Sunday, July 30, 2006

“In this corner, the Sons of Abraham…”

“And in that corner, also wearing red, also the Sons of Abraham…”

Coincidental to one of my most stressful weeks ever, world events intrude to remind me that my little travails are so inconsequential, I’m a little embarrassed to have bellyached about them at such length online (without actually retracting anything, of course). Sorry about that… till the next time…

Turned on the news as soon as we got home, and in no time at all, I just couldn’t handle what I was seeing from the street in Lebanon. And that’s the sanitized version on US TV (doesn’t pay to piss off the Feds).

So now I’m watching a recording of a U2 concert from Buenos Aires, Argentina, that was broadcast live in that country. They’re doing “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” kind of an anti-massacre anthem, in case you’re unfamiliar with the band’s repertoire. This is performed just after a new song called “Love and Peace Or Else.” Bono’s wearing a headband that reads “co-exist” that manages to incorporate the iconography of the current Big Three world religions; Islam’s crescent, the Star of David and the cross. They’re at the “No More” chorus now, and some fetching audience member has been pulled up to join Bono on the mic. It’s all very touching and well-intentioned, but in light of recent events, it just seems hopelessly naïve.

Here’s what I think: Bono’s goal of reducing third world debt and combating AIDS in Africa is insanely ambitious, but at least in some measure doable. It’s not counter to human nature to want to help other people. One of the things people like to do to each other is help them. Sometimes it makes us feel good about ourselves to help others; a selfish motive doesn't negate the positive effects of good works.

But his appeal for co-existence flies in the face of the whole of human history, and is too big a challenge even for Moses, Mohammed and Jesus put together.

Because when you put them together, all hell breaks loose.

I was talking to my Mom today. She’s been an Apocalyptic Christian since, I think, the 70s. How well I remember her warning my brother who lives in Chicago that he had to get out by such & such a date because a prophet on the 700 Club had predicted that a tidal wave was going to wipe that city out. Never mind that’s in a tectonically stable region and on a lake, not an ocean… She’s been living this craziness for decades now, with one deadline for rapture passing after another.

The thing is, she’s not looking so crazy these days.

I was just at a big conference with a ton of people – young, savvy, motivated people – and I ended up sitting next to this dude who looked like Jesus. He let me take a picture for my Mom. He even posed in a classical Jesus pose. He was an awfully good sport, and we got to talking about blogger communities. The Missus was a medium-bigwig at this conference; I’m a nobody, which opinion this well-intentioned guy tried really hard to talk me out of. And I tried to explain to him (without being too big a dick) that I preferred to remain a nobody, unaffiliated, because I didn’t trust people in groups.

Because once people form themselves into communities, the communities inevitably end up splitting into cliques, which break into cells, which ultimately begin warring against each other, even it’s just flaming each other’s blogs with hate mail; couch potato terrorism. It’s human nature to identify an Other Guy, then go after him tooth and nail.

Even the most End Time-believing Bible-thumper will tell you that the third human being God put on planet earth killed the fourth one. You can blame me for not wanting to join up with like-minded fellows?

All this horror and escalating momentum in the Middle East scares the living bejeezus out of me. Good God, what kind of world have I brought my Man Cub into? A world where once again, American bombs are being dropped by allies on overwhelmingly civilian targets. A world where the Bad Guys hide among the civilian targets, hoping enough of their innocent countrymen will get horribly murdered as to swing popular opinion their way. Where human lives are expended more causally than Monopoly money.

And I think that’s my point. It’s in mankind’s nature to kill each other. It has been since forever. We’re meat-eaters, for crying out loud. Every meal we have requires the sacrifice of a formerly-living thing and only the “whackos” go off about it. If you think early man’s meat-eating habits didn’t include the guy in the cave next door, you’re kidding yourself.

People like to kill people. They just don’t give a fuck – some are so twisted up with rage and hatred they will literally kill themselves to take a couple of the other guys along with them. That’s some serious will to kill.

And as long as people like to kill so goddamn much and our weapons get more lethal and more prolific, we’re going to see the carnage get exponentially worse and worse. Wait till they kill an American network anchor in Baghdad or Fallujah or Buttrump, Iraq. Oh, will that be a high-rated television extravaganza! I’m sure the network execs already have a Dead Pool amongst themselves.

I am loathe to agree with the punditry, but I can absolutely see this spiraling out of control so badly that everybody is drawn in, and we really are staring down the barrel of World War III. With a professed Apocalyptic Christian at the helm of the United States’ arsenal and decision-making process, no less.

And in that war, no one is safe. Not in Israel, not in Lebanon, not in Iraq or Syria or Iran; not in America. Not even the babies.

What in God’s name is a father supposed to do???

Saturday, July 29, 2006

I wish I had said that...

But my buddy Tamburlaine beat me to it. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Thanks, dude. Now finish your goddamned diss! You've been working on it twice as long as Bush has been working on Armageddon, and he already has more results to show for his efforts than you do yours.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Hyatt San Jose – Low-Tech, Overpriced Shit Hole

Sometimes, I don’t like to waste time setting up my premise. This is one of them times.

I’ll skip over the first part of this week and stipulate that I’m still too freaked out by it to write it up. Failed a/c in 110-degree heat with infant Man Cub and creaky old dog imperiled; internet service down for two days in the middle of my internet-centric workweek; being shuttled from motel to motel by the apartment management; repeated screaming hissy fits followed by panicky queries to the family doctor regarding Daddy’s mental health situation … it’s all too horrible. At least the second hotel they put us in had a big room and free wi-fi. That was a Best Western in the one-horse-town down the road from our one-horse town.

[I must digress: The first night of our refugee period we stayed in a Motel 6. Here’s a snapshot of the experience: The “No Smoking” policy is presented on a “No Smoking” sticker pasted to the bottom of an ash tray, overturned on the night table. Previous occupants had taken notice of the loosy-goosey no smoking enforcement – with the perfume they used to try to cover the smoke stench, the room smelled like a spent cigarette floating in a bowl of Fruity Pebbles breakfast cereal.]

But we knew the weekend was coming when we would be staying at the fabulous Hyatt San Jose for the BlogHer 06 convention The Missus was attending. 700 lady bloggers descending on one venue? It would have to kick mucho ass, si? The tech situation, at least, would necessarily be nailed down tighter than George Bush’s asshole at a lesbian commitment ceremony. Plus, it’s the Hyatt. When I was a kid, “Hyatt” was synonymous with class and luxury.

Check this shit out: No wi-fi in the rooms. (Bear in mind that I am at the beginning of another work-week, which I conduct exclusively via the internet and email.) Even better, the DSL connection they offer in the rooms, while zippy, is set up so that only one computer can access it. Here’s what I mean: I plugged my laptop in, dialed up the internet and paid my $25.95 for three days’ access. Could The Missus then plug her laptop into the same DSL line that we’d already paid for and do her blogging thing? Nope. At this fabulous resort, only one individual per couple is allowed internet access per room.

WTF? It’s 2006, every traveler has a fucking laptop and expects internet access, but at the Hyatt San Jose, only one person per room is allowed internet access. And then they gouge you for it. Free wi-fi at the Best Western in Cowtown, USA; overpriced, single-user-only DSL at the Hyatt San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley. What is wrong with this picture?

In all fairness, the ladies who threw this soiree must bear part of the blame. I’m sure they assumed, like I did, that the Hyatt San Jose would have their technical shit together, but it was their responsibility to make sure. Somebody needs to actually inspect the venue if they do another one of these things next year.

Then I order a Club Sandwich from room service. I pick it because we already can’t afford this trip and it’s the cheapest thing on the menu at $8.95. It shows up 40 minutes later, with a $3 “delivery charge,” a $1.79 “room service charge,” $1.13 tax and the room service guy with his hand out. My $8.95 sandwich ended up costing me $18.87. And I still would have shrugged off the odious nickel-and-diming – this is the Hyatt, after all – if the fucking thing hadn’t arrived ice-cold, draped with wilted, room-temperature greasy French fries. $20 for a snack-sized meal that’s barely edible?

And the disappointments just keep on coming!

In all fairness to the Hyatt San Jose – the people being paid pennies on the dollar are unfailingly courteous, polite, friendly and helpful. The front desk people were arrogant, down-talking pricks, but the maids, groundskeepers, busboys – everybody that the GOP wants to ship back to their countries of origin – were genuinely delightful. Reminds me of when I was delivering pizzas – the people in the poor neighborhoods always tipped, the fat cats in the zillion-dollar mansions usually couldn’t be bothered.

My point, if I have one, is this: There are a lot of places to stay in San Jose, and internet-savvy adults traveling with spouses/significant-others would be well-advised to steer clear of the Hyatt San Jose. Did I mention the room was about half the size of the Best Western, the bathroom fan doesn’t work and the soda machines are all out of Mountain Dew? (This is all in the first 12 hours.) If I was staying at a Holiday Inn (or a Motel 6) I would be disgusted; receiving this level of service from a Hyatt hotel is nothing short of an outrage.

Addendum: I write these posts in MSWord because I am a sloppy typist and spellcheck is my life, then I copy and paste them into my blog. As I went to post this, I find the DSL is down and I can’t get online. Huzzah! I was hoping I’d get to spend the morning on the phone with the Hyatt San Jose tech support people instead of getting my fucking work done. Thank you, once again, Hyatt San Jose.

Oh Jesus Christ – now it’s demanding I pay again, despite the fact that I paid for three days just last night. I really AM gonna be on the phone with tech support all day.

Hey Google, take note:

Hyatt San Jose – Low-Tech, Overpriced ShitHole

Hyatt San Jose – Low-Tech, Overpriced ShitHole

Hyatt San Jose – Low-Tech, Overpriced ShitHole

Hyatt San Jose – Low-Tech, Overpriced ShitHole

Hyatt San Jose – Low-Tech, Overpriced ShitHole

Hyatt San Jose – Low-Tech, Overpriced ShitHole

Hyatt San Jose – Low-Tech, Overpriced ShitHole

Hyatt San Jose – Low-Tech, Overpriced ShitHole

UPDATE — This just in!

Bonus caterpillar on page A12 of the complementary USA Today (which I had to fetch from the lobby as our room was somehow skipped over when our neighbors got theirs delivered).

Not a photo of a caterpillar, an actual caterpillar:

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Found Comedy

Read the following two paragraphs. They’re from an op-ed piece in the local paper. Trust me, you won’t see it coming.

American heroes from sea to sea
By Kathryn Jean Lopez

Leave all your Oliver Stone biases at home when you go see his new film "World Trade Center." It's all-American and well-timed. This September will mark the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on American soil. And Americans — unless they happen to have a family member deployed or had lost someone on 9/11 — don't generally seem to have a keen sense that we're at war. This movie reminds us we are.

"For no other reason than it was the right thing to do." These are the last words spoken by one of the film's stars, Nicolas Cage, about the rescue workers who risked their lives, coming from near and far, to save the only 20 people who ultimately would be rescued from the rubble — words that parallel Rick Santorum's steadfastness in the Senate.

See? Even warned you weren’t going to see it coming, you didn’t, did you? After much soul-searching, the GOP has found a way to take their shameless exploitation of 9-11 to even newer depths.

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you already are familiar with the stellar Senatorial career of the man my friend Tamburlaine aptly calls Rick Spankmoron. If Ted Stevens and Sam Brownback weren’t in the same bunch of knuckleheads as he is, I’m sure he’d get more coverage.

Lately he’s been drawing flak for continuing to assert there were WMDs in Iraq and offering to show classified Defense Department documents on Fox TV. What draws my ire are his ridiculous, hateful anti-gay tirades, but for some reason, I couldn’t find any of them on YouTube. God, I love YouTube – it even plays on Macs!

I’ve promised myself I’m not going to let another night get eaten up writing a lengthy blog, but consider this paragraph where Ms Lopez of the National Review spells our her thesis in greater detail:

Santorum attracts much more than his share of nastiness. Google his name right now and you'll get a sense of what he and his family have to put up with. His wife, God bless her, encourages him in his desire to serve. But it's a sacrifice for more than the senator.

And the hilarity just goes on and on. I really recommend you read it for its sheer outrageousness and genuine, gut-busting comedy value. This one had both me and The Missus in stitches all day.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Me, The Missus and Bobby McGee

Had an anniversary this week, me and The Missus did. Four years in and this time, neither one of us forgot. Based on that, I’m happy to report that the state of our union is strong!

[pause for applause]

Coincidentally (don’t ask), Kris Kristofferson was playing a show in Santa’s Village here on Christmas Island on the night of our anniversary, and we decided to leave The Man Cub with a friend and head on into town for some class and culture – dinner and a show.

If you don’t know, Kristofferson, semi-famous for writing Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee”, has a new CD out, This Old Road, which kicked my ass the first time I heard it. I browsed it on iTunes and went, “holy shit!” and bought the whole thing right away. It’s very much like Cash’s first record with Rick Rubin, except Kristofferson wrote all 11 songs on This Old Road.

The Missus scored us some crazy killer seats – sixth row center, orchestra in an old-timey Art Deco theater from 100 years ago. We could see every wrinkle on his face.

The review follows. I will try to keep it as concise and frills-free as Kristofferson’s compositions – not that I don’t love the sound of my fingers poking the keyboard, but I’m blowing work deadlines right and left already.

Kristofferson was great, in spite of the fact that I play guitar almost as well as he does, and I don’t play guitar. And, to quote Dennis Miller (don’t remember who he was talking about), Kristofferson’s voice has all the range of a Daisy air rifle. Plus for most of the show, he seemed to think he playing a soundcheck that was going over really great with the crew.

Lucky for him, his presentation and material more than made up for his admittedly vast technical shortcomings.

Sitting there in the first section on the floor, sixth row center, we could see his expression at every mistake and he was equal parts embarrassed and oh well. We both agreed he was cute. Being that close, and watching him absorb every shortcoming all over his face... It was really cool. I like my heroes to have fatal flaws; Kristofferson’s was the live performance.

Among the highlights:

• KK getting to end of a song and attempting to blow into his harmonica, only to discover (and announce to the crowd), “I was gonna play ‘Taps,’ but I put the damned thing in backwards.”

• Coming out after the intermission and playing the first 12 bars of the first song before realizing his guitar wasn’t plugged in.

• Repeatedly forgetting to position his harmonica rack and having to adjust it mid-song, at one point explaining, “Oops – sorry, my lips aren’t long enough.”

• Bailing on the end of “The Best Of All Possible Worlds” and apologizing, explaining that Roger Miller could have done some cool scat to end the song properly, but he was no Roger Miller.

• Innumerable dropped, missed and mangled notes on the guitar, most accompanied by a wince and a smile.

The music, though, was awesome. And as the show went along, he seemed to become a little more focused and the performance improved. I had no idea how many songs other artists are renowned for that he wrote. Google him if you don’t believe me.

He played six or seven songs from the new disc, all but one of them in the second set. Like most veteran musicians, he seemed more engaged in his new material than in some of the ones he’s played ten thousand times before. Go figure.

I also liked the way he talked throughout about his influences and peers, particularly Johnny Cash and Roger Miller. It’s easy to throw Cash’s name around these days for some instant second-hand cred, but giving props to Roger Miller earned him a lot of love from me.

Anyhow, if he’s coming to a town near you on this tour, The Missus and I heartily recommend you seek him out. And if you can’t get sixth-row center seats, bring some binoculars. Half the show was enjoying watching him suffer his shortcomings, and in the end, surmount them.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Hypocrisy Test

Dumbleyou’s gone for the trifecta!

Three days in a row now he’s gotten under my skin so bad, on three different things, that I’ve found the time to sit down and beat up my keyboard. Today, obviously, it’s the stem cell veto. His first veto in five and a half years, and he uses it to fellate the religious right. Then poses with babies after the signing ceremony. … Oh wait, I get it! He’s saving babies! Wow, I almost missed the symbolism…

According to AP, “The [vetoed] measure, which the House of Representatives passed 238-194 in May, allows couples who have had embryos frozen for fertility treatments to donate them to researchers rather than let them be destroyed.”

That’s it. It allows couples to decide what to do with their own frozen embryos. It’s not a descent into Dante’s Inferno, it’s not the first step to hell on earth, and it’s sure not killing babies! It’s about allowing people to make their own family-planning decisions. We criticize China for their one-child policy, then turn around and tell American families what they can and can’t do with their own embryos.

As I said, it’s made me very angry. This administration’s whole anti-science and pro-religion thing makes me angry because most Americans know better. We inherited our religious upbringing and outlook, it’s like eye color. We can wear contacts, but we still have brown eyes. We can stop going to Mass on Sundays, but dammit, we’re still Catholics.

But we understand science with our rational minds. When we think about it, we don’t have to write it off to An Abiding Mystery and then stop thinking about it. Religion maybe saved people thousands of years ago and just last night on the Pat Robertson Show; science saves people every day, everywhere, all over the world, day in and day out. And Americans get that, even ‘Red-Staters.’

I was talking to my friend The Last Boy Scout about how pissed off Bush was making me, and that I have to make sure, from time to time, that I’m not as crazy as he’s making me. Listening to myself talk about Bush, I often marvel at how crazy I sound, and I rely on TLBS to rein me in when necessary…

But when he’s not available, I use what I call The Clinton Test (or the Check-Your-Math Test for Clinton-haters). It works like this:

As I am someone who loved Clinton as President and am therefore biased in his favor, I look at stuff Bush does that pisses me off (name something, anything), and I ask myself, “What if Clinton had done the same thing under the same circumstances?” If the answer comes back, “Well, if Clinton did it, I’d be okay with it,” I have to give Bush a pass.

Obviously, that almost never happens. What if Clinton started a war based on what turned out to be bogus premises? Ooh, I’d be pissed. Scuttling stem-cell research to appease religious crazies? Pissed. Repeatedly caught talking smack on open mics? Embarrassed, but not pissed. Etc.

The same ‘check your math’ test works in reverse, for Bush-backers. What if Clinton had done – let’s use the same examples I’ve just cited, for brevity’s sake – would Bush-backers still be prevaricating and dancing around on the head of a pin looking for the good in it, or would they be outraged?

CLINTON invades Iraq before international weapons inspectors are done with their inspections, there’s no WMDs after all, 2,500-and-counting American servicemembers are killed and the war is about to go longer than WWII with no end in sight — Good or bad?

CLINTON turns his back on the sick and the dying to suck up to campaign contributors — Go along to get along, or forming Congressional committees to look into it? (Hint: Lincoln bedroom.)

CLINTON consistently embarrassing the country by making the same open-mic mistake over and over, always in front of a wall of very visible cameras and microphones — warm folksy whimsy or imbecilic, embarrassing clod?

I suppose the more accurate name for this endeavor would be The Hypocrisy Test.

The only caveat I have to add – and only in the spirit of full disclosure – is that even when Bush does something that passes The Hypocrisy Test, I still don’t trust him. A couple weeks ago, he signed a bill setting aside umpteen thousands of acres of wildlife area from development. I was stunned, till I told myself “I’ll betcha they’re gonna fence it off and use it to test future-weaponry, or secretly inter enemies of the state.”

And I can get away with that kind of paranoia, because of Bush’s track record with secrecy and civil rights violations. And environmental protection! But I still felt myself teetering on the edge of hypocrisy. I’m gonna keep my eye on that story, and if they turn it into a national park with full public access, I’ll write my first pro-Bush blog entry ever. And I’ll catch shit for it, too! My commie-lib pals were not happy with my piece supporting the Supreme Court’s ruling on cops not having to announce themselves before they serve a legally-obtained warrant. And they let me hear about it!

So Bush vetoed the stem-cell research funding today and right now, it looks like the Senate doesn’t have the votes to overturn it, even with a bunch of Republicans and a vast majority of the regrettably non-donating American public on board.

As a result, Bush is not only in our bedrooms, but has crawled up our women’s collective vagina and is doing a head-count on her embryos. This from the GOP, the party of less government and more personal freedom, allegedly.

Maybe the best name for the test would be The Bush Test. It implies hypocrisy without having to spell it out.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Hubris of King George (Part #Infinity)

Do we have to live with some new shame Every. Single. Fucking. DAY! from this guy? Yesterday he’s spitting food at Tony Blair while talking shit to the world press on an open mic, today his AG – under intense grilling – is forced to admit...

Gonzales: Bush Blocked Internal Probe of Eavesdropping Program
WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday that President Bush personally blocked Justice Department lawyers from pursuing an internal probe of the warrantless eavesdropping program that monitors Americans' international calls and e-mails … Under sharp questioning from [Republican!] Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, Gonzales said that Bush would not grant the access needed to allow the probe to move forward.

So let’s see. Bush circumvents existing law with his extra-legal domestic snooping shenanigans, then when word sneaks out the law may be being broken by the President and the Justice Department launches an investigation into the President’s behavior, the President denies them access to the materials they need to pursue the investigation, causing said investigation into his misbehavior to be dropped.

God DAMN it’s good to be King!

The story goes on to say that, “Last week, under a deal with Specter, Bush agreed conditionally to a court review of his anti-terror eavesdropping operations.”

Unfortunately, we know too well what happens when Bush agrees conditionally to help an investigation into his own bad behavior – the condition is that the investigation be dropped.

This is the same guy who signs laws with great fanfare, then privately adds codicils (“signing statements”) that negate the intent of the law, and/or leaves Bush free to ignore it if he so chooses. Did I mention it’s good to be King?

You know what especially boils me? This is the guy who campaigned on a platform of “bringing honor and integrity back to the White House.” AAAUUGGHHH!!!


The one thing upon which this dishonest, hypocritical, ill-mannered little man and I agree is that we’re both anxious for history to pass judgment on him. I just hope the courts get a crack at him first.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Open-Mic Amateur Night at Vladimir’s

Or as CNN put it, “The sh_t heard 'round the world.”

So the Potty-Mouth-in-Chief is at it again. How many times does That Darned Dumbleyou have to get caught talking trash on open mics – in front of a wall of cameras no less – before he learns? I hope the money-changers who decide these things pick someone less stupid to put into office next time. What’s Danny Quayle up to these days?

I also like the way Dumbleyou never stops shoveling food into his mouth the whole time he’s discussing the middle east in full-blown melt-down. ‘Sorry about the whole Armageddon thing, but my ‘taters are coolin’ off! Heh.’

Anyway, whatever Bush thinks about the middle east doesn’t mean a damn thing. Either you buy that he’s a born-again Christian, in which case he not only believes the end of the world will come in his lifetime, but he pines for it and as President, would be bliged to help bring it about. Or you think he’s a shallow frat boy opportunist who’s just along for the ride (my personal opinion). The evidence actually points to the latter theory.

Bush’s Israel policy from inauguration day to 9/11 was very clearly stated - hands off. I remember vividly, like, only days after that infamous inauguration (and I wish I could find a source for this, but impatience is always the enemy of accuracy) Team Bush issuing an official policy statement that the US was stepping out of the whole Israel/Palestinian situation altogether. (If someone can find me a source, I’d be happy to link to it.) I remember reading about the policy change, issued without any fanfare, because I remember it pissing me off. I thought it was a craven and cowardly thing to do.

But Rove, Cheney et al must have seen it was a political loser for Clinton (big time, right at the end of his term, when that bastard Arafat torpedoed negotiations at the eleventh hour), and they realized they didn’t have any political capital at the time to expend on initiatives they knew were bound to fail. So buh-bye, peace process. We’ll get back to you when it suits our own agenda.

So instead, Bush turned his sites on putting the kibosh on stem-cell research because his religious fundamentalist base needed shoring up after the squeaker in the Supreme Court. Also on the Presidential agenda: Month-long vacations of some pretty kick-ass truck-ranch brush-clearing, followed by snoozing through his Presidential Daily Briefings to gear up for the daily photo-op/sound-byte out in the driveway.

The Israel/Palestine conflict never even appeared on their radar at all till they folded it into “The War On Terror,” itself a pretext for the Iraq invasion they’d been gearing up for since Day One.

So the fact that now Bush believes it’s ‘ironic’ that Syria could wave a magic wand and make all his problems go away – excuse me, all this shit go away – really tends to support my theory that Bush is much more frat boy than Apocalyptic Revolutionary.

Did Dad’s friends get him a great gig this time, or what?!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Flaming Out (post-fading away)

The big news over at Pink today is that Roger and David still are really, really angry at each other, and thus will soooo not be going out on tour together. I quote:


Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright are joined by Roger Waters in categorically stating that there is no truth in the recent news reports about a Pink Floyd tour planned for this Autumn.

While it’s unquestionably a shame (well, I don’t question it) that the lads can’t bury the hatchet long enough to get together on any new musical projects, the news is just in that they’ll be getting together to bury founding member Syd Barrett instead, who died last week at the ripe old age of 60.

It’s also a shame that five days out, the Floyd website is still throwing shit at former members instead of offering any kind of acknowledgement and/or appreciation of the passing of the band’s co-founder and spiritual mentor. I’m sure they’ll dash something off eventually, but at the moment, it just adds another shade of blue to Syd’s passing.

Neil Young said it’s better to burn out than to fade away – Syd did both, look what it got him. Squat, that’s what. Just say no, kids...

In spite of all that, I wanted to wrap this up this on as positive a note as circumstances allow, so I combed Syd’s lyrics from the first few Floyd albums to see if I could find something apropos, and maybe, you know, not completely mental yet. The following was written by Syd and is from “The Piper At The Gates of Dawn.”

Peaceful journey, you crazy, shining, mad fucker, you. Thanks for the music.


Alone in the clouds all blue
Lying on an eiderdown.
Yippee! You can't see me
But I can you.

Lazing in the foggy dew
Sitting on a unicorn.
No fair, you can't hear me
But I can you.

Watching buttercups cup the light
Sleeping on a dandelion.
Too much, I won't touch you
But then I might.

Alone in the clouds all blue
Lying on an eiderdown.
Yippee! You can't see me
But I can you.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Dumbleyou and ‘the end of cowboy diplomacy’

Let’s be clear about this, and I’ll even try to be brief:

Bush went after Saddam because he thought it would be easy. All the inspectors on the ground were telling him Saddam was a whipped puppy. Bush, Cheney, et al went on record that they thought it would be a cake walk. They went after the weakling in their trumped up “Axis of Evil,” the way bullies do. Pick out the weakest pup of the pack and kick his ass, building a swell bully rep for yourself. Mission Accomplished, eh? Watch out for my big, swinging dick!

Leaving aside the fact that removing Saddam has been the only thing we’ve tried in Iraq that’s been easy or successful, the reason for Bush’s “policy change” is that North Korea and Iran are actually players – big, scary fuckers with the ability to do some serious ass-kicking back. And faced with a couple of actual tough guys, Bush does what pussies always do – try to talk their way out of a fight.

Don’t get me wrong – obviously I support diplomacy over Big Dick-acy, especially with nukes on the table – but giving Bush credit for statesmanlike growth when all he’s doing is being the same cowardly punk he’s always been pisses me off.

Don’t piss me off! Time magazine, I’m looking at you…

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Ann Coulter: Plagiarist From Hell?

I guess allegations of plagiarism in Ann Coulter’s books and columns have been burning up the blogosphere lately (I only read my friends’ blogs, and we don’t tend to break a lot of Big Scoops), but I didn’t hear about this business till just a couple minutes ago.

My only question is: Plagiarize from WHOM?? Mein Kampf? The Turner Diaries? The Necronomicon?

With ideas and opinions as nakedly repulsive as hers, the last thing I ever expected to hear was that there was someone else out there thinking the same stuff, that got it into print first for her to steal.

You’d think shit like she writes would burst into flames when exposed to sunlight, and that it wouldn’t be around to be picked up by the next generation of hate-mongers… but I guess you’d be wrong.

I’d love to know who her sources were – I’m sure Satan’s attorneys are already filing the discovery paperwork.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

100 Highways on the Fourth of July

I’m sitting on the sofa before sunrise on the Fourth of July, listening to the new Johnny Cash album on the iPod my Missus got me for Christmas with my son on my lap spellbound by “The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T” on TCM.

Johnny Cash, The Man Cub and Dr. Seuss. I think I’m finally figuring out how to do holidays right. I’ll leave my anthropological dissection of “The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T” for another day and focus today’s remarks on the music.

“100 Highways” is the strongest Johnny Cash album in ten years. There’s not a clunker included in the dozen tracks here, a welcome respite from the last couple of releases.

Pensive, lush and ultimately upbeat, Cash works the same themes he’s been exploring for years — decades, really. Since Day One, his songs have been about love, God and death and these are no exception. But as his earthly termination approached, Cash turned a more interested eye to that last one, death; particularly his own. His characters changed from the perspective of the man who shot the fella in Reno, to that fellow from Reno himself.

The album opens with a spare rendition of Larry Gatlin’s “Help Me,” and finds Cash in full possession of his instrument. The first words sung are:
Oh Lord, help me to walk another mile, just one mile
I’m tired of walkin’ all alone

Even more than the rest of the American Recordings canon (with the exception of “My Mother’s Hymnbook,” released as part of an anthology shortly after Cash died), “100 Highways” is explicitly a rumination on mortality. I think producer Rick Rubin, with whom Cash worked closely on the series of albums, probably chose to include the Springsteen song on the disc, “Further On Up The Road,” just for its sinister boneyard imagery:
Got on my dead man's suit and my smilin' skull ring
My lucky graveyard boots and song to sing

Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” finds Cash at his most frail, vocally. The Voice is practically falling apart at the seams, and it lends his reading of this tune a wrenching gravity. Occasionally when Cash covered really well-known recordings — like “Cats In The Cradle” or U2’s “One” — his interpretation suffered by comparison. This is a proper re-invention, however, and stands on its two feet. Or rocks back and forth in its own creaky chair... It’s magnificent.

“The Evening Train” may be the most straightforward train-as-metaphor-for-death song ever composed (and Cash has sang all of them and written more than a few himself), and another story about losing one’s wife. Where Cash’s characters used to be more removed from the man himself, as he grew older they became more and more nakedly autobiographical. This is a man who looked death in the face, and said, “Let me get my bags!”

“Like the 309,” allegedly Cash’s final composition, is a cheerful ditty about looking forward to one’s own funeral that you can line-dance to. Bouncy and full of mordant humor and cracker wisdom, the vocal is eerily threadbare enough to return the listener’s attention to the actual words being sung:
Take me to the depot, put me to bed
Blow an electric fan on my gnarly old head
Everybody take a look see I’m doin’ fine
Then load my box on the 309

Thematically, things perk up a little in the middle of the disc. The CD’s title comes from a line in “Love’s Been Good to Me,” a song credited to Frank Sinatra (!), that anchors the disc. Cash’s performance is obviously about June, and when he intones “love’s been good to me” at the end, as usual when Johnny Cash says a thing, you don’t doubt it for a minute.

“Legend In My Time” is also given the tongue-in-cheek treatment, including the Hank Williams-esque speak-sing of the second verse.

“Rose of My Heart” is another straight-ahead love ballad. A light-heartedness in the delivery – and its use of the present tense – makes me think he probably recorded it before June died rather than after.

But as the CD winds down, so does Cash. The penultimate song, “Four Strong Winds,” finds The Man In Black again almost whispering lyrics like:
Four strong winds that blow lonely
Seven seas that run high
All these things that don’t change come what may
Now our good times are all gone
And I’m bound for movin’ on
I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way

One last time, Cash is looking at his own mortality and telling us, “I’m not afraid, don’t you be either.”

A favorite Bible verse of Cash’s — and one he quoted often — was Matthew 14:27, “But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” Cash was looking forward to hearing those words of comfort from The Man’s own lips, and in his heart as well as his art, he was getting ready to.

That he wasn’t afraid is what makes the disc an ultimately rewarding, uplifting affair. Cash’s Christian faith was so deeply a part of him that death literally held no fear for him. You listen to the songs, and you don’t even feel sad for the guy.

And for the religious skeptics among us, Rubin promises a sixth and final disc, perhaps as early as next year, and promises it’ll be a more upbeat affair for everybody. Even us skeptics.

UPDATE: Don’t know how long USA Today will keep it up, but right now there’s a very cool and beautiful interview with Rick Rubin up on their site. You should check it out.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Fun With [Hack! Cough!] Ferberizing

Maybe you haven’t heard of Ferberizing. Has to do with raising kids. Basically it’s the school of thought that advocates letting your infant get over itself and cry itself to sleep instead of the constant coddling that occurs, for instance, at our place. I’m getting pretty sick of being kicked awake every morning at 4:30 because The Man Cub refuses to sleep in his crib after about midnight.

Also, the refusing to nap when he’s clearly out on his feet – I’ve had it with that too. All the books say a) Man Cubs his age should be napping several times a day and b) they should be doing it when and where we say so.

So in the absence of The Missus the other afternoon, I decided to let him cry it out. Problem solved and I’d be the hero for a change.

Trouble is, he has enough of me in him that he never gave up, never gave in and never surrendered. He sat up in his crib, crimson-faced, and screamed blue murder for an hour straight till I finally threw in the towel and came in and got him. After normal breathing resumed, he fell asleep almost straight-away in my arms. I walked him back to the crib, placed him gingerly in it… and the howling started again immediately.

The Missus was due home imminently, so I just let him do a little more acting out till the A-Team arrived to save the day.

Here’s the thing, though: Now he sounds like a miniature Tom Waits. Like he’s been gargling glass shards and smoking three packs a day since the Eisenhower administration. His sweet little blood-curdling soprano sounds like it’s been dragged over thirty miles of rough road.

Needless to say, the dog is not pleased.

Nor is The Missus. She said to me, “If his voice doesn’t get better in a couple days-“

“We’ll have to get him some singing lessons!” I quipped.

If I was looking for a way to shine a brighter light on my error, I couldn’t have done a better job. Note to self…

Anyhow, I’m sure he’ll be fine. I’m not sure I’ll ever sleep a proper night again in my life, but I’m sure The Man Cub will prevail in the end. So far, his record is spotless.

And the world can always use another gravelly-voiced saloon singer. He’ll be grateful for my well-intentioned parental neglect when he accepts his Nobel Peace Prize for gravelly-voiced saloon singing some day, wait and see.