Friday, August 31, 2007

The Man Cub and The Other Bad Barber

The Man Cub turns two next week, and this was only his fourth haircut. Through bitter experience, we’ve learned that of all Christmas Island’s barber shops, there’s only one that employs a barber who can cut toddlers’ hair. It must be like splitting the atom with a corkscrew or something. Very difficult.

Anyhow, The Man Cub needed a haircut today, even if The Good Barber wasn’t in, which he wasn’t. There was a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s in the offing, and his shaggy early-Beatles coif just wasn’t going to get the job done.

So I drive him into town, discover The Good Barber isn’t working and move on to Plan B, which is go to the other barber shop in town and take our chances (since we know the other barber in The Good Barber’s shop is a hair-butcher). Well, the three idling barbers in the second shop scattered like dry leaves in a stiff wind when I asked which one of them specialized in cutting toddlers’ hair.

Thus did The Man Cub end up in the chair of The Barber Whose English Wasn’t So Good. Had it been better, he probably wouldn’t have been the last one to scatter.

So we put my little guy up in the big chair and he’s not feeling the love (see photo, top). But goddammit, he’s a Spartan and we have a code! I watch him as he toughs it out for a few minutes, then I turn to one of the other barbers and go, “Say, could one of you guys cut my hair real quick while he gets his done?”

The guy who volunteers then moves me around to the other side of the wall from my boy and sits me down in the one place in the tiny be-mirrored place of business where I don’t have a line-of-sight to my son (see diagram I created for The Missus after we got home, left). I can see the reflection of everybody else in the shop about 100 times each, but the only way I know he’s still there is because I have a clear line of sight to the door, and he hasn’t left.

So I’m sitting there, urging my barber to emphasize speed over accuracy because I’m nervous my son is going through this traumatizing experience alone on the other side of the wall and I don’t really give a shit what my haircut looks like anyhow. At one point, my barber asks, “Do you want the back tapered, flat or curved?” I looked at him in the mirror incredulously. “Do you know how often I see the back of my own head?? Do whatever you think looks best.” Jesus! What part of “speed over craft” did he not understand when I sat down in his chair?

The whole time, The Man Cub is completely silent. I’m awfully proud of my invisible little fellow. Figure things must be going pretty well on his side of the wall. I hear his barber giving him instructions in full sentences and just roll my eyes. Our less-than-2-year-old can point to a stuffed animal and say “bunny” and can identify “poo” when I indicate a soiled diaper, but complete sentences? This barber is a fucking idiot is the conclusion I swiftly come to.

Finally, my haircut is wrapping up and I see the other barber lift The Man Cub up out of his chair and set him on the floor. He walks around the corner and looks up at me, and the first thing I notice isn’t the concentration-camp survivor haircut (see photo, left) he’s going to be stuck with for a while. I think John McCain had the same cut when he was released from the Hanoi Hilton in 1973, and he’s done pretty well for himself until recently. No, the first thing I notice is the single tear running down one of his cheeks. I say, “Can he sit on my lap till you finish me up?” My barber grudgingly relents and another customer lifts my son up onto my lap. He melts into me and I hug him and praise him, assuring him he’s done an excellent job, which he has.

And how.

That’s when I notice the big red nick at the nape of my son’s neck. I call out, “Hey, what happened here on the back on his neck?” His barber snaps something testily about how the boy not following instructions precisely resulted in the divot in his neck. I look at my son and he looks at me, and I wipe his tear away with my finger. I hold him tighter and swear to myself that from now on, no matter what, we wait till The Good Barber is in, even if it means going to his grandparents’ looking like Paul McCartney, ca 1965.

Why write about this? Because I’m damned proud of the boy! Even in his fear, even when he couldn’t see me, even when other kids his age require an entire retinue of caregivers to even keep them in the barber’s chair and they still scream bloody murder, even when his Inquisitor was whacking wholesale chunks out of his tender young flesh, he didn’t utter a peep of complaint. He sucked it in, cowboyed-up and stuck it out with a stoicism that frankly didn’t come directly from either his mother or me.

Then we came home, bad haircuts and battle-scars in tow, and he created the disturbing pen-and-ink drawing below of his latest brush with Bad Barbery.

Lesson learned, little man. Lesson learned. (Sorry!)

Monday, August 27, 2007

And then there were…?

So embattled A.G. Alberto Gonzales is finally going away, the latest Bush administration official to take his faulty memory and infamous work-product with him back to the private sector. Sure, it’s a kind of triumph for truth, justice and The American Way but in the end, what purpose does it serve? The Dems will get to give W’s next nominee the grilling that Gonzales should have received and that would probably have revealed his lack of qualification for the post, but even the promise of a grueling confirmation fight feels like a pyrrhic victory.

For one thing, the Dems don’t seem to be very good at seizing political advantages anymore. Been too many years of going-along-to-get-along to avoid being labeled as “weak on terror” for them to even remember what it was like to have balls. And even if they do deliver a good televised ass-kicking to the hapless nominee-to-come, who cares? Bush is the lamest of lame ducks, and short of another Supreme Court retirement, his Presidential lame-ass goose is good and cooked. He could appoint Clarence Darrow or Joseph Goebbels as A.G. and it wouldn't make a lick of difference at this point.

For another thing, I actually feel myself feeling bad for Alberto Gonzales. Just look at the guy, his hang-dog countenance, his wish-I-were-anyplace-else-but-here demeanor during Congressional questioning... This is no Mastermind, no Machiavellian schemer who was proactive in the Bush administration’s deconstruction of American civil liberties. The guy is a Schmo. He strikes me as the ultimate roll-up-his-sleeves and follow orders kind of guy; he was the Bush family’s Luca Brasi, a sad sack ‘soldier’ whose destiny was always going to end with sleeping with the fishes.

They want me to try to strong-arm the hospitalized, drugged Attorney General into signing documents that will deny every American fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution? ... Sure, okay. There’s gotta be a good reason for it; I don't have to understand what it is. Write a memo officially endorsing torturing prisoners in American custody? ... Okay. Sure it sounds mean, but President Bush, well, he’s kind of my hero. He’s got to have a good reason...

See what I mean? I'm not saying his lack of evil intent should excuse anything he did, and he ought to be held to account legally like the rest of W’s crooked cronies, but I don’t see him as an intrinsically nasty piece of work, ala Rummy and Rove for instance. He’s the classic guy who fell in with the wrong bunch. If he had been plucked out of obscurity by, say, Oprah instead of the Bush Clan, he might be handing out new cars to grateful studio audiences right now instead of facing an early retirement of addressing rubber chicken dinners and dodging subpoenas.

It’s just hard to feel really good about such a minor triumph. Had it come a year or two ago, I think I’d be a lot more excited. At this late date though, it’s a paper victory, not really a tactical one, or one with the promise of better days to come attached to it.

I keep coming back to poor, clueless, sycophantic Al Gonzales. I wonder how long Gonzo’s been begging his BFF Bush to let him go? I'd wager for quite a while now. This last year has to have been … ahem … torture for him. I tell ya, with friends like the President, who needs enemas?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Historical-Recidivist-in-Chief takes a hit

In a completely unexpected twist, historians and scholars who eked out better grades in college than Mr. Bush’s C-average are taking issue with his “interpretation” yesterday of the lessons of Vietnam.

Full story here: Historians Question Bush’s Reading of Lessons of Vietnam War for Iraq

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Short-Bus President Soldiers On

Oh dear gawd

According to, Bush is going to try to make the wildly counter-intuitive argument today to a vet’s group that the U.S. should never have left Vietnam in order to buttress his decision to prolong the killing of American boys and girls in Iraq.

This on the same day that a single helicopter crash in Iraq has claimed 14 American servicemembers’ lives. When Lefties rhetorically ask, “Did this president learn nothing from Vietnam?” we now have to answer, “No, he did learn lessons from Vietnam – the wrong ones!”

Call me crazy, but I see Karl Rove’s pudgy, smudgy hand-prints all over this line of hooey. Rove isn’t retiring, he’s just going underground. Maybe he and 2007 Cheney have had a bunker-built-for-two constructed at some unknown location where they can plan up the end of the American Experiment over mai-tais and prerecorded tropical music.

Imagine if Bush had inherited the Vietnam War the way Nixon did, and instead of eventually bowing to political, practical and military reality, had stubbornly insisted on keeping American forces fighting. We’d have our own 30-year-war by now! And apparently, that is his design for Iraq – war without end, forever and ever amen. Praise the Lord! Johnny’s comin’ marching home in a flag-draped coffin that’s been blacked-out to the media.

Honestly, imagine that we’re still bogged down in Vietnam today, losing 100 American soldiers a week in the pursuit of a policy that has been discredited for three-plus decades now. I’ll give you a minute to picture the horror


That is the future Bush wants to leave for our children in Iraq. My son is two next month. Bush would have him dying in the Iraqi killing fields 20 years from now. It’s enough to make a man want to run for Congress — not to change policy, just to make sure that my kid doesn’t end up on the front lines of an unwinnable military clusterfuck overseas.

I just plain hate this fucking president. He won’t be satisfied till he’s snuffed out the futures of the sons and daughters of every John and Janey Sixpack who sent him to Washington in the first place.

Where the hell is the sage council and sober wisdom of ’94 Cheney when you need him??

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dick Cheney and the Self-Fulfilling Prophesy

I just wanted this here for posterity:

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bye Bye Rove*

*with apologies to the Everly Brothers

So Karl Rove is leaving the White House to spend more time with his family; his wife and college-aged son! How many college-aged sons are that lucky? Even the people on Fox are openly speculating that ol’ Turdblossom is leaving to get busy on some lucky GOP candidate’s floundering presidential campaign.

MSNBC is pointing out that now that even though Rove is off the payroll, he’s still going to have unfettered access to the Bush-leaguer-in-Chief, but they’re dancing around what seems obvious to me and Fox is already pondering aloud.

I wonder what impact this will have on all the investigations that are circling around Rove. Probably not much. Even should justice eventually prevail in the courts, there’s still the stacked Supreme Court to count on in the end. Or in a worst-case-scenario, the next uncomprehending Republican dolt that Rove guides to the White House.

I’m also wondering if Rove is too tainted by all the ongoing Congressional inquiries and subpoena threats to be openly hired by a leading Republican candidate… it’s interesting that Rove’s resignation at the end of August coincides with Fred Thompson’s promised presidential announcement at the beginning of September.

And even if Rove passes on that, he’ll still be available to guide the eventual nominee behind the scenes, gratis. Remember, this guy is an idealogue by all accounts. His goal really is to imbed a permanent Republican majority in Washington, and he can do that just as well from Texas as from Pennsylvania Ave. “Karl Rove is on the phone? You bet I’ll take that call – cancel my afternoon!”

As for the actual announcement, it was anticlimactic as these scripted events tend to be. There was still a memorable George W Bush moment though.

He demonstrated his famously insensitive touch by opening his brief remarks by – and I am not making this up – lamenting “the Rove family’s sacrifices.” The first words out of his mouth. I swear to god. In a time of war, a war he brought about that has cost thousands of families the lives of their loved ones about which he has expressed no specific empathy, Bush expresses what looks like sincere sympathy for the family of his long-time associate whose suffering has been limited, apparently, to being denied the opportunity to live in historical obscurity in Texas.

God, we should have been so lucky.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Thinning Green Line

Wow, is the Bush administration doing a heckuva job destroying our military, or what?!?

Here are two headlines that greeted me this morning:

'Reprimands' in Tillman death include praise

Iraq war czar: Consider a draft

That’s right, Johnny! Not only does the government have its eye on you as unwilling cannon fodder for their current and upcoming wars of choice, but if you’re accidentally (or, as some are suggesting, deliberately) killed by your fellow GIs, the army brass who cover it up will get a slap on the wrist with one hand and a pat on the back with the other. Can there not be a Presidential Medal of Freedom in these guys’ future?

This, after all, is the administration without accountability! Remember when Bush said “anyone caught leaking in my administration will be dealt with,” and it turned out he meant that in the event such a person was caught and found guilty by a jury of their peers, Bush would step in and make sure they didn’t have to do the jail time the law prescribed?

The same uncompromising ethical standards adhered to in the West Wing apparently apply to the Pentagon brass as well.

Yessir, this army protects its own! Not its own soldiers in the field – we’ve seen plenty of evidence of that, what with unarmored humvees replaced by under-armored humvees, etc., ad nauseum – but its generals and commanders in DC whose loyalty to the administration has never wavered. Not only was the generals’ wrist-slapping in the Tillman cover-up the mildest of perfunctory rebukes, but according to the AP, “the Army also said it would not include the reprimands in the officers' military records.”

That’s the price for cover-ups of the deaths of hero soldiers in the Bush administration. A couple of hurtful words that don’t even make it onto your permanent record. Who wouldn’t want to take up arms for the country in that kind of political environment?

Turns out, more and more people all the time. That’s why the draft is being seriously discussed by Bush’s “War Czar.” If NFL-stars-turned-citizen-soldiers can’t get a fair shake from this administration, even after death, what the hell chance does Joe Sixpack, Jr., have?

And in the broader picture, what allegiance to Country should we, as citizens, owe to an administration that shows none toward us? They tap our phones, read our emails, inspect our mail and if we take up arms to defend our country and die in the line of duty, they’ll use our death to increase recruitment while they lie to our families, the media and the world about the circumstances of our death then leave unpunished the miscreants who did the covering up.

“Despicable” seems like such a small word in the face of this level of skullfuckery. I keep coming back to “criminal.”

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Two-dollar movie rentals

The national video rental outlets in town must be feeling the pinch from Netflix. They just started renting movies for two bucks if you present a clip-out paper card that I suspect is fairly easy to come by. I mean, I have one…

So anyhow, I went crazy the other day and rented 5 for $10. The rule was, I would only go for stuff that I wouldn’t bother with at full price. Suddenly, the possibilities seemed endless.

Also lucky for me, sleep-deprivation and stress had combined a couple of days ago to leave me vulnerable to a nasty summer cold, so I suddenly found myself with no energy to do anything but sit and watch TV at just the time I had a stack of half-assed movies to watch. Oh happy day.

So here are thumbnail reviews of the first batch of five (my card expires at the end of the month). I apologize in advance for being too fucking sick and lazy to provide all the appropriate links, but I was able to research them all on IMDB and amazon. Without further ado, and in the order I watched them:

“The Contract” with Morgan Freeman and John Cusack. I suppose it played in theaters, but I must have blinked and missed it. Kind of a chase/kid in jeopardy flick, not usually my taste, but the Talent drew me in. The plot is a little thin, so the less said about it the better. Freeman and Cusack both turn in serviceable performances (as do the lesser names) and there’s some pretty wilderness photography that’s kind of under-shot. It’s directed by Bruce Beresford who used to helm prestige pictures like “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Tender Mercies.” Even though the writing doesn’t really hold up to close scrutiny, I liked the performances and pacing enough to recommend “The Contract,” but in the end it felt like everyone was just there to pick up a paycheck.

“The Quiet” starring two super-hot babes (blonde Elisha Cuthbert from “24” and brunette Camilla Belle who recently impressed me in “The Chumscrubber”) I was hoping would hook up or something, but it turns out the nudity that earned the film an R rating is all Edie Falco’s. Not to disparage Ms Falco’s assets, but I was hoping for Jack Bauer’s daughter and instead I got Meadow Soprano’s mother. It’s the classic bait & switch (see cover, left), ‘I thought it was Pepsi but it was milk AAAUUGH!’ scenario. Otherwise, it was straight out of the “Poison Ivy” playbook but with less sex. Actually, no sex at all that I can recall except some offscreen shenanigans that would merit a serious investigation by CPS if the girls didn’t already have a plan for dad... It’s like a foreign film with all the tedium, glacial pacing and knowing looks but without any of the the European va-va-voom. I would have rather spent 90 minutes looking at the DVD cover.

Next up is “Dead Mary,” which I selected for the same high-minded reasons as I picked up “The Quiet” — hot babe on the cover who had previously impressed in a respectable project or two (in this case, Dominique Swain, in “Face Off” and the 1997 remake of “Lolita”). This looked like it might be torture porn (the “Saw” movies, anything with Rob Zombie’s name on it, etc.) from the cover, but happily it was not. If anything, the gore was dialed way back, occurring mostly offscreen. Such pretty faux teens, I was happy not to have watch their fake deaths in excruciating detail. Again, nothing to report in the way of nudity (what the hell is wrong with horror movies these days? Nauseatingly graphic dismemberment and disembowelment is A-OK, but a glimpse of Janet Jackson’s nipple summons the apocalypse? Americans are such fucking hypocrites). All that aside, it wasn’t a bad little horror film at all, beyond the fact that I ID-ed the bad guy the second they appeared on screen. The writing was a little above average and the kids’ personalities had a little bit of time to get established before they started dropping like flies. Recommended, but for a rainy afternoon, not to schedule an evening’s entertainment around.

“Death of a President” should have kicked ass, but it dragged a bit for a film that billed itself as a “political thriller” on its DVD case. You may have heard about this flick. It imagines the assassination of the President, then follows the consequences of that crime on the innocent and guilty alike. (Hint: “President Cheney.”) It’s told in pseudo-documentary form and eventually a bit of plot emerges from what looks for 4/5 of the movie to be a simple police procedural. The way the film is staged and shot, with interviews and flashbacks and rich production values, reminded me of an especially un-banter-filled episode of “The West Wing.” Politically, it’s fairly even-handed on the surface, but I saw little left-wing jabs in it here, there and everywhere. What surprised me was how upset I got at the idea of the President being shot. Safe to say I am no fan of the man or his policies, but if life is precious – as I have to believe it is, being a father – then even the murder of a fascist dolt is unacceptable. And on an even deeper level, Bush may be a fascist dolt, but he’s our fascist dolt. He’s the President. You don’t fucking kill the President, period. Anyhow, it’s an interesting little film, but it doesn’t really raise any questions or issues that haven’t already been brought to light by more able filmmakers.

Finally, “Machine” starring Michael Madsen (from “Reservoir Dogs” and “Kill Bill Vol. 2”) and Neal McDonough of TV’s late, lamented “Boomtown.” Actually, though they’re most prominent on the cover, the movie really stars some lug named Michael Lazar. Clearly straight to video, it’s full-frame, grainier than shit and though full of f-bombs, most of the violence happens offscreen. It’s a weird bird. The picture in places is so bad that if I was watching it in Hi-Def, scenes would look like a Seurat painting come to half-life. It crams about 3 hours worth of plot and shootings in its terse 90 minutes. It’s the kind of film where, after the first five minutes, you realize probably nobody in its large cast is getting out alive. And again with the bait and switch cover (above, left). At this point, I have to blame myself, having been fooled so many times. Although Madsen dominates the cover art, as usual, he puts in a miserly, maybe 10 minutes of cumulative screen time. I’d love to know what kind of deal this guys gets for his appearances. But if you’re not there for Madsen and you like simulated cimema-verite, hard-boiled crime movies where everybody shoots and/or beats everybody else to death, “Machine” will really get your engines going.

And now, I believe I hear another marginal five movies calling my name…

Barry Bonds, historical asterisk

When I was all strung out on speed, I was capable of feats of superhuman endurance, too. It didn’t make me a hero, and it sure as hell didn’t make me a better ball player than Hammerin’ Hank Aaron. It just made me a more reprehensible prick, and from the press I’ve seen Bonds do, apparently steroids work the same way.

All hail the mighty asterisk!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

God doesn’t work here

I make it a policy never to talk about my job, especially online. For one, it’s not a very interesting topic, frankly. I make weekly community newspapers, four of them, from my home office. Two of them are nothing more than life-support systems for legal advertising. One has an actual staff including a full-time editor/writer as well as an office lady and salesperson. The fourth paper is trying to find an identity between the two.

The other reason I never write about work is because lots of hitherto ‘anonymous’ bloggers get their asses fired for bitching about the boss online. I can’t afford that right now. Plus, when I leave, I want it to be on my terms. Getting canned is a bummer. You always remember it later when running down the shittiest days of your life.

However, a funny thing happened at the office today and I feel compelled to share.

This is about paper #4, the hybrid: half of it has no practical purpose for existing (the effort to sell legals for it bears very little fruit on a weekly basis, certainly not enough to cover its print and production costs) and of late, half of it is trying to make a credible journalistic entity of itself. The Company hired a photographer; whereupon discovering she was bilingual and had been to college, they immediately promoted her to editor and head writer of Paper #4. (More about whimsy later.)

The Company is weird. My four papers are but a tiny cog in their mighty empire. Usually, I’m the out-of-sight-out-of-mind fellow, and I like it just fine like that. The more discreet I can make my operation, the more discrete I can make it. And so far it’s working, which is a big part of why I’ve never written about it before. There’s not much to say. I do my work and they pay me.

They also let me work from home which is awesome and my immediate boss is a very interesting fellow – brilliant guy, runs the nut & bolts of the place from writing computer programs to managing personnel issues to climbing up on the roof and replacing the air conditioning unit, he does it all – consequently, he’s almost impossible to get ahold of (especially by me, from my remote location) and only rarely gets to give Paper #4 the personal oversight it would no doubt benefit from.

The Company itself is a Mom & Pop incorporated organization, and as frequently happens in companies of this size and structure, runs kind of at the whim of Mom and Pop. And Mom and Pop – well, they can be mighty whimsical. Obviously, they know what they’re doing, they’ve been The Company for a damned good long while. But they run it like their own personal fiefdom and god help you when their roving eye falls on your cobwebby corner of the Organization.

Yes, the last couple weeks, it’s been my turn for the personal treatment. Mom has gotten directly involved in Paper #4 and my nerves have been the poorer for it. What it comes down to is this: I recognize her right to input at every level of the operation – it’s her sandbox and her toys. Without her, there is no paycheck, there is no joy in Mudville. I’m hip. I’m down.

But Mom is mercurial, or is by reputation and has been with me the few times I’ve spoken to her over the years. (The first time I spoke to her, without introduction or preamble she demanded to know, “Who the hell do I have to kill to get such & such in my newspaper?!”) It cracked me up. She’s like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. When she’s good she’s great, but when she’s bad you will know her by the trail of the dead. She’s also ripped me a new one on at least one occasion. That’s still cool. It’s kind of edge-of-your-seat exciting when the person on the phone says, “Hold on for Mom…”

The problem is, the paper being Mom’s sandbox and shovels, she’s really uncontrollable. In the literal sense that I cannot control her. I’ve trained most of the rest of the staff there to work in the Fang Bastardson method of maximum efficiency, at least with me. But Mom jumps into the fray from time to time – like now – at whatever point in the process she pleases, and it’s usually after I’ve wrapped and shipped that week’s Paper. It’s crazy frustrating, and I can’t do a damned thing about it, which I suppose is the actual frustrating part about it. And I can’t even try to work it out with her because I’m scared to death of her, like everybody else in The Company.

Now, I wasn’t sure about that last assertion about the rest of The Company till today. I was having a particularly rough time of it today. Wave after wave after wave of corrections came in from every side (instead of collected and transmitted as one concise set of corrections that would have taken me half an hour instead of half the day) and it was really pushing my buttons.

I got so rattled that at one point that after dialing The Company, I had completely forgotten which colleague I needed to talk to at that point. I mumbled to the operator, “Oh God, I’ve completely spaced who I wanted to talk to…”

And in the same hushed voice the kid in the Bruce Willis movie said, “I see dead people,” this poor phone jockey whispered matter-of-factly, “God doesn’t work here.”

Sunday, August 05, 2007

RUSH comes to Christmas Island

Another eventful week that was fun but I am glad is behind me. Resolved the day care dilemma by caving in completely to the sweet little old Indian woman. It’s a good thing I don’t do anything important that involves negotiating for a living.

Saw “The Bourne ad infinitum” Friday night. I like Matt Damon best playing himself in the Oceans XX movies. He’s okay in this new Bourne flick, but only paints in various shades of terse. I understand it’s a function of the story, but as an actor it limits him. Otherwise good story that ties up the series efficiently, but the editing and hand-held mayhem left me even more dazed and confused than usual. I think it would have made a better video rental.

Then last night, I fired up the jalopy and me and The Last Boy Scout went to see RUSH (the rock band, not the bloated right-wing windbag of the same name) at some low-overhead outdoor amphitheater out in the sticks.

I’ve seen these guys on every tour since Permanent Waves (ca 1980) and they never fail to deliver the goods. Last night was no exception. They’ve been releasing albums of new compositions and touring in support of them with the same line-up for over 30 years. They’re all in their mid-fifties probably, but these guys still play the living hell out of their instruments. Even the songs I didn’t care for (and their were a couple of them, from more recent albums) were carried along on musicianship and rockingness.

We had seats up in the bleachers, but all shows come with jumbotrons these days. And when The Number One Rush Fan a few rows in front of me occasionally sat down, I could see the stage pretty well without the big-screens. There’s two schools of thought on whether one should stand or sit at a rock show. Online complainers are already writing that at the show the night before, everybody stood for the whole thing, and frankly, that’s my preference too. But when everybody else in your bank of seats is sitting, you have to sit too. Your right to shake your groove thing does not supercede dozens of other peoples’ right to actually see the show they came for. People starting throwing stuff at the back of The Number One Rush Fan’s head, he turned around to glare at everyone behind him (including a giggling me), then he ran to complain to security as his resumed gyrations continued to draw crowd-fire…

Anyhow, it was funny. It was its own little drama playing out against RUSH’s admittedly dated light show, not much changed from its introduction in the middle-seventies. It was legendary in its time (the light show) but has begun to draw ridicule with age.

But everything else onstage has aged well, especially Geddy Lee’s amazing million-octave voice. Considered an acquired taste, he hasn’t lost an iota of his otherwordly vocal range in 30 years. He still hit every glass-shattering high note from their earliest hits.

The drum solo, usually rightly considered redundant if not downright masturbatory in most arena-rock shows, was as usual a thing of sublime beauty. Neil Peart… I suppose there are words to accurately describe his drumming’s grace, power and technical accomplishment, but I’ll leave it to better writers than me to find them. Everbody stood for the drum solo, even the lethargic group I was sitting with.

The first set was composed almost entirely of deep-catalogue crowd-pleasers that the band hasn’t played in years. It was a real pleasure to hear some of my favorite obscure album tracks get the live treatment again after all this time. Prepared film clips of song intros by Bob & Doug McKenzie and the South Park kids were hilarious and well-received.

The second set (they played a 3-hour show) dragged in the middle with the inclusion of a few less than stellar efforts from the band’s current disc, but even the lamer material was redeemed by a fierce, pummeling rock & roll execution. At one point I commented to The Last Boy Scout, “That was a lovely jam in search of a song.” He nodded his assent. The band rebounded nicely, however, with a mini-set of greatest hits at the end. And then the drummer was out from behind his kit and scooting across the stage for the exit like a cartoon bunny with his cottontail on fire.

Here’s the thing about the new material: Too much of it feels cobbled together, not of a piece. Their old songs all have sections and whole movements, time- and signature changes, but they feel complete. They feel like discrete entities. Especially with this new album, though, there’s lots of lovely parts of songs, but few songs that hold together as a whole. Which is why parts of the second half dragged. And it’s too bad too, because the new album’s theme is a worthy and timely one, about how religious zealotry is fucking up the world. I wish they had cooked the tunes a little longer before releasing them.

But quibbles aside (and a couple of weak song-parts in a 3-hour show definitely constitutes a quibble), what a night! What a show!

What a week… and next weekend is booked equally as relentlessly. Come on September...

Liveblogging (sorta) the GOP Debate

Didn’t mean to; couldn’t help it. There it was, right there on TV in front of me on Sunday morning, no less – another GOP debate. I missed the Democratic one yesterday… I’m sure it was online everywhere, but I’m not as good at the internets as the DailyKos people are. So I had to settle for second-tier political theater this a.m., but there you have it.

I’m doing this while I work, so impressions may get random.

There’s Rudy Giulini tooting his own horn on terrorism. I don’t know about Rudy. Yeah, he did a good job of cleaning up the crime in NYC and making it livable for Joe and Jane Sixpack from everything I’ve heard, but I’m pretty sure police abuses went up during his tenure, too. And I know he kept closing museums that dared exhibit shows he took issue with while he was mayor. Do we really want another arrogant, bullying, my-way-or-the-highway prick in the White House so soon after W?

Moreover, Giulini only ‘looks good on terror’ because George Bush was such a chickenshit on 9/11. If the president hadn’t been struck dumb with fear before going into hiding on 9/11, he could have been the face on TV, calmly assuring the nation from the Oval Office (really a set on Air Force One built for this purpose) that America was still on its feet, kicking ass and taking names. I don’t blame Bush for going to ground on 9/11 – I’m certain the Secret Service wouldn’t have taken “no” for an answer even if Bush hadn’t been too trembley with terror to even move of his own volition – but the fact that he disappeared from the public conscious at our weakest, most vulnerable, exposed moment gave Giulini the opening he needed.

And he nailed it. Fucking nailed it.

But you know who else nailed it on 9/11 (besides the highjackers)? Don Rumsfeld, incompetent, obtuse dickweed former SecDef. There’s footage of him running around the outside of the Pentagon in the immediate aftermath of the attack – fire, smoke, chaos, not knowing if a second wave was coming – running around with the first responders. That’s some serious cajones, my friend.

But all this proves is that being good in the clutch, being brave in the face of danger even, doesn’t necessarily bestow a person with the kind of good judgment we need and currently so desperately lack in a president. You may follow them into battle, but for fuck’s sake don’t let them draw up the plan!

There’s an interesting question. Apparently one of the pillars of our (ahem) plan … for Iraq seems to be to give every man, woman and child in the country a cut of the oil revenue. That sounds awfully socialistic to my ears for one thing, and even more to the point, if it’s a good idea for Iraq, why is it a bad idea for us working shmoes here on the homefront? Why do Iraqi citizens’ fates rate higher in our government’s eyes than its own do?

Oh, a question for every candidate. Let’s have a look at the field…

Tommy Thompson, oh please. He looks like a fighter that’s stayed in the ring too long. By years. That may be facile, but he’s a Republican. I wasn’t going to vote for him anyhow.

Mike Huckabee seems like a nice guy. I’d like to have a beer with him. NEXT!

Ron Paul, of course, is terrific. I personally like the way each of the major parties has allowed a totally off-message truth-teller to participate in their little staged extravaganzas so far. It’s very egalitarian of them and Paul and the crazy Dem guy (Gravel) have produced some of the best soundbytes from the debates by far.

Mitt Romney is even more nakedly politically calculating than Hillary. He’s the kind of flip-flopper that John Kerry could only dream of being. Hmmm...

Plus all these assholes (except possibly Ron Paul I suppose) who claim to be across-the-board self-proclaimed ‘pro-lifers’ are all also pro-death penalty, the government-sanctioned taking of a citizen’s life. That should be the worst kind!! And nobody is asking them to reconcile that conundrum because the death penalty is a total loser, politically, even for the network stiffs who are posing the questions. Americans in big numbers are creepily in support of the death penalty. But as always, the sheer hypocrisy of the alleged “pro-lifers” makes me want to gag.

Okay, Romney just spanked Obama and he’s actually making sense. That’s what I was talking about when I mentioned judgment. Obama looks good on TV, but he was wrong about unconditionally talking to any world leader, and he was wrong to say we’d walk all over Pakistan to nail a suddenly available Osama if Pakistan didn’t move quick enough. Of course we would do it, but it shows shit judgment to say we would do it.

I like Barack, but he needs some seasoning. Think about what an awesome President he’d make in 20 years, seriously. Maybe after a couple terms in the Senate and a couple as governor of Illinois. Some dignified gray in his temples. He could be a titan! But right now he’s the charming new kid in school that everyone wants to sit next to, but you’re better off not copying his test answers.

Now the GOP boys are all wheeling out their big nuclear dicks. Look, Brownback’s is bigger than Tancredo’s! Oooooh!

Wow! Tommy T just went after the women’s vote big time, promising to “end breast cancer by 2015 for all the women in America.” Isn’t that the year same year that Bush promised to have us on Mars by? I mean, it was a well-set-up line, powerfully delivered and he may even be sincere. But either he has an oncological trick up his sleeve that he’s not telling us about, or he’s selling us the Brooklyn Bridge.

Sam Brownback blathering on again about family, vowing to overturn Roe. Why doesn’t he just go fuck himself? I hate all these Bible-thumping creeps. Having religious zealots at the head of state have never taken any country in a good direction. Plus, he’s an idiot.

Duncan Hunter wants to restore “economic patriotism.” That’s why you’re scratching your heads and saying “Who the fuck is Duncan Hunter?”

In the end, I guess I came away with the strongest impressions of Romney and Giuliani. I think they’d be the most formidable candidates, but ultimately, it’s incumbent upon the electorate to remember that what a candidate says means NOTHING. In 2000, Bush ran on ‘compassionate conservatism’ and an oath to ‘bring honor and integrity back to the White House.’ He campaigned against nation building. I could go on and on.

My point being, what a candidate says means nada (that’s why these ‘debates’ are political theater and very little else) and should be disregarded out of hand on issues of substance. What a candidate has done is the indicator we should be looking at to figure out what they’ll do in the future.

By that measure, Romney looks like the best of this bunch. Most level-headed and potentially likely to triangulate the country back to civility, if such a thing is even possible in wake of Bush/Cheney. Personally, I'm not optimistic. It may take a generation till we’re back on our feet.

Just when we’ll need you most, President Obama.

Friday, August 03, 2007

This just in!!


Time traveler from the future fails to come back to warn Minnesotans of impending tragedy. Star Trek fans nationwide remain perplexed.

For more on this undeveloping story, tune into any MSM “news” outlet at any hour of the day or night for an indefinite period yet to be determined…

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Turdblossoms in the sun

This just in: Karl Rove will not be testifying this week in front of those Nervous Nellies in Congress. As expected, His Imperial Majesty King George the Second has claimed “Executive Privilege” to keep his most trusted adviser from being forced to lie under oath, saving W the hassle of the inevitable pardon/commutation for perjury down the road (see Scooter Libby).

The administration’s counter-offer, which is so outrageous as to be hilarious on the face of it, was to allow Rove to testify, but a) not under oath, nor b) in public nor c) not even with any notes being allowed to be taken by the Congressmen and women asking the questions. Thus raising the interesting philosophical question, if a turdblossom (W’s fratboy nickname for Rove) lies through his teeth to Congress without possibility of legal ramification, would it really have been a pack of smelly lies at all?

Sadly, that question will remain academic. And we know how W feels about pointy-headed academics… No, they’ll be running the clock out, claiming Executive Privilege any time anybody with oversight responsibilities asks to peek under the lid of the malignant can of worms that is the Bush II presidency.

The part that is especially galling is Bush is claiming Executive Privilege for investigations of activities he swears the executive branch had absolutely no involvement in (in this case, the firing of the 8 U.S. attorneys). If that assertion was true, Executive Privilege wouldn’t even apply! But after almost 7 years in power, they’ve figured out they can fool just the right number of people just the right amount of the time to get away with almost anything; and when they do get caught with their hands in the cookie jar, they can just claim Executive Privilege and wait for their stacked Supreme Court to eventually give their contempt of Congress a pass. Or not, it doesn’t matter. By the time it gets that far, Bush and Dick will long since have retired to work the rubber-chicken circuit for Halliburton, Fox News and the 700 Club.

Don’t these assholes know all this shit comes out eventually (no pun intended)? Some administration supernumerary the big shots couldn’t be bothered to give the time of day to is gonna get his non-entity’s revenge by writing the first insiders’ tell-all on the W years, and then the floodgates of blabbermouths will swing wide. All the dirty, ugly secrets that W and Dick have spent so much time and broken so many laws trying to obfuscate into oblivion will explode into the public consciousness and the history books.

The only reasonable assumption is that they know this, and are continuing down their extra-legal path not to protect themselves in perpetuity or for posterity but to make sure they continue to be able to rule as they fit – removed from any boundaries created by such quaint judicial constructs as ‘the rule of law’ – until they are shown the door in January 2009. After they’re out, and they’ve completely fucked over our country, let the chips fall where they may.

Because whatever happens in the long run, it doesn’t matter to Bush – he knows just enough history to know that former American presidents don’t do jail time, no matter how richly they deserve it.