mercredi, novembre 22, 2006

Finnigan, Begin Again (or, No Pun Intended, Dammit)

I'm changing my name.

I'm not ashamed of who I am, and am only slightly ashamed of my family, but my name is flatly unacceptable. Even when pronounced correctly, the nasality of the opening letter and the subsequent tendency to give the vowells a midwestern shortening makes the whole thing rather unattractive. Nobody can say it right without hearing it. It's a great way to weed out telemarketers, but sadly when people finally say it right, I realize I wish they hadn't.

It is an uncommon name, to be sure, and you would think the particularity advantage would overrule the sonic defects, but it doesn't. I've always hated the sound of it. (I'll admit that for two years in Quebec, I loved the way the French said it. But I can't get people to say it that way here. I can't even bring myself to ask people to say it that way.)

Everything else aside, my father was adopted. We are grateful to the people who raised him, but their name gives us no indication of where we are from, or what genetic predispositions we may have. I feel no connection to it. People hear it and say "Interesting. Where does a name like that come from?" I always want to say, "I actually don't care." But I can't bring myself to say that. So now the name has a multiplicity of distinct disadvantages, number one being the constant reminder of my conversational impotence.

A certain amount of excitement prevailed when Dad found his birth mother. Her family name was Tosch. I instantly thought: "Now there's a name I can use." It's authoritative and efficient. Crisp even. Say it with me: Tosch. See what I mean? It's infinitely better. So at the big reunion, I asked her where it was from, hoping to introduce the idea of me acquiring the name. She didn't know. She was adopted, too. She had kept the name out of gratitude and had a healthy disdain for the idea of seeking out her birth parents. When I asked her if she had any idea of the birth name, she said: "I've always been a Tosch." Easy for her to say. I instantly formulated Plan B: the bio-dad's name. Surely she must remember the last name of the man who fathered her first and newly discovered child. "I try not to think about him," she said, "he had no honor."
Such are the petty depths I've achieved. I crave the name of a man with no honor, convinced before even hearing it that it has got to be better than the one I've been stuck with.

Friends don't get it. They put the topic in the same reject bin to which they relegate my regular explorations into breaking my legs to increase my height. But I mention it to them anyway.
"What if the guy's name was Buttkowski?" they ask, "or Humperdinck, or Balzac?" I don't dignify their rhetorical nay-saying with a reply. I know there is a better name for me out there, and until a reliable source tells me that his name was Skidstain, and that he was adopted anyway, my hope will spring eternal. Just need to find a way to get my new Grandma to talk, or remember.

But in the meantime, we get by with a little help from our friends, even when they are just trying to make a point. "I've got an idea," says JayDiggity over lunch, "You should change your name to Dammit."
He had my attention.
"Think of the possibilities!"
My mind was instantly whirling. I mean, it had no connection to my family line, but neither does my current one, and think fo the Pizazz!
"Who wrote this?" I could hear people asking. "What do you mean who wrote it? It was Scott, Dammit!" or "He was a rather pleasant fellow, what was his name again?"
"Come again?"
"Scott, Dammit!"

I could go on. Like what if I joined the Army? "NAME, RANK, AND CEREAL NUMBER!" the Sargeant would shout.
"Dammit, Sir, Private first class, 14526371!"
The possibilities are endless. It's a name with a party in it. I was ready to draw up the papers.

Until I realized my initials would then spell "SKiD". As it is, "SKiN" is accepted as my current acronym. (My initials giving the SKN, with an "i" for "idiot," or "insert affectation here.") SKiD is OBVIOUSLY, SUPREMELY unacceptable.

So here I am back at square one. A name I don't like; legs two inches shorter than God, the Universe, or Mother Nature intended; and no foreseeable way out of either unacceptable situation.

Luckily, I long ago stopped asking when I'm gonna catch a break.

mardi, novembre 07, 2006


I caught myself.

On the verge of writing about the way Billy Ray Cyrus seems to have ressurected himself (sans mullet) through the surprise hit Hannah from Montana, the realization struck me that three posts about country music stars in a row would give the reader a wrong impression. (And when I say "the reader" I mean the one person reading this--but it still matters)

Luckily the greatest comedy genius of our time came along and put us all back on track.

Mark my words, Borat is going to become the seminal cultural/comedic experience of the decade. And everyone I ask gives me the same comment. Essentially: I feel dirty and violated, and I don't think I could sit through it again--but I HAVE NEVER LAUGHED LIKE THATat a movie.

I know I have to see it. However (and this will surprise "the reader") I am trepidatious, because the "dirty and violated" aspect is something I try to avoid. Has there ever been a movie that repulsed and beckoned, sickened and satisfied to such extremes, and simultaneously?

Does that make it a work of Art, or a train wreck?

samedi, octobre 14, 2006


When Michael Jackson sang "Leave Me Alone," a song about how hard it is to be a millionaire freak show, he was adding a voice of warning to his face of warning. But the eternal principles and consequences he was elucidating, and to which only he cannot fall victim, went unheeded. Except by me--irrelevant because I don't have a career to kill.
Hence, when the new Dixie Chicks new album came out, it sent chills down my spine to notice the undeniable fact that the singer looked like a blonde Michael Jackson . Not the scary one of today, the relatively normal looking one from the Thriller video. She has the same eye make up, and is apparently wearing the same prosthetics. Mostly it was just creepy and I feared she may be lurking in the dark recesses of my basement. But there was more to it than that--much more.

It was more proof that the charismatic controversial Chicks from Dixie are on their way out. The first sign a band is finished is when they start singing about what it's like to be a rock star. How hard it is to be on the road. Or how their ideas need to be taken seriously. ETC. It killed Journey. It finished the Squirrel Nut Zippers. It almost put Kid Rock out to pasture. It kills Morrissey repeatedly, but he valiantly rises from his own ashes and remembers that a music icon singing about his career as a music icon is a short, dead-end alley. (Rappers are exempt because from the off all they ever talk about is how great they are anyway. In fact, as they exception that proves the rule, you might have noticed how they fade away when they stop talkin' 'bout all they bling, and how all the suckah MC's go runnin' when they on the mic.)
I don't have a problem with the Chicks personally, or even politically. (They are less than irrelevant on both counts, so why bother considering, much less objecting?) I'm not saying they SHOULD go away. And I'm definitely not saying that I yearn for the halcyon days when their borderline intelligence, sub-teenage take on vigilante justice lit up the airwaves with country cross-over frenzy. Maybe Earl did have to die. It isn't for me to say. This is about sympathy for three girls who, without pseudo-country music, would be neither pretty enough nor smart enough to make their way in this big crazy world. Someone should have told them: "Don't release that song about how tough it has been to be you. Don't let the sun set on your short career! Stick to dishing out Stevie Nicks' table scraps! Or go back to singing about Earl before your career has to die!"
But nobody told them. And now, as if to confirm the prophecy of doom, on the very cover of their CD, the singer looks like Michael Jackson in the Thriller video. Nobody who resembles Jacko in any way can be long for this world. The dark voodoo technology required to keep him and his career alive cannot be replicated.

Nothing can save them now. But perhaps their chapter in the chronicles of fading limelight will serve to warn the next generation of (vaguely) talented, cross-over(trailor) trash (talking) dissidents.

lundi, octobre 02, 2006

This Thing(s) I Believe

Kenny Rogers is taking over the world.

This has been stewing for some time, and, though I know at this point that I am risking my very life, silence is no longer an option.

It started years ago. I was in Quebec. (Please, please say "Kay-Bec"). I was a busy young man. I had a lot of responsibility, and almost no free time. Then one day, whilst delivering meals to the elderly (seriously) I spotted a strange restaurant looking place in the bizarre middle ground between the historic part of the city and the outlying slums: Chez Kenny. I wish I could show you a photo. The sign out front bore his likeness. Some of the letters may have been written in Western Style rope. The "C" was definitely a sidewise horse shoe. Innocently, I gasped with delight and insisted that my associate park the car and take my picture standing beneath the sign. He took my camera and crossed the street, smiling like a young man sharing a great joke.

Just as he was saying "One more for luck!" a man who was equal parts squat and stern came out and gave me the stare down. I didn't know what to say. As my brain tried to formulate how to express comic enthusiasm for the establishment, he said the French Canadian equivalent of "What in the hell are you doing?" His tone seemed intended to instill fear. It worked. The word for "fan" left my brain, and I almost said "I love Kenny Rogers!" But gushing didn't seem right. So I went default and began to say I was from out of town. He cut me off.

"Get the Hell out of Here," he said, his verbage ensuring me that he was streetwise, serious, and dedicated to stomping out the scourge of people with affected metropolitain university French. My associate across the street had instinctively hidden the camera and was already warming up the car. All I could muster was "Sorry. Goodbye" as I tried not to run. I don't know why I wanted to run, except for a gut level feeling that he was going to shoot me, coupled with a fear that at that stage I didn't even know the word for gun.

All the way back to the appartment, (as I have periodically in the years since) I wondered what it all meant. What could a business of any kind with a name like Chez Kenny, have to hide? And if it was a business, what did they have to gain by frightening off potential customers? It actually used to make me laugh. "Kenny Rogers has some seriously serious fans up there in Quebec" I would tell my friends.

But it began to usettle me. I began to catalogue in my head the unlikely career path of a man whose greatest apparent talent is beard husbandry, catapulted to stardome by the unthinkable premise that a hit song should be the basis of a TV movie of the week. I remember my parents gushing about the "combined stage presence of Kenny and Dolly" upon returning from a concert that was part of a national tour that sprang from the blandest top 40 duet in history. I pictured him and Lionel Ritchie seated at a piano, Kenny nodding and saying: "Let us officially invent the cross over hit." I began to suspect there had to be some ulterior purpose. Some nefarious sub-plot. Then I heard about his freakish plastic surgery. (They pulled his face so tight, his beard now grows BEHIND HIS EARS). I saw him hosting shows about the old west on the history channel. Finally, I stumbled across the unbridled horror of ""

I don't begrudge anyone fame and fortune. This is the land of opportunity. If Tom Cruise can stare his way to 20 million per picture, then we have to accept that anything can happen. But this is something else entirely. You people have to pull your heads out and realize that the human race as we know it is about to be tested. Sooner than later the mysterious chain of "establishments" will be closed for "repurposing." Not long after, those few Americans who never recieved the hypnotic implant from any of his songs or TV apearances will be forced into submission by the nocturnal machinations of an unholy army of KennyKlones.

And all people will serve The Gambler.

And he will hold, then fold us all in the bladed wings of his dominion. And darkness, and the black age of Kenny will hold illimitable influence over all.

And just before your consciousness is absorbed, you will remember for a brief moment that you were warned. And you didn't listen.

samedi, septembre 16, 2006

Hollywood Insider

A situation developed at the Temple Beth El Hospital in southern Orange County (CA), when a crazed Steven Colbert broke into an operating room and absconded with Barry Manilow's double hip replacements, at the very moment doctors were about to install them. Colbert was somehow able to get to the roof, and onlookers gasped as he held the synthetic hips over the edge, proclaiming through a megaphone that "If you ever want to see Barry walk again, this Emmy situation damn well better get rectified!"

Doctors in the operating room kept Mr. Manilow sedated, as they frantically sought a pair of back up hips from storage. The man who brought America so many memorable tunes was admirably brave, and did not wake up from his sedated state.

LAPD terror negotiators arrived on the scene and immediately offered to give Mr. Colbert the Emmy that "that woman from Will & Grace stole." Colbert consented, on the grounds that the nameplate on the award be changed to reflect that he had won the "biggest balls in the biz" award, and demanded to be prosecuted and sentenced in a way that would benefit his burgeoning career. Police agreed, the stand-off ended, and doctors proceeded to replace Manilow's hips.

Just in time for him to be nominated for Best Performance in a Prime-Time News Story.

lundi, septembre 04, 2006

Classic Rock--and other things everybody with a lick of sense HATES

I don't like classic rock. Actually I hate it. I want all those doped up, long haired, sweaty, over sexed free love left over groupie humpers to disappear. I know, I know, they'll all burn in hell forever, writhing in pain as their own endless masturbatory guitar solos torture their swollen eardrums. But I take no comfort in that.

And I don't like dancing.
I love music. I love exercise. I even love to combine the two. And I've seen a few people who can even hold my attention while they dance. But to stand in a crowd, with or without a partner, and flail, or gyrate, or whatever? It's difficult to think of anything more pointless. I still remember the last time I went "clubbing." There I was, surrounded by people dancing--flashing lights, driving beat, the scent of sex clinging to the fake smoke--and suddenly I just stopped. I couldn't figure out what was fun about it. I couldn't justify my presence in that meat market. After a few motionless minutes on the dance floor, I walked off, and never went back. Since then, I've danced, but only under duress. And I hate the people who guilt or jilt me into it every second. It is NOT fun. If you think it is, you're wrong. Enjoy it. But you're wrong.
I don't generally like concerts, either. Occasionally an intimate evening with someone I've admired for years pops up and I'll . . . On second thought: No. It doesn't. Concerts are loud, sweaty, merchandise ridden mob fests. They disgust me. And they should disgust you. Don't give me this crap about somebody having all this great energy or sounding better live. Nobody sounds better live, or they wouldn't bother releasing a studio album. And all that "energy" you talk about is really just jumping around like an idiot three-year-old with adult genetalia that pump caffeinated meth into the brain. I saw Iggy Pop on a DVD, and I swear I almost shot the television. What a truly revolting and infantile display. If I wanted to pay to watch someone have a seizure, I'd give my money to a real epileptic. Iggy Pop is a dog on speed with a microphone. He comes to you with his tongue out, turns you around, bends you over and violates you. And you give him money for it.

It's starting to sound like I have something against gyration. I assure you that isn't the case. And now that I think about it, I'll have to give you my first Tori Amos concert, because it was just her and a piano, no screaming teens and I swear she looked me right in the eye twice and the second time was really intimate. I'll bet she remembers me.
I might also concede They Might Be Giants, because I laughed enough to forget that I was exchanging sweat with a stranger through a thirty dollar T-shirt.

And I don't understand the attraction of the tropics. I love the ocean. I love snorkeling, scuba, the whole bit. But I'm not impressed by palm trees and balmy temperatures. The beach has very little to offer. Who cares about soaking in the damn sun? Maybe if I was born there, or had to work there, I could appreciate it. But going out of my way to vacation in some tropical paradise? Forget it. I love the climate where I am, that's why I live here.
Which brings me to cruises. Everybody talks about a cruise like it's the Holy Grail of vacations. I say go ahead and cram that oversized sardine can full of people who somehow like the idea of overeating, dancing the night away to the "musical stylings" of someone so talented they couldn't get a gig on dry land, tipping flunkies until your kid's college fund is dry and sleeping in a closet. Just leave me the hell out of it. I watched The Love Boat. It was nightmarish. Take your cruise and shove it. Choke on it. Whatever. Just don't talk to me about it.

I also hate protests. Hate them. It is my sincere belief that any crowd that begins a sentence with "Hey Hey! Ho Ho!" and finishes it with "Blah blah blah blah [something that rhymes with 'Ho']!" should be mowed down with a firehose. I'd turn the water on. I MIGHT admire someone who held up a sign that said: "I'm not smart or influential enough to play a real role in our representative republic! I'm politically impotent! But I'm angry and I wanted to share that with random passers by!" But even that is not worth broadcasting, is it? To hell with all of them.

The reader should know that I am a young man. A young man in super hip low slung pants made for women. A happy Gen X-er with a lust for life.

I am not a curmudgeon.

Some things just get my dander up.

jeudi, juin 22, 2006

An Open Dialogue

Scientist 1: Global Warming is obviously the greatest threat to humanity since Nuclear Winter.
Scientist 2: Which never happened. And never could have happened. And was a giant pseudo-scientific farce designed to propagandize people into political reactionism.
Scientist 1: You just spoke out in favor of Global Warming! I hate you, goddamn selfish conservative anti-environment/pro-pollution idustrial capitalist bastard. Nothing you say has any value, and when you speak at Universities, people should throw pies on you to illustrate that your ridiculous ideas do not even merit an intellectual response.
Scientist 2: I believe that global warming is a reality.
Scientist 1: Oh, then welcome to the fold. I have some lobbyist friends who can get government funding for your research.
Scientist 2: Global warming has been happening slowly and steadily for the last 8,000 years. It caused the renaissance. It ended the most recent Ice Age. It seems to be part and parcel of a planetary climate system in which the only constant is change. The question is, what can we calmly do to better manage our role in a system so variable and complex as nature? There is ample evidence that in some ways, things are getting better, not worse. Which is NOT to say we shouldn't seek improvements and minimize our impact. I just really don't think panic or hate speech is the answer.
Scientist 1: [frustrated sigh] You are blinded by your hatred of Mother Earth! You have your head in the sand. Global Warming is a reality; and until you wake up and smell the greenhouse gasses, the planet will continue to sink into oblivion. We will all drown, or starve, or freeze, and with our dying breath we will gasp: "Why did we not stop all this senseless, hateful consumerism?"
Scientist 2: In the ONE scientific part of what you just said, you actually quoted what I just said! Please forgive my attempts to have a rational scientific discussion, I was distracted by my argument. I realize there's no sex appeal in calm rationality. . . Let's see . . . um . . . You came here to collect your exhorbitant appearance fee in a fossile fuel burning private jet, you hypocritical son of a bitch!
Scientist 1: Oh, sure--right to the character assassination! You hate mongers are all the same--
Scientist 2: What about the Private Jet?
Scientist 1: You pander to your ignorant, red neck, homophobic political base--
Scientist 2: What about the jet?
Scientist 1: And you sit there with your Big Mac and your SUV while the rainforest falls all around you!
Scientist 2: Answer the question!
Scientist 1: I mourn for the Earth. I hurt inside. I spend my waking hours going from state to state--
Scientist 2: IN A PRIVATE JET!
Scientist 1: getting the message out. And at night I wet my pillow with tears for the destruction we humans have wrought! We've cut down all the trees! We've poisoned the oceans! We are destroying the future! Why do you hate my children?
Scientist 2: Listen, you tree hugging, dope smoking, hippie whack job: If your tofu breath hasn't sent the ozone layer running for cover by now, then nothing ever will. And let me tell you something . . . I . . . uh . .
Scientist 1: What--c'mon, you were doing really well there. Don't stop now.
Scientist 2: I'm sorry, I just can't get into it. I'm trying, I really am, I just . . . I don't drive an SUV. I get fifty miles per gallon in my diesel Jetta with fuel my friend makes from soybeans.
Scientist 1: Wow. My Subaru outback only gets 20 miles to the galon. But there's a lot of room for bumper stickers, and it's still better than your gigantic SUV.
Scientist 2: I just said, I don't have an SUV.
Scientist 1: Of course you do, and so do half the Democrat senators I support on my popular vitriolic blog. But it just isn't right demonizing people who care.
Scientist 2: It just isn't right demonizing people who care.
Scientist1: And you obviously don't care.
Scientist 2: You obviously don't care.
Scientist 1: Stop copying me.
Scientist 2: Stop copying me.
Scientist 1: Seriously, don't.
Scientist 2: Seriously d--
Scientist 1: KNOCK IT OFF! Why do you have to be so damn childish?
Scientist 2: Sorry. I was just trying to be antagonistic. I keep feeling this urge to say something detached and analytical, and I get all muddled. I guess I'm just old school. I was only bought by the conservatives a couple of weeks ago. Until then I was a real scientist.
Scientist 1: Hey, it's alright. I was new at this once, too. We come from different places. I want to save the world; you still want to analyze it. But we're scienticians now, commentators. You know, pundits. Propaganda is the only middle ground we have.
Scientist 2: And it's "the only way we can BOTH appear victorious with our extremist constituencies." I know. But what if I don't want to be "victorious?" What if I just want to keep science from being railroaded by politicians?
Scientist 1: That's crazy talk and you know it. Politics is the only way to get money from a caretaker government. And sensationalism is the--
Scientist 2: "only way to create the ignorant public outcry that pushes politicians to throw money around in a desperate attempt to keep their jobs." I've read the manual. [takes a deep breath and sighs] O.K. Can we start over at the beginning?
Scientist 1: Fine, but we have to hurry it up. Someone is talking about putting up a windfarm in the harbor, and I have to put a stop to it. It's really gonna mess up my view and drive property values down. Ready? Here we go: All the evidence, without exception, indicates very clearly that Global Warming, the latest tool of Crooked Capitalist Bastards, is going to destroy the Earth TONIGHT after the Eleven O'clock news!
Scientist 2: WRONG! It is a complete myth foisted upon environmentalist whacko lapdogs who need to feel like they're involved in some higher cause because their Godless lifestyle leaves them feeling empty! You won't be happy until the government tells everybody what color to paint their mandatory Yugo! Well, let me tell you something, mister long haired, dreadlocked, left wing . . .

[Fade to black.]

lundi, mai 22, 2006

Transcript of Original Speech on "Immigration"

My fellow Americans: I come before you tonight to tear this whole immigration charade a new one. First of all, can we drop the whole "immigrant" thing? We don't have an immigration problem. The system of legal immigration is as backed up, as bloated, and as constipated as it is supposed to be. As with all things bureaucratic, it is designed to be just broken enough to justify more money in the next budget. What we do have a problem with, is illegal immigration. And the problem is, you don't get it.
I know you don't, because 75% of you are unhappy with the millions of illegals pouring over an unsecured border, which means that 25% of you think that's just fine, and since 75 plus 25 equals one hundred, clearly, one hundred percent of you have your heads so far up your derrieres that you can't tell a fish taco from a hole in the wall.
Let me explain. You see, as President, I have a unique perspective that 100% of you do not have. I occupy a singular postition, riding a fence that most of you don't have to ride. For instance, you either don't know, or you have forgotten that as president I am beholden to the worldwide communist movement, and I am therefore dedicated to making sure that our nation is flooded with uneducated, unskilled, underprivileged scofflaws. It's the only way to strangle the life out of those who control the means of production, cripple our government services, and bring our system of representative government and free enterprise to its knees.
But I am also in the breast pocket of Big Business, and am therefore dedicated to the task of importing an ever growing army of laborers who are willing to work for insanely low wages, and without the benefit of union membership, workman's comp and disability protection, or a health plan.
Beyond my obligations to seemingly oppositional and ultimately mysterious forces, I care. I care about the mexican people. I believe we must not punish people for wanting to participate in building up, not to mention the destruction, of our great republic. In my humble opinion we must reward the raw tenacity of anyone willing to cross the dark night of uncertainty and drop a baby on the hot sand of the Arizona desert. I believe that we must reward the ingenuity of anyone willing to subvert the system in a way that gives millionaires one more thing they don't have to pay for, and activists one more thing they can scream about.
For those of you who believe that Mexico is passively taking back land that we took by force, I congratulate you on your historical insight. I have it on good authority that the nation of Mexico has been surreptitiously acting all along to return the land to the Native Americans they took it from, at which point they will pack up and go home . . . to Spain, which they will then abandon to the barbarian tribes who took the land from the Romans who took it from them.
So I hereby propose to do what every president and every politician on both sides of the aisle have done since the days of Julius Cesar: I will appear in every way to care, and appear in certain ways to act, and will in the mean time trust America to understand that doing anything substantive is absolutely out of the question.

samedi, mai 20, 2006

Please see below

A post entitled: "Dear Mr. Baldwin" has appeared below "Sense and Sensitivity." I don't know why it is out of order.

vendredi, avril 28, 2006

Sense and Sensitivity

I remember scoffing--scoffing with extreme prejudice--at the concept of Sensitivity Training.

But I might need it.

Never mind even that I believe with absolute, unshakable faith in a glorious resurrection. And forget about my nasty habit of enjoying life enough to feel like kissing it goodbye wouldn't be a soul shattering tragedy. I've just always been OK with Death. Really OK.

Which is really not OK in the eyes of people who want to make a big deal about it for whatever reason. (The reason is usually melodrama, hystrionics, or ignorance--but pointing that out will get you slapped with the old "Judgemental Ass" label. For whatever reason.) So I keep my opinion mostly to myself. People don't want to hear it. Never mind that I believe in meeting people where they are.

Recently, when a co-worker's distant relation passed on, even as I refused to sink to the maudlin level of the proletariat and spout the usual meaningless condolences, I did refrain from spouting anything beyond an earnest: "He was lucky to have you in his life." (I highly recomend this approach. It obviates acrimony and contention by changing the subject away from Death. As an added bonus, I really meant it.) And as I turned to walk away and savor the sweetness of dodging a bullet, she murmured, "It was just so sudden."

Obviously, she was looking to tangle. She needed the drama, I guess. And when someone throws down the gauntlet like that, you cannot with impunity ignore it. Your honor is at stake.

"Hold on a minute," I said. "What do you mean, 'it was just so sudden?'"

"I mean, it was unexpected."

"I'm sorry, but I couldn't have heard you correctly. Did you just say that the only absolute eventuality since the dawn of time was unexpected?"

"I didn't--"

"Did you miss the fact that 100% of the people who have been born on this earth have died, most of them at random junctures or in coincidental circumstances?"

"It wasn't that--"

"How DARE YOU? How dare you claim the responsibilities and trappings of adulthood and slather them all over with the sickly sweet frosting of infantile expectations! How dare you come in here asking to exchange the basest emotional childishness for sympathy! I mean COME ON!"

Naturally, she was speechless. "Probably can't find the words to thank me," I was thinking. I had just offered her exactly the hystrionics she had been seeking. Or if not, at least I had given her some simple facts that should have, in my mind, taken the edge off her so-called loss.

My lawyers have instructed me not to describe in any way what happened next. But suffice it to say, I was wrong.

mardi, avril 25, 2006

Dear Mr. Baldwin

A reporter walks into a crowd of people chanting anti Bush slogans. He chooses a woman at random and interrupts her indecipherable rhythmic bile with a question: "What brings you out here to the protest today?"
She stares blankly. He thinks for a moment she is preparing a lucid statement of opposition to the current administration. She promptly proves him wrong.
"My husband."
"You came with your husband?"
"Yeah, I just came with him. I don't know that much about it."
How enlightened. Well, I guess blind, subservient vitriol is just as loud. Keep yelling, sister.

UNJUSTIFIED STEREOTYPE #1: The week willed, obedient women are at the protests. Old fashioned men who think a woman should simply defer to her man's opinion need look no further.
QUERY: If a right winger had knocked her up first, would she be off on the other side of the steps yelling "Support our troops?"
UNTENABLE CONCLUSION: Opposition is so important to our system that you don't need to base it on anything. Just be indignant. You are a credit to a time honored tradition of . . . I can't remember the term. I'm really just here with my wife.

A politician waves an article from USA Today as he blasts the powers that be for their oppression and suppression and I don't know what all. A day later, entities implicated in the "journalism" begin stating facts that happen to run contrary to the Gospel According to USA Today. The politician quiets down. Maybe he knows what's coming next. Sure enough, someone looks up his voting record and finds proof of him voting in favor of legislation eerily similar to that which he has been railing against--back when people he agreed with were in power.

UNJUSTIFIED STEREOTYPE #2: Americans' position on the issues and level of satisfaction with the power structure depends solely on whether or not they happen to ideologically agree with the party in power. Your opinion is not an opinion: If you hate the president, nothing he does will please you. If you happen to like the president, he can bomb all the innocent children and vitamin factories he wants. Your mind was made up when he called the fetus either a "baby," or an "unviable tissue mass."
QUERY: When the Economy is reported to be doing rather well, do you say "Damn, Bush's numbers are gonna go up," or "Wait a minute, if everything is fine, but consumer debt is at a record high, we might be headed for trouble that has nothing to do with who is in power." Wait, you didn't hear the economy was doing really well?
FLAWED BUT SEEMINGLY INEVITABLE LOGICAL CONCEPTUAL CHAIN: Politicians have, without exception, sold their souls to essentially identical party structures in much the same way that doctors have been swallowed up into the HMO's--with all the same nefarious results. The American people have been taken along for the ride. We are tools of a systemically corrupt machinery of extremes that reinforce each other. Given that said machinery is self sustaining, and designed to withstand the influence of individuals by a) pitting them against each other in ideological mortal combat, wherein anyone who appears to disagree with you is the enemy, and b) fooling them into thinking that by aligning themselves with a group of like-minded people, they can make a difference by defeating the bad guys on the other side, you have only two choices: 1) Give in--cuddle up in the cozy flannel of polarization, filter everything through the filter of who you are supposed to like and hate according to your chosen blanket--relax, knowing that party affiliation is all you really have to know about anyone, or 2) Give up--The system is broken--everything sucks--so you can with good conscience sign off and consider yourself above it all.

Whatever you chose, I don't want to hear about it. But do us a favor. Call poor Alec Baldwin's radio show and reassure him that even if the recent public MRI didn't reveal any brain mass, he is still a very good looking man with a talent for narration. When it's scripted.

UNJUSTIFIED STEREOTYPE #3: These Hollywood pretty boys are empty shells, who should not be allowed off the red carpet--for their own good, and the good of the nation.
QUERY: If a nation falls in the forest and there are no reality show TV cameras to record it, did it really happen?
COMPLETELY JUSTIFIED AND ABSOLUTELY UNDENIABLE CONCLUSION: Alec Baldwin (and everyone not making fun of him) is an idiot. He should run for president. He shouldn't BE president, but he should run. By himself he could scare up a viable third party movement.

samedi, avril 15, 2006

Peace Talks . . .

. . . in the Middle East were derailed late Saturday evening when it was announced that stricken former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was bathed the blood of Palestinian children. Palestinian militants were outraged when Israeli doctors claimed it was a medical procedure with a high degree of historically documented success. Members of Sharon' s own Likud party claimed the procedure was justified, given the recent election of the "suicide bomber party" in Palestine. Palestinian leaders reacted with a sneer, saying: "You're only saying that because of our Holy Vow before God to erase your people utterly from the face of the Earth."
Then Israel said: "Oh, yeah? Well, which one of us is flying a deadly armada of American-made fighter jets?"
So Palestine said: "Go ahead and fly all the jets you want, jerks! As soon as Iran goes nuclear, you can kiss your sorry asses goodbye in a New York minute!"
And then Israel was all: "New York Minute? Is that some kind of veiled 9-11 joke? You think you're clever, bitch? Well, we're telling the Americans you said that!"
So Palestine was all: "Go ahead! They're too pussy to use their nukes for real--besides, they're funding us too--at least until we blow them up--and half of them want us to win, so there!"
Members of the U.N. Security Council praised the dialogue and were encouraged by what they called "progress towards yet another delicious black eye for the Americans who pay for everything."
Speaking at the funeral of a close friend, former president Bill Clinton said: "Remember, I started the peace process in the Middle East. That was me. I did that. If I could have run for a third term, those people would be huggin' and kissin' and lovin' all over each other. The current Administration has no flower power."
Spokesmen for the White House simply pushed play on the tape recorded message that says: "We are winning the War on Terror."

mercredi, avril 12, 2006


Turns out my Dad has an admirable collection of Jerry Garcia ties.

Maybe I was wrong about everything.


samedi, avril 08, 2006


My parents were nerds.

They listened to classical music. They worked hard, dressed well, and bathed regularly.
They believed in rules and decorum and hard work.

Worst of all, they loved America. My mother you can forgive. Being one of those old fashioned immigrants who came here because she considered it philosophically superior to the South Africa of her youth. So she's unfashionable--but anyone raised under Apartheid gets a pass. No such luck for my dad, who studied political science, served in the Air Force during Vietnam, and still stood there in short hair and shoes saying what a great place this is. Once he even tried to tell me that Leave it to Beaver was an accurate portrayal of life in the fifties.

So I missed the whole hippy thing. Having no point of reference, I simply thought of them as the loud, dirty people who complained more than they contributed. Don't blame my folks; they didn't indoctrinate me. Really. It was a conclusion I drew as a young boy with budding OCD symptoms who did well in school and liked things like order and hygiene.
But don't get the idea that they were any help, either. My parents made no attempt whatsoever to let me in on the whole hippy thing. They never said "man," never did drugs, never even wore real bell bottom trousers.
My dad took us to a protest once, but it was a protest against the state raising income taxes. He was wearing a suit and tie. Even though we got to miss school that day, it was clear we were not there to buck the establishment. All the way to the protest he talked about the founding fathers and the constitution. It felt more like school than school. And even if he had been wearing Birkenstocks and a tie-dyed serape, his chants of "That government governs best which governs least!" would have given him away.
Come to think of it, Mom was no help at all, even with the Apartheid thing. As the world was teaching me that my maternal homeland was the greatest evil since Hitler, she unthinkably found positive things to say about South Africa, and would never let anyone who hadn't lived there bad mouth the place. Despite all her political disagreements, she still had this weird thing about respecting one's birthplace. And when it had become sufficiently disagreeable, she had found a more compatible place and moved. Even in that place that was so ripe for revolution and protest, she never carried a sign, never marched on the capital, never put off showering until people saw the light. She just came to a place where, according to her, "people are free to achieve their potential no matter what color they are." By the time I was old enough to understand how elegantly misinformed she was, it was too late. I'd missed the boat.

In subsequent years, I grew to hate the whole hippy thing. First I told myself it was aesthetic. I just wasn't favorably inclined to gaudy oranges and greasy, unwashed hair. I told myself that women with shaved legs and armpits were more attractive. I valued deodorant. When ZZ-Top said "Every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man," I took it as a personal vindication of my hopelessly fashionable, cutting-edge-but-still-clean-cut visual philosophy.
But it went beyond clothes and razors. As years passed, even as I thought I was adopting an easy going, open minded "the sun rises on us all with equal splendor" approach, I found my own voice--and found myself wanting to raise it loud and say "Shut the hell up!" to hippies and what I came to refer to as "their ilk." I hated their air of moral superiority, their almost constant doomsday prophesying, the way they seemed to think they owned social consciousness. When their lack of religion became their religion, it seemed to me a delicious indictment of their snobbism. I felt shameful joy whenever their lifestyle turned against them in the form of drug overdoses, or sexually transmitted diseases, or serial divorces. I felt myself giving into rage when people I unfairly associated with hippies complained about anything at all. "Make a contribution other than the complaint," I'd say, "and maybe someone will listen to you." When Astronomers debunked the psuedo-religion of astrology as an abjectly ridiculous fiction, and informed the world that, even if it did have some kind of mystical effect on the inhabitants of planet Earth, the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius remains, in fact, more than 500 years away, I smiled with exactly one side of my face and said, "go get 'em, tiger."

Then one day I was eating a Ben and Jerry's Peace Pop. A co-worker commented on how delicious it looked, and I actually opened my mouth and said "Yeah, isn't it great the way they exploit the idea of 'Peace' to sell ice-cream?"
Not "Yes, it is delicious; you should try one." Not, "I'd share it with you if you weren't so germ-phobic." Not even "Ah yes, the ultimate in post modern convenience: the fattening phallus." There I was with opportunities all around me for kindness and/or comedy, and instead I was making an impotent political diatribe. It was the end: I had become what I despised. Weeks later as I laid my soul bear to a friend, he put the cap on it. "Why hate?" he said, "The extravagancies of the hippies lead indirectly to a lot of positives in our society."
You're so right, I thought, then told myself: It's my parents' fault. I was raised wrong.

But we all have to reach that point where our parents' blame ends and our personal responsibility begins. I have to accept the possibility that a good deal of the bitterness I felt towards my parents for being nerdy and un-hip has been transferred to the movement, lifestyle, and philosophy they unwittingly hid from my understanding. A new day has to dawn, one in which I let go of my gut level revulsion, and simply let the hippies be.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to wish that the guy with the "Fund Schools, Not Wars!" bumper sticker who walks right by the school bake sale without buying so much as a cupcake would drive his car off a cliff. But I can no longer relish this wish. And I can no longer associate such idiocy with the golden era of greasy, long-haired, unkempt, pot smoking, bra-less, dread-locked followers of the Grateful dead, whose caravans passed my parents by.

samedi, janvier 28, 2006

Inside Out

Stay with me. This isn't going to be pleasant.

Sitting in a local eatery, a friend slyly points out to me the outrageous portions ordered by the outrageously proportioned couple at a nearby table. "Don't stare," he warns as I gawk, a rubber necker at a culinary accident. The couple seems absorbed by the act of eating. Assured they are not on to us, he makes a joke, which I will embellish for my own nefarious purposes:

"I saw them park in the handicapped section when I came in. I guess they wanted to avoid inadvertently burning calories on a lengthy walk back to the car."

Yes, they were fat.

Days past, when faced with such a scene, and such commentary, I would mourn silently in my heart. I would hold it all in until I got home late and wet my pillow with tears of shame. But his comment digs into my skull as the obese pair shovel prosperous American amounts of syrupy pancakes into their mouths, literally gaining weight by the second. Live and let live, I want to say. He might not realize how hurtful his "joke" is. Besides, everyone has a right to their opinion, right?
Wrong. This is not days past. I now wear the pants of social consciousness; and socially conscious people can't simply let others live. A year ago, commenting would have been unthinkable. Now it seems inevitable. So there I am in a crowded local eatery, waitresses buzzing about, fellow citizens blithely strapping on the feedbag, a good friend sitting across from me, chewing his cud of bad ideas.

I can't even wait to finish the mouthful of vegetarian omelet I'm working on. "Do you realize the danger in what you just said? Do you hear yourself?"

My voice is rising. Everybody can hear. My friend shifts a little in his seat.

"FAT PEOPLE, in a HANDICAPPED SPOT? Very funny. But let me tell you something my svelte friend. The day we grant handicapped privileges to fat people is the day civilization as we know it crumbles to the ground!"

My friend gives me the "quiet down" signal. I guess he doesn't want people in a crowded local eatery thinking he wants to bring civilization to its knees. Well, I have knees of my own. And I don't get down on them for anyone. Not anymore.

"No I will not quiet down! Handicapped people deserve a certain amount of special consideration because they are involuntarily physically compromised. What's more, we owe them a debt of gratitude for the noble, courageous spirit that strives within them and inspires us all. But FAT PEOPLE? [here I pause to see if I have their attention] They might be physically compromised, but they are fat on the inside as well. And you can't legislate conscience!"

By now his face reveals an intense desire for me to quiet down. But behind his shallow social anxiety I see a deeper fear. He sees the truth in my words.
He realizes that one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse is about to ride.

Called Famine in the ancient texts, the name of this particular harbinger of doom can also be translated: "They who eat as though famine was imminent, and those who coddle them into thinking there is absolutely nothing questionable about burdening one's bones with several hundred pounds of gluttony and sloth." (You can see why the translators shortened it.)

As he nervously glances around the establishment, I finish chewing the mouthful I had taken before speaking up, ready at any moment to launch into the biblical implications of his comment.
"Dude," he says at length, "I think they can hear you."

"I hope they can hear me!"

"Well," he says, brushing a cocktail of eggs, mushrooms, bell peppers and cheese from his left shoulder, then his right, "you shouldn't talk with your mouth full."

He still doesn't know what he is saying, but his comment gives me pause. There I was, so anxious to right the wrongs of this world that I didn't even have the common decency to finish chewing before I spoke. The words coming out of my mouth had been utterly lost in the spray of food that should have been inside my mouth. I try to tell myself that staving off the Apocalypse is important enough to allow for certain moral compromises. But I know I'm wrong. I remember another Horseman--one far more dangerous. The one the ancient texts say represents "the bloody mess caused by those whose exterior doesn't match their interior." (Commonly translated as WAR.)

I take a moment to gather my thoughts, which include: The sun rises on others like it rises on you (in some cases, more so). And: No matter what the exterior reveals, you cannot claim to know the heart of someone you haven't spent a good deal of time with. And finally: he who is without sin, let him cast the first egg. I take a swig of water to make sure the oral cavity is clear of debris that might be ejected during my apology. Then I stand up and say--to the world at large as well as the large individuals at the nearby table--

"Please forgive my friend here. He did not mean to imply that you were handicapped in any way, or that there is something wrong with that if you happen to be handicapped in a way that we can't see from here."

As I sit down, my satisfaction at the stunned silence is muted by the fact that I forgot to apologize for my own actions. For a moment I consider standing again and asking everyone involved to forgive the fact that my message was compromised, that my defense of the overweight couple was tainted with a mouthful of food. But by now I've got a mouth full of rye toast, and I've learned my lesson:

The most important thing is to respect people.