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Buy 'Get Your War On' by David Rees

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Irony Is in The Hizouse!

David Rees' 'Get Your War On' is vulgar, outrageous and unstoppably funny. Once again, what offends America might just save it.

By Mike Connor

Immediately following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the so-called Death of Irony, the fearfully jingoistic flag-waving was in full bloom when, seemingly out of the scatological depths of the American psyche, a gloriously tasteless comic strip by a guy named David Rees circulated via email. It was a vulgar little conversation (full of exclamation points and over-the-top profanity) between two clip-art office workers, who vented to each other about current events over the phone.

"You know what I love?" says one anonymous office worker to another. "I love how we're dropping food aid packages into a country that's one big fucking minefield! That's good!"

"Well," responds the other guy, "it turns the relief effort into a fun game for the Afghan people--a game called 'See if you have any fucking arms left to eat the food we dropped after you step on a landmine trying to retrieve it!'"

In retrospect, Get Your War On reads like a cynical history of post-9/11 paranoia. The dialogue reads like a couple of jaded neoyuppie slackers constantly one-upping each other to see who can dredge up the dirtier, bloodier truth. And while the humor is dark and ugly, the strip as a whole is not as reckless as it may seem. Amid all the cussing cynicism, Rees maintains a healthy sense of outrage with the supervillain-size issues that pass for current events these days--the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Enron scandal, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and atrocities in Indonesia are all discussed with compassionate and profanity-laced sarcasm.

Asks one employee, "Say, did you hear about the 'Killing-and-Torture-and-Raping-Spree Party' that Exxon Mobil is hosting in Indonesia? It's rape-a-riffic!"

"Aaarghh!" responds another, "And here I am stuck at my office's stupid summer pot luck! It's torture, I tell you! Well, OK, not actual torture--at least, not like getting tortured, and then raped, and then killed. But the potato salad does seriously suck."

Rees' use of the banal office environment, his insistence on brutally honest language and his subversion of colloquial language constructions bring immediacy to the inhumanity he's addressing. Like any satirist worth their salt, Rees offers meaningfully hilarious metaphors (e.g., bin Laden and Dubya ripping off their faces to reveal that they're actually Lex Luthor and Ming the Merciless) to help make sense of a world gone mad, sailing right past "funny" into the realm of horrible, ironic perfection.

"George W. Bush is the man!" exclaims a jaded office worker. "The motherfucker can do anything he wants now! ...Wouldn't it be awesome if he granted himself supernatural powers in order to fight evildoers? 'My fellow Americans--fuck the Constitution! I can turn invisible now!"

More than just a potty-mouthed political pundit, though, Rees' cultural criticism is every bit as scathing as his political criticism and absolutely spot-on, like his skewering of SUV patriots and their oh-so-conspicuous grief:

"If there's one thing I love to see, it's a huge fuckin' SUV tooling through midtown Manhattan with an American flag flying half-mast on its antenna! What could be less French? ... Supersize the grief! When we get our grief on, we grieve harder than anyone! Motherfuckers just can't grieve like the USA! Now the world knows how the BIG DAWGS grieve!"

The comic strips have been compiled in a book (Get Your War On; Soft Skull Press; $11 paperback) and Rees is donating all the royalties to the Mine Detection & Dog Center in the Western region of Afghanistan. Check out the strip online at www.mnftiu.cc/mnftiu.cc/war.html.

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2003 Summer Lit Issue:
Jessica Neuman Beck's top 10 personal favorite books
'Living History' by Hillary Rodham Clinton
'Oryx and Crake' by Margaret Atwood
'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter slash fiction
'Beyond Belief' by Elaine Pagels

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From the July 16-23, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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