Former N'Syncer Lance Bass has publicly announced that he's gay.
In a related item, Usher has publicly announced that he's black.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Monday, July 24, 2006
"Melodrama coming from you is about as normal as an oral bowel movement." -- Randal Graves
For the most part, I've done my best to ensure that this little experiment of mine concentrates far less on me personally than it does on my opinion of the world around me. I've gone out of my way to see to it that I avoid making this any kind of online journal -- choosing instead to concentrate on what I hope are more universal themes: politics, pop culture, music, movies, the fact that M. Night Shyamalan is a dickhead -- that sort of thing. I do this because I'll probably never be able to put to rest the nagging feeling that the daily, frivolous details of my own life simply aren't worth hearing about.
I mean, really -- who gives a shit what I think about the world?
And if that's true, then for God's sake -- who could possibly give a shit about what I've done or continue to do with my life?
As it turns out though, an unusual confluence of events over the past few days has left me in a mood that can only be described as oddly nostalgic, and for some reason I feel kind of compelled to pry it out of my head, heart and nether-regions and document it. In other words, you're gonna have to humor me for a few minutes.
Beginning last Friday morning and continuing through this afternoon, I felt as if I were reliving my life -- from my teenage years through the late-90s -- thanks to a series of seemingly random events and interactions which acted as not-so-subtle cues, setting off a chain-reaction of surprisingly clear memories. What struck me most was the fact that these cues unfurled in a natural, perfectly chronological order. Friday morning, I received my first trigger -- which transported me back to my life as a teenager -- and by the time I left work today, the process had completed itself, and there I was staring the me that I was in 1996 right in the face.
It's no coincidence that what I consider to be a memorable era effectively ends 10 years ago; I don't think I need to point out to anyone that the pain and loss that occurred during any period of your life tends to sweeten over time. As the years go by, all that crap gets washed away and you marvel at how wonderfully innocent it all seems in retrospect. The present is the present -- and it's very good. The recent past is, at the very least, too fresh in my mind -- and at most, may never be looked upon with any kind of bittersweet longing.
This is all sounding far too fucking self-indulgent, so I'm going to stop the unnecessary exposition and just get to it. If you're bored already, I have one piece of advice: stick around, because in a few moments, I'm going to admit to something which could conceivably change your entire opinion of me -- unless that opinion is already negative -- and cause you to permanently delete this web address from your computer.
How's that for a tease?
Sherman, set the Way-Back machine for Friday, and 1983.
It's been out for awhile now, but three days ago I realized that a new Killing Joke album had been released.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the band, Killing Joke is quite possibly the most sonically-massive, furiously brutal musical experience ever put to tape. They sound like the apocalypse. They sound like a cathedral being destroyed with a buzzsaw while a choir is still inside. They sound like a knife to the stomach. They are without a doubt the most honestly angry and darkly beautiful band to come out of England's original punk scene. They were the forefathers of goth -- but with none of the silliness. They were the forefathers of latter-day punk and nu-metal, but with none of the self-deprecation or prepackaged rage-without-reason. They sang about the political climate at the time and how it was bringing about a form of social armageddon, and they did it without so much as a hint of clever irony. You didn't "mosh" at a Killing Joke show; you were too fucking scared. You just bowed in reverent awe. They were gods -- and they were my favorite band growing up.
Today, they're worshipped by the likes of Trent Reznor and Dave Grohl.
On Friday morning, I sat and listened to their new album from start to finish; I let it wash over me like a fucking tidal-wave, and I thought back to what it feels like to hear music that punches you in the gut and speaks to your soul for the first time. I remembered when that kind of overwhelming feeling was completely new to me. It was indescribable.
Miami used to be a very cool place.
Back before it became one giant hip-hop video set, my hometown was as weird and diverse as it was dark and mysterious. It was the new Casablanca -- a dangerous yet somehow oddly laid-back snake-pit that was unlike any other city in the continental 48. In the span of one summer, we had a deadly race riot that left a good portion of the city on fire, a boatlift which brought thousands of Cubans to our shores -- so many in fact that they had to be housed in tents under I-95, and of course a series of drug wars settled in the streets with MAC-10 machine guns wielded by the so-called "Cocaine Cowboys." It was all documented by writers like Dave Barry, Carl Hiaasen, and Edna Buchanan.
It was the baddest fucking place on the planet to grow up.
Then in 1984, Michael Mann somehow captured the entire vibe of Miami perfectly -- and brought it to TV.
Miami Vice terrified the chamber of commerce; they tried to prevent its release for fear that it would give the city yet another nationally-recognizable black eye. What the show wound up doing however, was revitalizing Miami in unimaginable ways. The models and artists that would eventually swarm over South Beach -- declaring it their own -- would relentlessly debate the catalyst that turned the beach from a desolate strip of apartments inhabited only by the elderly, into a neon Mecca that drew crowds from around the world. Some would claim it was Versace, whose own blood would eventually stain the sidewalk outside his beloved beachfront mansion. Others would claim it was the arrival of the modeling agencies.
None of them would ever admit the truth -- that a show which had become painfully dated within the span of just a few years, was solely responsible for the renaissance.
This past Saturday night, in an effort to hype the upcoming movie, NBC showed the pilot episode of Miami Vice.
I watched, with the biggest, dumbest smile on my face.
Seeing Clerks for the first time was revelatory.
For me and many others, watching the movie was less about sitting and laughing for an hour and a half -- which we did -- and more about realizing that in fact, there were other people out there like us. Kevin Smith managed to somehow look into my brain and grab every conversation I'd ever had, and every obscene inside-joke I'd ever laughed at and put it up on the screen. For me -- and as it turns out or my entire generation -- nothing would ever be the same.
For the last 12 years of my life, Randal and Dante, Jay and Silent Bob, have been like family. They became part of the lives of myself and the group I chose to hang out with back in 1994. We laughed at their banter and repeated our favorite lines, and we realized that whether or not we worked as Clerks ourselves, these guys were us. I can't thank Kevin Smith enough for creating them.
Sunday night, I saw Clerks II. It was like hanging out with old friends again.
The final shot, as the camera pulls back and the film once again goes to grainy black-and-white -- as Soul Asylum's Misery plays -- I gotta admit, I almost cried.
Here's where things get messy -- literally.
In 1996, I briefly dated a co-worker -- well, one particular co-worker I mean; I've dated plenty of co-workers unfortunately.
We worked side-by-side at a busy big-city television station; she was a reporter, I was a senior producer. Up to a point, our interactions involved nothing more than hanging out together in a large group at a bar around the corner from the office. We talked, laughed, flirted casually -- the usual. One night after a few too many drinks, we wound up making-out in my car -- an event which qualified as a surprising development for your humble narrator; at that time I still believed that on-air talent didn't fraternize with the lowly off-camera types.
The day after the impromptu encounter, we decided to set up an actual date.
The next Saturday evening, I picked her up and took her to a trendy little place with a gorgeous outdoor garden. We ate and drank -- and drank, and drank. At some point during the evening she gave me a drunken smile and suggested we go back to her place. I of course didn't argue.
She put trip-hop on the stereo and led me into her bedroom, the centerpiece of which was a beautiful stark-white canopy bed, complete with sheer white netting around the sides. She stripped down to a lace bra and thong panties. The moon shone through the blinds, splitting the bed with long, parallel shadows. As imagery goes, the entire scene was flawless.
After a very nice amount of early foreplay, during which her bra managed to find its way to the floor next to the bed, we were just about ready to, well, "take it to the next level," when she looked me in the eye and -- with an undaunted smile on her face -- explained to me that...
I'll be as subtle as I can here.
The little visitor was in town.
She didn't appear to be willing to allow something so anomalous to stand in the way of our good time, and asked me if I had any issue with the arrangement. Being drunk, turned-on and -- well, me, I of course didn't give it a second thought.
And now the denouement.
A few hours later, it looked like the Manson family had been there. The white bed was a nightmare of color. There was even spatter across the ceiling of the canopy -- though to this day I have no idea how the hell it got there.
At the time, I remember thinking that it was sick beyond words.
It was also the coolest fucking thing I'd ever seen.
The reason I mention any of this is that today, I saw that woman again. She's now a national news anchor. Strangely, although I immediately had to fight back a chuckle at the thought of that night with her, I felt nothing else -- no doubt a sign of growing out of that age of juvenility, when every whim or desire had to be immediately satisfied.
Incidentally, my wife knows this story and has laughed at it -- mostly because she realizes that in the heirarchy of my past relationships, this person doesn't even have a chair.
So, there you have it.
I can't argue that it was -- and is -- good to look back, particularly as the stack of days behind you begins to tower over the stack of days ahead of you. But the nostalgia I feel isn't for a better time -- some bygone era of simplicity and freedom.
These days, the joy in looking back is in understanding what was eventually to come.
I'll make this quick.
Kelly Clarkson isn't fat.
For some reason I'll never quite fathom, the myriad of dingbats who actually believe that following the lives of celebrities is a worthwhile endeavor have taken a look at pictures like the one above and decided that Clarkson deserves to be an ongoing target of condescending derision.
She's put on a few pounds lately, but guess what -- she's fucking human. People gain and lose weight all the time.
Anyone who thinks Clarkson is fat apparently hasn't been to a Wal-Mart in awhile.
Compared to a lot of Americans, the girl is fucking anorexic.
I'm not a fan of celebrity "journalism" as it is -- for Christ's sake, any business in which a colossal douchebag like Pat O'Brien can thrive should never be given even a specimen-cup full of respect -- but it's especially irritating when, with all the completely worthless idiots out there garnering undeserved accolades, someone who actually has talent is picked on for no good fucking reason.
Yeah -- I know -- I'm defending Kelly Clarkson; I did a lot of acid during the 90s.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Lady in the Water took in a mere 18-million dollars at the box office this weekend.
In other words, it was a flat-out disappointment.
As for the interview with M. Night Shyamalan which was the source of so much unnecessary trauma?
It never aired; the shooting-war in the Middle-East wisely trumped the promotion of a really dumb movie.
For the record: the finished story was excellent, and -- in spite of his complaints and, dare I say, lack of faith -- the interviewee looked like the brilliant auteur I'm sure he fancies himself.
Anyway, I'll stop the antagonism now.
It's no fun anymore, seeing as how the theater-going public kicked him in the balls far harder than I ever could.
Yeah -- I'm talkin' to you, you little curry-eating motherfucker.
How're those reviews workin' out for your new movie? Seems the critics don't much like it. What was it -- a mere 22% approval-rating on Rotten Tomatoes?
Shit, Little Man hovered right around that number, and that's a fucking Wayans Brothers movie for Christ's sake. For all those lousy fucking reviews, you weren't even lucky enough to garner a little bullshit controversy like having Joel Siegel walk out of one of your screenings -- or at the very least, say something in his review like, "This Lady made me sing the blues!"
Hold on a second.
(Stops to snort a line of cocaine off a stripper's breast)
Now I know what you're thinking.
You're thinking, "Yes, but as you know, the critics have a problem with me. That's why I made sure to make the only despicable character in my new movie a cynical critic; then I promptly had him killed off by one of my wonderously imaginative grass-monsters. It's a really great scene -- and no it doesn't make me look like a petty five year-old."
Here's a tip asshole: critics are part of your audience too, and they have a problem with you because you're not the medium-altering visionary genius you think you are. You can talk all you want about dreams and faith and how everyone's out to get you and keep you down and crush your spirit, but it won't change the fact that you may not be anything more than a marginally-talented flash-in-the-pan. Incidentally, how can you possibly complain about those creatively-bankrupt suits' lack of faith in you, when for seven years now you've been given unlimited backing and a blank-check to churn out whatever little ridiculous whim comes into your head in the middle of the night?
Speaking of which -- that whole thing about making everyone come to you in Philadelphia?
Who the hell do you think you are?
Allow me to paraphrase a legendary political exchange: I'm a fan of Kubrick. I've seen all of Kubrick's movies. You're no fucking Kubrick.
The man made masterpiece after masterpiece; you've made a couple of drowzy Bruce Willis vehicles and a silly fairy-tale.
So what's it gonna take for you to just go the hell away and leave the storytelling to the professionals?
I'm betting that a lousy box-office take this time around might be just what's needed to bury that silly myth you've created for yourself under a mountain of reality once and for all. The Disney people will be singing Zippety Doo-Dah, and the Warner execs will be throwing themselves off the tallest building they can find; they'll no doubt be anxiously awaiting the next piece of cinematic compost they've already promised to pay you for -- sight unseen.
(Snorts another line of cocaine)
I've wasted too much time on you already.
I'm off now to see Clerks 2, partially for the reason that I wanna support any other movie than yours this weekend.
Shit, maybe I'll even see My Super Fucking Ex-Girlfriend when I'm done.
(*The views and opinions expressed by Garth do not necessarily represent those of Chez, who in fact likes curry very much).
Monday, July 17, 2006
I urinate standing up -- occasionally missing the toilet altogether.
I've slept with a couple of women I've never spoken to again.
I have a fast-held belief that any movie with the word "Heart" in it -- which isn't preceded by the word "Angel" -- is generally something I have no desire to see.
Jackass made me laugh so hard I couldn't breathe.
I like porn and cigars, although not at the same time.
I don't like most Broadway musicals, nor any other form of entertainment where people suddenly break out into song to further the plot. I was once dragged kicking and screaming to Mamma Mia. I'm still trying to get my testicles to forgive me.
I still have scars on my legs from my time in the pit at Black Flag shows, circa early 80s.
I have indiscriminate anger issues.
I once stuffed a naked girl into a closet and kept her there for 20 minutes while I tried to get rid of my girlfriend, who had the bad manners to stop by without calling.
I hate Oprah.
I can sometimes be a crass and insensitive bastard (see all of the above).
These facts being what they are, you'd think I'd be doing a rollicking, celebratory dance around my piles of Maxim magazines at the revelation that it's once again okay to embrace my inner-asshole. I know this to be true because the mass media has declared it so. I see it on TV. I read it in magazines. It's even been given the blessing of the English press, and we know we can trust them -- I mean, they have those accents, right?*
The return of the caveman aesthetic to the public zeitgest has even been tagged with a clever title by the mighty media machine: they're calling it "The Menaissance."
From Bud Light's "Man Laws" commercials -- which I've already written about -- to Burger King's "I Am Man" ditty, to the rise of so-called "Fratire," (I challenge you to say that word without rolling your eyes) and the ratings-surge of Spike TV, it seems that embracing the Y chromosome is all the rage. The message is simple: Guys, you don't have to hide anymore; put down the John Gray book and the Gwyneth Paltrow DVD, get your balls out of the refrigerator and be a "Man" again. The pride is back.
The problem of course is that it's all complete bullshit.
The basic premise is that for several years, men were oppressed -- pinned under a dark cloud of political correctness which labeled their natural instincts unacceptable and uncivilized. We were supposedly expected to bury the Neanderthalic misogynist and get in touch with our inner-Alanis, all in an effort to better understand the other half of the population of this planet. We were supposedly being turned into pussies. But in reality, we weren't being turned into anything. If there's anything that the unimaginative media in this country -- and around the world for that matter -- loves, it's a trend they can recycle, parrot, and forcibly jam down the collective throat of a jaded public until it's choked on. The idea of an anti-man movement fit the bill nicely.
Another thing the media loves: sweeping generalizations. This is why we get day after day of nightmarish hyperbole about everything from rising crime rates (which are actually falling), to terrorism threats (which fortunately affect almost no one in this country), to the horrific meth "epidemic" (which is the closest thing to absolute nonsense that the press has ever deemed to foist on the masses). On a smaller scale, this is also why every so often, the gods of what we see, hear and believe choose to come down from Mt. Olympus and assure us of a new cultural touchstone which will impact all of our lives. It's post-modern circular logic at its finest: if Time magazine tells you that the culture is moving in a certain direction, you can be damn sure that if it isn't, it soon will be -- all thanks to the article in Time magazine.
The reality of the "Menaissance" is the same as the truth behind any media-driven cultural phenomenon -- from Internet predators to the career of Paris Hilton -- namely, it impacts some people and not others. You'd be a moron to think that every man on the goddamned planet has decided that he's going to down four Hungry-Man meals a night while masturbating to Fight Club. Some guys will do that -- because chances are they always have -- and some won't. Dropping clever terms like "Fratire" can give Tucker Max all the legitimacy in the world, it doesn't make him a decent writer -- nor does it lend any kind of extraneous gravitas to a frat kid's decision to read him.
I'm a guy. If I wanted to, I guess I could choose to make some kind of bold statement of solidarity with my fellow Y-chromos by buying into this crap about how I don't need to be ashamed to be a "Man" again. Thing is, I was never all that ashamed to begin with -- probably because I always considered myself to be an individual above all. There are some stereotypical traits I share with my fellow guys. There are plenty I don't.
I don't find Jessica Simpson the least bit attractive.
I don't give a crap about most sports, and plan to live a very productive and happy rest-of-my-life never playing golf.
I never named my penis, joined a fraternity, or wore a t-shirt that boasted how much I could drink.
I think the funniest thing Dane Cook could do is get run down by his own tour bus.
If Kim Jong Il nuked Vegas, I'd turn my pillow over to the cool side.
I don't own one goddamned striped-shirt.
I could care less what a woman's bra size is, and I'm baffled by that fascination. I also truly believe that young women can be plenty of things, but they can almost never be sexy; that's a trait that comes with age, wisdom and confidence. It has to be grown into.
These are the qualities that make me me. It would seem like common-sense: the rarest of products is always the most valuable. The individual person you are is the thing you should prize most.
And so far at least, there isn't an ad campaign aimed directly at you.
*I'll give a dollar to anyone who can explain to me why British actors are Hollywood's default setting when it comes to casting for the part of any international character, no matter the country.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Okay, one more thing...
A perfect way to pass your time until my vacationing ass returns -- or until you crawl into a bathtub and drag in a hairdryer, whichever comes first.
Go here and enjoy a deconstructionist's worst nightmare.
Thanks for the link Schwa. You're a god.
I'm gonna be taking a few days off, so don't expect anything in the way of new postings. I'm not so completely enamored of this process that I'll drag my computer with me wherever I go. Deal with it.
Still, as it turns out, this insane little experiment of mine has actually attracted a growing readership for some strange reason; so if you're a first-time visitor -- please go back and read some of the past entries, and by all means, feel free to leave comments annointing me the new Son of God, or calling me a colossal asshole -- whichever you choose.
It's not like there's that much material to cover -- I've only been doing this for two months.
Anyway, enjoy. I should be back on Sunday night kiddies.
A quick scan of the network and cable channels this morning would have given you astonishing insight into not only the world around you, but the news business itself.
Just about every network was breathlessly touting its coverage of the "Breaking News" coming out of the Middle-East.
Israel had attacked Hezbollah. Hezbollah had attacked Israel. Now, stop me if you've heard this one before.
I realize that a fresh outbreak of violence anywhere constitutes legitimate news, but something has always rubbed me the wrong way about the ubiquitous application of the "Breaking News" tag.
If something has been occurring for, oh say, the past 2000 fucking years -- like the Arabs and Jews waging war -- doesn't it kind of forfeit its ability to surprise news departments into calling it "Breaking?"
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
I'm easy to love, and almost impossible to live with.
I know this to be true because I've heard it from virtually every woman unlucky enough to have had her life intertwined with mine for any length of time. Literally -- the same words, phrased exactly the same way, spoken at just about the same point in each relationship; it's the interpersonal equivalent of the first chords of Starship Trooper at a Yes concert -- when you hear them, you know the show's just about over.
Being a somewhat selfish jackass, I admit that there's truth to the fact that I've never been much good at relationships. Most of mine -- those of any note at least -- have typically involved months of tumult and torture, culminating in the hurling of small appliances at one another. I used to joke that all of my bad relationships seem to have only one thing in common: me.
Thankfully, my wife Jayne is a patient woman -- which is an understatement along the lines of saying that the casting of Sofia Coppola in The Godfather III was a bad idea. She puts up with a lot, and I know that there are plenty of women out there who don't envy her -- essentially every woman who knows me -- but due in large part to her steadiness and resolve, I've become a better man, a better partner and a better all-around person. At some point during our relationship, our passionate insanity dialed-down to something even more wonderful: passionate sanity. We work together as a team, which may seem common and mundane for most adults, but is in fact a task which borders on the spectacular when it's being done by a couple which is made up of 50% retard.
I still have my issues however, the most prevalent of which is the occasional crippling belief that she'll walk out the door and never come back. Psychologists would refer to this as a fear of abandonment; I look at it more as the fear of the wiser half of my relationship finally coming to its senses. I have no obvious reason to be as concerned as I am about this; it's not like my wife has begun quietly separating her CDs from mine. On the contrary, she seems highly adept at reading this feeling in me, and usually throws in an extra hug or cuddle to reassure me when she notices it coming on.
So why the worry?
I have a friend -- a woman -- who recently traveled overseas for a couple of months on business. She's currently involved in a relationship here in the states, and when she left, her boyfriend kissed her goodbye and more than likely thought little of it beyond that. They were together. They were in love. That wasn't going to change.
Only it did.
The experience altered her -- opened her eyes so to speak. The woman who returned is far more complex and multi-dimensional than the one who left, and whether he understands it or not, her boyfriend may not fit into the picture anymore. The best analogy I can think of is Einstein's belief that if you achieved light-speed, you could see the universe in an instant -- the same instant which would leave the world you departed from, and returned to, completely unchanged. The problem of course is that the person left behind -- the one who never achieved that level of experience with her -- now seems like someone from her very distant past. He knows nothing about her anymore. To put it in simple terms: she outgrew him.
Here's a question though: have you ever heard of a man saying that he's outgrown a woman? I'm sure it's happened, but for the most part, this particular sentiment seems to be a "woman thing." I don't doubt that those who base their assumptions about men on what they've seen on Everybody Loves Raymond would say that the answer is simple: men aren't constantly growing. They reach a plateau, generally in about the sixth grade, then stop. I'd love nothing more than to refute this kind of thinking, but everytime I see the commercial for Bud Light's "Man Laws," or walk by an issue of Maxim on the newsstand, or see a TV ad for Girls Gone Wild I just shake my head and accept the fact that I don't have a goddamned leg to stand on. The deck's pretty well stacked against me by my own kind.
If that assumption is true though -- that women seem to grow, and revel in the experience of growth -- then can any relationship ever be secure? As far as I know, my friend's boyfriend did everything right -- at least to the best of his ability. He supported her in her journey. He remained confident in their committment. He was, for lack of a better word, himself. Now, possibly without his knowledge and through seemingly no fault of his own, his relationship with the person he loves has struck an iceberg and is slowly -- almost imperceptably -- sinking. If the other half of his relationship has already made the decision to leave, there isn't a thing he can do about it.
It will end one of two ways: she'll simply walk out, which will leave him stunned, or she'll begin to pick fights over the kinds of issues which were once completely innocuous -- at least before the secret meeting-of-one was held, and the final solution was decided on. Either way, the result will be the same. Another unfortunate fact is that I, and no doubt others, probably know more about this poor guy's eventual fate than he does. I feel sorry for him, and that feeling extends almost completely from the fact that I wouldn't want to be him -- or maybe because I have been him.
I've been warned throughout my life many times and in many ways of the importance of showing support for your partner's endeavors; have faith they say, and believe in the strength of your relationship. I've been told that to hold on to something, or someone, too tightly will only lead to disaster. But is the fear of your loved one simply moving beyond you really that impossible to fathom?
I realize that little in life is certain -- death, taxes, bad films from Michael Bay -- but if the one you love can outgrow you with any new experience, at what point can you stop being afraid?
At what point can I stop being afraid?
Monday, July 10, 2006
Sunday, July 09, 2006
I'm Italian, and yet I worship Thierry Henry. I win either way.
I think I mentioned how I didn't want this to turn into a running description of what I'm doing at this very moment.
Yet I'm coming off a hell of a party with a bunch of distraught Frenchmen.
I've had a lot of wine.
I'm very drunk.
Viva whoever the hell won.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Once upon a time, there was this thing called synergy.
Basically, the technology involved in television improved at a rate rapid enough to keep up with the outside technology that affected it. In other words, TV and any other form of technological media used for distributing information shared the block and lived in peace. The people who produced programs put them on TV; the TV people aired them; everyone was happy.
Of course, this was pretty much crap. TV was dominant; it was the only outlet people turned to for their information and entertainment. TV was at the top of the food chain -- and the people who ran it behaved as such.
But hey, nothing lasts forever.
While no one's ringing the death knell for television just yet -- despite the fact that quality programming such as According to Jim and Dateline "news" specials on The Apprentice is still the order of the day -- the rise of broadband has basically presented TV executives with the first real challenge to their dominion.
Watching them respond to that challenge is like watching the apes throwing bones at the monolith at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In the same way that easily downloadable, digital quality music on the net has screwed the recording industry right in its self-righteous ass; basically freeing listeners from the RIAA's stranglehold and rendering that organization completely helpless to do anything about it, TV execs now find themselves struggling to keep up with a form of media that doesn't play by anyone's rules and cannot be easily controlled. Threaten to send the kids to their rooms without supper all you want, it's not going to make them behave.
So what's an increasingly irrelevant TV executive to do? Try and incorporate the new technology and hope no one will notice that you look incredibly stupid doing it. TV has never been the hippest medium to begin with -- especially since it began falling into the hands of multi-national corporations -- but watching television attempt to co-opt the surreal, light-speed, acid-trip quality of the web, is like watching your dad pathetically ask you what you think of his new "punk rock" haircut. You know he just doesn't get it.
Believe me when I tell you that there's nothing more sadly hilarious than sitting in a conference room with a guy who's never had a thought in his head that wasn't put there by a consultant, while he babbles with giddy hysteria about how the internet is the "wave of the future" and we have to figure out a way to capitalize on it. It is, quite literally, like watching a Catskills comedian doing his best bits. "This internet thing. It's BIG with the kids I tell ya."
Believe me also when I tell you that it's exactly these kinds of ridiculous TV brain-trust meetings that have led to shows like VH1's Web Junk 20. Now I won't deny that I think VH1 is pretty much wholesale pabulum. With the possible exception of E! -- which is to Los Angeles what Tass was to the Soviet Union -- VH1 is responsible for beaming more mindless shit into your living room than just about anyone else. Okay, I guess I can also make an exception for Fox News, but that's another story altogether.
VH1 is really the worst kind of crap, not only because it airs crap -- but because it airs crap, then assumes that I actually need snarky nobodies to interpret that crap for me. As if I can't fully comprehend the latest gossip about Paris Hilton unless it's filtered through the insightful, razor-sharp wit of Christian Finnegan and that guy from Ed. Add to that VH1's regrettable decision to resurrect the careers of people you pray had long ago died in a tragic combine accident, and you've got a recipe for God-awful. I'm not sure anyone, anywhere in the country has been losing sleep wondering what ever happened to the kid who played Peter Brady -- nor has anyone been cherishing the opportunity to watch in horror as Flavor Flav burns the legacy of his role in the important brilliance of Public Enemy to the ground, by hot-tubbing with Ilsa, she-wolf of the SS.
If you haven't caught it yet, Web Junk 20 perfectly showcases everything that makes VH1 bad -- and not the caveatically watered-down "Awesomely" Bad which the network likes to inoffensively title some of its more supposedly edgy programming; just plain fucking bad. It features video clips making their way around the internet via the likes of sites like collegehumor.com and gorillamask.net; It categorizes and counts them down -- because if there's one thing America seems to love, it's a show that counts shit down; any shit at all will do, (coming soon to E!, the list of the 101 Best List Shows!) And of course, it's all given a constant, running commentary by the painfully unfunny Patrice O'Neal -- once again, as if the audience wouldn't be able to navigate the sea of nut-shots and web-cam strippers without Captain Comedian at the helm. The Catskills guy rears his ugly head again: "Look, the tourettes guy's screaming 'Bob Saget!' Get it? Heeey! Bada-bing! You're a great crowd!"
Ironically, the argument against Web Junk 20 and other TV programs which showcase supposedly "viral video" is the same argument many make against network news: it's a hell of a lot easier and more informative to skip the middle-man altogether and just go right to the source. Why the hell would you watch VH1 relay this stuff to you when you can go to the internet and get it yourself? You can't really be that interested in what Patrice O'Neal adds to the equation -- at least not if you haven't recently been in a car accident that's left you severely brain-damaged. Likewise, why get your news from TV when the internet offers instant access to a wealth of different sources?
Now, it's worth mentioning that the information stream does flow in the opposite direction, typically with much more success for our friends in television. When networks put their shows on the net -- as so many have done through iTunes -- it can help network programming. NBC, specifically, has recently used the one thing it has plenty of -- money -- to exploit a former enemy: it's bought part of YouTube to broadcast its material. This may seem brilliant and forward-thinking, but it was actually a reactive move done out of sheer necessity. That's because, like the RIAA's impotent lawsuits against downloaders, the network found that it couldn't stop its "property" from being circulated on the internet.
That battle came to a head when the SNL Digital Short for Lazy Sunday made the web rounds -- taking the only funny thing that show has done in years (besides Smigel's cartoons) and suddenly giving it a massive audience it otherwise wouldn't have had.
But what did NBC do when it found out that kids were "stealing" its programming? The fax-machines at its lawyers' offices went into overdrive, spouting out cease and desist orders and threatening lawsuit after lawsuit.
Tell me that's a group of people who get it.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Earlier today I was walking down 57th Avenue -- doing the usual weaving through pedestrian traffic with my iPod plugged into my head.
I was listening to Keane's A Bad Dream, which is actually a misnomer, as it's a relatively positive song; and as it turns out -- the perfect, expansive song for taking in the insanity that is New York street life.
That's when I saw a very attractive, well-dressed young woman walking toward me. As I caught my first glimpse of her face, it seemed to light up in a way that I can't even begin to describe. There was recognition there; the kind of recognition that only comes with spotting the one you love -- the one who moves you in a way that's beyond words.
I knew that it certainly wasn't me she'd spotted, since I had never even laid eyes on her before. But as she passed me, I turned to see just who it was she had noticed, and was walking toward with such a wonderful purpose. It was a guy -- rather non-descript; just some guy -- whom she placed her arms around and hugged as if they were the only two people on earth.
It made me smile from ear to ear; a stupid, cheesy grin that I couldn't get off of my face for an hour.
The reason is because for the first time in my life -- in my 36 years -- I'm not jealous or envious of that guy.
I understand the feeling that couple shared; It's no longer something I wish I knew how to feel.
The reason is because the most incredible, beautiful, passionate, brilliant, astonishing woman in the world looks at me like that. For what reason, I may never fully know -- but I know that it's something I never take for granted. Ever.
Today is my favorite day of the year; The day I celebrate her entrance into this world. I can't think of an occasion that could possibly fill me with more joy.
Jayne... thank you... I love you... and Happy Birthday.
Partial recorded transcript, general meeting: Idealists Anonymous
Date: July 5th, 2006
Location deleted, re: security
Last save to system: 20:37:05
Counselor: For those of you who just arrived, thanks so much for coming. Once again, this is the (deleted) chapter of Idealists Anonymous... uh... It takes a lot of courage to stand up and admit your problem. For those who've already shared, thank you. You understand the difference it can make in the lives of those who've been touched by Idealism. If you did just arrive, remember there's Kool-Aid over there on the table in the corner. Feel free to help yourself to it.
Alright... so who's next. You? Yes, you sir -- in the back. I don't recognize you. Is this your first time here?
Counselor: Alright, would you like to introduce yourself? We're all friends here. Everyone, let's make our new friend feel comfortable.
Unknown: Uh... ok... my name is (deleted), and I'm a recovering Idealist.
Group: Hi (deleted).
Unknown: I've been Idealism-free for six days, eight hours and.. uh... about--15 minutes maybe? 16?
Counselor: Okay (deleted), why don't you tell us what brought you here.
Unknown: Well... I guess I've spent most of my life being angry -- ya know? I was angry at everything and everyone. I felt like the world was going to hell, and somehow I was the only one seeing it. Does that make any sense?
Counselor: We understand (deleted), we do. Continue please.
Unknown: Yeah. So, I noticed that everywhere I looked I saw... just... dumb. I saw a culture full of people who could switch channels away from pictures of the situation in Sudan, so that they could watch Survivor -- and call that "reality tv."
Someone in group: Yeah.
Unknown: I watched MTV turn an entire nation of kids into blithering idiots by shoving L'il Jon and whatever other painfully fucking untalented rappers it deemed worthy, down their throats. I watched young girls storm Hot Topics at malls across the country, all in a quest to emulate Hillary Duff... because she actually had "punk" credibility for dating a poser idiot like Joel Madden. I listened to cellphone text-speak become the dominant language for anyone under the age of 18.
More in group: Yes, yes.
Unknown: I wondered why no one seemed to see the irony in the fact that the ridiculous, superstitious nonsense that 80% of our country believes, is essentially the same crap that those who hate us and want us dead subscribe to. I had to ask why people created a fairy-tale about the afterlife to give their lives here on earth some kind of meaning; and more importantly -- why some felt the overwhelming need to impose that fucking garbage on the rest of us. I demanded to know why battles over whose god is better have put the entire planet at risk.
Unknown: I turned on the news, and...and I saw a White House that flat-out lied to an entire country -- made shit up -- fudged the facts -- got Americans killed, and outted CIA agents -- and attacked the character and patriotism of anyone who dared ask why. I lived through the single most corrupt political administration of my goddamned lifetime... and I watched those involved get away with it. I watched my country and everything it stood for, pissed on by those in power.
Group: Hell yes. (inaudible)
Unknown: And I asked, "Where is the fucking outrage?" And I don't mean the kind of outrage that causes moronic latter-day hippies who're sorry they missed out on the 60s to dress up in colorful crap and dance through the streets to make a point that no one who matters is listening to. I'm talking about the kind of outrage that would drive millions to march silently -- like an angry wraith -- to the steps of the White House. The kind of outrage that would make such a large group move and act as one, that it would literally scare the living hell out of our government. The kind of outrage that would inspire terrorism without the slightest hint of violence.
Unknown: And worst of all... I thought that people would listen. I thought for sure that someone out there would understand. I... uh... I thought the world could be better. I believed. I did it for 36 years.
Counselor: We really do understand (deleted).
Unknown: But I finally just had to surrender.
Counselor: And what led to that?
Unknown: Uh... Bill Hicks.
Counselor: What about him?
Unknown: He was angry. He was funny a lot of the time -- but mostly he was just angry. He pointed out what was wrong, in the hope that somebody might make it right. Nobody did... and he died making excuses to audiences about why he wasn't doing dick jokes.
Unknown: So I came to understand that it's not enough to believe you're right. You have to market and package and adopt an air of artificiality to what you do, because that's all anyone can understand anymore. You have to give in. No one will listen any other way, and you'll die making excuses.
Counselor: So, what were the first steps that you took. What are you doing to try and put Idealism behind you?
Unknown: Well... I hired an agent and a publicist.
Unknown: And... well...
Counselor: It's okay. There's nothing to be ashamed of.
Unknown: I allowed that publicist to put together a site on MySpace... to help push me... help get my name out there, ya know?
Unknown: I just figure... ya know... it's... like... time to get mine. The site's got pictures of Hicks and Maher, Henry Rollins and Jello Biafra. It's the uncoolest thing on earth. It doesn't feel much like me.
Counselor: But that might be a good thing. You're here because you recognize that your idealism has gotten you nowhere in life.
Unknown: It doesn't pay the rent.
Counselor: Exactly. Maybe dropping all of that childish irony and self-deprecating coolness will help you to become a better member of society. More... uh... real.
Unknown: But what if I really am ironic and cool and weird and all that other stuff? Won't I be... well... selling-out?
Counselor: Hey, it worked for Metallica.
Unknown: I'm just so scared. Bill Hicks would say that I'm "sucking Satan's cock."
Counselor: No he wouldn't (deleted), because he's dead.
Unknown: Good point.
Counselor: Besides, you'll have all the time in the world to regret your decision to become a whore while you're drinking martinis with Robert Evans at his Bel-Air mansion.
Unknown: I guess you're right.
Counselor: I know I'm right.
Unknown: But what about truth.
Counselor: That's a discussion for another time, my friend.
Unknown: Uh... can I ask you something? If this is supposed to be anonymous, why are you recording this meeting?
Counselor: We make the recording available to you to use for the best-selling memoir you'll write. There are representatives from HarperCollins and Random House waiting with Nan Talese out in the lobby.
Counselor: Yes, really... welcome to your new life.
Counselor: Make sure to stop and have some Kool-aid on the way out.
Unknown: Thanks... I think I will.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
It's the 4th of July, and needless to say there's plenty of the usual talk floating around about the importance of taking pride in this fine land of ours.
Now at the very least I'm willing to admit that this "pride" thankfully isn't a relative thing; No one's saying that your pride in America should be greater than your pride in, say, Uganda. Obviously, it's a matter of ownership. I bring this up only because as flag-wavers go, there's no more obnoxious or annoying group than that which says, "This is the best country on earth," without actually having a passport which proves travel anywhere beyond the local Wal-Mart.
It's easy to put something on a pedestal when you've never compared it to anything else. It's also galactically goddamned stupid and renders your opinion basically worthless.
But pride, as bandied about on this day, is a simple and basic notion -- which in no way negates its power or importance. That said, allow me to offer a minor suggestion on the occasion of our country's 230th birthday.
Pride in America is easy.
Of course you're proud to be an American. You'd be a fool not to be. You hit the socio-economic lotto and were born as a member of -- or possibly migrated legally to -- the global elite. You live in the world's preeminent superpower. We have most of the world's food, most of the world's wealth, little of the world's soccer prowess (but why nitpick?) and a substantial portion of the world's might. Being proud to be American is like saying that you're proud to be the prom queen. Sure it may be true, but remember how much everyone hated and resented the girl who thought like that back in high school?
So here's a thought... Be humbled to be an American.
If you need something to put you in the necessary frame of mind (call it "spirit" if you'd like), think of this: Today you'll more than likely throw away more food at your Bar-B-Q than many people in the world will eat in a month.
So I say it again for the cheap seats... Be humbled to be an American, and be humble as one.
I get the distinct feeling that if more Americans thought this way, the world would -- quite literally -- be a better place.
Incidentally, this is a truly great country -- and I've taken the time to visit other countries to prove that point to myself.
Time for another shameless plug -- but at least it's not for my own stuff.
John Kastner used to play with a punk outfit called the Doughboys back in the day (note how effortlessly I co-opt hip-hop lingo, dear Christ I'm the dope shit) and has now released his first solo album.
It's called Have You Seen Lucky? and it features guest performances from the likes of Alex Lifeson of Rush, and Fear legend Lee Ving.
It's poppy and cool and a blast of a summer record. You can download it on iTunes right now. Remember, that's K-A-S-T-N-E-R, not S-H-A-K-I-R-A.
Grab it and be the hippest motherfucker on your block. Plus you can pass along a great story a friend of mine in L.A. told me about Kastner...
(Alright, so if you've read this little experiment of mine within the past couple of days, you managed to get a peek at the story which my friend passed along to me -- and it is indeed a good one. However today she picks up the phone and begs me to take it down, as the last thing she needs is for the rampaging, drunken psychopath at the center of the story to hassle her or Kastner any more than he already has. Suffice to say, said psychopath is famous, and -- as mentioned -- he's a bit of a bastard. I like my friend, so my loyalty to her trumps my journalistic ethics in the matter. Down it comes. If you managed to read it before the dark wind of censorship swept it away, consider yourself privileged in the rock n' roll universe; kind of like owning one of the copies of Nirvana's Nevermind which contains the hidden track, Endless, Nameless. Now, back to the original post...)
But show some love for Kastner -- see what he has to put up with?
Monday, July 03, 2006
AFI, it sure as hell ain't.
I try hard not to describe exactly what I'm doing at any moment as I put together this little blog. I kind of figure that if I do that, it'll turn into a ridiculous verite' real-time diary -- which is exactly what I don't want it to be.
That said, rules are meant to be broken, so I'll mention that I'm sitting here on my couch watching a really God-awful show: Bravo television's countdown of what it calls "The 100 Funniest Movies of all Time."
Now I'm a movie geek, through and through, and as the show has gone on, although I'd dispute a few of the choices and their positions on this "countdown," I have no real issue with what they've picked.
That is until a few moments ago. The part where they called Meet the Fockers the 25th funniest movie ever made.
Now in case you're lucky enough to never have sat through this steaming pile of celluloid horseshit, then let me spell it out for you in no uncertain terms.
It is one of the unfunniest films in the history of the medium.
It makes Corky Romano look like Animal House.
Thing is, a whole lot of critics felt the same way. So I wondered just what led the producers of this show to make this call.
That's when it dawned on me.
I Googled the movie and was instantly informed that Universal released this piece of shit on the masses. Universal -- merged with NBC -- also owns Bravo.
Although this particular example is relatively harmless, it's proof of just how trustworthy any network can be when it's owned by a multinational corporation. As in, not at all.
If you're naive enough to believe that that sort of authority has no effect on the news you get from these networks -- you're a focking idiot.
Now that my long national nightmare is over (no, not that nightmare; Karl Rove is still breathing on his own) I don't see how it's not perfectly acceptable to make fun of Brazil.
Granted it was perfectly acceptable before this past weekend, but there was always the possibility that they'd win the World Cup and I'd be the subject of ridicule by a large, Samba-ing crowd with a collective IQ of 12.
But who says Brazil's completely worthless -- I mean besides me?
Go here and follow the directions, to create your own Brazilian soccer name.
Granted you'll never have the elongated, caveman-like forehead of Ronaldo; nor the joyous, retarded smile of Ronaldinho; nor the strange and mysterious bruises and scars of every woman ever featured in a Brazilian porn movie...
But hey, at least if your name is "Anderson Cooper," you can become Coopandro.
Best advice? Try entering "Douchebag Douchebag."
You know, you've really got to give credit to the rocket scientists at NASA. They're giving it their absolute all to make sure that America is treated to the most impressive fireworks display possible this July 4th.
In spite of the fact that the gods of space travel are telling them in every conceivable way possible -- very bad weather here, a fucking five inch crack in the goddamned heat-shielding foam there -- they're not letting it deter them from trying to launch this thing tomorrow.
So far it's still a go.
Hey, it's only a few measley lives and an entire country's belief in the benefits of the pioneer spirit, weighed against the collapse of what seems to be their increasingly useless multi-trillion dollar program.
Grab a hot dog and some sparklers and gather 'round the TV tomorrow for what could be one hell of a fucking show.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
"In Left Behind, the only people who are accepted by God are those who would be classified as fundamentalist wacko Jesus freaks with no intellectual credibility in modern society. Many of the Left Behind characters who aren't taken to heaven--in fact, almost all of them--seem like solid citizens (or--at worst--"normal" Americans). And that creates a weird sensation for the Left Behind reader, because the post-Rapture earth seems like a better place to live. Everybody boring would be gone. One could assume that all the infidels who weren't teleported into God's kingdom must be pretty cool: All the guys would be drinkers and all the women would be easy, and you could make jokes about homeless people and teen suicide and crack babies without offending anyone. Quite frankly, my response to the opening pages of Left Behind was 'Sounds good to me.'"
-- Chuck Klosterman
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs
From MTV's job site -- specifically a posting for a Senior Producer job.
Remember, this is MTV -- the network behind Pimp My Ride, Laguna Beach and The Pussycat Dolls' entire career.
I am not making this up:
"The Senior Producer will help develop detailed functional specifications for Search & Personalization features that propel the user scenarios that advance business goals. The Senior Producer will collaborate with the cross-platform technology team responsible for the MTV Networks Search Platform to drive functional requirements. He or she will also manage any partnerships with third-party vendors, to leverage and integrate supplemental technology."
Then at the bottom of the post, it adds:
"Must be an excellent communicator."
This is the point where Beavis and Butthead just look at the TV, then each other, then back at the TV, then change the channel without saying a word.
*With all due credit to Jon Stewart and the Daily Show staff of geniuses.
This week's excerpt from my book, "Blow Up the Outside World" has now been added to that site.
As I've mentioned at length before, the thing's a memoir, and it's written in three separate timelines which run concurrently within the story and detail the time in my life leading up to the decision to enter rehab; the month in which I was actually in rehab; and the several months after leaving the facility and heading to New York to work following 9/11.
This week's excerpt deals with one of the more obscenely stupid ideas I've had in my lifetime -- and believe me, there are plenty to choose from.
By the end of 2000, my drug addiction was already full-blown and I wanted nothing more than to stop. Given that I firmly believed that my wife at the time -- a woman with all the compassion of a brown recluse spider -- would leave me in a heartbeat if I admitted my secret and checked myself in somewhere to get help, I made the ill-informed decision to quit on my own cold-turkey. It's how and where I decided to do this that ranks high on the stupidity meter.
My plan was simple.
My wife Kara* and I had planned a two-week vacation from Los Angeles right around Christmas. We would spend the first week with my parents in South Florida, and the second week -- including Christmas Day -- with her family in North Carolina.
At the time, I was doing drugs two to three times a day.
I brought nothing with me for the trip.
You get the picture.
It took all of about ten hours for me to start realizing the depth of the hole I'd dug. At some point -- possibly next week -- I'll get into the first waves of that particular nightmare. But believe it or not, something happened during the trip itself that made my dire situation even worse.
Detoxing is bad. VERY FUCKING BAD. Detoxing when you return home to find that your parents were forced to sell their very large home for financial reasons, and were now living in a tiny two-bedroom apartment; well that's the stuff of suicide notes.
I was deathly sick for most of my time at home, but I pretended it was simply a bad case of the flu. Somehow it worked.
Today's excerpt is just a few short paragraphs that focus on my state of mind after I left my parents behind and Kara and I entered the second leg of our 2000 Holiday Detox Tour at her family's home in North Carolina.
I couldn't forget my family's situation.
I missed them.
I was ashamed of my condition and felt that I owed them so much more.
My time with Kara's family only added to that pain.
*No, Kara is not her real name.
June 25th, 2006
June 17th, 2006
Saturday, July 01, 2006
YES! YES! Y-E-MOTHERFUCKING-S!
I haven't written about the World Cup in awhile since, really, what the hell can I add that others haven't? Besides, I leave that kind of pontificating to my friend Steve Owen.
After a really God-awful morning -- Rooney red-carded; Beckham gets a boo-boo and pulls himself out; Mighty England goes down -- I sat down with a bottle of Bordeaux and some Brie, said a prayer, and prepared myself for the possibility of true heartbreak.
Look kids, France vs. Brazil was the ultimate clash of cultures -- as in a country that has one, and a country that doesn't. Yeah the French are snobs, but have you ever been to Paris? The city's fucking gorgeous. They should be snobs for Christ sake. Meanwhile Brazil... well what the hell can you say about a people who took a really beautiful rain forest and planted a giant slum on top of it.
I prayed for one more brilliant performance from Zidane. I prayed for my gods from Arsenal, Henry and Viera, to at least hold their own against that goddamned Neanderthal Ronaldo and his smiling, retarded little brother Ronaldinho.
And guess what the hell happened. The French team from 1998 was resurrected.
Zidane dominated. Henry scored. Brazil -- the giant with mystery bruises and bad dental work -- finally fell.
Hey Ronaldinho... still smiling bitch?
Think I'll open another bottle of wine -- maybe a nice Beaujolais.