Tuesday, April 28, 2009

If it’s 2009, it must be Scarlet Fever…

Or “Just Another Sunday Night In The E.R.”

That’s right, while the rest of the world is in a panic over Swine Flu, our little man brought the scourge of the nineteenth century home with him from day care.

What started out as peckishness and irascibility Saturday morning progressed with lightning speed to exhaustion, a soaring fever and full-body rash by Sunday afternoon.

We’ve been down this road before with our young ‘un and knew that it was better to get him to the E.R. too soon than too late, but we were still taken aback by the doctor’s casual diagnosis of Scarlet Fever. WTF?? Didn’t medicine lick that one sometime last century, we wondered?

Yes and no, it turns out. Yes, if you catch it in time; no if you don’t. Being the journeyman parents that we have become, we easily caught the sonofabitch in time.

That didn’t mean The Boy had to like it, though. As soon as we got to the E.R., the complaining began. Which complaints mostly consisted of a deep, abiding desire to be taken home. What a chip off the old block. All hell is breaking loose inside his young body, we’re steps away from the people who can cure him, but all he can think about is getting home, home, HOME!

I’m happy to report that we resisted his repeated entreaties, the fever passed overnight and he should be ready to ship back out to day care by Wednesday or Thursday. The Missus worked from home yesterday (see Killer Kite video, below) to co-parent him through the beginning of his (speedy) recovery and a lovely time was had by all.

So, hats off to you, old dead guy who discovered penicillin. That’s another one we owe you. Now what can you do about all this Swine Flu bullshit…? Because as sure as we have to send The Boy back to day care, he’s bound to come home with whatever’s still going around.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fang vs The Killer Kite

What can I say? This fucking kite tried to kill me today. But for my cat-like reflexes you might have been reading this post in the obituaries tomorrow.

Where were some of Charlie Brown’s kite-eating trees when I needed them??

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hold former Bush administration officials accountable for their misdeeds?

Why, it’s just crazy enough… it might work!

The whole idea seemed to be off the table until this week when Obama unexpectedly fobbed it off on his straight-shootin’ Attorney General, Eric Holder on Tuesday.

Before this week, I would have bet that this issue was going to go the way of the Nixon pardon: Let the bastards off the hook for the perceived good of the country. I even bought it, a little bit. In some short-term ways, it would be advantageous to have the whole ugly sordid mess just go away. We elected Obama so we wouldn’t have to read, hear or blog about any of those feckless fucks again. I was ready to let go of my anger, same as it seems like Obama was.

And there’s an argument to be made that chasing ourselves around with carving knives might tend to make us look foolish in the eyes of the world community, especially the no-monkey-business regimes we’re currently in pissing matches with.

But I guess the domestic polls were tracking the other way and like any reasonable politician, Obama followed their lead. What I love about how he did it is he first and foremost kept his hands clean by ruling it out of his purview, and then he threw it to his crazed junkyard dog of an AG, Mr. Holder. That was as good as Don Corleone telling Luca Brasi, “Make ’im an offer he can’t refuse.”

And upon reflection, I think the country is not only strong enough to withstand the prosecution of criminal acts by former federal officials and appointees, but I think it will make it stronger. Holder’s recent overturning of reviled Republican senator Ted Stevens’ conviction suggests any investigations he launches will not the devolve into the partisan witch-hunts of the Clinton-era investigations. And I think it will be a damned good precedent to set, as good as Ford’s pardon of Nixon was a bad one.

Not that I take issue with Ford’s pardoning of Nixon. At the time, it was almost certainly the right thing to do. We were reeling from both Watergate and Viet Nam and we didn’t need ‘our long national nightmare’ to continue on ad infinitum. We needed closure then, and Nixon’s pardon gave it to us.

We don’t need closure now. We’re not reeling; on the contrary, we’re in the throes of hope and looking forward to some change we can believe in, in spite of the financial morass we’re in. Now is the time to take a stand on our morals and send the message to the world that where justice is concerned, America walks it like our Constitution talks it.

And if the Left gets a little jolt of schadenfreude every time some former official gets tossed in jail for contempt when they refuse to testify, it seems a small price to pay. They could put a webcam in Cheney’s cell, offer it on pay-per-view and retire the national debt in the former VP’s first year. A month if they put him in genpop, a week if he goes to Gitmo. I’d definitely buy that for a dinar!

Friday, April 24, 2009

“We are America! We do not fucking torture!”

Shepard Smith, what are you doing working for Fox News?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Wanted Man" performed by this guy:

I don't know who this guy is, but I thought he might just be some kind of genius until he lights up his smoke at the end. Until that point, his work never shows.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Obligatory Birthday Post

Made it!!

If you’re reading this then, in theory, you care that I’ve made it another revolution around the sun and have successfully notched another 365 days of life. This last year has not been the best one ever, but it ain’t been the worst either, not by a long shot.

The calendar says I’m 47, but my shoulder feels about 80 and if my lower back was a horse, I’d take it out into the field and shoot it. Time catches up with us all in different places, for me it’s in my body. In my head I still feel like a giddy adolescent every time I drive through campus, looking at all the girls and mentally crossing them off as I pass by. “She doesn’t want me. She doesn’t want me. Oh man, she definitely doesn’t want me…” It’s the self-esteem version of Russian roulette only every chamber is packing heat.

It really takes me back...

Fortunately, I have a good woman at home who does want me, even in my unseemly, advancing decrepitude. And a son who still needs me – if I don’t take him to Crapplebees (above), I guarantee you nobody else will. (Speaking of which – thanks for the gift certificate, Mrs. & Mrs Rogers!)

Not sure if I’ve been picked up yet for next season – tomorrow is promised to no one except, apparently, Mickey Rooney – but I’m hopeful that I’ve got a lot more good days to look forward to ahead of me than ugly incidents to keep under wraps behind me.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

First Photo

I just bought my son (3.5 years old) his first camera. A 3.1 megapixel thing for $29 at the corner camera store. I tried to wait till his mom came home so we could put it together together, but he was with me when I bought it and all my best efforts to change the subject when we got home melted under his withering gaze and wheedling cries of “Wanna open the box, Daddy, open the box, where’s the box, daddy…?” and so on until I caved and put the thing together without The Missus’ help.

What’s the point of keeping the boy home from daycare on Thursdays if all I ever do is say no to him?

At first he was only interested in triggering the flash, but once I explained that the idea was to take pictures of things and people, not just blow out his retinas by staring at the flash at close range, he went about the task with a vengeance, walking up to stuff, pointing the camera at it and hitting the trigger, yelping and laughing every time a new exposure appeared briefly on the camera’s screen. Then he wandered around the house and into the back yard, pointing and shooting and laughing.

I just put him down for a hotly-protested nap and I’m looking at his pictures and I’ll be damned if I’m not feeling threatened already. Blast it, I was always wanted my kids to be better off than me, not already better than me. At three-and-a-half!

The photo above was the first one he ever took. Click on it and look at it big - it’s wicked cool. Unfortunately, I signed away all my rights on the dreamlike series of photos he took in the yard a little later to The Missus. I’d bet my bottom dollar they’ll be appearing in her blog. They might already be there. She’s a quicker typer than me.

If I feel the need the post again today, I’ll contact my sponsor and work my program. You’ve been very kind...

The Pleasure Machine

Speaking of “Robot Holocaust…”

A lot of people have speculated that Ed Woods’ craptacular “Plan 9 From Outer Space” is the worst movie of all time. That can only be because they’ve never seen 1986’s “Robot Holocaust.” It makes ‘Plan Nine’ look like “Godfather 2.”

My first argument is the film’s big sex scene between a voluptuous young woman who suffers from either a speech impediment or only a phonetic understanding of her lines (it’s hard to say which), two partially-clad mimes, a phone booth and flashing lights:

Robot Holocaust [1]

The Boy keeps banging out these awesome illustrations, this one of a “bad robot,” obviously up to no good. I mean, just look at his face. He didn’t want to be seen…

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Leonard Cohen had no choice

He was born with the gift of a golden voice...

The last time I saw Leonard Cohen in concert, I was pretty sure it would be the last time I saw him in concert. It was 1993 and he was a frail-looking, white-haired 60-year-old.

He’d just been on the Letterman show a few weeks before, and his performance was something of a train wreck. He came in at the wrong time with the wrong part of the song while his girl backup singers came in exactly where and when they should have… oh, I was embarrassed for him. But I was already a huge fan, so I figured I’d go see the show just to support him in his dotage. Ah, the miracle of lowered expectations.

We also managed to score some really decent orchestra-level seats without having to pay an arm and a leg, and most of my best friends at the time were all sitting nearby in the block of seats we’d purchased.

And he came out and the night, truly, was magic. I still put that show in the top 10, maybe the top five of all the shows I’ve seen, and living in L.A. for 20 years, I’ve seen a hell of a lot of shows. Pink Floyd and Roger Waters’ competing tours within weeks of each other. Guns & Roses and Metallica at the Rose Bowl. Bob Dylan with Paul Simon at the Greek Theater, Warren Zevon endless times from a few feet away at the Strand, Tom Waits at the Wiltern (where I met Leonard Cohen in the audience and scored the autograph, above), Johnny Cash, Yngwie Malmsteen – I’ve seen them all, and the 1993 Leonard Cohen show in L.A. still ranks among the finest.

So it was with some heightened anticipation that The Missus and I scared up $300 for a couple of balcony tickets to go see him this week in the Big City on the mainland. I took a photo of the marquee with my cell phone, but I’ve never learned how to extract photos from the damn thing once I’ve taken them, so there it resides.

My pal The Last Boy Scout, upon hearing about the hoops we had to jump through to get to this show, remarked, “Cohen, huh? I still don't get it.” I have other, otherwise very cool friends who would rather chew tin foil than listen to Leonard Cohen. To them, I say “Download ‘The Faith’ from his most recent album off of iTunes and if you don’t like that, I’ll personally reimburse your 99¢.”

Maybe it’s the voice. It’s indeed fair to say that Mr. Cohen’s vocal instrument has all the range of a Daisy Air Rifle. Maybe it’s the production on his albums; too spare in the early work, and too pimped-out on his 1992 album “The Future.” Kind of New Age/Disco. Maybe it’s the lack of sturm und drang – Leonard is a lover, not a rocker. Maybe it’s the simple fact that almost everyone I know who likes Leonard is a musician, a critic or a wanna-be musician (my category). In an “American Idol”-ized culture, it’s easy to see how the subtle charms of a Leonard Cohen performance could be lost.

But if you’ve heard Neil Diamond sing “Suzanne,” or Jeff Buckley (or John Cale or Brandi Carlisle or any one of a hundred others) sing “Hallelujah,” you’ve admired Mr. Cohen’s songwriting. Jennifer Warnes’ “Famous Blue Raincoat?” Leonard Cohen.

(Here’s a list of one writer’s Top Ten Cohen Covers if you’re curious what other songs you like he may have written.)

Last night’s show was a marathon, especially for a man who admitted about half-way though his set, “The last time I was on this stage was 14, 15 years ago… I was just sixty then, a kid with a crazy dream…” He outlasted The Missus by a good hour, and like his girlfriends, she is less than half his age, and was sitting for the whole thing.

Me? I still think The Final Time I Saw Leonard Cohen In Concert was an experience to be drawn out, but that’s why they put apples and oranges on erasers...

The show started bang on time at 8 p.m., with Mr. Cohen literally skipping out from stage right, and ended 3.5 hours later as he and bid us goodnight at 11:30, with a 20-minute intermission in between sets and a series of encores that lasted longer than the second set.

I enjoyed it thoroughly, in spite of the increasing frequency of the long-suffering yawns coming from the past-her-bedtime Mrs. B at my side. Cohen was every bit the gentleman and entertainer I remembered from the 1993 show and hadn’t lost a step in the 16 years since.

And the nice thing about having a three-note vocal range (in a voice so deep and resonant that it makes the angry God of the Old Testament sound like Alfalfa from the Li’l Rascals) is that the songs you wrote when you were twenty, you can still hit all the notes when you’re 74!

My only quibble with the show, as it is with most shows I go to, was the set list. The artists always insist on doing the songs they want to do, not the ones I want them to. The only legitimate gripe I feel I have is that he didn’t perform any of the songs from his most recent album, “Dear Heather,” which contains a number of remarkable compositions that his crackerjack live ensemble could have knocked out of the park and that frankly, I was hoping to hear.

Every number he did play, however, he performed as if his life depended on it. And at song’s end, when the crowd roared, Mr. Cohen stepped back out of the center spotlight, removed his fedora and bowed his head in the direction of his fellow musicians. Goddammit, he’s so classy I’d like to have him over for tea to talk poetry, and I don’t even drink tea or like poetry. He’s the rare human being that you feel elevated simply by being in his presence.

I won’t spoil any of the little surprises that so delighted last night’s audience, since they’re probably staples of the tour. For me, if I had to pick one musical highlight, it would have to be “Bird On A Wire,” never a favorite even when Cash recorded it. But last night, he made it come alive for me, inhabited it in a way that added a whole new appreciation for me. And his interpretation of “Chelsea Hotel,” a song he wrote about a late-60s tryst with Janis Joplin, surprised me with the sudden understanding that the song’s final lyric, “That’s all, I don’t think of you that often,” is naked denial, not the cool brush-off the studio recording makes it sound like it is.

Artists of his caliber don’t come around that often and there aren’t that many of them left. I’m grateful I still have the memories of the transformative event that was his 1993 show, and this tour did nothing to diminish those memories. My only regret is that by the time The Boy is ready to start attending concerts, he will almost certainly have missed the opportunity to see Leonard Cohen perform in the flesh. He’ll have to settle for the recording of an early show from this tour, currently available in both CD and DVD formats.

Thanks for the songs, Mr. Cohen.

—Sincerely, F. Bastardson,
100 floors below you in the tower of song.

The set list follows.

SET LIST, APRIL 13, 2009:

“Dance Me to the End of Love”
“The Future”
“Ain't No Cure for Love”
“Bird on a Wire”
“Everybody Knows”
“In My Secret Life”
“Who by Fire”
“Chelsea Hotel”
“Waiting for the Miracle”

Set break

“Tower of Song”
“The Gypsy's Wife”
“The Partisan”
“Bogie Street”
“I'm Your Man”
“A Thousand Kisses Deep”
“Take This Waltz”

“So Long Marianne”
“First We Take Manhattan”

“Famous Blue Raincoat”
“If It Be Your Will”

“Closing Time'

“I Tried to Leave You”
“Whither Thou Goest”

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Monday, April 06, 2009

On Death, Dying and Impotent Men of Steel

How do you explain to a three-and-a-half-year-old that his first dog isn’t coming home again?

The Boy was only 2.5 when Woody died almost a year ago, but he continues to keep bringing him up. Just this morning he announced he was sad. “About what?” I asked him.

“About Woody,” he replied.

And then we went round and round again, the same well-traveled territory. Woody was broken but he’s fixed now. Well, if he’s fixed, why can’t he come home? Because we have Obi now. Yes, but Obi’s a bad dog, my son reminds me. That he is, I agree (just this weekend he lunged at a visiting friend and her newborn). So I pull a line out of “Old Shep” and tell him that Woody has gone where the good doggies go, and anyhow, he likes playing with Obi, right? He doesn’t fall for my misdirection. Superman will bring him back, he assures me repeatedly. And round and round we go, the knife twisting deeper into my heart with every ugly truth I obfuscate.

I just finally threw out all Woody’s toys in the last month (during my blissful period of partial unemployment). When we first brought Obi home I was open to the idea of passing Woody’s stuff along to him, but we learned very quickly that Obi doesn’t play with stuff, he eats it. And I wasn’t up to watching my beloved former dog’s prized possessions destroyed one after another by this damned interloper, so I put everything away in the garage.

So one week last month I threw away Woody’s toy basket and its contents (after retrieving one to remember him by); the next week, I threw away his bed; but the last step was brutal. The blanket he slept on for years was still covered with his fur, and I discovered if I pressed it up against my face and inhaled, it brought him all rushing back to me. Somehow, I managed to get it out on the curb for the trash guys but a big part of me went with it.

On the one hand, I am extremely grateful my son still remembers his first dog. He really was quite an excellent dog in his youth, and in his dotage, was an integral member of the child-rearing team when we first brought The Boy home from the birthing place. I’m glad Woody still has a place in my son’s heart and I don’t want to close the book on this conversation about him. I just wish I knew how to conduct the conversation in such a way that it didn’t a) require deliberately misleading him and b) reliably destroy me for the rest of the day.

On my birthday later this month, it’ll be eleven months to the day that Woody went to where the good doggies go. I had a lot of work stuff to do this morning, self-promotional stuff for projects relating to the inevitable, impending demise of my newspaper career and what will come after, stuff that won’t get done because I can’t self-promote this morning.

All I can do is miss Woody anew and try to crack the puzzle of how I keep him alive in my son’s memory but make it clear that even Superman, with all his awesome powers, can’t go to where the good doggies go and bring Woody safely home again.