Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Man Cub and Me

We each have our own ways of dealing.

Thanks to The Missus for making me my cool mask, not to mention the boy. Disclaimer: My eyes are actually fine, but the tooth is represented accurately.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Remembering Those Who Gave All

A Memorial Day prayer, as relevant today as the day it was written:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
November 19, 1863

Friday, May 26, 2006

Dumbleyou has new handlers...?

Wow, I’m sorry I missed the Mea Culpa Press Conference with Tony Blair last night. But even the clips were jam-packed with shock and awe: W sheepishly admitting that his War President cowboy talk was maybe not the smartest thing he had ever done, and that Abu Ghraib was bad. Wow. There may have been more, but this was the Today Show, so I’m lucky I got that much.

All I could think was, Bush has new handlers. He’s dancing to a different tune. He looked pissed at having to do it and did a shitty job of selling it – bland and disaffected, I thought, like company was over and he was forced to eat his Brussels Sprouts – but the sound bytes are still out there. The actual words themselves have leaped from the President’s mouth for the historians to scribble and bibble away about in perpetuity.

Someone Important has decided the President has to stop looking ridiculous to reasonable people. They must be in serious trouble if they’re turning so far from their base as to be courting reasonable people.

Curious to see if this is the start of a new trend, or a one-off distraction. The Sci-Fi Geek in me imagines a scenario where Bush has to retract and apologize for all his lies, deceptions and misdirections in the reverse order he made them. Next up should be “Sorry about ‘Mission Accomplished.’” Then “Okay, we’re not really gonna be looking very hard for Osama bin Laden, Uncle Dick isn’t mad at him like he is Saddam.”

And on, and on. Oh, wouldn’t that be so much fun! And in my perfect scenario, once Bush was done confessing, Bill Clinton would start. He’d be in Desperation Township, Africa, talking about genocide or starvation or something and just blurt out, out of the blue, “Yeah, I banged the crap out of that fat broad. Feel terrible about getting caught, though. Should have let the NSA handle it when I had the chance.”

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Die, “American Idol,” Die!!

“Soul Patrol” my ass. That pasty-faced, white-bread, salt-n-pepper-headed fuck is no more a Soul Singer than I am a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman.

How can you people (my fellow Americans) invest yourselves emotionally in this ersatz shit? Sometimes The Missus and I tape the show that follows it for later viewing (love that “House”), and we get a snippet of the end of “Idol” and it just makes us cringe.

Any kind of ‘Reality TV’ that doesn’t conclude with the hot tub transmission of STDs has no place in our home. And because of its unaccountable popularity, “American Idol” clocks in as the worst offender of its reprehensible genre.

Competing networks cover it like it was news and otherwise serious people buzz about the results and throw around catch-phrases (‘what up, dog?’ – what is that shit?) and I have never been prouder of being left out of any cultural phenomenon.

Folks, it’s a goddamned overlit, overamped game show with lots of boring people oversinging the hell out of overproduced versions of middle-of-the-road dreck. This isn’t good for our children, it’s not good for pop music and by God, it doesn’t make America proud, either.

Ed McMahon, I blame you. This whole ugly business started with “Star Search.” Not only do you have Rosie O’Donnell’s career to atone for, but now “American Idol” too.

For shame!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bill Cosby has balls THIS BIG

Family entertainer Bill Cosby has come out of the closet as a social critic and activist. This is from an AP story currently moving on the subject:

WASHINGTON - Comedian Bill Cosby told a forum on family and education that African Americans should be proactive and fix their own communities.

"I have a problem with people sitting there and saying God and Jesus will find a way," Cosby said Tuesday night.

Cosby joined a panel discussion of local agency officials and other experts, called a "Call Out with Bill Cosby," on issues facing low-income Americans and took questions from the audience during two sessions, one to help foster parents and grandparents who are rearing children and the other geared toward the general public.

Basically, Cosby is going into some of the roughest neighborhoods in the country and speaking truth to the powerless in an effort to empower them. This is not some dog and pony show to promote his latest book project or TV show - he's putting his ass and his career on the line for something that promises to do nothing for his bottom line but risk imperiling it.

One has to think that the loss of his only son's life to random street violence a few years ago has something to do with his current round of activism. I remember at the time Cosby describing his son Ennis as his hero. His foundation is called Hello, after the young Cosby's customary greeting.

Bill Cosby has been a part of my life since I was a young boy.

I grew up with “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” on Saturday mornings (“…music and fun and if you're not careful, you just might learn something before we're done!”), but that wasn't where I 'discovered' Cosby.

I fell in love with Cosby on his early comedy albums, where he talked about family and commonplace events with such wit and warmth and empathy that the fact that his characters happened to be black was lost on young Fang. His bit about driving in San Francisco still lives in a special place in my memory, not to mention “Chocolate Cake For Breakfast” and the Noah's Ark skit. Brilliant, accessible, observational stuff. And all squeaky-clean, although at the time that didn't occur to me.

Not until my mother overheard me listening to a George Carlin album did I appreciate the care Cosby took crafting his routines for a family audience without losing any of their bite. (The offending Carlin gag involved the juxtaposition of sex, religion and the venerable hymn “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.”)

It turns out that behind the scenes, Cosby's been a social critic for years. Eddie Murphy did a routine decades ago about how, after Murphy first rose to popularity, he received a phone call from Cosby excoriating him for his profanity. Richard Pryor allegedly advised Murphy to suggest Cosby “have a Coke and a smile and shut the fuck up.”

The '80s weren't great for Cosby creatively, although they set him up financially for life. I didn't care for “The Cosby Show.” If it had been a sitcom built around a family of white characters who were that bland, I wouldn't have watched it either. Even then, though, Cosby was sending a social message: Black people with comfortable lives are every bit as boring as white people with comfortable lives. By the '80s, the lesson was that, finally, enough cash would buy you social parity. “The Jeffersons” made a joke of the thesis, but “The Cosby Show” made you believe it.

And it's still true, but as has been noted elsewhere, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is flourishing again under the to-the-highest-no-bid-bidder stewardship of Team Bush.

So now Cosby's out there pointing fingers and naming names again, more in-your-face than ever before. He's drawing flack from the Left and giving the Right talking points to potentially be used against his people, but you know what? He's right. And it's not just the black community. Everywhere you look, discourse is growing more uncivil, and people are taking less personal responsibility. In America, though, it's mostly the lower-income, minority communities that are generating body counts to go along with the attendant social phenomenon.

And Cosby deserves much respect for putting his credibility, his earning power and his personal safety on the line for saying so.

Kudos to Cos!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Loving “Living With War”

I really think this is Neil Young’s best album in years. Most of his later-career stuff, even good albums like “Harvest Moon,” seemed a little overthought. Even his last, well-received CD seemed a little all over the place. “Living With War,” on the other hand, is like one long primal scream of outrage. Without sacrificing melody (well, as much as the usual Crazy Horse album anyhow), Neil makes a mighty noise, hollering and stomping away while the band thunders along with him.

“Living With War” is like a full album’s worth of the rock & roll side of “Rust Never Sleeps,” crossed with the social agitpop of “Ohio” and “Rockin In The Freee World.” The addition of a hundred-voice gospel choir, used tastefully but to great effect throughout, also kicks it up a notch from the usual Crazy Horse pyrotechnics.

I’m telling you, this is Neil’s most focused, concentrated work in years. This CD is why God didn’t let that brain tumor kill him last year. There’s even a scathing sense of humor at work at certain points. “Let’s Impeach the President” includes choruses of self-contradicting Bush sound-bytes separated by raucous cries of “FLIP!” and “FLOP!”

When me and The Missus saw Neil with CSNY a few years back at the Duff Beer Megadome on the mainland, she kind of giggled at the dinosaur-like way Neil prowled the stage, even on songs where he was just rhythm guitar player. She thought he was playing rock and roll star. I tried to explain to her that sometimes stomping your feet in anger is the only appropriate response and anyhow Neil Young is a rock and roll star! Oh, it was an impassioned defense.

...but I digress.

“Living With War” is a must-have. It’s on heavy rotation here at the Lair (as is Kris Kristofferson’s sublime new CD, “This Old Road”). The rousing, respectful version of “America the Beautiful” that closes “Living With War” is bracing and uplifting, the perfect palate cleanser for all the concentrated wrath that precedes it. He leaves the second verse instrumental, so you can sing your own favorite over it.

My favorite additional verse is this one:

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
The banner of the free!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Bush to send troops to the border?

In case anyone wasn’t sure yet, this settles it. Bush is more of a craven political hack than Clinton ever was. Clinton “triangulated,” cherry-picking ideas from both the left and right then packaging them together in such a way that both sides got enough of what they wanted for a piece of legislation to pass. The Fringies on both sides howled in protest, but America flourished and Clinton sailed out of office with public approval ratings in the high sixty percents.

That’s called governing, folks. It’s making politics work for America.

On the other hand, Bush lacks the political will and, by all available evidence, even any interest in forming any kind of popular or political consensus to guide his actions. He is a unilateralist in the truest sense of the word. Whereas Democrats are criticized for liking to throw money at any problem, W likes to throw the warm, fleshy bodies of America’s youth (the poor ones, anyway) at problems.

So now that his lack of leadership has resulted in yet another insurmountable political boondoggle (Social Security overhaul, Iraq, Katrina, Harriet Meiers, this list could go on forever), Bush is doing what he does best – staunching his political hemorrhaging by throwing troops at it.

On the plus side, these will be thousand of America’s kids that won’t be sent to the meat grinder that W has made out of Iraq, and I am grateful for that. I imagine guard duty at the Mexican border will actually be a pretty cool gig for our young men and women. Pacing the desert in scorching tedium every day, Spring Break-level partying every night. You’re only young once…

On the downside, who besides Lou Dobbs, the Minutemen and the White Aryan Resistance thinks this is a prudent allocation of troops at a time when even the pundits at Fox News are bemoaning the fact that Iraq and Afghanistan have taxed American troop strength to its breaking point.

Moreover, Bush is deploying our dwindling National Guard reserve to “protect” our southern border from the threat of cheap labor just when hurricane season is starting up.

That’s called not governing. It’s political hacksmanship at its most naked, short-sighted and despicable. It’s making politics work against America’s best interests.

The terrorist cabal – Osama, Bush, Cheney, Rummy, Rove and Condi – wins again.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Thanksgiving in May

Now I usually don’t go in much for writing about personal stuff. I find it weak when a man does that (I’ve thrown pups out of the pack for less), and worse, if you’re not extra-careful, it’s boring.

In spite of my misgivings, though, I’m about to cross the invisible line between what’s my business and what’s your business, and on the other side of that line – well, I’m just not very comfortable over there. You have been warned.

This is The Missus’s first Mother’s Day as a Mom, and of all things to do to her, I drag everybody but the dog to a Bastardson family reunion in Escroto del Diablo, Arizona. This is how I honor the mother of my child, by returning her to the second least favorite place she’s ever been to (New Mexico – the entire state – being number one on that list).

Can you blame me for having low self-esteem?

Since we already can’t afford the trip, I book us into the nicest place in town. I’ve checked it out on a previous (solo) trip and it’s a swanky dump. Air-conditioning, internet, the whole nine yards. Yes, it’s on the outskirts of a depressing hellhole, but it is an oasis of upper-class snobbery catering to the kind of well-heeled swells that we’ll only ever be able to aspire to being. For instance, it has its own golf course. Three of them, actually. Swank, huh?

But this wasn’t supposed to be a hotel review. This is supposed to be a paean to motherhood in general, and to my lovely Missus in particular.

She’s always been a great wife. Confidante, friend, lover and as often as not, psychological caretaker. I am not kidding you when I tell you that living with me is no walk in the park on a spring day in May. She knew what she was getting into and took the plunge anyhow.

If that was all she ever did for me, it would have been way much more than I deserved.

Ever since we got us a critter of our own, however, she has taken her game to a whole ‘nother level. Where she used to amaze me, just watching her work – half a dozen streams of different output flowing from her simultaneously – she now does all that while managing to be a much better mother than I struggle to be a father. She makes it seem like the magic it’s supposed to be.

She makes it seem like music.

Motherhood pours out of her. It’s like some third arm she uses like it’s been part of her her whole life, instead of something that dropped into the middle of our lives like an atom bomb last year.

And since it’s Mother’s Day and I want to keep this upbeat (eyes on the prize, Fang), we won’t even mention the fact that for the past few months of fatherhood in particular, I’ve been such a short-tempered, irritable prick she’s had two infants on her hands to contend with. Not even gonna bring it up because this is about her, not me.

And that’s the thing. I know as well as anybody can how hard it is, what she’s doing. Because I’m doing it too, and in any given circumstance can look over at her and say, “Yeah, that’s definitely the way I should be handling this.” It’s like coming up behind Babe Ruth in the batting roster every time. I knew she’d be better than me, especially during the Man Cub’s early, pre-verbal period, but I had no idea how much, or how grateful I’d be that she was.

Because the most important thing to me is that our son grow up happy and well-adjusted. Ol’ Fang’s ship has already sailed [insert your own favorite maritime disaster joke here], but we still have time to correct the bloodline with the next generation. I want to make me the historical aberration. The Missus’ kin are about as well-adjusted as you could hope for, and it’s my aim to see that he follow their lead and not his Daddy’s.

I’m gonna stay out of the way except where specifically fatherly guidance is called for. I started him out roughhousing early, and when he begins to cuss, he’ll do it like a longshoreman, not some little lord Fauntleroy still wet behind the ears.

I’ll rock him to sleep in my arms, change his diapers, chase him across the room as he learns to crawl and ride out his daily 4:30 a.m. manic burst, but I’ll let her shape his self-esteem.

Because as a mother, she is unparalleled. I kid you not. If we celebrated a Wive’s Day in this country, I’d write this same post then and mean it every bit as much. She treats me better than I deserve and she’s gonna make sure I don’t ruin our son’s life.

She is everything to me. She is my Thanksgiving Day in May, and every day. Thanksgiving Day for the rest of my life.

Monday, May 08, 2006

”That Darned W!”

[Cue cute theme music]

CNN — U.S. Air Force General Michael Hayden has been picked to head the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said today. Lawmakers from both parties say they are worried about the choice. The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee calls Hayden "the wrong person, the wrong place at the wrong time."

[Cue cartoon graphic of cat falling down a well (BOOOINGG!) cut to commercial]

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Putting the ‘Ooh!’ in “Pooper”

So I got a colonoscopy today. In case you’re considering doing the same, let me cut right to the chase: It’s a hell of an excellent way to wreck two days of your life.

Ol’ Fang is rapidly becoming just plain old Old Fang (emphasis on “Old”). So my regular doctor schedules me for one of these procedures. I am undaunted. This is the same thing Katie Couric had done on national TV a few years ago, and she made it look like she was really, really high the whole time. That sounded pretty good to me so I played along.

The Two Wrecked Days

Wrecked Day the first is Monday. I have to fast all day. The list of stuff I cannot consume is so lengthy that I get frustrated and call the Butt People first thing in the morning and ask them if I can have Mountain Dew and lime popsicles. The Butt People Lady says yes and off I go. I tell myself I’m staging a hunger strike in solidarity with all them immigrant dudes who didn’t go to work that day. It’s silly, but without self-deception my inner life would be nothing but a constant silent regurgitation of useless ephemera and withering self-criticism, so this time I’m playing along with myself.

By the end of the day, I have a raging headache from not having fucking eaten anything all day (and all aspirin products five days before the procedure having been specifically forbidden by the Butt People) and now it’s time for me to begin drinking the toxic brew that has been prescribed to push every last nano-element of anything hiding in my bowels, out.

The Butt People Guy I had seen in preparation for this procedure described the stuff as tasting like “pineapple-flavored sweat.” He was not inaccurate. He didn’t, however, mention the engine-oil consistency of the beverage. Or the fact that every chug of the awful stuff would have me fighting my gag reflex. My mission, should I decide to accept it? Drink a gallon of it. Holy God…

I make my way through only about 2/3 of the gallon, but it was enough to do the trick. Monday night is all about staying up past my bedtime, choking down an undrinkable elixir and squatting and squirting.

Everybody assures me this is the worst of it, which in some ways is true. Looking back, I can see myself getting all doped up and manhandled again by the Butt People if need be, but the thought of drinking that stuff ever again makes me seriously consider an ugly death by colo-rectal cancer as the lesser of two evils.

Wrecked Day the second was today.

I wake up and yesterday’s gale-force headache has metastasized into a cat-5 tsunami of cranial discomfort. The Missus, Man-Cub and I pile into the car and drive to the Butt People place alllll the way over on the other side of the island.

I figure I’m in for a swell high and am in good spirits, my splitting headache notwithstanding. The Missus and I trade butt-related puns as we walk into the building, and it’s all in good fun. Hell, they even told me they were gonna give me a drug to make me forget the whole procedure afterwards. Man, I’m up for this. I wrack my brain trying to come up with a plausible scenario that includes receiving all the drugs but rules out the anal penetration, but to no avail.

There’s forms to fill out. One line asks me what title I would prefer to be addressed by. I write “Commander.” The Missus giggles and rolls her eyes.

Boy, are we having fun.

Shortly thereafter, when the lady behind the desk calls out in a tentative voice, “Commander?” The Missus has to poke me in the ribs to remind me that that’s me.

I go back into the prep area, change into my backless hospital gown and chat up the admissions nurse while she looks for a vein to poke. Poke! She explains that is not the drugs part yet, this is just a saline solution. She assures me the next Butt Person I see will administer the kill-pain, make-me-forget dope. Then me and my splitting headache lay on a gurney staring up into the brutal fluorescent light for 45 minutes.

The good drugs lady finally arrives. I tell her to please take a really aggressive whack at it, as I have a low pain threshold and a very high drug tolerance. In short order I will learn that she thought I was only kidding.

I’m wheeled into the surgery room. As the banks of rectangular fluorescent lights go rolling by overhead, I find myself wondering if some day this will be the last sight I ever see, as it is for so many.

This thought does not help.

The procedure room is even more brightly lit than the prep area which had been like staring into the face of sun. The drugs aren’t even addressing my headache yet and the cold, clammy hand of fear begins to close over my heart.

They start doing their thing and I keep telling them, “Augh! Augh!” as I feel the damned tube snaking its way though the interior of my torso. I was told there wouldn’t be pain, dammit! Every few “Augh!”s the doctor tells somebody to increase the drugs but I still feel them inside me.

No problem, I tell myself. Even though they were stingy with the kill-pain drug, I’m counting on the make-me-forget drug to, well, make me forget.

If you’ve read this far, you know by now that the make-me-forget drug did not work as promised either. I go in and out of consciousness during the procedure, but I remember every turn that damned tube took.

Next thing I know, I’m in the recovery room, and they’re admitting The Missus and Man-Cub. I’m grateful it’s over and still a little goofy from the sedatives. I’m back in It’s All In Good Fun Mode. On the wheelchair ride to the parking lot I even summon the elevator before the orderly pushing me can, by kicking the “Down” button with my foot. She doesn’t really appreciate my initiative and makes sure to let me know.

Man, I think this is my longest post ever. Sorry.

Anyhow, I get car sick on the 40-mile ride home and pass out. When we fiiiinally arrive home I shuffle up the stairs to our tiny, crappy apartment, crawl into bed and pass out again.

I wake up a couple hours later, still feeling like shit. The food I try to eat – some of my favorite stuff we’ve laid in for just this occasion - tastes like shit. Everything is shit. Now it’s 11:30 at night, and I’m just starting to feel human again.

Two wrecked days. Big time.

Oh yeah, almost forgot the whole point of why I put myself through this: they found a polyp of the “bloody” variety in my colon. They removed it and are gonna biopsy it and tell me what the what is just as soon as they can. If treatment is required, as long as it doesn’t require me drinking another gallon of piss-flavored engine oil, I will submit, if not for my sake than for The Missus and Man Cub. Inexplicably, she still wants me around, and he’s too young to have begun hating and resenting me yet. And I wouldn’t miss his eventual, inevitable teenaged contempt for anything.

To sum up: Katie Couric is a better man than I am (although I might have put on a brave face too if a camera crew was there filming the whole awful ordeal); I love my family enough to do it again (some day, maybe) in spite of the wretchedness of the experience; and the length of this report is ample reminder why I usually never write about my personal life.

So if your doctor schedules you for a colonoscopy, go ahead and do it. All quips aside, early cancer detection saves lives. Just don’t believe a word they tell you about how pleasant an experience they will make it for you because IT’S ALL LIES!!!

If you go in knowing that this experience will cost you two perfectly good days of your life, it will hopefully ameliorate the indignity and discomfort of the actual experience.

I wish someone had warned me.