Friday, November 30, 2007

It's a deceased world after all.

You've just died and your family has reduced your remains to the contents of an Oreck upright! Where do you want to go?

I'm going to Disneyland!

Not content with buying $5 bottles of water and standing in lines so long Disney could market them as Goofy's Bataan Death Adventure, people are choosing the Happiest Place on Earth as just the spot to dump Grandma.

ABC News says it's not true. That's the same ABC News that is Disney's wholly-owned bitch so I'll let you decide how reliable they are.

Other sources say that dusty clumps of leftover loved ones litter the rides, from the Teacups to the Pirates of the Caribbean. But the favorites are The Haunted Mansion, which makes sense if Grandpa had an eerie sense of humor, and It's a Small World, perfect for that overly-friendly uncle because hearing that song for an eternity would be Hell on a scale of evil that would shame the devil.

For this Friday, I want you to assume you're dead. There's no mantle space left for an urn. Where do you want to be scattered?

Talk to me Dead Planeteers. Even if it's from the Carousel of Progress.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More Movie News.

This is a great time to be a movie lover. You have Gone Baby Gone, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, No Country For Old Men and Sweeney Todd, with Johnny Depp as the Demon Barber and all that grand operatic madness from Stephen Sonheim's dark side, which is very dark indeed.

Then you have this. It's Ang Lee's latest, Lust, Caution.

I love period pieces, especially films set in the 30's and 40's. And I think I'm really going to like this. Why? Because doctors in China are warning people not to try imitating the sexual positions because they could hurt themselves.

As one doctor said, "Most of the sexual maneuvers are in abnormal body positions. Only women who have gymnastic or yoga experience are able to perform them."

I'm so there.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Repressed Republicans, Part 273

Did you know that Wikipedia is a Godless repository of unAmerican propoganda?

No? Well, neither did I.

But I have been set straight, so to speak. Thanks to Andy Schlafly, son of noted woman with too much time on her hands, Phyllis Schlafly.*

Andy Schlafly has created Conservapedia, an alternative to Wikipedia so that those who believe in the rightness of the right don't have to read anything that might challenge those beliefs and make their heads explode. This is the Fox News of encyclopedias. Their articles cover everything from Creationism (they're for it!) to Homosexuality (they're against it!).

In fact, they are so against Homosexuality that 9 out of the top 10 most read pages are about homosexuals and homosexual sex.

I'm on record as saying that right-wingers think more about gay sex than anyone other than gay men, and that's a lot, and this is yet another piece of evidence. I mean, when was the last time you were curious about "Gay Bowel Syndrome?"

Ted Haggard (who's not gay), Larry Craig (who never has been gay), Mark Foley (OK, he's gay), and that leader of the Young Republicans who woke up his roommate by fellating him (I'm too lazy to look him up but I'm pretty sure that's gay) are all part of this great closeted wing of the GOP. What the hell is going on here?

There's something about the religious right that attracts people who seem to be incredibly confused about their sexuality. It would be funny, in a sad kind of way, if they weren't doing so much damage to themselves, their families and young people struggling with what they've been told is an abomination to God. Why God would create an abomination is beyond me, but much of Christian dogma is beyond me.

I don't have an answer for this. If you do, enlighten me. Or maybe I'll just look it up in Wikipedia and see what the Godless Commies think.

*On a related note: Why are so many right wing opionators the children of the rich and well-connected? From doughy Jonah Goldberg of the National Review to Tucker! of MSNBC, these coddled scions of conservatives contribute nothing more than methane and CO2 to the atmosphere. Can't they hold real jobs? Couldn't they enlist?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Happy Monday!

Yes, the fam and I took in this cheerful little holiday film by those madcap boys, Joel and Ethan Coen. Full of nods to the classic film makers like Frank Capra, you'll leave this flick with a jaunty step, a winning smile and a happy song in your heart.

Then you'll step in front of a truck.

I would watch the Coen Brothers shoot the phone book and this is one I'll go back to again and again, once the scars have healed. The male stars - Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem - will suck up all the acting accolades but I want to point out the performance that simply blew me away. That's Kelly Macdonald's portrayal of Brolin's West Texas wife. Amazing work. Simply amazing.

And what would the holidays be without zombies? If you missed the theatrical release of Fido, here's the chance to rent the DVD.

Here's the log line: Shaun of the Dead meets Pleasantville meets Lassie Come Home.

It stars Billy Connolly and the incomparable Tim Blake Nelson. It's not great, but it's damn good. And a good zombie movie is just what we all need at this time of year, right?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving.

This is my favorite holiday of the year. My wife's family comes to town with kids and dogs and a rotating cast of boyfriends and girlfriends, and it's all great chaotic fun.

We have a lot to be thankful for. Jenny and I are doing well. Our old dog, Boomer keeps hanging in there. Molly is with us and doing better than I would have expected just a few weeks ago. I've written 1500 words in the past four days and the people where I work seem to appreciate what I do.

And you, my friends, I can't say enough about the love and support you've shown us this year.

I am immensely grateful.

I know it's sentimental, but I don't care.

Thank you. Have a good holiday and we'll see you back here next week when, if the stars align, there will be pictures! and music!

(The picture by 10-year-old Yarlize, is an award winner. Yay! Yarlize!)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Apparently, all America's other problems have been solved.

By now you've heard about the US bridge team in hot water for pulling a Dixie Chicks move in Shanghai. They were so tired of bridge players from other countries asking how in God's name Americans could vote for George Bush twice that they decided to go public with this hastily scribbled sign.

The association that organizes this international bridge team, its knickers in a serious twist, has threatened these players with suspension, fines and day old cheese and Triscuits.

I think everyone who didn't vote for Bush should be given medals for prescience, but even I think this impromptu display was stupid. But if stupid was a punishable offense I can think of thousands of people who should be dunned before these card-slinging ladies.

I don't even have to watch Fox News to hear the umbrage. Yes, they dissed the prez on foreign soil. My God, how will the Republic stand? How will this card game ever recover its once vaunted position in American sporting life!

Think of the children!

So, OK, the US Association of Tight-Assed Bridge Honchos are within their right to suspend these women. I won't argue that. Just as Clear Channel is within its right to ban Dixie Chicks and Springsteen songs from their airwaves (except that they're really our airwaves, but let's not get into that right now). And those newspapers were within their right to fire those two columnists who had the affrontery to question Bush's skedaddle on 9/11. And that lawyer was within his right to fire an employee for having a John Kerry sticker on her car.

Yes, they are all within their rights.

But just because it's legal to be a flaming ass doesn't mean it's right to be a flaming ass.

What has happened to this country? Is the president so fragile that he needs corporations, newspapers, and bridge associations to protect him from seeing something that's not complimentary? Are the few remaining Bush supporters so insecure that they have to crush any form of dissent, no matter how fleeting and stupid?

I remember when columnists, pundits, sports figures, comedians, singers and strangers on the street said horrible things about Clinton, and this was before the blow job, and I don't remember anyone getting fired or banned from the airwaves because of it. I never heard of a single person getting fired for sporting those "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For Bush" bumper stickers in the 90's.

So, why do people on Team Bush feel so threatened? Are their beliefs so shaky that a hand-scribbled note by a bridge player throws them into paroxysms of outrage? All it said was "We did not vote for Bush."

Oh no! How will we ever prevail in the War on Terror if our enemies are continually encouraged by a bridge team's voting patterns.

No, it's not censorship.

But it is petty.

I don't like it any more when private citizens pick up the cudgel to silence political speech than I do when my government does it. Just because it's legal doesn't make it right.

Bottom line? People shouldn't say stupid things about Bush, especially overseas because it only gives Fox something to bluster about for a news cycle. But when people do say stupid things, and they will, the president should get a thicker hide and his supporters should get a life.

I guess all the other problems in America have been solved, huh? Otherwise, we wouldn't be wasting our time on a non-event.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I'm sticking to the union.

There's been a lot of writing about the writers' strike, which seems to be a bit of an oxymoron (or is it a paradox?) but no matter. The writers of the WGA, having been burnt in the past because they didn't negotiate with an eye to new media, want a piece of whatever new venues might trundle down the road in the near future. Their thinking is simply this: If in ten years somebody is making a buck by screening the fruit of their labors onto the back of your retinas, the writers want their cut. It's only fair.

This has given me a new excuse for not working on my novel. See, it's not that I'm lazy or uninspired, I'm supporting the union. We don't cross picket lines in my family, even imaginary ones like the line stretched before my keyboard.

My father was management. He liked nothing better than busting the union in one of his stores. Although he never said so, I think he hated unions because he saw organization as a personal insult.

My father was one of the most decent and honorable men I've ever known. He taught us that our word was everything and all men deserved to be treated fairly. So if a union tried to organize his store, that meant his employees were saying they couldn't trust him and I don't think he could work with people who didn't trust him.

I became a union man through the United Mine Workers. They're probably a little different than the writers walking the picket line in LA.

But the mine workers organized over their fair share of the pie. Until the UMW got some muscle, coal companies held miners in virtual bondage, paying them in company scrip that was worthless anywhere other than the company store and the company made sure that no matter how hard you worked, you always fell a little behind every month. Remember the Line from "Sixteen Tons?"

"St. Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go.
I owe my soul to the company store."

I heard Studs Turkel yesterday. The old bastard is 95 years old and still kicking capitalist ass. He told a story about a well-dressed man and woman who sneered that they hated unions and Studs asked the guy if he worked a 40-hour week. The guy said he did. Studs told him he could thank the three men who were hanged after the Haymarket Strike. Work five days instead of six? Thank the strikers who were shot in the 20's.

I'd use that line more often except I don't know anyone who works a 40-hour week. But then, I don't know anyone who is in a union, other than screen writers. And I think more of us should organize. God knows I could have used a little leverage when I negotiated my last raise. That is, if you could call Oliver Twist asking for more gruel a negotiation.

So, if you have a paid vacation, sick days and weekends at home, hug a union man or woman today. We've owed them so much for so long we've forgotten just how much of the American Dream was paid for with strikers' blood.

Dusty Rhoades has a video you should see at his place today and Paul Levine wrote about this over at Naked Authors. Take a look and then join me in that old Woodie Guthrie song,

"Oh, you can't scare me
I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union."

Now go rent Matewan.

Monday, November 12, 2007

This is the National Defense Medal.

Every soldier, sailor and marine gets one for serving during a time of war. It's as generic a medal as you can wear. It's so generic, even I have one.

To me, this is the perfect symbol of the citizen soldier, the guy who goes when he's called, the guy who would rather be doing anything else, but steps up when his country needs him. And I'm afraid that guy is going the way of the honest man.

We're celebrating Veterans Day today, even though it was yesterday, the 11th day of the 11th month, the day in 1918 that the insanity we call World War I ended. Veteran's Day. The day when old soldiers squeeze into old uniforms and accept thanks from people who notice.

Recently, a co-worker's son was killed in Iraq. She and I had a long talk and she said something that started me thinking. She said that people who don't come from a military background don't understand why men and women enlist and serve proudly. Having come from a military family, I had never really thought about that.

This is a particularly tough time. The nation is divided on this war and this president and our troops are in an ugly spot doing dangerous work, wondering if the country is behind them. On this Veteran's Day, it's important to ask the question, can you be for the troops and against this war? This is how Michael Jernigan answered it in yesterday's NYT:
"To people who support the troops but not the war — that is your right. But remember there was someone holding a gun who fought so you can have that right. It is tough for me to smile when someone tells me that they support our troops but feel the war is wrong. I stand there and smile and say, “Thank you for sharing your feelings.” I think people say that because it makes them feel better to say it, but they really mean, “Thank you for your service, but really you are an idiot for following that insane president.” It makes me feel belittled. I do not want to hear it. I was a corporal in the United States Marine Corps and I do not make policy so save it for your congressman."

Why does he think that? Why does he think that those of us who have served and are serving now may be against the war and still support him and his comrades? I think it goes back to what my co-worker said. In this time of a volunteer army, there is a growing chasm between those who feel that the life of a soldier is a calling and those who don't understand why anyone would choose that life voluntarily. They say it's because there are no jobs for him, or he's been denied other opportunities and they never understand that many men and women like the military life. It is their life.

But as the chasm grows, the military people don't understand civilians, either. I once told a young officer that my daughter was a singer living in New York. He was sorry and sympathetic. "We had a cousin like that," he said.

He didn't get it. He didn't know that along with a military tradition, we also had a tradition of entertainers that went back generations. Writers, singers, performers. I told him that the next time he heard a great song on the radio or saw a good movie, he should thank all those young people who sacrificed a secure life to pursue a dream every bit as honored, in our family, as military service.

He didn't get it. Just as members of my co-worker's family didn't understand her son's dream of being a soldier, this soldier couldn't grasp why anyone would dream of being a performer.
Those people are crazy!

And as we continue with our volunteer military, and fewer civilians are touched by that life, the less we'll understand one another. And that is a dangerous thing.

The more Michael Jernigans we have who don't believe we can honor the soldier and not buy into his mission, and the more civilians we have who have no understanding of how anyone could give their lives in service to their country, the more we'll be forever divided.

Something to think about.

But maybe for another day. Today, I salute all those who wore that gold and scarlett ribbon. Whether you were a cook or a clerk, a transportation officer, supply sergeant or a grunt. You didn't let others take your place on the line. For that, regardless of politics, you will always be my brother.

Welcome home.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Lazarus Amp

Remember when I backed over my amplifier?

Remember how it came all apart and I, heartbroken and unable to look at the destruction of such a fine old instrument, handed all the pieces to my friend and drummer, CH?

Well, CH has breathed the breath of life into the old cabinet and tubes and here it is, whole again, hardly any more beat up than it was when I bought it. And it works.

But late at night, when everyone else is asleep in bed, the speaker rumbles with staticky transmissions from the Other Side.

Apparently, they play the blues there, too. Who knew?

Thanks CH. I owe you.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bad news for Naomi Campbell.

That woman up there in the Warhol pants is Linda Stein. Ms. Stein was murdered last week.

The pants were not the motive.

Ms. Stein was the former manager of the Ramones, and a pioneer in the punk revolution before she turned real estate agent to stars like Billy Joel and Madonna. No, that wasn't the motive, either.

Today's New York Times reports that Ms. Stein was bludgeoned by her personal assistant because Ms. Stein “just kept yelling at her,” according to a law enforcement official.

I'm betting that personal assistants everywhere will be excused from this jury.

Elton John is going to play a memorial concert. What a surprise. I get the feeling that a dog could be struck down by a speeding cab and Elton John would be there, standing over the gutter singing Candle in the Wind before the body cooled.

Ah well.

Happy Friday. Let's hope this weekend is better than the last.

And whatever you do, don't piss off your personal assistant.

Next Week! The Return of The Lazarus Amp and my comatose film career flickers its eyelids prompting Dr. Bill Frist to proclaim It's Alive! It's Alive!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Stealing from the Dead.

Things are dark at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. Thousands of the Gipper's personal artifacts are missing. That's Nancy keeping a watchful eye on that attractive pillow up there, just in case someone tries to snag that baby too.

You can read more here.

An amusing side note to this bizarre story is how different news orgs are covering this. Most headlines had some version of "artifacts missing" or "libarary can't account for artifacts" but Fox News takes a different approach. Their headline reads "Ronald Reagan Library Misplaces More Than 80,000 Artifacts."

As in, "Those things have to be around here somewhere. Did you look behind the filing cabinet?"

When in the story itself they report:

Part of the problem has to do with a lack of supervision and a "near universal" security breakdown that may have left the mementos vulnerable to pilfering, "the scope of which will likely never be known," the audit found.

When auditors tried to locate a sample of 21 items from a larger list of "high-value objects," one vase was missing even though library records indicated it was accounted for.

They also found that nine of 26 items in two unpacked boxes had gone missing. The missing items included a hand-crocheted American flag and an elephant figurine.

Mmm, a crocheted flag. Who the hell could resist that?

But we all know what's going on here, don't we? The Reagan loyalists just can't keep their fingers off things St. Ron might have actually touched. They're slipping those ash trays and elephants into their shorts to add them to their enormous home shrines to RR, just like the Disciples rifled Jesus' desk for pens and ashtrays after He'd done that ascension thing.

I was talking to a co-worker this morning about this and she concluded, "People are weird."

Indeed they are. Thank God.

Or should I thank St. Ron?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

More reason to be very afraid.

No matter how rough things get, the world will step up to make you laugh. And this time we're laughing at someone else's near-tragedy, so that makes it all the more satisfying.

In a Twilight Zone part of Washington state, Charles and Linda Everson were driving along, minding their own business, when God struck their minivan with a falling cow. The Eversons were unhurt but the cow, which had fallen off a 200-foot cliff was quoted as saying it was "not his best day" before joining the choir invisible. The hood of the couple's minivan took a major hit.

I immediately thought of Mr. Everson, after changing his shorts, calling his insurance agent.

INSURANCE WEASEL: So, Mr. Everson, you say you hit a cow?

EVERSON: No, a cow hit us. Fell on us, actually.

WEASEL: Fell on you.

EVERSON: From a great height.

WEASEL: Uh-huh. And was there alcohol involved, Mr. Everson?

EVERSON: I don't know. What do cows usually drink, White Russians?

WEASEL: I don't think your policy covers flying bovines, Mr. Everson.

EVERSON: No, I didn't think so.

WEASEL: Nor sarcasm.

EVERSON: My rates will be going up, won't they?

WEASEL: Oh yes, of course, Mr. Everson. Way up.

EVERSON: Of course.

You know, sometimes, when you least expect it, the news is a gift. Let's hope your day is free of falling cows.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Once again, we turn to music.

I'm amazed that anyone still reads this blog as it's often as entertaining as an open wound, but if you're here, thanks.

As for why I continue to do this, airing our grief like a Times Square crazy hectoring skittish schools of horrified tourists, I don't know and I'd rather not explore it too deeply. But it helps.

Then there's the practical side. My family always knows what's going on, which is not always a good thing.

But for all those who do read this and have sent words of kindness and support, I am indebted.

I'm also indebted to the Durham County Public Library. I dropped by yesterday to pick up a book and while browsing found a box set of Atlantic Records. That's the house band up there - Duck Dunn, Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper and Al Jackson - and they're the guys you hear backing up everyone from Aretha to Otis Redding.

Last night I drove to the hospital listening to these guys. This morning I drove to work listening to these guys. Those big horns, that bass line, Aretha demanding just a little bit, well, it helped. Helped? It's a fucking miracle is what it is.

And it's enough to get me through this morning.

Music and friends.

I know that in the months ahead, I'll be turning to both.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

The last one here, please turn off the lights.

I was so angry on Friday.

It looks like we are now a nation that has legalized a practice we once prosecuted as a war crime.

It looks like our new Attorney General believes that the law applies to everyone but the president.

It looks like a war with Iran depends on which side of the bed the VP gets out of, because the Congress can't stop it, the people can't stop it and the media needs something bigger to cover than Britney.

But by Saturday, none of that made any difference. Fuck it. They'll do what they do, regardless of what I think.

Molly is back in the hospital. Each time is worse than the time before. She can't work. She has cut off her friends. She has quit the band. She's given up ever feeling right again.

My wife is a rock, but she is tired. I've lost hope. I am resigned to the family being broken, bankrupt and, in the end, I believe we'll still lose her.

In the meantime, we drive to work, we go to meetings, we write for pharmaceuticals that don't seem able to help any of us, we make meals we don't eat and we sleep without dreams.

We're going dark here for a few days. Maybe longer.

I knew you'd understand.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Most excellent news.

I'm a little late congratulating our friend, Olen Steinhauer, on his recent good news. For those who missed it, Olen's new book, The Tourist, has been optioned by Warner Brothers and some fella named George Clooney.

I don't know who this Clooney character is, but Olen's book just might make the guy a star.

And if you want to know whom to blame for this blog, it's Olen. So all you Bush apologists can send your hate mail and death threats to him. My box is full.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

This doesn't look good.

Here is an actual video of the Iraqi Army in training.

Anyone else get the feeling their hearts just aren't in this?