy theory as much as Ann Coulter does.

But here's the rub: Although I'm not anti-Kwanzaa and I'm on the opposite side of the political spectrum from Coulter, I coulda written this very same article and would have had many of the same things to say (if I was in a cynical, paranoid, conspiracy-minded, "the FBI and CIA are behind everything" mood, which isn't rare, exactly).

The only difference in how I'd have written the piece is that I wouldn't have kept haphazardly throwing the blame on so-called liberals every three paragraphs. But I guess that's why Ann Coulter makes the big bucks: she can twist any topic into a liberal vs. conservative showdown. It's like butter on steak: it may not be healthy, but it just tastes so much better.

But wait.... Coulter keeps mentioning George W. Bush over and over again. She never says anything bad about him. And yet, I do believe she's implying he's part of the liberal conspiracy, isn't she? I quote: "Bush called Kwanzaa a holiday that promotes 'unity' and 'faith.' Faith in what? Liberals' unbounded capacity to respect any faith but Christianity?"

Yeah, that's right, she just took a statement made by Ye Conservative Republican Christian Leader G.W. Bush and, without taking a breath or a pause, twisted his words into a slap down of liberals, with the undeniable implication that Bush is the liberal getting slapped. Did you notice? What about when she called Bush's own words "patently absurd." Can she talk about a president like that?

Let's break it down and look at the actual Kwanzaa statement by Bush (an annual bromide that has been more or less the same for years now), and then put Coulter 's reply in context. Pretend this is a dialogue (the quotes are all real, but edited):

Bush: "I send greetings to those observing Kwanzaa.... The seven days of this celebration emphasize the seven principles of Nguzo Saba -- unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. As families and friends gather for Kwanzaa, Americans remember the many contributions African Americans have made to our country's character and celebrate the diversity that makes our Nation strong. May your commitment to family, faith, and community thrive during this holiday season and throughout the coming year. Laura and I send our best wishes for a happy Kwanzaa."

Coulter: "With his Kwanzaa greetings, [the president] is saluting the intellectual sibling of the Symbionese Liberation Army, killer of housewives and police. He is saluting the founder of United Slaves, who were such lunatics that they shot Panthers for not being sufficiently insane -- all with the FBI as their covert ally.... Faith in what? Liberals' unbounded capacity to respect any faith but Christianity?"

Brachish: "Now, Ann, that wasn't a liberal that just gave his blessing to Kwanzaa. That wasn't a Kennedy or a Clinton. That was George W. Bush a.k.a. Bush Jr. a.k.a. Bush II a.k.a. Nixon-Reagan-Lite. Be polite to yer captain, lady. You're not mad just because you heard that George's brother -- Gov. Jeb, the Republican hoped-for heir to the 2012 presidency -- believes in evolution, are ya?"

Anyway, it's good to know that Ann Coulter and her conservative Republican talk-show ilk are up in arms about a little-respected, marginalized holiday that was invented in the time of tie-dye.

For a while there I was worried that they might be getting bored with the nearly 25 years of Executive Branch power the Republicans have held since the 1970s -- so bored that they might start worrying about the massive deficit the Republicans have dug our country into, the unimpressive stock market, the stumbling U.S. businesses, the corrupt corporate leaders ("conservatives" one and all), or the war that's brought us neither safety nor profit (well, if you happen to have connections to the Texas oil industry you're up to your armpits in high-priced domestic oil money, thanks to our Mid East wars driving up Texas oil prices just like they always have and always will; but that's another story, one that certainly has nothing to do with Bush and Cheney's many domestic oil friends).

But no, there's no reason to worry about those things. Not when we can still bash the liberals for, uh, threatening to bring health care to both the rich and poor. Damn liberals. They so crazy.