Friday, December 31, 2004
But here we are. In the future. And it's scary as hell.
I won't dare list all the crap we need fear, as putting it all in one place might just crash this site under the weight of impending doom. So instead, let's just marvel at some of the amazing stuff that made 2004 one of the top 2000 years in entertainment since the birth of Christ. (Years 3, 8, and 45 didn't make the cut)
First thing: 2004 was the year Christ died. Again and again and again and in horrifying, excruciating agony for the ghoulish, self-congratulatory, masochistic hoots of the Christian movie-going masses. Yay, Jesus! Way to take a whipping! And then, just to prove who's our daddy, they run out and re-elect the most dangerously incompetent president since Merkin Muffley in Dr. Strangelove.
In 2004, we learned that Kobe Bryant is really quite the softy. The transcript of his first interview with Colorado police includes such gems as his initial denial of having sex with the victim, his predilection for choking his non-wife sexual partners from behind and finishing in true Peter North style, and his assertion that the victim "wasn't that attractive." Why won't Nike return his calls?
This year saw two Brittney Spears marriages, but the first one (the panty-less one), was a lot more fun, wasn't it?
The other big wedding was Star "Planet" Jones, who married Al Reynold's in an affair with more sponsors than The Superbowl and the Iraqi War put together. At least she was classy and gracious about the whole thing.
I realize that I just mentioned the Superbowl, but not yet Janet Jackson. I'm really still just too angry about the backlash surrounding that publicity stunt gone nuts. And I've already covered it here.
On a lighter note, was there anything more morbidly joyous than the dissolution of the Liza Minelli-David Gest "marriage" under accusations that she beat him? If there is something wrong with obtaining mirth from the flailings of a temperamental alcoholic songstress, then I don't wanna know what it is. There is just too much genuine evil in the world not to stand from a safe distance and admire this spectacle.
And yet, this year's Schadenfreude Award goes to Bill "Loofah" O'Reilly, whose sexually retarded fantasies spun over the phone for a strangely receptive (or actively recording) producer of his television show, will most certainly make you wonder what he meant by "falafel."
I could go on forever. Haven't even mentioned the coke-snorting Olsen (you know, the thin one), the Boston Red Sox, Michael "Fictional Documentarian" Moore, Martha Stewart or Lindsay Lohan. But all indulgent lists, like all apocalyptic years, must some day end.
Today is that day. Happy New Year, folks. May the next one continue to make us smile.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
It's an exercise in assembling a fantasy--the perfect girl in a perfect world. And in case you haven't noticed the crime and pollution and tsunamis and inept politicians and such, we don't live in a perfect world.
This is something like assembling the perfect quarterback with Michael Vick's legs and John Elway's right arm and Joe Montana's head.
So I don't want to hear any griping (as I invariably do from any female I've been foolish enough to share this with). It's all in good fun. Let's see your list.
My Dream Girl
Will, in no particular order except for #1 (which is paramount):
1. Possess a sincere, unadulterated (despite my flaws), demonstrable interest in, and attraction to me*
2. Allow me to simply be myself*
3. Refuse to laugh at my stupid jokes
4. Laugh at the rare, funny ones
5. Look good in a baseball cap
6. Have no glaring physical defects (missing or superfluous appendages, dentures, Michael Jackson’s non-nose, a pigeon-toed gait, etc)
7. Comprehend and effortlessly practice a mastery of the art of conversation
8. Make me think/question my beliefs and values*
9. Make me laugh—at more than myself, too
10. Be gifted with an exceedingly cute/pretty face with spirited, unapologetic eyes and a mischievous, revealing smile
11. (CHEESE ALERT) Look equally good all dolled up for a black tie affair as when coming fresh out of a shower, wearing a T-shirt and jeans or when just opening her heavy eyes first thing in the morning
12. Basically be a natural beauty who doesn’t need to be all plucked and painted to look amazing
13. Work, within her limitations, on a tight, physically fit body
14. Practice good hygiene
15. Be predominantly heterosexual (primarily attracted to men with a limited, acceptable history of experimentation with close girlfriends and openness to girl-girl-guy threesomes)
16. Display a winsome personal sense of non-radical style (no army boots, cowgirl/Texan paraphernalia, tiaras, white stuffed swan dresses, anything worn by Sarah Jessica Parker on “Sex in the City” or by Cindi Lauper in the mid 80’s)
17. Express no predilection for country line or square dancing
18. Express emotional availability with strong communication capacity*
19. Be permitted no more piercing than ears and bellybutton
20. Be permitted no color contact lenses, prosthetic devices or garishly colored hair
21. Be permitted no tattoos visible while wearing standard work attire
22. Be permitted no tattoos depicting cartoon characters, religious symbols, persons living or dead, names of previous boyfriends or dictators, any bellicose language or political statements, or any words other than “love” for that matter, or really, anything other than floral patterns--preferably in all black ink, or most preferably…
23. Have no tattoos
24. Not be entrenched in any blood feud with immediate family members
25. Have the same name as any of roughly 65 female characters from Springsteen songs including, but not limited to: Wendy, Crazy Janey, Sandy, Sherry, Mary, Puerto Rican Jane, Maria, etc. Or not
26. Demonstrate ability to throw a football with at least partial spiral
27. Demonstrate ability to catch and throw a baseball or softball using a proper glove
28. Demonstrate ability to swing and solidly hit a high arc, slow-pitched softball
29. Demonstrate ability to shoot 30% from a standard basketball free-throw line
30. Make evident, at minimum, a rudimentary life-long interest in at least one local major sports team
31. Have read more books than me
32. Maintain a healthy interest in current events through a daily perusal of at least one local paper or news website
33. Appreciate and successfully practice the teamwork and sweat required for satisfying sexual intercourse
34. Quickly and enthusiastically acquiesce to aforementioned sexual intercourse on a regular basis
35. With me, by the way*
36. Expect and yearn to one day give birth (to my kid) and raise a small family
37. Not consider organized religion to be a part of her life
38. Not be a bible-literalist
39. Currently not be dependent or have ever experienced any dependency on drugs or alcohol
40. Like to get high from time to time
41. Have experienced at least one recreational, drug-induced psychedelic trip
42. Willfully ignore the political offerings of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Jerry Falwell and Barbra Streisand
43. Have cultivated an appreciation for all music with SOUL
44. Possess no *NSYNQ CDs (or those of this cursed ilk)
45. Possess no Slayer CDs (or those of this cursed ilk)
46. Maintain an incurable disdain for OJ Simpson
47. Possess ample quantities of humility, intelligence, wit, joy, loyalty, dependability, punctuality, generosity, kindness, gratitude, honesty and a limited quantity of skin lesions or foot fungus*
48. Be independent, tough but tender and motivated
49. Have cultivated a strong circle of close friends that don’t judge or exert excessive influence over her
50. Not be the daughter of clergy
51. Not be a vegetarian
52. Not be diagnosed with any severe or moderate physiological or psychological disorders including (but not limited to) the following: cancer, gangrene, HIV/AIDS, sickle-cell anemia, blindness, deafness, African Sleeping Sickness, anthrax, smallpox, lupus, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, spinal meningitis, Turret’s Syndrome, bubonic plague, any plague, autism, agoraphobia, acrophobia, any functionally-impairing phobia, multiple personality disorder, psychosis, borderline personality disorder, chronic depression, bipolar personality disorder, schizophrenia, bulimia, anorexia, Lou Gherig’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, Hodgkin’s Disease, Tay-Sach’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, gout, cerebral palsy, Bells palsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, halitosis, genital warts, and the clap
53. Be single, never divorced and without children
54. Never have appeared on a daytime talk show unless as an expert or to plug something
55. Occasionally wear a two-piece bathing suit in public
56. Liberally exercise the use of sarcasm and/or fully appreciate its employment by others
57. Never misuse the word “irony”
58. Never quote Alanis Morrisette
59. Never ask me if she’s fat
60. Currently own or soon wish to own a pet dog
61. Harbor no prejudice against gender, race, sexual orientation or non-extremist creed
62. Not wear pantyhose with open-toed shoes
63. Not insist we ever go out dancing
64. Be gainfully employed in a job for which she hopefully has some passion and which provides some satisfaction beyond a paycheck
65. Fully appreciate and competently participate in mirthful conversations that consist of little more than back-and-forth readings from memory of lines from “The Simpsons”
66. Enjoy tailgating and watching football games on Sunday (or Monday night), hockey games, taking long walks and hiking, biking, museums, travelling, reading, beers and BBQ with friends, live music, beaches, and sexual experimentation
67. Participate with alacrity in a frequent ritual of reciprocal full-body massages
68. Own and regularly wear numerous undergarments such as those sold by Victoria’s Secret
69. Occasionally eat dessert, junk food and fast food
70. Never have belonged to or considered joining a cult or militant group
71. Not have any family members affiliated with any cult, militant group, fundamentalist sect, coven or practitioners of Wicca
72. Be free of excessive facial hair
73. Inspire my blind devotion, glowing praise and occasionally reduce me to a stammering, stuttering moron in her presence
74. Provoke strangers and acquaintances to comment of us, “What the fuck is she doing with him?”
75. Make all of the misery in my life evaporate into a dizzying swirl of exquisite happiness
76. Adequately convince me that a creature who possesses all 75 of these characteristics certainly does not exist anywhere outside my twisted imagination, but hey, she’s all right*
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Some stuff about a 20-by-60-mile caldera that blew 71,000 years ago in the single worst explosion in our known geologic history, the worst earthquake in the continental United States in the Mississippi Valley in 1811, a 1,720-foot high tsunami off the coast of Alaska, and a major fault running across 125th Street in Manhattan.
We're all gonna die, basically. And his practical suggestions include an early warning system and decreasing the size of an African mountain. Enjoy!
I've been home from Thailand for a year and a half now, and it's hard sometimes to remember ever being there. The language left me at a rate roughly 1,000 times as quickly as it took to learn. The names of the people I knew and the places I'd visit all mix together at times. But I remember Phi Phi.
It's impossible to read the stories of the devastation to the island communities on the Adaman coast near where I lived. I can see and feel the clear body-temperature water and the technicolor fish swimming up to my ankles. I'd spend hours just floating on my back and imagining in vain anywhere on the planet more idyll. What's impossible, is to imagine a mammoth wave hulking from out of nowhere to sweep over snorklers and sunbathers and helpless children.
It's sickening. And surreal.
Most of the structures on land were flimsy at best. Hardly structures at all. Phi Phi, though developed into a glutted tourist town like anything pristine and worthy in Thailand, was quickly washed away like a plate of spaghetti and meatballs under the tap.
Randy Newman from his Good Old Boys album offers the dirge and tonic:
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline
The river rose all dayThe river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangelne
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
President Coolidge came down in a railroad train
With a little fat man with a note-pad in his hand
The President say, "Little fat man isn't it a shame
what the river has done to this poor crackers land."
They're tyrin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
Plus the cost of food!
Let me take this time to advertise the Dick Bones weight-loss program. It's $49 worth of food (plus the cost of will power).
Now I know that skinny people who live in pancake houses shouldn't throw cheeseburgers. And if I've never struggled with weight, I've got no idea what's involved. So much of obsesity is genetic, and it's not really fair that I can eat huge portions and still remain thin. And it's damn hard to eat healthy food when you work two jobs and are raising three kids and the easiest thing to do is pick up McDonald's.
But if you choose not to eat wholesome food in sensible portions and simply can't endure some crummy hunger pangs, then I'm sorry, but my sympathy tends to drift toward people who are starving to death or who were born with AIDS or whose family was just washed away in a tsunami.
And if you can't keep to a sensible diet, send me the $49 and I'll offer my tough-love email ass-kicking services.
Monday, December 27, 2004
How about the Jewel Log? A wooden effigy of that Alaskan gap-toothed, bad high-school-poetry-writing, yodeling nincompoop.
Or maybe the April Fool Log? It's a burning log that people try to blow out, but that keeps re-lighting.
But none of these should be confused with the cherished Yul Brenner Log, which if course, is what Yul used to leave floating in the toilet after Christmas dinner. (Yes, I know he was Jewish)
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
4. Hurricane, Bob Dylan
3. Sunday, Bloody Sunday, U2
2. Strange Fruit, Billie Holiday
1. I Shot the Sheriff, Bob Marley
As someone who has waaaay too many IM conversations that involve exchanges with lots of "huhs?" and "reallys?" and "are we talking about the same things?" -- I can certainly relate.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Monday, December 20, 2004
Next thing you know, they'll tell me Santa Claus was based on a real person...
Friday, December 17, 2004
“This better be good,” he says to himself with a dim wit.
And that’s what kills him, you know. The setup. Don’t pay me for my knowledge, honey. See the film. Buy the book, but not the man. Don’t expect—
“Ten minutes, Mr. Parker.”
“Um—Yeah. O.K.,” is the reply.
His time is about to end. The world of Tammy! awaits. The real world is on some other channel.
Frank Parker negates his negativity with a series of shallow breaths and an inaudible pep-talk mantra inspired by something Edgar Varese once said and that Zappa was fond of quoting: “The present-day composer refuses to die!” Hmmm… Residual cynicism collects like car fumes in an old garage, and Frank wonders why—right now—he feels like composing his own eulogy.
The wait behind the curtain offers more immediate pain than his stay in the green room. Pay no attention… He can hear her wishing the current guest well on his five-day run at Kutscher’s Catskill Resort from May 5th to the 9th. Better make those reservations. On second thought, he has way too many of those.
“Back in ninety seconds!” Someone yells.
“Ready, Mr. Parker?”
“Got a light, buddy? Left mine in the car. These are done.” He lets the empty book of matches flop over his index finger.
“I’m sorry. No smoking on the set.” This reply—from a female he now realizes (not his buddy)—carries excruciatingly little sympathy.
“Ohhhh…,” Frank moans with deadpan sincerity. “Pretty please. With sugar on top.”
Blank stare. Now, Mr. Parker gets himself a hard look at this animal who would deprive him of the very life force that permits him to greet each day, enjoy the aftermath of meal after meal, witness the stars in the sky, the stars in his head…Sportscenter. She seems pretty enough, this lackey/intern southern-flavored college chickee. She has the type of smile that could stir paint, and Frank probably wouldn’t mind asking her something out of the ordinary if another intern-type fella hadn’t remarked earlier that Janet (this one was Janet) had sometime late in the spring of ’91 acquired a particularly vicious strain of genital wars that won’t be leaving her most private of premises until sometime her last wishes might commission as the best way to dispose of the little buggers for eternity. Perhaps she’ll return to the earth as she came—warts and all. And perhaps she’ll make one lucky, uninfested, unknowing, steel underwear-clad guy happy one day. All Frank knows is that today, he is not that guy.
“Not even a few drags while I’m standing here?” He pleads.
“Sorry. No,” is the politely curt reply.
“You know, I was smoking like the Towering Inferno not five minutes ago, but I need just a few more itsy bitsy baby drags to put me over the—”
“—O.K. Five seconds. And five, four, three…” Aw crap, he thinks. She knows it’s too late. Her voice is sultry. He always wanted one with a sultry voice. This one’s got cooties.
The purple curtain parts to his left in an astonishingly neat little package, and the tugging in his stomach and lungs rises to his throat, pausing him to silently inquire whether speaking might amount to a spot of trouble. He walks into the spotlight.
And there she is. Microphone and cue cards delicately in hand—Tammy! Oh, boy. What could she possibly expect to come out of this? Frank strides over to his seat next to someone who must be a cross between Danny DeVito and Bea Arthur. Or Bea Arthur and the Pentagon or some other flat, polygonal building. Bea shakes Frank’s hand and says hello. Frank nods in return with a practiced smile. Who is this guy?
Tammy starts talking.
And it’s not exactly what she is saying that steers this man on the peculiar path he chooses. It certainly has little to do with her opinions—if that term can fairly be applied to the haphazard collection of knowledge that lies betwixt this young creature’s soft-lobed ears. She has a certain random, lovable ignorance about her that reminds Frank of a character in some novel by Daphne DeMourier. She talks with such conviction. Such beautifully intoned passionate, television-ready, sanitized, bobble-headed conviction. She might be talking about the Yalta Conference, the Lindbergh baby, bestiality, or the Smurfs. Look at her go. What in the hell is this woman yapping about? Oh, Frank realizes. She’s talking about
“—your new book, Mr. Parker.”
“Uh. Right, well, its—wait. Did you say book?”
“Yes. Tell us about your new book.”
“It’s just that…I—the book isn’t new. The film is new. It’s why I was asked to do this show. The ‘book’ is a play and it is not what you might call ‘new.’”
“It’s what you might call Elizabethan, Tammy. Or Shakespearean even—considering that it was written by William Shakespeare. He’s not a young man.”
“Yes, I’m quite aware of Mr. Shakespeare’s work,” she asserts with that perfectly formed smile that seems to exist in a vacuum. It sucks Frank clean inside and he smiles back in his own imperfect way.
“What I’d really like our audience to hear, though, is the treatment of women in your version of this classic."
“What you’d really like your audience to hear, though, is what a chauvinist you think I am.” Yup. Frank is feeling antsy. “Look,” he says, “I’m not the first person to envision Macbeth as a contemporary story of one man’s impotence leaving him a puddle of misled ambition at the whims of his overbearing better half. I’m just the first to get Maria Probert to play the lead. Honestly, I don’t think that she got it.”
“You mean that she didn’t earn the part?”
“I mean that I don’t think she understood the part she was playing to undermine her own dauntless womanhood. Let’s just say that Ms. Probert won’t be discovering radium any time soon.”
“No. No. I believe Mrs. Curie took care of that some time ago.”
Tammy, Tammy. Frank can’t believe that you let it go this far. He wonders how old she was before the shower of sarcastic pebbles at her feet were kicked apart from the mound they’d become. Most were carefully aimed over her precious coif so as not to disturb her trolley of thought. Oh, what a collection, this Tammy Delecroix.
“Now, Mr. Parker. I don’t suppose you’d have something constructive to offer, hmmm?”
“Look—I apologize for sounding abrupt and superior and pompous and misogynist and—Did I say ‘superior?’”
“Yes. Yes, I believe that you did.”
“Well, you know it’s all just a curse anyway.”
“Not exactly. I mean I wouldn’t say that the particular knowledge I possess makes me any better than anyone else.”
“Just me, right?”
Frank needs a cigarette. Still, he can see every stage of this girl’s maturation: The starring role in Ms. Strumbowski’s second grade production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” Daddy’s open arms at the finish line of that silly little Run For Rorschach or whatever that psychologically troubled child benefit was all about, all of those elephant vitamins laid out every day through the twelfth grade on the kitchen table, taking care of that ‘tiniest imperfection’ on her nose, countless years of gymnastics followed by those years of slower metabolism and a growing chest with the other plump thing close behind, the Frankenstein braces, and that awkwardly adventurous night in the back of a Ford Bronco when she couldn’t fathom the impropriety of what he meant by the word “love.” And even if his guesses are misplaced, Frank figures they’re more right than wrong.
“No. ‘Information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, wisdom is not truth, truth is not beauty, beauty is not love, love is not music. Music is the best.’ Another Frank named Zappa said that in 1979, and if you don’t understand what he meant, then we can probably talk for days and not once share a meaningful thought. Knowledge on its own is not a curse. It’s knowledge without a soul that scares the bejesus out of me.”
“Interesting…” The wheels turning in her head seemed to shriek in a spasm of burning rubber that smoked through her eyes in a tenderly masochistic way few could enjoy as much as Frank at this very moment.
“You know, it’s not a puzzle, Tammy. This thing called life and art. We’ve all got our tastes. It’s just the soul-less stuff that seems to make the world go ‘round, and leaves me feeling cursed trying to reach a mainstream audience with a message they would rather not receive. Believe me. I don’t take it personally.”
From her earliest memories of that island to her current occupation on this more troubled, yet less obtuse island, Tammy had the peculiar isolation of a duckling who, in the absence of her natural mother, imprints on the nearest sizable target—regardless of its artificiality. Like an experimenter wielding a tiny wooden pull-cart shaped like Raggedy Ann. With Mom and Daddy at work all day, a surrogate was provided in the form of the cathode ray tube. In the Delecroix house there was nothing called “bad TV.” From her first waking hours to those extra few minutes she’d beg for, as her bedtime was imminent, Tammy sat. When she reached that special flowering age, her left hemisphere might be involved in a phone conversation, but what was left stayed fixed on the flashing images and personalities that zipped at a constant pace from screen to couch with the greatest of ease. Martha Quinn was sooo cool. Moonwalking Michael J. was second only to Michael J. Fox, and neither could hold a candle to Magnum. Even at the tender age of twelve, the sexual tension of “Moonlighting” was palpable, shooting a sense of feminine self-actualization (of a fictional character, mind you) mainline to her brain. Oh, the stories she could tell. Oh, the magazines she could sell.
It was no secret that she could give a rousing performance with a microphone in her tender hands. She found her place quickly in this man’s world. She found her name looked just swell on a studio wall adorned with an exclamation point. She found that she could talk. It never seemed to matter that she didn’t have anything to say. This was Frank’s job.
“Listen. I—uh…What do you say we get together sometime this week? Do something fun.”
It was a stupid thing to say, but it’s out there now. Can’t reel it back in—not in these waters. Frank supposes it has something to do with the way she’s standing—how her back calf flexes the slightest bit as her upper body dips almost imperceptibly forward when she asks a question. He doesn’t mind that the color of her eyes is too iridescent to be human or that her hair was borrowed from some other TV “personality.” Creatures such as this are seldom found out of their natural habitat, and Frank hasn’t been on this particular safari in some time. She somehow laughs both like a child who doesn’t get the joke and the joke teller.
“Wait. Now wait a second. What’s with all the laughter? I wasn’t trying to be—”
“Right. I’m serious so how about it?” Frank tosses up a desperation full-court lob to salvage his televised dignity.
“Mr. Parker. We didn’t have you on this show so that you could make a pass at the host.” She’s on the run now, Frank thinks. The verbal flinch.
Frank hates to duck. If something is coming at him, it is his duty to see the thing on the horizon early enough to do something about it before arrival. Re-direction: a social strategic defense initiative mounted with the conviction it deserves. The only problem with this habit is that the best things in life tend to be unexpected, unless one happens to be the fruits-of-you-labor type person, which Frank is not. It’s simple, really. There is the good and the bad. The good comes equally from hard work and dumb luck. Sure, there’s plenty of dumb good to go around—one need not even know a politician to understand this. Serendipity is the spice of life.
Frank once told his mother that paprika was the spice of life, and she didn’t laugh. Sure, variety possesses the rightful claim to this venerable position in the spice rack of pithy maximism. And yet, what creates more variety than the whims of rolling bones, spinning wheels, the ace of spades and colorful figures like Vito Three-Cheese and Johnny Roastbeef. The variety of random processes is infinite. And for Frank, that which was arbitrary was friend, foe, and sage.
For instance. It was lucky for Frank that he wasn’t born into poverty, and as luck would have it, as he would say, the wealth of his parents could not amount to anything less than a small fortune in the eyes of even the most impressionable wide-eyed youngster. The money spent on fine clothes and fine vacations and the finest lawyers to pay for his father’s trial he always said revolved around “creative financing” and the appeals, and his mother’s therapy both before and after sentencing took its emotional toll on the kid whose only real need for money evolved from the callous manner in which his family liked to spend it. The passage of time and the sanity he found in writing and filmmaking eventually found him on his own, and despite what his mother might assert, a separate entity than the seed from which he sprung. All in all, it’s in the way you look at things. Frank knows that there are no victims in the world—only saps and the successful. Oh. There are also the successful saps.
“Could we return to the subject at hand, please,” she says. The miniscule quaver in her voice could probably only be detected using NASA technology or the ears of the individual who performed the insertion of this particular flutter. Frank’s ears tend to stay open long after his brain has left for the drive home.
“Sure. We could talk about the film, although I feel more comfortable discussing something to which we can both relate.”
“You don’t think I can relate to Macbeth?”
“No. I mean, have you seen my film?”
“I have not, as of yet, had that distinct pleasure.”
This one catches him somewhat by surprise.
“Really. And yet you’re fully prepared to discuss it in detail. Interesting concept. I might have had all sorts of opinions about Mozart’s last gig at the palace, if you’d like to delve into them. Unfortunately, I took some mean acid on the morning of the show, and I forgot which country it was in. Missed the whole darn thing. Of course, I read about it in the following day’s Baroque Balladeer, so I know Wolfgang really tore the place to shreds and you know that the best part—”
“—Sorry to interrupt, but I need to take a break. We’ll be right back with more Tammy!”
“…was how he referred to himself in the third person without extraneous punctuation,” Frank finishes to himself.
Tammy walks onto the stage and asks, “What the hell was that all about?”
“Really, what was going on there,” Bea chimes in.
“Who asked you?” Frank and Tammy harmonize in perfect sync.
“I’ll be leaving now…” Exit guest number one.
“Bye. What’s your problem, Frank?” The grating in her voice offers the subtle intonation of a Robert Johnson recording—blues-driven with the pops and scratches of decades-old vinyl 78’s.
“Listen to me,” Frank says as calmly and authoritatively as he can muster without coming off goofy like Tom Snyder or Larry King. Politely, doing his best Bob Costas, he continues, “Get off the stage. You’re wasting this.”
“Huh? Wasting what? What are y—”
“—You’re missing out on your best chance to get what you want.”
Tammy never knew what she wanted. She had the egregious habit of deferring to popular opinion. What a doosey, that one. Sincerely, Frank asks himself, if it were indeed popular to hold an opinion in this country, could anyone account for the popularity of Jerry Lewis? Or the Red Scare? Or anything, really. If all there is in a life is Top 40 radio, prime-time television, Hollywood studio films, and magazines that recap all this shit for those who missed it or just need to be told what’s next, then when does this life end and how can hell possibly compete?
“We’ll be back from commercial in forty-five seconds,” she says, “and I expect a little more cooperation from my guests.”
“And I expect you to sense the signs of some plucky television. Conflict and ratings are close friends, I’m told.”
“Listen, pal. I do my show. Play by my rules or don’t play at all.”
“Your rules are no fun. You’re like a hockey game without checking.”
“If you’d like to leave, I’m sure that I can fill the rest of the show talking to the audience. You don’t have to stay.”
“Tammy. Honey. I’m only here because your producer and my agent conspired to bring me here. In fact, if Sonny hadn’t called me an hour ago, I’d still be sleeping. Much like your audience. So if you’ve got brilliant plans to fill this video void, be my guest. I am no longer yours.” And then, “Have you given my suggestion any thought?”
“Huh? What sugg—”
“You and me. A date sometime, perhaps?”
“Are you kidding me? I’ve got fifteen seconds to airtime, no guest because you’re downright arrogant and antagonistic, and you still think I’m interested? Are you insane?”
“Not really. I just thought it was worth a shot.”
“Well your shot went a wee bit wide of the net, buddy. Get off my fucking stage!”
This is the last Frank hears of Tammy as he exits, stage left and finds an appropriately marked door with a red push handle and disconnected alarm. He can hear that crusty intern shouting, “And five, four, three…” as the door shuts behind him and he jumps into his Jeep. Back in the studio, Tammy talks to her audience with the confidence of Sir Galahad after slaying some shapeshifting hellbeast. In his car, insulated from the falling rain, Frank tinkers with the lighter, pops in a CD, sparks his funny cigarette, and wonders how far it is to the nearest Wendy’s.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Apparently, my hits have been aided by the fact that in my "Desperate Housewives" post, I mispelled her name "Langoria." As of right now, I'm the top result if you google "Eva Langoria naked."
This, compared to the five pages of results you need to sift through before a google search for "Rolling Bones" turns up my page. That's five pages of sites the likes of review for a BBQ restaurant in Atlanta, a Finnish project to stamp out osteoporosis, and a British king-sized cigarette rolling machine.
So. Um. Please spread the link, why don'tcha? And to my dedicated repeat visitors, I offer you my sincere appreciation. I know who every last one of you are. And maybe one day we can all get together for a road trip in a Volkswagon Beetle.
4. Give Me Three Steps, Lynryd Skynyrd
3. Do You Feel Like I Do, Peter Frampton
2. Radar Love, Golden Earring
1. I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That), Meatloaf
What's ridiculous is not that kiddie actresses grow up into buxom "young adult" actresses and seek to parlay their kiddie-cum-jailbait sexpot allure into a whorish singing career in the moldy mold of Britney Spears. Nope. It's that the grumpy dirty old man rock snobs actually give a shit about what crap they sing and how they sing it.
As though if Lindsay Lohan were to sing all of Blood on the Tracks a capella in a white thong, it would be more meaningful.
Me? I don't look to bubblegum pop for meaning. Just for the big, luscious bubbles.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Clyde Haberman did a decent job in yesterday's NY Times pointing out how these Audobon Society nuts will mobilize immediately to defend a pair of birds, but wouldn't think to protest the eviction of a homeless person.
But I'll take it further. Nature-lovers are always quick to decry how humans treat nature. And for the most part, they are right that we are destroying our natural resources and endangering species. We live on an island made almost entirely of cement and steel. But you know what? Everything is natural. Because we're a part of nature.
Yes, we should be cautious of the consequences of our actions. But fuck. If I paid millions to live on 5th Avenue and the park, I deserve to walk out of my building without seeing the corpses of half-eaten rats dropped by some nature-lover's bird friend.
A hawk is a pretty resourceful bird. They'll find someplace else to go. It's only natural.
Bush said, "Today, this honor goes to three men who have played pivotal roles in great events."
Pivotal all right. Pivoting great events into great disasters.
The guy who went to war with insufficient troops to securely occupy the country (which isn't so much his fault, really, because his job was to win the fight and not anticipate the political fallout); the guy who decided to disband the Iraqi army, which led to widespread looting and instability and the eventual reformation of the army; and the dude who called the case that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction "a slam dunk."
Tomorrow, at The White House: Kobe Bryant and Scott Peterson receive medals for advancing marital fidelity;
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
And although these stories were completely unrelated, I couldn't help but see some connection.
Monday, December 13, 2004
The real question is how could The White House do such a piss-poor job vetting him?
Friday, December 10, 2004
I've seen 48 of them, and have heard of almost all the rest, proving, I suppose, that films don't necessarily get overlooked, but sometimes have to compete with living a friggin' life.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
4. Walk This Way, Run DMC (and Aerosmith) covering Aerosmith
3. Proud Mary, Ike & Tina Turner covering CCR
2. All Along the Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix covering Bob Dylan
1. Respect, Aretha Franklin covering Otis Redding
I mean, this is the same dude whose brilliant idea of a light and agile military worked wonders to topple a regime that was surrounded, under-equipped, hardly motivated, and had little recourse other than vanishing back into the population to mount a successful insurgency.
And this is the fella that planned so well for post-invasion Iraq that the country is now perfectly secure, fully embracing the American occupying army, with a competent and trustworthy Iraqi security force in place, legitimate and uncontroversial elections on tap, utilities fully restored, beheadings reduced to the occasional paper cut, and oil flowing from sabotage-proof wells to pay for it all. Not to mention his proud role in accurately assessing prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs and in supervising the humanitarian party that was Abu Ghraib.
And, or course, the Iraqi people sing songs of praise for America.
If you don't think Rummy has that fantasy running in his head, how to explain the exchange he had with Spc. Thomas Wilson at that town hall-style supposedly morale-building shindig?
Wilson asked Rumsfeld, "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?"
Rumsfeld apparently coughed up a fur ball before asking Wilson to repeat his question.
"We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north," Wilson, 31, of Nashville, Tenn., added after asking again.
And Donald Duck Rumsfeld, secretary of defense of the United States of America, had this to say: "You go to war with the Army you have," Rumsfeld replied, "not the Army you might want or wish to have."
"You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up," he said. "And you can have an up-armored Humvee and it can be blown up."
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
I mean, if we're perceived as mindless goobers who masturbate to cable TV or gun-toting psychopaths who let our states execute our most proficient gun-toting psychopaths, I say: fuck 'em. It's our party and we'll fry if we want to.
(I happen to believe in stronger gun control and that the government shouldn't be in the business of executing its citizens, a policy that provides no proven detterent and only offers vengence for the victims--but bear with me here).
No, we shouldn't care a whit about what others see as our flaws. Except for one group: suicidally enraged fundamentalist Muslims who want to kill us.
These folks, we should keep in mind.
Which isn't to say that people already as committed and irrational as Al Qaida should be mollified or reasoned with. No way. Any and all self-described terrorists and enemies of The United States need to be hunted down and obliterated. Violence only understands violence. Al Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers--whoever.
But unfortunately, a perfectly sensible Muslim just might become a wee bit irrational when a 5,000-lb. U.S. bomb flattens his house and incinerates his frail mother, pregnant wife and 2-year-old son.
Which is why President W.'s neo-con fantasy crusade in Iraq will cost Americans far more than the hundreds of billions of dollars and the lives of over 1,000 American soldiers.
This war, and any such additional bungled attempts to "spread democracy" like some kind of steroid cream across the desert, only makes us less safe.
Don't believe me? Hear are some highlights from a recent Pentagon Report by the Defense Science Board, created for--and subsequently ignored by--Secretary of Defraud Donald Rumsfeld:
On “the war of ideas or the struggle for hearts and minds”, the report says, “American efforts have not only failed, they may also have achieved the opposite of what they intended”.
“American direct intervention in the Muslim world has paradoxically elevated the stature of, and support for, radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single digits in some Arab societies.”
"Muslims do not ‘hate our freedoms’, but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favour of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing support, for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states."
“Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypo crisy. Moreover, saying that ‘freedom is the future of the Middle East’ is seen as patronizing … in the eyes of Muslims, the American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering. US actions appear in contrast to be motivated by ulterior motives, and deliberately controlled in order to best serve American national interests at the expense of truly Muslim self-determination.”
But if the president says we're safer, then we must be. After all, why would he lie?
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Now a new FCC estimate obtained by Mediaweek reveals that 99.8 percent of those complaints came from a single activist group: the Parents Television Counsel.
One group! Is it possible that this country is following the lead of Reverend Lovejoy's wife from "The Simpsons"? ("Why won't somebody think about THE CHILDREN!")
In a New York Times op-ed last week, Powell wrote "Under the law, we must independently evaluate whether a program violates the standard, no matter whether the program in question generates a single complaint or thousands."
OK. That might be the case, but evaluate doesn't mean "find indecent, levy fines, and restore our Puritan theocracy lest we all burn in hell." Not based on a few crummy complaints by organized crackpots.
More and more a small, vocal minority in this country sets the agenda for what is and what isn't acceptable. Obscenity has always been a touchy subject, because it involves body parts and physical acts that repressed, often hypocritical religious zealots claim to fear, but secretly indulge.
But even more worrisome, the definition of obscenity--supposedly aimed to focus on local community standards--is almost impossible to define in a country united by technology. Which is why national broadcast media have come under such fire. What might be obscene in Witchita, Kansas, might be considered a Sunday picnic in Manhattan's East Village. And should the will of the few be ignored for the the will--or indifference--of the majority?
Why should this country de-volve into some cheerless block of waterhead pantywaists just because some bible-thumping reactionaries say so? How come Europe, the continent so many people fled in search of religious freedom is now a beacon of secular sanity and our shining City on a Hill is a cesspool of Jesus freaks intolerant of non-believers and deviant reprobates like myself?
The FCC should be disbanded and the marketplace of sick, socially maladjusted ideas set free to roam across the land. Let all of America have their Robyn Byrd, Al Goldstein, and pierced black nipples galore.
And Michael Powell can go back to fantasizing about what he'd really like to do to Condoleeza Rice.
Monday, December 06, 2004
When we get these therapies, we will no longer all get frail and decrepit and dependent as we get older, and eventually succumb to the innumerable ghastly progressive diseases of old age.
We will still die, of course - from crossing the road carelessly, being bitten by snakes, catching a new flu variant etcetera - but not in the drawn-out way in which most of us die at present...
I think the first person to live to 1,000 might be 60 already.
And you think television is bad today? Imagine 1,000 years of Rosanne repeats...
Not exactly Ed Sullivan introducing the Beatles, but if we are to define "television history" as something that happened on television, then Charlie was right. This sure happened. And where were you when it did?
And then I'd also like to meet the barber who suggested he should allow his sideburns to cut straight across his head, holding back those flapping monstrosities like a pair of hairy airplane bomb bay doors.
Saturday, December 04, 2004
5. "Wise Up" by Amy Mann from Magnolia (I'm not sure what you think about this film, but I simply love it and was awestruck by the unexpected beauty, simplicity, poignancy, and emotional wallup of the core cast of characters singing along in their own voices. It's almost subconscious how it sneaks up on you--like, what the fuck? They're ACTUALLY SINGING? Perfect cinematic bridge at the perfect moment in an imperfect, but bold movie.
4. "Stuck In The Middle With You" by Steeler's Wheel from Reservoir Dogs (Could a more mediocre song ever gain more popular appeal? Could you ever hear it without imagining Michael Madsen's evil knife-wielding, shoulder-hunched jig? I love Steven Wright's detached and dismissive "K-Billy's Super Sounds of the 70's" intro to this tune on the soundtrack: "This Dylan-esque pop bubblegum favorite...")
3. "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John from Almost Famous (Has catharsis ever been this goofy and fun? I suspect many of you might hate Elton, so maybe you don't know how impossible it is to resist singing along. Even if the words you know and the tune you hum.)
2. "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel from Say Anything (Yeah, I've got a thing for Cameron Crowe. The guy knows popular music and he knows how to use it in his movies. Just a hair better at it than Tarantino and Scorsese. I have this on DVD and it's interesting that he didn't know what song was coming out of the boom box when they filmed it. I think it was filmed with a Velvet Underground song. I'm positive that millions of romance-addled girls around the world would agree if this happened to them, they'd fuck John Cusack, too.)
1. "The End" by The Doors from Apocalypse Now (If you don't agree, you've got to rent the redux version on DVD and watch on a good screen with good sound system. I've seen it both recently in it's theatrical re-release and at home. The beginning of a film never exploded in more of an eery finality than with the timing of the napalm blast obliterating an entire treeline as the drums really kick in. So many images stick in my mind. The helicopter rotors dissolving into a revolving ceiling fan. The culmination of the film with the culmination of the song intercut with Sheen hacking Brando as the Montignard savages ritually hack up a cow. Blood, gore, mania, confusion, ride the snake, evil, brooding, to the lake, disturbing, perfect, perfect shit.)
Honorable Mention: Ewan McGregor & Nicole Kidman's "Elephant Love Song Medley" from Moulin Rouge, Randy Newman's "You've Got a Friend in Me" from Toy Story, Jackson Browne's "She Must Be Somebody's Baby" from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Derrick and the Dominoes' "Layla (coda)" from Goodfellas, Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" from Platoon, Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock N' Roll" from Risky Business, Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" from Trainspotting, "Also Sprach Zuranthra" from 2001, The Kingsmen's "Louie, Louie" from Animal House, Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" from Easy Rider, Mel Brooks' "Springtime for Hitler" from The Producers, Spinal Tap's "Big Bottom" from This is Spinal Tap, Angela Lansbury's "Beauty and the Beast" from B&TB, Roddy McDowell's "Singin' in the Rain" from A Clockwork Orange, Alice Cooper's "School's Out?" from Dazed and Confused, and Terrence & Philip's "Uncle Fucka" from South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.
Friday, December 03, 2004
Now, I have nothing personally against Jason Giambi (other than the fact that he's a Yankee), and while Barry Bonds is an insuferable ass, I can't blame him for any personal affront. After all, I'm not a member of the San Francisco or Pittsburgh sports press whom he's berated for his entire career. Or a teammate of his forced to endure his George W. Bush-esque sense of infallable entitlement and special treatment.
And I'm hardly a baseball fan. Actually, I'd shamefully consider myself a fair-weather Mets fan who really hates the Yankees more than I even like the sport.
But seeing these two preening prima donnas finally get their comeuppance is certainly sweet. Even if nothing happens to them financially (seeing as the players union would never allow fines or voiding a contract because a player used a substance that wasn't banned by the league when they used it) or their testicles don't fall to the ground like two bowling balls wrapped in sausage casing, their reputations will certainly suffer a sudden and feeble death.
And sure, Barry Bonds is still the greatest hitter who ever lived. It's not muscle mass that governs his sharp eye, impeccable timing and flawless swing. But if you think the juice didn't have something to do with a man hitting 73 homeruns all of a sudden late in his Hall of Fame career, then maybe you and Barry deserve each other.
Update: looks like Bonds denied using steroids, claiming that he used "substances" that he thought were nutritional supplements. And if Barry believes that, maybe he and Barry deserve each other.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
My computer, she is dead.
At least 20 minutes of that marathon service call was spent repeating long strings of number and letter combinations back and forth with a girl whose grasp of English was just about as good as Donald Trump's grasp on modern hair styling.
And I realize this is not a unique story, that these things are just a collection of teeny-tiny parts that move really fast and occasionally go boom. But when I think about all the stuff I couldn't back up and need to replace, my left eye twitches to the beat of "The Macarena" as if performed by Motorhead.
Yeah, I've got all my invaluable word files stock with solopsistic unpublished writing. And I suppose I could round up a new collection of stolen music and family pictures. And somehow, I will find the time to re-generate that voluminous list of web links.
But I know what you're thinking. What about the porn? The primo, Peruvian-flake porn?
And I say: Shame on you and your sick mind.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
The biggest changes are often the littlest ones.
Granted, I've only seen two and a half episodes, but that's been plenty of time for me to register a hearty "bleh."
Marcia Cross's creepy mommy isn't any creepier or more interesting than the shrew she played on "Melrose."
Terry Hatcher's stretched face and lovely chest are better suited to selling Radio Shack crap with NFL meathead Howie Long than holding interest with pratfall shenanigans so common they could only shock and amuse a toddler. Left naked when a towel is torn away, leaving you locked out of your house? See Darryl Hannah in Roxanne. Torso stuck halfway though a collapsed upstairs floor? See Tom Hanks in The Money Pit.
Eva Langoria cheating on her husband with a high school student? See "Dawson's Creek," "Boston Public," or countless other Mary Kay Letourneau-inspired stunts.
Sociopathic sons, vengfully murderous husbands, a dead character narrator--nothing is new in this town.
Only Felicity Huffman could muster any sympathy. Probably because she's far too talented to appear in this mindless retread of other, better stuff.
Don't even get me started on the Monday Night Football nonsense, so perfectly quashed by Frank Rich in Sunday's New York Times.
But then, every day it becomes clearer and clearer that I'm living in a foreign country.
Edited as per comment
Here's a man who holds the highest office in the country, influences the entire world, stifles all dissent within and without his administration, and treats journalists--the public's proxies--as unworthy to hear his Word.
It all reminds me of that great line from Broadcast News, when Holly Hunter's high-strung, moxie-overloaded TV news producer gets into an argument with her boss over who will anchor a breaking story.
Steadfast in his decision and fed up with Hunter's holier-than-thou attitude, he says: "It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you're the smartest person in the room." "No," she says, feeling sorry for herself. "It's awful."
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
And maybe post about how your mom was just murdered.
And maybe get charged with planning that murder with two ex-boyfriends.
And hopefully, get convicted as an adult, sentenced to jail, and anal-raped repeatedly with nightsticks by a guard named Jodie.
Monday, November 29, 2004
And I've got nothing original to say about Thanksgiving. Or the immediacy of the "Holiday" (read: commodification of Jesus' birth as coopted by heathens) Season. So here is Loudon Wainwright III, who does this sort of thing much better than I:
Suddenly It's Christmas Copyright ©1993 Snowden Music, Inc.
Suddenly it's Christmas,
Right after Hallowe'en.
Forget about Thanksgiving;
It's just a buffet in between.
There's lights and tinsel in
They're stocking up the shelves;
Santa's slaving at the North Pole
In his sweatshop full of elves.
There's got to be a build-up
To the day that Christ was born:
The halls are decked with pumpkins
And the ears of Indian corn.
Dragging through the falling leaves
In a one-horse open sleigh,
Suddenly it's Christmas,
Seven weeks before the day
Suddenly it's Christmas,
The longest holiday.
When they say "Season's Greetings"
They mean just what they say:
It's a season, it's a marathon,
It's not over till it's over
And you throw away the tree.
Outside it's positively balmy,
In the air nary a nip;
Suddenly it's Christmas,
Unbuttoned and unzipped.
Yes, they're working overtime,
Santa's little runts;
Christmas comes but once a year
And goes on for two months.
Christmas carols in December
And November, too;
It's no wonder we're depressed
When the whole thing is through.
Finally it's January;
Let's sing "Auld Lang Syne";
But here comes another heartache,
Shaped like a Valentine.
Suddenly it's Christmas,
The longest holiday.
The season is upon us;
A pox, it won't go away.
It's a season, it's a marathon,
It's not over till it's over
And you throw away the tree.
No, it's not over till it's over
And you throw away the tree;
It's still not over till it's over
And you throw away the tree.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Never tell a vegetarian that they are insane. I can't impart to you the import of this simple courtesy.
Some time ago, not too far from here, when the heathens balked at the brandishing of leaden swords in favor of the talisman herbs that were so en vogue, a young boy dreamed of swatting angels with a giant kilbassa.
"Don't be tellin' me to don't go breakin' your heart!"
Billy Burrito stuffed himself into a FedEx package and was next-business-day delivered straight to hell.
"Forgive me Father for I have smoked turnips from my neighbor's garden."
The Polycedites were a peaceful bunch. A collection of smooth, unfurrowed brows of beatific beauty and uncompromised petulance. Only starvation saved their scrotum from infamy.
"Screw the patois. I will talk my own talk and walk my own dog!" Phil barked proudly at the well-spoken bean-counter.
A heated exchange ensued after which Donny swore never to bathe in the lime rickey pool without first designating a diver.
Some people can't imagine their way out of an imagineering department.
If there is a bright shining center of the universe, and we're on the planet that is farthest from, then I grew up on that planet's toilet seat.
Fred Osterizer never cared much for pastrami. Which is why there can be no doubt his suicide sent ripples throughout the delicatessen universe.
Yes. I blame it all on the French.
So there I was, not a fortnight's ride from the fort, when I was taken upon by a herd of angry and boisterous carpenters' apprentices, chirping and wailing a banshee's song of death.
The benevolent Mr. Titrocker never expected the rush of unholy lust that overcame him in the wee hours of the morn while watching a rerun of Mr. Wizard's World.
Mr. Fancipants always expected to get noticed in a crowd, but when the Slurpee machine decided to propose marriage, he knew, from experience, he was in for a long afternoon at the mall.
Lord Chamberbot and his brother Stymie set out to discover what, if anything, Prime Minister Churchill had meant by the phrase "total conviction of raspberries."
The frigid earth beneath their feet numbed their toes as well as their souls, but Harely, Cuz, and Beaner knew that the night ahead would only last as long as their remaining cube of Bublicious.
Monday, November 22, 2004
And if you happen to know the dude (or have been lucky enough to receive any of the epic-length emails chronicling the debacle), you can be sure that this won't be just any consumer report hissy fit.
So set your TiVo or gather 'round with the family to witness Futurama Home Furnishings meet the fury of a birdman scorned.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Cognitive Therapy, called internet porn "a perfect delivery system if we want to have a whole generation of young addicts who will never have the drug out of their mind."
What? You're expecting me to refute this?
Arguments? Maybe you think it’s war. But how many unnecessary wars have been fought for something other than religion? Well, maybe it isn’t always at the center of the fight, but it seems to always play a significant role (see Crusades, WWII, Rwanda, the Reconquista, Darfur—ethnicity is often hopelessly entwined with religion). There are those economic, world-domination-type wars and grumpy neighbor border disputes. But borders are often drawn by politicians with disregard for ethnicity and religion, leading to the dispute (see Iraq, Kashmir, the Balkans).
And I’d argue that economics are a natural, necessary consequence of civilized society, impossible to erase short of utopia. If more than one person exists in a space with limited resources, what you’ve got is an economy. With six billion people, the problem is six billion times as complicated and six billion times as necessary an evil.
Maybe you think it’s heartless capitalism and industrial pollution that have been more destructive — the tyranny of the rich and creation of rotting inner cities or the cancers created by all the artificial crap we eat and the free radicals we surround ourselves with. But people, please. The biggest human threat is posed by the thumping radicals ready to condemn others and to die themselves for their vision of God.
Religious zealots only agree on the people they hate: everyone who isn’t like them. In America, the religious right has hijacked the Republican Party, indignant that a globule of genetic material that might be manipulated into one day becoming a person would instead be used to treat actual, full-grown people with crippling diseases; hysterical over televised nipples and four-letter words heard on radio that their children learned in the first grade; or scared to death that gay men are coming to violate their rectums and destroy the meaning of their 50 percent divorce rate.
In the Cradle of Civilization, it seems the only thing most vocal Muslims can agree on is the inferiority of women, the dirtiness of their sexual desires, and killing Jews. OK, OK, there are moderates in any religion. But moderates don’t run the show.
Religion is an institution created out of fear of the unknown, greed, power, indoctrination, and --when not corrupted by these other forces -- a healthy personal choice.
The key there is "personal." I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to keep religion to themselves. Religion can be a positive force if it helps answer questions (even with what amount to comforting fantasies), provides solace, helps center your life, or offers a blueprint for how to be a good person that — for whatever reason — isn’t instinctual.
Now, I’m a skeptic. A cynical idealist. Where many Americans see the divine, I just see birds or a sunset. Where believers see synchronicity, I see randomness and coincidence. And if my agnosticism met someone else’s atheism on the street in search of differences, they might look at each other like Mary-Kate looks at Ashley: similar, confident, and thin.
I know I’m a minority in this country and not just because I’m a non-practicing Jew. A 2003 Harris poll determined that 80 percent of Americans belive in God. According to a recent Pew survey, 60 percent of Americans say that religion had a very important role in their lives and 54 percent had an “unfavorable” view of atheists. Fine. But keep that unfavorable view, and any other personal choice, to yourself.
If we disagree, and you're convinced I'm going to hell or to New Jersey or wherever, then why is that your problem? If I want to eat dirty socks or screw pastries or worship Ryan Seacrest, then I probably will be going to hell. Let me go, you judgmental, reactionary pricks.
I would never presume to preach or impose my attitudes on someone else. I might engage a good friend in spirited, spiritual conversation. But never with the intention of converting someone over to my side. That’s just presumptuous, egotistical, and stupid.
And yet, if you sift through the election results and witness the fury exploding all over Asia and Europe, it’s clear that tolerance ain’t really carrying the day.
In his last HBO show this season, Bill Maher (who’s hilarious, often dead-on correct, and yet hopelessly pompous, grating, and guilty of coddling that shrill, mindless, left-baiting twig Ann Coulter) made a solid point about the so-called “moral values” issue:
“Let’s examine what “moral values” are. Because I don’t think religion always corresponds with moral values…When we talk about values, I think of rationality in solving problems. That’s something I value. Fairness, kindness, generosity, tolerance. That’s different. When they talk about values, they’re talking about things like going to church, voting for Bush, being loyal to Jesus, praying. These are not values.”
I would agree — and even take it further. Religion undermines true morality by confusing the common sense teaching of Judeo-Christianity (just be a kind, generous person) with an endless string of arbitrary rules tainted further by orders to spread these rules to infidels and heathens like an unthinking computer virus. And so many of these rules have certainly been created by religious leaders to maintain their privileged place in society and subjugate women while they're at it (Orthodox Judaism with their segregationist, women-have-cooties doctrine as well as
Islam, that keeps their women — as Maher often says tactfully– “in the beekeeper suits”).
But I promised not to preach.
Instead, since I’m sure everyone is clamoring for it, I will let you all know how I, as a godless cynic, make my way without a guide book or scroll of divine lore. Granted, these are mostly items of luxury — stuff that poor folks in America or in developing countries can’t afford. Maybe they need religion. But they should still keep it to themselves.
So. Here, for no particular reason and in no particular order, is a partial list of things that, for me, make life worth living—or at the very least—a little more bearable. This is my list. Get
--Linguine with white clam sauce
--Love in the afternoon
--Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
--Sunday afternoon football
--The NCAA men’s basketball tournament
--Softball and beer on a sunny day
--Beers with friends any day
--A great movie that makes you think, laugh, dream, or feel something
--A dumb movie that makes you joke, taunt, or tear it apart with criticism
--Improvisational music with soul
--The treatment OJ Simpson gets whenever he goes out in public
--Fireflies and crisp starry nights in the summer
--The four seconds after a snowstorm before the pristine sparkly white blanket turns into black slushy crud
--Ben & Jerry’s
--Cherry Garcia Ice Cream
--A Parent’s unconditional love
--Sinking that shot, getting that hit, dishing that pass, scoring that goal, making that catch, winning that race…
--Reading a good magazine article while taking a nice, smooth, satisfying dump
--Crafting an original, logical, deep thought
--Making the perfect argument
--A first kiss
--Watching live music played with passion
--When hard work pays off
--Doing a favor
--Beating a dead horse
--Throwing caution to the wind
--The Sopranos, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, Cheers,
--MST3K, The Larry Sanders Show, the first four seasons of ER, and the first three seasons of The West Wing
--Evolution, Cosmology, and Quantum Mechanics
--Cable TV with a Digital Recording Device
--The changing seasons
--The panoramic view of a seascape or mountainside
--Playing with babies
--This quote by Edgar Varese, often spoken by Frank Zappa: “Knowledge is not wisdom; Wisdom is not truth; Truth is not beauty; Beauty is not music; Music is the best.”
--The Golden Rule
--Real Rock N Roll
--Skating the Stanley Cup on home ice
--Playing in a band
--Tailgating before a game
--The art of conversation
--The Doughy Eyes of Katie Holmes
--The mischievous smile of Cameron Diaz
--The legs of Tina Turner
--The ass of Jennifer Lopez
--The voice of Joni Mitchell
--The chest of Jennifer Love Hewitt
--The Perkiness of Jennifer Love Hewitt Banished and locked in Planet Krypton’s “Phantom Zone” for eternity
--Home grown buds
--“The Far Side”
--Old school Mad Magazine
--The current state of Bob Sagat’s career
--Martin Broduer, Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko, John Madden, and John Maclean
--Chad Pennington, Curtis Martin, Wayne Chrebet, Joe Klecko, Lance Mehl, Wesley Walker, Al Toon, and Mickey Schuler
--The Bill of Rights and all other Constitutional freedoms
--The Law of Averages
--A Toasted sesame bagel with cream cheese
--A counter stool at the local diner with an omelet, a large OJ, and a newspaper
--A school/work snow day
--Long, pointless lists
Friday, November 19, 2004
Yeah, that's not Hezbollah, the new hot skiffle group from Surrey, but the Lebanese terrorist group responsible for the U.S. Marine barracks and U.S. embassy bombings in the 80s, not to mention countless incursions, suicide bombings, and missile attacks against Israel.
The money quote from that meeting, as televised on Arab television:
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary's Ronald Stone, a member of the delegation,
thanked Hezbollah for its "good will" toward the American people and said, "As
an elder of our church, I'd like to say that according to my recent experience,
relations and conversations with Islamic leaders are a lot easier than dealings
and dialogue with Jewish leaders."
Think that might get you fired from your church job, too?
[A recent study] found that 62 percent of workers are sneaking out of their
cubicles because of stress, personal reasons, family issues, and something
called entitlement mentality. Rick, a healthy 30-year-old who worked in
pharmaceutical advertising until he quit last year to go to grad school, is a
perfect example of the last category. "I had five sick days a year," he says,
"and shit if I wasn't going to use them."
Rick (who recommends setting your alarm to go off just before you call the
office for that realistically raspy effect) says he and his overworked
colleagues would simply "conveniently come down with colds" in December.
"Sometimes," he says, "I just needed a day on the couch."
Those days are often hard-won. When Rick was working as a sales representative
for a major New York recruiting firm, a job he describes as a "Dickensian
workhouse," asking for time off was treated as a sign of weakness. "If you
brought up things like vacation, they'd as you, 'Do you really want to work
here?'" he says. "Or they'd point to another guy who hadn't taken a day off
in two years."
4. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Bob Dylan
3. The Final Cut [entire album], Pink Floyd
2. War, Edwin Starr
1. Born in the U.S.A., Bruce Springsteen
Honorable Mention: Life During Wartime by The Talking Heads, Sympathy for the Devil by The Rolling Stones, Masters of War by Bob Dylan, My Father’s Gun by Elton John, Goodnight Saigon by Billy Joel, Political Science by Randy Newman, and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down by The Band
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
And dear Condi, with her bulletproof hair helmet and repressed school mistress sexiness, sternly warned the country that Saddam was actively pursuing nuclear weapons and we couldn't hesitate even a smidge because "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
God bless her sweet heart and her colorful use of metaphor.
But either she was too grossly incompetent to notice the severe misgivings of her staff, or she was being willfully deceitful, kowtowing to the pre-ordained, pre-9/11 marching orders established by Puppet Master Cheney and Big Dick Rumsfeld.
And either Colin was hoodwinked or he trashed an even more illustrious and promising career in the service of ends that not only don't justify their means, but appear not to have any ends at all.
So bring me back to 2003, baby. At least then I was happily as clueless as these two jokers.
Tue, 11 Mar 2003 22:35:46 -0800 (PST)
So, the man who once played a militant soviet in the fourth grade play (well at least your single line reading gave that impression) is clearly not in favor of war. I certainly hope this doesn’t throw you in the untenable “just say no to war” position favored by Hollywood pinheads like Sheryl Crow and Richard Gere.
Which isn’t to say that I’m in favor of war. War sucks. People die who shouldn’t, it eats resources better used more constructively, it exhibits the absolute worst in human nature before, during and in it’s aftermath. Often causes more problems than it solves—much like the burn tactics (you are well acquainted with) wild land firefighters sometimes employ that (literally) blow up in their faces. That war only serves itself is a nice pithy aphorism, but a student of history (or even one who lifted his drooling chin from his desk during random screams of “pillbox!” in Mr. Swenson’s 12th grade Am Hist class) might concede that some wars are a necessary evil.
Say what you will of those who wave flags and offer the company line about “defending freedom from tyranny” and protecting American interests from those who would destroy us, but isn’t there some truth behind the hawk rhetoric? I’m cynical enough (still) to believe that any large endeavor, certainly wars, and likely anything entered by the U.S. government in foreign diplomacy is rooted in some way in money. War is notoriously profitable, and it’s more than a little fishy that many members of Team Bush have profited immensely from the last Gulf shindig. And a quick, successful war never hurt anyone’s reelection campaign even in a recession. But I’m also convinced that the single greatest impetus and driving force for this one is our own defense.
And if it isn’t really the true impetus (who can honestly say their vantage point offers them a clear line-of-sight on the driver of this crazy, infinitely complex bus to hell?), then I’m convinced it’s at least a legitimate justification.
The comparisons are obvious even as they are inapt. WWII was justified and necessary. Any arguments? Maybe we went overboard firebombing civilian populations (more people died in Dresden than any one place at any one time in the history of the planet) and vaporizing Hiroshima. And given those atrocities, it’s hard to argue much for round two in Nagasaki. Especially in this part of the world and considering that from what I’ve read, Truman didn’t have a clue what he was about to do, or indeed, had done immediately after the fact (referring in his address to the nation and his private journal that the bombed civilian centers of industry were “military targets”). Maybe we would have had (and continued to have) a bit more moral authority if we weren’t the only country on the planet to detonate an atomic bomb, without warning, on two populated cities. And maybe it was myopic to insist on an unconditional surrender from a nation to which that term was anathema, when all we eventually got was a negotiated peace years later. But that’s another rambling screed entirely.
And yet, (and damned if this next quote won’t short-circuit my whole argument in light of it’s original, facile musical employment) we didn’t start the fire. WW dos had this fella named Hitler intent on systematically exterminating a race of people and conquering the planet. In retrospect, such a quaint notion reeks of something worthy only of a D-grade GI Joe storyline (post Zartan, the shape shifting Aussie, and circa the time of the serpent faced Emperor guy made of Attila the Hun’s DNA when the TV show and Hasbro started to dictate the book’s storylines—to its severe detriment). But, yeah, Hitler was completely nuts. And all he had was the largest, fiercest army known to man.
Saddam has a broken down crew of unmotivated recruits and the remnants of his strong Republican guard. But the thing is, a maniac these days doesn’t need endless columns of Panzer tanks and the Luftwaffe. Even Cobra Commander knew that a nuclear device (or one that could somehow control the weather) was enough to cow the world.
So, in a suggestion from my previous blabbering, we need to fight the wars we can win before they metastasize into something a little hairier. You know, like North Korea and Iran.
Brinkmanship is a game that can only be played by those who’ve got themselves a convincing brink.
You could argue that Saddam is well contained with the eyes of the world firmly on his country and opinion strongly and almost unanimously against his regime, albeit if not America’s unilateral plans to jam 12,000 lb bombs up his ass.
I repudiate all such notions that this is Gulf War II. This is simply the endgame of the same war begun by Poppa Bush in 1991. Saddam never acceded to the conditions of the ceasefire and has brazenly continued to advance his WMD programs. Can’t really blame him, really. He was dumbfounded that he was still in power—a power that rests entirely in his ability to kill his enemies, scare the rest of the population and eventually to possess those Ws of MD that will grant him a de facto seat at the world diplomacy table.
9/11 has only made more immediate all of the clear and present dangers that we’ve willfully ignored for years in favor of the dot com good life and (un)reality television while occasionally lobbing cruise missiles at empty tents in the Afghan dessert.
And yeah, while American military intelligence isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in the movies, I still trust the raw data being consumed by the big brains in high places. Are you crass enough, cynical enough to believe that anyone, even someone as simple-minded as GWB (the president, not the Hudson River crossing), would send his country to war just for his Texas oil interests? There are too many respectable players in this game for that to be the only true stake. I mean, Nixon was a conniving, egomaniacal rat bastard motherfucker who had lots of despicable reasons for churning bodies all over Vietnam and Cambodia, but can anyone argue that he didn’t see communism in S.E. Asia as a genuine threat? Can even you, in retrospect really say that while the cost was severe on so many fronts actual and psychological, that the Cold War in all of it’s pockmarked ignominy (and dare I say, success?) wasn’t a legitimate reaction to a legitimate threat? Again, I digress therefore I am.
Back to Saddam.
He’s gotta go. I follow the Bush camp’s philosophy that this isn’t about disarmament, but regime change. There is no way to prove he doesn’t have these weapons. You can’t prove a negative. And you can’t find evidence of something in a country the size of Iraq. Not with five guys and a humvie. Not with all the time to obfuscate and shove things under deep rugs. I can’t tell you how easy it was to vanish something as fundamental to my life as rolling papers in an apartment the size of your Shadowlawn Drive bathtub, much less a little bit of VX nerve gas and anthrax in a vast dessert.
Sometimes things need to get worse before they get better. I’m more concerned with the precedent this sets in the eyes of the world than anything. America: the aggressor. But it’s hard, if not impossible to convince people of the virtue of this war beforehand. I’m sure Europe was just as cautious and thumb-twiddling in the months and years while Adolph was passing curious laws and passing out yellow stars, hanging out on the border near the Sudetenland and then eventually re-districting downtown Warsaw.
In some people’s eyes America has always been a bullying aggressor. You can’t imagine my frustration dealing with the well-educated, seemingly intelligent Namibian chucklehead who couldn’t see the difference between American “oppressive” economic foreign policy and a crack terrorist attack on U.S. soil using commercial aircraft.
She sees American capitalism and exploitive forays into developing nations as pure evil. OK. There is much inequity in the world. The have-nots suffer greatly when Americans institute tariffs to protect American farmers and similar such measures. We place sanctions on unfriendly governments to get them in line and only end up hurting their innocent citizens. We support dictators and shady regimes when convenient and attempt to topple them when we can to replace them with friendlier dictators and sunnier shady regimes. Arrogance is never welcome in polite society.
And to that, I say we are still the best and go fuck yourselves. Capitalist industrialization under democracy, while problematic is still the best system going. The world will always have problems. There were shitloads of problems long before America existed. I seem to recall some of them that even predate Billy Joel’s history lesson ditty. I know virtually jack shit about economics, but it seems that the way out of some of this inequity is to further expand this system, not for us to ignore the world and keep our products and markets to ourselves. Make more haves and continue to work and improving the lot of the have-nots. Don’t get all pissy if your country hasn’t produced anything of value to the world, ever. Or in the case of France, since the Renaissance.
And I don’t have any answers for America’s tendency to suck up the world’s resources while developing countries wallow in poverty. Or our hypocritical political endorsements. But I’m pretty sure it’s not gonna be the U.S. sounding a full retreat from world markets and politics. I’m convinced the world needs a superpower at the moment. And I’m pretty sure that our default setting has always been isolationist. Everyone please just shut up, take care of yourselves (like we did) and let me watch “American Idol.” But the world is too small and integrated these days. We need to be more careful whose toes we are stepping on and whose girlfriends we steal with a wink and a smile.
And the hell with all that. Point is, you’ve mapped out the worst-case scenario. People had similar concerns about Afghanistan, and while not a perfect coup by any measurement, it wasn’t Armageddon either. What if the brief surgical bombing campaign cripples the air defenses and command and control capacity in the predicted matter of days, Special Forces (no doubt already in country) take out other major obstacles for the lightening tactics expected from the north and south, most Iraqi GI Mustafas quickly surrender to join the new America-led occupying police forces, Saddam’s generals aren’t crazy enough to carry out default orders to use chemical weapons, Sharon somehow is restrained from retaliating for the 4 SCUDs that eventually impact somewhere in Tel Aviv causing causalities, Baghdad quickly surrenders amid rumors of Saddam’s death or defection rather than face months of siege and starvation, Saddam attempts to flee the country and is eventually apprehended by Syrian authorities that falsely promised him a safe exile, massive amounts of chemical and biological agents are confiscated and a burgeoning nuclear program snuffed, the country is split into 5 equal sovereignties that will fight among themselves for decades after the U.S. pulls out but under the careful eye of a new U.N. peacekeeping force stocked heavily with U.S. manpower after we promise to never, ever do something like this again without permission? Or until the next time we really, really have to.
In it’s entirety, it’s an unlikely scenario. (And in several incidences, patently wrongheaded) But clearly as unlikely as any worst-case scenario playing out to form. Or as unlikely as the 1999 Rams coming out of nowhere to win the Super Bowl followed by the equally unlikely 2000 Ravens and the (did this really happen?) 2001 Tom Brady-led New England Patriots.
And all of this might be easier for me to endorse since I certainly ain’t gonna be deployed in a forward position in the Iraqi dessert with friendly fire zipping past my cowardly head. And I don’t know anyone currently in the military. But my friends and family are currently in harm’s way—even if it’s harm from an ominous distance. And so am I, as a walking and talking American target in S.E. Asia.
Anyway, and fuck all if my opinions are any more valid than Richard Gere’s, that gerbil-stuffing shampoo-head. I apologize after the fact for my party-crashing discourse whose genesis is twofold: Fold one is that the well educated, opinionated and conversant American couple I worked with has vamoosed for a teaching gig in the lovely neighboring country of Burma (Myanmar) run by a delightfully ruthless, stifling, drug-running military junta. Leaving me with two friendly Canadians who, sadly, are 21-year old high school grads and not nearly as stimulating in the talking department. Not even about hockey, if you can believe it. It’s not their fault, of course, (or yours), but in a world that like pointillist painting, makes less and less sense the closer I look at it, I need to bounce ideas off of someone or something a little more pliant. (This metaphor is hopelessly muddled, but then this is singularly appropriate to my state of mind) And the second fold concerns my recent obsessive reading of HST’s “Fear and Loathing in America,” which I picked up on my last trip to Bangkok (on your recommendation if I recall correctly) and it has kindled a heretofore unknown yen for prolonged and turgid correspondence.
Still wondering what’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding,