Dipping my toe into the savage current events pool is about all I can muster these days, what with the book (The Book, THE BOOK!!!) taking up most of my waking, pre-sleep, REM cycle, drool-on-the-pillow time. I'm only posting this to quash the rumor that I was attacked by crazed snow owls, their beautiful white plumage stained by my toxic blood, and that I'm slowly recovering in a refurbished lighthouse near Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the scent and sounds of Lake Huron my sole, soothing comfort.
Well, none of it's true. A pregnant squirrel did jump on the hood my car as I warmed it up, our eyes locking for a few frozen seconds before the frizzy rat bolted for a nearby tree. But that's been about it.
Most of my writing takes place in the dark, usually around 4 AM or so, and goes on through the early afternoon until my concentration breaks, and I'm reduced to watching bits of "You, Me And Dupree," which is always on HBO, at least when I tune in, as I try to understand Kate Hudson's allure as a comic actress while polishing my rough, but recognizable, Owen Wilson impression. Then it's back to editing and laying out my work for the next early morning session.
There's so much to comment on and take apart, but I must shove any creative energy I possess into the book. Once this thing's put to bed, and after an organic carrot and watercress colonic, I'll be back in bloggy mode, tapping and linking like mad. You won't be rid of me. You'll beg me to stop. "No, dear God no, Perrin! Not another 2,000 word rant about Musharraf's secret deals with Mossad which are brutally carried out by a rogue wing of Blackwater financed by Bechtel with ties to Hillary Clinton's silent backers! And 'Fridays'! Please don't write again about 'Fridays'! I can't fucking stand it!!"
But you can. And you will.
Until that glorious day, I'm gonna be away from the site more often than not. This final phase is critical; if I'm absent for a week, you'll know why. I do appreciate hearing from you privately, so feel free to mail me and say hi. I'll probably respond, unless the snow owls have pecked out my eyes and are feeding them to their young, a pregnant squirrel chorus singing its approval.
Has it been three years since I deigned to blast my opinions into the dense Web maw? Looks that way. And what a lovely time it's been, friends. I still have the keyboard on which I typed my first Red State Son post. It's in a box in my basement, resting in pieces from when I smashed it with a hammer and steel-toed boots, a testament to an earlier mindset. But that was long ago, a much angrier time. I'm decidedly more agreeable when writing today -- like placing daisies into rifle barrels or blowing bubbles while dancing in a sun-drenched park. I think it shows in my work, wouldn't you agree?
Due to my fast approaching deadline, I lack the time to adequately assess my three years online. Perhaps another day. But I will say that writing the Son, and now this self-titled thing, has brought me in touch with many intelligent, creative, passionate people I would never have encountered off-line. That alone makes this little vaudeville worthwhile.
The blog has also rejuvenated what was a dead writing career, the new book just one of many projects planned. I don't think I ever mentioned it, but my bloggy efforts snagged me a screen test for a happening Hollywood producer who wanted me to write and host a reality show for his production company. The guy already has numerous shows on TV, and is part of a big film studio, so naturally I was stoked. I passed the screen test (me walking and talking and trying hard to be droll), but the concept has yet to sell. It is a weird idea, something you may not envision me doing. But I saw it as another adventure in life, and as long-delayed justice from when Yahoo Serious destroyed my shot to host an MTV game show, the audition and screen test of which I also passed. I suppose I'm not meant to mug on-screen. At this rate, the best I can probably expect is co-hosting an infomercial with Lene Lovich, hawking the ultimate New Wave CD/DVD collection. Hey, it's work.
If you ever start to think, or worse believe, that the American political system can be seriously reformed, immediately strike your throwing hand with a blunt object. Hard. At least two or three times. Feel that pain? See the welt forming? Good. Remember that the next time your mind wanders into foolish areas.
Writing about U.S. history, even in an impressionistic way, forces you to absorb lots of toxins. This country is so insane on so many levels that it would take some kind of personality disorder to adequately assess it all. And even then you'd miss about twenty other crazy features morphing and metastasizing at 375 mph. This explains why our intellectual/media class insists on simplistic explanations and self-flattering definitions when droning on about the "national character." Who wants to hear that they live in an overfed, hyper-stimulated asylum? That there's no escaping the madness? It's no wonder that self-help books and porn rake in so much dough. And don't hold your breath waiting for fast food joints to go out of business and be plowed under.
If you think I'm being a tad too cynical here, that I'm overemphasizing the negative, read this story. On the surface, it isn't much -- just another personality poll. Nothing terribly new in our bright, free home. But look at the world around you, meditate on what's undoubtedly coming down the road, give it serious consideration, then go back and reread that story. Yes, it only reflects the thoughts of 2,000 people, a tiny percentage of opinion. But does this desire to find a "likable" trait among those seeking to manage the asylum seem marginal to you? If you talk to relatives about politics this holiday weekend, will you discuss the economic or geopolitical reasons for this or that policy, or will you be steered in the personality direction?
"I think Obama would make a nice fourth for bridge."
"That Giuliani may be crazy, but I bet he knows some really raunchy jokes!"
"Hillary would be a stitch to go shopping with. You can tell just by looking at her!"
"I loved Fred Thompson in that movie, you know, that one where he wore the hat?"
"Dennis Kucinich is an Islamofascist commie nut. But I'd do his wife! Boooyeah!"
That's my lascivious, right wing cousin -- always looking for fantasy sex with public figures, regardless of ideology. Hey, whatever numbs the pain.
Gruff but lovable Barry Crimmins has a nice essay about the deer hunters in his neck of the New York woods. I can relate, having some 800,000 hunters at present roaming the Michigan landscape, the sound of rifles cracking just off the back roads, dead deer hanging from poles, big white guys in camo gear hoisting domestic brew in celebration. Still, as much as I detest the whole hunting culture, which is semi-religious in these parts, I cannot in all honesty oppose it. Unlike Barry, I eat flesh, mainly birds, but I occasionally crave steak or hamburger, enjoying the flavor while fully aware of the economics behind it, the destruction of forest land, the chemicals in the meat, the whole slaughterhouse vibe that goes with it. I was a vegetarian for almost twenty years, two of those years alternating from macrobiotic to vegan. Indeed, I've had more meatless Thanksgivings as an adult than the traditional kind, but tomorrow I'll dig into a local, fresh Amish free range bird, complemented with various starches and loads of gravy. And kale. Never eat turkey without kale.
I'm thinking about going veggie again, though most likely not vegan. Too spartan at my age. There'll be plenty of time to chew paste when I'm ancient, assuming I get there.
Speaking of paste-eating vegans, Jon Schwarz, who I suspect will celebrate Thanksgiving with not one, but two Portobello mushrooms, gets all gooey again over Tina Fey. I watched every episode of "30 Rock" last season, and found it light and diverting. But kick ass funny? Please. Fey's humor is serviceable, corporate fare, sprinkled lightly with "satiric" jibes, but nothing too sharp or spicy. I haven't seen the show this year, so maybe there's more going on than I know. Yet somehow I doubt it. Any humorist who pines for the fatherly embrace of Rudy Giuliani isn't gonna swing the seal bat, much less lock and load the Colt M4 carbine and climb the nearest tower. They might take away your AmEx card.
Driving around this morning, looking at the long faces of Michigan fans coping with their team's pitiful performance against Ohio State, I found myself behind a dented, faded black pick-up at a stop light. Stuck to its tailgate was a very long bumper sticker, two lines deep, that read in large letters: "As Hillary, Jennifer, and Nancy Rise In Stature, They Give New Meaning To The Phrase Ho Ho Ho!" As the truck turned, I saw the driver, a grizzled chubby redneck with a goatee and ball cap. Direct from central casting. Too perfect to be real.
But he was. You see plenty of these types in these parts, tooling around in large 4-wheel, sometimes 6-wheel, gas guzzlers, sporting various nativist and paranoid bumper stickers about how the Democrats are commies, their women a bunch of overspending, castrating, ugly ass sluts. Not for them any serious class-based political thinking or expression. To the guy above and numerous others like him, Clinton, Granholm, and Pelosi aren't corporate-militarist whores, a gender-neutral if indelicate description, but simply hos. Should Hillary win the White House, look out for an explosion of similar white male fear products. Ain't no commie dyke gonna tell them what t'do!
Meanwhile, the global wars rage on, geopolitical corporate positioning to control the Earth's dwindling resources, oil and water chief among them. The water wars will eventually speed up, as there'll be less and less drinkable H2O to go around, and those with the power to grab what clean water remains will do so with little ceremony. The Israelis have shown the way for years, diverting water from Palestinian lands to their drinking fountains, swimming pools and water slides. A rational move. After all, what good is a water park in Gaza?
Things are very bad in this part of the country, and it will get worse before it gets better, assuming that "better" has any contemporary meaning. I suppose it's easier to pretend that our economic problems are primarily due to liberal commie fags than to a global economic arrangement that squeezes the powerless until they're tossed on the garbage heap. Besides, painting corporations and their political servants as pussies doesn't make for snappy bumper stickers.
Finally watched "An Unreasonable Man" last night, the documentary about Ralph Nader, which is terrific. It's as balanced as one can get, with plenty of anti-Nader spittle provided by Todd Gitlin and Eric Alterman, the latter of whom blames Nader for pretty much everything bad that has happened since 2001, including tsunamis and hurricanes, if short-term memory serves.
Alterman, echoing William F. Buckley, circa 1968, suggests that Nader leave the country for having the temerity to run for president against Al Gore and George W. Bush, since the Democrats own every left-of-center vote that exists, as any serious liberal will angrily remind you. Gitlin simply comes off as a sad old man, anxious to be an influential liberal conscience, or a reasonable facsimile. I've never physically met Gitlin, but I did have him as a phone-in guest on a New York radio show I hosted, where he defended the Clinton administration at great if boring length. So it's no surprise that he trashes Nader in this film. If only Bernadine Dohrn had fucked him before she went underground. It might've taken the edge off, or perhaps accelerated his New Left resentment. Hard to tell with guys like that.
The film shows, among many things, how Nader did not cost Gore the election, featuring research from a Harvard law student who proclaims his pro-Dem sympathies, including his voting for Gore in '00. Not that this or any other explanation will ever persuade or placate most American liberals. To them, Nader is the devil, and it's practically impossible to sway the religious-minded. More on this and related manias in "Savage Mules," to which I must return.
Another American lit legend bites the irradiated dust. I was never a big fan of Norman Mailer's work, though I've enjoyed (and still own) many of his Esquire essays from the 1960s. For me, Mailer was more a media figure, performing in the days when writers, authors, and polemicists regularly appeared on talk shows, the conversations lasting more than a few minutes, dealing with topics other than selling product. Mailer was a TV natural, quick-witted, pugnacious, obnoxious, weirdly menacing when not simply strange. The perfect scribe for the ancient small screen.
I met Mailer once, a very brief encounter outside Madison Square Garden, during the 1992 Democratic Convention. I was with Christopher Hitchens, and as we made our way toward the Garden to roam the convention floor, Mailer and his wife Norris Church appeared out of the crowd and walked straight to Christopher.
"Hello, Norman. Norris," said Hitch, extending his nicotine-stained hand in greeting. "And of course you know Dennis Perrin."
Mailer grabbed my hand firmly. "Why, hello Dennis! How are ya buddy?" It was a very odd moment, but I went with it, acting as if Mailer and I were old pals.
"Hi Norman. Good to see you."
As I sized Mailer up, I could see how, as a younger man, he might've been a tough guy to fight -- short, stocky, big arms, a head made for butting. But here he was older, mellower, smiling and optimistic. After watching the Dems inside, Mailer was convinced that Bill Clinton was a winner, and that he would flatten Bush Sr. in the election. I wasn't so sure, but kept my thoughts to myself -- in retrospect, a smart move.
I can't find any decent footage of Mailer on the Dick Cavett show, where he thundered against the likes of Gore Vidal, when not insulting the studio audience. Hopefully, a DVD box set of Cavett's interviews with authors will someday be released. But I did discover a segment from Mailer's 1970 film "Maidstone," in which Rip Torn attacks Mailer with a hammer, resulting in an actual fight. (I've also met, but did not fight, Rip Torn, sharing cocktails at Terry Southern's wake.) As Vincent Canby wrote about it in the New York Times:
"Mailer conceived the film as a giant, multileveled improvisation, involving 100 or so friends and professionals, which would try to capture a new kind of cinematic truth and purity by letting his actors go where they would once the original premise had been presented to them. The premise, in fact, is just nutty enough to be brilliant:
"Norman T. Kingsley (Mailer), a notorious film director (modestly compared to Bufiuel, Fellini, Dreyer and Antonioni) who is making a spoof of 'Belle de Jour' on eastern Long Island, is being considered as a Presidential candidate. In the course of his production, he is visited by various delegations, interviewed by television, profiled by associates and the object of an assassination attempt that may or may not be the work of his brother, played by Rip Torn, who has been given the name of Raoul, apparently to add still another association between Norman T. Kingsley and various authority figures.
"That's the way the movie began, but, sadly, Mailer's huge cast didn't seem to improvise as well on-camera as they reportedly did off. The whole thing was becoming a disaster of the order of a rained-out Boy Scout picnic until, on the last day of shooting, Rip Torn improvised an attack on Mailer-Kingsley with a toy hammer that turned into a real fight. As the two men fought (Mailer's choppers neatly clamped on Torn's ear, drawing blood), Beverly Bentley (Mrs. Mailer) and the Mailer children screamed hysterically, and the cameras continued to roll.
"The result is a very mysterious scene that is more than just a close-up of the author-at-play. At one moment Mailer is shouting about trust betrayed, which is one of his most seductive themes, and in the next he is saying that he'll never forgive Torn for having, in effect, made a fool of him in front of his children. It's complex and dense and very much in keeping with what a major author is required to give his public in this era of Total Revelation."
I don't know if Mailer would want scenes like this as part of his legacy, as this occurred during his drunken, two-fisted period, when a wrong word or move could and very often did result in physical assault. I hope that Norman has better results wrestling on the next plane. Is there ear biting after death?
Yes, it's a demand that Pakistan's overlord Musharraf leave office, but the phrasing's all wrong, at least to American eyes familiar with the stylings of Beat poets and writers, or the trappings of a Big Ten football game:
The absence of face-paint among the crowd eliminates the Big Ten angle. But if these Pakistani protesters began snapping their fingers after this picture was taken, then the ghost of Neal Cassady has descended into some interesting, potentially dangerous areas.
For more detailed thoughts on the events in Pakistan, check out my friend Manan Ahmed.
For me, it's back to re-recordings, edits, overdubs, moody session players, late night improvs, and the hazy notion that something solid is coming together. Wouldn't that be nice?
"I've been working on a mega-Iraq-America post, a thing that keeps growing & going into all manner of moods, anguish and cheap observations, for when I think I've finished it, more bullshit emerges and so into the mega-post it goes. Dunno if this is my White Album/Smile/Tommy/Sandinista!/Flowers Of Romance, but many hours have been spent in the studio, my beard gets longer, showers are eschewed, and the voices in my head collide and crash and tell me to keep going, that I haven't yet reached the end."
This I posted nearly two years ago, at Red State Whoever. It was an extended war poem/rant/slander/routine that kept growing and unfurling and really had no end -- hell, to be honest, it had no beginning or middle either. So I shelved it. Now that I'm in the final weeks of this insane deadline, I've pulled out this lost whatever-the-fuck-it-is for use in "Mules."
Reading parts of it for the first time since pushing it aside, I see that it's more Metal Box/Pet Sounds/London Calling/Saxophone Colossus/We're Only In It For The Money than those earlier master works mentioned above. Which is fine. Besides, the book after this one should prove to be the real mind bender, something you'd rather blast with a pump action Remington 870 than read. At least, that's what I'm going for.
So no fresh libels for a few days, maybe more. Studio time is precious, and my percussion section's getting it all wrong. Jesus, do I have to write this thing myself?
Thanks to an old self-hypnosis tape I found in my cluttered basement ("Digging Through Your Psyche with Joe Garagiola"), I'm able to partially recover a few more online threats to my personal safety.
One time, I think it was late afternoon (the light was dim), I was arguing about the origins of the Civil War at the Blue & Gray discussion list, when some jerk kept telling me that Lincoln waged the war to free the slaves and preserve his future place on the penny and five dollar bill. After I informed him that the North had no intention of allowing an independent South, due to expansionist desires and the need to establish a single currency for monopolistic capital, this dick said that he would find me, and when he did, he'd stick a laminated copy of the Emancipation Proclamation up my ass. Needless to say, I logged off immediately.
Then there was the time -- oh, let's see, was it four years ago? -- yeah, I believe four years ago, I was having a nice give-and-take with a few people at a "Mannix" listserv, when suddenly some asshole came on and insisted that the "Mannix" theme had lyrics and was sung by Shirley Bassey. Clearly, this rube was out of his mind, as I gently but firmly told him. The dweeb got so upset that he claimed he was gonna strangle his cat, then take the tabby's corpse and shove it up my ass. I clicked directly to a glory hole porn site, just to cover my tracks.
Another time, maybe a couple years back, I pretended that I was a right wing Hollywood celebrity on some geekoid conservative movie site, and I went on and on about the secret sex perversions of the top liberal stars, and these nutjobs ate it up, adding their own fantasies. After a while, the talk grew progressively stranger and more violent, and finally I confessed that I made the whole thing up, that I was just some guy having fun. Six of these rock-heads promised to track me down and gang rape me repeatedly in the ass, but became so turned on by each other's threats, they forgot about me enitrely and began exchanging e-mail addresses.
I'm the author of "MR. MIKE: The Life and Work of Michael O'Donoghue, The Man Who Made Comedy Dangerous," "AMERICAN FAN: Sports Mania and the Culture That Feeds It," and "SAVAGE MULES: The Democrats and Endless War."
I wrote jokes for Bill Maher and countless other comics, some of whom ran for public office. I've done the media/public speaking thing, pounding podiums when not singing and dancing for tossed coins. Once upon a time I wrote Red State Son, the archive of which can be found in the blogroll below.