Monthly Archives: November 2004

do mi so, fa la re, do re do

11/14/04

Not to obsess about pop music or anything (there are way better places for that) but there are a number of songs on the radio right now that are making me want to fuckin’ puke. God knows I try to keep up with the horseshit that comes cascading from the anuses of Major Labels by listening to the Top 20 on 20 station on the XM Radio, but I often pay for my insolence with three-minute bursts of uncontrollable rage.

Allan Bloom once said that a student listening to a Walkman constituted an act of onanism so utterly self-involved that it was worthy of cultural derision. Being a big fan of my Walkman at the time, I thought he was full of shit. But Bloom never lived long enough to see the careers of Britney Spears, Ashlee Simpson and Lindsay Lohan, three women that would have made his body burst into flame with their gargantuan egos and self-obsession.

All three are so disingenuous it should be criminal. How dare Lindsay Lohan try to be the most famous teen actor on earth, star in three movies this year, fake not having a boob job, release a dreadful POP ALBUM, and then “write” a song called “Rumors,” in which she coos “I’m sick of being followed… why can’t they back up off me… can you please respect my privacy”? Is she fucking KIDDING?

We’ve come to expect anything out of Britney, but “My Prerogative” (which I’m assuming she can’t spell) is unbelievable, worse than both her marriages. I thought the original was crap, too – and Bobby Brown showed what he could do to Whitney when he was allowed to exercise his, um, prerogative.

What exactly is Britney not allowed to do that she hasn’t done already? Why is she singing a song explaining her prerogative, when she has already exhausted every nucleotide in every paparazzi trying to cover her next antic? This is a woman who gets more air time for her bullshit than anyone on earth, and now she’s giving US the finger?

And now Ashlee Simpson. Poor, poor Ashlee Simpson. In “Shadow,” she sings that she was “living in a nightmare” and “living in the shadow of someone else’s dream,” presumably, her sister Jessica (which reminds me of that line in Barcelona when Fred asks “What do you call what’s above the subtext?” and Ted answers “The text.”)

This is a 19-year-old that dared to call her album “Autobiography.” Think about that for a minute.

She also fucked up her lip-synching on SNL and then blamed her band (very smooth) and then trotted her dad out to say she had acid reflux. Now, I’ve had acid reflux. Really bad. Sean’s had it so bad that he has thrown up in the middle of the night. Yet there is no acid reflux so terrible that you can’t sing your own silly songs. That was a LIE.

And as for being “stuck inside someone else’s life and always being second best,” let me tell you, Ashlee: nobody wanted to see Picasso’s sister’s painting either. I’m not aching to hear Paul McCartney’s aunt’s album, and I’m sure Robert DeNiro’s cousin Vince is content with his car dealership. You’ve managed to get a hit album off your sister’s notoriety, but worse, you’ve got a hit song about how you never had any hit songs because of your sister. Is the irony lost on everyone?

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I’m strangely drawn to her, however – maybe it’s the nose

Oh yeah, and Hoobastank is a really really stupid name for a band. I hate it. God, how I hate it. GOD I HATE THAT NAME.

what a good wife you would be

11/11/04

My friend Kelly – who is personally rebuilding lower Manhattan one meeting at time – just wrote to me and asked for my “top ten polyester song hits.” Anyone who has spent any time in the car with me knows that I have a disturbingly annoying encyclopedic memory for every pop song written from 1970 to 1993 (and yes, I was barely born for the early ones).

This is largely due to having mono in 10th grade, when I was stuck at home for three weeks and did the following:

a) learned to juggle

b) memorized the entire “Top 40 Hits” book from Billboard Magazine.

Being a piano and violin dork, I became conscious of Top 40 music around 1980 with the release of “Xanadu” and Billy Joel’s “Glass Houses,” before retreating for years into the Beatles catalogue. But all of the weird little hits from the 1970s managed to sneak into my subconscious, where they now leap out to strangle unsuspecting victims on long road trips.

So I’ll give you a rundown of my top 10 songs from that early era, when I was a kid strapped into my mom’s Subaru, listening to AM radio as the windshield wipers pulsed through a thick Iowa sleet.

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the Little River Band cruisin’ to a venue near you!

Reminiscing – Little River Band

In 1978, John Lennon said that his favorite song ever was “Reminiscing,” and this was coming from someone who wrote “Norwegian Wood.” I think he was being a little hasty, but this lush favorite is a gorgeous exercise in excess jazz and heavy on the roto-toms. Must be listened to several times to be believed.

Moonlight Feels Right – Starbuck

No other time than 1976 could you have a marimba solo, or a band with eight members, for that matter. You think you don’t know this song? Yes you do, the minute it gets to the chorus. And the lyrics? Stunningly greasy, as a man takes his date to the Chesapeake Bay and threatens to shove his tongue down her waiting throat.

You Are the Woman – Firefall

There is truly no song so gay, so unrelentingly twee as this. As soon as the flute solo starts, you feel sperm dying in your nads.

Things We Do For Love – 10cc

Complicated, with at least 25 chord changes making any cover band lose their mind, it’s still a walk through the rain and the snow when there’s no place to go. This song, like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” must have driven the production engineer to a life of quaaludes.

Brandy – Looking Glass

Lindsay always complains that we do this song any time the Williams family gets together, but I think he’s just jealous. Again, when else but 1972 can you have a #1 hit about a bar wench in coastal Oregon? And if you don’t sing along with the “you’re a fine girl” part, you need to have your blood doped.

I’d Really Love to See You Tonight – England Dan & John Ford Coley

I include this song because it typifies the 1970s attitude towards casual sex; I mean, the lead character “ain’t talking about moving in” – he just wants to fuck your brains out! The lyrics are right dreadful, but the sentiment is appreciated.

Afternoon Delight – Starland Vocal Band

Speaking of fucking, I loved this song as a tot, but it was only a few years ago when I realized this was about porking your significant other during the daylight. Why wait until the middle of a cold dark night?

We Just Disagree – Dave Mason

I once met Mr. Mason at some party in California and told him he had the best lyrics of any song in the 1970s. Often when Tessa and I are arguing, the thought comes to mind: “There ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys. There’s only you and me, and we just disagree.” If the ’70s left us with two philosophies, let it be harvest gold macramé plant hangers and that.

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oh, and the members of Starbuck say HEY!

fort sumter, brooklyn

11/10/04

American Coastopia Fallout, Chapter XIV

On the evening of Election Day, a little more than a week ago, Tessa was on my lap, asleep after an hour of crying. I’d never seen her knocked out due to sadness, but there she was, and as I stared at the TV, Ohio wasn’t getting any closer.

Sticking to my amended 2002 promise to write a blog every weekday, I was so enraged at the election results that nothing would come out. It was a sleeping sickness hardened by pure loathing, and I could only summon profanity.

So, to paraphrase my brother Kent, I decided to “try it wrong a different way,” and wrote the Coastopia blog that had been knocking around in my head since June. It was all in good fun, with only a hint of the darkness that I actually felt, and I thought that it might get a few laughs from the usual suspects. Looking at it now, there’s plenty of clunky language I’d change.

By Thursday, the comments – which usually top out around 40 – were already pushing 300. My blog quintupled in traffic, and over 24,000 people stopped by to see what the hell I was talking about. I made a few cute T-shirts (now a recommended gift at Cafepress!) which, if I’d put even a 50-cent markup on them, could have flown Tessa and me to California and back.

By Friday, the backlash had already begun, with screeds by a very disapproving Neal Pollack, tut-tuts from Air America, message boards calling me part of the problem, reams of conservatives telling me to fuck myself on my own website, and eventually a Washington Times article and an editorial, written, it must be assumed, before the onset of Google.

The Coastopia email, riddled with add-ons and occasionally sans my reference to Dook University (my favorite part!), circulated all over the internet as an anonymous letter. My brother Steve was infuriated because he wanted me to sell more shirts, but I was just happy to be part of the collective unconscious. Also, I got a very nice email from Rachel Dratch (on SNL) who happens to be a heroine of mine.

Today, I was invited by the awesome folks at NPR to do a Coastopia commentary on Morning Edition. It was a fabulous experience with superb professionals, and I haven’t been that psyched to do something in a long time. I don’t know when it’s going to run, but once I find out, I’ll tell you.

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Here’s the thing: I never wanted to be known as some twitching, leftist secessionist. My blog wasn’t even the best secession meme, merely the first. I was just terribly heartbroken and angry, and when it came down to it, yes, I basically don’t understand Bush supporters and I’d love to live in a place where their “morals” don’t apply to me and mine.

Moreover, most of the conservatives I’ve discovered because of this experience seem to be angrier than ever. I’ve never met a worse bunch of sore winners in my life. They seem to be dancing around like Veruca Salt in “Willie Wonka,” insane with greed because there’s nothing left to wish for.

They get the Presidency, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, basically every media outlet, and they’re furious at…my blog??? Stunning!

As for me and mine, we’ll keep needling around the shoulder blades of American pop culture until we’re either millionaires or deported. I don’t mind being the bogeyman for a bunch of rabid right-wingers foaming at the thought of their country breaking in two.

At least we got a few of you to understand how unbelievably misguided we think you are, whether or not you agree. We think you’re dangerous and cruel, and now you know it. You can dismiss this talk of secession as sour grapes, but I’d be careful sleeping with us in your closet.

two stories, high

11/9/04

The Moth is actually a cool idea in old Southern storytellin’, transplanted up north to the hippest venues in literati-littered Manhattan. I love the Moth as a rule, but it can sometimes have the same effect as the 24 Hour Plays: the good stories are life-affirmingly fabulous, but the bad ones make you want to kill the person next to you, and then yourself.

The Moth benefit is always a good time, however, because there’s only two stories (usually told by celebrities as to amp up the starfucking quotient) and there’s a free bar that serves double drinks. In fact, I’m writing to you in the buzzy vacuum of two Glenfiddich “Zingers” and two Cape Cods.

First up tonight was John Cameron Mitchell – creator and star of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” – and his story was rather sweet, which surprised me. I thought he’d be a little more “A-gay,” a term I only understood once I’d spent three years living a few blocks from Chelsea.

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performing at the stunning old Stanford White bank on the Bowery

Then Ethan Hawke took the stage, and say what you want about his novels or the celebrity hoo-ha that accompanied his marriage and divorce from Uma, but the guy tells a good story. I had suspected he was smart from his recent movie choices (especially his fabulous turn in “Before Sunset”) and he told a great ditty about his constant jealousy towards River Phoenix back when they were child actors. I eat that stuff up – he should write some non-fiction about the teen scene in 1980s moviemaking.

You conservatives still pounding away at last week’s Coastopia blog will be happy to hear that the venue was full of much tearing out of hair, and gnashing of teeth due to last Tuesday’s election. If you think I’m an asshole, you should hear what real New York intellectuals think of you.

Despite my newfound infamy as an anarchist secessionist, I grew up in the South, and tend to play the apologist when it comes up in conversation. But lately, I’m starting to see their point.

full fathoms five

11/7/04

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Longtime readers of this blog have heard me oft wax romantic about this little place we have a few hours north of New York City: bought in the craziness that surrounded Tessa’s father’s death, and the ringing of September 11th in our ears, it has become a restorative farmhouse for anyone who visits.

We’re planning on putting in solar panels, so I went to the top of the roof to see how it was coming, and was struck by the intensity of the sunset. This place was built in 1818, but those 19th-century bastards sure knew a good view when they saw one.

One thing about standing on top of your own chimney and looking into the dying light of a non-daylight-saving-time day; if you’re not careful, you can get violently depressed. The last week or so has offered nothing much in terms of hope, and I’ve been fighting a major blues that has taxed my Celexa to its diving depth.

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So we needed a plan. We have come up with a two-prong strategy for the next four years, even though it sounds contradictory: we are going to immerse ourselves in finances and fiction. In short, we are going to try to make as much fucking money as we possibly can, and when we’re not doing that, we’re going to be Experiencing Works of Art

aloha!

11/4/04

Boy, it’s all fun and games until the conservatives start commenting on your blog, huh? We were all having a great time until the virtual vitriol came cascading down the pike, and now I can barely wade through all the comments and hate mail telling me to fuck off.

Is there any creature more of a control freak than a Republican? They want to keep women from having abortions, they want to outlaw half the content on the internet, they want to bloody well make sure fags don’t get married – they even want to force the teenage human animal into abstinence. It must truly be exhausting to exert that much control.

And now, these people spend their time writing comments and personal emails telling us why we are losers and to take our lumps. To which I say, NO FUCKING DUH. Do you actually think that any of us were going to raise pitchforks and light torches and close down the border between Oregon and Idaho? It’s just a comforting idea, you blithering ninnies. An imaginary place where those horrified with the election results can go, and perhaps, meet like-minded strangers. Or would you like to legislate our dreams too?

Some commenters raised the point that blogs like this only reinforce the notion that we are snooty Northerners or private school latt

hearty oatmeal for all

11/3/04

Love to all of the hundreds of you awesome folk who came to my blog for the first time yesterday or today; your comments turned a Historically Dreary Day into an awesome peek into your various lives. You guys rock. Except for that racist dude.

Some emails requested where to start with this blog, and I can recommend my top 25 as a good place to waste your company’s bandwidth. Let me warn you now, I’m a total asshole and I occasionally look excruciatingly goofy, and yes, I know my wife is way too hot for someone with my love handles.

I’m proud that American Coastopia is going swimmingly, but a few people seem to want a better dialogue between us and the Old America, you know, learn to speak their language and try to meet halfway. I say fuck that. None of us in A.C. are going to baby-talk our way through the homo-hatin’ hearts of some bowling club in Memphis. They can take our gays straight, with no chaser.

Likewise, I am not having some quilting bee from Orem, Utah have any say in our dedication to stem cell research – and I’m not having the Virginia Beach Women’s Luncheon group choose the president that will endanger my wife on the New York subways in the name of “moral values.” Fuck the lot of them. It is up to THEM to start thinking clearly, and when they behave like adults, then the members of American Coastopia will start giving them the time of day. We are through coddling these people.

A few of you mentioned that you’d like to join American Coastopia, but Northern Virginia, I’m sorry. The area around the Potomac Mills is just to depressing to annex right now, and you guys waste too much gas on I-95. We suggest moving to Maryland, or perhaps to the city itself, where our public transport rocks!

Several college towns – like Austin, TX and Madison, WI would like to join as well. Our theory is that as long as the airlifts are working, like they did in Berlin in 1960, we’d be delighted to have you.

The social theorist Richard Florida says that “three T’s” make up the future of America: talent, technology and tolerance. In other words: universities, computing, and the casual acceptance of those unlike you. That defines Austin and Madison, and we’d also like to accept Boulder while we’re at it.

And that leaves one more place for consideration. After a brief interview, we think you’ll agree that she makes a brilliant addition to our new territory. Full of great people with a hardy get-it-done attitude, she is the land of 10,000 lakes and counting. Three thousand miles from any coast, please welcome her to American Coastopia:

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the American Coastopia shirts are here!

American Coastopia!

11/2/04

Ladies and gentlemen, you needn’t fret anymore. We have decided that we can’t live in the United States anymore, because so many of you in the “heartland” are so full of shit. We were all going to move to various other countries, but then we thought – why should WE move?

We are tired of rednecks in Oklahoma picking the leader who will determine if it is safe for us to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. We are sick of homophobic knuckle-draggers in Wyoming contributing to the national debate on our gay marriages. So we have done the only thing we could.

We seceded.

May I present to you: AMERICAN COASTOPIA.

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That’s right, American Coastopia. The states of Washington, Oregon and California are joining us on one coast, and we will provide all of New England. In the middle of the country, we have taken Iowa and Illinois, mostly because we need the fine produce of Iowa’s soil, and the museums in Chicago are fabulous.

What’s with the other dots? Oh yes, we’re taking Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina too. I’m not going to live in a country without the Tar Heels. (And Duke? You’re being moved to Greensboro, just like Wake Forest was. Sorry! Assholes.)

The other dot is New Orleans, which you don’t deserve. American Coastopia needs a place to gamble, and the locals want nothing to do with you. Sure, you can visit, but it isn’t part of your country anymore.

I can sense your worry. Who will get all the banks? You can fucking have most of them, because we’re taking downtown and midtown Manhattan back, turning the whole thing into a giant artist colony replete with movie studios and progressive think tanks. Wall Street and other financial institutions will be relocated to Charlotte, which we believe will suit your needs better. Frankly, the good folks in Manhattan are sick of being a terrorist target for your benefit.

A word about our politics. Abortions will be safe and legal in American Coastopia, and homosexual men and women will be free to marry at their discretion. We will have our own currency, and trade with any countries we want. Everyone will have health care. Everyone will have an identity card. Homelessness and unemployment will be virtually unknown. We believe in a meritocracy and a huge chasm between church and state. 100% of our cars will be hybrid by 2006.

Yes, we’re taking all the people that ever created everything beautiful. Yes, we’re taking all the funny people too. All the sculptors, architects, surgeons, philosophers, violinists and fishermen. You should have treated them better when you had them.

We have no pledge of allegiance, but I can say this: I am no longer from your United States of America. I belong to American Coastopia, the United States of My Friends, the Nation of Two: my wife and I. We hold our noses as we fly over you. We are sickened by the way you treat people that are different from you. The rest of the world despises America, and we don’t want to be lumped in with you anymore.

Please, all of you who went to bed last night sick with worry, come to us. In American Coastopia, the light is always on, the hazelnut lattés are always hot, and we have a trundle bed for each and every one of you.

[ed. note: many emails asked for T-shirts, and we made these. Any profits go to our local school system]

if you pass GO, collect $200

11/1/04

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We lie in the autumn-hued valley of Reading, Pennsylvania tonight, having gone through all the training on Election Protection that we can handle. I really like this little city; miles of stunning rowhouses span the hillsides, and remind me of that Emily Dickinson poem about the train:

I like to see it lap the Miles —

And lick the Valleys up —

Speaking of trains, I knew Reading, PA the same way every other kid in America did – it’s one of the spots on the Monopoly game board. Understanding that we couldn’t wear any pro-Kerry wear to the strictly non-partisan Election Protection events, I made a few shirts that reflected my pro-Reading sensibilities:

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Everywhere I went tonight – the town hall, the Target, the Best Buy – the kids working the cash register wanted a shirt. If only I could get around the pesky licensing fees, I’d make a KILLING here, I tellsya!

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The very long, hot meeting for EP put us on full alert for the long list of Republican shenanigans most people expect, if not here, then in the surrounding counties. Reading was so fucked up in 2000 that they have a government agent at each polling site this time, and the ballots are in Spanish as well. 22,000 new Hispanic voters – 10% of the total in this county – were registered this month, which has tilted the whole town to the good guys.

I have spent over three years on this blog, talking about kidney stones, Celexa, mediocre pop songs, my beloved Tar Heels and RTVMP (Radio, Television and Motion Pictures – which used to be a major at Carolina). Since November 2002, however, I have bored many of you with my sulfur-fueled, clench-fisted hyper-rants about how much I despise our current administration. I have not felt hopeful about America or Americans. Until tonight. I’ll say it once, loud and clear:

Kerry landslide.

[ed. note: by “landslide,” I meant “natural disaster”]