Monday, February 28, 2005

Oscar de la Oy Vey

Woo-hoo Oscars! What other day of the year can you force yourself to endure the grotesque face-off between Joan and Jones? Rivers and Star? A stretch-faced fright mask and a lumpy bowl of pudding? Watch as two braying humanoids corral millionaires into squirmy seconds of anus-slathering for your entertainment! It's almost enough to make you feel sorry for a pompous ass like Warren Beatty. Almost.

And it was a grand joy to watch The Motion Picture Association of Arts and Sciences honor Hilary Swank for her plucky portrayal of a girl who cajoles an old fogy to teach her how to fight, cementing an asexual intergenerational bond tinged with sweetness and tragedy. But how come no golden trophy for the great film or its director? Perhaps the Academy was too nostalgic for Ralph Macchio to properly recognize "The Next Karate Kid" this year. Not to mention the snubbing of Pat Morita and Michael Ironside. Maybe next year, guys!

Also, it was nice to see that they let so many black people into the Kodak Theater for the ceremony. There were such film greats as Jay-Z, Prince and Oprah. "Pootie Tang" star Chris Rock hosted. And though it's been years since his triumph in "Iron Eagle IV," Louis Gossett, Jr. got a prime seat. Two black people even won awards, and only one of them for playing the same, non-threatening, beatific man he's played in every movie for the last 20 years. Way to be affirmatively active, Academy!

Anyway, I could go on forever talking Oscars. They are my favorite phallic awards. But speaking of penises, you've really got to check out the FAQ on Star Jones' website. Learn the answers to pressing questions: "Where did Star get such great self-esteem from?" and "Does Star really wear Payless shoes?" Her website's motto says it all: "I am the author of the only dictionary that defines me." Quick question for Star: Why in heavens would you name your dictionary The New World Collegiate Heaving Blob of Elephant Shit?

Saturday, February 26, 2005

One-stop Shopping for TV Depravity

The nice folks over at the Parents Television Council have assembled a Worst of the Week Clips Gallery to document exactly how deviant television can be. God bless their misguided souls.

This week you can watch a clip of necrophilia on "Medium" or see Mr. Slave's ass completely engulf Paris Hilton on "South Park."

Is it wrong that we are so far gone that such sick, moronic lunacy can be found on analog television and basic cable? Is it wrong that children without the wherewithal to comprehend it can stumble across this stuff? Is it wrong that it makes me laugh so hard?

I believe that good parents can explain almost anything. Maybe this is because I'm not one. But I also think that legislating our airwaves and cable lines to protect children at the expense of making me laugh or grossing me out or giving me a boner is just plain wrong.

So, PTC? Go fuck a dead chick while I wait to see if Mr. Slave is gonna shit out Paris.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Lenny Bruce is Not Afraid

Sam Hughes, a Cambridge University student, has some free time on his hands. And he has used them to compile and write a brilliant, hysterical and accurate(?) little primer on how to destroy the earth. Solid work, and worth your time if you've got a few hundred billion years to kill.

He's also compiled and written this entertaining and admittedly pointless discussion of the fictional location of the Simpsons' hometown of Springfield for The Simpsons Archive.

Blink-183

Yeah, yeah, ok, yeah. Blink-182 is on indefinite hiatus. A huge loss to mongoloid teenagers everywhere. But in the interim, all you spastic children might wanna check out this blog of famous blinking celebrities. A few of them even have tatoos, if that makes you more comfortable.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Forget Paris

Apparently, hackers were able to access Paris Hilton's online T-Mobile over the weekend, posting her phone book, nude phone pics (of herself, strangely) and email messages for public consumption by successfully guessing the answer to a secret access question. That question: "What is the name of your favorite pet?"

The answer, for anyone who not dumb enough to be the subject of a series of unauthorized personal sex tapes and public gaffes, is Tinkerbell, Hilton's well-known chihuahua co-star of Fox's "The Simple Life" along with that other dog, Nicole Ritchie.

Now, I might take this time to implore all you kind folks to ignore this fame-whore train wreck waterhead and provide her with the obscurity she deserves. But I doubt there is honestly any way to ignore such a spectacular disaster. Paris Hilton is the reason traffic slows in the opposite direction of a highway accident. She is a boon to those with low-self esteem everywhere who can now compare themselves favorably. The is an easy punchline for hack comics. She is whacking material for the downtrodden, celeb-fantasizing misfits (and celeb-fantasizing folks who fit in just fine but are alone and horny).

And for some reason, Playboy magazine sees fit to crown her "Sex Star of the Year." Something that would be more of a tragedy if their list didn't also include such confounding, typically self-serving Playboy retreads as Jenny McCarthy and Pam Anderson.

So what is there to say about someone so pathetic, so hypnotically, inexplicably celebrated for being vapid and borderline retarded? Only this: Where have you gone Britney Spears, a nation turns its horny eyes to you...

Fear and Loathing a Typewriter

The Brutal Bio of an Outlaw Journalist

By David Puner, used without permission
Hunter S. Thompson:
AGE: 64 or 66 (b. 7/18/1939 or ’37 (sources differ) in Louisville,KY)
FAMILY: Ex-wife, Sandra (married in 1963– split 1978/79). Son, Juan Fitzgerald Thompson.
RESIDENCE: Owl Farm in Woody Creek, CO (near Aspen).
EDUCATION: Public schools in Louisville followed by studying journalism at Columbia University.
BOOKS: Hell’s Angels (1966); Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1972); Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72 (1973); The Great Shark Hunt (1979); The Curse of Lono (1983); Generation of Swine (1988); Songs of the Doomed (1990); Better Than Sex (1993); The Proud Highway (1997); The Rum Diary (written in 1958, published 1998); Screwjack (written 1991, published 2000); Fear and Loathing in America (2000).
CAREER: Began as a sports writer in Florida; Time, Caribbean correspondent (1959); New York Herald Tribune, Caribbean correspondent (1959-60); National Observer, South American correspondent (1961-63); Nation, West Coast correspondent (1964-66); Ramparts, columnist, 1967-68); Scanlan’s Monthly, columnist, (1969-70); Rolling Stone, national affairs editor (1970-84); High Times, global affairs correspondent (1977-82); San Francisco Examiner, media critic (1985-90); Smart, editor-at-large, (1988—). Freelance political analyst for various European magazines (1988—). Contributor of articles and essays (sometimes under pseudonym Raoul Duke) to Esquire, London Observer, New York Times Magazine, Reporter, Harper’s, and others. Served in U.S. Air Force (1956-58) – wrote for base magazine.

Gonzo in DEVELOPMENT:

Like other New Journalists, HST’s early journalism (1959-65) was fairly conventional. But then he started to go Gonzo…

… The foundation for HST’s leap into Gonzo was his saturation reporting for his book, Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga. He spent a year living and riding with the Angels.

Hell’s Angels is considered by Michael Johnson, the author of a 1971 book on New Journalism to be “a classic example of New Journalistic writing about people of a particular subculture… it came about in large part because of his desire to correct the reportage of the established media, to get close to a way of life and write about it as it really is… Thus, Thompson set out to find the true story of the Angels, propelled by a desire to find out what was really happening in their world, to experience it as much as possible as they did, and then write the story in a style true to his sense of the experience.” (Johnson 131-2)

Tom Wolfe on Hell’s Angels:
“Thompson’s use of the first person – i.e., his use of himself, the reporter, as a character in the story – is quite different from the way he uses the first person later in his Gonzo journalism. Here he uses himself solely to bring out the character of the Angels and the locals.” (Wolfe 340)

HST, from letter to Tom Wolfe, 10/26/1968:
“My king-hell desire, at this point,” is to hear one of your lectures on the New Journalism. I really want to know what it is.” (Thompson-ii 142)

“The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved” (June 1970):

The piece was commissioned by Scanlan’s Monthly (a short-lived sports magazine). When HST’s deadline arrived, he says he was fried: “So finally I just started jerking pages out of my notebook and numbering them and sending them to the printer. I was sure it was the last article I was ever going to do for anybody.” When the piece was well received, Thompson says, “I thought. . . if I can write like this and get away with it, why should I keep trying to write like the New York Times?” (Mote)

HST biographer Paul Perry writes, “The piece, ‘The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,’ was published in June 1970. Immediately Hunter started getting letters and phone calls of congratulation on a piece well done. One of those letters came from Bill Cardoza, editor of the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, who considered the piece a breakthrough in journalism. ‘Forget all this shit you’ve been writing, this is it; this is pure Gonzo. If this is a start, keep rolling.’ This was the first time the word ‘Gonzo’ was used in reference to Hunter’s work. By 1970, Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary would include the word ‘Gonzo,’ defining it as: ‘adjective (origin unknown): bizarre, unrestrained, specifically designating a style of personal journalism so characterized.’” (Perry 142-3)

HST letter excerpt to Scanlan’s Monthly editor the day before leaving to write Derby piece: “...The story, as I see it, is mainly in the vicious-drunk Southern bourbon horse-shit mentality that surrounds the Derby than in the Derby itself. And—as a human product of that culture/mentality—I think I can see it pretty clear…. I think we’ve stumbled on a good genetic accident…” (Thompson-ii 293)

Scanlan’s initially wanted a photographer to be assigned with Hunter on the Derby piece, “but Hunter hated photographers for the reality they imparted and because they always got in the way.” (Perry 138)

Ralph Steadman, a British illustrator known for his work in The Times (London) and Private Eye magazine (political satire), was a last-minute replacement for another illustrator. Steadman’s “savage” illustrations would help define the “Gonzo look.” (Thompson-ii 295)

As Steadman sketched at the Derby, he would tell HST what he was seeing and HST would take notes. Steadman said of the Derby experience, “I could tell from his notes that he was looking at things through my eyes, which made sense. This was the first time I had ever seen anything like this, so therefore I asked a lot of naïve questions. To him, I must have looked like a new toy.” (Perry 140)

HST wound up liking Steadman. In a letter to a Scanlan’s editor he wrote: “…Dealing with Ralph made the whole rotten trip worthwhile for me, in some kind of odd sense. I liked the bastard immensely, and his awkward sensitivity made me see, once again, some of the rot in this country that I’ve been living with for so long that I could only see it, now, through somebody else’s fresh eye…” (Thompson-ii 304)

Two weeks after the Derby, Thompson had completed the piece. In a letter to his friend, Bill Cardoso (of The Boston Globe), he wrote of the experience: “… I went there to write a strange piece on the spectacle for Scanlan’s Monthly… and the whole scene nearly killed me, along with the British illustrator on his first trip to the U.S… It’s a shitty article, a classic of irresponsible journalism—but to get it done at all I had to be locked in a NY hotel room for 3 days with copyboys collecting each sheet out of the typewriter, as I wrote it, whipping it off on the telecopier to San Francisco where the printer was standing by on overtime. Horrible way to write anything…” (Thompson-ii 295)

The bylines of the Derby piece in Scanlan’s read: “Written under duress by Hunter S. Thompson” and “Sketched with eyebrow pencil and lipstick by Ralph Steadman.” (Thompson-ii 295)

William Kennedy on Derby piece:“The Derby story had pointed the way toward the great mother lode… Hunter had discovered that confounding sums of money could be had by writing what seemed to be journalism, while actually you were developing your fictional oeuvre.” (Thompson-ii xvii)

ON GONZO JOURNALISM:

- Thompson is considered to be the father/inventor of Gonzo Journalism – a branch of New Journalism.
New Journalism refresher: “In addition to the novelists Capote and Mailer, reporters Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Breslin, Joan Didion, Gay Talese, and Hunter Thompson have experimented with fictional techniques by rebelling against the conventional standards of ‘objective reporting.’ Works by these writers have collectively been labeled ‘new journalism,’ since they have brought to reporting the personal commitment and moral vision frequently found only in fiction. Together these writers have generated a new kind of ‘fiction’ and ‘nonfiction,’ since they combine elements of both genres in a variety of ways.” (Hollowell 11)

- As defined by Tom Wolfe, Gonzo is: “a manic, highly adrenal first-person style in which Thompson’s own emotions continually dominate the story.” (Wolfe 172)

- “This was a series of mad, drug-ridden forays into the heart of complacent America, in a style which indulged in insult and invective, as he chronicled the disillusionment and delirium of the volatile era of the 1960s and the souring of the ‘American dream’.” (Woods)

- “Thompson recorded both the disillusionment and the delirium of a volatile era.” (Peacock)

- Author Jerome Klinkowitz wrote in his 1977 book, The Life of Fiction: “Thompson ‘paraded one of the few original prose styles of recent years,’ a style that indulged in insult and stream-of-invective to an unparalleled degree. He pioneered a new approach to reporting, allowing the story of covering an event to become the central story itself, while never disguising the fact that he was ‘a half-cranked geek journalist caught in the center of the action.’” (Peacock)

- Klinkowitz also stated: “His ‘journalism’ is not in the least irresponsible. On the contrary, in each of his books he’s pointed out the lies and gross distortions of conventional journalism.” (Mote)

- “… Thomspon became the ‘professional wildman’ of the New Journalists, to quote Village Voice contributor Vivian Gornick. He also became a nationally known figure whose work ‘in particular caused currents of envy in the world of the straight journalists, who coveted his freedom from restraint,’ according to an Atlantic essayist. ‘He became a cult figure,’ Peter O. Whitmer wrote in Saturday Review, ‘the outlaw who could drink excessively, drug indulgently, shout abusively, and write insightfully.” (Peacock)

- “Thompson’s ‘Gonzo Journalism’ narratives are first-person accounts in which the author appears as a persona, sometimes Raoul Duke, but more commonly Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, a specialist variously in divinity, pharmaceuticals, or reporting. Hellmann described this self-caricature in his book Fables of Fact: The New Journalism as New Fiction. It is ‘a paradox, of compulsive violence and outraged innocence, an emblem of the author’s schizophrenic view of America. . . . But the persona also has a determined belief in the power of good intentions and right methods which runs counter to his violent impulses. Despite the psychotic threatening, his artistic aims include the corrective impulse of satire.’” (Peacock)
- “…spontaneous, go-for-jugular brand of surrealistic reportage…” (Durchholz)

HST on Gonzo Journalism:

“My idea was to buy a fat notebook and record the whole thing as it happened, then send in the notebook for publication—without editing. That way, I felt the eye and the mind of the journalist would be functioning as a camera. True Gonzo reporting needs the talents of a master journalist, the eye of an artist/photographer, and the heavy balls of an actor. Because the writer must be a participant in the scene, while he’s writing it—or at least taping it, or even sketching it. Or all three.” (Mote)

OTHER NOTES:

On the non-fiction of fiction (interesting, esp. because The Rum Diary was HST’s only novel):
“I intended The Rum Diary to be the great American novel… but in a way this is a journalist route. I couldn’t make up these characters. Everything in here, every line, is taken from a reality.” (Macdonald)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was commissioned as a 300-word caption on a motorcycle race for Sports Illustrated. It was first printed in Rolling Stone under HST’s pseudonym: (Uncle) Raoul Duke. Arguably, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is HST’s best known work. (Othitis)

HST has claimed that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is actually a failed experiment in Gonzo journalism because he intended it to be an unedited account of everything he did as it happened – but he rewrote and edited it five times. (gonzo.org)

HST throughout his life, beginning in his childhood has typed other author’s lines (Kerouac, Faulkner, Hemingway and Fitzgerald (esp. The Great Gatsby)) as writing exercises. Doing this gets him into a rhythm and has taught him a lot about the author’s work. He compares the complexities of different writing styles to music.
“During his stint at Time, Thompson polished his writing skills by typing The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms in their entirety, closely studying their sentence structures.” (Thompson-i 143)

MISC (tie-ins with journalist as cult-figure/pop-icon):

From E. Jean Carroll’s unauthorized biography (1993), on HST’s daily routine (as excerpted from The Observer):
“3pm rise. 3.05 Chivas Regal with the morning papers, Dunhills. 3.45 cocaine. 3.50 another glass of Chivas, Dunhill. 4.15 cocaine. 4.16 orange juice, Dunhill. 4.30 cocaine. 4.54 cocaine. 5.05 cocaine…9pm starts snorting cocaine seriously. 10pm drops acid. 11pm Chartreuse, cocaine, grass. 11.30 cocaine, etc., etc…12.05 to 6am Chartreuse, cocaine, grass, Chivas, coffee, Heineken, clove cigarettes, grapefruit, Dunhills, orange juice, gin, continuous pornographic movies.”

A 1997 New York Times article describes Owl Farm as “equal parts hippie commune, redneck firing range, rustic hunting lodge and unabashed shrine to the heyday of Hunter S. Thompson, the doctor of gonzo journalism.”

Monday, February 21, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson 1937-2005


"Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits--a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden hole nailed off by the building inspector, but deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage."--Hunter S. Thompson

Inspect Her Gadget

Just because I love lists, here's another one. Mobile PC lists the Top 100 Gadgets of All Time. It's got all the obvious ones, like the Sony Walkman and the Magic 8 Ball. And it's got classics like Atari Pong and Mattell Football II. But somehow the phone falls in at #23, well behind the iPod at #12? And where is the, um, er, feminine wand-like gadget that so many seem to find so enthralling?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Shooting From The Hip

Is there a more horrifying term in the English language than "hipster"? Who identifies themselves as a hipster? Who enjoys the company of anyone who could be described as a hipster? Can we maybe just turn all of Brooklyn into a shopping mall and get over this already?

Also, I'm not a big fan of the non-sequiter, toss-off, quip-ridden newspaper column. I'm glaring at you, Mike Lupica. And don't even get me started, Larry King, you boot-licking waterhead geezer (whose column in USA has thankfully gone the way of the dodo, though the dodo still hasn't gone away).

Thursday, February 17, 2005

That's Not Funny

GQ selects the top 100 jokes of all time, as if this can be quantified somehow. Many classics are here, though the problem with reading jokes--as in those written by Steven Wright--is that it's all in the delivery.

Let's Go Rangers!

Congratulations to the New York Rangers on a successful season. The basement-dwelling tenants of Madison Square Garden finished the 2004-05 season at an even .500 (0-0-0-0), and although they didn't qualify for the postseason, at least they won't have to watch the New Jersey Devils win another Stanley Cup.

RIP NHL.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Get Lost

Some sound advice on how to disappear in America without a trace. You know who you are. Now go.

Box to the Future

Scientists have created a machine that can see into the future. And yes, the marriage of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony won't last.

Monday, February 14, 2005


Happy St. Hallmark's Day

A Carriage O' Love

A philanthopist from Monaco offers free carriage rides in Central Park to promote love in memory of his late wife in this hard hitting Daily News Valentine's story.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Why the NBA Sucks

Now that football season is over, the NHL seems poised to commit ritual suicide and baseball once again threatens to begin its long and tedious season, it's time to pick on basketball.

I've been saying it for years. NBA basketball, played at a glacial pace punctuated occasionally by superhuman egomaniacs soaring above the rim while four guys stand on the perimeter waiting for a pass...just sucks.

To see the sport as it was designed, you need to watch the cohesive teamwork of international play on display at the Olympics or the sweat that women's teams require to work the ball for an open shot -- everyone moving without the ball, hustle on both sides of the court.

By contrast, every NBA game follows the same predictable script. Individual over team. Especially down the stretch, when everyone clears out so the superstar can strike his best Jordonesque pose. Bleh.

Even the NY Times Magazine gets it. Do you?

Purient Interest


When young, the idea of Hilary Duff toting a condom entices; When old, the idea makes you a dirty old man

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Out of the Blue

There's always something more than a little disappointing when adolescent fantasies actually come true.

I mean, I remember enduring more than a few episodes of "Who's the Boss?" just to see how the producers might dress Alyssa Milano. Don't get me wrong, there was some amusement to be gleaned from the limp hairstyles and budding homosexuality of Danny Pintauro. And certainly, the notion of Tony Danza playing another in a long line of Tonys (likely a standard contract item to avoid awkward moments while filming a scene if he were to hear a different name for his character and fail to respond) who's single comedic gift seemed to be punctuating each episode with at least one exasperated Neanderthal Goombah line reading of: "Sum-an-tuh!" Or: "An-gel-uh!" And the ocassional, but always prized: "Mo-nuh!"

But as one of Ms. Milano's contemporaries, there was always this enchanting cloud-cuckoo land daydream: What if, one day, she would pose in Playboy?

Well, several not-so-naughty "Teen Steam" videos later, Alyssa Milano came through with a bevy of booby-baring treats, not the least of which were the camp classics "Poison Ivy 2: Lily" and "Embrace of the Vampire." Both films reveled in their ability to satisfy the salatious urges of an aging male fan base to see their little girl all grown up, and debased for their viewing pleasure.

But not all childhood Hollywood crushes have been so accomodating (Thank you so much, Katie Holmes). Why, for instance, do Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar merely tease and tempt with their sexual allure? How come Jennifer Aniston is only caught nude by paparazzi on foreign beaches? How bad need a career actually be before they dispense with the pretensions and simply give the public what they want?

But now here is Debbie--I'm sorry--Deborah Gibson in this month's Playboy. I can't say that she was a prime focus of fantasy for me, but then that was because she was so squeaky clean and I was young and lacked imagination. She was a suburban girl who loved her Billy Joel and couldn't even really dance. She blazed the mall touring path for her contemporary Tiffany (who posed for Playboy in 2004) and then worked on Broadway and more "adult" music. No more songs about crushes and "Electric Youth," I suppose, though I, nor too many other folks apparently, bought her albums.

But as a teenager, her imperfect face and her thin, but hardly statuesque body didn't yet entice my inner deviant. Of course, as anyone in the post-Britney world can tell you, it's this untouchable innocence that provides the most intoxicating urges. Like the cliche of a Catholic school girl who rebels against her restrictive upgringing. Britney really new what she was doing even before she knew what she was doing.

So we've got these pictures--the ones I would have killed for in 1988. And I'm satisfied, though not all that titilated. There's something about youth that is electric, and something about being an adult that doesn't shock easily.

Where Have All The Cletuses Gone?

The NameVoyager by the folks that brought you The Baby Name Wizard, offers a curious diversion into the relative popularity of first names over the course of the last century in America.

As ranked per million babies over the decades, Rick seemed to peak in the '60s and has almost disappeared since the '90s. Cletus, it seems, never really caught on. And Jasper, though almost extinct in the '60s, appears to be making a moderate comback. You go, Jaspers.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Brain Farts

An original short story from the winter of '93. Something worth pondering in the Indian summer of our dispair.

What’s on your mind?

Man, you fight and scratch and freak all the way to some plateau for control, but arrive seconds too late, and empty your empty pockets only to find them fuller than the emptiness that drifts around your stomach. You’re dizzy, too. Too dizzy to count the number of times you’ve made a fool of yourself, but then again, that could just be a memory thing. You have a fair idea of where you ended up, but the harder you think, the harder you force the thoughts around your tilt 'a whirl head, the harder you clutch your handfuls of nothing—for whatever your life is worth, you can’t remember where you started out.

You lie still and stare at the stucco ceiling that hovers at some unfixed distance over your head, and you try to think. You try to think hard. The harder you think, the more the pressure builds, until the jumble of half-conceived thoughts releases in a fit of brain farts. Pffft. This has been happening too often for your taste. Brain farts all day long, conversations that go nowhere and seem happy enough to remain stagnant. Stale talk, hard thoughts, and pffft, pffft. You’ve had one hell of a time.

Even though nothing makes sense except your acceptance of this insanity, and although you remember little of anything that matters, you remain perfectly lucid on the one thing you’ve made an attempt to forget. You remember the girl. How could you forget? Will you ever forget her? What can you do to forget her? You can still see her goofy smile, hear that goofy clicking noise she’d make with her tongue, the way she’d say your name…what was her name?

Shifting about to swing your feet onto the floor, you curl your toes to prove you can do it, and spend the next several minutes cracking each individual joint, hoping to conquer the numbness and restore circulation. Unfortunately, you’re aware that success won’t come as easy with your back. It’s hard to believe that you feel this bad.

As you drag yourself over to the telephone, you catch a glimpse of the clock as it dangles on its cord outside the window like an underweight anchor. The memory of placing it in that curious position returns to you briefly—the loathing you felt about its domination over your life, the bells, the alarms, the seconds, minutes, flashing by—“ticking away the moments that make up a dull day…” as you step on the Pink Floyd disc that sent these lyrics into your meat grinder of a head. You wonder why you can remember every word to every song you’ve ever heard, but nothing else that’s supposed to mean anything really important. How are you supposed to know what’s really important?

Picking up the phone, you dial automatically a number that you think you want to call, but freeze in horror when a machine picks up to tell you, “Hi guys, this is Stacy. I’m not in right now, but you know you can leave me a message and I’ll call ya back. Click-click.” You hang up rapidly, and with your hand still gripping the receiver, you look away ungracefully and hate yourself for your stupidity and pettiness and remember what you’ve known all along despite your best efforts: Her name is Stacy.

The bathroom doesn’t make you any happier. All those mirrors and lights make it too easy to hate the way you look right now—the way you’ve looked for too long. And its not like you’ve done anything strenuous, or unhealthy, or anything at all really. That’s probably the problem. Something you once told a friend flashes to consciousness for a visit: “When I get tired, my mind tends to wander. Sometimes it wanders into other time zones, and I get jet-lag.” You’ve certainly done your share of wandering. But you can never seem to get as far out as you’d like. You constantly get your shirt caught on something that reels you back to where you least like to be, but where you most often find yourself stuck. For a moment, you wonder aloud where wind comes from and then try to brush your teeth.

It’s the morning ritual, kiddo. Hard to call it a morning ritual when your morning begins somewhere after two-thirty in the afternoon. Sleep is good, you tell yourself. You like sleep. It’s a funny thing that despite all of the hours you’ve logged with this particular pastime of yours, you still spend every waking hour in some psychosomatic trance, a trendy-dressing zombie unable to follow his own train of thought without the aid of tracking equipment from NASA. Sleep is good, you tell yourself. And today is just another day you wish you didn’t have to wake up at all.

A generous dousing of your face with cold water spewing from cold pipes travelling through cold ground covered with cold snow and colder ice is almost enough to jar you back into the land of the living once again. The trauma of the splash serves only to help instigate the convulsive process of ejecting the purple/green organic glob that collides with a psychedelic gesture against the soft white sink. So that’s what you’re lungs must look like, you figure. Sucks for them.

No need to shower this morning. No need to do anything, really. You’ve pretty much figured out how to organize your life around the simple principle of avoiding work, avoiding conflict—avoiding further need to organize your life once it’s been set in motion. Minimal friction. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, Sir Isaac told you. And without the friction, you’re hoping to coast along on physics. Returning to your room, you take as deep a breath as you can muster considering the condition of your lungs and stop pitifully in mid-inhalation to let out a deliberately extended sigh. That ugly bear she gave you still smells like her perfume. You’ve got to get rid of that fucking bear, you think to yourself, and add that you’ve always hated physics.

Your life has basically stopped since you last saw her, hasn’t it? When was the last time you’ve done something that really made you feel good about yourself? Who are you punishing? Strange, how you can ask yourself these questions daily and still not know the answers.

You lie back down on your bed and pick up the book that you can recall falling asleep with while reading sometime earlier in the week. For more than a few seconds, you cannot decipher the markings on your calendar well enough to determine the current date. Is it the ninth? No. Can’t be so soon. It’s not still January, is it? Pffft…

It doesn’t take you too long to realize that you’re not going to get too far with Act Two of John Webster’s "The Duchess of Malfi." You let The Norton Anthology of English Literature fall to the floor with a mighty thump as you reach for something you can deal with right now. "Naked Lunch" by William S. Burroughs is the call you make. Satisfied, you sit back and attempt to plow through the almost hopeless mess of a human mind that is represented on the pages when your eyes slowly glide shut under the pressure of gravity, dart open with deliberate intensity, carelessly ease shut again, make one last desperate effort to re-establish themselves, and then…simply…relax…

By the time you manage to re-open your eyes, you’ve completely lost track of all reality—a state of being that allows you to let small inconsistencies in your immediate environment slide by for the moment. It has happened before on occasion, and has never been much cause for alarm. That is why you don’t have too hard a time understanding why your ceiling appears to be breathing.

Slowly and severely, you begin to change your assessment of the situation. It’s not like it’s just waving around or moving back and forth chaotically. No, that might have been no problem—perhaps a minor hallucinogenic anomaly battling with your visual apparatus. Unfortunately, the ceiling isn’t merely breathing, but it is matching your respiration breath for breath, making you feel somehow trapped inside your own battered lungs. This, of course, makes you a tad uneasy. Your own perception of this discomfort only serves to escalate your heart rate and send your ceiling (and the walls, too, you now notice) into a frenzy of hyperventilation. At one point, you suddenly cease and desist all breathing—a tactic you somehow realize won’t get you too far. Two or so minutes later, the walls and ceiling almost explode all over, leaving you a puddle of mush with two useless hands and an incessantly ubiquitous wawawawawawawawa sound zipping back and forth through your ears. Uh…help, you think to yourself.

At this point, you’re quickly and completely overcome with a nagging yawn that just won’t go away. You can’t be sure of the time, but you figure that this one yawn—not a fit of yawning, but one simple yawn—goes on for an hour and a half. You’ve somehow aged significantly by the time you’re finished with this stupid yawn. In the immediate afterglow of its anticlimactic completion, you sit in frozen thought about the seemingly endless stream of thoughts that bounced around your head and off the walls during the ordeal. It was that smell. The godddamn perfume. That intoxicating stench of putrid memories that stain reality. It invaded every breath, every subsequent thought, every attempt to alter your situation, your thought processes, your life…Man, how can you be expected to defeat the diffusion of perfume particles, the only tangible manifestation of her existence in your life—a constant, stubborn reminder of all of the—Aaaarghh!

You throw your limp fist toward a window in the desperate hope that you can shatter the glass as easily as you’ve apparently shattered your grim life, but as the momentum of the lunge appears to forecast inevitable demise for the window, on impact your fist merely melts into the glass matrix with viscous authority. No crashing. No cataclysm. Just the simple integration of flesh and glass. You are hardly surprised when your left hand and forearm follow the same bizarre course right into the semi-solid glass windowpane. By the time you decide to smash your head against it in a fit of spastic rage, you’ve already hurled your upper body forward and you find yourself falling rapidly through space as you flip and flop on top of a twenty foot soft snowbank.

Lying prostrate on a sizable mound of collected snowflakes, you feel cold but comfortable. The sky above you is the brightest of blues with scattered collections of thick white clouds that swirl about like in a taffy maker. You carefully soak up the surrounding atmosphere. The cars, the houses, the trees, the walkers, the joggers, the dogs, the dog owners, the delivery people, the squirrels—everything appears animated and vital. You can somehow recall the sound of air escaping from a punctured basketball coming right up against your ears as you fell from the window. Sssssss. Sssssss…all the way down. The window is neither too close nor too far from your new perspective. You find it difficult to judge the precise distance. You can almost crack a wry smile as you take a deep breath of starved satisfaction and almost cough up a lung when you realize that you're lying on top of a pile of dog crap embedded in the snow.

The stink is bad, but you’ve experienced worse in your time. The sun burns through the crisp air, and as you lie there in the snow, partially immobile on a pile of dog crap, you shake your head sharply in opposite directions like an Etch-A-Sketch toy. Aw, what the hell, you think to yourself. Some things in life smell like shit.

Monday, February 07, 2005

I Was Told There Would Be No Math

I've got to admit that it took me more than a few weeks to even begin to try and comprehend the current debate our president has incited on the privitization of Social Security. As usual, I simply assumed that because it was his suggestion, it was a bad idea. And now I've read Roger Lowenstein's easy-to-follow, indespensible primer in the Times Magazine a few weeks back as well as Josh Marshall's obsessive play-by-play of the fight on Capitol Hill. And guess what? It's a bad idea.

But I don't have the time or patience to dissect the issues here. Just pick up any paper's op-ed page and you'll get plenty of details (and curiously, few if any sensible arguments in support of the policy-as-proposed). What's interesting is that President Bush seems as confused as anyone.

Now, in case you didn't pick up on it, The White House has conceded that whatever positive benefit of the Bush proposal, it is in no way a cure for what ails Social Security, and another remedy would be needed to forestall a future shortfall--whenever that might arrive. The current plan aims only to raise more money for individuals using private accounts that might earn more money over time than the Treasury bills Social Security currently invests in. The shortfall needs to be dealt with by some form of benefit cuts or tax hikes. It's that simple.

So in response to a question this weekend in Tampa Bay about how his proposal would ensure that Social Security won't run out of money down the road, Bush had this to say (as per a transcript on the White House web site):

Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised.

Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.

Okay, better? I'll keep working on it. (Laughter.)

Well, at least he's got a firm grip on the subject.


Sunday, February 06, 2005

Saturday, February 05, 2005

'85 Bears Return to Studio

Perhaps my favorite all-time Onion story, cut-and-pasted here for your reading pleasure in clear violation of copyright law:

CHICAGO -- In news that has electrified the music world, the Chicago Bears Shufflin' Crew announced Monday that it is reuniting and will soon begin work on its first new material since the seminal 1985 single "Super Bowl Shuffle. "

Confirming the recent swirl of music-industry rumors regarding a possible anniversary reunion, Shufflin' Crew lead singer Willie Gault told reporters, after years of solo gigs and side projects, "we decided it was time for us to work together again."

Gault went on to strongly deny rumors that the Crew was returning to the studio looking for trouble.

"We didn't come here looking for trouble," Gault said. "We just came to record the long-awaited follow-up to the 'Super Bowl Shuffle.'"

According to Shufflin' Crew member William Refrigerator Perry, he, Gault, and punky QB Jim McMahon have already sketched out rough demo versions of 10 to 15 songs, which, over the next two months, will be fleshed out in the studio with Chicago-based producer Steve Albini. Perry said fans can expect the new album to be much darker and more introspective than the group's Shuffle-era work.

"[The new album] will definitely reflect our maturation, both as a group and as individuals," said Perry, who may be large but is no dumb cookie. Back then, we were young, wild, and arrogant: Jim [McMahon] had his spiked hair, shades, and controversial, message-bearing headbands, and I had my legendary eating exploits and rushing touchdowns. We kind of had this attitude like, 'We're so bad, we know we're good, blowing your mind like we knew we would.' But, while the new record will still have that trademark Shufflin' Crew swagger, it will also show our more reflective side. "

All of the original Shufflin' Crew members are expected to participate in the reunion, with the exception of recently deceased Walter Payton, to whom the new album will be dedicated, and Otis Wilson, who told Spin magazine in a recent interview that his heart just isn't in it anymore. "Back when the group first started, we were just struttin' for fun," Wilson said. "But once we hit it big, everything changed. Suddenly, there were business meetings, publicity appearances, video shoots, Wheaties boxes, sponsorship deals. Before long, it wasn't about the music anymore. That's when I knew I had to get out. "

Numerous names have circulated as possible Wilson replacements, ranging from former Poco bassist Jim Messina to former Bengals running back Ickey Woods.

"Otis has made his decision, and we respect that. It will be difficult, but we must go on as a band without him," Shufflin' Crew co-founder and lead guitarist Mike Singletary said.

While the album is still months from completion, the Shufflin' Crew tried out some of the new material at an unannounced gig at Chicago's Empty Bottle music club last Friday. Response from the sold-out crowd was overwhelmingly positive.

"They sounded really good, really tight, man," said die hard fan Jeff Rampling of Des Plaines, IL, who estimated he has been to more than 250 Shufflin' Crew shows. "Once they got warmed up, they were rocking like vintage '85 Crew."

"They kicked some serious ass tonight," said Don Frischman, the lead singer of Four-Six Defense, a Shufflin' Crew tribute band. "Richard Dent still blows me away live."

In negotiating terms for the new album with Atlantic Records, the Shufflin' Crew made one demand: complete creative control over the project.

"We made it clear that under no circumstances would we allow participation by the female referee who twice blew a whistle over our singers' attempts to say the word 'ass' during the 'Shuffle' sessions," Singletary said. "The Bears traffic in the truth, and either you can handle it or you can't. Censorship is slavery."

Expected to hit stores in early 2004, the new album will be followed by a world tour in the spring of that year. All proceeds from both the album and tour will go to charity. "I want to stress that we are not doing this because we're greedy," backup singer Steve Fuller said. "The Bears are doing this to feed the needy."

One of the most successful bands of the mid-'80s, the Shufflin' Crew broke up in October 1987 due to creative differences and infighting, particularly between Gault and keyboardist Gary Fencik. Gault embarked on a solo career in 1988 and scored a minor R & B hit with "Chocolate Swirl (That's What I'm As Smooth As)," but never equaled the success he enjoyed with the Shufflin' Crew. Fencik and Fuller went on to form the supergroup Touchback with New York Giants wide receiver Phil McConkey and Kansas City Chiefs fullback Christian Okoye.

"After so many years apart, it feels good to be back together again," Gault said. "But most of all, I'm happy for all the Bears Shufflin' Crew fans out there. You guys are the reason we're shufflin' on down. We're doin' it for you."


Thursday, February 03, 2005


Help! I'm encased in terrorist plastic!

GI Joe: Captured!

In perhaps the most ridiculous of many ridiculous occurrences in Iraq, the soldier apparently captured, threatened with beheading and depicted with a rifle to his head on an Islamist website, turns out to be "Special Ops Cody," a military action figure manufactured in 2003.

Now, either these terrorists have a really twisted sense of humor, they're completely desperate or they are phenomenally stupid.

Last night's "Daily Show with Jon Stewart" did a far better job lampooning this silliness than I ever could. But some stories just lampoon themselves.

Top Five Songs "About" Animals

5. Stray Cat Strut, The Stray Cats
4. Wild Horses, The Rolling Stones
3. Hell Hound On My Trail, Robert Johnson
2. Three Little Birds, Bob Marley
1. Hound Dog, Elvis Presley

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Playing The Holocaust Card

A well-argued op-ed from Saturday's New York Times by Ami Eden, the national editor at the Forward, who speaks a hard truth about how Jews are perceived around the world.

As a non-practicing, agnostic but conscious Jew (and contributor to the Forward), I often cringe when the Anti-Defamation League chimes in after any perceived insult. The Jews of 2005 are not the same disenfranchised lot of WWII, and I understand the value behind the exhortation to "never forget" the inhumanity visited upon God's "chosen people." But it's one thing to educate and remind the world of a great atrocity and quite another to beat people over the heads with it. Especially in a world infected with delusions of a Jewish cabbal at the heart of everything bad that happens.

I think it's time work on a new PR campaign, is all.