Monthly Archives: November 2009

a patient etherised upon a table


It now being December in your neck of the woods, here in the last month of the ’00s, can we at long last now say it? Can somebody just step forward, without disclaimers and sugar-coating, approach the lectern and give the formal announcement?


Sure, the ’70s were yucky, the ’50s were uptight, and the ’30s BLAH BLAH FRICKIN’ BLAH, but by any yardstick of human suffering, idiocy and shitty luck, this decade writ large has been just ghastly and we all need to pat ourselves on the back for having survived it.

Things are never that simple, even in superlative times. On a personal level, I have two aces in the hole, both formed in the ’00s, that bear mentioning: the Lulubeans and Tessa. My wife and I started dating in 2000 (after having met in 1987) and my awesome preciouspants daughter arrived five years later, and when I have two such beings in the world, really, I should just retire, bask in their glow, and never complain.

Also, we do well for ourselves in our job – not that you’d know, since I can barely mention in on the blog – but we happen to be in a business that is so weird that it bears little relationship to the world’s ecstasies and woes.

But I can also say this: in this decade, I breathed in the foul stench of my fellow dead New Yorkers mere blocks away from where they were murdered. I had to be basically hospitalized for PTSD, severe anxiety and depression, and get by on a carefully contrived mix of Celexa and Dexedrine.

Months before, I’d written and co-directed an independent film that was the worst production in the history of terrible film productions, a project so snakebit and low-rent that it will probably never see the light of day. We were lied to by our post-production investor for no reason other than his own sick fantasy life.

For years, I failed at pretty much every career push I tried, leaving me so encased in shit that a 3,000-mile move was the only thing that made sense, even though we left an amazing life of friends and family in the process. And in this decade, many of those people have now spread out around the country, so far away now that gathering them together for an event like my bachelor party seems laughably quaint, and logistically untenable. At this point, I feel lucky when Tessa wants to stay up late enough to watch the Daily Show.

Is that the decade’s fault, or just me getting older? My reply would be, in one’s emotional hindsight, what the fuck difference does it make?

As for this country, the ’00s gave America a thorough fisting. Two financial crashes, a hurricane wiping out one of the last interesting cities (and killing hundreds), an infrastructure collapsing, the worst terrorist attack in history, and the dawning horror that we torture people.

Mostly, this will be remembered as The Decade When Americans Got Too Fucking Stupid To Live, the tipping point when the herd mentality of the reptilian-based idiot faction finally overpowered the last vestiges of intellect, sensitivity and nuance. It was the decade when the National Discourse on actually important issues was debased so thoroughly by cynical neo-conservative vampires that we consider “okay, so we agree the earth probably isn’t flat” as a major fuckin’ victory.

Political punditry is over, CNN is done, Oprah is going home, and all I’ve got left is profanity. We elected an African American man as our President, and I HIT MYSELF IN THE FACE EVERY DAY for allowing myself to hope for a few minutes in January, for believing that we might be rounding the arc to moral justice. Instead, it’s only gotten worse. I live in a country that would rather keep gay people from getting married than provide health care to its children, and that, my friends, is a country that isn’t worth the debt notices it’s printed on.

When trashy produce-aisle, numskull, saviour-fellating dipshits like Sarah Palin are treated as serious contenders for the office once inhabited by Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, you’re talking about a nation that has completely lost its sense of self.

I would never have thought those things before this decade. I posited before that this era should be called “Everything is Unprecedented” because we don’t just dip below previously-noted low-water marks, we shatter them. Honestly, I’ve gotten to the point that I’m amazed when water comes out of faucets.

Am I angry? Do I sound angry? I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled, but I know opportunity lurks in desolation. The tarot card of Death almost never means “death”, it means stripping bare, finding your humility and getting a shot at rebirth. The next decade could suck way worse than the last one, sure, but like most horrible things, you can’t count on it. In the meantime, I hunker down with my ladies and listen to them singing each to each.

my azimuth is gemini


Why, thanks for asking! Hmmm, what did I do this weekend… well, let’s put it in list form:

1. Went to Rural Vermont. Tessa, Lucy and I went to visit her family near Brattleboro, which is a pretty awesome place. The Lulubeans and I made our first pumpkin pie, mostly because that’s what I’ve called her since she was born, and well, because pie is good for you:


When it rained, we were stuck inside, so we decided to work on our letters. When Lucy pointed to a ladder making a bunch of H’s, we decided to go through the whole house and spell her name with pictures. The rules? You couldn’t move anything, and you couldn’t use existing letters on posters or anything. I gotta say, the Y was much harder to find than you’d think:


But it was so fun we decided to do Mommy’s name as well:


2. Heated Up Our Farmhouse. Because I’m a spaz and I hate our baseboard hot-water heaters, I decided to give Tessa an early Xmas present: I got the existing plankboard in our bedroom ripped out, and put electric radiant heat under it. Then topped it with engineered wood featuring a thin layer of cherry wood on top… and I have to say, it looks pretty cool.


Radiant heat is an odd feeling; the air doesn’t get that kind of dry warmness about it, but the room is 70 degrees regardless. The best part is walking around on it with bare feet, which was unthinkable past October around here. Using engineered wood isn’t as efficient as tile, but a tile bedroom here would look ridiculous – and besides, since the house is solar, the electricity is free. If you’ve never felt a radiant heat floor, I highly recommend it.

3. Heated Up Art. By taking out the baseboard heaters, it meant Lucy’s room next door no longer had functioning radiators, but the problem was solved with these awesome porcelain wall-mounted Eco-Heaters, which toast up your room using 75% less electricity. They’re awesome – they don’t get too hot to burn small kids, and you can paint them any color you want. So I let Lucy paint hers:




4. Aimed the Satellite Dish. Getting satellite TV is one of those things that can be done without any visit from any company as long as you know a couple of things and aren’t afraid of picking up your own bootstraps. Just do this:

• buy a DVR (like these that come with more memory than the ones at Best Buy)

• get a satellite dish on eBay (I got a DirecTV HD 5 LNB dish with all the connectors shipped in two days for, like, 70 bucks)

• look up which way to aim your satellite… there are three elements to aiming your dish: the elevation (how high to point it), the azimuth (which direction to point it), and the skew (how much you turn the dish like a steering wheel)

• aim it, bolt it down, string the coax inside to your DVR, call DirecTV to activate it, and then WATCH THE HEELS IN HIGH-DEF FROM THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE!


turn off your mind relax and float downstream



Dear Prince Edward Island:

Your geese have arrived in Columbia County, New York, ostensibly en route to Mexico, where they will summer with their pals. I know Canada is a big country, but I still don’t know how you managed to create so many Canadian Geese. Every half hour a new batch of 15,000 arrive at our farm, making the skies sound like the psychedelic ending to the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”.

Dear UNC Basketball Team:

You’ve got no bigger fan than me, except perhaps Rhoda Osterneck. The rest of us here are tied for first place in eternal desire to see you do well, and we live (and occasionally die) with your victories and defeats. So why are you being so blasé this year? I know we’re National Champions, but even Caesar didn’t rest on his laurels. Perhaps none of us – even you – didn’t realize how much we’d miss the eternal combustion engine known as Tyler Hansbrough. I know you’ll get it together, but right now, you are a bunch of stories in search of a narrative.

Dear Republican Party:

Please, for the love of god, PLEASE make Sarah Palin your candidate for President.

Dear Readers of this Blog:

We’re going to rural Vermont for Thanksgiving this morning, so I shan’t speak to you until next week (nor should you be on the internet, for that matter), but I wanted to give Thanks to all of you for making this little pub on the Information Superhighway such a wonderful, well-appointed place over the last 7 1/2 years.

They said YouTube would kill blogs, then they said Facebook would do it, and then Twitter – and maybe they were right, and this is an antiquated means of gathering (or bloviating), but I’ve come to understand this is something of a happy anomaly. A few thousand unique visitors come here every week, and as of last night, there were 22,028 comments.

To quote Woody Allen, eighty percent of success is showing up, and to quote program, there is immense redemption in being a worker among workers, and for that, I’d like to give thanks to – to quote the South – y’all.

kickstart my heart


Hey, wanna know what happens when you leave your Dextroamphetamines in one town, and then go to another without them?

Let me offer a simulation.

Step 1: Hit yourself in the head with a crowbar.

Step 2:

james madison’s square gardener



playing with my telephoto lens at MSG

I know, I know, I haven’t been much of a “communicator” lately, and haven’t Spoken About My Feelings™ and there’s been precious little ShareTime, but sometimes you must simply ACCEPT ME FOR WHO I AM, DAMN YOU!


Where was I? Oh yes, our beloved Tar Heels played at Madison Square Garden last night, so about 12 of us gathered together to watch our boys in sky blue take on the Buckeyes of Ohio State. Did you know that a Buckeye is a form of chicken common only in Ohio? I had previously thought it was some kind of giant acorn or nut, which is probably why I never completed my doctoral dissertation in Botanical Science.

I can’t say it was an inspired game on either end of the court – until Ohio State started playing for broke, relaxed, and mounted a comeback. If there was ever a case of “one team still had more points than the other when time expired”, this was it.

Now we take on Syracuse tonight, which promises to be intense, given the proximity. If you’re at the game tonight, please wander over to Section 110, row D, won’t you?


but they have JAWZ II on LAZERDISC


Ohmygod, I just finished the entire first draft of a whole hour-long pilot and it’s 2am, but caveman posted his list of “stuff that other people had when you were a kid that meant they were totally rich” – he and I have listserved about this before, but it’s such a great topic. To recap, his list:

1. Pinball machine and/or pool table

2. Ice maker underneath a bar

3. Trampoline

4. Pool

5. Garbage compactor

6. Intercom system in house (you were beyond loaded)

7. Separate “kids” phone line (holy sh*t)

8. Any convertible

I would include all of those and add the following:

• when the dad had the 70s version of the boots on a giant elliptical wheel that would hang you upside down if his back was fucked up

• riding mower


• Volvo with leather (classy, understated)

• tennis racquets in screw-down wood frames (to stop warping!)

• V-shaped TV antenna on back of car

• playroom attic with fireman pole

• equipped treehouse

• top-loading VCR the size of a microwave with 15-foot wired remote control cable

• speaking of which, a microwave with analog (alarm-clock flip style) countdown numbers

• that leather-bound Britannica “Great Books” Series with gold lettering

• stepmother


as long as I’m sitting in my dad’s Porsche, you can’t beat me up, motherfucker

corn syrup-filled action doll sold separately


I’m going to reprint a section of Salem’s email to me here, and not just because I’m jetlagged, finishing a script, and in transit.

It’s a list of all his great materialistic desires, and whether or not he’s attained them. I am thinking of mine as well. Here’s Salem:


Oh, I haven’t thought it through, but here’s a few of my landmark, shamelessly materialistic, obsessions.

1. Stretch Armstrong, check.

2. Mood Ring, check.

3. Digital Watch, check.

4. Merlin game & Magic 8 Ball, Check.

5. Lamborghini, Not accomplished.

6. Klipsch Speakers & Bang & Olufson Stereo, Check

7. Restaurant & Mobile Kitchen, Check.

8. Infrared Char-broiler, check

9. Art, check,check,check,check,check,check.

10. BMW R1200C Cruiser, check

11. Palm Pilot, check.

12. HP Tablet PC, check.

13. Iphone, check.

14. Popeye style Spinach with a squeeze open can. Never found it.


i like the boys with the boom


I got to thinking about gay marriage the other night, and had one of those… I guess you’d call it a Repetitive Epiphany. It’s when the enormity – both good and bad – of something hits you again after you hadn’t thought about it for a while. One of the best ones is “Wait a minute! WE’RE NATIONAL CHAMPIONS! GO HEELS!” One of the worst ones is “Wait a minute, a majority of people in [insert state here] elected to strip away the rights of their fellow Americans!”

It got me thinking about my own marriage, and I rapidly came to the fleeting conclusion that it wasn’t right for Tessa and I to be “married” in the legal American sense, just because we happen to be different genders. Why the fuck should we get to call ourselves “married” when Tessa’s best friend Jason and his partner Tim don’t? Why does my ding-dong and Tessa’s nortons qualify us for a social status that our friends L & S in Durham can’t have?

I was trying to think of a different way to say that I’m married, because being married in this country doesn’t mean shit if many of our best friends aren’t allowed to do it. I was contemplating what term I’d use to imply a lovely romantic and legal partnership, but couldn’t come up with one that didn’t make me sound like a blithering, flaccid, pretentious git.

But then I happened upon an awesome graph that put a lot of this into perspective, and – shock of shocks – actually made me feel better about this country of goddamn butt-pickers. Here ’tis:


Don’t look at this graph as a stationary object, imagine it as a fluid cartoon, moving inexorably towards the right part of your screen, marching into the future. Given that homophobia and bigotry are not traits that increase with wisdom, it won’t be long before all of those various dots cross over the 50% barrier.

The only states left with a majority of intolerant people under 29 are the truly challenged, religion-saturated simple-jack folk of states like Texas, South Carolina, Utah, Alabama and Oklahoma. Yes, North Carolina is hovering on the wrong side of 50%, but damn close (NATIONAL CHAMPS! GO HEELS! STOP HATING FAGS!)

If you needed any more proof about my recommendation to put most old people on an ice floe and kick it out to sea (which got me more hate mail than almost anything else I’ve ever put on here), you need to simply look at that intractable line of blue dook-colored dots to the left. Nice work, “Greatest Generation”… didn’t the vilification of an entire swath of people teach you anything?

oh ticking clock, is there anything you can’t do


We are coming to New York for most of the next few months (WHOO-HOO!) and our flight is on Sunday. At the same time, a major network has given us the go-ahead to write our pilot script (WHOO-HOO!) and I’ll be writing the first draft over the next two days. So I’m going to leave it to our early risers to give today’s CODE WORD question… how ’bout it, CM? Or you PEI’ers!