Miley Cyrus is you.

At The Cadillac Ranch in Lawrence, Kansas, DJ Scott Simpson now posts a sign on his DJ booth every night:

“Miley will be played at midnight.”

He does this to avoid the requests, which otherwise would be coming every few minutes.

The Ranch is a grimy dance club that is technically a must-be-21-to-enter spot, but is practically more of a must-be-a-hot-girl-or-21-to-enter spot. On Thursday nights, it’s the most popular club in Lawrence, a town of about 100,000 when the University of Kansas is in session. The people come for the cheap drinks, and they come for the dance music.

It was here that Simpson first heard a request for Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA.” His first thought was dismissive.

“She’s 16 years old,” he said. “These people are not going to want to listen to that.”

But they did.

One request turned into four, which turned into eight. All different people. Demanding he play Miley Cyrus. So about 10 p.m., which is well before the place really hits its high notes, he plays “Party in the USA,” and the place flipped out. It was a rush to the dance floor. Girls, guys, everybody. Dudes were carrying other dudes on their shoulders. Everybody was singing. Simpson was kicking himself.

“I played it too early,” he said.

Simpson hates playing the same song twice in a night. But the requests kept piling on, so he posted a sign: “Miley will be played at 1 a.m.”

And at 1 a.m., Miley brought the roof down again. Simpson, a man whose job is literally to understand and play pop music, does not understand Miley Cyrus.

What’s obvious is that she is a cultural phenomenon. By that I mean she is not a singer who happened to make a hit song or two by using the same pop music recipe everyone else uses. There is a chance, for example, that someone like Katy Perry could have sung “Party in the USA” and made a hit out of it. The song is insanely catchy, and Perry is a semiproven pop star.

But this isn’t about the song. It’s about Cyrus herself, who is just like you in that she puts her pants on one leg at a time; it’s just that once her pants are on, she makes gold records.

Never question Bruce Dickinson.

The difference is that Bruce Dickinson makes gold records because he is not like you, and Miley Cyrus makes gold records because she is.

Here’s what I mean:

Cyrus has some flaws that would seem to disqualify her from the career she is in. For one thing, she is not a good singer. For another, she has some kind of speech problem that makes it sound like she’s wearing a retainer at all times. For a third, she is only marginally attractive.

Just take a look at this gratuitous visual comparison of teenage pop stars:

Britney Spears

Christina Aguilera

Katy Perry

Miley Cyrus

While she’s certainly not unattractive, if you’re a record company executive looking for your next just-add-Carson Daly pop star, you’re probably going to look elsewhere.

Which is precisely why Miley Cyrus is famous.

Her old Disney show, Hannah Montana, was about a girl who was a pop star, but managed to hide this fact from her friends in order to live a normal life. Author Chuck Klosterman wrote a brilliant piece for Esquire about how Hannah Montana is, metaphorically speaking, the Internet.

In addition to calling Billy Ray Cyrus a “country goofosaurus”, Klosterman writes this:

The narrative core of most Hannah Montana episodes is established by the show’s expository theme song, “The Best of Both Worlds.” The hook is supposed to be an obvious paradox — instead of working to achieve fame, Miley craves anonymity. When the show was created, I’m sure this reversal of desire was expected to serve as a novel twist on an old theme. It was supposed to operate as fantastical irony. But that is not what happened. Instead, Hannah Montana/Miley Stewart became a concept Web-obsessed teenagers could understand in a very tangible way: They all struggle to reconcile who they are with the quasi-real persona they consciously construct. Hannah Montana is the Internet.

But this only explains Cyrus’ rise to fame as a phenomenon among, and entertainer of, tweens. It does nothing to explain why Cyrus appeals to the kids at The Cadillac Ranch, who were in high school or older when Hannah Montana was Cyrus’ only real career. Most of them have never seen an episode of Hannah Montana.

Maybe it’s as simple as writing catchy pop songs. Cyrus has already had two major Top 40 hits, “The Climb” and “Party in the USA,” both of which she supposedly wrote, or partially wrote. But I don’t think it’s that basic, because it hasn’t seemed to matter what she does, it always succeeds.

I think there is an appeal to a person who refuses to acknowledge she doesn’t have any talent. There is an energy and an aggression to Cyrus that distracts you from what you should be noticing — that she isn’t a particularly good singer or actor. It’s unadulterated charisma, and it’s why people like John Calipari continue to get to do things like be the basketball coach at Kentucky.

But more importantly, Cyrus is the nadir of low culture. And I don’t mean that as an insult. The “Party in the USA” video is a fairly banal collage of Red State motifs. There is a dusty parking lot filled with classic cars*. There are cowboy boots. There is an American flag. Pickup trucks.

*Worth an average of $23,000 apiece, by my estimate.

If you drink Chimay and like to discuss the meaning of Radiohead albums, Miley doesn’t want you and doesn’t need you. As much as it pains some people, and as legitimate as those pains may be, American culture does not exist in art museums and jazz clubs and horse races. American culture exists on YouTube and at stock car races and in the pages of Rolling Stone. It is what high school kids talk about over Dr. Peppers at Applebee’s after their football games.

Most Americans do not live in Los Angeles or New York. They live in Kansas City, Tulsa, Des Moines, Wichita, Dodge City. Miley understands this.

Everybody’s lookin’ at me now, like who’s that chick that’s rocking kicks?

She’s gotta be from out of town.

So hard with my girls not around me. It’s definitely not a Nashville party.

Cause all I see are stilettos. I guess I never go the memo.

It’s a party in the USA, and Miley Cyrus is bringing it.



I think this is the first political post in The Cub House. I promise, this will not be a trend.

If you could sit in the sports department at a newspaper and read the e-mails that come in or listen to the voicemails or take the calls, I think you could better understand the above video and politics in general.

This is the nature of humans: We seek like-minded people to form groups with us, we view our group as superior to other groups and we seek to prove this to ourselves by removing from all other groups, especially competing ones, all complexity.

Kansas fans do it. Kansas State fans do it. Democrats do it. Republicans do it.

Example: “K-State fans are just a bunch of hicks who drink Keystone Light and think The Olive Garden qualifies as ‘fine dining.'”

Example: “KU fans are just a bunch of elitist snobs that drink Boulevard Wheat and think they’re too good for Chili’s.”

Example: “All Democrats care about is getting re-elected.”

Example: “All Republicans care about is getting re-elected.”

What Rachel Maddow is pointing out in the above video is that conservatives now are doing exactly what liberals did when George W. Bush was President — rejecting anything he does on the basis that if it’s him doing it, it must be bad, and generally rooting for his failure.

Examples of this are conservative celebrations that Chicago did not get the Olympics and gleeful shots at Obama for winning the Nobel Peace Prize*.

*Probably an unfair criticism, actually, considering Obama himself seems a little embarrassed that he won the thing.

“To be honest, I don’t feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize,” he said.

I don’t want to say Maddow is not being objective, because what I think she’s saying is fair, but I think she’s coming from a place of attachment that doesn’t allow her to see the big picture when she talks of this derangement syndrome.

“Obama/Bush derangement syndrome” doesn’t exist. Creating a phrase like that implies that this behavior only applies to those two men.

What exists are automotonic people who don’t want to think, but rather be told what to think. And they exist on both sides of the political aisle, and just about everywhere else.

But the best example is sports.

When you consider that sports are utterly devoid of consequence, the passion, blind loyalty and lack of independent thought exhibited within them borders on frightening.

At our paper, the KU-K-State rivalry is the big sports thing. Both sides think we’re biased against their team. It is not uncommon to receive, the same day, e-mails from people saying we don’t cover KU enough and e-mails saying we don’t cover K-State enough. One former sports editor once decided to answer a critic by forwarding him all the e-mail we received from the other side.

The truth is, we go to sometimes silly lengths to make sure we’re devoting equal space to both teams.

But don’t tell that to the guy who called me one day, wondering why the K-State story was on the top of page one and the KU story was on the inside, considering that, “KU is the No. 1 seed and K-State barely got into the tournament.”

“Well,” I told him. “I didn’t lay out the page, but it’s probably because K-State plays tonight and KU doesn’t play until Saturday.”

No amount of logic could get through to this guy. He had decided The Capital-Journal was “printed in purple ink” long ago, and he wasn’t going to let fact or reasoning interfere with that conclusion.

This exact same thing happens in politics. If you’re a card-carrying Republican or a card-carrying Democrat — meaning your political affiliation is a central part of your identity — you’re probably guilty of this and I’m probably not going to be very interested in talking to you about current affairs, just as I don’t care to talk about sports with the myopic fans.

The party system has everything to do with attracting followers and little to do with getting it right. It’s just branding. It’s just fanhood.

So for Maddow to point across and say, “Hey, you’re doing the same thing you accused us of” is true, but also a statement of the obvious.

You love Spangles commercials. Admit it.

The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference.

— Me (I think).

Unfortunately, no video exists on the Internet of the Spangles rap, which was a low point in history for two creative endeavors — hip hop, and advertising.

It had been about 10 years,  and I wanted to see it again, just to make sure it was as bad as I remembered it being. And that’s what’s interesting about Spangles, the Wichita-based, 50s-themed fast-food joint, and its commercials. They’re so dumb, you have to talk about them, but not so dumb you completely tune them out.

They’re like Miley Cyrus’ music. There is something infuriatingly interesting about them. You would never admit being interested, and you suffer a bit of internal self-loathing from it, but you can’t help it. You want to see more, just so you can feel more hate.

Quick, somebody get her an onion ring.

Quick, somebody get her an onion ring.

This is a tough trick to pull. I remember feeling this way about the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as a kid. I was 10 when the Power Rangers debuted in 1993, and two factors caused me to despise them, even though I kept watching:

1) I had “grown up” with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and there was no way any other group of fighting fictional teenagers was going to take their place in my heart.

2) I spent a lot of time back then with my cousin, Torey, who was 12 and just plain too old for silliness like that. I adopted his worldview in most instances.

But I continued to watch, because I wanted to criticize. Some might call this a character flaw of mine, and I wouldn’t argue with that. I watch local TV news for the same reason, sometimes*.

*No offense to any particular station, by the way.

But I think it had more to do with the inherent and interesting hateability of the Power Rangers than it did my character flaws, and Spangles commercials are the same way.

Everybody I know has the same basic reaction to a Spangles commercial. First, you become transfixed on it. Then, you wait for the part of that particular ad that you hate the most. And when it comes, you mock it, lustily, with the fire of a thousand suns.

The truth is that you actually love the Spangles commercials. Because if you didn’t love them, you wouldn’t hate them so much.

This is because Spangles’ commercials are always kinda, sorta on the right track. Rarely does Spangles try a concept that is just totally the wrong concept for the commercial. There is always a little bit of promise.

Take this one, with Suzie, who is in a rock band and proves this by playing two chords, leading us to believe she is a member of U2.

The concept, here, is almost right. What Spangles wanted was to capture the indie, coffee-shop-lounging crowd. They wanted to associate Spangles coffee with that kind of an experience. It’s a stretch, obviously, but McDonald’s did it with some success (albeit by making fun of the indie coffee shop crowd).

The basic idea — we are an alternative to coffee shots — is not a terrible one. The execution, though, is bad.

First of all, Spangles sells cappuccinos, but that thing she’s drinking is not one of them. It’s ice cream. So right off the bat, we’re comparing products that are not similar. Secondly, those mudslides cost $3, which is about the same price as an actual cappuccino at an actual coffee shop.

And finally, rock bands are NOT KNOWN FOR DRINKING CAPPUCCINO WHILE THEY WRITE SONGS. If that girl is actually in a rock band*, she probably writes songs while smoking clove cigarettes and sneaking Pabst cans out of her parents’ house.

*It’s definitely a teen-angst punk band for which she’s the only girl, the lead singer and the only one in the band that doesn’t realize all the other members of the band want to make out with her, which is the only reason they let her sing in the first place.

Note: Turns out that girl actually is some kind of musician.

Spangles has a similar problem with its ads for the Western Burger.

Now, the Western Burger includes the following ingredients: Beef, cheese, barbecue sauce, bacon and onion rings. I can’t be totally sure, but I don’t think cowboys in 1880s Texas were eating many onion rings. In fact, I’m pretty sure the two main ingredients that distinguish the Western Burger from other burgers — onion rings and barbecue sauce — did not exist until well into the 20th century. The first known onion ring citation came in 1933, and it was in New York, which, no matter where you draw your lines, is not part of the old west.

I’m also not sure cowboys had access to much bacon, seeing as they spent their time herding cattle across the country, and bacon is made from pork, which is then cured over a period of 18 hours, and has to be refrigerated until cooked, which wouldn’t make it a convenient foodstuff for people traveling cross country on horseback. So at least they got the beef part right. Western all the way.

If you’ve read this far, it’s because you hate these commercials and wanted to see them criticized. Yet you probably watched the videos. So you have to ask yourself, How much do I really hate Spangles commercials?

(By the way, the Western Burger is delicious)