I am, once again, flinging my way across the country inside of a large bouncing metal tube – this time, once again, to our nation’s capital. Washington, D.C. is not exactly known as the place for brave and honest expression of truth and opinion and such. It’s Deal Central, schmooze or lose. No one can afford to say what’s really on his or her blue-suited mind. I mean, look what happened when Obama snarked on SCOTUS recently. Alito and Roberts cried about it to the media as an “unprofessional” act. At what point exactly did saying what you really mean become taboo, for just about anyone in the public eye? When did everything have to become so PC and bland and careful and couched? It’s not a liberal thing – it’s a DEAL thing. Nobody seems to want to take any risk at all, lest someone with a little more deal and power and clout whack you in the money snout. Not to mention that if you look cross-eyed at someone these days they will sue you for leyeball. Forgive me for that last one. I can’t help it.

I was reminded of this again as I was reading the latest issue of SPIN magazine on the plane. I like SPIN; I think it tries very hard to be both literate and cool in covering popular music, with writers that know their ways around a descriptive phrase or two, but man…let me say this honestly and such: I am SO tired of reading music, movie, TV, and restaurant reviews where everything is 7 or 8 out of 10, or 4 out of 5 or something similarly “above-average.” It’s like everyone and everything went to live at Lake Wobegon. If you read a lot of reviews, pay attention to this “dumbing up/flattening out” phenomenon. All is well and solidly OK, DO NOT PANIC! Don’t get too excited either. It’s rare to see things get panned, and not very common to see things where reviewers are genuinely thrilled either. The bell curve has been skewed to EVERYTHING’S FINE, JUST FINE, THANK YOU. This means nobody’s feelings get hurt, whether for a criticism or just by someone else being lots better, and things that are deserving of extra praise or spotlight might not get it. It’s like it’s almost embarrassing to feel strongly about something.

I’m bored with the predictability of all this, from any forum. No one wants to be disliked, no one wants to get sued, can’t we all just get along? Bah! Now on the other hand, do not misunderstand me – I’m a big fan of manners, kindness, and reasonably civil behavior. That’s how I get to fly on airplanes without some kind of air marshall standing on my throat. And we all know that the internuts in particular is filled to the brim with faceless, gutless trolls who would pee their pants in fear if they tried to say their ugly crass reactionary comments face-to-face to anyone (and if they did, they are probably drunks, sociopaths, or Tea Bag Hags). No, what I miss seeing is truthful, elegant, incisive non-agenda-led critical analysis, with a decent sense of humor and priorities thrown in. All this fence-sitting has led to a world of wishy-washy wobbly Humpty Dumpties, never willing to take a fall and get scrambled. Bad becomes mediocre, mediocre becomes very good, and both vile and brilliant languish somewhere in the sea of oatmeal.

I wish I could start a magazine filled with the very honest, well-thought-out opinions of a wide range of people whom I admire for what they did or are doing or may will do in the future: Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Charles Bukowski, Henry Rollins, Paul Williams, Nora Ephron, Spencer Tweedy, Lester Bangs, Barack Obama, Diablo Cody, Oscar Wilde, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fred Schruers, Roger Ebert, Cameron Crowe, Pauline Kael, MissSeven, Graham Greene, Andrew Loog Oldham, Ira Robbins, Iggy Pop, Sarah Silverman, and any three-year-old, just for a start. I’d let them do their thing, fill up the visual space with wonderful photography and clever graphics, and call it THE DEAL. Like Consumer Reports, I would accept no ads, kickbacks, or freebies. I would entertain no feedback, positive or negative, in response to my dear writers. Write, take your $20 check from me before it bounces, and GET OUT and move on to the next thing you want to say or do, I would say. Be smart, be honest, and be fearless, I would say. Twenty bucks can buy you’re a decent amount of cheap beer or a muslin burka, I would say, gimme what you got. There will be readers who want to see what you have to say, because your words will feel like a cool tangy lemonade on a hot day, and you will be appreciated. Don't worry about the readers who will be appalled or threatened or offended or jealous, I would say. They suck.

But for today, THE DEAL must be shelved, as I have hungry children who now need to eat a pizza soaked in sweet, sweet justice. That’s what I am going to tell them is the extra-special ingredient in all D.C. food.