Sunday, August 29, 2010

“Look, up in the sky…!”

The dog looks on jealously as The Boy discovers he possesses the power of flight.

Looks like he may have hung up his cape prematurely.

Ted Nugent: Still rocking, still putting the Bill of Rights through its paces

Since I couldn’t make it to the Mall in D.C. today for the festivities there, I went to see Ted Nugent tonight at a club in Boise instead.

I had to go alone because I don’t know anyone here except friends and colleagues of my wife’s, and they’re all pretty reliably progressive and would only be uncomfortable at a Ted Nugent show. I saw Ted back in the ‘70s (he swung onto the arena stage on a rope, wearing a loincloth), but I haven’t seen him since. I lived for so long in L.A. through the ‘80s and ‘90s and so many bands came through town, I just never managed to allocate my concert dollars to Ted again during that time.

Cut to Boise. Now it’s 2010 and it costs about as much to see him from 10 feet away in a club as it cost in the ‘70s for loge seats. A sign advertising his appearance was the first truly welcoming sight I saw when we first moved here last month. It was a fait accompli.

The club he was playing in was cool, but had a fucked up camera policy, which was, if you were in the middle of the crowd, you got a pass from the bouncers. If, however, you were on the fringes of the crowd at the lip of the stage like I was, you were hassled constantly, finally ending with a promise to confiscate the camera and eject me if did it again.

So I didn’t do it again. Just as well. All my photos came out like shit anyhow. The ban was most onerous during the last song, when Ted came out for a single encore adorned in a flamboyant Native American headdress, but damn it, I had given The Muscle my word I wouldn’t do it again. Plus I really didn’t feel like getting ejected.

I want to be able to go back next month and see the Smashing Pumpkins. You may rest assured, I’ll show up plenty early and make sure I have a place in the middle of the throng. Maybe a slight disguise wouldn’t be a bad idea either…

Anyhow, after opening with an ear-splitting, shredding version of the Star Spangled Banner, Ted ripped through a generous selection of hits between all the crazy, eerily lucid rants (I’m getting to that part), including every single favorite tune this reporter had attended to hear. Admittedly that isn’t too many, and his set was padded with a few lesser-known numbers that would have had the crowd heading for the bar if it wouldn’t have meant giving up their place in the middle of the picture-taking free-zone. But he made up for any filler by closing the show with the song everyone there was waiting for, “Great White Buffalo” in full Indian headdress (below).

I don’t know what you’ve heard about Ted Nugent’s politics, but, eh, it’s probably as bad as you’ve heard. But so fucking what? I was going to a rock show, not a political rally.

And if I was going to a U2 show (ha! Fat chance now), I’d expect to get a lecture about Bono’s socio-economic pet peeve of the day. I’m sure there are some right-wingers who enjoy their music but could live without the prosthelytizing. But just like me going to a Ted Nugent show, they oughtta know by now what they’re getting into.

Basically, Ted is just a right-wing Arlo Guthrie. Unapologetically right-wing (think Tea Party plus bow-hunting minus God), he wears his politics on his sleeve and doesn’t give a damn what if any professional blowback occurs because of his candor.

I should also point out that while we learned that in addition to freedom, Ted likes dead things (a lot) and hates Obama (a lot!), he didn’t draw any connection between the latter two opinions, not even with a wink or a nudge. Maybe Ted just doesn’t want the Secret Service up his ass, but I prefer to believe that although he is heavily into dead things—particularly dead things which he has killed personally and plans to eat—he is enough of an honest-to-God patriot to not wish a fatal misfortune upon the nation’s Commander-in-Chief.

Although the song he dedicated to Obama, “Clusterfuck Me,” wasn’t exactly filled with the milk of human kindness.

Throughout the show, Nugent paused for colorfully-worded rants about issues of the day, the way he always has. Ted’s “raps” have always been a highlight of his live shows. Don’t believe me? Download 1978’s “Live Gonzo” from iTunes. Ted’s always had a motor-mouth befitting the self-styled Motor City Madman.

And speaking of Nugent’s native Motor City, he did a section in the middle of the concert that included an apparently sincere shout-out to all the black musicians who had already made Detroit famous for great music before he came along. He name-checked more soul artists than I can remember or even recognized, to the roar of the crowd, then he and his tight-knit 3-piece band tore through a medley of soul hits from Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man” to other tunes of the same ilk and era (whose names I am ashamed to admit were either unfamiliar or have slipped my mind).

So if you’re keeping score at home, you can put Nugent down for gun nut, necrophile of some sort, lover of Freedom, America and his native American spirit guide (I am not making this part up), but no fan of racism. I think that last counts in his favor. I’m not sure it balances out pretending to remove his middle finger from his anus and offering it to Obama by name. To the roar of the crowd. But it ought to be taken into account.

But like I told The Last Boy Scout prior to heading to the show, going to a Ted Nugent performance and being offended by his between-song patter is like going to a Tea Party rally and being shocked—shocked!—to find out there are Obama-as-Hitler placards there. It’s all part of the show.

As frankly off-putting as what much of what Ted says is, as the weenie, left-wing, First Amendment-hugging liberal that I am, I have to applaud his right to go so far out on the fringe—did I mention the prop Tommy Guns adorning the stage set? And the fact that he brandished them toward the end of the show, exhorting the crowd into a frenzy of Second Amendmentphilia? He’s right when he says this is what America is about. The right to say the dumb shit he says, as well as his right to bear toystore ordnance on stage.

That’s rock & roll, baby. Ted thinks that’s what America’s all about, too, and I’d be hard-pressed to disagree with him.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dream a little dream

WASHINGTON, D.C.—“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.”

—Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
August 28, 1963

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sinead was right.

You know, it occurred to me recently, Sinead O’Connor was right.

When she went on TV 20 years ago, sang a song about child abuse then tore up a picture of the head of the Catholic church—which we now know was engaged at the time in the organized practice, promulgation and concealment of child predation on a worldwide scale—and said, “Fight the real enemy” and flushed her career down the toilet.

Turns out she wasn’t a madwoman after all, she was a prophet.

It called to mind lyrics from a recent Kristofferson composition, “Sister Sinead.” Check it out:

And maybe she’s crazy and maybe she ain’t
But so was Picasso and so were the saints
Some candles flicker and some candles fade
And some burn as true as my sister Sinead
Considering everything that’s come to light in the past years about the Catholic church, I think the world press, not to mention the unruly Madison Square Garden audience that booed her offstage a couple weeks after the Pope-shredding incident, above, owe her an apology.

(I’ve been a little focused on Sinead since the move. One of my boxes of CDs was dropped in transit then “re-packed” by the movers, who must have taken the CDs they couldn’t fit and tossed them in the garbage. I probably wouldn’t even have noticed it if they hadn’t left a few CDs to remind me of the impressive collection of her work I used to own. So through trips to used CD stores, and ebay I’ve been rebuilding…)

On the bright side, at least they didn’t drop one of the boxes containing Cash recordings. Oh my God, would there have been hell to pay. It would have made Sinead’s wrath at the Catholic church look like a walk in the park on a spring day in May.

Addenda! Lest I forget, both Kristofferson and Sinead have new-ish albums out and both are excellent. You should buy them right away.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

CableOne is Number Two

And by Number Two, let me be clear that I am referring to feces. A giant, stinking mound of it, overripe in the late-August sun, stretching from here to infinity and reaching higher than the eye can see. It can be smelled up to three states away when the wind is blowing just right…

When we learned we were moving to Boise, I called up the schmucks at Comcast. They asked me what our new address would be, entered it into their computer and informed me that I could not stay with Comcast as a local company named CableOne had dibs on that address. I would have to migrate over.

Well, I was migrating everything else at the time, my email address would just be one. More. Thing.

Then the day came when the CableOne installer was due to come by and hook us up. He showed up within his window of opportunity (8-noon) and proceeded to tell us, straightaway, that he was strictly an install guy. If we had any questions beyond wiring and the few simple human interactions he had been trained to perform, we would have to call the home office and speak to a tech.

I think I knew right then, in my gut, what a horrible mistake I had made. The DTV guys had just been out and had not only performed the physical install of the dish and the wiring, but stuck around long enough to make sure that their equipment worked and that all our other entertainment peripherals were properly connected to the new gizmo.

CableOne, on the other hand, said “I will be hooking up a gizmo, then fleeing before you have a chance to pepper me with inane questions regarding its actual operation.”

Fortunately, my wife is kind of a communications technology genius and we were able to hop on board the information superhighway pretty easily, in spite of CableOne’s policy of indifference to customer service.

Well, it’s five weeks later and we’ve had four major, extended outages, most occurring on the weekends. If you call early enough in the outage you can get through to customer support on the phone, then be forced to wait fifteen minutes on hold to finally be told that they are aware of the problem, are working on it, and have absolutely no clue what time the issue will be resolved, thank you for calling. If you call too late, all you get is a busy signal.

And the bitch about being in an outage—whether it’s internet or a power outage—is you never know how long it’s going to last. You can look back at it and say, “Well, it was 12 fucking hours, but it was on a weekend…” But when you’re in the middle of it, you have no idea how long the misery is going to spread out ahead of you.

Murphy was an optimist, but I always assume the worst immediately until proved wrong. It’s just my sunny outlook, I guess. And the fact that I had an important freelance job that was supposed to be uploaded today, and the fact that I had to retrieve my email over fries and a Coke at Carl’s Jr., and I hate Coke almost as much as CableOne…

Just as suddenly as our connection to the internet had been snatched away from us, it was returned about 10 o’clock tonight. Without so much as a reach-around or a “sorry for the inconvenience.” And I’m willing to bet our account will not be credited for the half-day this weekend that it was inactive, no matter how many times we call nor how long we sit on hold, waiting to be told to go fuck ourselves and call back later when the line will be jammed.

I am definitely calling the local competition, Qwest, in the morning to feel them out as to whether or not they can even do anything at this address (I don’t understand monopolies, but I think T.R. had the right idea about them). If Qwest is permitted to do business at our address, we might well make the jump to devil we don’t know. Because the devil we do know has turned out to be a real son of a bitch.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

NYC to alleged “Ground-Zero Mosque”:

Another post I didn’t want to write. Mainly because the subject has already been talked to death; from the interwebs to the mainstream media, everybody but me has weighed in by now. (I’ve been extremely busy feeling sorry for myself for no appreciable reason other than missing the current RUSH tour.)

But there’s something I’m not hearing in the discourse about the supposed “Ground-Zero Mosque” which compels me to once again torture my forefinger-tips. It’s not racism or xenophobia that’s missing, no, I’ve heard plenty of both. Chest-thumping and flag-waving? Check and check.

All the responsible coverage (which by my definition immediately excludes Fox News and MSNBC) seems to center around either the sensibilities of 9/11 survivors and first-responders, who are understandably offended; and how a mosque at Ground Zero would become a gathering place for would-be and future terrorists (too stupid a proposition for me to even dignify with a comment, especially after Jon Stewart exposed its ridiculousness so nicely this week already).

Here’s what occurred to me has been missing from the debate, from least important to most.

Least important niggling factoid: I was pissed too at first, when I heard they wanted to put a mosque AT Ground Zero. But as anyone can see by the map above, the proposed mosque isn’t at Ground Zero. It’s a couple blocks away. And in big city downtowns, two blocks can make the difference between a thriving redevelopment area with chain stores and artist’s lofts—and brown-bag winos and drive-by shootings. And the proposed mosque is two blocks away, in the middle of the block, out of sight of the still-fresh wound that is the un-reconstructed Ground Zero.

The thing that initially, mistakenly pissed me off leads me to the second, actually meritorious angle that isn’t being discussed, or at least I haven’t seen it. I’m pretty mainstream media-oriented, so if it’s only been on HuffPo or the Drudge Report, I have missed it and I apologize for wasting your time.

The reason I still think it’s a bad idea to put a mosque anywhere near Ground Zero—even a couple of blocks away, out of sight—is not because I’m afraid of who’s going to come to it to worship, but who’s going to come to vandalize or destroy it. Especially with nothing else up yet in the place of the fallen Towers, building a high-profile mosque in their former shadow is going to attract every kind of nut-job with an axe to grind and two tons of fertilizer in his rented moving van.

Like it or not, this controversy has made the place a target. A big red, pulsating neon target. And not just to right-wing, home-grown dipshits like the all-American kid who blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. But mosques the world over are repeatedly blown up by their faithful’s own internecine squabbles.

Let’s be perfectly honest, Islam’s fringies have earned themselves a rep as the baddest, most ruthless religious zealots currently plying their bloodthirsty trade on the world stage. They’ll kill anybody and everybody—including themselves—at the drop of a hat. Even Stephen Colbert doesn’t fuck with Muslims.

I live two blocks away from both a Mormon temple and a Baptist Church, and I’m not sweatin’ it. I wouldn’t live a blast radius away from a mosque, however. Not these days.

There’s every good reason in the world not to put this particular mosque in that particular site at this particular time and only one reason not to—that damned pesky Constitution. And single-occasion events don’t rise to level of importance to justify fucking with the Constitution. Not even 9/11 and certainly not a single house of worship.

So my plea is for the proposed mosque’s owners to find a less high-profile place to put their house of worship. Practically anywhere else in the world would be fine. There are plenty of lovely neighborhoods in New York to build a new, classy-looking place of worship (inset); locations that Fox News and Tea Party candidates won’t be able to spin into ratings and electoral gold.

And, more importantly, locations that won’t put punishing you for your perceived temerity at the top of every homicidal zealot’s—literally from here to Timbuktu—To-Do list.

Just the same, I’m not optimistic that cooler heads will prevail, especially where matters of religion and 9/11 are concerned. If I were the Amish market currently next door to the proposed mosque, I’d hitch up my wagon and go looking for greener pastures until the whole issue blows over. Or up.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Oh, the poor dear is leaving her radio show, because she wants to (and I’m not making this part up) “regain my First Amendment rights.” Hilariously, her announcement on Larry King Live is almost Sarah Palin’s retirement announcement, word for word. “I'm not retiring. I'm not quitting,” she said. “I feel energized actually, stronger and freer to say the things that I believe need to be said for people in this country.”

I’m not sure when quitting when the going got tough became a conservative value, but I can agree that this is one conservative value that is indeed good for America.

Because really, if you can’t say “nigger” a dozen times a minute on public access radio in the middle of the day in America in 2010, you might as well be exiled to a gulag in Stalin’s Russia. Just another step on the long march to Socialism on Mr. Obama’s watch.

Don’t worry about Dr. Laura, though. There’s a lot of intolerance and organized hate still out there. She’ll find her niche. One imagines post-radio career opportunities include yelling “FIRE!” in crowded movie houses, or perhaps joining the Rev. Fred Phelps’ cult to hurl homophobic epithets at the mourners at funerals of American soldiers killed in the line of duty.

In the end, fleeing her high-profile, controversial, right-wingnut gig may be the best career move Dr. Laura could have made. Look what it’s done for Sarah Palin!

Rush Limbaugh, we hope you are paying attention.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dr. Laura—healing the racial divide

Full disclosure: I haven’t always been a Dr. Laura fan. When I’ve been exposed to her ‘work’ previously, I’ve found her to be a shrill, hypocritical, bullying, punishing shrew. As she bases all of her valuable relationship advice on her gut, the Old Testament and a thoroughly inapplicable PhD in Physiology, I decided long ago I’d have better odds of getting a truly helpful answer from my Magic 8 Ball. “Is this a good day to take start taking Dr. Laura’s advice seriously?” Answer: Very Doubtful.

And I’ve always felt bad for her fan base (a couple of whom are even friends of mine). Most of them (my friends excluded) don’t know that Dr. Laura’s doctorship has nothing to do with her current gig and that they’re receiving critical relationship advice from someone who is currently estranged from her own mother. It would be like turning to Elvis to resolve one’s own Mommy Issues. And his advice would probably be better. “Here, eat a handful of these and meet me in the Jungle Room in 20 minutes for some karate.”

Having thus conquered family issues, the redoubtable Doctor L. trained her laser-like insight on race relations this week on her radio show, repeatedly using the N-word with one increasingly flustered caller. Eventually the caller mentioned that she was uncomfortable with Dr. Laura’s use of the N-word, which just set the voluble host off on a tangent where she repeated the offensive language with such frequency and meter it began to sound like raindrops hitting the roof of a tin shed.

Cut to a day later—a day in which I’m assuming she heard from a lot of her radio show advertisers—and she was back on the air, issuing a terse apology. An apology which included a further, lame-duck defense of her use of the objectionable language, summed up most succinctly when she pleaded, “I don’t get it.”

Finally! Dr. Laura and I are on the same page; we have found common ground at last.

She indeed does not get it. Didn’t then and doesn’t still.

You gotta listen to the whole clip. At the end where she says, leaning hard on the “I” part, “_I_ made a mistake,” with the same stunned disbelief as if she was reporting that the statue of liberty had just been sighted strolling down 42nd Street in her underwear. Unintentional hilarity in its purest form.

In Chris Rock’s most recent HBO special, he says people ask him, “When is it okay for a white person to use to N-word?” And he always answers the same thing—Almost never. Then he runs down some hypothetical situations where dunderheads like Dr. Laura may think it’s okay to use the N-word, and explains that, no, it’s still not cool. I don’t recall exactly, but I think maybe the only Chris Rock-authorized time it’s okay for a white person to use the N-word is in the context of informing a sleeping neighbor his house is on fire… and probably not even then.

I think the definitive word on the subject belongs to Richard Pryor in his “Live On The Sunset Strip” performance. In previous stand-up appearances, Pryor threw around the N-word like lollipops at a Shriner’s parade. In “Sunset Strip,” however, Pryor talks about having taken a recent trip to Africa. How he found himself taken aback that everybody, from the mayor to the town drunk, was black. He said, “And I looked around and I realized, I didn’t see one single nigger.” He then went on to repudiate use of the word, within the black community and without, including his own past usage.

So my advice to Dr. Laura—based on my G.E.D. in fence-post sitting and my extensive experience flipping burgers at McDonald’s—is to stick to what she knows, dispensing hateful, unhelpful relationship advice to her emotionally disenfranchised audience and leave healing the racial divide to people who recognize that there still is one, and that Dr. Laura is on the wrong side of it.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Another F-Bomb lands with deadly accuracy

The night after the morning the photo, above, was shot, The Little Man was melting down in the front room. Something wasn’t going his way and his formerly great day had suddenly turned into, he assured us repeatedly, “a bad day!”

It wasn’t anything remarkable or out of the ordinary till he began lobbing the F-Bomb around like a longshoreman, not the wide-eyed four-year-old he actually is. There was nothing PG-13 about his delivery.

As a matter of fact, it seemed to eerily match my own pitch and cadence when I deploy that particular piece of heavy ordnance. Which I usually don’t do in front of impressionable ears, but as has been noted elsewhere, this move hasn’t consistently brought out the best in me. There have definitely been recent opportunities—we call them “slips” in Program—for him to have picked this particular turn of phrase up from me.

For the record, it was a snarled, staccato “Fuck it!” so feral it sounded like a twig snapping; he had to do it a couple times in a row for The Missus and me to believe our ears.

The Missus threw up her arms and left his fate in my hands. After all, I’m sure we were both thinking the same thing; that the idiot who introduced said precious gem into his lexicon ought to be the one to try to undo the damage.

So I took The Little Man into my office’s oversized recliner and (eventually) we had a calm, reasonable talk about more effective ways for him to get our attention than zinging red-flag words at us in the heat of an argument. We also discussed the concept of punishment, which it occurred to me then, The Missus and I had never done before. We’d punish him with timeouts and loss of TV privileges and the like, but never explained to him about what punishment specifically was, nor compromise, and how compromise beats punishment every time.

In this case, the compromise involved letting him occasionally say “crap” around the house, and in exchange he’d cool it with the other grown-up words he knew he shouldn’t be using. We also talked about better ways to get our attention when he was frustrated than getting angry and saying bad things designed to elicit a big reaction from us, and that were therefore less likely to draw punishment-oriented responses.

Only time will tell if he got it or not. For what it’s worth, I made him repeat every big idea back to me and he’s got a steel-trap memory…

Still, confidence is not high.

Right now he’s in the hallway taunting the dog by calling him “hair-crotch”—which as near as I can tell is an original creation—over and over and giggling, so I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that yesterday’s initial father-son talk on the appropriate-language thing may have fallen somewhat short of the mark.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Unaswimmer strikes again!

It’s all about the goggles, man…

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

This just in…!

Just received a new batch of photos from last month’s move, including the one above of me and The Boy’s last walk home together from the preschool on Christmas Island. In the beginning I started taking him by the hand to cut down on his dawdling, but the hand-holding grew on both of us pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, that’s all over now. He’ll be traveling to the Uni preschool with his Mom most days when she goes to work. And to be fair, I knew that at the time this photo was taken. Probably goes a long way to explaining the body language.

I also failed to make it to his swimming lesson today. Work went way long, and due to my precarious position there, I had to make the tough call and stay home and finish my job and bail on the learning-to-swim imperative I’ve been focused on since I first started taking him to the pool last summer.

The whole afternoon was a panic attack waiting to happen. The Boy hung out in my office and watched a “Hellboy” movie while I chewed my nails to the nubs, the home office got me copy in excruciating dribs and drabs, the clock crept inexorably closer to the time we had to leave for the lesson, and his mom slept on.

I’m really feeling like a lousy parent today. I let the TV tend to my child all afternoon then skipped the swimming lesson he couldn’t stop talking about all day. I feel like one of those guys who comes home from the coal mines and by the time I’m done washing up, I’m too bone weary to go out shooting squirrels with my young ‘uns.

But since today was so shitty, I’m counting on tomorrow to be mostly okay. That’s about how it’s been working out. Alternating days of despair and promise. In baseball terms I’d be batting 500 and considered doing great.

But half as good as perfect isn’t anywhere near close enough where parenting is concerned. You can bet your ass I will move heaven and earth to make sure I don’t miss swimming lessons next Wednesday because of work. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, ah, … don’t get fooled again. Holy shit, now I understand what Bush was talking about!

That’s an amends I’ll have to make later on, on one of my good days.

Learning to Swim

So we decided to finally stop talking about it and got The Boy some swimming lessons.

Almost five years old now, he towers height-wise among kids almost twice his age (see photo of him with a young Eminem at a local park, below). As a result of this, when he tries to keep up with them verbally or in many other respects, the age difference becomes frustratingly clear.

Nowhere has this been more evident than at the pool. As he navigates carefully around the shallow end, careful to never let his head slip below the waterline, kids half his size—often literally—go frolicking past, in front of and all around him. He still has a great time, but as a parent, it is limiting. And our best efforts have led him to have enough confidence to go into the water, but not enough to compel him to challenge his boundaries and take the plunge, as it were.

Thusly The Missus went forth and Googled up a local woman who gives classes in her back yard. After having established that this person had not left a trail of carnage behind her in previous swimming-related efforts, we engaged her services for an intense, five-day-a-week, two-week course.

Today will be day three.

His class is composed of himself and one other child, a boy who has just turned four, so the teacher-to-child ratio almost can’t be beat.

The teacher is an eighteen-year-old blue-eyed blonde, straight out of the Sears catalog, circa 1958.

She is also a freaking genius. In two half-hours, she’s talked our over-cautious shallow-end walker into going so far as dipping his head into the water, all the way up to the eyeballs. She’s already done more in 60 minutes than we’ve accomplished in two years.

It doesn’t hurt to have only a single other kid there to test himself against, without a whole bunch of rambunctious hooligans in the class to intimidate him with their jejune shenanigans. It’s the best of all possible worlds.

And according to The Missus, he’s even enjoying the museums, libraries and art galleries she’s taking him to while I work during the daytime.

So far, everything has worked out great for The Boy in Boise. 30 consecutive days of one-on-two, personal attention from the parental units (until school starts mid-August). A new best friend—his best ever, he asserted early in the bromance—swimming every day and a cool new school and new friends to look forward to meeting and making.

Oh, and it even has bugs!

Who wouldn’t want to be a boy in Boise in the summertime?

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Well, it's starting to look like home, anyhow...