Monthly Archives: April 2006

saltatory jumps along the axons

4/12/06

I quite liked it when people listed their indispensable reading/entertainment materials, so how about we make it for this particular stretch of the last three weeks? I won’t include any blogs on this list, because there are so many I visit – but rest assured that if you link to your blog in the comments section, I am quite likely a regular visitor.

Anyway, I’m in my proletariat phase. Here is what I’ve been culturally experiencing over the last 21 days:

Usual suspects on the Web:

Salon

Slate

NYTimes

CNET

UNC Basketball message boards

Brooklyn weather

Venice, CA weather

Yahoo! News Most Emailed Page

Digg.com

Gizmodo

Engadget

Defamer

Thighs Wide Shut

On TV:

24

Prison Break

In Justice

Lost

The West Wing

Drawn Together

Mythbusters

The O.C.

Bones

House

Numb3rs

The Office

Real Time with Bill Maher

On the iPod:

Rogue Wave

Puffy AmiYumi

Phoenix

supertramp.jpg

Supertramp

Telepopmusik

Everything But the Girl

Sondre Lerche

Dave Brubeck Quartet

Reading:

“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” by Patrick O’Brian

“The Carolina Way” by Dean Smith, Gerald Bell and John Kilgo

“Freakonomics” by by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

“Real Goods Solar Living Source Book: The Complete Guide to Renewable Energy Technologies and Sustainable Living” by John Schaeffer and Doug Pratt

And you?

fruit/flowers, right?

4/11/06

Four years ago tonight, I decided to keep a blog for reals. I’d already put a few efforts forth, but they were desperate stabs in some very dark nights – this was to be different, a codified telling of my journey on Celexa, and perhaps I’d throw a few other heaping helpings of 100% grade-A bullshit in there as well.

Yep, it’s my 4th blogiversary! Seriously, I was only going to do this for one year, which leads me to the next obvious question: why am I still talking?

Every year this blog gets a big shot in the arm – in 2002, it was my proposal to Tessa that got linked by the then-famous bloggers and started a steady stream of visitors besides just my Mom. In late 2003, I wrote the very silly blog about the anthropomorphic shapes of the United States (actually used it on the blog in 2004) that got Boingboinged. The next year was the Coastopia thing that I still get hate mail for, and last year, the countdown to Lucy’s day of birth kept things at a brisk pace.

This year, the most “popular” entries are really just cantankerous fights (see last week for some doozies) that get so mean-spirited so quickly that my wife has stopped reading my blog altogether. I do blame myself for most of it – after, all, I’m introducing the subject matter, regardless of the rancor that inevitably follows.

But I am getting tired of it, and my unqualified rage, though inspiring to write, is the unicorn blood of a personal blog. It offers only a half-life, and I believe the vituperation of the comments section has scared off some old-timey friends who used to throw in their occasional bon mots.

I don’t mean to come at this blogiversary as a downer, but I believe we are living in desperate times that nobody seems willing to address. There is absolutely no meeting place between two opposing sides of the political spectrum, and I’m as much to blame as anybody. For instance, if I say one thing about global warming, I get a rash of statistics from conservatives telling me why it doesn’t exist, and it’s just exhausting. For me, a 5% chance of global warming warrants a Manhattan Project of energy independence, but somehow these ideas just scare the shit out of certain people.

In essence, my views on anything political here have been rendered Absolutely No Fun™, which leaves two other big topics in my life: the entertainment industry (about which I could keep a HUGE BLOG full of GOSSIP and then LOSE ANY HOPE of WORKING IN HOLLYWOOD) and my family. There’s only so many pictures of other people’s children folks are willing to stomach, so I’m careful not to drown these pages with pictures of La Luz.

This puts me in a bind, of course, so I have to walk several edges: always write about myself without appearing self-involved; write about our various adventures without seeming like a band of bourgeois gadflies-about-the-country; discuss Philosophies of Life without stepping into the usual fetid political cow pies; and analyzing several hundred people from the past without them knowing that’s what I’m doing.

Yeah, cry me a river. Must be tough, you poor blogging fool! Well, like I said, there is a certain honor in endurance. Four years and almost 1200 entries proves something, if only that I like to look at my own poopy.

As this blog goes into Year Five, I wanted to thank all you wonderful commenters out there for every time you’ve written – a figure that stands tonight at 10,554. You know who you are, and your four years of encouragement, light and community are the diesel fuel that keeps this blog warm.

And the few bad apples that have written comments that I’ve deleted, or harsh personal emails unfit for reprint, I have to thank you for giving a shit too. But here’s the point: don’t think I don’t know what I look like. Never assume that I have no idea how I’m coming across. You may have your opinions, but I guarantee I had them about myself before you did. Just because I’ve given you 1200 glimpses into my life, don’t think for a second you know me.

Anyway! Raise Hell This Summer!!! YAY AND SEE YA AT THE BEACH!!!! NO TENTH GRADE BIOLOGY!!!!!!

calloo, callay

4/10/06

I would like to thank WWI and WWII, along with Ben Franklin, Nixon and the Kaiser of the Weimar Republic, for Daylight Savings Time. As I have oft opined, in Chapel Hill, this meant much longer hoops games on the playgrounds of Carrboro, and in general, it reduces the burden I’ve placed on Celexa.

Here in Venice, the weather finally got warm enough to sprawl out on the beach, as I was helping Tessa get the hang of the “set-up shot” in volleyball (she has a game on Saturdays) and watching Lucy dip her orange slices in the sand and then eat them (yuk). In essence, Daylight Savings Time gives us the Endless Afternoon, the lazy hours after work, even after the commute, that opens up pores, opens up possibility, opens up cans of PBR.

April also kicks off the Birthday Season in my family, as seemingly everyone except my mother was ejected from the warmth of the womb into the warmth of the season. Lucy’s first birthday is on Friday, followed quickly by Tessa, me, Sean, Michelle, Jordana, Steve, Kent, and my dad. Close friends also have warm birthdays: Jon V., Kendall, even Lindsay sneaks in by Labor Day. Salem is twelve days older than me, and Chip is only eight days my senior.

I always thought we were lucky to have birthdays during this period because it meant our toys (bikes, Matchbox cars and basketballs especially) were instantly usable, spending .06 seconds between unwrapping and outside usage. Plus, we avoided the dreaded “double present” of a near-Christmas birthday, where folks would get you one thing in the hopes it would take care of both.

It’s nice to keep updated on the weather in New York, because part of my spirit remains there no matter where we are. It looks like the beginning of a fabulous week, like Brooklyn may miss the seemingly-inevitable mid-April snowstorm. The tulip bulbs are emerging upstate, and soon, the cherry tree I got Tessa for her birthday is going to light up with crazy flowers.

Take a deep breath, and pretend for a moment it’s your tenth birthday. No global warming, no world wars, no adult-onset migraines. Just an Orange Push-Up, a new bike with three speeds, and the warm molecules of April made vaster by the expanse of saving daylight.

there ain’t no good guys

4/9/06

You know who Americans hate? I’ll tell you.

1. Gays who talk about it all the time. Seriously, Americans think, why do the gays have to go around talking about being gay all the damn time? I mean, heterosexuals don’t talk about liking girls all day! All those bumper stickers, “pride flags,” people on floats dressed up as bondage firemen… why can’t they just SHUT UP ABOUT IT?!?

2. Welfare moms. Especially the ones who are really black and really portly. And the ones that keep on having kids, kids after kids – geez, can’t they stick a cork in it already? Why do my tax dollars go to raising these thugs?

Wait, you’re saying that the majority of welfare moms are white and have less than two kids? Um, well, I don’t care. I still hate the whole lot of them. Seriously, can’t they get a goddam JOB?

3. Spoiled teenagers. These fucking kids with their iPods and laptops and Playstation 7’s… When I was a kid, we got one present at Christmas and one on our birthdays. These little spoiled brats get everything they want, instantly, it’s like they don’t even appreciate it.

Who lets a seventh grader have a cell phone? And the way they talk back to their parents? If I talked that way to my mother, my father would take out his BELT. These kids need a trip behind the SHED with a SWITCH. Let’s see them “I.M.” their pals after THAT one.

3. Manhattanites with money. Those New York City lefties think they’re better than everyone else. They have NO IDEA how the rest of us live, with their lattés and Broadway Shows and GAYS TALKING ABOUT BEING GAY. All those books about those Manhattan girls who get depressed and do a bunch of drugs? CRY ME A RIVER. They should just go ahead and kill themselves if they’re that unhappy, and then that’d be one less book to read.

4. The French. Froggy turn-n-run bastards. If it weren’t for us, they’d be speaking German.

Oh, they saved our ass in the Revolutionary War? What’s “The Revolutionary War”?

5. Fat people. Have you seen how fat people have gotten? They’re just so goddamn FAT. I hate them, with their big necks and parachute pants. Why can’t they show some self-control?

6. People who are getting away with it. I can’t believe what everyone else is doing, and nobody’s stopping them. I pay my taxes, I go to work – FUCK. That guy doesn’t get up until 11am in the morning, I bet. That woman hasn’t done an honest day’s work in her life. Of course they’re “happy,” because the rest of us are doing all the work.

He got paid a million dollars for THAT? I could have done that IN MY SLEEP. She does THAT for a living? Must be nice, you bitch. I hate them all. I HATE THEM ALL.

7. Non-famous people. Oh, that French gay fat guy in New York is in a movie with Paris Hilton? Man, that’s awesome!

somebody done somebody wrong song

4/6/06

I’ve held off talking about the Duke Lacrosse Scandal for a while, because blogs are always the “zero draft” of history, and you can look pretty foolish if you blather and end up being wrong. Witness the right-wing asshole bloggers who tore apart Jill Carroll for agreeing to film an anti-American screed while being held at gunpoint by Islamic fundamentalists. Man, those people should be kicked in the nuts. Both the fundamentalists and the bloggers, I mean.

Speaking of another group that needs to be kicked in the nuts, Duke U. is having the worst month since the Civil War. That is, if Duke hadn’t been invented in 1974.

My inclination, when first hearing about the alleged lacrosse rape, was “no duh.” Anyone who has been around that sort of culture knows the twin powderkegs hanging between most lacrosse players’ legs are usually four synapses away from something unholy. The particular viciousness of this allegation, however, sticks in the mind like a terrible song.

If it turns out to be a Tawana Brawley situation (as a few are suggesting) then the slow crawl towards racial harmony in Durham will take another lurch backwards. If the lacrosse players are found guilty, the same thing will happen. Nothing good will come of this.

Especially disgusting is the email (now on the Smoking Gun’s site) where a particularly proto-Cambrian knuckle-dragger from New Jersey threatens to kill the next set of strippers, skin them, and then sexually please himself. This email proves nothing about the case at hand, of course, except that this motherfucker needs to be handcuffed to a radiator until his nuts die of old age.

Knowing a tin ear when they hear one, the Duke student newspaper published this, an opinion piece that says, basically, Durham should be on bended knee thanking god that Duke exists, that the University provides shitty jobs that would otherwise not be available, and that Koach K eats sautéed Labrador puppies.

Well, maybe not the last part, but the column shows an unfettered entitlement, a world-view SO COMPLETELY OUT OF WHACK that the author should be forced to clean toilets at the Fayetteville Road Waffle House in order to gain perspective. To publish something like that when you’ve got the sneer of an alleged dead-eyed rapist staring at you from every newspaper in the Triangle? What the hell is going on over there?

I come from a generation that stayed up too late and despised authority. We gave the middle finger to everything we thought was pointless, and drank and smoked and I’m told a few of us had sex very early. Sure, we had the frosting of entitlement the same way every 20-year-old does, and our landlords didn’t always love us.

But this is another thing altogether. I’ve witnessed these Duke students first hand, as have Lee and Suzanne, who live mere seconds away from the worst offenders in Trinity Park. It’s the most fetid case of modern-day carpetbagging left in North Carolina, these northerners coming down, thinking they’re better than the town they live in, patronizing the local indigenous culture, and pissing acid, blood and semen all over the neighborhoods where they live.

As I’ve said before, some of my favorite people in the world went to Duke, and they know who they are. My feelings have always been tempered by the astonishing humor of Scotty, the loyalty and good nature of Lars, and the sweetness of many old friends. If you live in Chapel Hill for 15 years, you’re going to befriend a Duke student and love them despite it. As long as you don’t talk on game day, everything is cool.

But in general, my hatred for Duke was never limited to the basketball team, it was for the whole tiramisu. One night in 1986, we were in a crowded room in one of the J-frosh dorms at Duke, and my lovely friend Kris Richardson was wondering why she couldn’t find any boys she liked. Jon Vaden, my roommate, then said, “that’s because you go to school with ten thousand assholes.” I recall we had to run to the car, but he spoke for many of us that evening, long before it was cool.

The Duke womens’ basketball team lost in overtime to Maryland in the National Championship this week. One of the men’s players, a hugely-heralded recruit, decided to transfer. Then McRoberts, their only glimmer of hope for next year, looks to bolt for the NBA. And every time you turn on the news, you’ve got the Duke “D” logo with “RAPE?” next to it.

It’s their spring of discontent, a horrible downward spiral, and even those who despise the school the most, like me, almost feel pity for them. Almost.

remembrance of zings past

4/5/06

clinton.jpg

Went to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion tonight to hear Bill Clinton speak, and can I just say he was wonderful? So in command of the language, full of hope and sensibility, funny, looking good, had the audience in a froth. Of course, Clinton coming to Los Angeles right now is like a mother cat coming back to feed her starving litter. There was a palpable desperation, by almost all three thousand present, to airlift him back into the White House by any means necessary.

If all you think about Clinton is Monica Lewinsky, that’s your problem. I still remember all the warmth I felt when the President of the United States had my back. He was human, which occasionally made people irresponsibly furious, but it only made me love him more.

You conservatives should know he had every opportunity in his speech (and Q&A) to slag the Bush administration, and the audience was begging for it. But he resisted the wanton act of tossing red meat to his constituents, and actually had some kind, if guarded, words to say about his successor.

Moreover, his two major points – highlighted with the down-home-isms and quick persiflage of statistics that is his forte – were the following:

1. Interdependence is no longer optional; we all rely on each other, so the world needs to get along really well or we’re kinda fucked

2. It is every American’s responsibility to establish an informed worldview of how things ought to be, then take steps to help it become reality.

The second point was so important – I may disagree with the right-wingers on this blog, but I have an immense amount of respect for the consistency of their world view. Likewise, I have fought hard to establish my own, and do things every day to make it a reality for myself.

In essence, Clinton’s entire speech was a kinder, gentler repudiation of everything GWB stands for, without having to say a word about our present administration. Indeed, I have to think that even the conservatives in the audience (all two of them) were comparing Clinton’s speech and ideas with an imaginary scenario of Bush II doing the same, and the mental image wasn’t pretty.

The vilification of Bill Clinton, and especially his wife, remain one of the most unexplainably virulent character assassinations of recent modern history. When people hated Clinton, they could scarcely express why. I posit that Clinton-hatred was a different beast than Bush-hatred; hating GWB has always been performance-and-idea-based, whereas hating Clinton was just a religion for some people.

Yeah yeah, Monica Lewinsky, blah blah. Shut up.

I met Bill Clinton on McCauley Street in 1992, when he was just starting his bid for the Democratic ticket. A bunch of us kids stood around him and bombarded him with questions, and he dug it immensely. My fraternity brother Eric David asked him what he thought of the “designated hitter” rule, and Clinton immediately switched topics from Palestine to baseball.

His effortless language of the facts, his compassion for the planet, his hope for Americans puts me to – and in – shame. I smiled through the whole evening, but I share virtually none of his optimism. Walking out of the auditorium was like leaving the slumber party on a Sunday morning, knowing the fun was over and now you had to finish your homework for a teacher you loathe.

magna comes loudly

4/4/06

That’s it, I’ve had it. I’m no longer spelling it out for you. There was a time, years ago, when I would use smaller words, try to shrink-wrap concepts for an easy laugh, but I was just trying to have sex. Now I’m free of those earthly bonds, I have no use for the stragglers. Catch up!

Don’t understand what I’m talking about? Instead of getting frustrated and resentful, why don’t you just do a little research instead? Don’t know what priapic or effulgence or Götterdämmerung mean? Look it up; the Gold Team is sick of having to explain everything, and Earth can’t handle any more willful members of the Brown Reading Group.

I don’t care that you think I’m snotty and insufferable. If you bothered to pay attention when smart people spoke years ago, you’d be in on the joke. Remind me again what was so awesome about the unwashed masses, because I’ve forgotten. Did they have a homespun wisdom that made us feel warm at night? Did they explain away invisible monsters by using invisible gods? I promise you this: they will be useless when the power goes out.

Down with one-sentence slogans. Down with one-word slogans. Down with monosyllabic grunts. I am ready for long, complicated ideas, and so are a lot of other people. Don’t worry about boring us, we’ll break for a drink.

Why were we always so afraid of being smart? That disdainful look across the room, the dead-end teacher who thought we were far too clever, the excruciating pain of an iceball to the ear, that’s what happened.

Someone had the temerity to suggest that you get excellence by expecting excellence. But when we expected excellence, we got ridiculed. At some point, a crucial crease in our lifetime, ignorance became more valuable than passion. “Getting away with it” was the best you could say of some people, and they reveled in their indolence, bathed in their squalor until the reek drowned out all comparison.

We may have been hot-forged in the flaming pools of sarcasm, we may laugh at flatulence, but we never sold away our wide-eyed wonder at the expense of irony. We smoked, took the long staircase back, but always returned to work.

The coddling stops here. Regurgitating easy themes belongs in one place, and that’s high school poetry. Black and white is so ugly, a bivalence like alternating current, lighting up electric chairs designed to kill your spirit. I’m through with it. I want colors, millions of them.

Let them bomb me first, you’d love that. But at least I lived a life seeing all sides at once, like the cubists did. I answered the Call to Clever, I interned in the Push for Perspicacity, and scream for the Edict of Nuance. The smartest man in the world knows he knows nothing, but keeps trying anyway. I’m trailing his bus with a lot of others.

There’s no easy way to get where we are. It takes effort, time, and an inexorable dorkitude. Frankly, I don’t think you’re up to the challenge.

took a ride on the reading

4/2/06

If you haven’t been watching “The West Wing” this season, you’re really missing out. I realize it lost a lot of viewers a couple of years ago through attrition (I was one of them) but it has regained its footing this season with the presidential campaign and the impending end of the series.

Seriously, you’re going to miss this show when it goes. Whether you’re a liberal or conservative, the writing has always remained impeccable. You may find yourself next year watching television and wondering who let the I.Q. dribble out the back of your satellite dish and curse yourself for being complacent while “The West Wing” still lived.

Anyway, tonight’s episode was the “Election Day” special, and although we don’t know if Santos (Jimmy Smits) or Vinick (Alan Alda) won yet, it did bring us back to our own Election Day experience in 2004. Brought it back so hard, in fact, that I had to fight back emotion on the couch, and Tessa was in tears.

I don’t think it’s possible for conservatives (or the – gasp – truly apolitical) to understand how awful 11/2/04 was for the rest of America. It certainly ranks among the worst days of my entire life, an opinion shared by a lot of people who survived cataclysmic events that were seemingly much more horrific. Sure, I guess that makes us whiny, or precious, or lacking all perspective, but the defeat was so utterly cruel and hopeless that it took every fiber of my being not to quit writing the blog because I no longer gave a remote shit.

Instead, I wrote the Coastopia thing which started a whole ‘nother ball of wax. But I digress.

This particular “West Wing” made us viscerally experience, for the first time in a year and a half, that awful feeling we got around 6pm on Election Day when it appeared the early exit poll numbers had been wrong. Many people – including those of us who worked on Election Protection – had refused to show any optimism until those numbers started saying that the Democrats were up, which made the evening’s reality so much harder to bear. By the time we got back to Brooklyn from Reading, PA, the disaster was in full swing.

How could the majority of the country see what we had seen from 2001 to 2004 and conclude they wanted more of the same? How could we re-elect this utter moron, this lying fratboy thug? Something in us broke that night, our skulls drifted away from the American body politic, and we have not recovered.

American Coastopia was a comic attempt to reconcile this break while continuing to live in a country in which we no longer felt welcome. It was written as an antidote to packing our things and moving somewhere more civilized, somewhere gays are loved, stem cells are researched, womens’ wombs are their own, wars are not the first option, the environment is not raped, and we don’t kill our own people. Because apparently the majority of Americans on 11/2/04 thought all those things were cool.

Oh yeah, national security. Well, you fell for that one too. I still find it incredibly ironic that the places that were actually hit or planned to be hit by foreign terrorism – California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Washington D.C. – all voted for Democrats. But as long as you Alabamians feel safer with Bush, then you got what you wanted.

In fact, you all got what you wanted, and in the eyes of progressives, you got what you deserved. Now your President has an approval rating of 37%, even in the usually-more-conservative Time Magazine poll. Roughly translated from the 2004 election returns, that means 14.2 MILLION people who voted for Bush now disapprove of him. Well, fourteen-point-two-million, you have nobody but yourselves to blame, you pathetic boobs.

Yes, I called you “pathetic boobs”. You deserve it. You left us with this guy and only now bother to show righteous indignation? You make me sick. You had access to the same information as the rest of us. At least real conservatives stick by their guns, but you’re the worst kind of pusillanimous, wobbling imbeciles. I hope your stomach lining eats away what’s left of your digestive tract.

But to be honest, I don’t really care anymore. I try to keep my side of the street clean. I still take potshots at Republican wingnuts from my miniscule pulpit here on the blog, but mostly, I try to negate my impact on the environment, try to write good stories for a living, entertain my friends, and be a good daddy. The tears we cried tonight over a TV show were not tears of rage, they were tears of loss, remembering the night when we cared so much about a country that it nearly killed us to lose it.

And she doesn’t even like me

And I know because she said so

In the room downstairs, she sat and stared

In the room downstairs, she sat and stared

I’ll never make that mistake again.

– The Smiths