Sunday, June 28, 2009

Obama and the gay community

I wish all you well-meaning activist-types would get off my man’s back and take a deep breath and engage your brains for a minute. I’m sure your hearts are in the right place, but your brains have taken a wrong turn off the 110 and are now driving down south-central L.A surface streets looking desperately for an on-ramp.

You’re offering Obama the choice between failing honorably right out of the gate with your issues (ala Bill Clinton) or actually possibly getting some other important stuff done first – stuff that affects the vast majority of Americans, not just a put-upon minority – and you’re outraged he’s choosing the good of the many over the good of the few?

Star Trek II. “The Wrath of Khan.” Watch it again. So powerful…

Everybody’s talking about how the GOP is out wandering in the wilderness, looking for a new Messiah to coalesce around. Mitt, Sarah, that guy with the Argentine mistress, nobody is pulling the grand old party back under one big politically-viable tent right now. But if Barack Obama gave the nod to gay marriages, that would draw the disparate elements of the Republican party back together like crazy glue.

And Obama knows this. The GOP shoved gays in the military at Bill Clinton early in his first term – “Peter, I’ll take ‘Gays In The Military’ to block” — and threw the whole monkey out with the apple cart. It took the mid-term elections and the GOP taking back the House to wise Clinton up and make him hunker down, and by then he had not only lost the first two years of his presidency, but he was about to embark on an affair with the fat chick who brought the pizza.

My point is, with all due respect, motherfuckers, wait your turn. I’m a pothead and we’ve been waiting for a fair shake at least as long as you have. We don’t even have the civil rights of cigarette smokers. We haven’t even had our Stonewall yet. You feel me?

Just a little more patience. If Barack gets in for a second term, that is when you will see him say, “Okay, now for the non-compulsory events,” and full civil rights will be bestowed upon you. The man wants to do it, he knows his stand on the marriage issue is bullshit (but politically viable bullshit), and he also knows he can do more good for everybody as the popular sitting president than the hippie liberal who was painted as caring more about Adam and Steve than John and Jane Q. Sixpack before being voted out after one term.

Friday, June 26, 2009

This guy thinks my guitar playing is genius-level!

Really, I think he’s being a tad generous, but he ought to know about geniuses – check out his clip and see for yourself:

It’s so cool having a mutual admirer!! I hope I don’t do anything to fuck it up…

A personal note to Clarence Thomas:

Washington Post: Student Strip Search Illegal: School Violated Teen Girl's Rights, Supreme Court Rules

Even when this Court occasionally gets one right, there’s still an element that just sticks in the craw. Here’s this one’s:

Clarence Thomas cast the only dissenting vote. He’s okay with strip-searches of pubescent girls. It’s all good, man. Cool, baby.

His rulings from the bench make Anita Hill’s testimony all those years ago sound more like Gospel Truth and less like the alleged angry ravings of a disgruntled former employee with every session.

How the fuck did his nomination pass the Senate, anyway?

I want to get Mark Sanford’s love letters off my chest, too

GOP governor Mark Sanford ate a career-ending ration of shit this week. Truly one of the more bizarre state-governor-level news conferences I’ve ever seen (if you exclude Sarah Palin, who has become her own category).

Just happened to click the TV on about 10 seconds before he began to speak live and man, it was… well, bizarre. He came off like an actually decent-enough fellow who simply let his dick lead him astray. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, eh?

As a member of the media-consuming public (as opposed to a righteously aggrieved family member), I’d like to take a pass on the details of his sex life. Everybody knows that guys are ruled by our dicks and for most of us, our fidelity is only as true as our opportunities are limited. (For instance, I keep my opportunities next to nil by staying resolutely out of shape and in a state of perpetual semi-confusion. I’m big laughs to live with, but I wouldn’t want to date me). As a major southern-state governor and a rising star in the national GOP, Sanford’s dick had nowhere to go but up.

My point being, I shrug at the Gov. Sanford thing because he was a man just being a man, and as far as I know, he didn’t make his political career on a Morality & Fidelity campain. He was one of those crazy small-government, anti-tax cocksuckers, that was his ticket to the big time. So as long as his infidelity doesn’t involve political hypocrisy, I’m of the “It’s a personal matter” persuasion. He deserves all the ass-kicking his wife and kids can dish out, but other than directly-related fall-out on his political career (of which there’s bound to be plenty), it’s not really a media issue.

Which is my long-winded way of saying to the TV media, please stop reading his email correspondences with his Latina lover on the air! I don’t care! It’s none of my business!

More to the point, it’s not the story. He lied to his staff, arguably committed some kind of fraud by fobbing off his governarial duties with a pack of lies and going AWOL for four days – there’s plenty of grist for the mill without reading these peoples’ love letters on the air!

If you won’t respect your own dignity enough to refrain, then please respect your audience’s.

For everyone who’s mourning today…

Whether it’s for a friend, family member or a beloved icon of our celebrity firmament, no one says “There’s a better home a-waitin’” more earnestly than The Man In Black.

Buck up.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Days I’m glad I’m not a celebrity

Today, for one. Can Michael Jackson and Farrah both have died on the same day?? If I was a celebrity in America today, I’d be holding my breath till 12:01a.m.

Farrah’s gonna take it – er, on the chin – one last time by life. If Jackson is dead (it's still Breaking News), his story will eclipse hers like nothing I can think of since John Belushi and Ayn Rand both died the same week back in 82. Ayn Who? “Atlas What?”

Sorry, Miss Rand.

I’m sure the Twittersphere is abuzz. Oh, I can’t not. I have to go troll. Now how do I turn this goddamn Twizzler thing on?

Oh look – Twitter is down. The Iranian Revolution didn’t swamp it, but Michael Jackson’s death does. Sorry huddled Iranian masses, yearning to breathe free... Your lifeline to the outside world has been cut by a (let’s face it, former-) celebrity death.

And oh yeah, sorry again Farrah... Still wish you hadn’t done that creepy “Watch Me Die” reality-TV show, though. Personally, when I start to go seriously downhill, I want to do like the Indians used to do. Wander quietly away from the camp and go smoke peyote down by the river till the gods come to call me home. It would be sure to get shitty ratings, which for me would be the whole idea.

And this post was supposed to be all about it being my 500th post!!
*Apologies to my sensitive readers for being such an insensitive prick. Im sure Ill come to regret this posts shallow tenor in the days to come.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The annual paean to parenthood

I love Father’s Day. It allows me to indulge in holding forth on two of my favorite topics, my father and my son.

The photo above, circa 1980, pictures my dad as I remember him. Clockwise from my sister Connie, lower left, are the late twins Penrod and Xenon, my brother Terry, my mom and I’m the happy-looking camper in red at the bottom right. Not pictured is my sister Peggy, who was competing in an underwater pickle-stacking competition that day.

That was my Dad in the middle. Round and jolly.

I don’t know where he’s at in this solo photo. I suspect it was during he and my mom’s trip to Israel about the same time the inheritance ran out. But it’s a lovely photo of my Dad because it’s a little unclear, and the composition and background emphasize the remoteness of the subject. He’d give you the shirt off his back, but wouldn’t want to talk about it the next time he saw you. He’d have a story or a joke for you instead.

A lot of people read that as a “KICK ME” sign on my Dad’s back and gave him the business every chance they got. And every time someone kicked his ass by being more duplicitous than he was, my Dad and Mom picked up and started something else, somewhere else. At different times we owned restaurants, cleaners, grocery stores, even an industrial lacquer thinner dealership where he and my Mom or he and I would personally roll 55-gallon drums of toxic poison into the back of our International Harvester, up to four at a time, and drop them off around town to D-grade Earl Schieb-wannabes. He was in his 60s then, back when being in your sixties was old.

He taught me a lot about hard work and not complaining. The hard work part rubbed off, I’m sorry to say the not-complaining part never really took hold as much, as faithful readers already know.

If I could change one thing in my life, it might be to go back to the summer he subcontracted me to help him with his intra-city shlepping gig for a regional drug store chain, and pick his brain about his life and his stories as we drove around town all day, instead of trying to engage him in well-meaning discussions of RUSH lyrics, or sitting in stoned silence, three feet and a million miles away from him.

Cruel bastard that I am, I am making sure my son will not have the luxury of that particular regret. (He’ll have a different one, or a whole set of complaints…)

I have the luxury of making him a huge priority in my life in a way that my Dad, with his four kids and star-crossed business career never had. I work from home and I can’t really sleep due to a bad back, so I’m always here and I’m almost always awake (and working).

So every chance I get, I sit him down and blow his mind. And when he has a better point than I do – and it’s happened – I’ve ceded the issue to him (usually involving the procurement of some specific form and amount of candy) and hopefully taught him that the better-framed argument rightfully wins the battle. So always look for and promote that stronger argument.

(Here’s an example from just this morning of that principle in practice:)

I’ve thought my whole life (on and off, not like, obsessively or anything) about the right way to raise a child, as opposed to the way I saw a lot of my peers raised. And when the moment to test my theories came along, it turned out I was right the whole time:

You can talk to kids like people, not things, even as young as three years old. Show them respect, not just demand it of them. Model the behaviors you’d like to see from them, even some calculated to be a little bad. You can teach a kid to distinguish between right and wrong and to make the right choice without turning him into a wussie. Sometimes a wrong choice comes along with so little downside, you might just as well say “fuck it” and go for it.

That’s an important lesson and I’m pretty sure The Missus doesn’t have teaching it on her to-do list.

And of course, he continues to teach me, too. Besides just occasionally out-arguing me, he makes me feel stuff inside I didn’t used to think I had the receiving equipment for. When I am parenting my son, I come the closest, albeit briefly, to being the kind of man I’ve always wanted to be. The kind of man my Dad was. No high compares to it and I speak with some authority on the subject.

The questions that guide my actions these days are, “What would my Dad do?” and “Would my son be proud of this decision?” Corny, isn’t it? But it’s true.

I’m the product of both my father and my son. I’m the connective tissue that links these two relatives who will never meet in this life, but both of whom continue to be so important in calibrating my moral center.

I always like to close a sermon with a song appropriate to the occasion, and it is in that spirit that I present the following clip of Guy Clark performing his composition, “Randall Knife.” It is a three-tissue man-weeper (I know there’s a clever name for the genre but can’t seem to recall what it is), don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope that you enjoy a Happy Fathers Day in whatever capacity it applies to you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dave’s bad joke: Making a mountain out of a kerfuffle

So I watched Letterman tonight because I heard he was going to offer up an apology for the Sarah-Palin-and-her-kids joke he told last week. Actually, I TiVo Letterman every night and watch it the next day while I work. Here is the apology:

I’ve noticed that Letterman’s monologues are constructed differently than other late-night comedians’. He uses the same set-up every night for a week or two – about the weather, about Bernie Madoff, the Wall Street bail-out, whatever’s in the news – and follows it up with a different lame punchline. I used to get confused and think I was watching a show I’d already seen till I figured out his rhythm. With his monologue, it’s not about the punchline, it’s about the set-up. He gets a bigger laugh from the nightly-repeated set-up than he does the phoned-in punchline that follows.

Lately, A-Rod has become one of his stock running gags. I guess this A-Rod person is some NYC sports celebrity caught up in a scandal, I think going back to when he was apparently dating Madonna. Every A-Rod joke is about how if he’d ‘hit’ Madonna, he’d screw anything that wasn’t nailed down.

Enter Sarah Palin. As Letterman explained during tonight’s mea culpa, the joke he told – about Sarah Palin and one of her daughters going to a Yankees game and the daughter getting knocked up by A-Rod during the seventh-inning stretch – was designed to make hay out of the fact that both A-Rod and Sarah Palin’s older daughter are notorious for their promiscuity. Palin’s older daughter, knocked up at 17, has since gone on publicity junkets where she talked to the press and schoolkids about her teenage pregnancy experience (the Scared Flaccid tour). So by any reasonable standard, the 18-year-old Ms Palin has made herself a public personality, thus fair game to the kind of comedic scrutiny to which she has since been subjected.

Problem is, it turned out it wasn’t Sarah Palin’s legal-age, new-mama daughter who accompanied her to the game Dave referenced, it was her 14-year-old. It downgraded a lame gag to a tasteless misfire, but that’s really all I felt it did.

Then the Palin political machine got involved and decided to milk Letterman’s faux pas for all it was worth. Determined to keep her name in the headlines or her dunderhead fan-base might forget what a great rack she has by 2012, Gov. Palin went on a finger-pointing tour of the media, who were of course only too eager to lap it up and help her spread her disingenuous shit around. It was a calculated and conniving decision to repeatedly use her 14-year-old daughter, in a sexual context, to promote her political ambitions. Despicable. I mean, she went on the friggin’ Today Show and flat-out accused Dave Letterman of starting a second life at 62 as a pedophile. Who, I thought, besides crazy fringe-dwellers is going to buy this transparent line of shit?

I was surprised and disappointed at how many seemed to. The GOP’s leading intellectual light, Rush Limbaugh, says uglier things – on purpose! – every thirty seconds on his wildly popular radio show five days a week. Who can forget his hilarrrrious impression of Michael J. Fox’s Parkinsons symptoms? Where was Gov. Palin’s righteous indignation then?

But I digress...

As I mentioned at the top of this piece, Letterman’s monologue jokes seem deliberately designed to be self-deprecating clunkers. But they’re not designed to be nonsensical, which the joke – as interpreted by right-wing bloviators and a compliant media – would have been if he had been cracking wise about Palin’s relatively low-profile 14-year-old, instead of the 18-year-old-tabloid-sensation-with-child. Even Sarah Palin isn’t thick-witted enough to not grasp the factual error that led Letterman’s joke off a cliff, but she’s plenty savvy enough to know when a celebrity has stepped on his own dick in a way that will not only keep her name in the headlines a little longer, but in a sympathetic light for a change. Hell, even old-school left-wingnuts N.O.W. took the bait and threw in with her. The Palins must have gotten quite a kick out of that.

So after agonizing over the media grilling he took all weekend, Dave devoted his entire second segment tonight to an apparently heart-felt apology (top) to all Palins everywhere as well as anybody out there who had genuinely bought the spin on this story (not just used it to further their presidential aspirations). If he was faking his remorse, his next Emmy nomination ought to be in an acting category, not variety show host.

All that remains now is to watch how Gov. Palin and her enablers – uh, I mean handlers – continue to plumb the depths of human depravity to flog yet more mileage out of this embarrassing episode, even after Letterman’s anguished apology.

Drill, baby, drill!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hi-Def = mos def? Not so fast…

I’m not sure I’m as crazy about Hi-Def as I’m required by law to be as of this week.

First, a caveat: Although we have the kick-ass TV and the high-def satellite package, we haven’t sprung for the Blu-Ray player, so unless it’s a program being broadcast in high-definition, we’re just getting a Much Crisper image, not a true Hi-Def one.

Also, we don’t watch sports, which I understand is a transcendental experience in HD, so as selling points go, that’s off the table.

What we do watch is Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (still broadcast in basic-cable low-definition), news and politics shows and scripted series when the TV gods smile upon us. Well, we went hi-def just as the TV season ended, so we missed out for now on whatever coolness that may have had to offer.

A quick digression: At least we won’t have to watch shows anymore, and I’m looking at you, “Sesame Street” and “Lost,” where the networks broadcast the widescreen version in a pan-and-scan format for viewers without the big bucks to go high definition. A tip of the hat to Fox who started out last season doing that, and switched back to the more viewer-friendly, old-school letterbox effect about halfway into the year. Shit was so obviously cut off of the sides of the image, we’d watch the end of ‘Sesame Street’ where they’d say, “Today’s show is brought to you by the number 3 and the letters Y and Z” and all we could see was the Y in the middle and little bits of the edges of the 3 and Z. Or the opening titles cut off of ‘Medium’ or the cropped-off location tags on ‘Fringe.’ It was just downright disrespectful, I thought.

So anyway, I may well have no idea what I’m talking abut here. Perhaps some day this post will read like a turn-of-the-last-century rant about those dad-blamed horseless carriages filling up the streets, but I gotta say it.

Watching stuff on our new high-def tech tends to make it a lot less special. And it’s not just that I can see every pore on an actor’s face or make out the texture of the rags extras are wearing in period-pieces. It’s not the stuff that’s added that bugs me, it’s what’s missing.

There’s a distance, a reserve that’s missing. That whatever-that-is that says, “Welcome! You’re at the movies!” is for the most part gone in high definition. Instead of watching pharaoh’s city being built by a cast of thousands in “The Ten Commandments,” you’re watching a bunch of funnily-dressed, overheated men and woman trudge past the camera in front of a background that is obviously fake. And remember, I’m not talking about true everything-is-high-def hi-def. I’m just talking about the latest standard-DVD release of this fine film.

The interior scenes are even worse. It’s like looking at a filmed-on-video production of the local community theater’s extravagant production. The grandeur is gone. Yul Brynner is no longer the pharaoh Rameses The Great re-shaping the world in his own image, he’s Yul Brynner, actor in make-up, saying silly things on an over-lit set.

And it’s not just the classics. I rented a few videos this week and checked them out during The Missus’ latest job-related trip away from home. Except for hyper-stylized stuff like “The Transporter 3” (shitty film), the same You-Are-There-And-It’s-Boring feeling persisted.

Even the flick I ended up liking, “Crossing Over” (an ‘issues’ film with Harrison Ford leading a strong ensemble cast, directed by the frigging mad genius who directed “Running Scared;” it seems like there’s no genre this guy can’t do) kept shaking me out of the film, scene after scene, with how stage-y everything looked.

I did a test – I ran a little bit of the same film on my office TV/DVD player combo, and it looked just fine. A little softer-focus maybe but a lot more like a movie experience and less like a well-shot stage play. I began to wonder if maybe part of what makes the moviegoing experience cathartic and transporting is the slight detachment from reality that film provides. That’s why they made the movie screens themselves literally larger-than-life. It was supposed to be something you used to escape from the real world for a couple of hours, not be forced to stare down the barrel of at close range.

Then I watched a new-release period-piece, “Defiance” with Daniel Craig as a Jewish resistance leader in WWII. This one fared even worse. The period costumes looked blatantly stage-bound, and the actors looked like actors in the woods, hitting marks and delivering lines.

I also watched an early-season episode of “Lost,” broadcast in HD, and Sayid’s Baghdad-flashback greenscreen backgrounds and wide-shot matte paintings stood out like sore thumbs, where I’d never noticed the artifice before.

On the other hand, I watched the opening foot-chase scene from “Casino Royale” and the fact that I was watching stunt people actually run up the sides of buildings and across construction cranes hundreds of feet in the air gave the scene considerably extra dramatic oomph. But again, not in the Great Movie way it impressed in the theater, but in a “I wonder if anybody died filming this” kind of way.

I even watched a little bit of “Dark Knight” tonight on HBO-HD, and the truck chase through downtown Gotham seemed as remarkably staged as it was crisp-looking. The one thing that HD didn’t diminish was Heath Ledger’s performance. Christian Bale looked like a guy in an uncomfortable PVC suit, but Ledger still mesmerized.

I guess what I’m saying is, so far my experience with high-def TV is like going to a Penn and Teller magic show, where they explain how every trick works before they perform it for you. A lot of the gee-whiz specialness is gone.

Oh, it’s great for cartoons, though. Awesome! “Batman, The Brave and the Bold” and “Iron Man: Armored Adventures” (both running on some Nik cartoon channel) look fantastic on the new equipment. The Boy has no idea how lucky he is, in this one respect, to have been born when he was.

In the long run, I think what we currently refer to as high-def will turn out to have been a middle step on the way to some truly immersive audio/visual experience, like 3D without the glasses. Like they have to master this technology before Jim Cameron can adapt it into the first truly holographic home viewing experience.

As a middle step, I suppose I’ll get used to this damned high-definition craze. But I’m going to keep the old analog set in my office as long as there remains old-fashioned tech to run it. Sometimes, I’m sure, I’ll still just want a movie to feel like a movie, even if I have to squint a little to keep the illusion alive.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Even more than usual...

How much would suck to be George W Bush and his Daddy Issues today...? 85 years old and The Old Man is still jumping out of airplanes... He nearly asphyxiates himself eating pretzels in his front room and Dad jumps out of airplanes for laughs.

As soon as pictures or video surface of the hilarious ballet of uncomfortable body language between Georges senior and Junior that occurred at the impromptu press conference after the jump, I will post them. They are certain to become legendary. Good ol’ Jeb pushes right in there next to dad when summoned over, but W twists, pulls, looks around and keeps a conspicuous physical distance between himself and his dad till George senior literally wrestles him into the tight three-shot.

Priceless! I hope it becomes as ubiquitous as I feel it deserves to be.

Update: Here it is! Enjoy the “awesome” (W’s characteristically erudite appraisal of his father’s accomplishment) Oedipal awkwardness that starts around 1:55:

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Mississippi John Hurt:

My latest, newest favorite musician.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


Found in a local outlet store.

Big Disappointments: This year’s summer movies (so far)

Liked “Star Trek.” Liked “Up.” But I didn’t like either enough to feel like I had anything to say that I hadn’t already read elsewhere, written better and for pay.

Admittedly, I haven’t seen every summer film this year. It still takes either abandoning my wife and seeing it alone, or forking over a million bucks to make a night of it, or even an afternoon.

It’s funny that I’ve reviewed a couple of real disappointments, but didn’t add my voice to the Hallelujah Choir on either of the season’s brightest lights so far. “Star Trek” and “Up” both suffered from the disadvantage of high expectations. High expectations that were met, but not exceeded. As far as “Up” goes, maybe I’ll like it more after I’ve seen it ten thousand times in the front room on DVD.

Just saw “Drag Me To Hell.” Except for continuing to crush on lead Alison Lohman, the movie seemed slow compared to the rapturous reviews I had foolishly allowed myself to read. The first half didn’t even pass my ‘Would I keep watching this at home if there was other stuff to do?’ test. I ended up staying, but at this point, I’d seen it all before. This movie seemed like a barely-there breath mint to cleanse director Sam Raimi’s palate between gargantuan “Spider-Man” extravaganzas. And maybe I’m wrong, but if Bruce Campbell had a cameo, I missed it. I’ll have to check imdb.

“Angels & Demons?” Pass. The first film spoiled me on this franchise but quick. Not even a rental. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m not going to gamble 2.5 hours of an increasingly busy life on Maybe.

Haven’t seen “Land of the Lost.” Don’t think it’ll lose much in the transition to home video. I’ll probably go see “Night at the Museum” because I think the boy will enjoy it. Dinosaurs, cowboys on horsies…! And if it gets him interested in period epics, well that would be the dream. Breed someone to watch “Logan’s Run,” “Land of the Pharaohs” and “The Fall of the Roman Empire” with me.

Probably go see “Transformers” just because Michael Bay knows how to build an exciting, soulless 2+ hours of summer movie mayhem like nobody’s business.

Beyond that, all I see is “Bruno,” “Public Enemies,” “G.I. Joe” (I know, but the trailer is amazing!) and Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” in late August. I figure they’re releasing that one so late that, if it strikes box office gold, it might still be playing in theaters when the Academy starts casting about for movies to throw awards at.

Other than that, I see bupkis.

I did see a couple of videos I liked. The feel-good buzz I had been hoping to catch on “Up” I caught instead in the much more clumsily animated “Meet The Robinsons.” Bigger story involving time travel, space travel, a weird adoption scenario with a believable happy ending… Lots of shit flings around and is manic and multi-colored for the boy, but I liked the story.

Also saw one called “Powder Blue.” It’s one of those American films that has aspirations to art (ie: foreign films’ pointlessness and nihilism). Lots of unconnected characters reveal their connections by movie’s end. Yawn! Oh, did I mention it’s a hard R and Jessica Biel plays a stripper in it? Not recommended unless you like kinky scenes of former Disney Channel child stars dripping hot wax on themselves...

Oh, and the new “Iron Man: Armored Adventures” cartoon running over on one of the Nick channels kicks maximum ass! For so long, all I’ve had was top-notch DC cartoon fare to feed the boy (Superman, any of the Batman cartoon series in the last 20 years); finally Marvel is beginning to put out some quality product, too. I’m hoping that there will be similar such high-quality animated efforts to accompany their upcoming “Thor” and “Captain America” live-action releases.


Okay, I’m boring myself. I’ve officially jumped my own shark. Time to find something to do to actually entertain myself. … I wonder what’s on TV…?

I thought there were laws aginst this sort of thing?

Saturday, June 06, 2009

D-Day: To Never Forget

That doesn’t include encroaching senility keeping me from realizing the 6th was today not tomorrow till 10:30 at night.

Charles Schulz always remembered the anniversary with a panel, it was one of the few days a year I glanced at “Peanuts” in the later years. I wish I knew where I had saved the panel I used to have tacked above my desk. I liked it better than the only one I could find online today, above.

It’s important to remind ourselves, while we merrily tear each other apart along partisan lines for fun and sport, our freedom to continue to do so came at a steep price not much more than half a century ago. A lot of brave guys, younger thanmany of our own sons are now, willingly threw themselves into a meat grinder for America and all she stands for.

It is well and fitting we take a few days a year to remember that, and to remember to give thanks.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

“You have snatched the pebble, Grasshopper…”

“…it is time for you to leave the temple.”

The Missus seemed delighted to be the one to break the news to me this morning. It’s a funny thing about people, but we secretly like to be the bearers of bad news. I’m the same way.

But this was a rough one. Not only was Kwai Chang Caine dead, but apparently by his own hand.

She’s too young to have grown up on “Kung Fu,” but I’m exactly the right age. It was one of the few shows I could watch with my Dad, because he liked the chop-socky fisticuffs and I was having my mind exploded by the version of eastern philosophy it served up every week.

Remember, this was back before The Google and the interwebs and cell phones and all that shit. If you lived in the great American Southwest in the mid-70s, unless you went to Herculean efforts to seek other shit out, you were in a cultural backwater. And I only went to Herculean efforts to seek out weed at the time.

So I was completely unprepared for this network TV show that expanded my mental and spiritual horizons every week. And the character teaching me these lessons had instant cred because he could kick the ass of anybody. He just didn’t want to, which made him doubly cool to me. It would be like if my parents could have kicked my ass, but instead chose to talk to me... You know, a fantasy world, but grounded in just enough Wild West ‘reality’ to make it relatable.

And the guy at the center of all this coolness was arguably the coolest thing about the show. And not just the hippie drag of the long hair and unshod feet. There was a stillness at the center of David Carradine’s performance that did more to sell the Zen-ish pacifism the show preached than all the ass-kicking in the world. When he wasn’t kicking ass, which if you watch the shows now you realize was about 90% of the time, he was being humble and helpful and wise.

I remember going to school the day after an airing of “Kung Fu” feeling somehow ennobled, elevated above my plebian peers in that Godawful arid hellhole of a corner of the world. I was usually chewing over a line or two of dialogue that I thought was especially insightful. I can’t say for sure, but I probably whipped some of them out from time to time to impress the few loser friends I did have.

And David Carradine has been cool ever since then, no matter what kind of wretched swill he was involved in (his post-“Kung Fu” acting career was relatively undistinguished, “Bound For Glory” and the “Kill Bill” films notwithstanding). No matter what stupid shit his character was saying, or what awful things he was doing, I’d watch the images flash before me and start thinking again about “Kung Fu,” and the impact it had on the way I looked at my life.

While I sit here this morning, pondering the news of his death at 72, all I can hope is that it turns out he was facing some kind of incurable ailment or chronic illness and decided, Kwai Chang Caine-like, to pick the moment and circumstances of his own passing. I could totally live with that, after all this fucking sadness passes. It is what Kwai Chang would do, except he’d probably wander out into the desert and sit under a shady tree instead of hang himself in a Bangkok hotel room, but to each his own.

Whatever the dirt turns out to be in the long run, my world is a sadder, lesser place today. Not because I’ll be missing out on all the schlocky B-movies he would have made had he lived, but because another one of the rare good parts of my childhood is gone.

It’ll be hard to watch “Kung Fu” again anytime soon, but as soon as my son is old enough to appreciate the philosophical aspects of the show, I look forward to introducing it to him. I’ll enjoy the awkwardly-staged, slow-motion slug-fests while hopefully he’ll be soaking up all the mind-blowing, watered-down eastern wisdom that I am far too lazy a parent to introduce him to any other way.

The picture below illustrates how I feel today about the passing of David Carradine. It was on the wall at my son’s daycare, among about 20 or 30 fairly dissimilar pencil-on-paper efforts. I knew it was his work the moment I walked in the door, all the way across the room. He’s not even four yet and already he’s passing through his Black Period.

He is definitely gonna need him a little “Kung Fu” in his future.