Thursday, May 24, 2007

Things That Make People Not Dogs


Mutts like me
and mutts like you
belong locked up in the city zoo.
We are feared
by the status quo
and every decent human being you and I know.
Cause we're a threat
to their liberties,
from the freedom of expression to the freedom to be free.
Yes, mutts like you
and mutts like me
are the single greatest threat to humanity.


I was told
long ago
that learning from your feelings can really get old
when mother would cry
from morning till night
and father wouldn't hug her cause it didn't seem right.
At first I cried,
but then I lied
about all the pain I had brewing inside.
Now here I am,
away from my home,
learning from the feeling of being alone.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

This is the picture that adorns the cover of the hardback version of the second volume of William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill--The Last Lion.

This volume is subtitled "Alone: 1932-1940".

The 'Alone' portion of that subtitle means a good deal to me at this particular point in my life. I picked this book up again a few days ago after a long hiatus. When last I had left it, Churchill was about to make what many consider his gravest political blunder by standing with Edward VIII during the abdication crisis of 1936.

Earlier this year, I had finished the first volume, "Visions Of Glory: 1874-1932" and plunged straightaway into the second with no less enthusiasm. It's very revealing that the second volume is nearly as long as the first yet encompasses only eight years. But what an eight years they were. . .

Eight years which saw Churchill--in the beginning at least--truly by himself, cut off from party affiliation, cast out into his political wilderness. Eight years where he was often the lone voice in Parliament, the lone voice in England, even the lone voice in Continental Europe. Eight years where he wrote articles, gave speeches, issued broadcasts and urged a nation to rearm against the man with the Charlie Chaplin mustache who wanted more land to bury more Jews.

Churchill was one of the greatest men that ever lived.

Until now, apparently.

I was waiting for a bus in the upper Haight this afternoon, reading (and feeling) "Alone", when a man walked past the bench where I was sitting and, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him stop and cock his head sideways to get a look at the cover. At the time, I wasn't really in the mood to be disturbed. I've been a little emotionally fragile lately. Not quite Churchillian to be "emotionally fragile", I suppose, but then again, I am in California. Soon I notice him leave and I look up to follow his departure.

Then he turns around. One of those graying baby boomers that the Chronicle is celebrating in their "Summer of Love: 40 Years Later" series this week. The guy strolls up: "Hey, who wrote that Churchill book you're reading?"

"William Manchester."

The guy smiles. He's got on an orange fleece and khakis, clothes that people who smile a lot wear. You know, the kind of people who believe in rainbows. So he says, "Manchester. Didn't he write a book on the Kennedys?"

So now I'm not sure if he's a Winston Churchill fan like myself or if he just likes William Manchester because he wrote a book on the Kennedys. In other words, is his only connection to Winston Churchill knowing that an author of a book on the Kennedys also wrote a book on Churchill? Not much in the way of exciting conversation to be had in that case.

But I humor him anyway. I flip to the "Books by William Manchester" page at the beginning. "Well, let's see," The guy sits down, still smiling. "Yeah, it looks like he did one called 'Portrait of a President: John F. Kennedy in Profile'".

Then he says, "You know, Churchill was a reactionary."

I didn't react to this. Reactionary could mean a lot of things, I reasoned. Yes, Churchill "reacted" against the news that Nazis were building concentration camps and he "reacted" against the government of his own country who had no desire to do anything about it. So yes, he was a reactionary.

I offer this instead, "Well, he thrived in opposition. That's when his star shone the brightest. He was known for being in the opposition."

I'm interrupted, "He wasn't ALWAYS in the opposition." Things are getting creepy now. At this point, I'm starting to get that postmodern San Francisco vibe. He continues, "Yeah, he was in the opposition with World War II, sure--"

Well, at least he's aware of that important fact. But then, right before I breathe a sigh of relief knowing that he's at least heard of World War II, he drops the mask and lets me have it.

"You know," he says conspiratorily, "Churchill was a right-winger."

My heart pounds, my blood boils.

He continues, "It's true. He was into that whole colonialism thing."

That's it. "Listen, you asshole," I begin, "this man singlehandedly saved Western Civilization, which, despite all the slander, is still something far, far superior to you or I. Now get the fuck out of my face."

He does. He no longer has anything to fight for. He's said his piece. And I've said mine. I am not in the mood for bullshit anymore. Three years ago, I was naive. I would have tried reasoning with him. But I am exhausted. And the bullshit today is the thickest it's ever been. I can no longer take it.

When a stranger comes up and harrasses you for what's on the cover of a book you're reading and plays a little game of "look how quickly I can emasculate a real-life historical hero into a neutered tidbit of morally relativistic small talk", there just simply isn't room for kindness anymore.

He does get the last word in, however, as he's rounding the corner: "Fascist!"

Meet the new stormtroopers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Chapter 14, Feminism

Reason: It is wrong to mistreat women.
Proposed Action: Fight people who mistreat women.

From the SF Chronicle:

"A slender, black-haired girl is dragged in a headlock through a braying mob of men. Within seconds, she is on the ground in a fetal position, covering her head in her arms in a futile attempt to fend off a shower of stones. Someone slams a concrete block onto the back of her head. A river of blood oozes from beneath her long, tangled hair. The girl stops moving, but the kicks and the rocks keep coming, as do the victorious shouts of the men delivering them."

Some dive bar in Alabama? A shopping mall in Montana? Not quite. It's in Iraq.

So how is the West responding?

"Well, I heard the seventeen-year old chick's uncle wanted her killed and he was a Yazidi which is a type of Kurd and I'm not saying this is right or anything, but if Sadam Hussein were still in power, he'd be gassing off the Kurds and maybe this wouldn't have happened. . .so you gotta ask yourself, isn't this really America's fault in a lot of ways?"

Not quite. If Sadam Hussein were still in power, she would have been killed anyway for being a Kurd. This is the diseased babble that can only flourish in an Age Without Reason, which is where you and I live.

Reason has told us that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But in this day and age, it's not the smartest, deepest, sexiest distance with the greatest chance of getting on TV, winning an academy award, or even receiving a diploma. Instead of going from A to B, the Age Without Reason goes from A to Z to D to 14 to P to pl to 007 to 1984 and THEN to B.

Dinosaurs like myself who enjoy the convenience of simply going from A to B arrive at the same conclusion as these acrobats of mental gymnastics. We both arrive at B. That is, we can both at least utter the following truth: "It is NOT a good thing when a seventeen-year old girl is beaten to death publicly." Regardless, they still have mentally travelled a good deal further than you or I have. Like one of those Family Circus footprint maps, they've been under the swingset, into and out of the school, up the flagpole, and around and around the basketball court.

We might say, "Gosh, what took you so long to get here?" Perhaps we laugh politely at their folly and explain for future reference that there's a nice little shortcut via common sense. And then we shake hands and laugh at the craziness of it all and finally get a little bit of that long sought-after world peace once Logic and Reason impose themselves again on the misguided minds of our present age.

This would be nice, but it's difficult to accomplish for two reasons:

1) The misguided minds are often assholes. They go through this whole slippery, winding, pointless path of trying to figure out who owned the company that purchased the steel that went to make the weapons that were used by America and then later sold to another corporation which had ties with big oil in Iraq which had a population of Kurds like the ones that stoned this girl to death. And then they stick their noses in the air and, with a haughty huff, utter the most inane of modern refrains, "So who's really doing the killing?"

This doesn't provide us with much of a psychological impetus to patiently explain to them the values of possessing good, strong common sense.

2) Not to mention that the subject matter these days is graver than ever. This isn't a disagreement over the concept of "art for art's sake" or whether or not the canon of classical literature is exclusionary in its selection. It's a simple question: "How do you personally feel about a culture that would sanction the public stoning of a girl who wouldn't even be old enough to vote in America just because she married outside of her religion/sect?" The answer should be clear. Unfortunately, it's not for many people.

I used to think multiculturalism just wanted to make us stupid. I never dreamed it wanted to murder us, too.

For those of us who haven't travelled as far in arriving at point B from point A, our heads aren't necessarily cluttered with the mundane rhetoric of past American atrocities and really important essays on the relationship of big oil to US foreign policy when it comes to the question of what to do with the motherfucking scumbag cocksuckers that would publicly beat to death a seventeen year old girl.

You kill them.

You kill all of them you can. And you do not apologize for killing. And you do not form "human rights commissions" to examine the statistics. And you definitely do not look for root causes in the larger geopolitical sphere for why these backwards people are so goddamn murderous. You do not pin the blame on Christians from the 1100s, Americans from the 1800s, or Jews from the 1890s to the present.

You pin it on the slimy cocksuckers with the cinderblocks; you pin it on the drooling pigs shouting with glee as a young girl's life slips away; you pin it on the psychotic dark-ages imams who sanction it from the mosques; and you may even have to pin it on any religion that has yet to go through a), a reformation, b) a renaissance, and c) an enlightenment.

If you really believe in helping the poor, backwards, ignorant and "exploited" people of Iraq, why not start by offering them the individuality and the freedom essential to helping themselves? Primarily, the concept of choice. If America and Israel and the West and Christianity and Big Oil and, lest we forget, George W. Bush, are truly to blame for everything wrong in the Middle East--then there is no choice. As impossible as it sounds, we have now "understood" the motivations of the murderous mob.

They become the EFFECT. We become the CAUSE. This is the crux of modern morality--which cleverly calls itself "ethics" so as not to piss anyone off.

On the other hand, using common sense, we travel very quickly from A to B and arrive at moral decision. In this case, A) We don't believe in mistreatment of women, therefore B) We will fight with whatever means--INCLUDING VIOLENCE--to prevent women from being mistreated. We regard this as a moral obligation, an objective moral truth, a moral universal, a moral absolute.

(You don't hear the word "moral" too much in my circles. It's considered an "unethical" word.)

Ethics are different. Postmodern ethics, to be specific. In the classical sense, ethics and morality were not the mutually exclusive terms they are in the Age Without Reason. Postmodern ethics involves beginning at point A and then embarking on a circuitous road of cherry-picked history, cultural relativism, political appeasement, and bumper stickers. By the time postmodern ethics arrive at point B, it's employed cherry-picked history to equate the Crusades (1095 a.d.-1291 a.d.) with fundamentalist Islamic-sanctioned honor killings (652 a.d.-present); it's used cultural relativism to both chastise America's involvement in Iraq and excuse cracking a young girl's skull open on the streets; and because of these, they are now physically, mentally, and morally weakened enough to accept the possibility of NEVER fighting for ANY cause whatsoever and therefore engage in the penultimate act of political appeasement--a heavily stigmatized term (especially following the years 1939-1945) which now goes under the slightly more appealing labels of "multiculturalism", "interfaith dialogue", and "bipartisan efforts".

Following this is the quintessential ethical statement of our times. What do you get for going over the river and through the woods mentally when it would be so much easier to--at the very least--simply HATE the people that would smash a cinderblock over a 17-year old girl's head? After the cherry-picked history, the cultural relativism, and the political appeasement, how can you make a difference in the lives of young Iraqi women who might want to shed their cultural shackles once and for all? What can we, as the freest nation on earth do to improve the quality of life the world over? We make an ETHICAL STATEMENT!

We put a bumper sticker on our car. Things like: "9-11 Was An Inside Job", "Buck Fush", "Mean People Suck"

Or, if we're brave, "There Is No Excuse For Domestic Violence".

Or, braver than that, "There Is No Excuse For Honor Killings."

Or, braver still, "There Is No Excuse For Islamic-Sanctioned Honor Killings"

"Nah, I don't want to upset anybody's ethnic sensitivities or anything like that. I think I'll stick with 'Hatred Is NOT A Family Value'. That's not so specific. Anyway, people might think I'm talking about Christian America. It's a win-win situation. Where's my iPod, by the way. . .I gotta get down to Victoria's Secret to boycott their Israeli-made bras."

But when you just go from point A to point B, your head and heart are clear. Clear enough to utterly despise one way of life as opposed to another. Clear enough to recognize your own way of life as superior over another. Clear enough to choose one instead of another. Discriminating thought--(a term even more troubling to some than "morality")--is, after all, the basis of Western Civilization, for it is the bedrock of human(e) reason.

For the misguided minds, it is the length of their journey, the prodigious acrobatics they have performed in order to arrive at point B from point A. The extent of their convolution is directly proportional to their own sense of ethics. For example, if they believe that a missile was fired at the Pentagon and the passengers from United 93 actually survived and were ushered away by government agents simply because a 22-year old kid who made a movie on a laptop said so--they can then regard themselves as more "ethical" than somebody who might suggest that radical Islam might have played a bigger factor on that day.

They do this because theirs are the misguided minds that shape the colorless blob that is the Age Without Reason. An entire population no longer possessing the basic human attributes of Rational Thought.

Reason dictates our morality. Our morality, shaped by our reason, says we should hate people who would religiously sanction the stoning of a young girl. We should fight people who would religiously sanction the stoning of a young girl. And if we have to, we will also kill people who would religiously sanction the stoning of a young girl.

And while you're at it, smile as you're killing. You're doing a good thing--not just for the cause of feminism, but for freedom from religious tyranny, for freedom itself, for justice, and--ultimately--for peace.

It's no big mystery, if anyone would like to take a quick excursion from point A to point B right now: Any culture in 2007 that would sanction the public stoning of a teenage girl for the crime of apostasy, would probably not respond effectively to Logic and Reason anyway.

And that is one of the great perks of living in an Age of Reason: Knowing at what point reason can accomplish no more. If you cannot reach this point, you can never be a person of reason. No matter how many platitudes of "let's just try reasoning with these people" you may utter. It doesn't matter how many historical connections you establish, it doesn't matter what ethnic and religious sensitivities you're trying to respect, none of this matters. If you cannot envision the truth that your reasoning powers must encompass the possibility that certain peoples at certain points in time cannot be reasoned with, you are utterly insane.

And therefore cannot be reasoned with.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


I've always enjoyed interrogation. I know interrogation isn't something that's generally considered enjoyable and that some people complain that we live in a police state and all. . .but, I don't know. . .I've always found interrogation to be kind of fun.

First, they put a big white light on you and then everybody smokes. Which is kind of cool. Living in the Bay Area, it's neat to be in a place that allows smoking. And then comes my favorite part of interrogation--the questions!

"What's your name?"

"Florence fucking Nightingale, now give me a cigarette."

And so they give you a cigarette because, despite their job, they're really nice people. I usually take my time lighting it and pretend that I'm a combination of Mickey Rourke and Emma Thompson--half-American, half-British, half-male, half-female, half-80s, half-90s. Always keep 'em guessing, that's my motto.

"Now, dickhead, let's try it again. What's your name?"

"Mickey Thompson."

"All right, Mickey--"

"I mean, it's Emma Rourke." If they go for this, I know I can have a lot of fun with them, because they're obviously pretty stupid.

"All right, Emma, where you from. . ."

"London, New York."

"And when were you born?"

"September 16th, 1956 and April 15th, 1959." I know a LOT of movie trivia.

"Is there something you're not telling us?"

"Yeah--fuck you. I should have been telling you that all along." And then I get all excited about my Miranda rights or some other bullshit. Maybe I start complaining about the weather, who knows. . .? But I stand up regardless and slam my palms down on the table and scream with the pride of Braveheart: "I know I get one phone call!"

"You already had it."

"Can I have another?" The answer is no, because that's actually specified somewhere in my rights. At least that's what they tell me. You know, the "only one" phone call rule. You know why they have that rule? Cause they're scared, man. They're scared they're going to lose their precious suspect with that one extra phone call. And who would that extra phone call be to if I did have it, I always wonder? Well, let's say I call one friend and he doesn't want to come bail me out. With an extra phone call, I could call another friend to bail me out. I tell him that the other friend didn't want to bail me out so the current friend has a greater impetus to be the "good" friend as opposed to the "bad" friend. I've established a polarity at this point and the polarity proves to work in my benefit. The "good" friend comes down to bail me out and we talk shit about the "bad" friend as we're on our way to commit another crime against the police state. Fucking police state.

It's also a faith thing as well. Let me explain what I mean by faith. When I say to Chad, for example, "I only get one phone call, Chad, so could you be sure to tell Jonah to look up the number of that lawyer Steve set me up with in LA--I think it was Mike somebody--and then have Jonah tell Mike to call Steve and tell Steve to relay the information to my parents, because I'm pretty sure they'll get visitation rights just in case they don't let me bail out of here tonight", this is an act of faith.

Because after this litany, you hang up. And start to worry. Worries that only true devoted faith in some sort of higher power can calm. Did I communicate my needs to Chad clearly and succinctly? Was there any excess narrative that could have been avoided? I start thinking back to my creative writing classes at community college and how I always had a problem with "telling and not showing".

But on the phone, you have to tell things. There's not much you can show over the phone. You can't "emote" that you need Jonah to get a number for Michael; you can't use "body language" to convey that Steve needs to talk to your parents; there's no "inner voice" that needs to "send out feelers" concerning bail or any of that stuff. Sometimes in life you do have to tell and not show. Your one phone call is one of those times.

You also have to tell and not show during interrogation. At least that's what the police prefer.

They snarl, "Look, fucko, stop interpretive dancing and just tell us--why'd you do it?"

And that's a really hard question to answer, and I'll tell you why. Let's say you did do it. You don't want them to think you did it. So you say, "I didn't!" It just naturally falls out off your mouth.

Now let's say you didn't do it. That's when you pause and start to think about how to say "I didn't!" in such a way that convinces them that you really didn't do it. As you can see, flat-out lying is mentally the easier of two choices. That's why it's always important to just go ahead and do it. I mean, you'll probably spend more time in jail if you did do it whether or not you said you did it or didn't do it. But if you want to fully enjoy the interrogation experience without worrying; if you're going to have to convince the police that you really didn't do it, my advice is to just do it, have your stock response handy, lean back and have another cigarette. Seriously, I've committed a lot of crimes and I've been arrested for every one of them--as soon as I say "I didn't", I'm done.

"I didn't."

"Bullshit, you lying fucko!" They never make it easy. Anybody else--a priest, a rabbi, an imam--you say you didn't blow up a pizza parlor, that's it. What can they say? He said he didn't do it, he didn't do it. That's enough for me.

But the police. . .they're what I call real Doubting Thomases. Eternal skeptics. Something out of a Montaigne essay. There's a certain lack of faith in human nature that seems to accompany police work. And that's the price of living in a police state--nobody believes in sincerity anymore.

"Now what reason do you have to doubt me? Isn't 'I didn't' enough?"

And this is one of the definite highlights of being interrogated for a crime that you actually did commit: Every subsequent statement of protest from your end actually becomes easier instead of more difficult to make. Most of you would think the sheer exhaustion of having to feign innocence over and over again would wear you down after awhile. Not so, not so. You see, the key to freedom is inside you all along. If you're able to convince YOURSELF with each subsequent statement of protest that you really didn't do it--well, my friend, you can move mountains. Who cares if you're innocent as long as you believe you're innocent? You don't need approval from others. Although it is nice to get it from the cops when it counts. And if you keep on believing your own falsehoods, you might even get home in time to watch Jeopardy. Persistence, persistence, persistence.

"Listen," I say, taking a meaningful slow drag off my INDOORS :) cigarette, "we need to talk. . .I mean, you expect me to open up and tell you how I feel about this horrible mess with the bodies and blood and brains everywhere. This is very painful to me, too. And you start off with--I don't even want to call it a question, it's more like, well, an accusation--'why did you do it'? I mean, first off, that hurts. And I know you're mad and I know you're probably trying to steel yourself up and make yourself strong just so you can avoid being hurt yourself. So I'm not blaming you. It is sad when women and children are murdered and there's a lot that you and I both need to process right now so we can work our way out of this and hopefully emerge as better people. It may not seem like it now, I grant you. It may seem like you're never going to find the guy who actually committed this horrible crime. So I understand that for you I represent a means to an end. Some sort of closure. But I'll tell you something guys, honestly and openly, I need closure, too. But it has to be the right closure. And if you guys book me on this charge, you're not going to get closure. It may seem like closure, but if you look hard, there's still some openure around that closure. So my question to you is--and I want you to answer this as yourselves, not as policemen--this doesn't always have to be about YOUR career, you know--but you say you want to find the RIGHT guy. Well. . ." (If I'm really into it, I might start to choke up here)." . .what if I'm not Mr. Right?"

Their heart is broken. I'm breaking up with them. They know it. I don't want to hurt them, but I need my personal space. A big personal space far away from this jail, back home, watching Jeopardy.

Oh, no, they're weeping. Those aren't the strong men that slammed me down in this chair a few minutes ago and called me a long-haired murdering faggot, are they? They quiver like jelly. Emotionally, they're wrecked. They desparately need somebody to talk to--

And guess what? That would be me.

And that, my friends, is absolutely the best part of interrogation, bar none!

The grand coup! The tables have turned!

I'm the interrogator now.

". . .I mean, why would you think I did it in the first place. . .?"

Sob, sob


". . .do you think the relationship ended because of issues of growth and personal change. . .?"

Cry, cry


". . .what are you afraid you'll find if you look inside at the person that you'll become if you allow yourself to grow and change and develop as an individual who has their own likes and dislikes. . ."

Discussion, discussion


Interrogation: The World Series Of Persuasive Rhetoric

I hope you'll try it. I won't feel so alone. Nobody else seems to like it. I try to change and. . .I'm still the same.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

This Is What The World Sounds Like Without Bullshit

From the Australian prime minister, John Howard

"Immigrants, not Australians, must adapt. Take it or leave it. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Bali, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Australians. . .however, the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the 'politically correct' crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others. I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to Australia. . .

"However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand. . .this idea of Australia being a multi-cultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. And as Australians, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle. . .

"This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom. . .

"We speak mainly English, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society, learn the language. . .

"Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture. . .

"We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why. All we ask is that you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us. . .

"If the Southern Cross offends you, or you don't like 'A Fair Go', then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. By all means, keep your culture, but do not force it on others.

"This is our country, our land, and our lifestyle, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all of this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about our flag, our pledge, our Christian beliefs, or our way of life, I highly encourage you to take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, 'the right to leave'. . .

"If you aren't happy here, then leave. We didn't force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country you accepted."

All I can say in return is--


Friday, May 11, 2007

Torah Amos

A long time ago, back when I still lived in Missouri, my younger sister was getting very heavily involved in the parables and sermons of a young female minister by the name of Tori Amos.

Periodically, emanating from her room I used to hear something along the lines of--

"Crucify. . .blah, blah, blah. . .crucify. . .silent all these years. . .blah, blah, blah. . .crucify. . .Jesus. . .rape. . .blah, blah, blah"--(I'm not sure if those are the actual lyrics or not, but I think it pretty much sums up the overall thematic content of Ms. Amos' ouvre).

So I used to jest with my sister that Ms. Amos was going to start a new fad wherein teenage girls couldn't wait to be the first ones on their block to get raped. That way they could really understand the lyrics firsthand. I envisioned new cliques forming which saw the more popular teen girls sneaking cigarettes between classes and whispering elitist barbs to each other like "Heather's such a poseur. You can tell she hasn't been raped."

I myself felt the cultural reverberations of Amosmania in my early dating years. I'd end up at a girl's house, have a congenial introduction and friendly chat with her parents (parents have always loved me, god knows why), and end up in the girl's bedroom, sitting on the corner of a heavily-quilted poster bed, flanked at its headboard by a forbidding phalanx of Care Bears and Cabbage Patch kids. After a brief interchange of "I like that sparkly thing hanging from the light" and "oh, I got that at Six Flags on my 4-H trip", she pops the question.

It's a question all of us in this situation have had to answer at some point. It's not an easy question to answer. There are many different ways one could tackle this question. Physiologically, your throat gets dry and you break into a cold sweat; psychologically, your first reaction is to run far, far away.

The question is: "Do you want to see my photo album?"

The answer is always: "No."

But, like most of us who depart from the Kantian ethical notion of 'honesty for honesty's sake' in favor of social appeasement or, at the very least, a potential goodnight kiss, the answer that is spoken out loud, in direct contradiction of that which is instinctually thought and regarded as true, is always: "Sure."

The hole has been dug. You jump in. She produces the photo album. And it's filled with all sorts of photos. Photos of men, photos of women, photos of children, and photos of bland and androgynous babies. She rests for awhile on a page containing four photos of one such baby and goes to great lengths in her narration.

"This is my sister's baby, Barbasol--(names have been changed for dramatic purposes)--Oh, my god, he's such an amazing baby! He's 9 months old, but he already knows how to gargle. He's so smart, too. He can move all ten of his fingers without using his hands!"

Babies are always the hardest photos to feign interest in, especially if you have a pair of eyes. Because empirically, that photo is always going to be a photo of a baby--a bald, fleshy, pink-toned (I've never dated interracially. . .[yet!]) drooling glob of human potential--with the emphasis on "potential". Regardless, she continues to assign epithets of intelligence and brilliance to what appears to be an ordinary and interchangeable human baby. If you allowed yourself to truly entertain her praise of this infant as entirely legitimate--(which you will, given that the goodnight kiss still seems highly likely at this point)--you might be swayed into thinking this unobtrusive drooling babbler was only masquerading as a harmless child still ignorant of the fact that he had opposable thumbs and was in reality hard at work discovering a new radioactive isotope or designing a monorail.

So then, in a statement ironically stupider than anything this baby might have to say, you decide it's time to interject something compassionate and caring like, "Well, he certainly does look like an exceptionally smart baby."

Luckily, at this stage, the girl is so engrossed in her description of the baby that any insincerity in your tone is overlooked. She simply nods excitedly, "Yes! He is! He really is!"

So oblivious is she to your latent disinterest, in fact, that if you weren't that hung up on some sort of physical affection to validate your existence, it might be fun to see how far you could push the sarcasm. "Yes, I really like his little spectacles and pipe. And is that a copy of Ulysses he's reading? No, that's a rattle. But still, I'm sure James Joyce has experienced what this kid has gone through. And did you know that even William Blake was a baby at one point in his life? In fact, all the great artists started out the same. . .as babies!"

But you choke this back and save it for a future date; like this blog.

Anyway, it's not the photo of the baby that's relative to our current topic. It's the photo on the following page, which she flips to once she starts to gauge that her encomium of Barbasol the Brilliant Baby has neared its peak.

This new page reveals a photo of a man sitting on the deck of a double-wide trailer, wearing a flannel shirt and clutching a can of Old Milwaukee. He is smiling a toothy smile, or doing the best he can since most of his teeth appear to be missing.

Here, the girl pauses. Up to this point, she has prefaced every single page with an introductory "this is. . .this is. . .this is. . ." But there is no "this is" here. She sighs deeply and looks off to one side.

You take her behavior as an indication it's time to offer in an apathetic voice colored on both edges with the brush of feigned interest: "Who's that?"

Another sigh as she turns her eyes sheepishly back to the photo, "This is my uncle Steve."

Uncles are usually a little bit easier to deal with than babies. They often come with ideas and concepts and know their basic shapes and colors and may even have an occupation. "What does he do for a living?"

Then she pops another question. One even more difficult than the photo album question. Difficult, that is, if you have any remnant of artistic standards in this postmodern world of soulless, computer-generated noise montages collectively known as techno--convenience at the expense of music, if you prefer--of which many straight girls and gay males unfortunately are, if not enthusiastically fond of, at least apathetic enough about to indirectly help elevate Moby and Fatboy Slim to the status of multi-millionaire recording "artists".

The question, of course, is: "Should I put on some music?"

Having already performed a furtive mental assessment of the concert posters and various cassette cases scattered hither and thither throughout her room, the answer, if her intent is to to put on some music from her own personal collection, is always: "No."

Yet, as with the photo album before, the spoken response is slightly different: "Sure."

If you're really crafty, however, you'll try to cut your losses. It might make tolerating the photo parade a little bit easier to offer the following: "You don't have any Beatles, do you?" After all, fifteen years ago, young Americans were still at least socially obligated to give lip-service to John, Paul, George and Ringo. And no one ever leaves a loser with the Beatles. She gets to prattle on about the picaresque and esoteric adventures of her family and you get to hear side two of Abbey Road once again.

Right about now is when you start setting little timelines for your departure. For example, if we're still looking at this photo album after Paul sings 'her majesty's a pretty nice girl, some day I'm gonna make her mine', then I have to get up early tomorrow and go to work. If she finishes before then, fine. You've lost a half hour from your life, but that's okay. You'll move on. There'll always be more half-hours in the day.

But there are no Beatles in her collection. You see, she's a very forward-thinking young lady with an eye on the future. Already, in 1991, she knows in less than ten years Beethoven will be The Chemical Brothers, John Coltraine will be Snoop Dogg, and the Beatles will be. . .

"Do you like Tori Amos?" she says sweetly. So sweetly in fact that you do not hit her at the mere suggestion that you would have anything at all to do with Tori Amos.

If she was fat, if she had an eyepatch, if she had a wooden leg, if she was a man. . .if one or all of these contingencies were true, how quickly honesty would spill from your mouth like so much unwanted vomit. But this delicate daisy of a dame is too dainty and docile to inflict something as dreaded as an actual opinion upon, so through clenched teeth you mutter: "Yeah, she's all right."

At this point, she leaves you holding the photo album, gazing at bucktoothed uncle Steve and his can of beer as she goes fishing for the perfect CD. After a beat, you hear the trademark voice of the freshly empowered:

"Rape. . .rape. . .silent all these years. . .blah, blah, blah. . .crucify. . .rape. . .rape. . .blah, blah, blah. . .suburban Christian hypocrisy. . .rape. . .blah, blah, blah. . .crucify. . ."

Wincing your expression and withholding your opinion, she takes command of the photo album once more. Is it time for you to say something, you wonder? Better safe than sorry, you assume. "So that's your Uncle Steve, huh?"

"Yes," she says softly, more softly than you have ever heard her speak before. No longer the proud stump speaker for babies and their brilliance. Something is troubling her. Something shames her about this particular photograph. Oh no. . .could it be. . .?

Another sigh, another wistful look. "Uncle Steve used to. . .do things."

Oy vey! you think, despite not being Jewish. Rape? Incest? Your mind flashes back to after-school specials, Dateline exposes, psychology courses, and Lifetime movies of the week. In a matter of mere nanoseconds, you've got to come up with an award-winning response that radiates nothing but absolute and total sincerity and compassion. The onus is upon you to convey the most appropriate and touching indication that you're the long-sought after good listener who will always instinctually know what to say in any situation. In short, what will you say about her incest experience that will get you laid tonight?

It comes upon you like a flash of white lightning, "What sort of things did he do?"

That's good. Get her to do all the talking. All you have to do for the next ten or fifteen minutes is nod your head and say, "Jesus Christ" and "My God" alternately during pauses and--voila!--you're in the sack! Humpy-humpy time!

Or at least a goodnight kiss. . .

She takes the reigns on the gilded hansom cab of her memory. "Well, when I was a little girl, he used to. . ."

"Jesus Christ," you whisper with no small modicum of dramatic indignation.

". . .he used to set me on his lap. . ."

"My God," you say with slightly more volume and conviction.

". . .and he used to. . ."

Having already used up one "Jesus Christ" and one "My God" and not wanting to dip right away into the "Our Fathers" and "Hail Marys", you decide a somber nod of the head and some pre-existing room noise is best here. At this point, the music fully sinks in as you and she remain. . .

"Silent all these years. . .blah, blah, blah. . .rape, rape. . .crucify, rape. . .blah, blah. . .American Christians rape. . .blah, blah, blah. . .hypocrisy. . .men are bad. . .blah, blah, blah. . .rape. . ."

Oh, that's right. Tori Amos is playing the theme to the opening credits. Maybe you're not even really here. Maybe THIS is the after-school special. And those things that you used to watch after school were your life.

But this is no time to be cynical. You're on the verge of a very important breakthrough in your relationship--about time, since you've been going out with this girl for almost five hours now.

She exhales loudly, "He used to. . .smile at me."

"Hail Mary full of grace--" you say instinctually before doing a double-take, "--he used to what?"

"You know. . .smile."

Maybe she doesn't know what smiling means. "With what?"

"Well. . .his mouth."

Oh, she does know.

"I've never told anybody this before. So I really, really want you to understand what I'm going through right now."

You don't understand at all. "I understand," you say.

"He used to smile at me. Whenever our family would have a barbecue or something, he'd always be over at the house and whenever I came in the room, he'd smile at me and say things like 'are you being a good girl in school?' or 'I heard you got an 'A' on your paper'--real creepy things like that. And every birthday and every Christmas, he always used to buy me presents."

The coal of interest that was fueling the engine of your desire is now putting a hole in the ozone layer of your politeness. "So that's all he did?" you yawn.

"Is that all he did?" she shrieks and then--woosh!--here they come, the tears.

You're kicking yourself pretty hard right at this moment. Oh, you asshole. Oh, you fucked up now, you inconsiderate prick.

"Is that all he did? Do you know what that was like for a little girl? Your own uncle? A man? A little girl? An uncle? A little girl? A little uncle? Your own girl? A man-girl? An uncle-man? A girl-uncle?" You flinch as she punches the bed beside you for effect, "And the worst part of all this is my parents knew all about it! And they didn't even care! Anything we can do to preserve the hypocritical facade of the American Christian family!" And with that sociological proclamation, she collapses in sobs. . .nice, shiny, patent-leather crocodile sobs.

Or is she sincere? It's hard to tell when the iWord (INCEST) makes an appearance in a teenage girl's bedroom following a first date. After all, logic would seem to dictate that no girl in her right mind would ever actually WANT to have been incestually raped. However, logic would also seem to dictate that if she was incestually raped, no teenage girl in her right mind would ever bring this up in her own bedroom following a first date. You decide to investigate a little further, smoothing things over, playing it cool until all the facts are in.

"But he didn't fuck you or anything?"

Sometimes in life, being inarticulate can be a severe handicap. This is one such time.

"Get out of here."

"What did I do?"

"Go, before I get my dad."

"I was just trying to be polite!"

"That's exactly what Uncle Steve was trying to be!"

Slam. Door shut. Girl gone. And yes, no goodnight kiss.

Thanks, Tori!

PS: Tori Amos herself hasn't exactly been silent all these years. Check out Tori Amos' latest album, American Doll Posse. I love the art. She's bleeding down her leg and she's standing in front of an average suburban house and she's holding a copy of the Bible! It's brilliant! It's like she's trying to say--"See that house that you think everything is okay in because the people in there are American Christians? Well, they're all hypocrites because they raped their virgin daughter and made her bleed down her leg!" I wish more people had the guts of Tori Amos to just get out there and say, "hey, Christians will rape and kill you." Because Christians aren't saying this and that makes Tori Amos more of a Christian than most Christians because at least Tori is a real Christian because real Christians don't go raping their daughters with Bibles like some Christians do! Go Tori! Yea! :) lol! Tori! Tori! Tori! Tora! Tora! Tora! Torah! Torah! Torah!

Tori's gonna take on the Jews next! (oops. . .I mean Israel)

Yes, Tori Amos is definitely the next Lenny Bruce/Winston Churchill/Beatles

I'm sorry. Forgot about the vagina.

She's not the NEXT Lenny Bruce/Winston Churchill/Beatles.

She's the FEMALE Lenny Bruce/Winston Churchill/Beatles.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I'm A Bad San Franciscan

I want you to imagine with me that you're in a place not too far from here; a little neighborhood called the Upper Haight. The Upper Haight in San Francisco is home to many immigrants that made the long trek westward from their parents' suburban cul-de-sac in Ohio because they were told of the great expanse of concrete that awaited them in San Francisco. They were told of vast acres of public sidewalk available for squatting and begging. And so they left the couch in Mom and Dad's basement for the rugged and pioneering, Woody Guthrie-soundtracked, life of sitting Indian-style in front of a liquor store asking for spare change.

Often times, the women of these nomadic peoples will take the sundry pennies and nickels and even dimes and arrange a beautiful copper mosaic, glistening in the midday sun, that tells the stories of their travels and their learning. It is the word "PEACE".

Actually, it's usually the PEACE SYMBOL, because many of them are illiterate.

They can often be seen with a sickly dog on a rope leash who, if given the choice, would prefer euthanasia over spending one more day in the company of his present caregivers.

So you know the scene. . .

You're standing outside a club, or a cafe, or a smoke shop and you're having a cigarette.

Down the sidewalk strolls a young heterosexual coupling of these Middle American immigrants. The male of the species asks, "Hey, man, you got a cigarette?"

"Sorry," you respond.

They stroll on and then the female intones in sotto voce, "People in San Francisco are real assholes."

You do a double-take. "What's that, little missy?"

They stop and turn around. She points to herself, "Who, me? I just said people in San Francisco are real assholes."

Now, if you were a good San Franciscan--that is, one who is not an asshole--you would do the following in this situation:

Exactly! Nothing! "Just let it slide. . .it's okay. . .I haven't walked a mile in their shoes. . .it must be hard to be out here, so cold and so hungry. . .don't upset them. . .peace at any price. . ."

But if, like me, you're a bad San Franciscan, you will say the following at maximum volume:

"All San Franciscans, or do you have anybody specific in mind? So I'm an asshole cause I wouldn't give you a fucking cigarette? Is that right? What else you cranky about, little baby? You need your ba-ba? You want me to change your fucking diaper? I'm not here to raise you, bitch!"

Monday, May 07, 2007

"Is there any good reason why we cannot extend our multi-cultural generosity to include another dimension? That of time. The past, too, is another country. . ."

--Martin Amis

I love this little gem by Welsh author and anecdotalist Martin Amis. You see, I live in the past. Always have. And always will. And so I fully grasp in more ways than one the significance of bestowing a geographical perimeter to the past. I'm from there. I know the land well. And if we don't protect its borders, some relativistic fuckheads are going to rewrite it out of existence.

For me, anything current usually has to age a few years like a really fine wine before I'll even make an attempt to decide whether or not I can appreciate something. That's why I've never really appreciated the entire "retro" movement. . .bell bottoms, afro wigs, so bad its good. . .It's all still too NEW for me. And I think it always will be.

Sure these hipsters go back twenty years and all. . .but they've been going back twenty years for at least ten years now. And for some reason, despite the huge expanse of past to draw upon, this retro movement still keeps ending up in only place: the 1970s.

Why there? The 1970s--with the exclusion of the 1980s, the 1990s, and our present age--was possibly the nadir of all creativity, passion, and originality in the arts, education, politics. . .even fashion! Back then and unlike now, it was considered "so good, it's good" to be good. A noble pursuit. And I applaud them. Unfortunately, the citizens of the 1970s had no concept of what good entailed. Just consider the bulk of the music of the "Me" generation. True, they weren't quite in the thick of hip-hop and techno yet, but disco was well on its way to taking care of all of that.

This isn't to deny that there weren't a few anomalies: Lou Reed, David Bowie, Johnny Rotten, the cinematic anti-heros of Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Sidney Lumet, the very first season of Saturday Night Live, et al. . .

But these all beg the question--why does the postmodern retro movement only seem to have the 1970s in its sights? Of all the eras for this retro movement to move into, why there? Why not 1770? Or 1666? Why couldn't the retro movement take us back to the late 1400s or early 1500s and usher in something more worthwhile than another switchblade biker-mamma movie from Tarantino's private vault?

Something like. . .oh, I don't know. . .a Renaissance, maybe?

Or better yet, a Reformation?

There is, of course, a simple reason for the unidirectional focus of the postmodern retro movement: the slimy coke-snorting emaciated whores who prostitute themselves out in our present age as "writers" and "artists" all grew up in the 1970s. So that which is played out before us under the veneer of hipness and irony is nothing more than a movement of narcissistic thirtysomethings jacking off to their own childhood.

My, how artistic.

So that is America's retro movement. Yet ours is not the only one. Outside of these shores, one of the biggest retro movements in our world today is radical Islam.

Not having experienced the glitz and glamour of the Western 1970s, radical Islam opts to move its particular brand of retro a little further back into the far nether-reaches of the past--namely, the 700s.

So bad it's good? Well, in the 700s things were really BAD. . .so that must mean they're really GOOD now. Sawing a head off, for example--sure, I mean it's a little cheesy, but it's still kind of funny, you know? And remember when we used to stone women to death for being raped? Well, we're just being ironic when we do it now.

Then comes the big finger pointed across the oceans of the past in the direction of the present: "What do you expect from us, America? You taught us to be hip and ironic!"

"Oh," says America, "so we're to blame for sharia law now? What are we, a fucking refrigerator door for you to post all your complaints on with a Koran-shaped magnet?"

And then there's a little catfight. And it usually ends up with a war or something like that.

By the way, did you see the latest statistics? This makes me sick--

1. 42 percent of Marines believe that kissing on a first date with an enemy combatant is inappropriate for a nice young soldier.
2. Only 18 percent of soldiers said that if they got an enemy combatant pregnant, would they stick around to support the child
3. Almost 78 percent of Marines said that they have no problem with spanking their enemy combatant in a busy shopping mall or other such public place.

but worst of all--

4. An astonishing 99 percent of soldiers said that they would DEFINITELY SUPPORT TORTURE*

*. . .if it helped save the lives of fellow soldiers, Americans, Iraqi schoolchildren, old men and women, mothers and fathers, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, seculars, homosexuals, non-Muslims and moderate Muslims, and the rest of the free world as we know it.

But still. . .I mean, come on!

So I don't like this particular retro movement either. Because, like the young American retro movement, it seeks to take us back to a particular dark age.

But there will be no disco balls, platform shoes, and dewdrop sunglasses in the 700s. Instead, there will be. . .nothing. . .

And a whole lot of it. . .

As for me, I'm for a retro movement that pushes the idea of "so good, it's the best." A retro-metro with stops scheduled for Bonn, Germany in 1770 to witness the birth of Beethoven, the London Fire of 1666, the VE and VJ days of 1945. A little more variety, you see. And a lot more cultural and intellectual excellence.

The past is my Linus-From-Peanuts security blanket. And no, I don't mean, "security blanket." I am a post-Peanuts child. I grew up observing adult angst, depression and the psychosocial confusion connected to postmodern therapy compressed into the words and actions of cartoon children with oversized heads. So, "Linus-From-Peanuts security blanket" holds a little extra weight with me. Charles Schultz really had his finger on the pulse of something profound.

But in the end, does any of that really matter? No. What's most important is how many black children Charles Schultz drew.

There was only one. Franklin, I think his name was.