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    In a 1996 Washington Post op-ed piece, I wished out loud that the director of Mr. Holland's Opus
    had ended his film the same way as Braveheart, with Richard Dreyfuss getting his entrails ripped
    out while a cast of thousands cheered.
        -Joe Queenan, My Goodness

For many years now, Joe Queenan has made a handsome living by, as above, joyfully eviscerating actors, politicians, writers, singers, businessmen, and any number of other eminently deserving members of America's profoundly self-absorbed cultural and corporate "elite."  But a couple of years ago, as he reached the epicenter of his middle age, he realized that he had built his career on being a hatchet man.  And, as if that fact alone weren't bad enough, he's mostly performed this dastardly deed in magazines of a Right-Wing bent.  Luckily though, he was blessed with an epiphany that made him realize the error of his ways, an epiphany in a toothpaste box no less.  Having purchased a tube of Tom's of Maine toothpaste, he found enclosed a note, apparently standard issue in their products, detailing the company's mission and extolling the Anti-Vivisection movement.  While his faithful readers would expect such an unpleasant discovery to lead naturally into one of Queenan's patented screeds, it instead triggered a bout of painful soul-searching and personal introspection :

    When I conjured up a mental image of Tom of Maine rhapsodizing about his cruelty-free products
    or Ben & Jerry marketing a flavor that promoted world peace or Sting doing a benefit concert to
    help save the rain forest, what I saw were happy, vibrant, upbeat people. When I looked at my own
    personality, what I saw was a shriveled-up old prune. And I was dog-tired of being a shriveled-up
    old prune.

And so he set out to become not merely good, in the way that Tom of Maine and Ben & Jerry are good, but ostentatiously good, in the way that Tom & Ben & Jerry are too.  So he set out on a hilarious journey of the soul into the very bowels of fin de siecle political correctness.  Besides discontinuing the kind of character assassination journalism that had been his stock in trade, Queenan did things like : start using La Leche League checks, a socially conscious credit card, and a phone service that contributes a portion of your bill to "worthwhile causes; renting only movies, and playing only cds, featuring artists (like Robin Williams, Alec Baldwin, Sting, Bonnie Raitt, etc.) who devote themselves to humanitarian causes; personally responding to all of the letters of complaint he'd received from readers and victims of his profiles over the years; attending consciousness raising events like a Mumia rally in Philadelphia; setting up an official website where he expressed remorse for prior attacks; and so on; but most especially he started performing "RAKs" and "SABs", random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

Much, maybe even close to all, of this is very funny, proving once again, if anyone still doubts it, that  comedy is fundamentally conservative, as he takes on the prevailing New Age, environmentalist zeitgeist head on and pretty much annihilates it.  But here, as in The Unkindest Cut, it is not the outright belly laughs and the antic misadventures which make it a must read, but the less overt message which emerges from beneath the satirical front.  In this case, Queenan has struck open the most important thing that we need to understand about this quintessentially modern form of "goodness" : it is not the quality of a persons actions, nor the results which flow from those actions, which ultimately matter in this politically correct universe, it suffices merely to act in the prescribed fashion and to have it be known that you have done so.  Sure, it would be nice if protesting U.S. involvement in the Balkans would make the world a better place, but if it instead merely results in more dead Bosnians, that is not the protesters' problem.  They've already received that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from "doing the right thing" and by doing it publicly, they've already received recognition for being the kind of people who do the right thing.

It is, of course, possible that Queenan has his tongue firmly planted in his cheek the whole time, but I assume that he's being sincere when he talks about the easy kind of self-satisfaction that his experiment often delivered, the cheap sense that just saying you care or that you are driven by compassion is sufficient to make you "good."  This is a lesson that conservatives fail to learn at their own peril.  We of the Right tend to believe that ideas have consequences and that they should be judged by those consequences.  But when we speak of consequences we mean the end results, the final effects on the problems that those ideas are intended to solve.  What Queenan is pointing out is that on the Left ideas are measured by how they make the doer feel, not on how they effect the done to.  Conservatives can argue until they are blue in the face that Welfare spending created a permanent underclass,  dependent on government largesse, and so must be considered to have worsened, rather than bettered, the lives of those it was supposed to help.  But that's all beside the point.  The Left considers itself to have demonstrated that it cares about the poor simply by spending the money in the first place.  What do they care what happened once they'd satisfied their own emotional needs?  Liberals did the good thing and showed they care when they spent the money; the actual results be damned.

Thankfully for all of us, Joe Queenan has returned to his old, curmudgeonly self, having finally realized that he was doing just as much, if not more, to make the world a better place as a slash and burn essayist as he did as a soy shake drinking, oh-so-sensitive, Oprahfied wuss.  Plus, performing his specialized kind of driveby journalism pays a whole lot better than does social activism.  But we are all a little wiser for his experience, and that's a good thing.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A)

  

Websites:

See also:

Joe Queenan (3 books reviewed)
Author Submissions
Humor
Book-related and General Links:
    -Joe Queenan's Contrition Web Page
    -Eat It Raw: The Joe Queenan Directory (GusWorld)
    -BOOK SITE : Balsamic Dreams :  A Short But Self-important History of the Baby Boomer Generation by Joe Queenan (Henry Holt)
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of My Goodness: A Cynic's Short-Lived Search for Sainthood
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of : Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue: Lagoon Joe Queenan's America
    -ESSAY: Rocky Ages: Round six: Sylvester Stallone vs. reality. (JOE QUEENAN, December 19, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
    -ESSAY : Xtreme Investing (Joe Queenan, Forbes Magazine, 03.19.01)
    -ESSAY : Lighten Up, America (Joe Queenan, Forbes Magazine, 10.09.00)
    -ESSAY : Fear & Greed (Joe Queenan, Forbes Magazine, 11.13.00)
    -ESSAY : Gored (And Ignored) By The Bull (Joe Queenan, Forbes ASAP, 04.03.00)
    -ESSAY : If You've Got Dough, Act Like It (Joe Queenan, Forbes Magazine, 10.11.99)
    -ESSAY : I believe in yesterday (Joe Queenan, Forbes Global, 03.22.99)
    -ESSAY : Five Crappiest Tech Jobs (Joe Queenan, Forbes ASAP, 11.27.00)
    -ESSAY : Vinnie van Gogh is right at home here (Joe Queenan, Forbes Magazine, 11.16.98)
    -ESSAY : Don't worry, be happy (Joe Queenan, Forbes Magazine, 10.12.98)
    -ESSAY : Why can't billionaires grow up?  (Joe Queenan, Forbes Magazine, 10.13.97)
    -ESSAY : The Civil War Sucks! (Joe Queenan, March 1994 Spy magazine)
    -ESSAY : In Defense of Dave (Joe Queenan)
    -ESSAY : Unusual Tattoos (Joe Queenan)
    -ESSAY : This time, it's personal :Once just the goofy dimwit, Keanu Reeves finally looks as if he's playing with a full deck as a vindictive killer in The Watcher. (Joe Queenan, February 24, 2001,The Guardian)
    -FILM REVIEW : Gone in 60 Seconds : Isn't larceny grand? :Jerry Bruckheimer and Nicolas Cage always make a winning combination. Joe Queenan clocks the latest fast-cars-big-stars-big-budget blockbuster (July 28, 2000,The Guardian)
    -FILM REVIEW : The Apartment : Shooting the works :Depressed about going back to your desk? There's othing more harmful to your happiness than watching office-based movies in January (Joe Queenan, January 6, 2001, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of How to Be Good  By NICK HORNBY (JOE QUEENAN, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of NANCY REAGAN The Unauthorized Biography. By Kitty Kelley (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of  BROTHERS NO MORE By William F. Buckley Jr.  (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE HIPPOPOTAMUS By Stephen Fry  (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of HOLLYWOOD KIDS By Jackie Collins  (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW :  PRIZZI'S MONEY By Richard Condon (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of  HELL OF A RIDE Backstage at the White House Follies, 1989-1993. By John Podhoretz (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of PLUTO, ANIMAL LOVER By Laren Stover  (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of BLOW How a Small-Town Boy Made $100 Million With the Medellin Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All. By Bruce Porter (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE IMMORTALS By Michael Korda (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of RAPTOR By Gary Jennings (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of NEEDFUL THINGS By Stephen King (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of TAKING THE WHEEL Women and the Coming of the Motor Age. By Virginia Scharff (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of VITAL SIGNS By Robin Cook (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of GOOD OMENS : The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of  Agnes Nutter, Witch.   By Neil Gaiman and  Terry Pratchett (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Lloyd: What Happened A Novel of Business. By Stanley Bing (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of MY STORY By Sarah, the Duchess of York, with Jeff Coplon (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE WOMAN AND THE APE By Peter Hoeg (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of SUSPECTS By Thomas Berger (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of The World on Blood By Jonathan Nasaw (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE LAST PUMPKIN PAPER By Bob Oeste (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Sick Puppy By Carl Hiaasen (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Without a Doubt by Marcia Clark with Teresa Carpenter (Joe Queenan, American Spectator)
    -REVIEW : of Olives: The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit by Mort Rosenblum (Joe Queenan, American Spectator)
    -PROFILE : of Michael Fumento : Straight Talk about AIDS (Joe Queenan
Forbes Magazine, June 26, 1989)
    -ESSAY : Points Unknown : Why you will watch the Super Bowl. (Joe Queenan, Jan. 23, 1997, Salate)
    -ESSAY : Diary (Joe Queenan, Oct. 19, 1996, Slate)
    -ESSAY : Pollock Jokes (Joe Queenan, 1/99, American Spectator)
    -ESSAY : Close, but no Cigar (Joe Queenan, 12/98, American Spectator)
    -ESSAY : A SPECIAL, INANELY ELABORATE SPY EASTER PRANK (Andy Aaron and Joe Queenan, SPY Magazine, April 1992)
    -ESSAY : Gullible's Travels : Venture to exotic lands. Find cool companies. Buy them (Joe Queenan, The Industry Standard, February 01 2001)
    -ESSAY : SERVICE WITH BILE : Traveling first-class isn't always so suite (Joe Queenan, Success, December 01 1998)
    -INTERVIEW : A conversation with Joe Queenan : America's nastiest funny writer hates boomers and has given up trying to be nice (Josh Karp, July 2001, Salon)
    -CHAT TRANSCRIPT : Joe Queenan (WBUR)
    -INTERVIEW : Lone Gunman : Joe Queenan, America's Funniest Character Assassin (Stuart Wade, Austin Chronicle)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW : Author Joe Queenan (August 8, 1998, Whadda ya know, NPR)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW : Joe Queenan ( February 5, 2000 , Whadda ya know, NPR)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW : Joe Queenan.  (Originally aired on July 28, 1998, The Connection)
    -INTERVIEW : with Joe Queenan (Book Reporter,  April 7, 2000)
    -INTERVIEW : with Joe Queenan (CitySearch au, 2/20/00)
    -DISCUSSION : CUTTHROAT ISLAND  : As Survivor mesmerizes the country with castaways' spats - and all those rats - TV Guide asks a panel of experts who will be the last man or woman standing. (TV Guide)
    -PROFILE : If You're Reading This, You're in the Wrong Part of the Bookshop : Joe Queenan has been publishing books here for a decade, yet despite being one of the funniest writers in America as yet he's still to go stellar here. LOUIS BARFE pulls back the veil on the Queenan universe and introduces the man who was Mickey Rourke for a day (Book Ends)
    -ARCHIVES : "queenan" (Forbes)
    -ARCHIVES : "queenan" (Salon)
    -ARCHIVES : "Joe Queenan" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : "Joe Queenan" (Mag Portal)
    -REVIEW : of THE UNKINDEST CUT How a Hatchet-Man Critic Made His Own $7,000 Movie and Put It All on His Credit Card. By Joe Queenan (1996) (JULIA PHILLIPS, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Unkindest Cut (JOHN D. THOMAS, Creative Loafing)
    -REVIEW : of Unkindest Cut (Terry Lawson,  Knight-Ridder Newspapers)
    -REVIEW : of Unkindest Cut (Adam Mazmanian, Library Journal)
    -REVIEW : of Unkindest Cut (BookWire)
    -REVIEW : of Unkindest Cut and If You're Talking to Me (A. Bennett Howe, Film Written)
    -REVIEW : of Unkindest Cut (David Drayton, Toronto Eye)
    -REVIEW : of Unkindest Cut (a.d amorosi, City Paper)
    -REVIEW : of My Goodness A Cynic's Short-Lived Search for Sainthood. By Joe Queenan (2000) (Bruce McCall, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of My Goodness A Cynic's Short-Lived Search for Sainthood. By Joe Queenan (Jam! Book Reviews)
    -REVIEW : of My Goodness  (David Smillie, Book Ideas)
    -REVIEW : of My Goodness (Maxim Online)
    -REVIEW : of CONFESSIONS OF A CINEPLEX HECKLER Celluloid Tirades and Escapades. By Joe Queenan (2000) (Michael E. Ross, NY times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Confessions (David Smillie, Book Ideas)
    -REVIEW : of Red Lobster, White Trash and the Blue Lagoon by Joe Queenan (1998) (Lance Gould, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Red Lobster, White Trash and the Blue Lagoon by Joe Queenan (John Gross, booksonline uk)
    -REVIEW : of Red Lobster, White Trash and the Blue Lagoon by Joe Queenan (Dwight Garner, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of Red Lobster, White Trash and the Blue Lagoon by Joe Queenan (HEATHER MALLICK -- Toronto Sun)
    -REVIEW : of Red Lobster (Susan Wickstrom, Willamette Week)
    -REVIEW : of Red Lobster (DAVID DAVIDAR , The Hindu)
    -REVIEW : of Red Lobster (Rex Roberts, Insight)
    -REVIEW : of IF YOU'RE TALKING TO ME, YOUR CAREER MUST BE IN TROUBLE Movies, Mayhem, and Malice. By Joe Queenan (1994 (Hal Goodman, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of If You're Talking to Me (Manuela Hoelterhoff, wall Street Journal)
    -REVIEW : of IMPERIAL CADDY The Rise of Dan Quayle in America and the Decline and Fall of Practically Everything Else (1992) (Molly Ivins, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Backward and Upward: The New Conservative Writing (Richard von Busack, Metro Active Books)

FILM :
    -FILMOGRAPHY : Joe Queenan (Imdb)
    -INFO : Twelve Steps to Death  (1995) (Imdb)

GENERAL :
    -ESSAY : The knock on negativity (Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune Movie Critic, February 27, 2000)

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