Archive for June, 2010

Cerebral Reckoning: “Watership Down”

June 30, 2010

“Bluebell had been saying that he knew the men hated us for raiding their crops and gardens, and Toadflax answered, “That wasn’t why they destroyed the warren.  It was just because we were in their way.  They killed us to suit themselves.””

(Adams, Richard.  Watership Down.  New York: Avon Books, 1972, p. 163)

The Hater Report #13

June 30, 2010

1)  A Missouri VA hospital may have infected more than 1,800 veterans with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and AIDS after routine dental appointments.  This story is for those of you out there that have always wondered what doctors really do when the anesthesia kicks in…filthy:  (LINK)

 2)  There’s nothing worse than getting caught looking like a complete nerd in public…watch this guy get hit in the face by a foul ball at the Yankees game while he talks on his cell phone.  The way his limp wrists flop towards his face in a shameful attempt at self-defense is almost too embarrassing to watch.  I’ll bet, that in the 24 hours since this incident, his wife left him, his kids changed their last name, and his parents “fell” off a cruise ship:  (LINK)

 3)  Unintentional hilarity.  Christianists vandalize an atheist billboard.  I’m not generally very good at the What Would Jesus Do Game, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t do that:  (LINK)

4)  “The next time your liberal friends ask you about the separation of church and state, ask them why they are Nazis,” said Republican Congressional Candidate Glen Urquhart earlier in June…that’s a real live quote from a real live adult running for an actual leadership position in our government…noted:  (LINK)

 5)  I would have never seen this coming…A Russian spy caught yesterday skipped bail in Cyprus and disappeared.  You mean to tell me that you let a highly trained, extremely capable, rugged-ass Russian spy out free on bail?  Yeah…I guess that makes sense:  (LINK)

Straight Heat of the Day: June 30th, 2010

June 30, 2010

Jerry Garcia Band…Deal…Shoreline Ampitheatre…9/1/1990…ranks among the pantheon of all-time great performances…rips the guitar…hold onto your face…

I Heart America

June 30, 2010

I love America.  We hate to lose…That’s the sign of a true winner.  It’s great to see that die-hard spirit in these times of uncertainty. 

You go Wiki Vandal!  Simple and direct.  Stick that subtle dagger in and twist…don’t even let them bask for a single second in their victory.  Remind them that although they may have won in the World Cup, we will always be superior. 

You sir, are a True American Patriot.

Open Season

June 30, 2010

I run into my uncle at a family party. He’s a boat enthusiast, lifelong angler, proud hunter, licensed gun dealer, unrepentant repeat criminal, and hands-down the worst human being I know.

Have I ever discussed with my brother the prospect of purchasing a gun from my uncle and immediately testing the weapon’s close-range capabilities? Well. That’s a drastic thing to do. You can’t just do that. Dangerous. Not very sporting.

“So what?” my brother interrupts when we’ve again reached this point in the whiskey-fuelled discussion. “It’s not like he ever worries about the proper way to do things.” He’s right. I want to tell him that I want the same thing he wants.

“It would be cowardly and wrong,” I say flatly as if reading aloud a headline written in a language I can pronounce but can’t comprehend. “It’s not how things should be done.”

My uncle and I are leaning against either side of a doorway. Folks in the next room finish singing “Happy Birthday” and a baby begins spraying its cake with spit.

“Up my way they’re stocking these lakes,” he’s telling me. My uncle is the only person I like talking to at family functions. We hit it off. “But people know the routes now. They know the time so they’re out there with their rods while the trucks are backing in. The guy dumps the fish and they all go at it.” Claps from the kitchen where the baby has drowned the last candle. “Now, these fish are hungry. They have no chance. These guys are pulling them back out of that lake before the truck is even in gear.” He leans in for the next part. This, it seems, is not to be missed. “Fuckers were just scooping them out,” he said, “with nets.”

“This is disgusting,” I say. In the kitchen the baby brings a fist down on the high chair’s tray. Cameras flash, catch his cake-black smile. My uncle says,

“It’s worse than that.”

Cerebral Reckoning: “A Confederacy of Dunces”

June 29, 2010

“Employers sense in me a denial of their values.  They FEAR me.  I suspect that they can see that I am forced to function in a century which I loathe.”

(O’Toole, John Kennedy.  A Confederacy of Dunces, New York:  Grove Press, 1980)

Straight Heat of the Day: June 29th, 2010

June 29, 2010

Gorillaz…Dirty Harry…I haven’t seen the exploitation of child labor work this well since Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”

The Hater Report #12

June 29, 2010

1)  Chris Brown wept like a young child while singing “Man in the Mirror” during last night’s BET Awards.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I was touched…literally, he punched me in the face for laughing at his moment of weakness…it made me cry…like Rhianna:   (LINK)

 2)  Lady Gaga dressed as a man for an upcoming Vogue Hommes Japan spread.  I don’t know how to feel.  As a woman, she is hideously offensive.  As a man, she just looks like every other Jewish guy I’ve ever met.  I’m torn about her dual personality.  I’m not sure what’s more unfortunate…Being an ugly chick or having no table manners:  (LINK)

 3)  The Greek population has staged another general strike…more than 9,000 people take to the streets to protest the hardships that they’ve experienced from not working.  I guess the old adage is true…you learn something new every day…I never realized that you could strike from a job you never had:  (LINK)

 4)  A Colorado woman crashed her car recently.  When questioned about the reason for her accident, she claimed that she was startled by the sudden appearance of a vampire in the middle of the road.  Yeah…I’ll bet that’s the reason…I’m sure it’s not because she’s a woman.  Get it?  Because women can’t drive?  Zing?:  (LINK)

 5)  Environmentalists are a dirty, hapless, clueless group of nerds.  Nobody disputes this…Nobody!  Check out their latest waste of time and effort.  A gumball machine that dispenses Seed Balls.  Now, disaffected youths can spend their parents’ money to ruin your yard with nothing more than a dollar and a limp-wristed toss of a nut ball.  Nice.  Really sticking it to the man…or the guy next door, whose children hate him and whose wife refuses to touch him, that takes pride in a well-kept lawn.  Fuck you hippies:   (LINK)

The Duke Rides Coach

June 29, 2010

The summer blockbuster season invariably sees me dragged out to increasingly distressing dreck, but because I am impelled by the bonds of blood or friendship I routinely find myself in the 3rd aisle of a megaplex, sitting next to some babbling Little Boy Blue and staring up Tom Cruise’s left nostril, silently questioning said bonds. Confronted with a CG-eyeful of jejune starlets, crunching, clashing metal, and continuous mind-numbing salvos, I get the overwhelming desire to go film-fetal: that is, return to the tender, nascent years of cinema and submerge myself in some black & white goodness.  However, summer does sometimes necessitate spectacle, and if I’m in the mood for sweeping vistas, harrowing chases and rugged heroes, I am wont to pull out a classic (if not THE classic) Western, Stagecoach.  John Ford’s 1939 film marks the birth of the 20+ year long John Wayne-John Ford working relationship; this was the film that made Wayne a star.  The Duke as Ringo Kid is given one of the best character introductions in cinema: once you witness that zoom upon his face, although that craggy mug he wears in later years is pretty much the quintessential face of Wayne branded in America’s collective consciousness, it’s like you’re seeing him for the first time, the Original Heroic Male.

The film’s merits don’t lie on Wayne alone though…those that are stuffed in the stagecoach wending perilously to its destination in spite of the dangers ahead are all richly human characters, and the script is steeped in that bygone blend of danger and lawlessness, old-school manners and honor.  John Ford’s direction is impeccable and fluid, the stunts are hair-raisingly impressive….and I daresay it is more entertaining at its core than any of the stolid epics served up at the local Regal.  Although the stagecoach is far from a safe haven for those along for the ride, the film makes for a fine cinematic sanctuary when I want to ease my soul during the height of the summer movie season.

Nicholson Baker’s “Vox”

June 28, 2010

(Roy Lichtenstein, Ohh…Alright)

A couple weekends ago I went to D.C. to hear a lecture on the fantastical in modern Japanese literature at the capital’s renowned independent bookstore, “Politics and Prose.”  When I am visiting a famous city, I like to contrive little moments of literary serendipity.  In Moscow, for example, I discovered the works of Victor Pelevin while browsing the shelves of the English language section of “Dom Knigi;” at “Shakespeare & Company,” in Paris, I came across a copy of Jean Genet’s “The Maids” in the attic library and read it cover-to-cover in one of the plush overstuffed chairs; and, in Sandy Cove, Dublin County, at the James Joyce Tower (where the first chapter of Ulysses takes place), I purchased a stamped copy of Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in the museum gift shop.  (As I said, these “serendipitous” moments could be contrived.)  I did not expect to have one such moment at “Politics and Prose.”  What other than Gore Vidal’s Washington, D.C. could be taken as emblematic of the city’s literary legacy?  I found the answer to my question tucked away in a corner of the reduced price bookshelves: Vox by Nicholson Baker.

If you’ve read the Starr Report, the voluminous document which recounts, along with his other alleged misdeeds, President Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, then you probably have heard of Vox.  Mr. Starr summarily refers to it as “a novel about phone sex by Nicholson Baker that, according to Ms. Lewinsky, she gave the President in March 1997.”  (Clinton, treating Lewinsky as he would a visiting head of state, gave her a special edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.  In a thank you note to “Mr. P.,” Lewinsky writes, “Whitman is so rich that one must read him like one tastes a fine wine or good cigar – take it in, roll it in your mouth, and savor it!”)  Flouting the subpoenas of two grand juries, Clinton failed to produce his copy of Vox, although the Report cites it in a list of books in his private study.  Could it be that the book was just so dear to him that he couldn’t bear to part with it?  Clinton was a Rhode’s scholar, after all, and Vox is something of a classic (although, as a classic of the erotica subgenre, it has enticements and charms other than its literary merit).  As for Ms. Lewinsky, she proves as lubricious yet literate in her choice of presents as she does in her assessment of Whitman.  “Lubricious yet literate” might aptly apply to Vox, as well, but before conflating the giver and gift, read this novel, savor it, and enjoy its sex, guilt-free.

When a writer, particularly a male one, writes about sex, he runs at least two risks: 1) Should he write the scene ham-handedly he may remind his reader of a little boy grinding together the erogenous zones of his sister’s Barbie dolls, or 2) should he write the scene perhaps too vividly he may turn the reader off with an impression of shady, prurient voyeurism.  Mr. Baker adroitly avoids both pitfalls by strictly limiting the narrator’s intrusion to the reportage of dialogue between two paying customers on a phone-sex hotline. (“‘What are you wearing?’ he asked.  She said, ‘I’m wearing a white shirt with little stars, green and black stars, on it, and pants, and socks the color of the green stars, and a pair of black sneakers I got for nine dollars.’”)  Since we are prying with our ears and not our eyes, we learn no more about them (and what they are doing) than they consent to share with each other.  That is not to say that they don’t share quite a bit.  They do, everything from their pet names for the opposite sex’s anatomy (Jim calls breasts “frans.”) and the random mental images that crop up when they come (such as, in Abby’s case, the great seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) to their most vivid fantasies and experiences.  While even a modern erotica urtext like Pauline Réage’s The Story of O can be boring, Vox never is, probably because its protagonists are subtly yet strongly drawn, and the stories that they tell are quirkily playful, dramatically taut and deliciously sexy.  Above all else, Jim and Abby are so inherently likable that I exalted in their good fortune and practically rooted them on towards orgasm:

“This is a miracle,” he said.

“It’s just a telephone conversation.”

“It’s a telephone conversation I want to have.  I love the telephone.”

If I were a love-doctor, I would recommend that you take a cue from Bill and Monica, read Vox, and learn to love the telephone, too.

Straight Heat of the Day: June 28th, 2010

June 28, 2010

Tower of Power…”What is Hip?”…I was…until I got caught dancing alone in my living room to this dripping funk…

The Hater Report #11

June 28, 2010

1)  The Montana GOP has launched a website proclaiming their steadfast determination to keep homosexual acts illegal.  I never realized that singing along to Lady Gaga obnoxiously while driving a yellow convertible with a Chihuahua on your lap was offensive enough to necessitate an entire plank of a political platform:  (LINK)

 2)  Russian spies captured!  At first I was outraged…How dare they undermine American security for the benefit of the Great Red Devil?  Turns out my anger was misplaced…they were only filming “Spies Like Us 2,” a light-hearted comedy about a couple of bumbling Russians from the borderlands of Siberia scouring America for some of our most precious secrets…like, how to heat up soup:  (LINK)

3)  Gun rights have been expanded.  I guess I’m out of the loop on the whole firearms front, but I was under the impression that our gun rights were already pretty well expanded…I mean, you can walk into any Midwestern Walmart and leave with an assault rifle, submachine gun, automatic pistol, and .50 caliber sniper rifle.  What more could you possibly need?  If you can’t protect your family with an arsenal like this than you probably aren’t a real man so you shouldn’t be allowed to own guns in the first place…girls can’t buy guns, can they?  Not in America at least:  (LINK)

 4)  Kagan is in the hot seat as the Supreme Court confirmation hearings get under way…it’s a truly historical moment!  I’m wondering how he’s handling this pressure.  If I was that dude, I would be totally off my game…what with everyone calling me a lesbian for the past month and a half…people can be so cruel!:    (LINK)

Precious Moments

June 28, 2010

Dots and dark slashes of dried blood smeared the sidewalk, a madman’s idea of Morse code spluttering from the shattered first-floor window to the top of the subway steps a block away. Instantly, I was jealous; this scatter plot proved that at least one bastard’s day, however squalid, however publicly painful, had a story inside it, a story, perhaps, about the time he learned something vital about himself.

“Innocence is a kind of insanity,” reflects Fowler in Graham Greene’s The Quiet American. Certain realities, particular avenues of thought, are closed to he of too-clean hands. I wonder if, more than any other, it’s this strain of insanity that most plagues my writing; I’ve committed too few offenses or just not enough of the right kind. My petty transgressions threw too weak a light, taught me nothing of myself, and what’s needed now to cure my near-complete ignorance of the human heart are a dozen grade-A screw-ups.

Otherwise, I’m in the same position as John Banville’s narrator in Ghosts: “…I did one thing while thinking another and in this welter of difference I did not know what I was. How then was I to be expected to know what others are, to imagine them so vividly as to make them quicken into a sort of life?”

Well, my justification for misbehavior contains quotes from a famous British writer and a naturally superior Irish one, which is a lot more than most wretches can boast.  I’ll have it folded in my back pocket should I one day need to read it to the transit police to explain how I came to be smiling–broadly, knowingly–and gumming up their subway seats with blood.

Straight Heat of the Day Encore: June 25th, 2010

June 25, 2010

The White Stripes, Jolene…

Dolly Parton, Jolene…

Ha…a great song is a great song…as I said below…context is irrelevant

Cerebral Reckoning: “Rejection”

June 25, 2010

When I meet a pretty girl and beg her: “Be so good as to come with me,” and she walks past without a word, this is what she means to say:

“You are no Duke with a famous name, no broad American with a Red Indian figure, level, brooding eyes and a skin tempered by the air of the prairies and the rivers that flow through them, you have never journeyed to the seven seas and voyaged on them wherever they may be, I don’t know where, so why, pray, should a pretty girl like myself go with you?”

“You forget that no automobile swings you through the street in long thrusts; I see no gentlemen escorting you in a close half-circle, pressing on your skirts from behind and murmuring blessings on your head; your breasts are well laced into you bodice, but your thighs and hips make up for that restraint; you are wearing a taffeta dress with a pleated skirt such as delighted all of us last autumn, and yet you smile–inviting mortal danger–from time to time.”

“Yes, we’re both in the right, and to keep us from being irrevocably aware of it, hadn’t we better just go our separate ways home?”

(Kafka, Franz.  The Complete Stories, New York:  Schocken Books, 1971)

Straight Heat of the Day: June 25th, 2010

June 25, 2010

Which do you prefer?  It’s all a matter of taste as the song itself is undeniably perfect…

Bill Monroe, Wayfaring Stranger…I’ll be happy if I’m half this cool at half his age…

Jack White, Wayfaring Stranger…Smooth White Brotha…

Tim Eriksen, Wayfaring Stranger…I’m shocked every time he opens his mouth…

Vote…decide…make a difference…

The Hater Report #10

June 25, 2010

1)  Cops taser an 86 year old, disabled grandmother in her bed.  The overweight officer claimed that she took an aggressive posture…also known as a grand mal seizure.  That’ll learn her to break the law / die in front of cops:  (LINK)

2)  Couple tries to sell their 6-month old baby for $25 in front of a Walmart.  White Trash gone wild.  While the bargain basement price was shocking, I was more surprised to learn that they were high on methamphetamine:  (LINK)

3)  Greatest ad campaign ever…mocking old people is fun because it’s not only allowed, it’s encouraged…sort of like making fun of midgets:  (LINK)

4)   A cat recently received a pair of bionic legs…despite it’s obvious handicap and corresponding depreciation in value, asshole cat still looks down on its owners with disdain and disrespect…terrible creature:  (LINK)

5)  North Korea was dominated at the World Cup.  I wonder if their pitiful play has anything to do with the fact that all of their players are on the verge of starvation and suffering from extreme malnourishment due to lack of industry and governmental infrastructure:  (LINK)

Caul of the Wild

June 25, 2010

Everyone knows a baby’s primary use is to infuse pale and purposeless existences with meaning. But, Did You Know? Babies have lots of other uses. Suggested use #1:

BOOKMARK

Cerebral Reckoning: “Four Postures of Death”

June 24, 2010

He said, “Dance for me.” And he said
“You are too beautiful for the wind
To pick at or the sun to burn.” He said
“I am a poor tattered thing, but not unkind
To the sad dancer and the dancing dead.”

(Sidney Keyes, Four Postures of Death)

Straight Heat: June 24th, 2010

June 24, 2010

Otis Redding…Prime Time 1967…Tears the roof off the Monterey Pop Festival…Dance to that you dirty hippies…

The Us by Joan Houlihan

June 24, 2010

"The Us was and then" by M.Diaz, mixed media collage

In this string of narrative poems, Joan Houlihan gifts an imagined tribe with English. The language the nomads return to us is begrimed, streaked with sweat, stinking of smoke, wild of eye, and three-fourths feral.  “Ice-taught, bit by sun’s low arc,” the tribe foots a hard route and gives rise to a poetry as rough and exciting as an arrowhead clawed free from a patch of land we all thought had been picked over and parceled out.

Craftwork abounds. Houlihan looses iambs as taut as skin and with all the rum-pum of a tribal drum (“A smoke struck high on a night’s half-light….”) and sometimes steers the poems into rhymes so tidy you’d sing them in the nursery if only they weren’t about, say, the final hours of fetid, fly-festooned livestock (“…hog and cow, sheep and fowl / bled black and brayed to blue– / wide-eyed and the light gone through.”) Can’t bed down baby with that one, but the point remains.

Running through each of these poems is a vein of ungrammatical speech, all of it arrestingly nascent and novel. When some wronged horses prove uncooperative, the tribe tells us, “Thems sickened to us. All the light went out / inside thems coats.” Impossible not to read aloud a language so textured and freshly-forged, so don’t resist. Intone alone in your bedroom. Clear yourself some space on the subway.

Embark. Houlihan’s wanderers will have your heart louding while they’re here, colding like a cookfire forgotten once they’re gone.

Cerebral Reckoning: “The Teachings of Don Juan”

June 24, 2010

“A man goes to knowledge as he goes to war, wide-awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance.  Going to knowledge or going to war in any other manner is a mistake, and whoever makes it will live to regret his steps.”

(Castaneda, Carlos. The Teachings of Don Juan:  A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. Berkeley:  University of California Press, 1969)

Bret Easton Ellis’ “Imperial Bedrooms”

June 24, 2010

Imperial Bedrooms is a lot like one of the upmarket cars which appear throughout its pages; it’s hard and fast, sleek and shiny, and, to the reader well-versed in the oeuvre of Ellis, sinfully comfortable.  In this slim volume, B.E.E. returns his cool gaze to the cast of Less Than Zero with his trademarked first person present tense.  (His previous novel, Lunar Park, had bucked this trend and employed the past tense in the style of a mock-memoir.)  Clay, the sexually omnivorous college boy and narrator of the 1985 debut, has become a sexually omnivorous bicoastal screenwriter in this 2010 sequel.  His high school sweetheart, Blair, is married to Trent, the male model who, having screened a snuff film in Zero, has parlayed this interest into a successful career in the movie industry.  Meanwhile, Clay’s former best friend, Julian, has kicked the smack habit and gone from pimped to pimping, while Rip, Julian’s former dealer, has become a procurer himself.  In homage to Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles, Ellis sets up a triangular conflict between Clay, Julian and Rip with a femme fatale at the center of it.  This plot device engenders many earnest entreaties on the part of Clay that are met – tiresomely – only with cryptic answers.  An occasional gothic accent or noirish element prevents the reader’s attention from wandering too far, but the novel’s middle action is its definite soft spot.  With the exception of a short bull session modeled after those of Patrick Bateman and his buddies, it is devoid of the pitch-perfect dialogue and keen social satire that enlivened The Rules of Attraction, American Psycho and Glamorama.  Far more interesting are the introduction and denouement, the latter being as disturbing as anything in contemporary fiction.  The former, from the first sentence, takes an intriguing metafictional tact: “They had made a movie about us,” Clay says, one that was, “surprisingly conservative despite its surface immorality.”  He opines, somewhat ironically, that “[Julian] had to be punished for all his sins,” and thus was killed off in the film adaptation.  The Clay of Imperial Bedrooms even goes so far as to criticize “the first book [italics mine] which depicted [him] as an inarticulate zombie.”  With this cunning legerdemain, Ellis establishes the more current Clay as the “real” one and Bedrooms as the authoritative text; what make this more than just a piece of literary showmanship are the final chapters, which offer a chilling revelation of Clay’s true character in the swift, merciless strokes that are vintage Ellis.

Straight Heat: June 23rd, 2010

June 24, 2010

Simian Mobile Disco…I Believe…this is about as cool as Central Asia will ever look…enjoy it while it lasts…