Thursday, May 31, 2007


The Huffington Post has lowered its standards enough to allow rabble like me in. Here's the first of (I hope) many posts there. HuffPo does allow comments, but you can't have everything.

An Asshole In Iraq

"I'll take the rose-colored shades, my decent, freedom-loving, terrorist-hating Iraqi merchant!"

Words fail when confronted with images like this. And you gotta love how Mighty Joe contends that a U.S. withdrawal would be a "victory for al-Qaida and a victory for Iran," even though Iran and what passes for al-Qaida hate each other's guts. Both can't win. Who would you put your dinars on?

But what I really find amusing is how much liberals hate Lieberman, but wish that he was vice-president today.

I hate to admit it, but Bush looked better in his flight suit than Lieberman does here. What a dork. Makes you want to beat him up for his lunch money.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Making Time

Time travel, by its very delicate and potentially destructive nature, can never be a democratic practice. If everyone had access to the space/time continuim, the world would be destroyed within seconds, or at best, our "reality" would be in constant flux, fates instantly changing, lives enhanced, broken down, or wiped out, though none of us would really know any of this in conscious time -- or would we?

That's the time travel rub, and I'm not about to explore all of its potential meanings, as they tend to become contradictory and self-negating, when not simply confusing. Suffice it to say, only a select few would be allowed to fly back or leap forward in time, and only after extensive training and world historical education.

But who?

First thing, we'd have to keep the technology out of the hands of the state, though this presents a problem as any time travel mechanism would most likely be a product of the corporate military complex. This would mean that a lone, eccentric billionaire, or a collection of eccentric billionaires, would serve as the only reasonable alternative, and that could get dicey as well, for eccentric billionaires, whether alone or grouped, tend to be megalomaniacs, and may very well use privatized timer travelers as personal tools to further strengthen their present power.

"I want you to help crush that labor uprising in 1887."

"But it was crushed, by federal troops."

"Yes, but not with particle beams!"

You see the dilemma.

I'd volunteer as a potential time-naut, but I'd have no stomach to see the future -- not on this timeline, anyway -- and the past would serve as a historical/cultural sightseeing tour, with U.S. history taking up most of my past-time, as I'm much more familiar with that than with other global periods. And even there I'd focus more on 20th century events than I should, but hell, can you blame me for wanting to see Josh Gibson play in his prime? Watch the young Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet jam live? Smoke dope with Kerouac and Burroughs? See just how smart Noam Chomsky was at 17? Hang out with Mabel Normand at the Keystone Studios in 1913? Visit the National Lampoon offices in 1972? Get in on the free love scenes of pre-First World War Greenwich Village and late-60s San Francisco?

Pretty pathetic, I know. And don't think I wouldn't go back to earlier parts of my own life, not necessarily to change anything, as that would alter future/present time, but to see with aging adult eyes just how I got to this place, and recall those events I've long ago forgotten or otherwise suppressed. Okay -- maybe I'd tell my young, in-over-their-heads parents to take it a bit slower and lighter and not allow their fears and dark emotions to define them. And then there was that dickhead tormentor of mine whose ass I'd probably kick. But that's it.

The reason for this rant is that my friend Juan Cole writes about the political message of NBC's hit series "Heroes" in Salon today, making points that I've considered, but have been too busy/lazy to tap out. Juan does a fine job of cultural analysis, which doesn't surprise me: Juan's a serious sci-fi buff, and talking with him about various scenarios and themes over pints is always fun.

If you haven't seen "Heroes", the first season of which just ended, then you're missing some entertaining television. Yes, the show's a bit of an X-Men knock-off, but unlike that Marvel narrative, "Heroes" deals more with the world we currently inhabit, albeit through the lives and tragedies of its mutant characters.

I ignored "Heroes" during the first half of its initial run, focusing instead on the now-canceled "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (boy, can I pick 'em!). But over the Christmas/New Year period when I suffered from insomnia, I watched every "Heroes" episode then available at NBC's web site, became instantly hooked, and didn't miss an installment after that.

As Juan points out, the main story arc for the first season is the prevention of a nuclear-type blast in Manhattan. Thing is, it's not a bomb, but a human mutant who explodes, and throughout the season we were given several glimpses and clues as to which character might be responsible. In one of the final episodes, Hiro Nakamura, who can bend and stop time, and his best friend Ando Masahashi, who has no powers but is loyal to Hiro, travel five years into the future to see that the bomb did go off and that half of Manhattan is in ruins. This is my favorite episode by far, with Hiro running into his future self, a grim, cutthroat samurai who's trying desperately to go back and change the past, but thus far has failed. Meantime, a police state is in high gear, as the U.S. President (himself a hidden mutant) commemorates the five year anniversary of the blast at the ruins of ground zero, gigantic American flag draped behind him. That image alone, set against the larger storyline, reminds us that in these savage days, fiction isn't all that far-fetched, and that is what gives "Heroes" its prime time edge.

Anyway, Juan goes into greater detail, so weather the brief Salon ad and read his piece. And if you haven't seen "Heroes", every episode is still up at NBC's site.

Save the cheerleader, get renewed for a second season.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Meager Food For Souls Forgot

President Bush ordered new U.S. economic sanctions to pressure Sudan's government to halt the bloodshed in Darfur. "For too long the people of Darfur have suffered at the hands of a government that is complicit in the bombing, murder and rape of innocent civilians," the president said. "My administration has called these actions by their rightful name: U.S. foreign policy."

Liberals who hoped that President Bush would take tougher action against Sudan, felt let down by the announcement. Said Ted Simonson, a Hillary Clinton supporter, "Look -- we're not asking for a full scale invasion here. But would it kill the guy to use a few cruise missiles and cluster bombs? Something?"

The United States and Iran traded accusations Monday about responsibility for violence in Iraq, but agreed that the goal there should be a stable, democratic country at peace with its neighbors. And if that's not possible, both sides said they'd accept an oil producing hell on earth.

U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker told the Iranians they had to stop arming, funding and training Shiite militants. "We can do that ourselves," said Crocker. "We don't need to farm this out."

Ten American soldiers were killed in Iraq on Monday as Americans back home observed Memorial Day. "I appreciate their sacrifice," said Corban Brett of Salt Lake City, Utah, "but I'm really angry that the Spurs beat the Jazz. I don't know if I'll ever get over that."

Iraqis also observe Memorial Day -- seven days a week, 365 days a year. "We don't have cookouts like the Americans," said Jassim al-Ali of Baghdad, "but you'd be amazed how much meat a burning car can grill in an hour."

The U.S. federal government recorded a $1.3 trillion loss last year — far more than the official $248 billion deficit — when corporate-style accounting standards are used. "We're on an unsustainable path and doing a great disservice to future generations," says Chris Chocola, a former Republican member of Congress from Indiana. With the government marginalizing, spying on, and stealing from its citizens at home, and waging wars and military maneuvers overseas, Chocola said that in order to make ends meet, the U.S. may have to take a third job.

Cindy Sheehan has resigned as the "face" of the anti-war movement. "I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party," said Sheehan, adding that liberals began attacking her as well when she "started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party." Liberal blogging mastermind Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos said he was sorry that Sheehan felt that way, but conceded, "We still have Dennis Kucinich to shit on."

Lindsay Lohan was arrested Saturday on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and cocaine after she crashed her Mercedes into a Sunset Boulevard curb. Not only does this mean that Lohan still struggles with substance abuse, it all but wrecks her chance to become Paris Hilton's designated driver.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Link Up

So you don't face humiliation like this --

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Golden Age Of Sniffing Glue

Pressed for time today, so here's some rare Lenny Bruce, from Steve Allen's NBC show, 1959. His initial, improvised joke about Elizabeth Taylor was in reference to her then-recent marriage to Eddie Fisher. But it was Bruce's drug humor that rankled many viewers, for you never saw that kind of material on primetime TV in that period. To Steve Allen's credit, he brought back Bruce to address those he offended.

This was Lenny Bruce in his prime, before his career was destroyed by prosecutors and cops nationwide, and then his life destroyed by his heroin addiction. Bruce influenced many comics, and you can see where George Carlin got some of his moves. But the loose, jazzy style that Bruce made his own was borrowed from Joe Ancis, who held court at Hansen's Cafeteria in Manhattan, and wowed younger comics like Bruce and Rodney Dangerfield with his extended riffs, insults, and strange observations. Ancis never performed on-stage, but his spirit lived in Bruce's act. Crazy.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Reading the Israeli discussion list I belong to is usually a depressing affair, for obvious reasons. Still, it is heartening to see many Israelis fighting against their government's ongoing abuse of the Palestinians, for they are on the front line, and their actions inspire abuse both at home and most especially from abroad, primarily here in the good ol' US of A.

One thing hard core American Zionists cannot stomach is an Israeli who doesn't follow the Party Line as laid down on this side of the water. Don't they know that it's their historical, tribal duty to smash what's left of those grubby Arabs who were squatting on their chosen turf before 1948? Don't they see that you cannot reason with these animals? Of course, most Americans who are Israeli Firsters choose not to live where the action is, but that doesn't stop them from telling those who do how to think and behave. Someone has to set the proper example, after all.

Yesterday, an Israeli list member announced that in "the near future," America's own Oprah Winfrey will visit the Holy Land in order to show her solidarity with Israel in its fight against terror. (Her early support for the invasion of Iraq seems to have withered -- perhaps this will boost her pro-war morale.) Oprah will travel to Israel with none other than Elie Wiesel, a man whose moral conscience is so pure, he cannot find a critical word to say about the state he reveres.

Think you've seen cynical displays? Just wait until the Oprah/Elie tour begins. (Seeing Israel with Wiesel is a bit like touring apartheid South Africa with P.W. Botha.) Oprah's cameras will capture every heart-tugging moment as she reaches out to those whose state is propped up by billions in annual US aid, and which possesses weapons of mass destruction, nuclear bombs among them. Should make for a great special, and later a two-disc DVD, stuffed with Oprah extras. She and Wiesel already visited Auschwitz together (also available on DVD for the low price of $29.95), so this tour will serve as the long-awaited sequel.

A few members of the discussion list were at first appalled by Oprah's travel plans, but then they saw opportunity in the upcoming spectacle. Why not press Oprah to tour the West Bank as well? Why not invite her to take part in a non-violent demonstration against The Wall? Against the occupation itself?

A long shot, to be sure. But it's worth a try. Here's Oprah's contact page, to which my Israeli comrades are sending polite invitations for Oprah to join them in their weekly demonstration in Bil'in, as well as other sites. Since we Americans finance the occupation and ongoing misery there, we should also encourage Oprah to link up with our friends who face the savage music on a daily basis. Who knows -- it may open doors to other tours.

Next up: Dr. Phil visits and analyzes Iraq!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

You Die -- We'll Sing

More violence in Lebanon, as the Lebanese army fights Fatah al-Islam, a small but tenacious Palestinian militant group based in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp near Tripoli. The bloodshed has forced more than half of the camp's population, some 15,000 people, to flee so far, with more packing up in anticipation of further violence, which seems inevitable, given Fatah al-Islam's refusal to surrender and the Lebanese army's determination to wipe them out.

In other words, the refugees have become refugees.

A particularly unpleasant situation for those not wanting to be ripped to shreds or watching their loved ones blown to bits. But a pair of Western pop groups, in the grand tradition of singing about misery, anguish, pain, and extremely violent death in those parts of the world where too few pop groups sing about misery, anguish, pain, and extremely violent death, have stepped forward to offer some musical comfort in this tense moment.

Meanwhile, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh tells CNN that Fatah al-Islam, which is Sunni, has received U.S. support via the Saudis as part of an attempt to stem the rise of Shi'a groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon, and pro-Iranian elements in Iraq. This makes matters even more confusing for those who trust that the U.S. is doing all it can to bring democracy to the war-torn Middle East. But the power of American pop music cuts right through such complexities, making it easier for true patriots to understand what's really going on, while providing a toe-tappin' beat that is the envy of the world.

Nine U.S. warships are presently sailing just off the Iranian coast in a show of military force. Flock Of Seagulls, you're on the clock.

Monday, May 21, 2007

In Plane View

This is the Age of Extermination.

We've seen similar ages before, with predictably horrific results. But the present age is wider, deeper, deadlier, and will go on for some time. Perhaps for the rest of time. Hard to say in these early stages. But the worst has yet to arrive, and when it does, something even worse will inevitably follow.

Unhappy thoughts, I know. So we shop and bop and pretend that it's all happening in another world, one of the privileges of Western living. Yet even in our glittering cocoon, there is anger, anxiety, fear, deceit, trepidation, insanity. The rest of the world's misery seeps into our many distractions, though we don't have the full awareness or honesty to call it what it really is -- the beginning of some kind of end. This is why eliminationist rhetoric is gaining traction and becoming mainstream.

There are no exterminating angels. Just exterminators, and the exterminated.

I knew a young Persian woman many years ago who said she could slow bombs with her mind. I thought she was yanking my chain, looking to see how much fantasy I was willing to swallow. But she insisted that she was quite serious. She told me that one had to look beyond the crude physicality of the bomb or missile, and focus on the current it created before exploding.

"You can slow them enough get away or find shelter," she insisted, serenely smiling, dark brown eyes unblinking. "It's not easy, but it can be done, until they make even more destructive weapons. Then the process begins again."

This was why you sometimes saw people crawl out of rubble still alive, she said. Not everyone can do it, however, since not everyone believes it's possible.

"But anything's possible on this plane. It's all shaped by our minds."

What about a nuclear weapon? I asked. Even if you slow it, an explosion is still inevitable, and there's no chance of crawling out from under that.

She laughed. "You walk right into the blast and embrace the collision of molecules. Because when those bombs are unleashed, there'll be nothing else to do except be one with extermination."

"That's bleak as hell."

"Not really. All it will mean is that we've decided to move past this world. We won't kill ourselves accidentally. When we push the final buttons, it will be intentional, conscious. It will be the end of fear and hatred."

"It'll be the end of everything."


She kissed me, stroked my hair, and strode down Lafayette Street, leaving me standing on the corner, trying to make sense of our exchange. My mind couldn't comprehend her statements at that moment, but when I now read or hear about one armed faction hoping to liquidate another faction, not for base material reasons, but for the glory of God, of nation, of flag, of culture, I think back to our discussion, and wonder if perhaps she was a person lost in time, giving me a sneak preview of what was to come.

Maybe she was crazy. Maybe she was Death. Maybe she was the doorway to something unseen. But she wasn't wrong, and as these brutal months pass, her vision seems less fantastic and more to the point of where we currently stand.

Focus on the bombs as they fall or begin to detonate. Whether or not you can slow them enough to survive is impossible to say, but in an Age of Extermination, such focus is all that remains -- until there remains nothing else.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Is This Thing On?

The boy and I, assisted by two of his friends, performed our final routine for the school's annual talent show, and it was a bit of a disappointment, at least for me. As I've said, the school and some of the parents narrowed our comedic options year by year, for fear that their kids might imitate our unseemly or offensive bits, as apparently some kids did after we killed in our very first appearance. We would still get laughs, but over time it became more scattered, since the kids were waiting for us to top ourselves, which we never could or did.


Yesterday's routine was the weakest yet, which is a sad way to go out, and I have to admit it still bugs me this morning. This family takes creative expression seriously, perhaps too seriously at times, and I'm the Number 1 offender. The teen, who saw our act, liked one of the more conceptual bits, where the boys performed comedy inside a tornado, yelling out set-ups and punchlines while flying all over the stage (the audience liked this, too), but she thought we should've just said fuck it, and put together a really weird, violent set.

"What are they gonna do? That's the last show ever, so they can't ban you or anything."

"Yeah, but your brother has another month of school, plus there's the other two boys to think about. If it was just me, that's one thing. But these boys would have to face a lot of hostility if we went apeshit."

"Not from the kids. They'd love it."

True. For all the talk about how the talent show is for the children, it's really for the parents, all lined up in the auditorium, video and cell phone cameras held high, capturing moments that cannot be adequately remembered unless recorded. Think they want their precious memories sullied by "Young Ones"-type slapstick?

But their kids undoubtedly would.

Later in the evening, I stumbled across Albert Brooks' "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World", which I'd seen before and enjoyed. It doesn't approach the brilliance of Brooks' "Real Life" or "Lost in America", but it is one of Brooks' better efforts in years, and there are several scenes that are as funny as anything Brooks has done. The boy came in and watched with me, as did the teen and the wife, and we all shared many laughs together, which helped take the sting out of the day. At one point, after Brooks bombs in front of an Indian audience (one of the best scenes in the film), a young Iranian asks him if that was the first time he ever performed comedy, since it went over so poorly.

"No!" thunders Brooks, informing the man that he's been in the business for over 30 years. "In comedy, you try different things. It's okay to bomb."

The boy turned to me and said, "See Dad -- it's okay to bomb!"

Needless to say, that made my night.

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS: Of course, there's something unseemly about an American bitching about less-than-perfect talent shows when his tax dollars are financing the ongoing destruction of Gaza. There's much to say about the new round of madness there, but today I cede ground to Laila El-Haddad, a single Palestinian mother raising her son, Yousuf, in what continues to be hell-on-earth. I just discovered her blog, and encourage you to read it as well.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Brief Crack In The Matrix

Why reactionaries hate CNN -- the Communist News Network -- still baffles me. Yes, many if not most reactionaries live in a world all their own, surrounded by enemies both foreign and especially domestic (no end there), so they are constantly on guard, muttering to themselves as their eyes dart back and forth. Perhaps it's CNN's tolerance for tactical divisions that stresses them so. But when it comes to the Big Issues, indeed, the Holy Script itself, CNN is just as servile to the military state as is Fox, or any other broadcast outlet. Disagreements about how US imperialism is best employed is one thing, but questioning imperialism and its negative, destructive effects is quite, oh so quite, another thing.

I've seen this for over 20 years now, and personally experienced it myself when I appeared on CNN during the early days of the first Gulf War. Not only was there incredulity and hostility to my rather tame views about the lead up to that imperial assault, I got grief before I was out of make-up. The woman who applied pancake to my face seemed gentle and sweet at first. She was small, thin, had beautiful long blondish hair and wide, almond-like eyes. But when she asked me what I was going to say on-air, I made the mistake of stating my case in full. Turned out that she was very much in favor of bombing Iraq, and punctuated her pro-war feelings by stabbing my face with the pancake sponge. "I-think-what-we're-doing-is-i-m-p-o-r-t-a-n-t!!" she said briskly, tap-tap-tapping my skin in time with her remarks. I was happy to learn that CNN's anchor was in Atlanta, since I was in New York, for if this was the tone at the network's make-up level, who knew what I would physically encounter once the red light flashed on?

But that was long ago, and whatever startling insights I was able to express before being cut-off, they're lost in deep space by now.

I wonder if Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul had any problems with make-up before his recent appearance on CNN. Judging from Wolf Blitzer's hostile reaction to Paul's genuinely conservative, non-controversial (to sane people) take on 9/11, I hope he skipped the pancake treatment and went straight to air.

If my dear, always up-beat pal Jon Schwarz hadn't posted this clip at his joint, I would've missed it, as I rarely watch the cable news nets, especially when sober. In a way, I wish I had missed this bullshit -- not that I'm shocked to see that the propaganda system is still in fine, running order, but who really needs this kind of obvious reminder? There are those who believe that over two decades of media criticism have toughened my skin and hardened my heart, and to a degree this is true. But I've never claimed to be Vulcan, and watching Blitzer give Paul the standard "You're blaming America!" treatment saddened me. Paul responded well, but he too conforms somewhat to the accepted narrative about America's unique greatness. Just once I would like to see someone respond to Blitzer's baiting with "You're goddamned right I'm blaming America! We don't get blamed enough! Most of us live in a fantasy world!"

Now that would be true Reality TV. Think of the YouTube hits!

"I Just Wanted To Get Paid & Laid."

"Can a brother get a table dance?"

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Fall Thee Well

Several people of my acquaintance were thrilled to see Jerry Falwell die, spitting out "Good riddance!" and hoping that his passing was a painful one.

While I understand the anger, even hatred, for this dreadful man, I cannot join the celebration, partly for karmic reasons, but also because it's pointless. Falwell was a tent revivalist clown who gained political power on the wave of the Reagan upsurge beginning in 1979. Right place at the rightwing time. That he was taken seriously as a political, at times moralistic, commentator by the Liberal Media showed that you can say the craziest, hateful shit, and if you claim to be speaking for God, it will not seriously hurt your career. But Falwell didn't create the environment he so ably exploited -- a significant chunk of Americans share the apocalyptic belief system that Falwell personified on a grander stage, and just because he's now gone doesn't mean that this mindset is weakened in any way.

Though he remained one of the top American religious celebrities to the end, Falwell's real political influence faded long ago. It was easy to mock him and his poisonous reasoning, for everytime he popped off about the latest national sin, he looked merely old and ridiculous, just like his still-living pal, Pat Robertson. But go back to the early years, say from 1980-84, and you'd see Falwell at full strength, his organization, the Moral Majority, wielding serious political and cultural clout. People were actually afraid of the man and what he might do, and brother, did Falwell seize on that. I've written before that many comedians wouldn't go after Falwell and the religious right back then, especially at the broadcast level, where the wrong joke or premise might scare off advertisers pressured by Falwell's group. It was, in many ways, a timid time.

"SNL" did very little to mock Falwell, and when it did, the parody was broad and de-politicized. "Fridays", on the other hand, went straight for Falwell's throat and trashed the religious right on a pretty regular basis. The show lost sponsors and affiliates due to this and other outrages, but it appeared that the "Fridays" crew didn't really care about that, because if they did, they wouldn't have showcased the harsh attacks to begin with. (However, ABC cared, for obvious reasons, and this played a part in "Fridays" being cancelled.)

"Fridays" portrayed evangelists as closeted queers, racists, nazis, and raving lunatics. In one direct assault, "The Moral Majority Comedy/Variety Hour", Falwell, played by Bruce Mahler, hosted a show celebrating attacks on gays, feminists, and the Bill of Rights, while promoting book burnings, beating up liberal figures like Jane Fonda and George McGovern, showing "typical" liberal parents zonked out on drugs while letting their baby die from neglect, a white supremacist magician who makes black people disappear forever, and a Plasmatics-type band who become Christian rockers playing a punk version of "God Bless America." Nobody else on American TV performed this kind of material back then, and you had to be there to fully appreciate its effect. "Fridays" nailed Falwell when he was at his most powerful. Problem was, they were practically alone.

But for sheer satirical viciousness, not even "Fridays" could match Larry Flynt, who ran a very nasty, and funny, attack on Falwell in a 1983 issue of Hustler. This was nothing new -- Hustler was always filled with political and cultural satire, much of it in bad taste, but some of it incredibly sharp and intelligently written. (The Realist's Paul Krassner was a Hustler editor/writer for a time.) Flynt's trashing of Falwell was squarely in this tradition, and Flynt made sure that Falwell felt the sting, which the Rev. intimately did.

In a parody of the then-print ads for Campari, which interviewed celebrities about their "first time" (wink wink), Flynt went immediately over the edge and didn't look back.

FALWELL: My first time was in an outhouse outside Lynchburg, Virginia.

INTERVIEWER: Wasn't it a little cramped?

FALWELL: Not after I kicked the goat out.

INTERVIEWER: I see. You must tell me all about it.

FALWELL: I never really expected to make it with Mom, but then after she showed all the other guys in town such a good time, I figured "What the hell!"

INTERVIEWER: But your mom? Isn't that a bit odd?

FALWELL: I don't think so. Looks don't mean much to me in a woman.


FALWELL: Well, we were drunk off our God-fearing asses on Campari, ginger ale and soda -- that's called a Fire and Brimstone -- at the time. And Mom looked better than a Baptist whore with a $100 donation.

INTERVIEWER: Campari in the crapper with Mom . . . how interesting. Well, how was it?

FALWELL: The Campari was great, but Mom passed out before I could come.

INTERVIEWER: Did you every try it again?

FALWELL: Sure . . . lots of times. But not in the outhouse. Between Mom and the shit, the flies were too much to bear.

INTERVIEWER: We meant the Campari.

FALWELL: Oh, yeah. I always get sloshed before I go out to the pulpit. You don't think I could lay down all that bullshit sober, do you?

Falwell sued Flynt for libel and "intentional infliction of emotional distress." While jurors in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia did not buy the libel charge, they did believe that Flynt meant to hurt Falwell, and awarded the offended Rev. $150 grand in damages. Flynt appealed on free speech grounds, and the case went to the Supreme Court, which agreed with Flynt and overturned the lower court's decision.

Humorists and satirists owe Larry Flynt big-time for that. And in a way, they owe Jerry Falwell a debt as well. They don't make 'em like the old Lynchburg bigot anymore. I mean, Mitt Romney?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Copper Is The New Quartz

Busy offline, today, so nothing new from my fevered brain until tomorrow.

Among the many items on my to-do list, a comedy routine for the boy's annual school talent show. We've become both celebrated and reviled there, which is a good thing, I tell my son. Unanimous applause is fitting only for Jonestown and State of the Union addresses. Far from widening the creative horizon at the boy's school, our bits over the past few years have inspired a slew of prohibitions, thanks to some of the more fragile parents who don't want their kids imitating our crude slapstick. As the boy's teacher told us the other day, "You guys made your mark here." My son positively beamed at that, as did I.

This is the last show before the lad moves on to middle school, and because of that, several other kids want in on our farewell performance. My democratic son invited two of his classmates to join us on stage, which forces me to choreograph something where everyone has something to do, and we hit our visual punchline under two-and-a-half minutes. Frankly, I have only the haziest notion of what we'll present, and only three days to rehearse before the show on Friday. So I must go and tap my inner-comedy Bob Fosse, or "Fridays"-era Jack Burns, or 1972 Del Close. Or maybe we'll just hit each other with stuffed socks and Cool Whip pies. The first-graders love that stuff.

Also, the generous Tom Watson has just added me to the New Critics roster, and my first post is now up. Some of you regs may recognize this bit from a few months ago at the Son. But I reworked parts of it, added some new lines, so it's sort of new, in a revising-the-expiration-date-on-rotting-meat kind of way. Enjoy, then purge.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Enemy Next Door

From USA Today:

"Plots by American-based Islamic terrorists with no direct ties to international terror networks form a large and growing threat to the American homeland, FBI and other security officials say.

"'The trend we're seeing is that we are uncovering more instances of people here who have been radicalized … where there is not a direct thumbprint of al-Qaeda,' says John Miller, the FBI's assistant director for public affairs . . .

"'If they look like the neighbors next door, it's because that's what they are,' says [Pasquale] D'Amuro, CEO of Giuliani Security and Safety in New York."

The old man next door never fooled me. Sure, he had white hair and a hefty paunch, his bald legs bordered by canary yellow shorts and tall black socks. He waddled more than walked, and seemed confused and disoriented when the sun hit his face. But I could tell there was something sinister about him. Call it a patriot's hunch. So for the sake of my neighborhood and nation, I plotted to take him down.

It wouldn't be easy. These jihadist types know so many secret tricks, so many ways to take out their enemies, it's like battling levitating ninjas. But what choice did I have? This guy, doubtless getting orders from some cave in Pakistan, went about his "business" while planning a terrorist strike so insane that even semi-sane people could not remotely grasp it. That's how insane this guy was. And only I saw it, and had to stop it.

Whenever he drove off in his Ford F-150 (using an American pick-up was a savvy clandestine move), I'd sneak around to the back of his split-level house, looking for an open window or unlocked door. But Terror Man was too slick to allow that. Every entrance was locked, and a few windows had the curtains drawn. What the hell was this mastermind up to? What in the non-Muslim God's name was he hiding?

Many times when the undercover maniac returned home, he carried shopping bags into the house. Clearly, he was buying chemicals to build a dirty bomb, or perhaps some kind of toxin to slip into the water supply. I wasn't really sure. The Kroger's symbol on the bags was a clever cover, but I didn't buy it for a second.

"Fool me once, al-Grandpa . . ."

One day, when Jihadi-Pops went for a "walk" (i.e. casing the neighborhood), I noticed that his back porch screen door was ajar. Was this a trap? Would I be beheaded by his cell mates the moment I walked in? It seemed too easy, but I had to take that chance. Do nothing, and the neighborhood blows up the next day.

I dashed from bush to bush, staying low, pausing a few seconds each time in order to avoid detection. It was maybe 50 feet from the last bush to the screen door, all of it open ground. I peered through the stubby branches, waited for a young girl walking her dog to pass (how little that innocent child knew), took a deep breath, then made my move. A quick sprint and soon I was behind the house. I pressed against the red brick wall and slowly slid to the screen door. There was no noise from inside. I gently opened the door just enough to fit through, and like that, I was in the jihadist's hide-out.

I adopted a fighting crouch and carefully scanned the room. If there was going to be trouble, I had to bring the pain fast and without mercy. A kitchen clock ticked, but that was about it. An eerie silence pervaded the house -- too quiet for my taste. I spotted a large butcher's knife sticking in a wood block on the kitchen counter. How many throats had been sliced with that terror tool, I wondered. Well, this time around, the blade's cutting in the opposite direction. I grabbed the knife and stalked through the living room. The moment of truth was upon me. I could feel it.

"Just what the hell are you doing in my house?!"

That voice -- where had I heard it before?

"Are you nuts?! I'm calling 9-1-1."

I turned and saw the old man standing just inside the back door. Our eyes met, and for a seeming eternity, the clash of civilizations blazed in our mutual glance. Then his eyes dropped to see the knife in my hand.

"What do you want? I don't have much money! Take anything, but please leave!"

I laid the knife on an end table to my right, then raised my hands to show I held no other weapon.

"Whoa, pops. You got the wrong idea. I thought something suspicious was going on here. I was just checking it out."

"Suspicious? Like what?"

Part of me wanted to confront him right there. Just get his fat, wrinkled head in a serious arm lock and force him to confess. Problem was, I had no real evidence. What if he knew I had him under surveillance and transported the toxic chemicals to another safe house in the dead of night? Tip my hand now, and the whole operation might be blown.

"Yeah -- thought I saw some teenagers breaking into your house. Y'know, to steal stuff in order to buy drugs and hip hop CDs."

His steely gaze remained on me, looking for any sign of weakness.

"Yeah, maybe two, three teens, wearing black clothes with purple hair. Turns out I was wrong. But hey, you can't be too careful these days, right?"

His eyes betrayed lingering suspicion, but these commandoes are well-trained, and he quickly appeared resigned and a bit tired.

"No, I suppose you can't be too careful," he replied.

Had to hand it to him: he was a real pro.

"Well, all's well that ends well," I said. "I'll let myself out."

As I neared the door, the crafty terrorist pointed his finger at me and said, "Say, I know you. You're the guy who rarely cuts his grass."

Was he making his move? I stopped for a moment, but he wearily dropped into an easy chair.

"You should cut your grass more often," he continued, cleaning his glasses with his shirt. "Tall grass attracts mice."

"Sound advice. I may do just that. Thanks again."

As I walked back to my house, I thought about how easily the hunter becomes the hunted. He noticed my grass. What else was in his reports to his terror sponsors? I chuckled to myself, but it was a chuckle of apprehension, a chortle of dread.

This is going to be a long struggle.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Nothing About Paris Hilton Going To Jail

Comedy today, friends. Old shows, obscure bits, and whatever else landed in my YouTube net. What -- do you think I spend all my time reading about war, torture, and corruption? I'm nuts, but not insane.

Here's something I'm sure many of you have never seen, or did a long time ago -- "The New Show", from early 1984. On paper, it looked great. Lorne Michaels producing, Buck Henry, "SCTV's" Dave Thomas, and Toronto Second City vet Valri Bromfield in the cast, with revolving appearances by John Candy, Catherine O'Hara, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner, among other familiar faces, Jack Handey, George Meyer, Jim Downey, Franken & Davis, Valri Bromfield, Dave Thomas, Sarah Paley, Max Pross & Tom Gammill on the writing staff. A Friday night, 10 PM time slot on NBC. The show taped two nights earlier on the west side of Manhattan. There was plenty of hype leading up to the premiere, as this was Lorne's return to TV after leaving "SNL" in 1980.

And then -- SPLAT.

"The New Show" didn't last long. It was at the bottom of the ratings pile, the reviews were awful, which made sense given that the material was, for the most part, pretty bad when not simply boring. Yes, there were some bright spots -- inevitable when you have that kind of talent on board -- but it seemed that the writers really didn't care about pushing boundaries or taking creative chances. They were chained to the flat, semi-conceptual tone established by Jim Downey, and thus most of the sketches had the same flavor.

Here's the cold opening to the first "New Show" (followed by the credits). Steve Martin parodies the then-very popular "Billie Jean" video by Michael Jackson. But there's really nothing to it. It's just Martin imitating Jacko, with a few Martinesque moves tossed in. What is the point of this piece? If you have any ideas, all these years later, please let me know.

Then there were the gimmick bits -- one joke played over and over and over again. "The New Show" had plenty of these, and again, with its writing staff, you wonder why. I can't remember how many times "The Frightened Family" appeared, but when you saw it once, you saw it.

As I said, there were some inspired pieces, like George Meyer's "Food Repairman" played by John Candy; but the above clips give you the overall picture. An absolute waste of talent and electricity.

If you want a funny family sketch, check out this bit from "Fridays". Direct, alive, and to the point. The last 20 or so seconds are missing, but it's just the women trying to lure the father back into the kitchen so that they can -- well, you'll see.

And speaking of Steve Martin, here's a rare clip of him from the Smothers Brothers show, circa 1968, performing an early version of his comic-magic act. Martin was a writer for the Smothers', and when Tom says that Martin wasn't getting paid by the show, he wasn't kidding. Apparently, there was no extra money in the budget for a new writer, so the head writer, Mason Williams, paid Martin out of his pocket, so enamored was he of the young comic's work. This was, I believe, Martin's national TV debut. The wild and crazy guy has yet to emerge, but you can see him starting to form.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

From Us To You

People Of Afghanistan:

We are very sorry for any civilian deaths we've caused in our effort to bring liberty and peace to your troubled country. Knowing that we may have blown your loved ones to bits bothers us more than we can express. Honestly, our heads hurt just thinking about it. But, sometimes doing good means that something bad will happen. What can you do?

Still, when you take the long view, this is all pretty much your fault. If you hadn't allowed the Taliban to run your country and harbor Osama bin Laden, none of this would be necessary. Trust us, the last place we would ever want to be is Afghanistan. No offense, but your country is pretty backward. Plus, a lot of your relatives and friends are trying to kill us. So you can see why this is no vacation at the beach for Americans.

However, we are here and will remain for the foreseeable future. This of course means that more civilians will be killed by our bombs, children among them, so you might as well get used to it. If you are personally affected by any of our bombing runs or missile strikes, several options are available to you:

1) Financial compensation. Now, it won't be a lot of money, but since you have so little to begin with, it will be like winning the lottery, which is a fun game we Americans play daily. Just don't spend it on weapons, or we'll have to kill you.

2) Free medicine. This may be more valuable than a straight pay-out, given all the diseases you people carry around with you. Think about it: what good is money if you're dead 20 minutes after you've cashed your check? If we were you, we'd take the medicine. We might even throw in some Lexapro, Paxil, or Effexor, because it must be depressing living like you do, if you can call it "living."

3) Hot food and clean water. This is probably right behind medicine in the "must have" department. We cannot guarantee that the food and water given to you will be completely free of hazardous bacteria, but your chances of contracting protozoal diarrhea will be considerably lessened. If you do get sick from anything we give you, we will not be held responsible. You can't get compensation for compensation. That would render the word meaningless. And besides, freedom is all about taking chances with the choices you make. Welcome to the modern world.

4) A three-day, two-night stay at the world-renowned Mustafa Hotel, located in the heart of Kabul. This is our Deluxe Package, complete with free room service, indoor plumbing, and actual floors. Those who've taken this offer loved it so much, they said they wish we would accidentally kill more of their relatives so they could stay there again. Try finding a better endorsement than that!

Those are your options, which is more than you had before we came to your country. Consider each carefully, and apologies in advance for bombing your home and/or your village.

Feel free to have this leaflet translated into Dari, Pashtu, or whatever it is you speak. We'd do it for you, but we've got enough going on as it is.

Dear Diary

"Thurs. Feb. 4 [1982]: Day was filled with meetings, N.S.C. etc. We have problems with El Salvador -- the rebels seem to be winning. Guatemala could go any day & of course Nicaragua is another Cuba. Lots of options but no decisions. Mid afternoon I could hardly keep my eyes open -- in fact I didn't. -- Tonight early to bed."

So wrote Ronald Reagan in his presidential diary, selections from which are featured in the new Vanity Fair.

Well, as Reagan would say with a nod of the head, he figured out which "option" was suitable for Central America -- turn the region into a mass grave via death squads and terrorist groups like the contras, while engaging in secret and illegal arms deals with various actors, Israel and Iran among them.

Stirring stuff, Graydon Carter. Can't wait for Bin Laden's journals, Saddam's to-do lists, and Pol Pot's favorite Khmer recipes. At least you had the good sense to show Christy Turlington doing yoga. State terrorism goes down smoother when eye candy is attached.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

What Now, White Father?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Keggers Bend To Reason

Six Islamic militants were arrested early Tuesday on charges they plotted to attack the Fort Dix Army base and "kill as many soldiers as possible," federal authorities said. Army spokesman Cpt. Kurt Felder described the would-be attackers as "mentally unstable."

"I mean, these guys wanted to attack a military target," said Cpt. Felder. "How crazy is that?"

The Pentagon has notified more than 35,000 Army soldiers to be prepared to deploy to Iraq in the fall. The notification came in the form of a Clearing House Sweepstakes letter, promising each soldier a chance to claim valuable prizes, should he or she happen to physically or emotionally survive Iraq. As the letter puts it, "You have to be in hell to win!"

The ongoing troop surge has local TV news producers nationwide smiling. Fred Regis, a segment producer in Tallahassee, Florida, says, "We're looking at dozens of grieving family stories in time for Fall Sweeps. Loved ones cry, ad rates fly. Sweet."

The U.S. military is expecting troops to suffer heavier casualties as they push into "tougher neighborhoods" in Iraq. Marine Cpl. Jess Westen, now on his second tour of Iraq, asked a Reuters reporter, "Where the hell have we been fighting so far -- the suburbs?"

A new Save the Children report shows that Iraq's infant/child mortality rate has soared by 125 per cent in the past few years, the highest increase of any country in the world. While acknowledging the grim aspects of the study, a Bush administration official looked for a bright side. "Think of all those potential car bombers who've died as children," he said. "That's a few dozen future lives saved right there!"

Vice President Cheney embarked on a week-long mission to the Middle East. Mr. Cheney is planning to warn regional leaders that if they don't do more to help the cause in Iraq, the U.S. will continue to cut its own throat.

In an effort to make Queen Elizabeth feel more at home during her White House visit this week, President Bush hired a band to play Boots Randolph's "Yakety Sax" as the president performed his favorite Benny Hill gags on the alarmed and confused sovereign. The Queen later said that while she appreciated Mr. Bush's gesture, she prefers animal stories.

A college student opened fire at an apartment near the campus of California State University, Fresno, killing one person and wounding two others, police said Tuesday. One of the student's professors wasn't fooled. "This kid stabbed a few people last year in order to get out of taking his final. It didn't work then, and it won't work now."

Certain restaurants in Philadelphia will no longer serve customers who don't order in English. But, if the customer is a really hot looking woman, they may waive the No Shirt/No Shoes/No Service rule.

When news of the English-only policy spread across town, Philly native Tony Brunco told reporters, "It's abou' fuggin' dyme!"

Monday, May 7, 2007

Slap Me When The Credits Roll

The lad and I caught "Spider-Man 3" on Friday, and my suspicion that the franchise is leaking fuel was quickly confirmed. "S3" is a loud, cluttered mess, jumping around with no real continuity, the comedy cheap, the romance contrived, the drama thin and stale. Even the computerized fight scenes were poorly choreographed and hastily shot. At least in the first two Spidey installments, the action had snap and keen timing (especially the fight between Spidey and Doc Ock on the subway train). But not here. Hopefully, this will be it for Spider-Man. Mega-success has dulled the web-slinger, at least for this generation.

While watching this crap amid a crowd of middle school and high school kids (I was one of the oldest people there, and brother did I feel it), I marveled at the blatant cynicism of the thing. Sony Pictures, along with a once-good director, Sam Raimi, clearly believe that people, primarily kids, will swallow whatever shit they throw together, so long as Spider-Man zips across the Manhattan skyline on cue. And judging from the film's record weekend gross, they're probably right.

Afterwards, the boy asked what I thought. I didn't want to dampen any enthusiasm he had for the movie, so I fudged a bit and said it was okay. He replied, "Yeah, it wasn't as good as the first two. Too many characters. And the fight scenes -- I couldn't tell what was going on!"

"So, you didn't like it?"

"Ehhh . . . so-so."

A "so-so" from him is pretty much a thumb's down. That's my boy.

"I'll make my own Spider-Man sequel" he said, then began acting out the various parts, leaping and running inside the house and out as I finally broke down and mowed my lawn. I love watching his creative energy, even when I'm pushing my mower uphill over towering grass, sweating and grunting like the old man I'm rapidly becoming. Still, it was the first cut of the year. By mid-June I'll be in lean mowing shape.

On Saturday, the wife, teen, and I watched "Children Of Men", Alfonso Cuarón's bleak but riveting take on P.D. James' dystopian novel about the dying, fragmented human race, and a newborn child that serves as a symbol of possible renewal. Set in 2027, chaos is everywhere; endless war persists, from the mechanized state down to various militias and terror groups. London resembles present-day Baghdad, with car bombs going off every day, gun battles raging, the dead and dying littering the streets and gutters. There are detention camps for those resisting what government remains; suspects wear black hoods and are tortured under signs that read "Homeland Security." The air is gray from the smoke of explosions as people literally run for their lives when outside. It appeared all too plausible to me, and I said to the teen, "I hope for you and your brother's sake the world doesn't look like that in 20 years."

She shrugged and replied, "It probably will."

"Yeah. You're probably right."

Who says family time can't be fun?

When Michael Caine's character appeared, sporting long gray hair and a thick gray beard, smoking home-grown weed, ranting about the loss of freedom, then laughing and telling entertaining stories as the rock music of his youth (the Stones, primarily) blasts from his living-room speakers, the teen looked at me and said, "Hey -- that's you in 20 years!"

I could see it. I don't know if I would be as upbeat as Caine's character, given the surrounding madness (I mean, look at me in present time!), but there are worse ways to age, I suppose. And I bet the weed of '27 will be killer shit -- it better be, if the world then looks anything like it does in "Children Of Men". What a fucking nightmare.

Cuarón's film stayed with me on Sunday. I couldn't get many of the depressing images out of my mind. They boy noticed this and suggested that I watch "Night At The Museum" with him, one of his current faves that we just purchased.

"It's really funny, Dad. And it has history in it. You love history!"

True. But the movie stars Ben Stiller, who's become locked into a dopey but profitable wide-eyed, taunting shtick, light years removed from the eclectic work seen on his old Fox show, alongside Bob Odenkirk, Janeane Garofalo, and Andy Dick. That didn't inspire me, but the boy's enthusiasm was too infectious to ignore. So we watched "Museum" and it wasn't all that bad -- a by-the-numbers film comedy, yes, complete with the standard, smothering soundtrack, yet I enjoyed it. Light and diverting. Robin Williams' "Bully! Bully!" Theodore Roosevelt was right out of central casting; and, as always, TR was shown as a man's man, a brave soldier, ever valiant and heroic. Why this beautification of a mass murdering racist prig continues in our culture mystifies me. It's not as if TR's actual, bloody deeds are unknown, and the reality of his helping to make the US a military empire would make for an interesting, serious film.

But I didn't want spoil my son's happiness with a revisionist history lesson. We'll get to all that in time -- hopefully before the endless war returns to the homeland, with me ranting Caine-like in an easy chair, pumping the volume on some classic Black Sabbath in order to drown out the steady explosions and machine gun fire.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Fridays Sound

Three choice clips from that long-dead comedy show I continue to rediscover.

First, The Jam, from 1980. Great tight new mod sound. This was the first time I'd seen them perform, and I remember watching this show with an actress I was then sort of dating. I was never quite sure, apart from the naughty bits. Unlike some of her dates, I focused more on the music (and comedy) than on her, and I recall being sent packing after this episode ended. Still, The Jam rocked.

Next, Stray Cats, from '81, before they had an album pressed in the US. Solid rockabilly during that form's resurgence. (The Blasters were good, as were The Race Records, a crazy hillbilly band from Bloomington, IN.) Brian Setzer had a great look and voice. Music to drink PBR by.

Finally, Pretenders, also from '81. I still love this band. Chrissie Hynde was simply the shit -- those bangs, those eyes, that voice. Can't remember where I saw this episode, but if it was with that actress, there was surely no contest.

The Envy Of The World

All 38 contenders for the GOP's presidential nomination squared off at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California last night. The choice of venue was hardly a random one.

"We want the reactionary white voter who still thinks President Reagan saved the world from commies and Negroes to know that we are 'right' there with him," said Republican consultant Ted Reavis. "And I think that after tonight's debate, the reactionary white voter will be pleased."

Each candidate fought bitterly to claim Reagan's legacy as his own. John McCain was perhaps the most insistent, not only claiming to be one of Reagan's closet friends when the president was alive, but saying that Reagan's ghost regularly visits him for casual games of checkers, and has posthumously endorsed McCain as his political heir.

Mitt Romney tried to upstage McCain by donning a plastic Reagan mask and repeatedly saying, "Mr. McCain -- tear down that gall!"

But the true highlight of the evening came when Reagan's casket was wheeled out on stage and opened in front of the candidates. The stench made many in the library sick, but candidate after candidate took turns kissing what's left of Reagan's body, with John McCain attempting to crawl into the casket with the late president. Moderator Chris Matthews informed McCain that he was deviating from the scripted format, and awarded some of McCain's speaking time to GOP longshot Ron Paul, who used it to denounce the IRS, advocate the gold standard, and propose that Americans trash their debit cards in favor of a barter system using animals, fuel, and ammunition.

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani stood out by wearing the still-dirty suit he had on during 9/11, and warned the audience that if he is not elected president, the terrorists will see it as a sign of weakness and decadence, and will set-off nuclear weapons in 15 major American cities. When Chris Matthews asked Giuliani how he knew such horrible events would happen, Giuliani replied, "I'm a time-traveler, Chris. I've already seen the future where I'm at best Secretary of the Interior, and it's not pretty."

Amid all the serious talk and posturing, a humorous moment arose when an unidentified man stood at an empty podium, and for a brief time was considered one of the candidates. When asked how he would win the war in Iraq, the man replied, "I just came up here to find my wife. Oh, there she is! Hi honey! I'll be right down!"

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Nothing, friends. I've got absolutely nothing today.

Normally I wouldn't care, but since I have a growing readership, which I suspect will get bigger once the Huffington Post gig begins, I wake each day trembling with anxiety, wondering just what the hell I'll bash out on my battered, stained keyboard. Usually I find something, even if it's YouTube/IFilm filler. But today, nada.

I suppose I could just link to AP/Reuters headlines, then simply say "Read the whole thing." Lots of bloggers do that, and looking at my empty quiver today, I can see why. Space must be filled at all costs. People need something to surf to. And here you all surfed to me, and you're given this crap to read. Pretty sad, eh?

In lieu of angry essays or side-splitting comedy, I would like to thank Andy Tanguay for taking time to snap the pic you see above (a black and white version will appear at HuffPo). Now you know the face behind the rants. Is it what you expected? In order to get that relaxed expression just right, I was pantless and had a small fan aimed at my crotch. Andy took it in stride. He's a pro, after all.

The wife has taken the blog plunge, and is feeling her way around, as we all do at the start. She wrote a deeply flattering post about her oafish husband, which I humbly share with you. We have a mixed-marriage: she's a Christian; I'm a Taoist. But we make it work. A big part of our success is that her Christianity is the socially conscious kind, where Jesus is more of a socialist than the heavily-armed, NASCAR-loving, queer-hating Judean redneck that so many Americans prefer. She is one of the most loving, dedicated, and forgiving people I know. I'm not a Christian, but I'm inspired by her example. I still think that Lao Tzu would more than hold his own in a fight with Jesus, but that minor difference doesn't get in our way. The wife rocks. Check her out.

Ah, what the hell -- here's a couple of YouTube clips of Rodney Dangerfield on the old "Tonight Show with Johnny Carson". Rodney was one of the finest joke tellers in American comedy, and below he's in his prime. When he did panel with Carson, he'd get to the end of his material and say "That's it." Cut and dry. To the point. Classic. Same for this post -- that's it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Suburban Lawns

One of the main advantages of city living over suburban dwelling is not having to tend to a lawn. I've been back in the Midwest for what feels like 200 years now, and I still don't understand the fascination my neighbors have with their grass. It's almost a religion for some of them. One guy, a few houses down the block, actually measures his grass height, lying flat on his stomach, ruler in his out-stretched hand. To me, he looks like a lunatic. To the rest of the block, he's a conscientious citizen trying to make his front yard respectable if not enviable.

He has company. Now that Spring is here, all of the middle-aged men in my neighborhood spend their Saturdays and Sundays mowing, pruning, weed whacking, and watering their respective lawns. Then out come the big bags of Miracle-Gro, Heavenly Sprout, Paradise Seed, Dr. Boffo's Mega-Grass Protein Powder & Flora Enhancer, all dumped on the freshly-cut green blades, small white clouds rising from the ground and inhaled by the homeowners, sending them into further fits of hysterical lawn care.

I watch all this from my front porch, cold drink in hand, shoes off, shades on, and smile as they toil and sweat. A few look my way every so often, receiving a friendly nod from me in return. All I get back is the occasional shaken head, for it's obvious that I am shirking my suburban responsibility. And I am. Quite consciously so. Why should I spend a beautiful, warm weekend busting my ass so that my yard looks exactly the same as the others? I have yet to cut my grass this year, and the lawn is getting pretty shaggy -- not hillbilly long, but close all the same, and I planned to break down and mow the thing on Monday. But then it rained. Hard. Then it rained again. Being the earth child that I am, I knew better than to second-guess nature, and put off my mowing until the grass and ground dried. But then the rain returned on Tuesday, and my lawn, perhaps sensing that it has permission to go wild, shot up some more, tall lush untamed green in direct contrast to the manicured, measured, pampered lawns around it.

The teen loves it. "Grass should be tall," she told me. "It looks better all full like that. Don't cut it for another week."

"I dunno if I can get away with that."

"What -- are you going to be put in lawn jail?"

"Well, the neighbors might complain."

"Who cares! They think we're beatnik weirdoes to begin with. We got nothing to lose."

It's true -- some of the more conservative neighbors do look at us as if we're . . .

What can you do?

Today, the sun is out, and it's supposed to be warm and dry for the next few days. Maybe I'll mow tomorrow. Maybe on Friday. Or maybe I'll take the teen's advice and let the grass get even crazier. I can saunter out with ruler in hand and measure it, then compare notes with the anal-retentive lawn guy down the block. It'll be just like . . .

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Hitch Cocked

"Here, bwana. Take my weapon. Use it well."

"Thank you, Jo Jo. And a full clip. You are a dear lad."

"I wish only to be serving my wise white father."

"Your loyalty is eclipsed only by your fine judgment."

"You are happy then. Jo Jo is happy, too."


"What is bwana shooting at?"

"I thought a saw a nihilistic dead-ender behind that big rock."

"Jo Jo no understand white father's large words."

"Don't worry yourself, dear boy. I will protect you, even if I have to kill everything in sight."


"I see no one, bwana."

"Of course you don't, Jo Jo. That's why I'm here. Are you sure there's nothing to drink back at camp?"

"Alcohol is forbidden, father."

"Fucking primates."

"Who is to be fucking this primate?"

"Oh, it's nothing, sweet thing."


"Why is father angry with that rock?"

"I swear I saw something fascistic move."


"No matter. I'm out. Let's go back and finish gutting that goat."

"The one father killed using only two clips?"

"The damn thing charged me. You saw it, Jo Jo."

"Yes. You protect Jo Jo from mad goat."

"And so much more, dear boy. So very much more."

(Thanks to Sonic at Hitchens Watch for the great pic.)