Friday, January 29, 2010

Rye Catching

Salinger belched as he rose from the table.

"The nectar of gassy release!" he said, patting his sternum. "It's good for you. Do it as often as you can."

"Even in public?"

Salinger's eyes widened. "Especially in public! How pleasant it would be if people burped instead of spoke. Nature's language carries more meaning than our inferior syntax. Ah well. Time to feed my babies!"

Salinger turned quickly and dashed outside before I could finish my raw beets and turnip cubes. I threw down the burlap napkin and chased after him. For an old man, Salinger was spry.

Salinger raised his hands, wiggling his fingers. He looked to the sky and began chanting.

"Lobsang Gyalwa Tsedzin Bodhisattva Gyaltsen!" he repeated several times. "Fill the air with your conquerors! Eternal adamantine nature! Bring forward your feathered prophets!"

As if on cue, at least a dozen birds appeared, flapping around Salinger's head. Robins, starlings, finches, and a few crows, who kept their distance.

"Take my seed!" Salinger instructed.

"Excuse me?"

"My seed! In that barrel to your left. Scoop up a healthy serving. My babies are starving."

An old Maxwell House can lay atop the barrel. I lifted the lid, sank the can into the seed, and pulled out an ample portion.

"Now, pour the seed into my mouth, then dump the rest on my head. Hurry man!"

I followed Salinger's orders, fighting off the hungry birds. His large mouth held most of the can's contents, the remaining third sprinkled over his silver mane.

I stepped back and watched in silent wonder. The birds chirped and squawked, pecking furiously at Salinger's mouth and through his hair. But this was no Hitchcockian nightmare. Salinger stood completely still, becoming a human birdfeeder.

Not even the splatter of bird shit rattled him. It remains one of the most serene sights I've ever witnessed.

The birds finished and flew off. The crows stared, cawed, then left as well. Salinger spat out some stray red and yellow pellets, fell to his knees and began sobbing.

"You okay?"

Salinger stared up at me, tears streaking the bird shit on his cheek.

"This is what it's all about. This is what they'll never understand, with their deadlines and dead lives and personalized coffee mugs. ASSASSINS!"

Salinger stopped crying, wiped his face with his sweater sleeve, stood and clapped his hands.

"Who's in the mood for a cocktail?"

Twice-filtered urine and vermouth on ice. Salinger's favorite. He told me of this in one of his letters. Heightens your awareness, he claimed.

I wasn't crazy about the offer, but I could always go heavy on the vermouth. Whatever made Salinger happy. I slipped on the blue party dress and pig-tailed wig laid out for me, then joined Salinger in the den for drinks and dancing.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Human Train

There are some people whose passing just makes you weep. Howard Zinn was decidedly one.

For any American who wakes up to the reality of our empire and fixed political system, Zinn is a vital stop. His seminal "People's History of the United States" remains majestic, widely read, taught, discussed, despised by reactionaries, distrusted by imperial liberals. Zinn laid out the brutal march of American "progress" so simply, so accessibly, that only the willfully dumb would miss the obvious point. A man who dropped bombs in World War II came to oppose them on the ground, and from there Zinn built his historical case against exploitation and butchery.

What really floors me about Zinn was his easy-going demeanor in the face of cruelty and corruption. Even at my most tactical, I could never convey the quiet humanism that made up Zinn's personality. If he was ever angry, depressed, frustrated, or pessimistic, he sure as hell didn't show it. Zinn remained warm, connected, smiling and chuckling to offset the madness he ably dissected. You almost took Zinn for granted; he carried the hope you may have lost or rejected. I honestly don't know how he did it, but I'm better for it, as is anyone exposed to Zinn's work and humane example.

My friend Barry Crimmins understands this well. Barry was quite close to Zinn and shared many public stages with him (Nick Zaino recounts this relationship in a 2002 Boston Globe piece). I spoke to Barry last night, offering my condolences. While there was evident emotion in his voice, Barry steadily described Howard Zinn's essence as he experienced it. It was clear how deeply Zinn affected and influenced Barry, and he offered me a closer glimpse of a man I never had the honor to meet. Of all the heroes and influences I've conversed with and gotten to know, Zinn was one I'd missed. Part of me regrets this, but after talking to Barry, I recognize that Zinn put himself out there for everyone. No hidden agendas. No diva moments. Just a guy who wanted to share not only his knowledge and perspective, but show how all of us possess the same possibilities.

Many people are calling Zinn a radical. I suppose he was, in the getting-to-the-root-of-matters sense. But to me it reveals how fucked our system remains that a person as plain spoken, down to earth, and direct as Howard Zinn is viewed as a fringe figure, an oddball lefty who took a "contrarian" stance against the status quo. If Zinn was weird, then let's be weirdos too. Thank you, Howard.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fourth And Long

While promoting American Fan on sports radio shows (refuge for angry, confused middle-age white guys), several hosts accused me of elitism, insisting that I despised our national pastimes, and hence our nation. Not so, I'd counter. If they had read the book, which clearly many had not, they would see that I was raised in a sports-mad environment, played baseball and football as a kid, and got to meet various pro athletes, mostly big men from the ABA. I was as American as random violence, and understood fan behavior intimately.

As I aged and became politicized, sports fan culture bemused then sickened me. Appreciation for physical strength and athletic grace was often a flimsy cover for cheap tribalism, masochistic voyeurism, displaced aggression, insecurity and emptiness. In a land where politics are bought and fixed, sports offer distraction and escape, a false sense of power and belonging. It remains a useful and highly effective control mechanism, and dovetails nicely with militarism and imperialism, as we'll see when fighter jets zoom over a star-spangled Miami in two weeks.

All this and more is evident. Yet there I was on Sunday, clad in a distressed 1963 New York Jets t-shirt, jumping up and down and screaming as Mark Sanchez hit Braylon Edwards for an 80-yard score against the heavily-favored Indy Colts.

"YES, MOTHERFUCKERS! YES! AH HA HA HA HA!!" I shouted, kicking and punching the air, sending the cats fleeing to the basement.

Oh, how slender our dreams; how fragile our hopes. Before long, Peyton Manning, who is now officially in every other commercial, took apart the Jets' defense, while New York's offense stalled, not helped by a rib injury to Shonn Greene, their best back, who didn't return. I sat with my son deflated as the Jets sank into blue and white quicksand. No Namath miracle against these Colts.

The young man observed that his father behaved oddly, even by Perrin standards. He was right. My son has seen me in numerous states of mind and levels of physicality, some crazier than others, though none ever truly threatening. In nearly 14 years, he's seen the playbook and more, but rarely has he witnessed serious sports passion where guttural pantomime and tone-deaf shrieks reveal a malformed personality from my youth. He got a full glimpse of this on Sunday before the elder Perrin returned, unhappy but resigned, lazily citing whatever Sun Tzu epigram might apply.

He found the old man's outburst entertaining. "Nice Dad," he smiled, wearing my 1960 New York Titans t-shirt in retro-solidarity. "Where did all that come from?"

Where? From a wellspring of pain, fear and hurt. From an early desire to belong. From a need to survive the emotional and physical beatings I'd endured at home and at school. To complete that Hail Mary TD pass or buzzer-beating mid-court jumper in my heart and mind. For me, sports was survival. If I couldn't play them as well as the jocks, then I'd appreciate them at a deeper, philosophical level. Failing that, I'd use sports as release, though the handle's well-worn and cracked, and turning it takes more pressure than before. My stiff aching hands can still do this, but it requires a bit more patience to let the demons out.

"I'm an old AFL geek, son," I said instead. "I watched the Jets win Super Bowl III on a black and white TV in my uncle's basement. They've been my team ever since."

"You like those old rebel leagues, don't you?"

"Yep. Even though the AFL was founded by reactionary businessmen, to me it represented freedom. Weird how the mind works, huh?"

My son laughed. "Well, your mind, Dad."

Just when I'm convinced that death is nothingness, that existence is a butterfly's dream of flowing infinite molecules, a dead friend or relative appears to me just before waking, vivid, alive, slightly distant. The other morning my late pal Russ popped in, wearing his black leather jacket, pompadour glowing, wide Irish face with his trademark smirk. Russ and I had a serious falling out in life, which I've written about, but here was nothing but warmth. He said he no longer felt anger towards me, that where he was anger didn't matter. I asked him what death felt like.

"You wouldn't understand," Russ dryly replied, "but here's a taste."

He then vanished, leaving me standing barefoot in gray-black grass. I felt carefree, light as a leaf, the sensation on my feet unusual but not frightening. I had physical form, yet felt transparent as a woman in a fluttering white dress near a greenish lake waved to me. I wanted to get closer but couldn't, my body breaking apart, scattered by a breeze into bright particles.

Hey, there are worse ways to go.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Coco Go Goes

Reading some of the entertainment message boards, you'd think that Conan O'Brien was assassinated in Dealey Plaza, big red head blown back by NBC sniper bullets. Much of the mistiness comes from younger folk, for whom Conan is an elder comic they grew up watching. So part of their pain is nostalgic, which I understand, though from a longer distance. American pop culture is a mind-bending force. It's all I knew until I went into the Army, where real world concerns altered the fantasies, making me cling to them so tightly that they broke into glittering bits that still float through my thoughts, as you may have noticed.

Don't weep for Conan O'Brien. Dude has it made. He knows and has repeatedly confessed this. Ninety-nine percent of comics never breathe the air that fills Conan's lungs, so it's hard to feel empathy on his behalf. Hopefully, this recent late night bitch-fest, "an escalation in hostilities in which everybody comes off looking petty and juvenile, millionaires fighting over parking privileges," Jim Wolcott accurately observed, will come to an end, and we can return to safe, banal comedy programming. That powerless consumers actually cared about which rich white guy gets the better time slot says volumes about American passivity and distraction at a time when our owners are openly robbing and further disenfranchising us.

"Corporations are people! They're peo-ple!" as Chuck Heston might scream while being dragged away.

In his closing Tonight Show statement, Conan advised his young flock to avoid cynicism, his "least favorite quality." He added, "If you work really hard and are kind, amazing things will happen." Hard work and kindness are indeed noble traits (for a second I thought that Conan was channeling Hulk Hogan, who told his fans to take their vitamins and say their prayers), but American showbiz is a parasitic organism where kindness has no place, and hard work is often exploited and hijacked by those with more power.

I like Conan's humor and am impressed with his knowledge of early comedy forms, a rarity in the profession, but he's no smiling babe in the woods. He came to prominence thanks to Lorne Michaels, who is as cutthroat and mercenary as it gets in television. And anyone who's hung out with or talked to Harvard Lampoon alums knows how cynical and cutting they can be. The illusion offered by Conan rarely matches the reality, but it made for a moist goodbye until the next go-round, when we can again work ourselves into an online lather over nothing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

House Wine Buzz

"Both Parties Seek Ways to Channel Populist Ire."

This "news" headline comes courtesy of the New York Times, enlightening I don't-know-who. "Channel" is too passive a verb: control, corral, exploit are more accurate. "Populist ire" is hyperbole, conjuring images of angry commoners banging on palace gates. All the motherfuckers did was vote in Scott Brown, another corporate hack who out-posed Martha Coakley in Massachusetts. Ho hum. The wheels on the bus and all that.

Still, our narrators pretend that we live in a vibrant democracy where The People's voice reigns supreme, and voting is the noblest gesture of civic action. Countless consumers like this scenario. It's easy to understand and requires very little effort. Yet savage reality tends to cloud the sunshine, leaving reactionaries ranting about Islamocommie plots, and liberals sobbing about spineless Dems who need to take off the gloves and save this nation from the Palins and Becks. What a sight this must be from the imperial suites. It clearly reinforces the need for us to be controlled, for how can you run a fading empire with so much madness and confusion below?

I wish I could take the same glee from this bullshit as does anarcho-pal IOZ. But laughing in the face of American insanity is more a young person's game, and IOZ is many years my junior. He celebrated Scott Brown's victory in several posts, gleaning bits from liberal wonks concerned with the future of the Dems, the US, policy discussion panels and weekend tribal gatherings. Reading IOZ's links made me consider that perhaps I'm the nut, incapable of grasping basic political facts. Either that, or the Ezra Kleins and Josh Marshalls are partisan hucksters casting rube bait in their blasts, and doing quite well. Consumers need reassurance that their fantasies about representative democracy have meaning, regardless of actual conditions. What carny ignores such willing dupes?

Haiti remains a mass grave teetering on a crumbling foundation. Current estimates suggest that some 200,000 Haitians have perished while 2 million are homeless. These people weren't living in the lap of luxury to begin with. Imagine what they now face, if you can. In the larger culture, saying the word Haiti solemnly is proof of one's humanity. It has quickly become a rhythm word, its meaning more to do with the person saying it rather than the corpse-choked hellhole itself. Rwanda and Burma are similar examples. It's why celebrities feel safe embracing "causes" that don't alienate target demographics or sponsors.

As murderous as Mother Nature has been in Haiti, she still has miles to go to match human killing sprees. In this region alone, the US has slaughtered and starved far more undeserving primitives than any earthquake or hurricane. Over in Gaza, American tax dollars have helped create a Palestinian Haiti without much domestic concern, celeb or civilian. In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, US drones also shake the earth, but in a good lethal way. Polls say Americans are increasingly against this, but there's no real action to support such numbers. More solemn talk is all. We are decidedly a Rhythm Word Nation.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bwana Cares

Haiti's misery provides more openings for US manipulation and control. Not that pre-quake Haitians were in a position to free themselves from the regional superpower. But natural disaster makes it easier for American elites, their troops and media megaphones to further exploit that battered nation.

Under the guise of "helping" -- a sick joke, given reports about lack of serious aid -- comes an ever tightening grip. Predators prey on the wounded and weak, but we are unique in that we can sing our own praises while clamping down on Haiti's throat. No surprise, really. We've had plenty of practice.

Anderson Cooper's stunt gave CNN a fresh programming edge: News Hottie Saves Battered Boy! What a guy.

Let's see Cooper do the same thing in Gaza, pulling children out of Israeli-created rubble. Better still, a CNN spin off where Cooper travels to the globe's most wretched areas to snatch kids from harm: "Anderson's Angels." Make Kathy Griffin Cooper's wisecracking sidekick ("Ummm, hello! Splatter doesn't go with stripes!") and you season the drama with sassy levity.

Who says you can't have fun while saving the world?

Meantime, Obama beefs up US military presence while announcing with a straight face that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will represent American "humanitarian" efforts. These two war criminals are stained with Haitian blood, their presidencies chest-deep in imperial intervention and political tampering.

Clinton enjoys the better reputation, having returned to power ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1994 (whom Bush helped dispatch to Africa a decade later). Celebrated as democratic restoration, Clinton's move was merely a tactical shift in traditional regional policy.

Aristide, a sexier client than a junta military commander, served under the US thumb, beholden to IMF dictates. The savage beat played on, and remains mercilessly on key. No earthquake will disrupt that rhythm.

In happier news, Conan O'Brien will receive a $32 million severance package from NBC while throngs of fans spent Martin Luther King's holiday rallying to Conan's defense. Nice to see people caring in such cynical times.

Perhaps Conan can move his show to Port-au-Prince, if Jay Leno doesn't beat him there first.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Brief Candle

For those who thought my post about Haitian relief was a tad jaded, friend and fellow Verso scribe Richard Seymour shows just how depraved some Americans can be in the face of massive death and suffering.

The national amnesia about our invasions, violence and repression in Haiti is almost beautiful in its grotesqueness. Imagine if China had the same bloody record in the Caribbean as us. Think that might get mentioned in a situation like this?

I remember when hallucinations were sunny and fun. The junk pumped into us now is stepped all over by hooved beasts, creating dystopian visions, nausea, and dull, nagging aches. Yet plenty of people pine for the fix. As they advised in happier times, always know your dealer.

I'm sure that most of you know where to go to help with Haitian relief. Tiny Rev pal Jon Schwarz offers some suggestions.

I'll be away from the keyboard for a few days. But this doesn't mean I'll overlook the ongoing late night wars. Here's an early take on Leno by Chris Elliott, perhaps one of the first Leno impressions ever. Today everybody does Leno, a comedy Twilight Zone where big chins and bad jokes are the daily norm. Give me the aliens with the human cookbook any day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Neighborly Concern

Haiti's misery deepens at a most inconvenient time, as America is consumed with its important late night wars. (Jay Leno reportedly will headline a charity concert for Haiti called "Laugh Your Rubble Away," free to Haitians still alive or able to walk.) Brutal reality is a Homeland buzz kill, especially when the dead and dying are seen as nannies and cab drivers, if not disease-ridden voodoo worshippers drenched in chicken blood. Our comfort comes first, and if there's any to spare we'll give it gladly, or leave it on the curb for pick up.

While genuine humanitarian groups are on the case, various crooks and parasites use catastrophes like this to appear humane and caring. Obama's big pledge to help Haiti sounds great so long as you don't take it too seriously. US imperialism has raped and strangled Haiti for nearly a century, adding to the French-sponsored anguish before that. Natural disasters merely worsen conditions created by regional wealth and power, so for the mouthpiece of a country responsible for much of Haiti's suffering to assure the natives that he has their best interests at heart is decidedly rich, but expected when not applauded.

Actually, this would be a good time for Obama to pretend that he's appalled by previous US actions (the earlier and more generalized the better), declaring a CHANGE in how we treat Haiti, starting with tactical relief efforts. Reactionaries will howl on cue, but it would be smart PR, and if Obama's team has anything left in that tank, they should use it now. It might deflect attention away from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia (umm, what's that other place again . . . Iraq? Yeah, them too), where Obama creates his own rubble, slaughtering poor people while trying to maintain an imperial grip. Then again, given the lack of open public outrage, diversion is probably unnecessary. Still, Obama may want to work whatever positive angle he can find. There's his re-election to consider, and you can never snow consumers enough.

Helping Obama is our old friend Pat Roberston, who clearly understands his role in the grand fiction. This dope's claim that Haiti suffers due to a deal with the devil is marvelously absurd and so over the top that it would easily win a drag beauty pageant scored by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Liberals are playing their part, booing and hissing Robertson who has no say in Haitian policy, while remaining relatively quiescent as Obama blows his dented horn. Robertson is a reliable if aging distraction, the Reagan era's Sarah Palin. His lunacy gives liberals a nostalgic contact high, much sweeter than today's sorry crop. It's tough to remain outraged while tweeting and texting, a hole in the multi-task heart.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Laugh You Assholes

Of all Michael O'Donoghue's theories about comedy, the above is his most direct. Making assholes laugh is what American comedy's all about, especially on late night TV. Feed young rubes pre-chewed bits, talk about nothing while pushing product, feature some new band at the end, then wave goodnight. Repeat as needed. Not mind shattering news, but given the tumult over the latest late night fuck around, it helps to keep basic facts straight.

For friends and readers living outside the US, big media attention is being lavished on Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, and how NBC is apparently screwing them both while blasting holes in its feet. Now in the grand scheme, this is little more than arguing about how to best display NBC's chattering puppets while pleasing affiliates and securing profitable ad rates. Actually, in the small scheme, that's pretty much how it is, too, jockeying over a slice of increasingly archaic air time.

As you can see, we Americans take our empty forms very seriously. Personally as well, if sentiments posted at various message boards are reliable guides. People are choosing sides in this thing. "I'm a Leno man!" "Conan's my guy!" "Shame on NBC!" I haven't seen this kind of emotional split since the '08 election that was to CHANGE everything. And like that PR blitz, the current late night battle carries roughly the same meaning and magnitude. What else are powerless people gonna invest their energy in?

Howard Stern, who despises Jay Leno, has been funny about this bullshit, skewering Leno's mercenary behavior at the expense of stable mate Conan. That's about the level where Stern remains funny, dishing on his friends and foes among the showbiz elite. (When Stern and gang talk about politics, the ignorance is usually beyond humor and belief.) Stern's delight in trashing others or digging through their embarrassment and pain does not extend to his own show.

Artie Lange, Stern's sidekick for nearly a decade, recently tried to kill himself, and reportedly nearly succeeded. Lange had been absent from the show for weeks, though it was a mystery why. Lange's depression, overeating and drug use, which for years were comic fodder, suddenly took on deeper meaning, so much so that Stern didn't want to discuss it at length. Of course, were Lange a Leno regular, Stern's tongue would hardly be tied. He'd highlight the guy's misfortune as Fred Norris provided sound effects and Robin Quivers either cackled along or gently admonished Stern. But this was too close to home, as Quivers admitted last week.

Such is comedy karma. Wishing death and disease on others ceases to be fun when your number comes up. This happened with the Lampoon crowd after Doug Kenney fell off a cliff, and the SNL crowd when John Belushi overdosed. Hard core satirists suddenly appreciate the softer things in life, and in comedy, backing away from whatever abyss might consume them. Some, like O'Donoghue, try to maintain an edge, but they quickly become artifacts to those they once inspired. (George Carlin grew even darker in response to his personal tragedies.) Steve Martin is more in the mainstream, admonishing those who still make drug or death jokes, but apparently fine with rewarming old TV shows and B movies. Such is comic maturity.

Bill Hicks had Jay Leno's number early on. Impending death did little to soften Hicks' scorn.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Barack Obama may have found his market niche: President Calm soothing national nerves. George W. was too smirky for this task; he liked to wing it when he could. Not PC. He's stern, serious, responsible for whatever carries him to the next appearance, borrowing Truman's buck-stopping boast.

Reactionaries aren't mollified, demanding that PC be as unbalanced as them. But that's not PC's brand. Not yet, anyway. If something bigger than a burning crotch explodes, perhaps Obama will release the mad bird from his brain. President Calm morphs into President Crazy, just in time for the midterms and the all-important, planet-saving second run.

Of course, this is all stage-managed bullshit, leavened with hints of desperation. The human masks barely cover the mutant skulls. Our owners and managers are increasingly skittish and erratic, putting added pressure on Obama to assure consumers that God's Nation remains safe and under control.

It's amazing how little it takes to rattle our insane system. A man kisses his lover past an airline gate, and Newark Airport is shut down. A drunken passenger locks himself in a plane's bathroom, and two F-16s scramble into action. Full cavity searches are deemed too soft and terror friendly. Now travelers must submit to Terminator-type plasma scans. The American police state tightens its grip with each fresh scare, regardless of actual danger or threat. And we march quietly along, accepting our fate as potential suspects for any conceivable crime.

I suppose it was inevitable. Earlier scenarios like the Libyan hit squads and Sandinista spy networks seem like grade-school dress rehearsals compared to now. The 9/11 hijackers recognized what it took to really push Americans 'round the bend, having a deeper understanding of who we actually are, as opposed to how we fantasize about ourselves. The fantasy cracked but didn't shatter that day. Elites and their publicists have tried to keep the dreamscape going despite worsening conditions and lack of adequate equipment. The strain on their faces is reflected in our tired, vacant stares. Good thing we have Sarah Palin to kick around.

Speaking of terror, note the lack of concern over Israel's ongoing decimation of Gaza. The IDF recently pounded that caged population, butchering who knows how many Gazans, grinding the rest further into the sewage and rubble. That our tax dollars finance the carnage (with Obama's full consent) seems to only bother the active few. For most, a glimpse of a partial headline or newsbyte confirms that they're all nuts over there, to hell with them, where's my fucking cell, and is satellite really better than cable? Familiar rhythms of distant suffering are almost soothing, once you stop giving a shit.

Enjoyed "The Baader Meinhof Complex" the other night, a slick depiction of the Red Army Faction, West Germany's version of the Weather Underground. Well, to be accurate, the RAF made Weather look as weak and pitiful as it actually was. The RAF had no problem blowing up occupied buildings, engaging cops in gun fights, shooting kicking clawing until they were either killed or jailed, which drove some to suicide. Say what you want about them, but the RAF took their gig seriously. They weren't a collection of American poseurs.

They were also very stylish, perfect for a GQ fashion spread or designer clothing line. As old friend Darius James pointed out to me, Seventies terrorists were jet-setting hedonists, as committed to fucking and partying as to bombing, kidnapping, and killing. Today's jihadist militants have no fun at all. They disdain earthly pleasures, separating themselves from the natural world. They are grim, have zero interest in maximizing The Total Now (to quote the Manson gang) before being consumed by flame. Call me a misty nostalgist, but which type of terrorist would you prefer?

Ulrike Meinhof came off more fragile than I imagined she'd be. She was an artist who tried to make the switch to urban guerrilla, and it just didn't take. Her hardened comrades rejected Meinhof near the end, but fanned her myth for their supporters and sympathizers. Whatever moves the masses.

Gudrun Ensslin was crazy hot, which might explain the number of young men willing to live underground near her (women too -- Meinhof seemed intimately drawn to her). But Ensslin's heart and mind belonged to Andreas Baader, for whom she'd do anything. Baader was megalomaniacal, theatrical, reckless, and prone to psychotic fits of rage. He reminded me a lot of Christopher Hitchens, bellowing for indiscriminate slaughter, yelling at those who dared disagree with him, calling them fascists and sell outs. At least Baader did his own killing, backing his rhetoric with action, whereas Hitchens got his ass kicked in Beirut. Think Andreas Baader would've gone down so easily?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Stuck In The Pashtun Lane

Physically and emotionally wiped. Several new posts and astrological readings are in the offing, but not today. Definitely next week. Today, filler. Sweet visual filler.

Reading Michael Palin's Python diaries, which my son gave me to celebrate the Birth of Christ (I know -- the irony is a bit much, but he's young). Plenty of ripe Python gossip and anecdotes. I rewatched some of the sketches Palin dissects, looking at them from a new angle. While cruising the Pythonsphere, I came across one of my favorite bits, presented here in three parts. Thing is, Palin doesn't appear in these clips. Yes, the irony's a tad obvious, but I'm old.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sumo À Rebours

Frankencomic Joan Rivers was detained in Costa Rica as a perceived security threat. Her passport carries both her married and stage names, and this apparently spooked a Continental Airlines employee. As Rivers explained:

"If I were going to make up an alias, I wouldn't pick Rosenberg. I'd pick Jolie or Pitt . . . Do terrorists wear Manolo Blahniks? I can tell you Donna Karan does not make anything that hides a bomb.

"I tried the tears; they didn't work. I tried reasoning. I couldn't bribe because I didn't have any money [!]. I said 'I'm going to have a heart attack over this,' so the woman called the paramedics."

Nice to see Redd Foxx's material still works.

I would love to see more American celebs hassled in foreign airports. There's certainly a series in this, "Celebrity Terrorist" the most obvious. They can either be detained for crimes against culture (a significant form of terror), or their bags packed by show staffers with various compromising devices. The fun would be watching these entitled assholes use what natural talent they possess to keep from being strip searched. There'd be a learning side as well. With enough harassment and public embarrassment, celebs might reconnect with their humanity, see through the machinery of lies. Or they may just flip out, which would be good too.

If Brittany Murphy and Casey Johnson had faced more airport hostility, they'd probably still be dead, because there are certain people you just can't help.

In Joan Rivers you see the very worst of American celeb/comic culture. Here was a performer who cut her teeth in Village clubs and worked with Second City in its early, urbane period. But as she rose through the comedy ranks, Rivers became hackier and celebrity-obsessed. She groveled before money and status which colored her increasingly right wing views, but cried foul whenever the culture she adored bit her in the ass. (Johnny Carson was certainly unfair if not hypocritical in his dealings with Rivers, a huge blow to her career, but she had to know what crossing Carson meant.) Her plastic features reflect the world she long ago embraced.

Harry Shearer once did a bit on his radio show where Rivers, seeking employment, says "I'll work for any network, except Al-Qaeda. But with my agent . . ." I'm sure there remain plenty of openings. The car bomb circuit has yet to find its aging diva.

God bless World War II. Without it, many Americans would be lost in a relativist hell, unable to brandish mass murder as an example of human morality. Time/Life is still actively peddling its "World At War" series, and the ads contain the standard footage of Nazis marching, Hitler and Goebbels bellowing, kamikaze pilots crashing, anti-aircraft weapons blasting. You'll never go broke with this approach. WW2 is an endless moneymaker, as well as a nifty propaganda device. It's as though the Germans and Japanese were unique in world history when it came to repression and savagery.

Given our militarist culture, where millions revel in American aggression, you'd think that there'd be markets for less-celebrated conflicts, like say the Philippine-American War. Where's that DVD set? From 1899-1902, the U.S. kicked serious ass, slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, defeated a nationalist insurgency, establishing itself as a young imperial power. Can you imagine the cable news coverage of that demonstration of American might? The sound of multiple orgasms from Fox News alone would drown out the competition. In a time when we can barely hang onto Afghanistan, such reminders are not only necessary, but potentially profitable.

Caught an ad for Chantix last night, Big Pharma's latest anti-smoking "cure." Apart from the fact that pharmaceutical companies are using the general public as lab rats, the side effects of Chantix intrigue me. There's a risk of depression and suicide, which some might consider worse than smoking itself. But then the smooth narrator warned that Chantix use could result in "strange dreams" and weird mental images. Now that's something I can get with. Who needs nicotine when Pfizer's dealing designer acid?