Monthly Archives: February 2012

i still dream of orgonon

2/29/12

Today’s question requires about five seconds of closing your eyes, really thinking about it, then quickly responding. In a nutshell, WHAT DO YOU WANT INVENTED? And it has to be within the realm of possibility, not just “I want a pill that allows me to fly.”

We’ll take away the two most obvious answers: cure for cancer (and all the big diseases), and flying cars. The rest of them are up for grabs.

I’ll start:

• arresting fertility issues… meaning the ability to create perfectly healthy female eggs throughout your 40s

• painless kidney stone disintegration laser

• pollution-free, portable, powerful energy source created here in America

• some blazingly fast internet wifi that simply exists in the ether, without having to pay for an access point anywhere, ever

• flexible tooth sealant that makes cavities impossible

• a cloudbusting device

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i got your slippery slope right here

2/28/12

I know, I know, I should never poke my head out of my self-imposed Indefinite News Media Blackout, but occasionally there’s something that leaps out at you, like those Amazonian water snakes that jump into your willy-hole. Case in point: Rick Santorum.

I hate having that sanctimonious cockfarthing on my website, but the way he calls Obama a “snob” in this video makes me so violently angry that I can’t help sharing:

It’s so rich on so many levels that its hard to know where to begin, but let’s just start here: Republicans, how are you letting this fuckin’ imbecile get so far into the process? I said it when John McCain chose Sarah Palin as a running mate, but the Republicans are doing it again: they’re letting a blithering moron far too close to the office of the Presidency. Most bars have a bouncer to weed out the obvious crazies before they take a shit on the pool table; why doesn’t the G.O.P.?

The “snob” comment reeks of so many kinds of cynicism, but I doubt Santorum has the faculties to parse them. In its simplest form, it’s just the usual “fuck you” to science, experts, research, facts and everything else that keeps civilization functional, all in a blatant appeal to the Average Guy. It’s meant to condition all simple-minded folk to blame smart people for their problems (and in Santorum’s weltanschauung, “smart” is synonymous with “Godless”).

In a slightly more complicated cynicism, the comment states basic Republican dogma: I got mine, you can eat shit. Santorum has a degree from Penn State, and two from Pitt – and hey, somebody gotta water his lawn. You’d think this message of self-lesserment would seem nonsensical to that workin’-class crowd in Michigan, but Republican lemmings have never found a burning building too small to jump into.

In fact, they love it when Santorum or Gingrich or any other assclown gets up and says something downright cruel or racist or stupid – which is why these politicians always double down when they get criticized. These G.O.P. birther dittoheads always mistake self-confidence for profundity, and noise for relevancy.

It has led to one of the worst traits in modern culture, right up there with snark – the “brazening out” of your lowest behavior. I’ll call it The Brazen™ for short.

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The Brazen asks nothing of you except your worst. It allows you to continue your life of denial, and it guarantees your cooler head will never prevail. With The Brazen, you can say whatever you want, and when questioned, you can always answer with a variation of “YEAH, I SAID IT. I’LL SAY IT AGAIN. I’LL SAY SOMETHING WORSE. SO FUCK YOU.”

When dialogue goes into The Brazen, it never comes back, and if you try to use reason, you’ve already lost. The Republicans know two things: using The Brazen makes voters hate a Government the conservatives want destroyed anyway; and whether you win or lose, The Brazen moves the goal posts further into CrazyTown.

As such, I’ll try to be succinct and honest. Rick Santorum, I find you creepy and scary and stupid and you’re an asshole and you need to go away, and stay gone.

here comes a bikini whale

2/27/12

Friday was our last day in Hawaii, and I had already been sick twice: pneumonia on the way over, and whatever the hell this was. But I rallied my broken-ass body to get the fuck out of bed and not waste the gift of tropical paradise, even though I felt like passing out.

So I grabbed this camera, which I’ve had for a year:

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the Lumix DMC-TS3, highly recommended

…because I was going to go snorkeling with everybody, and apparently it can go 40 feet underwater. My nephew Sean Patrick showed me how to put the snorkeling gear on, and with all 17 of us in the water or on the beach, I let everything go, and drifted into the water.

Yes, this is all the kind of vacation cliché that could put bees to sleep. But it was my first time snorkeling, and it was absolute rapture. I haven’t been that jazzed by an adventure in years. After 45 minutes, I approached something close to meditation, just floating and flying and bobbing in the water.

For an hour, I forgot I had been sick, I forgot everything, just followed fish around. It conjured up, of all things, deep gratitude.

I’m going to tell you right now, there are way fuckin’ better pictures of fish than these. But I considered it a personal victory that I could function at all, and when my wife met me in the deep water, herself smiling in the mask, I was simply happy to breathe.

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a Unicornfish, Butterflyfish of some sort, and a Parrotfish (I think)

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Needlefish – these guys were cool

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a Pennant Butterflyfish, total showoff

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the Orange-Band Surgeonfish

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the beautiful and dreamy Tessafish [actually, turns out that’s Michelle – ed.]

will the world end in the night time, i really don’t know

2/26/12

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Indeed, I’ve emerged in one piece, but will save that for tomorrow – today’s blog, however, goes out to old friends Mathew Gross and Mel Gilles, whose book The Last Myth: What the Rise of Apocalyptic Thinking Tells Us About America is nigh!

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They’ve got the Sunday headline article on Salon, which gives you a sample of not just their thesis, but their talent. Matt was the guru behind Howard Dean’s brilliant online campaign back in 2004, and Melony wrote the Politics of Victimization blog that rattled around the blogosphere just after that godawful 2004 election.

I could also tell you that they are both Carolina folks who lived on McCauley Street with the rest of us, and that Matt and I were such huge fans of The Smiths that we subscribed to the Sing Your Life fanzine, but that would be a little beside the point, wouldn’t it?

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Fact is, I’ve had my own intense struggle with America’s sickening fetish for the apocalypse, and used these very pages to expunge those demons. One blog entry bemoaned how researching your greatest fear only feeds the beast, one was on the “you’re fucked” mentality… and the other two were inspired by Smiths songs! That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore and, of course, Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before. Coincidence? Hardly, my patient readers, hardly.

But the real headline here? Matt and Mel’s writing is wonderful: elegant, forceful and real call to arms. Read the Salon piece and pre-order the book. They’re the home team!

(Oh, and so is Jim Rash!)

afrin, z-paks and snot rags not included

2/23/12

Tired of that clichéd Hawaiian vacation? Itchin’ for something new? We here at xtcian thought so, which is why we’re pleased to present

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Sure, you could do things the regular way: hike mountains, go paddleboarding, catch warm aquamarine waves and have fun with your family… but why bother when you can JUST HAVE A FEVER for the whole thing?

Yes, getting really, really sick on vacation. Your first real vacation in years. To a place you’ve dreamed about since you were a child. Sound too awful to be true? Not if you do it the DADDO WILLIAMS way!

What? You were expecting this…?

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HA HA HA HA! Nope! Instead, your Craptacular Vacation Package puts you square inside Daddo’s internationally-reknown Cave of Sadness™!

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While everyone else in your entire family is out sea kayaking and giggling through adventures, we can guarantee white splotches on the back of your throat, and sleepless nights caked with green mucous! IT’S JUST THAT EASY!!!

First, you will inspire sympathy in your relatives. But watch how pity turns to recrimination, as they realize you’re just a motherfucking drag! After all, you’re sick all the goddamn time, so it must be something you’re doing, right?

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Love hidden architectural gems? Get to know this secret nook – you’ll be spendin’ a LOT of time there!

But that’s nothing compared to the Deep Self-Loathing© you’ll encounter as you think back on the five different diseases you’ve had in six weeks. You’ll raise self-hatred to an art form, going completely scorched-earth batshit until nobody can stand to be around you. And only then will you look at the road ahead and wonder what massive battery of tests you’ll have to endure only to find out that nothing’s wrong.

What better place to contemplate that… than HAWAII?!?

Yes, Hawaii! You’ve just flown 2,650 miles into the Pacific Ocean to an island paradise. As we like to say, “It’s never too late for strep throat!® ”

Whaddya waiting for? READY… GET SET…. MOAN!!!

strike the mizzenmast, we’ve hit the sandwich isle

2/21/12

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This story begins here, when we were kids. Left for weeks on end while our parents traveled the globe, Sean, Michelle and I used to do our own sort of travel in our bedroom: we’d slide Michelle’s crib over to our bunk bed, lash them together, and pretend we were on a ship sailing around the Hawaiian Islands.

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I had two things: the Fisher-Price Bowling Set (which acted as the steering controls) and an old Rand McNally map of the islands, which made me the captain. Sean worked the engine on the bottom bunk, and Michelle did whatever you did when you were three years old, mostly screaming in joy.

I was beginning to read vociferously of the world far away, mostly drawing from a National Geographic book of “Our World” that contained this picture of the lava eruptions at Kilauea:

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Lava fascinated me to no end – it was so dangerous, so beautiful, and so bizarre to think the Earth just belched up the contents of its interior whenever it felt like it. I could watch lava splash and harden for hours if there was footage.

Fast forward to last year, when a travel ad for Hawaii wordlessly pictured a small boat wandering along the coast in the evening, happening upon a spout of lava pouring into the ocean, as all the people watched breathlessly. I turned to Tessa and said “I want THAT!” When my mom’s birthday trip came together, Tessa, Lucy and I took a detour to the Big Island to make it happen.

Before you get on the boat, you have to look on the website and see what’s up – the volcano is in a pretty low phase right now, with nothing pouring into the ocean. But the company said there was lava on the hillside and humpback whales in the ocean, so we decided to err on the side of adventure.

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This has always been our mantra – all things being equal, do the more adventurous thing. It will likely still be our mantra after this experience. But we have been chastened.

The boat was a steel beast, able to seat about 22, with monster engines and a metal roof. It was the same size as one of those large tourist boats that cart passengers down the rivers of Europe. But the minute we launched into the water, we knew it would be rough. There had been weather warnings for days, and just getting past the beach coral, we experienced giant free-falls that were as stomach-churning as any roller coaster.

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However, we were up for the adventure, and simply held on through the worst waves, and held tighter when the rain started. The sun was still bright, we were going with the current, and the view was unlike anything you’ll ever see. It’s like God had a black candle, and dripped a coastline into place.

After 45 minutes or so, we turned around, but it wasn’t lost on us that we hadn’t seen any volcanic activity. One miserable old lady complained that she had been “promised lava” and made a disgusting stink about it while the tour guide tried to explain that he couldn’t control what the Earth was going to do on any given day.

As the sun set, we started going against the current for real. The winds started an ungodly howl, and the boat listed achingly side to side. As if on cue, someone shouted “there it is!” and sure enough, on the far hillside, a spurt of lava began making its way out of the ground.

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I tried taking pictures, but only one or two came out, since the boat was now violently throwing us around our seats. Lucy began to openly wish she was back home, and we told her we agreed, and it wouldn’t be long now.

But it was long. It was more than long. We hit one wave that threw all of us in the middle seats fully two feet into the air, coming back down on the metal with a horrible thud. Lucy was on my lap, which meant, basically, a sack of potatoes fell from a chandelier onto my balls.

Any guy who has really been nailed in the crotch can tell you that the first – and most pervasive – feeling is of overwhelming nausea. I kept a brave face, but Lucy was beginning a quiet little cry, and Tessa had the sense to move the three of us into the back part of the boat where things weren’t so violent. It helped, but not much.

I’m not a seasick-prone person, but once you’ve crossed that nausea threshold (and you’re on a boat that is being tossed around the Pacific), there’s no going back. I grit my teeth and commenced Operation Try Not To Barf, if only to show my little girl there was nothing to be afraid of.

The weather worsened. The sky turned pitch-black, and we lost the horizon. Monster 22-foot waves would suddenly appear like ghoulish black specters in front of us, and we’d brace ourselves, encircling Lucy with our legs, as the boat heaved over in sickening freefall.

We sang songs. Then we went through all the relatives that led to Lucy, going back to the 19th century. And then we could no longer talk. It was all we could do to keep breathing, as massive wave after wave threw the boat into oblivion. Then the passengers started vomiting.

The tour guide weakly said it’d be another 15 or 20 minutes, that they were battling headwinds, but that deadline came and went. It was 30 minutes, then 45, then an hour. We could occasionally see the light of some landing dock, miles away, but it never got any closer.

Perhaps I’m just a pussy, perhaps it’s luck, or perhaps there’s something I’m supposed to learn. 9/11, kidney stones, unfathomable pain, constant sickness… what do you take away from it? The boat trip back was an exercise in human endurance, actual torture. More than two hours in pitch black violent seas, no life jacket, soaking wet, trying to keep our 6-year-old (and ourselves) from flying into the side of a wave, all the while forcing ourselves not to vomit, through paroxysms of unbearable nausea.

When we finally got to shore, the captain, himself a shell of the man we’d seen when we came aboard, said it was the worst trip he’d ever known, and had contemplated turning around a few seconds after we started.

The other passengers, their legs like Jell-o, willed themselves down the ladder and wandered in a daze to their cars. A few of them, however, came straight up to Lucy and told her they couldn’t believe how brave and wonderful she was. And that is who I need to speak to now…

Lucy, since you were born, this blog has – in its own subtle way – been for you to read when you’re old enough to find it useful. A capsule of the time when your soul was taking shape. But it may also serve as a reminder of what lies inside you.

During the absolute worst part of that boat ride, as we were pitched far over and holding on for life, I could hear you humming. Humming! I don’t know what song it was, and you didn’t remember when I asked you, but it shows you possess an inner peace I have never had.

That experience wasn’t just the worst trip you’d ever been on, IT WAS THE WORST TRIP ANYBODY ON THE BOAT HAD EVER BEEN ON. And you looked at those gargantuan waves, felt your body rise into the air with no sense of when it would end, and you simply shrugged. And hummed.

You possess that in you. I want you to know that! And that’s only part of why, my little ice dancing, dog-training, soprano paleontologist, I love you so very, very much.

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an archipelago of thoughts

2/16/12

I am writing this to you on the thinnest, most tenuous internet signal I’ve used in ten years – some ancient router an acre away through a rainforest just off the face of the Kilauea Caldera volcano, in a rental unit hidden behind dark trees on an unlit street off an unlit highway.

If you’re used to traveling vast distances, you forget how small Hawaii’s islands really are, even the Big one. We landed in Hilo a few hours ago, and it seemed like we were the only ones here, taking a rental car to Volcano Village, where nobody seemed to be awake (at 8:30pm), with our car providing the only light.

I’m not complaining at all; I love it, especially given the egregious light pollution of Los Angeles and New York. Even up in Columbia County, the Milky Way is brilliant, but there’s the glow of Albany far off on the horizon. Not here. Black, and almost silent save for the rain tapping on the huge, waxen leaves.

It’s so rare that you feel utterly in the middle of nowhere, truly in a corner of the globe that seems the most random point from your usual haunt. I’ve had many of them when single, a few with Tessa, but this is the first real “where could we possibly be” moment with Lucy, who didn’t bat an eyelid when we couldn’t find the place, and had to warm up by a “fire” with “animated flames” at a “bed & breakfast” that threatened to have neither.

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‘Twas all I could do to upload this meager representation of a caldera – those of you asking for pictures will get more than you bargained for, come Monday. In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend and a hui hou, aloha nui loa!

protect your macadamia nuts

2/15/12

Seen today in Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii:

• unbelievably beautiful, completely normal mid-20s Hawaiian woman walking past me on main street who was SIX FOOT SIX at LEAST.

• two-dollar root beer malts at Teddy’s Bigger Burgers with extra malt

• total dork guy from 1977 walking home from library, with ponytail and thick black hoodie, looking skyward with eyes that said “why the fuck am I in Hawaii?”

• girl in aggressively-inappropriate bikini at supermarket, her boobs spilling out onto the tray she was holding, trying to give everyone samples of Sugar Blast Crunch cereal

• pancake aisle had three syrups: coconut, pineapple, and coconut-pineapple

• my awesomepants daughter watched the Heels outlast Miami, then played soccer with Noah

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tomorrow: the Big Island!

hawai’i, where the apostrophe means a hiccup

2/14/12

Do you know what you want out of a vacation? After you’ve flown 3,000 miles, and you, your wife and your daughter have just struggled through three viruses, some walking pneumonia and a sinus infection? Finally feeling on the mend, but exhausted beyond belief?

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You want to go visit my friend Stasia first, who will welcome you with a sign in their window drawn by her and her two kids. Then she will make you braised wahoo with mahogany rice salad, and you will sit and chat for hours as a warm, moist breeze blows through the house.

And there will be small flowers on each of your towels, for it is the little things that truly mend the spirit.

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happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!