Monday, June 30, 2003


In high school I won entry into a writing contest, which consisted of two pieces: one written in advance, the other written "live" in front of a teacher within an hour. The latter's topic was "depict the most significant thing that's happened to you and explore why it was significant". At that point in my life I was fresh off various family traumas, and as I went through a mental list of my significant events, none were any I cared to share with an anonymous committee, let alone the teacher standing in front of me who would surely read it before she sent it onto the national judges. So, I picked a trivial subject, rhapsodizing about the larger ontological meaning of a scene in the just released blockbuster Superman, thinking I could salvage it, but the teacher visibly winced as she read it. I did not win the contest.

I find myself in a similar position now.

Last Tuesday, the 25th of June, my wife had a miscarriage. The baby was too young to survive and died shortly before she was born.

Today, I got laid off from my job.

The shock and weight of these recent events leaves me at a loss for some kinds of words. Posting here may be spotty for a while. However, I will eventually find my feet and my voice again; so do please check back on occasion.

Now, excuse me for a bit while I take a walk around the world to ease my troubled mind.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Signs, portents, and omens (Oh my!)

Because the American economy is striving to outdo the Great Depression in terms of suckitude (Thanks Bush! Thanks Cheney! Thanks DeLay! Thanks Rush!), many people, including me, are facing possible layoffs in the greater Denver metro area. This brings out the magic thinking worse than a high powerball jackpot, because we are essentially powerless to do anything about it, and most of us have been close enough to the upper ranks to know how truly vindictive or random, or both, the reasoning behind who gets cut is. Since you can't save yourself by being a good worker, being intelligent and knowledgeable, or even being a suck-up, you turn to the butterfly in China causing a monsoon in Arizona scenario of causation, and hope that the gust blows your pink slip off of HR's desk and into the garbage can. Or the sadder, but probably truer, image from Gilliam's Brazil where a fly landing on the printer at the wrong time means fate locks & loads and visits YOU, even if you shouldn't be the target.

So, on the highway this morning, I see a camel being conveyed in a trailer seemingly built for moving tall, gangly animals. It was a humorous shock juxtaposed against the sleek trailers used to haul horses, or the poop-splattered semi-trailer-truck used for cows, as it was just a huge cage with room for the animal to stick their neck out of in the back. The backwards-facing camel was pacing back and forth displaying a demeanor that I read as: "Holy shit! Holy shit! Holy shit!" It must have been truly odd to be moving backwards at a pace heretofore unimaginable to Cameldom, with all the noise and those hundreds of shiny, flat, wide things flowing all around you.

Once over the thrill of the unexpected, I thought, "why a camel?" And "who is taking a camel somewhere and for what reason?" Given the fact that the other possible reason for our economy's straits is the 9-11 terrorist attack on us by people whose primary mode of transportation is actively freaking out in a trailer one lane over, it made me wonder if the camel was a sign.

When I returned from lunch, I noticed they've placed a brand-new sign alongside all the "category" parking (handicapped, visitors, honchos) by the front doors of the facility which reads "Expectant Mother Parking Only". This immediately conjured up the image of Samuel Jackson as the hit man Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction parked in the "expectant mother parking only" slot, angry eyes locked on the doors of the building, gun pulled, waiting. Why have layoffs when you can skip the paperwork altogether?

And there was this article the other day about the uselessness of many inventions. Stuff like a cell phone that plays games, but is more expensive than an X-box and if you drain the battery playing Tetris, you can't make calls. A robotic vacuum cleaner that can't do stairs. The Segway human transport, which is essentially a moped redesigned to be more dangerous, more geeky, slower, and less useful; it doesn't even get you away from the old joke: "What do a moped and having sex with an {ugly person} have in common? You wouldn't want your friends to catch you riding either one". Etc. Etc.

This begs the question of what's really useful? The list seems short: Indoor plumbing, electricity, lights, washing machines (for dishes and clothes), stoves/ovens, furnaces, water heaters, automobiles, clothing, paper and ink, medicine, and of course, computers (though this last one is dubious and worthy of a post of its own).

It makes one wonder about how worthy some of our jobs are. How many of us make something that's really of need? (Though I consider entertainment and occupying our time a "need" so my list would probably be longer than most.) How many of us are destined to be on the "B" Ark?

Yeah, this kind of stuff fucks with your head in layoff season.

Monday, June 16, 2003

The Way It Is

This last weekend we, the family unit, joined other family units in a lovely Rocky Mountain campout, my daughter's first. MPC (Most Precious Child) ran around in sheer glee, discovering how truly entertaining sticks and rocks can be when given a chance - a charity not extended to the sticks and rocks to be found lying near our house. Not much of note occurred, not that a happy child (and parents) isn't noteworthy. It just doesn't move the electrons across the web unless James Lileks, our widely acknowledged Flaubert of the web, writes about it.

But, I heard some good stories. Here's one:

One of the guys loves brightly colored sugar bomb cereal. In the distant past as his then new wife and he were in the primary marital adjustment phase, which comes sometime after the honeymoon when not only have the couple abandoned the courtesy typically extended to guests, but have gotten around to delivering "the rules for not driving me absolutely bugfuck", he was about to go shopping in preparation for camping.

She instructed, "Please don't get that variety pack of Lucky Charms and Trix and stuff. I can't stand that stuff. So buy one of those with granola and Total and Raisin Bran, OK?"

Sorting somewhat dispiritedly through the fiber-themed variety packs, trying to find something he enjoyed in amongst the nuts and twigs, lo and behold there was a pack with one box of Froot Loops on the end! Our hero was the personification of Happy Camper.

During the night of the campout, his wife awakened him with some of the worst words you can hear deep in woods in the middle of the night, "What's that?!?! Do you hear that?!?!?"

Alas, there was rustling. Obvious rustling. Not wind blowing through the trees rustling, but "something's out there" rustling. It seemed to be little rustling with no grunting (critter), as opposed to big rustling with grunting (bear). It turned out to be raccoon rusting, but mixed-blessing rustling because the raccoon had gotten into everything. He secured everything, but was bothered a couple times more in the night when the raccoon proved more adept at solving access puzzles than he was at creating them.

In the morning, at first glance it seemed that the raccoon had been finally foiled, so he turned his attention toward rounding up breakfast. He dug out the variety pack, which had been intact after the final twilight raid, and turned it over to discover that the Froot Loops, and only the Froot Loops, were gone. He heard a chatter, and on a stump about 30 feet away, there sat the raccoon with the much anticipated Froot Loop breakfast in his little black claws, munching away.

Larger questions regarding fate and predestination flashed briefly through our hero's mind, he reported, but quickly resigned himself to the fact that he was going to get roughage for breakfast whether he liked it or not. He comforted himself with semi-vicious ruminations of a particular raccoon plagued with cavities for the rest of his furry little life.

Friday, June 13, 2003

"Everybody Wants to Be Naked and Famous" - Presidents of the United States of America

Seems people have been pranking on each other with those cell phones that take pictures in locker rooms and other places of public undress to the point where they're having to pass laws. I don't know whether to feel pride or embarrassment for my imaginative brothers and sisters in prankitude. It's also gonna make it that much harder to keep that promise we made to our mothers that we would never show up on the web in nekkid photos.

I tell ya, David Foster Wallace predicted all of this stuff in Infinite Jest.
My Expeditions to the Planet of Third-tier Strippers - expurgated version

While I was writing a comment for the 2Blowhards, a series of memories of dark rooms, pulsing music, and nekkid women jarred loose from the memory attic and spilled all over the floor. Also, just yesterday Salon had an article on a woman anthropologist who researched a project for her anthropology degree by becoming a stripper, called "G-strings and Ph.D.s". (You have to click through their daily ad to read it.) I decided images of strippers jiggling at me from various corners were more than just a coincidence, so I used this bubble of synchronicity to fuel a blog entry. So, grab a drink, get comfy, and join me for a spell. The following is all true, and no names have been used because no one's innocent in these stories.
* * *

My hometown has a tiny twin city across the river. Even though this twin town was (and is) smaller than most other hamlets in the surrounding counties, it boasted the only strip joint in a two hundred mile radius. It was a brick shoebox with one thick metal door next to a tiny glass window embedded deeply into the narrow facade, and another metal exit door on the side, under a single bare bulb which also lit a faded advertisement for Coca-cola that had been painted across the entire wall sometime in the fifties. The tiny window had a cheap light-up plastic sign with changeable letters, which have never been changed, and it read, simply, "GO-GO".

We cruised hour upon hour as teenagers, a tank full of minimum wage as David Wilcox so eloquently coined it, sticking mostly to the main drag which wound through the length of our town. Yet, at least once a night, we would cross over the bridge to drive past the "GO-GO" sign because there was a six-inch gap where it didn't cover the window, and if things were aligned just right, you could catch the blue and red blur of the stripper on the tiny stage as you went by. Cops came by regularly enough to prevent outright stopping, or kids gawking through the window. Even if the cops didn't catch you, the owner would, bursting out of the door, all four hundred hairy pounds of him, to yell at you while waving a baseball bat.

The right of passage for us guys upon turning 18 (back in the day before the Reagan administration forced the drinking age to 21 through withholding highway funds from non-compliant states - "state's rights" my ass) was a trip to the joint to get your first legal drink and stuff a dollar into the stripper's g-string (usually with a "hee-yuk, aw garsh" Goofy demeanor). When my turn to go came around, my mom yelled after us, "Don't drink from the glasses in that place!" That provided the fuel for many months of speculation, whilst cruising, as to what could possibly be contaminating the glasses. Our fevered little imaginations cooked up all sorts of sordid scenarios - it practically became a hobby - until I finally outright asked my mom what she meant. "Oh," she said, "the owner is too cheap to change the water in the glass-washing sink, so it's usually a week old." Occam's razor, indeed.

Senior year and the following summer had most of us turning 18, so we made a lot of trips to the "GO-GO". Even after the veterans had discovered how tawdry it really was. Since this town was a minor eddy in a tributary to the most outlying backwaters of the stripping industry, you can imagine the girls that graced the 8 by 5 foot stage, with cheap mobile-home mirror tiles festooned across the back for full panoramic viewing, blue stage light on one side, red on the other. The poor things would display evidence of dental plan deficiencies, possess on one person more stretch-marks than all of our mothers had combined, exhibit egregious examples of the affects of gravity we never saw demonstrated in any physics lab, or they were so young and lost it broke your heart. Still, you had to take one for the team and for the new guy turning 18. To this day I can't stand the song "Superfreak".

An ugly trend developed early in those voyages into the land of untouchable women (save for wrapping a dollar bill around the string crossing her hip) and even more untouchable glasses. I don't know if it was because we were typically the only booth full of young boys, or seemed to be likely targets for having the most disposable income, or if the older trolls were just too much work, but the girls on their breaks would always come and sit with us. (One of the more delicately natured guys in our clique would always note where she sat and would never sit or even cross over the area. It eventually became a game to purposely push him across his little waterloo.) But every single freakin' time, after she was done chatting up the boys, and maybe getting yet another buck or two, she would zero in on me and tell me her story. To a one, they had all been sexually abused at some point in their life, most had kids they were supporting since the welfare dried up, and they all stressed that they were still just nice girls really, hoping to settle down some day once they found that special someone. (Well, the ones with bad teeth were usually more independent, didn't like kids, and were clearly lost to alcoholism.) I don't know if it was my general uncomfortableness that drew them to me, as I was terminally embarrassed when the strippers broke the forth wall and pulled up a chair, or if it was the fact that I simply listened and didn't keep driving the conversation around to just one more peek at her boobs (as they usually wore a shawl or something offstage). Knowing their hard stories made it worse for me when the obligatory birthday bash cycled up. I was already having some conflicts in squaring the patronization of a strip joint with my Christianity (though I was not nearly as devout at that age), but knowing what brought the strippers through the door made it somehow even worse.

After that summer I didn't cross the threshold of another strip joint until my late twenties. Though many of my buddies did. I still wince at the memory of an event related to me by a buddy of mine (who's a Mormon!). He went to a club where the stripper would pick up quarters with her, uh, talent as the guys rolled them across the stage; one misogynist cretin evidently heated up a quarter with a lighter before he rolled it to her. I sincerely hope the bouncer beat the guy simple.

Outside of a couple bachelor parties (requiring courtesy participation), I've only been in the halls of capitalistic nudity (not that there's anything wrong with that) twice.

We were deep in the years of severe bachelorhood. (I think most guys who don't marry in college experience this.) A buddy of mine and I were strolling down the icy, overcast streets of downtown Minneapolis after a movie, lamenting in that call and response form of commiseration ("Whoa is me." "Yeah, whoa is me, too.") over our utter lack of female companionship, and the grim expectation that the situation was not going to change soon. We were on "E-block", the literally one-block stretch of filth and depravity that existed downtown (as this was Minneapolis, the place where all the children who are above average go when they grow up), and we passed the place where you could watch nekkid women through a window that slid open when you put money in the slot (like in that Madonna video). We stopped, looked at each other, shrugged, said, "Why not?' simultaneously, and strolled in. Being neophytes to this world, we entered a booth together, sorted through our pockets for some bills, and fed the machine. Up popped the shutter, and a totally nude women landed in front of our window like a crab pouncing on a shrimp, belly up, feet on either side of the window, crotch pointed our way, balanced on one arm while she used her free hand to rub her talent vigorously. We stood there, eyebrows hoisted at the sudden sky-diving-esque descent into full frontal female groping. She was in mid-conversation when she appeared, chatting animatedly to another girl presumably performing to her left, so it took her a minute to notice there were two of us standing there, in slight shock. Suddenly, she spun her head to face us, bounded out of view in one fluid motion (I'm guessing she's with Cirque du Soleil these days), popped her head back into the frame and shouted angrily, "Hey, one guy to a booth!" All the girls in their crab positions around the inner chamber craned their heads to glare at us. We bolted from the booth with all the grace and style of the Little Rascals running from a ghost over a floor covered in dried syrup (... yes, ewww). Outside the door, we quickly agreed that we'd seen enough, quite literally, and decided to fall back on that primary comfort of the lonely bachelor, a frosty mug of ice-cold beer.

My final experience, to date, with the princesses of the pole was after I got married and had returned to my hometown with my wife for a holiday visit. My wife had heard the tales of "GO-GO" from myself and my group of friends, so she wanted to see the famous hole venue for herself. My wife was six months very pregnant at this time. The hilarity of going to the strip joint with pregnant wife in tow was just too delicious of an opportunity to pass up. Then, my mom chimed in, "I'll go with you!" At that moment, I think I had an inkling of the swirl of emotions Neo must have had when he woke up in the pod after taking the blue pill (even though that movie experience was still in my future). Nonetheless, off we went. We were five feet inside the door when we bumped into more of my high-school friends home for the holiday with their wives. The girls all surrounded my wife and had a brief, loud hen party about having babies because that was their common goal of the moment. The looks on the regular's faces, perched on their row of stools (drinking from glasses!), over this eruption of young pretty women in the midst of a seedy strip bar rhapsodizing over hopes of getting knocked-up, was a tableau of every expression the human face can render at once. We took the big booth that would hold all of us, right off the stage. Later, after the final chords of "Superfreak" drained away, my wife turned to me and, with some dismay stemming from either the entertainment (the stripper was of the "close to retirement" school) or the ambiance, she asked, "Was it always like this?" The whole booth, including my mom, chorused, "It's usually worse." Then my mom told us they'd just opened a new one down the street, and she'd heard it was better. We agreed on a mass migration when our drinks dried up.

I should point out one other factor that determined a lot of the behavior of the night owls in our fine, tiny, twin cities. The river marked the border between two time zones, so the bars in the smaller town stayed open one hour later. Thus, it got the majority of the late night business. And even though the women didn't frequent the (now two) strip clubs and stuck to the other bars, they'd heard enough from their boyfriends and husbands to know the skinny.

So there we sat, at the other bar, as the young lady took the stage. She was quite pretty and fresh. The bar had invested in some Van Halen, which was a nice change of pace from the 8-track-tape-that-wouldn't-die of Rick James at the other place. A truth about this form of amusement is that once the girl is down to her g-string, the story's essentially been told, so I began to reflect on my unique situation vis-a-vis this particular evening. I looked over at my wife, who glanced at me and winked. I turned to my mother who raised one eyebrow, Star Trek style (a family trait), as if to say, "What?" I gotta tell ya - there are few things so surreal as sitting next to your mother and your pregnant wife while watching a stripper. (My mom and my wife are both progressive, intelligent, sophisticated woman, though, so that helps.) About then there was a commotion at the door, and the little blond stripper fell off her pole, bounded to her feet, grasped her breasts with her hands, covering them, and screamed, "Oh my gawd! I'm not 18!" Everyone at our table looked at each other like a bunch prairie dogs who'd had a cousin suddenly snatched from amongst them by a bird of prey. Police pushed through the heavy crowd and dashed for the stage. The young stripper screamed again and leapt off the stage, high-tailing it to the dressing room, cops filing in behind her. Everyone around us started chugging their beers, so we took the clue and did the same (though my wife just put the cap back on her bottled water in preparation for transport). Sure enough, two of the police re-emerged from the dressing room and shut the place down. Outside, as we walked to our cars, my wife turned to me and beamed, "THAT was FUN!"

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Scenes from domestic life.

True incident from tonight:

After our daughter goes to bed, my wife settles on the couch with her book and a treat.

I turn to her and inquire, "So, I imagine a blow job is out of the question."

Says she, with a straight face, "You're talking to a pregnant woman with an ice cream sandwich. You can't take it personally."

Gotta love that woman.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Who's Yo' Mama?

I keep reading "reviews" and commentary on Hillary Clinton's new book where she talks about, among other things perhaps, her reaction to her husband's soiling an intern's dress with "presidue" (thank you for that term, Bill Maher) in exchange for a pizza and a couple cigars. (Hillary was pissed for a couple days, then got past it. Make-up sex is the best, they say.)

Here's what's really hilarious about the whole thing:
- 10% of the people who buy that book will be Hillary fans, and can't wait to read every word.
- 30% will be professional purchases, like for libraries and reviewers.
- 1% will be people who buy it as a gag gift for their wingnut friends, just to see that look on their face.
- And 59% will be the army of Hillary-haters who can't wait to read every word.

Ain't it rich that those who hate the woman so much are going to be the primary contributors to this book's sales?

(By the way, one of my favorite accidental jokes arising from the Clinton administration is that his campaign theme was, "Don't Stop". Foreshadowing, ya think?)

Hee hee.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Revelations on Revelations, or, an apocalypse is an apocalypse is an apocalypse

Mark Shea has a great miniseries of posts about "Essential Things You Need to Know about the Book of Revelation" on his blog "Catholic and Enjoying It!"

With permission, I've posted them here as well, since the permalinks don't work in Blogger/Blogspot.

Is that all? What a piker! I put it at 100%!

But then, I have inside information (Matthew 24... the book of Revelation...).

Does he know that "apocalypse" was used by Greek-speaking Jews of the first century to refer, not to nuclear war, but to the moment at which the bride and groom disrobed before one another on their wedding night? Gives a rather different hue to this much misunderstood term.

Oh, the things I could write about Revelation. Maybe I will over the next few days!

I'll start with this: The first of the Four Essential Things that you *have* to know about the book of Revelation or you won't even begin to be in the same parking lot of the same ballpark as the author is that the book of Revelation is rooted in and patterned on the Mass. If you don't know that, you don't know the first thing about Revelation. Note the structure: It begins on "the Lord's Day" with the penitential rite (seven letters to seven Churches saying "repent"). It then moves on to the opening of scrolls which the Lamb alone can read and interpret (the liturgy of the word, in which the Old Testament is read in light of the New). Finally, it climaxes in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (the liturgy of the Eucharist). Note that last point as you contemplate again the meaning of "apocalypse". If you want more to chew on, Read Ephesians 5 and note the nuptial character of the relationship between Christ and the Church.

I'll tell you about the other Three Essential things you need to know about Revelation later.

The Second Essential Thing you Need to Know about the Book of Revelation

Revelation is steeped in the thought and imagery of the Old Testament and is written with the assumption that you will be too. That means that the author is not expecting you to see his quotations and allusions to the Old Testament as "proof texts" but as a complex web of associations which will call up, not just the particular words cited, but the entire context of an image or quote.

Think of it this way. Suppose, in speaking of the odious Dennis Kucinich, I mention that he is "Saruman" or that he is trying to grasp the Ring. I'm not just expecting you to look for a single line out of the Lord of the Rings. I'm expecting you to know all about this once faithful Saruman who sold his soul in order to grasp at power and then to be able to apply that image to Kucinich. Similarly, New Testament writers (and nobody more than St. John the Divine) are expecting you to know the entire context of their allusions to the Old Testament (and to the events of the gospel) so as to apply those contexts to the visions recorded in Revelation. That means that paying attention to the cross references and their full contexts in the Old Testament is not an option. If you aren't willing to do that, you will not understand what Revelation is getting at.

More later.

The Last Two Essential Things You Need to Know about the Book of Revelation

3. Since Revelation is steeped in the thought, language and imagery of the Old Covenant, it therefore follows that the concept of "covenant" is uppermost in the mind of the author, including the ideas and imagery of the Old Covenant concerning "what happens when you are faithful to the covenant" and "what happens when you aren't".

Because of this, by far and away, the most sane reading of the Revelation focuses, not on some supposed jabbering about European Common Markets, nor about bar codes as marks of the Beast, nor on the sort of goofy speculation that typically dominates the minds of people like Tim LaHaye or other Late Great Planet Earthers. They, as we have already discussed, are not even in the right parking lot of the right ballfield because they haven't even figured out that Revelation is rooted in the Mass.

Most Catholics know this. However, what many don't know is that the dominant school of thought in most Catholic Bible textbooks is not much closer to the truth. For despite what you've probably read, Revelation is not written to make veiled swipes at Roman persecution. The author is not particularly interested in the relationship of the Church to the Roman Empire (an organization whose relationship to the Church is only tangentially mentioned in Revelation as the "beast" ridden by the Whore). Nope, what interests John is not Rome, but Jerusalem, which the author refers to by such Old Testament imagery as the "whore", "Egypt", "Sodom" and, in particular, he is interested in the Temple and the punishments inflicted on it for the failure of the covenant people to be faithful to the covenant. In short, he regards the Old Covenant's relationship with the New, not Roman political power, as the Main Event.

Sound familiar? You're right. The Big Apocalypse of Revelation elaborates on themes sounded in the "little apocalypse" of the Olivet Discourse given in Matthew 24 and related synoptic texts (where Jesus prophesied that not one stone of the Temple would be left standing on another). In both the little and big apocalypses, what is of interest to the writer is not the Roman Empire per se (except insofar as it impinges on the fate of Jerusalem), but the passing away of the old covenant and the establishment of the new, exemplified in the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

4. Which means, of course, that Revelation is interested, in its literal sense, not with prophesying about Stealth bombers, Saddam Hussein, or the European Common Market, but with the implications of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Revelation, in its literal sense, was fulfilled in 70 AD. However, because the Temple is a microcosmic cosmos just as the Cosmos is a macrocosmic Temple, that "covenant judgment" and the covenant blessings given to the Body of Christ remain prophetic images today, since the judgment meted out to Jerusalem in 70 AD stands as an image of the judgment which awaits the world at the end of time, just as the triumph of the Church in 70 AD stands as an image of the salvation that awaits the Church at the End. That's why the book was canonized. It's still pertinent.

The synoptics, again, point to the same thing. Read Matthew 24. Is Jesus talking about the destruction of Jerusalem and the rescue of the Church or is he talking about the End of the World? The answer is "Yes". For the former images the latter. That the moral of Revelation.

If you want to hear the (in my opinion, overwhelmingly persuasive) argument for this view of Revelation, check out the study of Revelation that Scott Hahn and I did. You can get it for free here at Scott's excellent site, Salvation

Thanks, Mark!, now I still have to find a use for all those supplies I laid in for the Year 2000 crisis...

As Mark notes in one of his comments: "Matthew 24 says much the same thing in much less oblique and visionary language."

Monday, June 09, 2003

Love Songs for One

There are times in all of our lives when we find ourselves alone. We may not have someone, or that special someone might be away for a few nights. Yet, that does not mean that our passions or desires leave us. For all those moments, I offer a very special compilation just for you:

Love Songs for One:

- Turning Japanese - The Vapors

- Blister in the Sun - The Violent Femmes

- Darling Nikki - Prince

- She Bop - Cyndi Lauper

- Imaginary Lover - Atlanta Rhythm Section

- All I Have to Do Is Dream - The Everly Brothers

- All by Myself - Eric Carmen

- Woke up with Wood - ZZ Top

- Second Hand News - Fleetwood Mac

- Hand Jive - The Gentrys

- Cool Jerk - The Capitols

- I Touch Myself - Divinyls

- Only the Lonely - The Motels


Bonus Tracks:

- She's the One - Bruce Springsteen
(for the lyric: "That thunder in your heart, at night when you're kneeling in the dark")

- I Need a Lover (that won't drive me crazy) - John "Cougar" Mellencamp
(for the lyric: "I just can't face shakin' in this bedroom one more night alone")


Thanks for playing.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Favorite Obsessions

What is your first memory of your favorite obsession? I now have comments, so I really do want to know. Don't be afraid to wax at length.

Mine was/is/will be music (surprise!).

As a five-year-old, I used to carry around a stack of 45s of my favorite songs. The one I liked best was "See You in September" which you can now get on the American Graffiti soundtrack. I went through 3 or 4 copies of that 45 because I insisted on carrying it around, so I would crack it, or leave it in the sun or something.

One tragic day, I left the whole stack in the back window of our car. By the time I found them again, they'd all melted together in a big wavy-edged mess that looked like a generic cartoon giant clam.

My mom would agree to replace my lost treasures once in a while. She would take me to this 45 store that someone ran in their garage. I think their main business was keeping jukeboxes in the surrounding counties stocked, and they sold the used 45s to anyone who knew about the place. It was my first experience with the obsessive collectors world. The adults that came to the garage, who I was sternly warned to stay away from, were all weird even to my young eyes. They pawed at the racks, and pondered the 45s they held as if they would suddenly speak. They were either too fat or too thin, and I remember some very haggard, haunted faces. So we'd find my next copy of "See You in September" and a couple more mom thought I would like, paid our pennies - they never seemed to cost more than a couple quarters total - and got back out into the sunshine, away from the collector Morlocks, and my mom would visibly shudder once we escaped saying, "God those people are weird!"

So what was your earliest obsession? What's the story, Morning Glory?

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

Endorphins are good. Pattern Recognition causes a rush of endorphins at least every ten pages, so I conclude that it is good, too.

Gibson is most famous for his trilogy of cyberspace novels (Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive), and having invented the word "cyberspace". I read them, they're good, but they were good in the science fiction sense that the concepts were a blast, but I wouldn't have read the novels for their grace of style.

No so Pattern Recognition. The language pulled me along as much as the plot did. I am not aware of another author whose ability to write has grown so dramatically in the course of their career. I now look forward to whatever Gibson decides to write about next, which is perhaps the Holy Grail of fiction writing: to convert an occasional reader to a constant reader. Hats off to Gibson.

The story is about a woman named Cayce who has a gift and a curse where she reacts to advertising and branding logos like a kid reacts to candy. One will bring her ecstasy, where the next one might have her out ralphing in the nearest alley. Naturally, she becomes everyone's favorite lab rat for testing out new branding campaigns. (What a job that would be, huh?)

Her sensitivity leads her to become one of the main groupies for an anonymously authored series of film segments, know among aficionados as "the footage", that are distributed on the web, and discussed ad nauseum on message boards, kinda like Star Wars. The question is: who makes these things and what do they mean?

The style of the narrative is sort of an omniscient point of view Catcher in the Rye, which Gibson pulls off splendidly. Thematically, the novel is heavily influence by the you-love-it or you-hate-it opus, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. A central plot point of Infinite Jest is "The Entertainment", which is a film so gripping and enrapturing, those who fall victim to seeing it forever become totally addicted vegetables. "The Footage" in Pattern Recognition is not so destructive, but it does have the same hypnotic, euphoric grip on its audience.

It's a short, intense read at 357 pages, and the best thing I've read this year thus far. The new Harry Potter is due the 21st, though, so I'll just go ahead and put this as at least number two on my best of list for 2003.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Heavy Things

As I read other blogs, I am sometimes a little embarrassed that I rarely tackle the big issues of the day in politics and world events. It's not that I don't pay attention or consider myself informed. It's that you have your opinion and I have mine, and I doubt I will change yours, nor do I care to. I once lived next to a legitimate blowhard (by which I mean I'm not referring to the great bloggers, 2Blowhards), and he was insufferable. My wife and I always approached our own house with apprehension in fear that he would be outside when we came home, thus guaranteeing at least a half hour of unfettered thoughts and opinions sprayed at us on our 7-yard trip to the front door. He was self-employed and was home a lot.

More to the point, I have yet to find a blog that doesn't tote the party line. Not one. They are either liberal or conservative. These days, after the Clinton administration, there's a lot of bullshit and horseshit bandied about over who's telling the TRVTH or not. Pretty much no one does. Or if they do, the liars scream louder and get their own syndicated talk show.

Here are some truths as I see them:

There is no proof of WMD in Iraq so far (though it is probably still too early to rule out the possibility that we might find them), and chances are that we were told that possible little fib to get support from other nations and some of our own more skeptical people - which an administration insider, Paul Wolfowitz, has admitted. If the Bush administration had told the truth, that the true reasons for war with Iraq were messier and more vague, and it involved subtleties regarding cultural differences between Westerners and Middle Easterners, even some hawks would've balked. However, sometimes things are messy as hell, and I think this administration most likely did the right thing in taking the war where they did, when they did it. A sad truth about Middle Eastern culture is that not fighting back is seen as weakness and an open invitation for more violence. Going in and kicking some butts and taking some names is about the only reasonable response we could have had. Turning to Iran and Syria right afterwards and saying, "you want a piece of THIS?!?!" was prudent, too. I commend the Bush administration for seeing that and taking proper action when it wasn't easy to justify. Yet, you will not catch liberal blogs saying that.

The far right trying to undo the Clinton presidency and hound him out of office with lawsuits was outright wrong. It was a monumental waste of taxpayer's money, a flouting of the legal process, and it has opened the gates to some pretty dirty fighting that will undermine our government for years to come. Clinton was exonerated on EVERYTHING the wingnuts tried to throw at him, because guess what: he didn't do anything illegal. They discovered the open secret that he was a womanizer, and happed across the fact that an intern gave him a blowjob because they were illegally spying on that intern, a private citizen, just to get such dirt. Then they set a perjury trap. This goes beyond dirty politics and right into surreal full-blown corruption and scandal. And they still blame Clinton for all their ills. I've even read comments on two separate blogs blaming Clinton for the shutdown of the govt. that one Christmas. Google up accurate reports of that episode (meaning no wingnut or loony liberal publications), and it's blatantly obvious that the "Republican Revolution" nutballs led by Newt Gingrich caused the shutdown. Revisionism is amazing sometimes. Still, you won't catch a single conservative admitting what a horrendous, dangerous episode in our history that was.

You won't see a loony lefty admit that the infusion of their wacked, pomo ideas - gender feminism (e.g. "males suck"), identity politics ("white people suck"), gay activism ("breeders suck"), Marxist theory and influences ("democracy and capitalism both suck") - into the NEA, "educational" TV, and other avenues of our educational system is what's causing the "school choice/vouchers" and home schooling debacles. Most people with kids want their kids to learn the three R's and not that gay vegan "minorities" with good self-esteem fomenting for their benevolent dictatorship of the proletariat are better people than the rest of us. In other words, the vast majority of people in America are people who believe in God, don't dwell on race or gender as a huge issue, don't want the complex world of adult sexuality as a required topic in school (it's a personal/family issue), and who believe our form of government and our nation are about the best thing that we've ever seen now or in history (and that every freakin' Marxist nation was or is corrupt, evil mess).

You won't get a wingnut to admit that what the Republicans are doing now domestically is essentially what evil Potter did in the non-George Bailey alternate universe in It's a Wonderful Life. Welcome to Pottersville. (The whiplash irony here is that most of these same Republicans love that movie and see themselves as George Bailey.)

So, no blogger out there that I'm aware of is willing to see that each side has a point. Each side has been wrong at times, and each has been correct, too. Because of the rancorous partisanship of the age (it is worse now that it has been in decades), I don't imagine anyone who did stick to the honest, real truth - giving credit where credit is due, and pointing out the bad guys, whichever side they're on - I doubt that blog/person would be read because, "if you're not for us, you're against us," y'know. Each side would write them off as an idiot rather than think for themselves and say, "Gosh, s/he might have a point there".

Most people want: a reasonable amount of regulation on big and small business so we are safe and have choices, but certainly don't want the free market crushed because it is the engine of wealth and opportunity; a strong military so our nation is protected; a good highway and energy infrastructure; safe water; a reasonable social safety net so those who need it can get education and medical care; a school system that is free of politics (and teaches history with all its warts) and is free from pressure from religious groups; and they would like fries with that.

Do you know of any blogs out there that will thrown down for each side, when that side is correct? If you do, let me know.

TLD: The title of this post comes from a Phish song of the same name, as it was playing in my head the entire time I was writing since the implicit nature of this kind of post is "lose/lose". This lyric is the most germane: "When I tried to step aside, I moved to where they'd hoped I'd be."

See, this is what you get when I try to do politics. So in the future I imagine you'll be glad when I avoid them entirely. Thanks for listening.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Summer Movies thus far (6-2-03)

Finding Nemo
Starts with the Disney patented obligatory death of a parent, apparently to frighten ungrateful children into being thankful their parents have even taken them to a movie at all, since they COULD BE DEAD, Y'KNOW. After the Bambi moment, the dad fish, Marlin, is overprotective of the lone baby fish, Nemo, and so Nemo acts out on his first day of school and ends up in an aquarium in a dentist's office, so dad has to go find him to bring him home. I was surprised that Albert Brooks (the father fish) delivered such a fine vocal performance; he always strikes me as kinda cardboardy in his movies. Ellen DeGeneres as his buddy was a wash, though. She just doesn't have the vocal chops to pull off an animated character. She's funny doing stand-up, but she's oddly monotone, like Jerry Seinfeld, out of that context of stand-up (imagine Jerry as the voice of Buzz Lightyear, for instance). The character would have been 100% better if someone like Catherine O'Hara or Cheri Oteri or Andrea Martin had been the voice. And, for the first time in Disney animated history, outside of a running gag with seagulls, all the best gags are in the previews. The other big flaw is the latent politically correct tone of the whole thing. Nemo has an underdeveloped fin, so he's handicapped. Dad is neurotic from the death of his wife and 10,000 children, minus one. Dory, the comic relief pal, has short-term memory loss, so thus too is handicapped. The deus ex machina Pelican has a fetish for dentistry, so he comes to chat with the fish in the aquarium about the latest procedures, thus can only dine on fish who are strangers. The surrogate father/escape artist alpha fish in the aquarium has deep scars from landing on dental equipment during his many escape attempts (shudder). And the sharks are all trying to go vegan and have a 12 step support group to assist in swearing off their natural diet (phrase, "fish are friends, not food"). So everyone's messed up in some way and trying to cope, so the plot feels like it was cooked up in your local collegiate identity politics department to show how wonderful "diversity" is, and how much better it is if you've got some physical or mental wound to overcome as well. Wife, daughter, and I all gave it a film rating of: C-

TLD: My daughter was watching some Disney Christmas thang starring Goofy and his son, Max. (That Goofy actually managed to find a girl and produce progeny is something to contemplate all on its miraculous own, imho.) The music started to swell, and my daughter, all of four at the time, turned to me and said, "Daddy, I think Goofy's going to die." This with no prompting or other seeding of ideas from my wife or me. Apparently, the Disney = Parental Peril meme is so blatant, a small child can hone in on it, and worse, dread it. I laughed out loud as most parents do when surprised by a fresh example their child's brilliance and assured her that Goofy was very safe as he was a main Disney character (thus introducing the useful "red shirt" meme regarding a character's potential fate), and we went back to watching the show. However, I didn't point out that evidently Max's mom had met some terrible end already, probably through one of Goofy's spectacular slapstick accidents he's prone to. ("He-yuk! Garsh. Mommy's dead!") I wonder, did all the parents of the nieces and nephews of Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy die, or is divorce rampant in the Disney cartoon universe? Or maybe all the Disney podlings are the result of a hidden cartoon porn industry as described by Harlan Ellison.

Matrix Reloaded
Lotsa swat-fu, tail-chasing pseudo-intellectual dialogue, and gratuitous swearing in French (not one Keanu "Whoa" utterance though!). Nice, entertaining summer movie stuff. Decent sequel. It has a self-contained story arc, so we're not left hanging in hyperspace, as we were at the end of The Empire Strikes Back; and we're set up nicely for the next flick, due in November. The Wachowski bros. need to avoid love scenes, though; their influences there seem to be 70s porn rather than actual sex with real girls. Hugo "the elf lord" Weaving still delivers his lines like the evil Kirk in the episode where the transporter divides them into good "wimpy" Kirk and bad "I'll screw Yeoman Rand and then buzz the Klingons MWAHAHAHA!" Kirk, only neutered and heavily dosed with Quaaludes. I think its box-office performance (great open, relative free-fall since) proves the adage of wartime fiction consumption habits. When things are going well, movies can be dark, sinister and tragic and folks won't mind it, and even kinda enjoy a good bummer or two. During times of war and economic hardship, like right now, people tend to like bright, shiny, happy tales about heroes conquering evil, and things turning out OK. Stories about oppression from sinister machinations from above just don't seem to be people's cup of tea when it's actually happening in real life. Alternate theory: everyone knows they're going to buy it on DVD anyway, so why not save the ticket money for that purchase? Film Rating: B-

Bruce Almighty
A definite rental. I enjoyed it while there. Laughed a few times. I think Jim Carrey's funny and talented. I haven't had that much lust for Jennifer Aniston since she was the breakout girl on one season of "Friends" - man she's a cutie. But, once I walked out of the theatre, I didn't think about it again until now. (And then my primary contemplation has centered on whether I would prefer George Burns or Morgan Freeman if God manifested Himself in actorly form. Alanis Morissette is right out.) I didn't feel like quoting any lines from it at parties (universal adoption of dialogue or catch phrases being one of the signs of a great comedy, e.g. "That's OK, I can walk to the curb from here"). The theology didn't offend me, which in its own right is kind of an accomplishment these days. Though it was pretty much a retread of Oh God!, with a little Bedazzled thrown in. Film rating: B+

TLD: Why would you want to read yet another web stranger's movie reviews? Good question. The only professional movie critics worth the time are Roger Ebert and Lisa Schwarzbaum (not really available on the web due to the blocked-unless-you-subscribe-to-AOL idiot move of "Entertainment Weekly"). Most other pros are misanthropic Pauline Kael wanna-be's, and thus try for her bizarre, lop-sided sensibilities, making them mostly harmless and virtually useless. (Kael's essay, "Trash, Art, and the Movies" is worth searching out, however. It's brilliant.) Harry Knowles at Ain't-it-cool-news is usually worth checking out. I personally am getting a bang out of the 2Blowhards offerings - if you don't agree with their review, they usually have enough other stuff to chew on to make their reviews worth a few swings of the eyeballs. But, if those aren't enough, and if you find you have similar tastes to mine (though I'm a tart when it comes to both movies and music - so my eclecticism almost disqualifies me as a guide), and aren't doing anything else at the moment, then maybe on occasion I'll have something to offer, if only just a Cliff Claven trivia moment or two. Hope you enjoy.