Monthly Archives: March 2006

inshallah shalom


I think it’s time I did another mea culpa for this week, and this time it has nothing to do with dropping my daughter on a marble floor. It concerns the post from several weeks ago discussing my rumbling anxiousness concerning Islam after witnessing the death and destruction following the publication of the Mohammed cartoons.

I had a small conversion experience – or at least a breath of fresh illumination – after listening to a good deal of the amazing Two Narratives show on NPR a few days ago, where an Israeli Jew and an Palestinian both were given a lot of time to air their various frustrations and dreams. If that sounds dull to you, then the next forty years will probably bore you to tears, as it is these very mindsets that will probably forge the direction of both the U.S. and the whole world. I urge you to listen to at least a few minutes.

When I wrote that blog in February, I was partially mindful that it would hurt one of my oldest friends from Carolina, a sensationally intelligent, sensitive guy who converted to Islam a number of years ago. He and I will write a blog together on this topic soon (I hope) but I need to say, in public, that my ruminations on the subject were said in the heat of fear, and I’m somewhat embarrassed by them now. Li’l bro, please accept my apologies.

It has come to this: when I heard the news about the guy who drove his SUV into the Pit at UNC and tried to kill a bunch of students, the next thing everyone said was “he’s Muslim.” To which my first reaction was: “no, he’s CRAZY.” That motherfucker was no more a spokesman for Islam than Wendell Williamson was a spokesman for Presbyterianism.

And it began to dawn on me that we are not engaged in a battle against The East, nor against Islam, nor even against Fundamentalist Islam. We are in a war against CRAZY PEOPLE, and this go round, many of them happen to be of the Islamic faith. Casting this battle in religious tones, as Bush’s right-wing minions in print and media have done, has thrown our innocence out with the bathwater.

Does Fundamentalist Islam attract violent people? I don’t think so anymore. Being poor, hungry, choiceless, young and gullible does every time, however. The rest of the religion – like the one my friend practices – is full of love, brotherhood and (in the words of Yossi Klein Halevi, a Jew who went into the mosques and prayed with his “enemies”) has an enviable “fearlessness” about it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I still think all religions that talk about an actual God that has rules and magical resurrections and Heaven and all that is still mystifyingly stupid, but as I’ve said before, I’m content to be the lone agnostic thinking everyone else has swallowed a pill I have not. I also have zero respect for religions that place an unholy burden on their children to marry within the faith. And I also invite all of you not to give a flying Rice Krispies Shit Square what I think. I mean, everybody wants a rock to wind a piece of string around.

But the angles are suddenly becoming clear. Those men holding signs in London saying “England, Your 9/11 is Coming” deserve a tire iron to the shins, not because of their religion, but because they’re CRAZY. Bin Laden is not Muslim, he’s CRAZY. Pat Robertson is not a Christian, he’s CRAZY. Ann Coulter is not a conservative, she’s CRUEL, ANGRY from some DEEP-SET EMOTIONAL TRAUMA, and thus CRAZY.

Forget religion and take these people at their words and actions. Bush was supposed to “redefine” his foreign policy yesterday and instead said more of the same old bullshit. Instead, if he’d said “The War on Terror is now called The War on Crazy,” then I would have signed on in a second. And the first battle would be getting rid of him.

dayton: birthplace of aviation! (sorta)


Alyson asked me about my brackets yesterday, and I have to say, I’ve never felt so topsy-turvy about March Madness, and I’ve been obsessing about it since about 1985. I will, however, tell you some of my fears and thoughts:

1. dook is so fucking lucky and got such a joke of a bracket that they’ll sleepwalk into the Final Four unless someone actually dares to really play them. I’d love to see LSU beat the ever-livin’ shit out of them. There is NO WAY the universe is big enough for the unfairness of Koach K getting a fourth ring.

2. Unfortunately, that leaves UCONN as the “best” team, and that means another championship for them, which seems a bit much.

3. That guy from Villanova who got his eye poked out of the socket? It reminded me of the scene in King Lear when they blind the king with a knife, saying “out, vile jelly.” It still gives me chills. Still, the dude is out there practicing two days later (Allen Ray, not King Lear, whose jumpshot was terrible even when he had vision).

4. I don’t think a 12 will beat a 5 this year. Something more delicious will happen.

5. I have been doing very well in picking brackets over the last three years (and even won a huge pool in 2004). This year, I have a feeling I will tank like a cardigan made of lead. Memphis is a #1 seed, and I have not seen them play – even on SportsCenter – once. Everyone says Iona has a shot, but whatever. This year’s pool is of the “monkeys in space writing Hamlet” variety.

6. What to think of our beloved Tar Heels? The millisecond I saw us paired with Boston College in the ACC tournament, I knew we’d lose that game. And unless we can get some momentum in the Dance – while getting jobbed with the hardest 14 seed in memory, along with playing Michigan State as a virtual home game FOR THEM – it’s easy to see us go down early.

But sometimes we forget we have Roy, and that means anything can happen. Even another matchup with UCONN, or even those scabies from Durham. It’s really anyone’s guess, which is as exciting as it is frustrating.

Any last-minute thoughts you’d like to share so that you’ll look brilliant a few days hence?

end of rope seen, discussed


Every once in a while I get excoriated by someone who used to read the DTH and then “stumbled” upon my blog, wondering why I have lost my joy in life and resort to the pathetic left-wing ramblings that they can find anywhere else on the internet. Fair enough, I guess: I’m not 19, getting drunk three times a week and have the luxury of a whole week gearing up to say something trenchant, witty and joyous.

I like to think that I keep up a good face on this blog – fuck, I dare anyone to pick three random entries from the last four years and not think this wasn’t quality, USDA-choice, grade-A syllables being spewed on here.

But every once in a while, I have a day like today, when the news in Iraq, the recent studies on global warming, and the deafening silence by my own party concerning the censure of George W. Bush just make me so frickin’ SAD.

I know it’s not fair to always invoke your baby children when making your arguments, and god knows that shit used to drive me crazy when other people did it, but when you look at the new projections for sea levels in 2016 – when Lucy will be only ten – how can you not come to the conclusion that we’ve got the worst people in charge at the worst crossroads in American history?

I have a few questions for the conservatives who read this blog. I’m not interested in debating whether or not global warming exists – personally, I think you have to be severely deluded to believe the rosy horseshit peddled by the G.O.P. – but what I want to know is this: how can you support this President when YOUR OWN KIDS are at stake? I mean, even if there is a 50% chance global warming doesn’t exist, WHY TAKE THAT CHANCE?

Bush said he didn’t support Kyoto because it would hurt the American economy (a statement that makes me and every other progressive quake with rage), but even a full-scale recession would be a tiny blip on the radar compared to the environmental catastrophe we could be facing in twenty years. How can you support this guy?

How can you still support his way of fighting the Iraq war? IT’S A DISASTER, and EVEN THE TROOPS SAY SO.

How can you stomach his idea of the separation of church and state? How can you stomach Abu Ghraib? How can you stomach outing Valerie Plame? How can you stomach lying about the war?

Seriously, how do you do it? Step back from yourself, quit thinking tribally, stop thinking “well, this is my team and I’m sticking to it” and answer the question. I promise, if ANYONE explains it well, I will GLADLY concede the argument and send you a nice postcard from the left coast.

luck pressed


I’m not one to talk about local news much – the goings-on of your average day in NYC or LA are frequently too gruesome to recount, and the local news in North Carolina usually has the “what you don’t know about stucco ceilings may kill you” kind of vibe – but a 6-seater plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean about 200 yards from our little bungalow this morning, and it turned out to be a bigger deal than we expected.

The plane was a “Bonanza”-type aircraft, and it was trying to make its way back to the Santa Monica Airport – a tiny airstrip just on the other side of our hill. Something catastrophic happened with the li’l guy, because it hit the water right in full view of our street at about a 20-degree angle and then sank about fifteen feet.

We went to take a look after the Coast Guard brought it to the surface with airbags and dragged it away from high tide, and I snapped a few pics:


Then we got home, and it was all over the internet (watch the videos) and even on Yahoo’s national most-emailed list. Two people had died: game show host Peter Tomarken and his wife. You’ll know him as the host of “Press Your Luck,” where you’d spin the electronic board and scream “NO WHAMMIES!”

Tessa had never seen an episode of “Press Your Luck,” so imagine me trying to explain what the “whammies” were. Like a character that, um, dressed as a woman sometimes, in a cartoon, that like, wiggled across the screen and took all your money. Finally, I found this page with a ton of pics and videos to give her the general idea. I had forgotten how unbelievably ’80s that show really was, and how Peter Tomarken kept things funny without dipping to the show’s cruel cheesiness.

Anyway, Tomarken and his wife were flying to San Diego on an “angel” mission to pick up someone who needed cancer treatment here in Los Angeles. Two things struck me: his plane was roughly the same size my brother Steve flies all the time, so Steve – please be careful, dammit.

The other is this: hats off and raise a glass to Peter Tomarken, who was obviously one of the good guys. God speed, Mr. And Mrs. Tomarken, and wherever you may be going, may the Whammy never get you.

do re mea culpa


Look, I know everyone on here who is a parent – or even an uncle, aunt or babysitter – has heard of worse, but what I’m about to tell you chilled me to the core. Tessa, Lucy and I visited my dad and stepmother in La Quinta, CA (near Palm Springs) this weekend, and on Friday night, I brought Lucy into the guest house to change her diaper and get her ready for a bath.

You’re NEVER supposed to do this, but I set her on the bed for a split second while I turned around to grab her towel, and I swear, it was about .7 seconds before I heard the sound of her head falling from the top of the bed to the marble tile floor below. She wailed in abject pain, and then, when I hurried her back into the main house, she threw up on both of us and generally had a miserable time of it until she finally went to sleep.

After paging our doctor, we did every precaution afterwards: no Tylenol, woke her up in the middle of the night to give her water, and generally sat on the bed next to her, worrying until four in the morning.

Long story short, she was fine. The next day she was as funny and animated as ever, and we can’t even find a bump on her head, or a bruise, or anything. It’s truly as if this child is made of rubber and titanium. She’s been trying to stand up by herself these days, which precipitates a lot of harsh falls, and even when she clocks her face on the side of something, she usually doesn’t even register it as pain – just picks herself up and continues her projects.

But me, that night, I can’t tell you the depths of shame that rose in my body. After her little bath, and dressing her in jammies, I just held her in my arms all alone and rocked back and forth, I couldn’t fathom that I’d let something like that happen to her. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die.

I thought back to the first day she was born, when I was holding her hand under the heat lamp. They kept pricking her heel for glucose levels, and it was pissing her off, so I was there to make sure she spent her first day in the warm glow of a loving parent. Only hours before I’d seen her take her first breath, and the fragility of her being here – god, it was overwhelming. And now I’d let her fall off a bed onto a marble floor.

Parenting is regarded as pass/fail, but you certainly award yourself a daily grade, and I gave myself an F-minus for Friday. My only job is to protect her from harm; it’s more important than my “career” or anything else, and I’d done what EVERY childbirth class tells you not to do: don’t put your baby on a bed. It’s as universal a rule as “no electrical sockets,” “no peanuts” and “I’m not paying for Duke.”

Since I didn’t see her fall, I have to assume we got lucky, and she must have fallen on her butt first, or somehow a blanket cushioned the fall. But I heard the sound of her head, and it haunts me. It replays in my head and makes my stomach churn with pain.

And so, while Tessa was breastfeeding, and nobody was around, I got by the bed, on my knees, in the position of one who was about to pray. Instead, I let go of my hands and whacked my fucking head on the floor as hard as I could. I couldn’t see straight for two hours, and the headache was mind-crushing, but man, fair is fair.


after smearing carrots on her face

just to, y’know, take the edge off


So my wonderful wife Tessa has a great article on the front page of Salon today, about an old boyfriend of hers that use to take Ambien, propose marriage, and then wake up without remembering any of it. Yes, unless you subscribe to Salon like a normal human being, you have to watch a 10-second ad, but take one for the home team, yes?

Her article sprang out of Wednesday’s NYT article about people taking Ambien and “sleep-driving,” occasionally peeing in the middle of intersections, hitting telephone poles, and not knowing any of it had happened. Of course, the Times article has been in the Top 5 Most Emailed list for two days, so there’s obviously a lot of mileage to be gotten from your daffy Ambien-addicted friends.

One thing that Tessa didn’t entirely anticipate was the “letters” section that is unmoderated and attached to the end of each article. I was vilified somewhat for my Salon piece on the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping (thankfully, only one letter still survives), but I’m always amazed at the amount of time nad-scratching armchair philosophers in jammies will take to let their invective loose on a writer exposing his or herself (anonymously, of course).

The letters regarding Tessa’s article got immediately nasty, because if there’s one thing the hoi polloi of the internet can’t stand, it’s people from Manhattan writing about other people from Manhattan who have money. Never mind that the main point of the article was about the power of the drug, and the secondary point was Tessa’s self-effacement – some readers just react to stories mentioning Cosima von Bulow with the sort of holier-than-thou disdain usually reserved for people who sneeze on the subway.

The sheer pretention and Upper East Sidieness of the article was part of the delivery, but whatever, you can’t teach people three things: vibrato, a vertical leap, and irony.

Before other letter-writers rallied to her defense, Tessa got that look in her eye, the I-just-pulled-my-pants-down gaze that I know so well, having suffered through it on this very blog. I think back to some of my entries in 2002-2003 before I had comments, where I was savaged for being a yuppie, having my priorities out of whack, having a house in Columbia County, being sexist, being an asshole, and not being cute enough to marry Tessa.

Being disparaged right after my wedding hurt, to be sure, but it wasn’t long before those calluses became strong enough to endure pretty much anything on this site. I mean, I know what I look like to most people. I fully GET what Tessa and I might seem like to those who don’t know us. If you don’t think I (or we) have attained that level of self-awareness, you grossly underestimate your humble servants.

The regular commentary on here is wonderful, to be sure, but you people should see some of the stuff I delete from older entries, people who find this website on a whim, and then post the nastiest character assassinations they can muster. The spam filter blocks most of them, and I trash the rest. There may be a day when I get sick of it and take my toys and go home, but for now, I DON’T GIVE A FUCK. THINK WHATEVER YOU WANT.

I’m so proud of my wife, who just dashed off a great piece of writing in a matter of hours. And I’d like to thank you, the mean-spirited internet at large, for giving me enough shit that I don’t care what you think anymore.

i’ll never have that recipe again


The worst fucking song in the history of pop music is “My Humps” by The Black-Eyed Peas. This may come as no surprise to many of you, as it has been well-documented by other sources, but I am not given to superlatives without a good deal of research, and after letting this song dwindle in my head since last fall, I’m just going to come right out and say it: it’s the worst, period. Nothing comes close.

When you’re dealing with pop music (and love it like I do) you have to be careful with your love and hate. One thing that always pissed me off about the rock intelligentsia of the early ’90s was the casual beatification of musicians whom I thought were okay at best (J Mascis, Pavement, etc). Conversely, you have to avoid the screeching harlots of any given road trip who are quick to dismiss every song as “the worst ever.”

I have to remain sanguine about these things, so when I first heard “My Humps” in October 2005 (and subsequently had a figurative brain hemorrhage), I had to relax, count to ten, put down the fork I was about to lodge into my neck, and take the afternoon off.

In a quieter moment, I resolved to revisit the song (or “song,” as the case may be) at some point further on, when the horrors of my first impression could be more easily assimilated. To my disgust, the 30th hearing of “My Humps” is more terrifying than the first, and so it is now I’ve come to the conclusion that it is the worst fucking song in pop history.

Why do I get to say? Thirty or so years of listening to every song from 1955 (decades before I was born) to now, along with an autistic savant recall of the Billboard Top 40 from 1978 to 1993, along with 25 years of violin and piano, majoring in music – well, these things ought to put me in contention. But I’ve also written about music since those days in the DTH when we were the first to make our Top 10 Worst Lists and even started a Misheard Song Lyric contest a decade before it became a phenomenon. I obsess.

But enough about my credentials. The song speaks for itself. The backing “instrumental” consists of the thinnest, reediest, crappiest synth line this side of porn. In fact, most porn films try harder. Fergie’s delivery of her “lines” is so sing-songy chowderheaded that you think she might be trying to teach lemurs to speak. It’s just SO, SO AWFUL.

And the “lyrics“? The idea is simple enough: Fergie’s woman-parts are so appealing that it inspires would-be suitors to buy her name-brand items of clothing and jewelry. Which would be funny, if the “rap” weren’t so tired, cliché, and about as cynical as product placement in movies: Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan and even Seven Jeans are mentioned.

She rhymes “nicely” with “iceies.” She rhymes “sexy” with “sex me.”

Suppose we look at female sexuality as a list, from top to bottom. At the top is the poetic ideal of romance, at the bottom is the basest, lowest thoughts possible. It would look something like this:















My Humps

My Lovely Lady Lumps

Indeed, the Black-Eyed Peas have debased the mystery of woman into not just tits, not just ass, but the brutal sum-up of human bulbs of flesh meant to invoke the spending of money.

It would be funny, but I don’t think they think they’re being funny. Yes, “you’re meant to dance to it, not think about it,” yes yes yes, you blithering anti-intellectual, I get it. But there’s nothing in this song, nor the BEP’s oeuvre that would suggest they have any sense of humor.

Here’s what I think. I think they got together and decided to cobble a song with the worst beat, the worst music, and the worst lyrics they could muster. Using Fergie’s made-for-the-sexual-apocalypse body, they released this fucking song with a scowl, then laughed all the way to the bank. The Black-Eyed Peas are shoving three fingers up your ass and then demanding you pay them for it.

Apparently there’s a video, but if you need a video for a song to make sense, I’m with Lewis Black: you should fucking kill yourself.

“My Humps.” A cultural moment has happened. Forget about your MacArthur Parks, your Blame It On the Rains, your Electric Avenues. The gaping maw has opened up and shown us its bottom.

the salmon mousse


Today’s blog canceled due to a violent day’s worth of food poisoning. I won’t even begin to describe it.

So instead, how about a pic of Lucy for Lee Lee (who gets costume credit)?


Also a shout-out to my girl Quinn, whose awesome product The HipHugger we use every day, and if you look at the cover of In Touch magazine at your local grocery, Angelina Jolie is wearing it at top left.

Oh, and belated congrats to my brother Steve who just got a killer job making internet darling even cooler.

That is all. Off to barf!

i keep telling her it’s a palming violation


I have to keep this short, as we just spent the day moving to a new location in Venice during a torrential rainstorm (but we’re right on the sand now, yo!), and I’m sure most of you know that moving anywhere isn’t just a physical exhaustion, it’s a pretty big emotional upheaval as well. I thought it would completely freak Lucy out, but ever since Saturday night, she’s been dunking from the foul line and lining up endorsement deals.


So we have our hands full, and I leave today’s discussion up to you. The Oscars? The evil of piggybacking on someone else’s unprotected wifi signal? Koach K as Republican fundraiser?

weight room!


Really, even I have to admit that in its most distilled form, my religion is only ten guys trying to get a piece of spherical leather into a basket. But for those of you who don’t love college basketball the way I do, I really hope you have some other irrational interest that gives your life constant metaphors, mythic anticipation, and an opportunity to cry both flavors.

I’m not going to get into what happened with UNC vs. dook on Saturday night, because if you care, you’ve already read 15-20 breathless articles in print and the internet, and if you don’t, no amount of gliding verbiage will make you see these things differently.

Suffice to say my team – the one from Chapel Hill wearing light blue – went to Durham on their “senior night” and, against many odds too numerous to repeat, won. For me, the joy wasn’t entirely the final score. It was the laying bare of something we’ve known for decades.

It was comeuppance for a gifted shooter who nonetheless gave the UNC crowd the “shocker” (a violently anal, sexist hand gesture) after knocking down the game-winners in the first contest. It was Koach K spewing such guttersnipe profanity at one ref that he had to be restrained. It was an entire channel of ESPN showing the “Cameron Crazies” – who once chanted “orphan!” at our own Scott Williams, whose parents had killed each other – struck dumb at the sight of their team disintegrating. It was a Duke player, Sean Dockery, deliberately striking our player Tyler Hansbrough in the mouth after the game was already over.

These things were seen, seen by anyone who happened to glance at any of the ESPN channels last night, and certainly discussed by fans of all schools, regardless of affiliation. The book was laid open, and the pages flew everywhere.

I like to think I was on the front lines of hating Duke, not just because of the DTH article from 1990, but because my adolescence coincided roughly with the ascendance of Koach K in the ACC, meaning I came of age right around the same year his teams did. As I have oft said, I camped out in the mud that was to become Carmichael Dorm during the holiday months of 1985 to see the first game in the Dean Dome.

I have now attended twenty-one straight home UNC-dook games since that evening, and loathed everything they stood for. In the last few weeks, I – along with many other fans of the game – have been joined by pundits from respected TV sports organizations, internet personalities, and about-to-be-bestselling authors in wondering aloud why such an obvious jerk like K, coaching at such a freakishly lame school like dook, has been getting such a pass all these years.

Indeed, the complaints – dook gets all the calls, K is a filthy-mouthed asswipe who rides officials, their players are sore winners and even sorer losers, K’s ads for American Express redefine hypocrisy, K throws his players under the bus for the sake of winning at all costs, dook students ruin Durham’s neighborhoods, etc. – have risen to such a fever pitch that I’m now anticipating the backlash backlash.

But for now, I feel like all of us who have grinned and beared it for so long are finally given succor. Again, if you don’t follow this sport, it may all seem pathetic, picayune and unimportant. In a way, I feel sorry for you, because the unmasking of a villain is always such joy, but only if you’re deeply in love with the story.