Monthly Archives: July 2004

outed!

7/15/04

There’s a fascinating test on the Slate website today that calculates your “red” or “blue” status in America. You won’t understand the rest of this blog unless you go there and take the test yourself.

Go ahead. We’ll wait.

Anyone reading this blog for more than a week knows that I am perhaps the most irrational “blue state” liberal in America

ides of July

7/14/04

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I’d like to mention that it is my new sister-in-law’s birthday today. Jordana, like everyone my brothers and I marry, was told by my Mom that if she and [insert son’s name here] were to break up, she’d keep her and let the son drift. I imagine she’s only partly kidding.

It is a hard thing to join my family. We are big people, built for surviving on the dusty Mormon prairie, but in these times it only serves to make us kinda fat. Because of draconian rules instituted in our childhood, we have all kinds of defense mechanisms, a propensity to stay up until 4am, and for me, a real problem with sugar cereals.

None of us brothers means any harm, but we all forget to do shit all the time. I have to be told to do the dishes, not because I don’t want to (actually I find it rather soothing) but because it doesn’t sink into my brain. Sean occasionally smells funny because he forgets to shower. Kent can walk through a room and leave unhooked phones, broken vases and spilled Coke in his wake.

All we can hope for is that we’re charming enough to warrant a pass from those willing to put up with us. We’re all quite funny, which is good, because if we weren’t, none of these women would have ANYTHING to do with us.

And so this is Jordana’s day, the day we say Thank You for Existing, and also Thank You for Dealing With Sean. The interesting thing about in-laws is that they are family that are thrust upon you long after you’ve established the prisoner mentality that bonds your brothers and sisters together. Jordana not only picked right up with the conversation, but often leads it. I’m thankful that she’s in our lives this much, that my sister now has two brand spankin’ new sisters and that Jordana made it to 28 despite her penchant for Ayn Rand.

Happy birthday!

another shot of wild turkey

7/13/04

As I was driving a car packed with stinky trash bound for the town dump, I turned up a country highway and BLAM! From out of nowhere, this giant bird swoops out of a cornfield, hits the grille of the car, and explodes in a million feathers. Through the rear view mirror of the car, I can see the body of the bird hit the pavement and bounce once, that ugly bounce that tells you something is really dead.

As with all roadkill, I felt utterly horrified. I’ve only killed three other animals in all my years of driving: a possum in ’94, a rabbit in ’93 and, worst of all, a Schnauzer on a freeway in a pounding rainstorm in ’83, during my first month of driving. All of them left me feeling positively sick with guilt.

But this time there was a car right behind me, and I couldn’t stop to see if I could help the bird. Instead, I went to the dump and spent half an hour unloading all of the recycled liquor bottles my ne’er-do-well friends leave at the farm.

Cars came and went, and I knew I had to get back on the street and face what I’d done. The road was empty now, and sure enough, there was a brown lump ahead right where my left tire had been. When I got closer, however, it wasn’t what I expected.

It wasn’t a normal bird

if these walls could shut up

7/12/04

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Sure, that may look like graphamaniacal gibberish to the uninitiated, but it is actually the deed to our farm, drawn up in 1845 for George T. Burton. Full disclosure: Tessa and I took a little trip to the Clerk’s office for Columbia County, and just kept on looking up deeds for our place.

It goes like this: your house deed will tell you where the previous deed is

miscarriage of justice

7/11/04

First, I’d like to state for the record that Tessa and I are not actively trying to have kids, even though most readers of this blog think I’ve been coyly hinting at it. She gets mad if I go farther than that into our personal lives, so I’ll just state that the avoidance of sushi and the intake of folic acid is something all women of childbearing years have to consider, unless they want to die childless, alone, and drinking Ol’ Grandad in a dishwasher crate.

Which leads me to Today’s Rant: A person very, very dear to us just went through a miscarriage, which, as anyone can attest, is painful and miserable. I know it first hand, since my mom had six miscarriages between Steve and me. You’d think she might have gotten the hint after the third or fourth miscarriage that something was gumming up the works, but hey, it was the Summer of Love and there was a lot going on.

My dime-store latent Mormonism (or my desire for a happy ending) tells me that I was just standing in line, waiting for the right body so I could come on out. I would have preferred one without gout, but you can’t have everything.

Anyway, our dear friend, whom I’ll call Louisa, had to go back to the doctor yesterday to have a post-op check-in and get a clean bill of health. And what a bill you get: apparently, having a miscarriage is not only awful, but awful expensive.

So expensive that Louise asked if her original $350 hospital deposit – required at this well-respected OB-GYN on Park Avenue – was going to help offset the cost. “No,” was the snotty reply, “that money was for the pregnancy.”

“Let me get this straight,” she asked, “I have this HUGE bill AND you’re keeping my original deposit?”

“Yes.”

“So not only do I get a miscarriage, and a huge bill, but I’m further punished by giving up my deposit?”

“Yes. That deposit was for this particular pregnancy, and since you didn’t go through with it, you don’t get your money back.”

“What? I didn’t CHOOSE to have a miscarriage!”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Can I use my deposit for the NEXT baby?”

“No.”

And so I must ask, my fellow Americans: in what fucking world is this acceptable?

fear and exceptionalism

7/8/04

This morning before she checked the internet, I said to Tessa, “Okay, so there’s been lots of positive press surrounding Kerry’s pick of Edwards. So what do you think the Bush administration pulls today?”

“Um, Coach K back to the Lakers?”

“No – but that’s a good one.”

“I dunno,” she said, “maybe a horrible new Al-Qaeda threat?”

And by God, she was right. I know it’s been oft-said, but the Bush administration is so nakedly cynical, so irretrievably mean, so transparently OBVIOUS, that today’s news should be taken to mean “We, Your Government, Think You Are a Nation of Utter Morons.”

So we go with another round of vague threats of terrible shit on the horizon, and yet no specifics, not even a shred of new information. Oh sure, they’ll file the Democrats into a meeting with the CIA and disclose something that might happen – I mean, they had to do SOMETHING other than trot out Tom Ridge – but this is both ridiculous and shameful.

You know why? Because my stomach still hurts when I see Bin Laden on the front page of CNN. I still have to ward off waves of apocalyptic nuclear fear every time this kind of crap filters onto the airwaves. So Al-Qaeda remains intent on pulling off a large-scale attack against America? No fucking DUH, you assholes – I was there. I saw the second tower come down in front of my eyes, half a mile away, and I helped ash-covered mothers find their children. My wife and sister spent the next two days helping out at Ground Zero.

It took me a year of therapy and two years of Celexa to be able to function normally again, and every time the Republican bastards blurt out their dire predictions, it takes me hours to wipe the taste out of my mouth, to rid myself of that godawful smell of burning metal. The Bush administration does it for political gain and to cover their asses, but they don’t give a shit that it actually hurts many of us.

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The problem is obvious: the American public will learn the wrong things from the next big terrorist attack. They will re-elect Bush in a landslide, even though it is people like him that have worked the Muslim world into a furious froth. Al Qaeda wants to kill Americans regardless of their party affiliation, I’ll grant you that, but you can’t tell me there won’t be some hell to pay – for either me or the next generation – for what we’ve done to the Arab world.

And while he’s scaring the shit out of Americans, Bush has the unfathomable temerity to cut funding for local teams whose sole job it is to protect American cities. Not only that, but he has let New York City dangle, while frickin’ Wyoming got more terrorist-prevention dollars per capita. I have been to Wyoming many times, my friends, and there is NOTHING worth bombing in Cheyenne (except the crappy Holiday Inn that smells like pee).

Do any of you in the “red states” wonder why the three places that have been the victims – or almost the victims – of a terror attack vote overwhelmingly Democratic? California, New York and D.C. know the fear. I am on the B and Q train every day, and go over the Manhattan Bridge with alarming frequency. My friends (and sister-in-law) work right in the middle of Times Square and Wall Street. When they say a terrorist attack is coming, we feel it on the bridges and in the tunnels, we sense it in the crowds and in the skyscrapers.

My friends in the Red States, you have to come to grips with this; you just don’t understand what it’s like. Terrorism is an idea to you. And don’t give me that shit about “you think New York is the center of the world,” because it fucking is. There is no place better to get more bang for your buck; we’re all here, crowded together and stacked on top of each other. Those of you in Charleston, Mobile, Amarillo, Nashville and Des Moines can put away your duct tape.

No, the places most affected by terror vote Democratic because they know where the blowback is coming. They want to elect leaders who take the rest of the world into consideration. They want a president and vice-president who have something more than a ham-fisted policy about Us and Them. They want nuance and intelligence. Because they believe their lives ultimately depend on it.

So do me a favor, Red States: when the government gives us another sky-is-falling news flash, please don’t listen. And if there is another terrorist attack, please don’t vote.

you had to hide away for so long

7/7/04

UPI just ran a story on how fully 1/3rd of all software on everybody’s computer is pirated. That figure seemed a little high to me until I thought about my own past, and the lack of compunction I had towards stealing everything for the Mac I could get my hands on.

Even now, Photoshop costs $630, which is another way to say “absolutely fuckin’ insane.” There is not one struggling post-grad in Chapel Hill or Madison or the Lower East Side who could possibly afford to shell out that much money, even if the program is a) fantastic (which it is) or b) necessary for their career.

They’re going to steal it, or “borrow” it, or download it from Limewire or Kazaa, or go to that place on the 6th Avenue sidewalk where Lars gets all his cool software. The allure is just too great, and it’s relatively easy. My friend Brian is notorious for getting his hands on every piece of software written for OS X, along with the codes to break the registration.

I used a pirated copy of Word from the age of 20 to 33. My copy of early Photoshop is still on some random computers in North Carolina. My current iPod looks something like this:

50% CDs I owned and ripped to the iPod

25% songs downloaded from Napster in 2001 that I already owned at some point in my history

10% bought from the iTunes store fair and square

5% downloaded illegally, and were also tunes I’d never owned, and thus I feel somewhat guilty

Scotty and I believe that you should buy a song ONCE in your life, and thus you own the Intellectual Rights for That Song’s Happiness in Perpetuity. You would only pay for the physical upgrades. For example:

– in 1977, I buy the 45 rpm single of “Free to Be, You and Me”

– in 1984, I buy the CD of the song, but only pay for the plastic and pressing

– in 2004, I download the song from iTunes, but only pay the pennies of overhead that it took to store that 3.5MB of memory.

I saw this because I have now bought ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky” about 8 times since 1977. And those guys have enough of my money.

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sniveling

7/5/04

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God, the world has no end of horrors when you hate Dook University like I do. To sum up: the Los Angeles Lakers (a team I’ve despised since the mid-80s) recently lost their Zen master Phil Jackson, and desperately needed a coach. Because Kobe Bryant constantly reads Duke’s website (commonly known as espn.com), he decided that Koach K was going to come in and save their program.

Since the Lakers are in Los Angeles, and thus have no sense of restraint or decency, they sweetened the deal by offering him 8 MILLION DOLLARS OVER FIVE YEARS and then gave him 5% OF THE TEAM and PROMISED TO CALL HIM “PRESIDENT.”

Koach K then rattled as many pots and pans as he could, to make sure every human in the sports world knew he’d been offered, then let it simmer over the Fourth of July weekend, making all sportswriters and basketball fans spin themselves into a furious froth while they debated “will he or won’t he?”

Of course he was NEVER going to take the job. He’s got as much money as he wants, and unless you’re UNC’s Larry Brown, it’s basically impossible to succeed at both college and pro ball. His court-slapping “five fingers make a fist” nonsense would have been laughed out of Shaq-less Tinseltown after the first losing season.

No, what this was really about was EGO and WINNING AT ALL COSTS. By “taking the high road” and staying with the college game, he set Dook up to look like some utopian fantasy that couldn’t be besmirched by LA’s Faustian offer. After this fiasco, he can also introduce himself to each recruit as “the guy who said ‘no’ to the Lakers,” and use it as a recruiting ploy to hoodwink unsuspecting high school ballers to drink the Kool-Aid they’re serving over there in Durham.

It’s the ego part that is most reprehensible. Why else take a long vacation weekend to weigh your options? He knew that cnnsi.com and espn and every other sports media outlet would be spending all day gushing over him, laying down their coats so he could walk over puddles, and massaging his metaphorical grundle while they administered sloppy fellatio.

You know how to switch jobs in the real world? Let me tell you. You make a phone call and say, “Hey. Here’s the deal. We’d like you to come work for us. Here’s the money. Take a few days. Oh, and can you just keep this between us?”

I know this because Carolina was similarly burned during the Dean-Gut-Roy-Matt fiasco of 2001, when all of our dirty laundry was hung out to dry in front of everybody. You know who learned from this lesson? Our beloved coach Roy Williams.

Because they offered him the Laker job as well. He politely said no thanks, and DIDN’T PUBLICIZE IT.

That’s class. That’s how real people, adults, do things. That’s the difference between us and those neurasthenic weenies in Durham. Bullocks to Koach K and his tribe of asswits. I’m glad he’s staying. I’m going to enjoy kicking his ass for the next ten seasons.

a brick in the small of the back

7/1/04

When I was in grade school, I used to get so mad at my surroundings that I would lapse into what my family called the “poisoned squirrel dance,” where I would turn into a Cuisinart of bursted blood vessels and wail at the depths of my lungs. At school, the vicious taunting and the constant threat of physical harm turned me into a seething guttersnipe, possessing a mouth so foul that I was ending up in the principal’s office for word choice alone.

Here’s the thing about being young in the 1970s, before anyone gave a shit about child psychology: when you were bullied, BOTH of you got into trouble. The bully would be punished for bullying, and YOU would be punished for reacting. Pretty soon, you’d develop an “inmate psychology,” and though the bully still beat the shit out of you on the way home from school, you and he were actually becoming quite similar.

I thought school was supposed to be miserable, which is why I didn’t do very well. I never got good grades, so I continued that habit clear into the University of North Carolina (actually, I aced 11th grade, which is the only year college admissions people care about). When I was young, I believed that I absolutely HAD to be a bad person, because there was no other explanation for the way I was treated.

My parents did the best they could, but they were handed limited resources. There were no real anti-depressants, and the guidance counselors were sweet, but useless. Thank god that the ’70s provided at least a modicum of self-awareness; I don’t think I could have survived grade school in 1956.

I mention all this because I saw my psychopharmacologist today, who asked a lot of questions about my experiences at school, and I have to admit: I feel a lot of retroactive relief at understanding that I had an untreated disease when I was a kid. Things fall into place when I can look at it through that prism.

Sure, people abuse that notion all the time. They tell themselves they had A.D.D. or they were dyslexic, or bipolar, or something that makes them feel special in absentia. Worse yet are the folks who glom onto their chosen disease as if it was the only buoy keeping them afloat in a sea of unanswered questions.

But just hearing the words: “you had an untreated disease” – I dunno, it makes me understand why I was so riddled with anxiety, why long summer afternoons filled me with dread, why Sept. 11 destroyed me so personally, why I engage in magical thinking and obsessive-compulsive behavior even now. It won’t take me back in time to kick my art teacher Mr. Hyder in the nuts for embarrassing me in front of everybody when I messed up the engraving ink, but it’s the next best thing.

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