Monthly Archives: September 2007

ooh la la

Enough righteous indignation from me… my computer cried uncle and I’m writing from my cell phone. Which leads me to today’s CODE WORD question: what are you wearing?

No, seriously, what are you wearing this very second?

Answers not allowed:

a) “nothing”

b) “a grin” etc.

c) lies

So?

wake me up when zeptember ends

9/11/07

Something got me so fucking angry that I have to recant my desire to ignore the 9/11 anniversary: the Federal Government has now banned regular people from helping out when national disasters strike. I can’t imagine anything stupider, less productive, unrealistic, cruel and downright goddamn contemptuous. Just when you think you’ve seen it all from these assholes.

Let me tell you something: if it weren’t for the work of my sister Michelle and my wife Tessa on the nights of September 12-15, the main gathering area of firemen and paramedics at Ground Zero would have been NON-FUNCTIONAL. Impromptu lights were falling down, no water was being delivered to the actual crews, and as the saying goes, “there was no THERE there.” Thinking on her feet, my sister basically reorganized the whole damn thing. Read her very short email from 9/13/01 here. And what was her training? Waitressing and acting.

Are you trying to tell me that the very same people who took FIVE DAYS to deliver a bottle of water to the Superdome after Katrina are now saying that you need special dispensation and a computer-scan badge to help neighbors dying by the score? It’s like when they only bought 100,000 doses of Neumune, claiming you could get it by going to a hospital after a nuclear attack. What is wrong with these people?

emergencyID.jpg

They have no concept of what the world is like during an actual event – no clue of the immediate breakdown of normal channels. I can promise you this: in the event of a national emergency in your town, you will have ten contingency plans, and all ten will be laughably obsolete in a matter of seconds. An ID card with an embedded chip? And somebody will be on the ground at the tragedy, at a main entrance, with a working, electronic “chip decoder” that will determine if you’re qualified to help a severely-burned little boy find his parents?

Jesus Christ, what happened to helping your fellow man? I urge all of you to listen to this podcast by This American Life six weeks after Katrina, especially Act 2, and then think about this new law. Go ahead and read Michelle’s email from September 14, 2001 and tell her that she’s not allowed to go to Ground Zero. Hell, read them all.

This act of uncharitable stupidity can only be one thing: a way to keep meddlesome lefties and Patagonia-wearin’ bleedin’-hearts from observing what really happens during an emergency and telling anyone about it. This administration wants to keep the next terrorist attack (or natural disaster) a sanitized zone where no fault can be laid at their feet. Keep going to the mall, Americans. Keep buying your fucking shoes.

My “offhand” and “offensive” remark about disregarding September 11 as an anniversary doesn’t come out of partisanship, mean-spiritedness or complacency. It comes out of necessity. The remembrance of that day only brings up two things to me: the naked, brazen political co-opting of America’s grief by some of the worst people in the world… and the horrible realization that we have learned NOTHING from the actual event about how to take care of each other.

Victims of 9/11, their families, and those of us who wandered in the penumbra of that horror relive those moments plenty of times during the year, and speaking only for myself, the “anniversary” is an unwelcome redundancy. For some things, healing is forgetting.

the comeback kidding

9/10/07

To continue with our theme of blonde Southerners doing very silly things in front of everybody, I remained stunned at Britney Spears’ VMA performance, not because of Spears’ quaaluded dancing or her supposed rotundity, but because it was allowed to happen at all. While the rest of America basked in headlines like “The Fat Lady Doesn’t Sing” and “Lard and Clear”, the real story is how little power her handlers seem to have.

britsp.jpg

Britney Spears is a Jive recording artist, which means her career is now wholly owned by Sony BMG, who has millions of dollars at stake in her career. Although I wouldn’t wish a music exec job on anybody, people actually depend upon artists like Britney to do well or else they eventually get downsized. Every time she flashes her coochie in a limo, shaves her head, or goes pole-dancing on Sunset Blvd., there is someone in a cubicle somewhere who feels three feet closer to the guillotine.

You could say that these antics have kept her in the headlines, and thus people still know who she is after 14 years in the business, but there is a point where anyone can fuse into a joke that can’t be untold. These days, her status as a punchline puts all consumption of her product into question. Last year, well before her emotional cheese slipped off her Triscuit, the Budster and I took a little road trip where he said, “Look, the next song on the mix is Britney Spears, but I like it anyway” (it was “Toxic,” and I promptly downloaded it myself).

Thus, there is a shitload of money riding on Spears’ next album, because it could have been an against-all-odds legitimate comeback, probably the last one she’ll be afforded. There will be millions spent on advertising, tie-in promos, videos, junkets – and Britney fucked it up in three minutes. So I ask: where is the person who keeps that from happening?

Even now, in the age of cellphone movies, the only scandals you hear about are the ones that get past the handlers, where Your Star of Choice does something so stupid and public that nobody can spin their way out of it. See Ashlee Simpson’s visit to McDonald’s, Lindsay Lohan’s car chase, Pete Doherty burgling his own bandmate’s apartment, etc… basically your average haul on TMZ or Defamer.

In the case of the VMA awards, however, there were so many bad decisions. She obviously wasn’t ready physically, had lost all rapport with any audience, and chose the most bizarrely-unflattering get-up, virtually guaranteed to provoke the most derision. As far as the dancing, she looked like Kareem in his later years, barely caring enough to get back on defense.

With so much at stake, I’m flabbergasted Sony didn’t have someone on her case, if only to provide some good orderly direction. People tune in to see one of two things: a train wreck or transcendence. That’s fine, but with a train wreck, Sony actually just lost a ton of money.

Look, by any American standard Britney Spears is still skinny; in fact, I pretty much always think more weight is healthy, if not downright sexy. And buried deep within a frame atrophied by muscle relaxants, she must still be a great dancer. But if you want to see how to do things right, simply look across the Mouseketeer aisle at Christina Aguilera. It helps that Aguilera is an immense vocal talent in a league Spears can only dream of, but she also has one consistent trump card: she ain’t batshit crazy.

bill and ted’s slightly-below-average adventure

9/9/07

Man, you can be as philosophically belligerent as you want, but if you really want hate mail, simply impugn the reputation of Miss Teen South Carolina. I’m sorry, but I respectfully disagree with most of you. The second that girl entered a nationally-televised beauty contest, she abdicated all rights to intellectual respect, or at the very least, she threw open the door to whatever criticism might come her way.

If you can’t take the spotlight, and you can’t field a simple question about the USA, maybe you shouldn’t be in the running for Miss Teen USA, I’m just sayin’. Yes, it would have been much better if Caitlin was a guy, which would have defused the inevitable dumb blonde jokes, but this wasn’t about sexism, it was about a marked lack of excellence.

Yes, excellence. All but forgotten between the Scylla and Charybdis of snark and anti-intellectualism, excellence used to count as currency around here. My own family may have been too lazy to achieve excellence on any consistent basis, but we sure as hell knew what it was, and what it took to get there: no shortcuts, years of dorking out on a particular subject, odd dedication at the expense of a social life, and a belief than anything less than Awesome was a waste of everyone’s time.

My dad even had a name for it: “turning a phrase.” It meant, in musical terms, that you were so comfortable with your instrument and performance that you could inject these little moments of pure transcendence into each concert. They may last less than a second, but it’s that tiny bit in the string quartet, the little moment in a movie, the briefest epiphany in a play that made you cry. There is only one way to get that ability, and it ain’t by watching “Wheel of Fortune”.

This spectre of achievement hung over my high school, was loosely draped over Carolina, and was even the motto of my frickin’ fraternity: “In all things, excellence.” Before the inevitable biorhythm of the brotherhood took us down a different path, my fraternity actually was excellent, producing guys that now run major parts of New York and Hollywood.

These days, I still run on the petrol of excellence, even when I’m a long way from achieving it. In everything we write, I try to ask myself if there were any shortcuts in it, any clichés that took the place of something more interesting, or a plot point that was merely “good enough”. Do I get there every time? Hell no! I’ve been responsible for my share of crap, but at least I know a train wreck when I see it.

Another thing I do is keep this blog, which opens me up to a tremendous amount of criticism. With very few exceptions, I never delete a comment, all because I’m right here, writing these words, ASKING FOR IT. I write most weekdays, and while I’m no dooce, I have a strong readership, any of whom can deliver a whalloping criticism any time they choose. In short, I can take the heat, and therefore choose to stay in the kitchen.

And from my perch on the stove, I feel more than comfortable lobbing slow-pitch softballs at a beauty queen who could have chosen to excel in graphic design (like she says) but instead chose to answer questions about the United States’ educational system on national television. The only way for this charade to have been intellectually honest would be if she ripped off her shirt, pointed at her nipples and said “learn THIS, motherfuckers!” The mere fact that Miss Teen USA has to answer any questions is the definition of “disingenuous”.

As for the commenters, one in particular, who keeps harping on the apparently damning rumor that I could read when I was three, I have to say: gee, I’m really not sorry. It was 1970, and I don’t remember it, but thank fucking god I had SOME skill that allowed me to transcend the schoolyard. Besides, why wouldn’t that be something to celebrated? I delight in ALL of your kids’ achievements – when I see xuxE’s pics of her family, I feel like the world is moving in the right direction.

And with apologies to craighill (who no doubt believes I’d blame Wayne Ellington’s missed 3-pointers on George Bush) but I truly think a populace subconsciously (or consciously) takes its emotional cues from its leaders, and the Bush Administration has vilified intellect from day one. Forget the travesty of No Child Left Behind – Bush has done exceptional damage by fostering an environment where Experts Are To Be Mistrusted, opting instead for “gut instincts” – and we all see how well that worked. Either Bush is the dumbest sumbitch ever to inhabit the Oval Office (which is scary), or he’s pretending to be the dumbest (which is criminal).

Either way, the mantra of “you’re trying too hard” got stuck on smartypantses around America in the 1980s, filtered to colleges in the ’90s, and crystallized over the last seven years. Frankly, it disgusts me, and both my wife and I have an allergic reaction to the phrase “you’re thinking too much.”

Offended by this lecture? TOO BAD! TRY HARDER! NUT UP, YOUNG SPORTSPEOPLE!

Not everybody has to be excellent; it just has to be valued. Excellence doesn’t mean “no fun”; you can do three tequila shots on a road trip to New Orleans and still be excellent. You can even show your tits, drop trou and hang brain, laugh at the guy who keeps farting and getting kicked in the nuts… and still strive towards excellence. That’s the genius of genius: once you’ve turned a phrase, the low-hanging fruit tastes even better.

the capital of poo-poo is Fartypants City

9/5/07

By now, most of you saw the YouTube video of Miss Teen USA South Carolina 2007 Caitlin Upton answering a question onstage with the most outlandish gibberish this side of kindergarten – personally, I like this one with subtitles the best. Sure, we all got to have a good laugh, and for good reason: not even severe stage fright could possibly account for the goat’s-head-stew of nouns and verbs emanating from her pharynx. This is someone who has obviously coasted through life, no books cracked, all doors having been opened for her from Myrtle Beach to Columbia, ‘cuz she’s pretty.

Lauren_Caitlin_Upton.jpg

trying to find her way back from the bathroom

And she’s pretty in that horrible New America Mall sort of way – all pinks and yellows, horrifyingly cute lips and brows that suggest anime or porn. Those of us who call North Carolina home would suggest it was only a matter of time before South Carolina gave us something like Caitlin Upton to put our borders in stark relief.

The amazing thing is this: she was so bad that she got a do-over on the Today show. You’ve got to give credit to our country’s culture when the only remedy for such imbecility is “more imbecile, please!” In this clip, it’s hard to tell who’s more embarrassing, Caitlin or Matt Lauer, a groveling apologist if ever there was one.

For those among us who moan “oh let it be, the poor girl’s suffered enough” I’d like to misquote Oscar Wilde, and say “the rancor is unbearable, I hope it lasts!” The mere fact that anyone is called out for being stunningly vacant in Bush’s America is cause for celebration. In our oxygen-deprived, anti-intellectual atmosphere, I would have thought the idiocy of the Miss Teen USA Pageant would have earned her a pass.

Blessedly, no. Apparently there’s still room for a good healthy shaming of the chronically chowderheaded, and for that, I give thanks. When forced to choose between two major annoyances – the dimwit and the know-it-all – gimme the know-it-all ten times out of ten.

please can i have another melocotón please

9/3/07

Lucy1M-27M(bl).jpg

Lucy every three months up to 2 1/4 years – click for bigger

Hi there my sweet little Lulubean pumpkinpants! I know I said I’d write one of these every three months to you, but summers are crazy for us right now: it’s not just the high season for all things television, but it’s also the time we travel to see family, attend weddings, and anything else that comes our way. I usually purport to say something interesting, so I keep putting it off, and now here we are, well past your 2 1/4 mark. Still, I’m a glutton for formalism, so here you go.

The phrase most uttered in our house is “where the hell did she learn THAT?” – spoken by me to Tessa, or the other way around. Your lapses into soliloquy have to be some of the funniest shite we’ve heard in years, even if you yell “don’t laugh!” when you’re done.

LucyLittleMissGiggles(bl).jpg

You went on a Timothy Leary-esque tangent on The Long Way of the Fork at dinner the other night – O! Would that we had the camera! It lasted for five minutes and made sense in some LSD-drenched cranny in your expanding mind. All I know is that you were holding a fork aloft and telling a story with the oblique refrain “and the fork goes like this… the LOOOOOOONG WAAAAAAAAY.” It reminded me of my intellectual fraternity brothers after shotgunning a full bottle of Pimm’s.

You have continued using superfluous words in sentences just to try them out, even though it can make you sound excessively formal:

“I think I’m going to have to get dressed… after all.”

“Here’s the thing – my diaper has poop.”

“Actually, I find the pasta is quite cold, I think.”

“I asked Barnaby if he was delighted to have pancakes.”

Sometimes I wonder if you haven’t escaped from some Victorian-era boarding school for girls (or if it’s just my wife’s fault).

My favorite grammatical mixup (since five-teen) is your understanding of the word “relax”. You think it’s plural, thus you say “I relack” and “She relacks.” I love these mistakes so much, because it allows me to look at English from an outsider’s standpoint – after all, there’s no reason for you NOT to think “relax” is the plural of “relack.”

LucyLeavesVen13(bl).jpg

I raked leaves in the yard and you jumped in

We’ve had two big breakthroughs: one is not waking up from a nap in paroxysms of screaming misery – now you simply yell “Daddo! I’m awake! And I didn’t cry at all!” The other is your hard-won understanding that it’s okay for us to leave you at school, or in a nap, or in other circumstances – because we always come back. The following movie from July is long (and therefore only of interest to your fambly) but it shows the fascinating transference of this idea to your doll Patty:

They say “three is the new two” (along with “40 is the new 29”) so we’re not counting any chickens. BUT… you don’t seem particularly interested in tantrums. You will doggedly wear us out on an issue “Can I have just one cookie and then no more? Can I have a cookie, just one, and then not another one? Can I have one cookie for me? etc…” but you will always take a reasonable substitute without throwing yourself on the floor and banging your fists until the neighbors call the Feds. In fact, I’ve watched you watch other kids having tantrums, and you seem removed yet oddly attentive, like you’re judging the long-form figure skating at the Winter Olympics.

I have to mention one thing before we all forget – you have such a nurturing instinct that you not only care for your three dolls like children, but you’ll anthropomorphize anything. Last week, you cared for a peach for an hour (before eating it), and two days ago, you said your new Dora the Explorer cup (still in the shrink wrap) was your baby, and you rocked it to sleep.

LucyHandCribBed2(bl).jpg

the “hand crib”

When you don’t have a doll or other implement handy, you turn your right hand upwards and call it your daughter, stroking it to sleep on various pillows. It’s a little disturbing, since it makes us look like parents who won’t buy you anything, but there’s something so achingly sweet about it as well.

Most of all, I’m so in love with your indefatigable spirit. One of your best playmates bit the ever-lovin’ HELL out of your shoulder blade last week, and you did scream in misery… but you forgave him instantly and wanted to keep playing with the trucks. I watch you run around the house, spending just enough time to charm the socks off whomever’s there, and I just wish I could go back in time. Back to my wracked shell of a self ten years ago, and say, just keep moving, you will see something in the future that will make all of this sadness evaporate in a hot second.

Love, Daddo.

IanLucyLeavesVen4(bl).jpg