Monthly Archives: June 2009

at least there’s ye olde waffles

6/30/09

Those of you who live in Chapel Hill already know: The Varsity movie theater is going out of business. Now, I’m all for a town that changes with the times, and our friend Speed Levitch always talks about New York City being a jazz improv itself, and thus you should never mourn the passing of a venue… but this is total bullshit. This is the tipping point where people must ask a simple question: what the fuck is going on? What the hell is Chapel Hill, the town, anymore? Was it ever what we thought it was?

For those of you who don’t know Chapel Hill, The Varsity has shown movies since the Great Depression, and was the cultural touchstone for anyone coming through town in the last half of the 20th century. I’ve already described watching “Pulp Fiction” there, but there were so many more indelible moments… “The Cook, The Thief”, “The Usual Suspects”, “Beetlejuice”, every date, the popcorn popped in olive oil with real butter… along with Pepper’s Pizza, it anchored the town’s downtown persona.

Now Chapel Hill’s storied Franklin Street is two things: a place to buy “Duck Fook” T-shirts, and seventeen coffee bars. Oh yeah, and some chicken place called “Cluck U.” which is so MOTHERFUCKING STUPID that it PHYSICALLY PAINS ME TO MENTION IT IN THE BLOG.

What a colossal waste. I’m sure those of you with destroyed hometowns can commiserate – I’m not saying we should carve in stone some dusty old shops that don’t make money, but is it too much to ask a physical location to maintain a modicum of personality? I saw a bumper sticker in Santa Monica today that said “Keep Missoula Weird”, and I thought, well, at least they’re trying.

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Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, in 1890 – looking towards Spanky’s from the post office

I’m on an email list that was trying to tackle the Chapel Hill/Franklin Street problem, and I’d love to hear what you would do with CH, or your own little town. As an armchair city planner, these were my thoughts:

1. Bring back the diagonal parking of the 1940s and make Franklin Street two lanes with a middle turning lane. Downtown was doomed from the day it went from “village center” to “thoroughfare”.

2. With two lanes, traffic slows down and pedestrian traffic skyrockets. Franklin Street already has an ace in the hole: studies have shown than people love to shop, meet, live and thrive in a town where there is a 2:1 height-of-building to size-of-street ratio. In other words, we love tall(ish) buildings on both sides of a narrow street, much like the old cities of Europe that still thrive. Want to kill commerce? Widen a road.

Ever been in those Midwestern cities with gigantic streets and huge, flat stores on either side? Notice the complete lack of community in that setting. Think of places that are amazing: the Marais in Paris, Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Bleecker Street in NYC, Bourbon and Royal Street in New Orleans, Soho in London. High, old buildings on either side of slow, windy streets, and TONS of people having fun.

3. Speaking of which, allow restaurant seating on the sidewalk – at the very least, let coffee joints and restaurants to extend a few feet out, like they do in Rome or Paris. It’s fine if they’re roped off or contained in a nice barrier, but getting people outside changes everything (unless it’s 104 degrees).

4. A bookstore concept – a Barnes & Noble under a different skin, with constant readings and small performances. Visiting professors who are teaching a seminar are always looking for a venue for their “after-class talk” and they usually suck (having done it for years).

5. The Varsity needs to be a live-music venue, with occasional dance nights. With Youtube, bitorrent, etc., the only must-actually-go-see events left are live sports and live music. Can you imagine the cool factor of the Varsity, smack in the middle of downtown, with a huge breaking band? Shades of the Viper Room in LA or the Knitting Factory in NYC.

6. A green space for congregation with a semi-permanent vendor that sells hot dogs or barbecue or popsicles or coffee. Not to invoke Paris again, but people LOVE to sit in city centers under nice trees and ogle other people, preferably while drinking a Fanta. You could tear down everything around the old Schoolkids, move the bus stop down in front of the church, move in some huge, ancient trees and suddenly you’ve got a fantastic destination.

7. Some sort of mini-Whole Foods. Everything you need, organic (or local), packed into a great spot – like that restaurant space across Columbia St. from Spanky’s. If any of you had been in a Bread & Circus in Cambridge, MA (or Trader Joe’s), that’s the kind of vibe. Complete with walk-in beer cooler with selections from every country in the world. If Big Bertha was the first to go, then let’s bring her back, as it were.

When I said these things on the email list, one criticism was directed at the supermarket, and how nobody will carry groceries when they can park so easily elsewhere. Fair enough, but doesn’t it seem weird you can’t buy, say, “sugar” or “flour” in downtown Chapel Hill?

Now you can’t see a movie either. I wonder what has to happen for anything to change, or is it just hopeless nostalgia that keeps me caring? Perhaps the religion of Dean, Gut & Roy is enough, the Carolina Way can run through the diaspora, and the rest is for the current generation of townies to figure out for themselves.

the doggone girl is mine

6/28/09

Everyone’s personal obit on Michael Jackson seems to start “I know he was a total freak, but I absolutely loved his music.” I’d like to take the opposite route, if that’s cool, in that I was much more fascinated in his personal freakshow than the music. Don’t get me wrong – the middle chord break in “Thriller” is transcendent, and “Human Nature” is just, well, beautiful – but my 1983 dollars were more interested in Duran Duran or Grandmaster Flash.

I’ve already heard the jokes about how he was mostly made of plastic, so now he can be melted down into Legos so that “little children can play with him for a change”, but I’ll go on record believing he didn’t actually do any of the shit he was accused of. It’s obvious that he was seriously unhinged; at the very least he had body dysmorphic disorder and an Aspergian inability to see how his antics might play with the public at large, but if you pore into case studies of regressive adults, you find precious few examples of pedophilia. In fact, most times they’re the least likely to engage in that shit.

Michael Jackson was an 11-year-old, plain and simple, and I do mean “simple”. He invented the rumors about sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber and buying the Elephant Man bones, in the same way kids ring doorbells and then hide behind shrubberies. It was his ability to think this way – how about a video where everything I touch lights up? how about a video where everybody turns into scary monsters and starts dancing? – that enabled him to knock universal themes out of the park in a way that was completely innocent and joyous.

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But it was also the pre-pubescent weirdness that gave him those bizarre spurts of creepy inappropriateness, like the constant crotch-grabbing in “The Way You Make Me Feel” video (which somehow managed to be more icky than hardcore porn) and then going after the Beatles catalogue the way teenagers long past their expiration date keep showing up at your door on Halloween.

When things didn’t go his way, he had the same reaction all children do: a form of pout, only for Michael, it was always a song, whether stupid (“Leave Me Alone”) or fucking brilliant (“Scream“). Beyond the dysmorphic disease that rendered him unable to see himself in the mirror, his face was a child’s Mr. Potato Head’s fantasy: he just kept playing with it until it broke.

Could all the child molestation charges be true? Well, of course. People way less famous than Michael Jackson have erupted into a megalomania that convinced them they could do anything with anybody. The fact it happened twice gives fodder to the “smoke then fire” way of sussing out guilt, and god knows the guy didn’t do himself any favors… I mean, if you’ve already been accused of pedophilia, can you watch the Disney movies somewhere other than the fucking bedroom?

But it never rang true to me, not in 1993, and especially not with the hideousness in 2005. I have no scientific or inside knowledge to back that up, but I also have no particular need to resurrect him as a fallen idol. He didn’t seem heterosexual, homosexual, or even asexual – he seemed pre-sexual, and behaved with all the insouciance that comes with that territory. Both accusations were utter flummery, but the 2005 trial was a Who’s Who of scumbags, pinchfarthings, jobbernowls and disgruntled fucktards.

Besides, I’ve always placed more blame on the parents rather than Jackson, especially now that I’m a parent myself. You simply don’t let your kids get involved in a place called Neverland Ranch with an asshole chimp on the loose. You also don’t let them enter the crazy spending-spree world of Jackson, who would inevitably lose interest, leaving your child wondering why the amusement park disappeared. I realize that’s not realistic; if MJ invited you to Neverland, you’d be crazy not to go, but you’d certainly keep close for reasons having nothing to do with sleeping arrangements.

Guilty as charged – or fucked over by a sickening tabloid culture – it doesn’t matter. Michael Jackson was a perfect emblem of my generation: just another superhero reduced to a punchline. Bill Clinton and Michael Jordan committed adultery, J.D. Salinger is a creepy weirdo, Jim Henson died of the flu, and Mike Brady died of AIDS. Everyone’s an anti-Semite, a pederast, a Lothario, a tax cheat, a drug addict or a drunk. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so uninspiring.

flesh is willing, motherboard is weak

Man, what a time for my computer to crap out. We’ve got a huge Rule of Threes Celebrity Deaths (Michael Jackson, Ed McMahon and Farrah Fawcett), another utterly bizarre Republican infidelity bombshell, and an entire Middle Eastern country is coming apart at the seams. May I count on you, loyal readers, to make it all make sense?

spellcheck doesn’t like “cooz”

Alas, my computer is “done for”, as they say – too many backseat hoists, too many overhead compartments, too much of Lucy’s apricot juice finding its way into the keyboard. As such, I’m writing this on my phone. I know Kids Today love them their texting, but I find this mode of communication excruciating, so I must leave it to you, faithful readers, to bring us closer to good orderly direction (known to those in program as g.o.d.)

so here’s today’s CODE WORD question… if not America, seriously, where else would you live? Those in other countries may answer in their own perspective…

don’t marsh my mellow

6/22/09

Since nobody’s on the internet in the summer, how about some pictures? Okay, then. Lucy and I have been on our solo adventure back to the farm, and it has been insanely wonderful, so here’s some images for the folks back home…

“That Buford’s a sly one – he already knows his ABC’s!

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A female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak with a male Hairy Woodpecker in the background (but then again, y’all knew those already):

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My daughter’s first golf swing – it went 11 feet! Yeah, baby!

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My brother Steve drove his 1984 VW Westfalia Camper from California all the way to New York. Of course, Lucy gravitated to the upstairs bed, like all of us do:

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I like this shot of Sean walking with Barno and my mom up the hill:

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The milk cows at our place are always friendly and curious, but this year’s sorority class is ridiculous – it’s a Guernsey petting zoo. They’re all gorgeous, furry and don’t smell. Please let’s do Guernseys every year, yes?

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From one 4-year-old girl to another, let’s be honest, sister…

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During the winter, I promised Lucy we would make smores at the top of the hill, and I always keep my promises, especially the ones that involve sugar:

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And seriously, what’s better than smores?

IanLucySeanBarnoSmores(bl).jpg

 

i’m nothing without my wifi bluetooth sunglass viewer dock

6/18/09

I am writing this going 520 mph, 36,964 feet over Keokuk, Iowa – thanks to Virgin America’s new “wifi in every plane” system. Lucy is watching her WordWorld video, and I am… well, how about we snap a picture:

IanLucyPlane6-18-09.jpg

We’re on our way to New York for 6 days, the first journey that Daddo and Daughter have ever taken with just the two of us. We are both super-psyched to be on an adventure, and since this is Lucy’s 47th plane ride, she is the best traveler in the world (as long as the Cranapple juice doesn’t run out, and the crayons don’t roll to the back of the plane). We left Mommy at the airport, and it seemed like she had a week of swingin’ bachelorette livin’ to do. That, and I believe she will divert the River Alpheus to clean the Augean Stables otherwise known as our house in Venice.

The technology that allows me to sit here and do this is stunning, when you take it in context. I’ve been on the #iranelection Twitter feed most of the flight, which means that I know – even 36,964 ft. over Iowa – that somebody hacked Mousavi’s account and forged a message that said Friday’s rally was canceled, but apparently the rally is still on.

I also got a Kindle for Father’s Day, which is much cooler than I imagined. It’s one of those devices where you’re constantly thinking “um, wait a minute, I don’t have to wait two days or use gas to go somewhere – I can just use this cool muthafucka.” One of my pre-flying rituals is to get a Newsweek for take-off, and now I can just get the damn thing wirelessly without using any paper.

It does raise an interesting philosophical question (or at least it’s interesting to ME, because I’m a hopeless flailing dork with scant social skills left): every time one of these technologies is invented and adopted into mainstream use, your average consumer enters a state of “ambient addiction”. Simply put, once you’ve got your airplane wifi and your iPod, doing without them becomes vaguely painful.

Louis CK said it best on Conan: “Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy.” But there’s another byproduct of ambient addiction, which is the disappearance of the Original Item in the face of That Item’s Superior Delivery Mechanism. Physical CDs of music were replaced by hard drives, newspapers were replaced by web browsers.

The Kindle – especially future versions – will pretty much replace every book and every magazine, negating the need to ever print them again. Which is great for the world’s forests and landfills, so we could end the argument there – but here’s the kicker: you’re always at the mercy of either a motherboard or the electrical grid.

God forbid you drop the Kindle on the sidewalk, god forbid you lose your 3G connection, god forbid a squirrel chews through the electrical cable leading to your borough. Any of these things happen, and you will come rushing back to your hard, dry physical books and magazines – but they won’t be there anymore.

In a way, it makes you want to subsidize the industry in your own little way, just to keep a few physical copies around. I’ve always been technophilic to a fault, but at some point, my lapsed Mormon survivalism kicks in and demands that we have our phone, internet and television on a separate wire. I know that sounds like Admiral Adama on “Battlestar Galactica”, keeping his computers off the network and phones tethered by cable just in case the Cylons ever came back, but you know, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man can still read Newsweek.

scheherazade, interrupted

6/16/09

Of course, it’s totally awesome that the State Department asked Twitter to delay a service-upgrade outage today so that Iranians could use the service to marshal the anti-Ahmadinejad crowds to full effect. Man, something like Twitter must have hit those crusty old-guard Iranian clerics upside the head. I used to think air-dropping Playstation consoles and “Simpsons” episodes onto Tehran would have fomented a revolution, but it turned out to be a social-networking website where my friends talk about how many waffles they’ve burned.

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In some ways, I get the feeling that Iran is a lot like the old Soviet Union – we spend years thinking they’re evil geniuses, but get a sizable crowd together, and suddenly the entire government is made of chicken wire and paper- mâché. Any governing body run by theocracy is by definition a backwards, rigid, cruel, moron factory that slowly dies on the vine each year it is permitted to exist, but even so, you’d think these guys could defraud an election with a little more aplomb.

If you’re going to rig an election, you do it the way the Republicans did: keep it close, to maintain the appearance of plausibility. If the rule is that one candidate needs more than 50% of the vote, give him 51.3%. That way the opposition feels “heard” and since it’s a binary outcome anyway, the losers go home and rend their garments in quiet fury (like progressives did in this country for 8 years).

Instead, these chowderheads had Ahmadinejad winning by a 2-to-1 margin, ostensibly to demoralize the pro-reform movement, or perhaps even to say “you don’t get it… we pull the strings around here, so fuck off.” Indeed, most of the ballot-counting offices were run by Ahmadinejad’s people, and the person in charge of the election was not only Ahmadinejad’s friend, but actually openly endorsed the fucker during the election.

The returns had Mousavi losing to Ahmadinejad by fifty percentage points in his hometown region, which is like David Duke winning Harlem in a landslide. In a way, the world press (and certainly Obama) are exercising an incredible amount of restraint in the face of such a sickening sham.

I’d love to have heard the debate inside the clerical circles about just how lopsided they were going to make the victory. It showed a laughably inept understanding of the modern mind, and certainly the mind of anyone under 30 (which staggeringly accounts for 60% of Iran’s population). But that’s what happens when you’ve got toxic stupidity from the top down – Ahmadinejad is a racist buffoon, and his theocratic overlords are, well, a theocracy. Nothing good can come of that mixture.

The current stalemate is fascinating – it makes you wonder how long before the tanks rumble in and crush the populace. Worked in Czechoslovakia, worked in Hungary, worked in Tiananmen Square, and even worked in Iran in 1999. No matter what, though, the Powers That Be are screwed, even if they don’t know it yet. How artfully poetic if the country most guilty of sponsoring terrorists finally figured out how to make one from scratch: deny them their vote.

why, i aughta

6/15/09

We’re just about halfway through the last year of this decade, if’n you can believe it, which means we’ll soon be bombarded with TV specials and Web articles called “The Aughts: Was it Worth It?” and “2000-2010: The More Things Changed, the More They Stayed the Same”. In these articles, you will hear/read thousands of words dedicated to empty topics like “The Web Came of Age” and “Apocalypse Believed”.

None of these pieces, however, will do what it most important for the decade, which is to embody the feel of the time. The unspoken flavor, the ambient mood, the ineffable color that will come to mind years from now when our memory cooks it to its inevitable reduction. You can see this sort of thinking all the time when someone asks how a party was, and the reply was “god, it was so eighties.”

I’ve got a few working descriptions of America in the aughts (if that’s even what we’re calling it), but it has way too many swear words, and I need to cool down a bit. But I thought I’d dash off some Rorschach-esque, top-of-my-head descriptions of the decades I’ve experienced, just so I can understand how reductive my own memory has been.

orleans.jpg

The Seventies

dirty toenails, dandruff, long straight hair

analog, record needles, apple trees, red, brown, yellow

“Seasons in the Sun”, “Right Down the Line”, “Magnet and Steel”

diving boards, humidity, brown leather, mattresses, candles

vertical hold, static, windshield wipers, Orange Push-Ups

macramé, hanging plants, Butterick sewing patterns, cinnamon.

 

 

 

nagel(bl).jpg

The Eighties

dark black plastic, pink lettering, overexposed days, infrared night

sharp crisp curls, burgundy, chartreuse and Chartreuse

eyeliner, inverted triangles, OP shorts, oversized buttondowns

thighs, shoulder blades, chin, breasts

“I Can Dream About You”, “Driven to Tears”, “Tell It To My Heart”, “This Charming Man”

Coke, Millipede, Walkman, movie theater butter, distraction.

 

 

 

weezer.jpg

The Nineties

coats with shorts, snow, mist, flannel tied around waist

beige, metal, industry, rings, confusion, loud choruses

layers, forbidden areas, failure, bleakness, hyperventilating laughter

organic, musty, electronic, medicated, lost, digital, restless

“Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”, “Plush”, “Connected”, “Say No Go”, “Six Underground”

connection, frustration, redemption, modem squeal.

 

Anybody else want to try?

banana seat comes standard

6/14/09

The craziness in the economy is an academic curiosity for some, and a middling worry for others, but today I wanted to hand the blog over to commenter Kevin Coggins, who just had to close his entire business: the best indie bicycle store in the Triangle. Kevin’s sister is the wonderful Lee, whom I’ve gushed about on these very pages. Without ado, here’s Kevin:

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***

Okay… I am inspired by Seth’s guest appearance on these pages. BTW, I registered and signed up for Seth’s easy auto pilot program. Since I am recently unemployed after closing my bicycle store in Cary, NC, maybe I can win Seth’s drawing and travel the world by his side. [ed. note: alas, Seth barely lost the top spot to some doofus, but is humbled by everyone’s participation]

I know many of you are hoops aficionados. FWIW, I am a NC State graduate and long for the years when we and UNC ruled the ACC in hoops and Dook was a mere afterthought. We’ve been so pitiful for so many years that I suspect that many of you roll your eyes at that comment… look it up.

Ian asked me to write an article back in February about closing The Spin Cycle after 16 years of business. I needed a little time to get my head around it, while adjusting to my new life. Just what this new life is going to be is a journey I now undertake. A friend told me recently that it’ll be interesting to see what happens next for me. I hope I can live up to it.

When you close a business, you must be very smart. You must have a closing strategy in order to minimize the amount of money you’ll lose. It’s a lot of cash either way, but one extreme is very different from the other. I also wanted to make sure my employees landed on their feet. I am pleased to say they have. This has given me the greatest relief. Today, I just await the lawsuits.

As a kid, bicycles gave me freedom. I rode everywhere. Even as a 5-year-old I remember riding as many as 4-5 miles from my house. No one ever thought anything of it. It’s a tragedy our children have been robbed of this possibility. Later, I worked in bicycle stores all through high school and college. I rode lots of miles and even raced a few seasons. I eschewed the bike business coming out of school and went into banking. I learned a lot there, particularly about how businesses fail, and I also learned a lot about customer service.

The inspiration to open The Spin Cycle came 20 years ago when I bought a bike for Phoebe (my lovely bride of now 22 years). My shopping experience went like this: I walked into every store locally and my opening was “I have $1000 in my wallet and I want to buy a bike for my wife”. I was absolutely astounded at what they said next. Not anything like “Wow, you’re really going get something nice with that. I bet she will be very happy” or “That’s really cool you want to do that for your wife”. No, what I got was “well, if that’s all you have you need go save your money”.

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I know in 1989 you could spend $3 to $4K on a road bike (LeMond had just won his second tour, ushering in a new wave of technological advancement that forever changed the sport) but honestly – 20 years ago, a thousand bucks was nothing to sneeze at. I knew there had to be a better way. My parents had taught me how to treat people.

The Spin Cycle was one of the best bicycle stores anywhere. The staff loved to ride, and they knew bikes inside and out. Old stuff, new stuff – we knew it all. We had the best mechanics in the area, no attitude, and the friendliest staff around. The store reflected the NC State motto: Esse Quam Videri. To Be, Rather Than to Seem.

I believe the store was also a full encompassing picture of me. You don’t have to believe me. Read the store’s obituary published in the N and O and the comments. It was something special; something that does not exist often in today’s world of bigger, faster, better, cheaper.

Its funny, looking back on it, if I had it to do all over again I would do it the same way. Maybe that does not make me a good businessperson. Yes, I got screwed twice… and I also made a mistake that perhaps I could have prevented. But my $250,000 business lesson to you is this: never do anything where everything has to go right for you to be a success. My business suffered a fatal blow 12 years ago and it took it that long to bleed to death. I kept that thing alive for 12 years; maybe I am a better businessperson than I give myself credit for.

The outpouring of support for me and Phoebe has been nothing short of overwhelming. I never knew what experiencing a miracle was until we closed. All the hard work, and being heavily involved in the community for 2 decades… it came back to us in a way I could have never imagined. Everyone wanted to tell us something; tell us how we had changed their lives – it was as if they needed to say it more than we needed to hear it. At our liquidation sale, the line went on all weekend. There was at times a 2 hour wait to get into the store.

It was a validation rope thrown to me when I was adrift. Shockingly, a local group held a dinner in our honor after we closed. How many times is a dinner held in the honor of a business that has gone out of business?

I will always be thankful for being able to work at something I love for 16 years. I love all the people that worked with me through the years. But the interesting thing? I don’t miss it. I miss seeing the people, the staff and all the relationships, but I have not had this huge void in my life since closing. I am not sure what to think of this right now.

One of my volunteer interests is the Greater Raleigh Merchants Assoc and we have just launched a new movement called Shop Local Raleigh, which is all about supporting local business. It has been fun launching this idea from the ground up. We have done everything from researching content to editing TV commercials – it’s almost been like starting another business.

So what is going to happen? There has to be someone out there that needs someone like me. For now, like the first time, I am focusing on something I also love. I am taking culinary classes at Wake Tech. I am not sure where this will lead. I do not have many career changes ahead of me.

***

smog sunsets are the prettiest

6/11/09

I’d advise most of you to skip this entry, because it’s not going to make you feel any better, and it’s the same old shit. Seriously, you’ve been warned. In fact, I don’t even know why I’m writing it.

But let me just say this: many of the comments from the last few days, especially LFMD’s about vaccines, rang oddly true to me. Personally, I have no problem with vaccines – along with tetanus and whopping cough, I wouldn’t mind getting vaccinating against “bad decisions”, “utterly false notions” and “late-night free-floating anxiety”. But it’s becoming clear to me that the American experience is made unbelievably painful by two things: experts being 100% wrong [about some things -ed.], and corporations not caring for the welfare of any human being.

Let’s look at a few, shall we?

1950: Butter is good for you!

1960: Butter will kill you.

1970: You must only use margarine.

1980: Margarine will kill you.

1990: Organic butter is good for you.

2000: Any butter will kill you.

Or, perhaps:

1960: barely any vitamin supplements are taken

1970: vitamin supplements are for the elderly

1980: your vitamin supplement has A, B6, B12, C, D, and E!

1990: your vitamin supplement has A, C, D, E, Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), B6, B12, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Iodine, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Copper, Manganese, Chromium, Molybdenum, Lecithin, Choline, Inositol, PABA, Boron, Silica, and Vanadium!

2000: Antioxidants will save your life! Vitamin A, C and E!

2005: Studies show vitamin supplements give absolutely no benefits to anyone but the elderly and those with specific diseases

2009: Wait: Vitamin E can actually make heart failure more likely. And… what the fuck? Actually makes cancer more likely in smokers? And companies are letting lead get into the supplements?

You get the idea. Now, when it comes to autism, the rumors are beginning to move away from vaccines and towards a vaguely-understood smorgasbord of chemicals called EDCs, or Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals. These include our old favorite PCBs, our new baby-bottle villain BPA, the tongue-tying Phthalates and of course, dioxins and pesticides. In other words, every floor you’ve stepped on, every rug your child plays on, every electronic appliance you’ve ever owned, blah blah blah.

It’s impossible to talk about this shit without turning into Lefty McLuddite, the crankypants birdwatcher who wants everyone to go back to cloth diapers and till the soil with oxen poop. Besides, we all grew up in this brave new world and we’re fine, right? Well, maybe, but when 1 in 166 kids is now born with fucking autism, it makes you think: perhaps this toxic sludge of ENDLESS PLASTIC AND CHEMICAL PRODUCTS finally reached a tipping point, say, five years ago.

And here’s the deal: nobody is going to protect you, and you can’t hide from it. Some studies say that 82% of our body’s toxic EDCs comes from contaminated house dust, so perhaps you can install a nice home-cleansing HEPA air filter. But who says that study is right? And in the meantime, your nice home-cleansing HEPA air filter is made of phthalates, motherphtlthucker.

For the record, I take the following supplements: Omega 3 Fish Oil, Co-Q10, Green Tea Extract and Vitamin D. From my research, those are the only things left that make any sense, and I will be demoralized (but not surprised) to see them debunked. As for everything else, what can any of us do?

It’s beyond disheartening, lower than demoralizing, and painfully futile to say this, but I’ll charge ahead: I’m really angry that corporations didn’t test their products better for the last 70 years, and they still don’t. Someone has to die for them to recall something, and it’s usually the most helpless and innocent. Absolutely NO THOUGHT was ever given to the disposal of all this crap. Companies can’t help it: they were given the rights of a “person” by the United States, but the endless pursuit of profit necessarily makes them a fucking sociopath.

That’s the tradeoff all of us agreed to: because of it, we get iPods, air travel, Shamrock Shakes and pajamas that don’t catch fire. Doing without all of our creature comforts is pretty much a dealbreaker, yes, even for me. The question is this: is it too much to ask for all these objects we love without doing nerve damage to baby boys two thousand miles away? If the answer is yes, then I might be finally gravitating away from all the pretty blinking lights.