Monthly Archives: September 2010

the sanest days are mad

9/30/10

God knows this is your one-stop-shop for dime-store Grand Unifying Theories, but in the interests of staying positive about the future, I’ve had to devise ways to keep living in a country that I find so unfathomably stupid.

Oh, I’m sorry, does that make me sound like a douche? To paraphrase Walt Whitman, very well, then – I’m a douche. (I am large. I contain multitudes of smug disdain.) At the very least I’m honest, and I also admit my utter disgust for many of my fellow Americans has done nothing for my happiness.

So lately I’ve come to understand an obvious concept that can be applied to almost every problem we’ve got. Put simply: nobody can be told anything; everyone must learn everything through experience. It’s one tick shy of cliché, but if you take this rule to heart, it means every philosophical, political or otherwise “theoretical” argument you’ve ever made has fallen on deaf ears. Nobody is listening – ’twas ever thus, and twill ever be thus.

You tell that girl to stay away from that guy, and she listens to you, she “hears” you, and yet she will fall in love with him all the same, then call you weeping on the phone when he smashes her heart. You will tell your friend to make sure he has a spare tire, but he will not. You will tell your sister not to have that last vodka popper, but she will.

Take the American body politic as an example. Think of the roughly 14.2 million people who voted for Bush in 2004 and then wanted him gone 18 months later. Think now of the abject horror of his Presidency ending in 2009, and how two years later, the GOP has an excellent shot at reclaiming the House of Representatives.

It’s enough to make even an armchair progressive gnash his teeth in misery, but it’s pretty simple: Americans are simply incapable of learning from history. They don’t have the ability to see that Republicans make messes so large that Democrats can’t clean them up, which in turn makes Republicans get elected again. It is something that smart voters – ones actually looking at the bigger picture – will have to experience themselves.

It’s no wonder that “burnouts” get burnt out, or that our elders are capable of such heart-rending cynicism; they’re mostly exhausted watching the next wave of morons make the same mistakes over and over, and they feel powerless to stop any of it. They will argue that their snarling negativity is not actually cynicism at all – they’ll call it “realism”, or “pragmatism” – but there’s one thing they really are, and that’s “no fun at parties”.

With that in mind, I’m making this promise now: I will do everything in my power NOT to be one of these people. I will try to understand self-destructiveness for what it is. I will try to remember my own desire to make my own fucking dumb-ass mistakes on my own terms, even if it means being ready with kitty litter (for barf) and a credit card (for everything else).

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A friend of mine (no, not him, so don’t guess) has been ignoring his wife’s lamentations for years. She has repeatedly asked for certain reasonable expectations, and he has repeatedly come up short, and worse, not cared that much. He was repeatedly told that a woman’s heart can only take so much before they move on and have no feelings left, but still, he didn’t change. She then fell out of love with him, utterly and completely, and asked him to leave.

The news utterly floored him; he couldn’t believe it, claimed it came out of nowhere. He quickly reversed his ways, did what she wanted, but she was already gone, moved on, moved out. I will not say, nor even think, “told you so” – I can only be his friend, and continue to nod and pour drinks.

Some people need car wrecks to wear seat belts. Some people need to writhe in unbearable agony and run out of money before they will vote for universal health care. Some people need to marry someone awful before they treat themselves to the person they deserve.

And I know, as a parent, my words will carry the tiniest amount of bantamweight, a feather-ounce of syllables just wafting out of earshot as my kid looks at the expanse of a beautiful world waiting to be devoured. I can only hope my child suffers small scares that imbue the wisdom to choose passions wisely.

As Morrissey said (on an album of almost equal beauty to his work in The Smiths):

You’ll never believe me, so

Why don’t you find out for yourself?

Sick down to my heart, that’s just the way it goes

Some men here, they know the full extent of your distress

They kneel and pray and they say, “Long may it last!”

Why don’t you find out for yourself?

Then you’ll see the glass

Hidden in the grass…

Why Don’t You Find Out For Yourself”, from Vauxhall and I

autumn oughta fall

9/27/10

Alighting in NYC tomorrow, but for now, a picture will have to suffice – how about today’s view outside the barn window? Or is it too Hallmark card?

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What’s outside your window right this second?

but my knees are awesome

9/25/10

I’m without my computer tonight in upstate NY, so let’s try a code word question today:

What thing — or activity — have you recently discovered you’re “too old for” now?

some of mine…

• more than three drinks

• playing along when I know someone is lying

• dumb girls at bars

• dumb guys at bars

• bars

• researching video game cheats

• arguing with cops, even when they’re dead wrong

you?

consistency, part deux

9/21/10

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In 1967, I was a fan of peace.

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In 1977, I was a fan of the Los Angeles Rams.

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In 1987, I was a fan of big hair.

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In 1997, I was a fan of the North Carolina Tar Heels.

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In 2007, I was a fan of the Lulubeans.

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I’m sticking with Lucy and the Heels.

any way you want it that’s the way you need it

9/20/10

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Okay, folks on the eastern seaboard: if you’re feeling spontaneous, I’ve got something for you to do. Due to an odd date mixup, I am flying to NYC on Thursday early morning in order to perform in the Soundtrack Series that evening. What is it, you ask?

It’s actually such a good idea that I’m amazed it has never been done before – every month, six writers/performers pick a song, then get on stage while that song is playing. As the snippet fades, the performers tell a story about why that song changed their life (or haunted them forever, or came to define an era, etc). I’ve seen a few of these shows, and they are instantly compelling, and that’s coming from a guy who has to sit on the edge of rows during a show to maintain the illusion of escape.

My brother Sean is one of the producers, and there’s no reason why this thing won’t get as big as The Moth if they keep at it. It’s fast, it’s funny, it’s free, and if it’s any inducement, I will be playing the violin.

The Soundtrack Series

This Thursday, September 23, 2010

7pm @ The Gallery at Le Poisson Rouge

free admission

158 Bleecker St. (between Thompson and Sullivan)


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starin’ at my sandals – that’s a paddlin’

9/19/10

I read a great quote from journalist Murray Sayle, who said there were only three kinds of pieces:

• “Arrow points to defective part”

• “Herein we name the guilty person”

• “Everything you know about subject X is wrong”

The first two kinds of journalism are as self-evident as farts, but in the last 25 years, we’ve had an onslaught of the third kind. As biological, medical and psychological testing gets more sophisticated, we’re finding out that human beings were incorrect about pretty much every assumption from 1858 to 2009.

People faced with that kind of wrongheadedness do one of two things: they either double-down on idiocy, or else they breathe the fresh clean air of truth. Being wrong would be liberating if it weren’t so humiliating. I confess there’s plenty of things I’d like to go on believing despite scientific consensus to the contrary (like Pluto still being a planet – poor little guy).

I have droned ENDLESSLY on here about how much I loathed school, and how much of it hinged on The Man’s insistence on turning teenagers into sleep-deprived zombies. Still, despite story after story showing how teens’ test scores skyrocket with later school start times, administrations don’t do anything because, well, they’d have to alter the calendar they Xeroxed in 1972.

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Then, just last week, the NYTimes published an article actually called Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits. We were all trained the same: in order to learn, you need to have a permanent, quiet study space with no distractions. It should be regularly scheduled, and no dicking around. Apparently, that’s total crap.

Several different studies showed that mixing up subjects during a session, as well as moving your study area around, and taking seemingly-unrelated breaks… gave students huge leaps in cognitive understanding and test scores. When we switch things up, the uniquely different ambient environments and background noise imprints on us while we learn, allowing us to digest information that sticks. Remember this entry from two years ago? It’s how all of us remember what theater we were in when we saw all those movies.

In all, it means shoving another case study into the Shit I Suffered in School For No Apparent Reason file, although that particular dossier is now so fucking full I’m wondering if anything I did in middle and high school made sense. All those study halls, all that sitting in a wooden desk trying to memorize bullshit while wearing a tie, the unending hours of trying to cram trigonometry concepts into my brain, it was like shoving a gallon of Jell-o through a shower head.

How’s about this: if there is something about school that is making kids miserable, why not see if it’s actually working? I know it’s a revolutionary concept, but if you’ve got a room full of 16-year-olds barely able to stay awake, confined to their desks like baby cows in their veal pens, failing their tests and not caring… maybe the system could afford some tweaks?

In some ways, I feel vindicated by this research. I was not such an ADD-addled freak doing poorly in school, I was just being human. If the structure makes you sorrowful and wretched, you’re probably doing the structure no good. There’s only one thing in life that works great when it feels wrong, and it’s called golf.

the venus embrace 5-blade razor really works

9/16/10

Okay, today’s code word question is strictly because I’m a snoopy anthropologist of human behavior and a dedicated chin-stroking contemplator of brand-name products. Please, if you will, describe in detail your just-before-bed toiletry ritual (leaving out the major body functions), and the exact products you use, and how long it takes. Please be anonymous if you feel shy about your routine. Simple enough, eh?

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the sanchez family is suing for defamation

9/15/10

Lucy is starting kindergarten – which is a week of posts in itself – but one notable item from the experience was the calendar pamphlet, which had the words “HOT LUNCH ALERT” emblazoned across the top of one page. I started laughing right in the middle of the get-to-know-ya meeting, looking around at the other parents to see if anyone else was thinking the same thing.

Thank god Tessa was, but it does bring up an interesting point: there sure are a lot of common words and phrases these days that meant something entirely else back when I was doing tequila shots and sleeping in bathrooms. Let us look at some of them, shall we?

“Hummer” – To the denizens of Fraternity Court circa 1991, that was a blow job, simple and plain. I suppose it had something to do with your partner’s attempt to speak whilst administering fellatio, although that’s a little like the dentist asking you questions during surgery. Frankly, I don’t know any fellatrix, either male or female, that would have a lot to say during the act itself. I mean, you’re kinda already saying it, right?

When the Hummer SUV came out – a giant McFuckYoumobile getting three miles to the gallon – I was shocked, I tell you, shocked. It was the worst car at the worst time in history, and now that it has been discontinued, we can only hope the “hummer” resumes its rightful place back in the garden of earthly delights.

“Red Wings” – When I was a kid, the Detroit Red Wings were so horrible that I didn’t know they existed – they called it the “Dead Wings” era, and you could go decades without hearing their name uttered by any sportscaster. Nay, when I was a teenager, I was told by a family member (who shall remain nameless) that you could “earn your red wings” by being orally intimate with a lady who had just finished her luteal phase, as it were.

In fact, you needed to earn your red wings in order to join several motorcycle gangs, Hell’s Angels included. The fact that I knew this, as a spasmoid violinist dork attending a prep school in Tidewater, Virginia, proved to me that anything was teachable.

“a red eye” – Trivia tidbit: I went to one of The Clash’s last real concerts when I was 15, a gig at William & Mary Hall that blew my mind right open. In the parking lot after the show, there were the requisite Southern post-punks all looking to scrap, and at one point, one group leader shouted at some cops, “Give ’em the RED EYE!”

At once, about twelve punks pulled down their pants and spread their buttcheeks wide, exposing their Netherlands with such violence that I thought I’d pass out. I’d never seen such an array of bungii, at least not in such proctological detail. The phrase “red eye” seared onto my brain.

So when someone orders it at a coffee shop, or complains about one they scheduled to Heathrow, a piece of me is still back in that parking lot, utterly transfixed.

“teabaggers” – We’ve no doubt covered this one before, but after Tuesday’s election, Teabaggers and their endless teabagging has become as dull as the MacNeil/Lehrer Report. This is a national tragedy, not just because the Tea Party represents some of the most reprehensible racists, bigots, assholes, self-hating women and dumbshits still capable of hiding behind their infantile “hatred of government”, but because the act of teabagging was such a gentle, loving thing. A true leap of faith, an act of trust. Why else would you do it?

And if you wanted something a little more violating, there was always Danny Green.

“The Cleveland Steamer” – Oh, wait. That still means pooping between someone’s boobs. Plus ça change, right?

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there’s no “i” in “web”

9/14/10

Okay, you crazy wonderful people. And all you lurkers. And yes, even you, the guy in that shirt.

Which reminds me: besides the time you most graciously give me (your most humble svt., etc & etc, etc & etc), what are the five websites you absolutely have to look at every day? Let’s also take Facebook, Twitter and Google out of the equation. Mine?

NYTimes

HuffPo

Gizmodo

Digg/Reddit

Instructables

(and of course the Inside Carolina boards during certain seasons)

that was curiously hard…