Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Those Who Forget Are Doomed Etc.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bag Me With A Spoon

Teabaggers are the liberals' best friends. Without them, most liberals would dredge up whatever used reactionary outrage they could find, regardless of actual weight or seriousness. But the teabaggers offer plenty of ripe material. This allows liberals to ignore or play down whatever "disappointment" they feel with Obama, and ensures continued loyalty to the Dems, however hesitant their allegiance occasionally seems.

This is not to say that teabaggers, birthers, Birchers, and other flag-draped eccentrics aren't unsettling, especially in angry groups. Some of the shit they spew is from another dimension entirely -- a living Ralph Steadman portrait. In a depoliticized nation of over 300 million consumers, there's bound to be confusion, ignorance, hatred, and delusion, as well as those who urge on and profit from this lunacy. Anything to keep people divided and focused on narrow issues and general distractions. But this is hardly a unique right wing feature.

Noam Chomsky says that the teabaggers are proof of the left's weakness and failure. If so, it's been a long time coming. Ever since liberals embraced the corporate statism of Bill Clinton, working and poor people left behind and trampled are less and less a liberal concern, to the degree they ever truly were. Professional liberals possess very little class consciousness, save for those in the upper tiers who understand and accept how the game is played. The rest of us are pretty much on our own.

At least the teabaggers are in the streets, battling for their perceived interests. Liberals are more obedient at the moment, applauding or overlooking policies they would jeer and protest if a Repub president oversaw the scene. Liberals decry possible teabagger violence, but do nothing about the killing machine operated by Obama. Despite some mild dissent, most liberals are still very much in love with Their President and want him to succeed (one of The Nation's main worries). What "success" means to them is subjective, since objectively, Obama faithfully serves those with real power, while keeping his followers in check. Not that he has to do much to keep them quiescent. If that's not success, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Snooze Buttons

Army dream again. Used to have these a lot, but age and custodial labor replaced that anxiety with cleaning dreams, some of the nastiest imagery I've ever coughed up.

Cleaning dreams deal with loss, frustration, anger, exile. As these feelings fade, so too the shit-covered bathrooms and vomit-caked carpets. You'd think I'd be having performance anxiety dreams now, but I don't feel anxious about the stage. Excited, anticipatory, a little nervous, yes, but once at the mike I feel fine. Given how my brain works, something must haunt me. So back to the barracks we go.

Overall, I had a pretty boring Army stint. My off-duty hours were creatively filled, especially once Kamakaze Radio got going; but in uniform I went through the required paces. Everybody did. Even the MPs. They were dicks, but they could've been much worse. The perils of peacetime.

Many of my Army dreams are about enduring boot camp again and again, loss of power, regimentation, stress. I bring my present mind along for these trips, which makes for some compromising scenes, but nothing that causes screams in the night. This time around I was assisted by my son, for whom, thank god, the military is not a goal. Yet here he enlisted, so I joined to protect him. I soon realized that whatever I did, no matter how intense my desire, I could not protect him, that he was on his own. I was powerless in a deeper way.

This fall, my son will enter high school, and not the one we wanted, either. At the moment, I'm projecting on him every horror story from my teen past, convinced that he'll face the same fractured music. This also has to do with him reaching adulthood, and all the wonderful gifts that come with that, especially these days. Me living part time in NYC is a part of letting him go, I think. Not that I'm abandoning him, but he desires more space and doesn't need the old man's dread blocking his path.

He and I are in transition. It's an unsettled time, but there are positive symbols as well. One recurring dream has me embracing those I once despised or looked down upon, spreading love, humility and forgiveness. I realize that this is about The Project. Though I walk in the valley of tortured comic souls, I do not share their fears and hatreds. I seek a wider path where connections are made, awareness sharpened, poison drained, minds broadened.

As O'Donoghue said, comedy is the icing, ideas and truth the cake. Welcome to the Laugh Bakery.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Helmet Hair Speaks

Now that C-SPAN has opened its video archives, the full debate between me and Terry Eastland from 1991 is available. Aren't you happy? Thought you might be.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dharma's Soiled Tux

"If you ever get a chance to drop acid with Muslims -- do it. It's exciting, a little terrifying, but you learn something about yourself, which is always good."

I reached Ico Gallery in hard driving rain. Outskirts of Chelsea near 12th Ave. Ico's area reminded me of galleries on the Lower East Side, when heroin was openly sold in doorways and vacant lots, and you literally looked over your shoulder until you were a few blocks north of Houston.

Art amid decay. I've always liked that combo.

Ico isn't as downtrodden as those old spaces, especially once you brush against the genre characters who attend most NYC openings. From kids with elevated uncombed hair and clashing patterns, to the graying men surrounded by younger women, listening to Pop's take on paintings or photos, these galleries resemble tourist theme parks, complete with derivative art that you've seen a hundred thousand times. At least there's free booze.

I did like Karima Williams' work. The Algerian-born artist depicts Muslim women trapped between imperialists and jihadists, caged, gagged, owned, looking for openings and breathing room. Williams borrows liberally from Basquiat, so her images are not startling or even new, but do speak to underheard if not repressed desire, anguish, and passion.

The bar offered an infidel response to these paintings: bacon-flavored vodka. It is without doubt one of the vilest combinations I've ever tasted. The aroma alone is nauseating, but I took a sip anyway, immediately regretting it. What dreadful poseurs would drink this swill? (Looks around.) Oh yeah.

Fortunately, there was clean cheap vodka too, and honoring William Burroughs, I mixed mine with Coke. A friend connected to the opening introduced me around, and there was some amusing, light conversations, nothing terribly heavy. As I mingled, more vodka Cokes were consumed, and the nice strong buzz made the event a lot more tolerable. My friend mentioned an after-party in Battery Park. I was interested, but he said, "Aren't you doing UCB tonight?"

"Yeah. But I'm told it's fixed. I won't get on."

"You should go anyway."

I thought his suggestion had more to do with the hot young woman on his arm than concern for my emerging project. But he was right. I needed to go.

"The Muslims I did acid with weren't the jihadist variety that's all the rage right now. No, these were Black Nationalist Muslims I knew in the Army. They were more eclectic in their philosophy and theology, but they shared one abiding passion: a deep hatred for white people."

Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre is several blocks east of Ico, so the walk wasn't too far, and the rain had let up. The possibility of performing dampened my vodka buzz as I ran lines in my head. When I arrived at UCB, a crowd of young white kids were streaming in to see a sketch show at 11. I followed them downstairs to the box office. I asked a woman at the door about signing up for Gutbucket, UCB's monthly open mic. "Oh sure!" she said, handing me a small piece of paper. I scribbled my name, handed it back, and was told that the performing list would be posted in 45 minutes.

Thinking I had no shot, since I was told UCB usually puts on those they know and like, I hung around to talk to other comics hoping to make the cut. There was another open mic in the East Village at 1, so I figured I'd get to know some of these guys, see that I wasn't chosen, then grab a cab to hit that other show.

The comics I conversed with were much younger than me, their confidence barely masking insecurity and fear. A couple of them had yet to score at UCB after nearly a year of trying. But they kept coming back, because UCB is the hip space where SNL cast members and notable up-and-comers jam to sold out, enthusiastic audiences. If you get in here, you're on the right career track -- according to these guys, anyway. It stokes what hope they have.

As I waited for the list, I could hear the actors inside yelling lines over steady laughter. I snuck inside the theater door to watch some of the show. It took me back to Kamakaze Radio, weekend jams at Folk City, and various other stages of my early days. I felt a momentary chill, a flash of excitement. A long-suppressed vibe emerged that exhilarated me. I missed this world more than I ever admitted to myself. I was 22 again in spirit.

A staffer told me to wait outside the theater for the list. It was no longer raining, but the damp cold cut deep. I bounced a bit to keep warm as a cute young woman emerged, lighting a cigarette. We locked eyes and smiled.

"Hey Pierre!" she said, noting my flattened beret.

"Pierre?! It's Francois! Pierre. Please."

She laughed and asked if I was a comic. "I'm an old man with a dying dream." She chuckled, shook her head, took a drag.

Her boyfriend co-wrote the sketch show, so she's used to this kind of exchange. I don't remember much of what I said, but we had a snappy rapport going, and I made her consistently laugh. As she tossed away her butt, she shook my hand. "Good luck, Francois. You're funny. I know you're gonna kill tonight."

She went back inside just as the list was posted. Out of numerous comics, only 15 make the cut. I was number 11.

I couldn't believe it. First time out. My adrenaline kicked into higher gear as I mentally prepped for the set.

The house remained full after the sketch show, a tangible electricity in the air. Tonight's Gutbucket was emceed by two comics, one slim guy who doled out casual sarcasm between sips of beer, the other heftier, longhaired and bearded, resembling Zach Galifianakis. They knew the first several comedians well enough to give bios in the introductions. Clearly these were favored performers who were climbing UCB's ladder.

While they were smoother than most of the comics at the Village Lantern, the material was largely observational, nothing that would startle an average audience. There was one kid with glasses who tried something interesting: a series of fevered sound effects that suggested violence and mayhem, then a calm explanation of what each sound represented. In this bit, Popeye entered a room and whaled on a bunch of cops. The crowd appreciated it, which was nice.

Standing in the back, watching the acts with me was another kid who made tart observations along the way. He then nudged me and asked, "What's your name?"

"Dennis Perrin."

"Right! I recognize you!"

"You do?"

"Yes! I've seen your act around town. I like it."

I nodded and thanked him. Far be it from me to correct the kid. In comedy, any recognition is good, even the fictional kind.

Just over an hour later, my time approached. About a third of the audience had gone, but it was still a decent crowd. The slim emcee asked if I had anything for my intro. I told him I once wrote for Bill Maher. He stared at me incredulously.

"Bill Maher."


Another stare. "Okay."

The guy adjusted the mike stand and said, "This next comic was a writer for Bill Maher. And Jonathan Winters. And Bob Newhart. And . . ." He paused.

"And Slappy White!" I yelled out.

Complete silence.

"Umm, anyway here's . . . I'm trying to remember his name. Oh yeah -- Dennis Perrin."

Hell of an intro, no?

I took the stage, stared at the young smiling faces gazing at me. I paused a beat, then said, "If you ever get a chance to drop acid with Muslims -- do it." This got a decent laugh, and I was off.

Though this was the first time I'd performed this material, it flowed naturally out of me. One of the bigger laughs came when I mentioned the Army. Like the emcee before me, the audience didn't believe what I was saying. There's much of my life that seems unbelievable even to me, so I know I'm gonna get this reaction again. But being in the fucking Army? What's so bizarre about that?

Unlike some of the other comics, I didn't elicit howls and applause. My material had a different tone and rhythm, something you can't immediately plug into. Not yet. But the audience paid attention, followed my story, and laughed pretty much where I wanted them to. At times they laughed hesitantly, especially when I talked about how much the Black Muslims hated white people.

"And I thought, hey, what a coincidence! I hate white people too! Every asshole jock bully, every religious prick, every authoritarian wannabe who beat me, lied to me, ripped my soul out by the roots -- was white! [pause] FUCK WHITEY!"

I explained how despite my attempts to be non-racist, the acid stirred up years of racist conditioning, and as I peaked the Black Muslims morphed into the crows from Dumbo, only they talked like Miles Davis. "What's the matter, white boy? Shit too strong for you? That's what you get for taking a Black man's acid!"

Needless to say, this wasn't going to get me an SNL writing gig. But it felt great. A solid early stage.

I tried to squeeze in a bit about my attraction to right wing women, which began with me jerking off to Eva Braun in Hitler's home movies. But masturbating to Nazi chicks would have to wait. The lights went out, the music came up, and I was done.

The bearded emcee followed me with "Dennis Perrin dropping truth bombs!", then sarcastically reviewed my set. The parts I heard, anyway. I was deep inside my head, reviewing the mental tape. I went backstage, grabbed my coat, made friendly small talk with a couple of comics, then left. On my way out, I noticed a framed photo of Del Close, the Second City legend who is UCB's spiritual godfather. I smiled thinking about the time I sat with Close, listening to his creative advice. I was 19, years before most of these comics were born.

Del Close was crazy old school. So, it seems, am I.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kamakaze iPod

Old desires, like old wounds, are difficult to mend. In my case, impossible. I'm locked in until whatever or whoever kills me.

My return to the NY stage revealed much of this sorry condition, which is good. Clears the air, clarifies reality. Several friends and well-wishers remain puzzled by this latest life turn, some urging me to reconsider. I feel them. Their warnings are probably accurate. But I'm doing this anyway. No turning back now.

As I've reported, I hit two stages on this scouting trip, the third place putting me on standby. Had I waited until the end of the show, I'm sure I would've gotten on. But after eight or so comics, my energy and desire ebbed. The idea of hammering them with my set, while enticing, seemed meaningless since I was leaving town in the morning. The next round won't be so passive.

It's amazing how competitive you get around comics. I hadn't felt this in over 20 years, and the vibe remains the same, if a bit more jangled. What camaraderie exists seems situational, based on mood, moment, place in the food chain. One's material is almost irrelevant. It's a weird hive where pissed off bees sting themselves. Anything for a laugh.

My first stop was the Village Lantern on Bleecker Street. Ray Combs hosted the night I arrived, which was karmically perfect and right. One of the last times I performed stand up was when I wrote for Ray Sr. Made sense that his son introduce my return.

Ray warned me to not mention my credits as this might ruffle the younger comics who have yet to professionally achieve anything. I agreed in theory, but didn't know how long such deceit would last. The whole point to this exercise is to be as open as psychically possible, to share what twists me inside and attack what fucks us collectively. I'm not looking for a Jimmy Fallon guest shot, nor to join any comedy clique or posse. Honesty is the key here.

Still, when introducing me to a fellow comic and emcee, Ray let slip that I wrote O'Donoghue's bio. "The man who made comedy dangerous?" he replied, eyebrows raised. "That was you?"


"I've read that book. That's a great book. Wow man."

It was here I decided that hiding my past would be pointless.

Ray led me downstairs to the club. It's a tiny space, stage framed by bricks and scratched walls. The early show was ending, my first taste of the downtown scene. Anger. Despair. Hatred of self and whatever else floats by. Sure it's an act, but deep down it isn't. Comics have always played on the edge of anguish, but these guys nearly obliterate all distinctions. I've never experienced such steady depression. Some of them make Kinison look like Seinfeld.

A couple of comics stood out, primarily a tall bearded guy who confessed his emotional fragility and how everything made him cry. His gentleness was a sweet contrast to the ranting pain parade. Yet amid the steady negative beat was a creative energy that, if pushed in a more inspired direction, might yield some positive or at least interesting results.

Ray managed the room smoothly and beautifully. He's a much better comic than his father -- his honesty and directness a refreshing antidote to Ray Senior's glad-hand showbiz style. Clearly, his father's career implosion and suicide had a profound effect on Ray, who resists making comedy his primary goal. He's probably wise to avoid the laugh abattoir, but Ray has the gift. He's quick, funny, savage when necessary (don't even try heckling him), supportive when it counts. He cares about the other comics, offering off-stage advice to those who appear lost, as a few certainly did.

The Lantern reminded me of the punk clubs of my youth, where no fourth wall existed, the audience and talent essentially sharing the same stage. (Public Image Ltd. tried this approach with disastrous results.) That the Lantern's audience were largely other comics made this inevitable, but no less entertaining, at times compelling. If the material had more weight than "My life sucks, I wanna kill myself," who knows where it might lead.

When my turn came, I'd decided to throw out my prepared set and riff on the room's energy. Ray asked how I wanted to be introduced, and I told him to simply say my name. I would take care of the rest.

"I had some written material that was pretty good," I announced after taking the stage, waving my notes overhead. "There's a bit about dropping acid with Black Muslims in the Army, and another about my early erotic obsession with Eva Braun, but given how this evening's gone, and to honor Ray's honesty, I'm just gonna tell you what I think about all this."

Out it came. Who I was. What I was doing there. Where I planned to go. Frankly, I don't remember a lot of what I said after the beginning. I was in an improv zone, riding the flow. I did play the age card, telling the comics that when most of them were children, I performed in that very neighborhood with people who displayed a wider range of influences. "Now, all you fuckers sound exactly alike!" To illustrate this, I yelled at my dick, which yelled back at me. "What is that?!" I asked them. "Don't you know we're all connected? That history matters? Why not deal with that?" I closed on some mystical note that I barely recall, then warned that they hadn't seen the last of me.

Ray followed and confirmed what I said, that I'd written for his father and the rest of it. Later off-stage, Ray whispered that he wouldn't have revealed that much of his past, but that it was my decision. I think it was the way to go. I have enough to deal with in this new phase without trying to conceal where I've been. Acknowledge it and move on. There's enough bullshit as it is.

Afterward, Ray and I shared a drink and talked about his father, his present life, and the current scene. I felt good about my rant. I was loose, funny, and above all sincere. A nice first step on what'll be a dark twisted path.

NEXT: Performing for the Kewl Kids at Upright Citizens Brigade.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Gotham Shitty

Sitting in my tiny Chelsea hotel room, listening to the young German hipsters in the hallway. They jump from English to native tongue, slouching against the worn cracked walls, recounting immediate sensations and little more. They're like many of the younger people I've encountered this week -- lots of attitude and posturing, texting while chatting, seemingly busy yet static and vague.

Yes I sound old and out of it, as doubtless I am. Inescapable. But if there's a youthful cutting edge to the city, I've yet to see it. These kids seem like standard consumers, playing their demographic roles that are flashed all over town, images so boring and obvious that one wonders what's the point.

As another geezer, Trent Reznor, once said, the pigs have won.

I have mixed feelings about coming back to NYC. There are times when I feel like a specter haunting old spots, nostalgia clouding my perception. The city's energy is a welcome relief from dull Midwestern life, where locals go through the same paces daily and nothing much happens. I feel dead there, but out of place here. Maybe the latter will change when I settle in for a longer stay. I can't say I'm confident.

I've performed on two stages so far, and look to hit one or two more before I leave. NYC's comedy scene is an angry, cliquish one, at least downtown. I've yet to venture above 26th Street. I feel out of place here as well, but in a creative way. My material is so different from the sets I've seen, which hasn't endeared me to most of the comics I've met. But I believe in my stuff, some of the best work I've produced in some time.

I'll write about this in greater depth when I return to Michigan. Right now, I want to watch some basketball, read the Sunday Times, have a beer, and later see old friends. Love to all.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

And Away I Go

Now it begins.

For a week, anyway.

Today, I'm off to NYC in search of a decent sublet and to grab what stage time I can. I've already scored a slot at a Village club tonight, thanks to the host, Ray Combs Jr. That's right -- the son of the man I wrote for in my twenties. I'm still wrapping my mind around that karmic fact. If I had any doubts about this adventure, running across Ray quelled them. This is meant to be.

From what I've seen, Ray's act is nothing like the old man's. He's more energetic, darker, willing to take risks. Ray Senior was very calculated about his material and career. Appealing to the broadest possible base was his main concern. I don't get that vibe from his son, which is good. I can't wait to reconnect with Ray (whom I haven't seen since he was a kid) and talk about comedy, life, whatever. That is, until he gives me the light. Then I'll have to wrap up the set or have my mike cut -- just like the Oscars! Ah, the lure of the biz.

I doubt I'll post much, if at all, until I return next week. But expect plenty of tales when I get back.

Here's a funny post-Mr. Show bit with David Cross and Bob Odenkirk. Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman provide unspoken cameos. See you all soon. Much love.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Whom Will I Wear?

Tonight, I'll be Twiddling the Oscars, pre-show included. Sometime after 6 PM EST. 140 characters in search of a script.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Speaking Of Laughs

Here's me popping off about everything under the sun, via Doug Lain's Diet Soap. I rant because I kinda care.

Laugh That Boot Right Off Your Throat

One of the problems with American political comedy is that under the impressions and behind all the bits, reverence for the system remains deep. This is why politicians oftentimes assist in their own "skewering," because at bottom, it's about personalities and not structure, which allows the likes of Sarah Palin to join in the laughter (so long as it's not connected to Family Guy). We're all in it together. Your vote counts. Let's make America strong again, but have fun doing so. The standard pitch.

Funny Or Die's latest production is a shining example of this mindset. Past presidents, both living and dead, converge to tell Barack Obama to Do The Right Thing, in this case, confronting the banking and credit card cartels. It's an amusing comic fairy tale that has nothing to do with how corporate money controls and defines the system.

Obama, played by Fred Armisen, whose impression remains stuck in first gear, is portrayed as a decent guy who wants to do good, but can't because his predecessors and Beltway power brokers have tied his executive hands. This is the fall back liberal position on Obama: it's not him, it's everything around him. If only Obama would be who he really is and fight for democracy, freedom, and justice. That's his job, right?

The idea that Obama is hostile to corporate power, or worse, can be pushed into combating those who've bought exclusive access, is naturally ridiculous, yet helps keep the chimera alive for those who need it. Plus, part of the premise is that Obama's predecessors gleefully fucked everything up, for whatever reason, but now insist that Obama fix the mess they made. It's an incoherent satirical point, assuming the writers, Adam McKay, Al Jean, Tom Gammill and Max Pross among them, were aiming for satire. After watching this a few times, my guess is that they're trying to push a feel-good message instead, sending fantasy Obama into political battle while we help by phoning our senators and giving them a good talking to.

"Nothing annoys them more than having to do their jobs," we're told. Actually, they are doing their jobs -- working to keep the system in place, power relations included. What annoys them is having to pretend to care about average people, which some do better than others. You'd think the open class war now being waged would make that obvious. But dreams die hard if at all in American culture, and we are left with winks and nods instead of full-scale satirical assaults.

Lack of teeth aside, this bit is entertaining, at least to an old SNL geek like me. Various ex-cast members reprise their presidential personas. Darrell Hammond's Clinton is the sharpest and funniest, while Dan Aykroyd's Jimmy Carter is amorphous and off-kilter. I have a soft spot for Chevy's Gerald Ford, which has always been a non-impression. Will Ferrell's W. doubtless still delights liberals.

The most interesting addition is Jim Carrey as Ronald Reagan. Carrey auditioned for SNL but wasn't hired, so he's somewhat of an outsider among these vets. Carrey's Reagan is okay, more broad outline than precise rendition, and it's clear that Adam McKay went for celeb heat instead of comedic accuracy. The only SNL Reagans still alive are Harry Shearer, Joe Piscopo, and Randy Quaid (Charles Rocket and Phil Hartman apparently weren't available to play actual ghosts). Jim Morris voiced Reagan for Robert Smigel's "X-Presidents" cartoon on SNL, and remains the most uncanny Reagan I've ever seen. Either Morris or Shearer would've been better, but, well, that's showbiz. And politics.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Corpse Eaters

A possible route through this next phase. If only I can get this kind of lighting.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Piece Now

When I was a kid, the culture turned against the Vietnam war, and it was permissible to air critical thoughts. I knew nothing about this in a political or social way. I'd see returning GIs appear on game shows, surprising their spouses who broke down in tears. That's where I connected -- a basic thank-god-I'm-alive vibe and fuck that war now behind me. The vets also smiled and cried, which touched my young heart. I had no idea what carnage they'd witnessed or helped to inflict.

Around this time a PSA appeared, showing two generic world leaders slugging it out, the narrator saying that wars should be fought by those who declare them. This too touched me, though in a weirder way. For beneath my innocence and ignorance, there grew an awareness that this was not the way the world worked, or could ever feasibly function. Nixon and Brezhnev were drinking buddies, and if they did throw down, it would be over the last bottle, not as an alternative to war.

The idea of forcing leaders to fight in place of armies has always been absurd, and crucially avoids the central nerve. Far from hammering each other, potential leaders should prove their individual mettle before taking office. A simple test will show if they have big stage chops. Hand them a gun, doesn't matter the make or caliber, and have them pump two rounds directly into the head of a bound and gagged prisoner. If they're going to order murderous hits from a distance, then they should feel what it's like to personally kill.

How would each base react to this arrangement? I suspect Repubs would be keener for election year executions than Dems, at least rhetorically. Most Dems affect a haughty air when it comes to mass murder, and rubbing their faces in it might fray their sensitive psyches. Then again, it may also release their inner-sadists, reconnecting them to earlier mule-sponsored massacres. We won't really know until we try. But it would weed out tourists and pretenders. Don't like Obama, Palin or Romney? Give each a piece and watch them collapse. McCain, who has killed from the sky, might actually enjoy it. A crazy, fading old man with hate and murder in his heart. I can't think of a better, more accurate symbol for our present state.

Some political observers are aghast that Afghan soldiers are undisciplined, hash-smoking slackers who don't appreciate the gifts NATO has given them. Don't blame the Afghans. They're caught between insanity and corruption, theocracy and theft, with death coming from all angles. Who the fuck wouldn't get baked? American military moralists should be happy that Afghan grunts are hitting blunts during firefights. Given that we're an occupying presence, there are certainly more lethal forms of local expression.