Thursday, May 31, 2007

Listening Post Remix: Come to Mama

Serious points for creativity here.

Someone took Genesis's Mama -- which still stands as one of the most unexpectedly brilliant singles of its time period -- and remixed it. The result adds an even more furious layer of malevolence to the song, essentially turning Phil Collins into Richard James from Aphex Twin, and Mama into Come to Daddy.

The Book of Fark

Under normal circumstances, me plugging Drew Curtis of would be like a middle school student council president endorsing a candidate for the White House.

As it turns out though, these aren't normal circumstances.

Beginning today, you and all your friends can get your hands on Drew's new book, It's Not News, It's Fark: How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap as News. It's a scathing, hilarious and undeniably depressing look at the state of the modern media -- a 24-hour-a-day beast that, when it's not trying to convince you that you're about to be eaten by a shark, is content to beam Lindsay Lohan and water-skiing squirrels into your living room and claim it all as proof of journalistic superiority.

It's basically the stuff I give first-hand accounts of all the time right here on these virtual pages, which means that the best compliment I can pay the book is to say that I wish I'd written it.

On a personal note, Drew has been a good friend to me and an avid reader and supporter of this site for some time, and I have no doubt that much of the exposure I've been lucky enough to garner over the past year has come as a direct result of his favor.

Which has absolutely no bearing on the fact that his book really is spectacular.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy; if nothing else you can read the blurb from me on the back cover -- the one that not only puts my name right next to those of Stephen King and Dave Barry, but will also almost surely land my ass in the unemployment line in the very near future.

Listening Post

One of the most astonishing videos ever made:

UNKLE's Rabbit in Your Headlights.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I'm Pretty Sure I Know What I Did Last Summer

A few thoughts on my time away from home:

Dirty Vegas

Whatever Rat-Packian cool Vegas used to exude is long since dead -- crushed under the weight of one 800-pound, wheelchair-bound woman or another straddling a slot machine for days at a time, then disgracefully dumped into the street by a limo-full of striped-shirted idiots hopped-up on blow and Red Bull & Vodkas. While it stands as a useful Mecca of gruesome American mythology, it's still basically South Beach without the beach -- and that's not a good thing.

As for me, I wound up spending most of my time inside a cheap Hilton -- which I guess is what most men do when they come to Vegas these days.


Want a Shooter with That?

In keeping with Vegas's reputation for providing visitors the opportunity to indulge in any and all vices, the city is home to a gun shop that rents fully-automatic weapons. Needless to say, there was no way I could pass up a chance to test fire an HK MP-5 -- the preferred weapon of the British SAS. By the time I had burned through two clips, it was clear that, A) something like that really would've come in handy when dealing with the aforementioned striped-shirted idiots, and B) the shooting skills my father taught me years ago haven't softened much; I have the paper target riddled with clusters of head and body shots to prove it. Boo-ya.

But then again...

Conventional Wisdom, or Lack Thereof

It was a massive business convention being put together by my wife which dragged the both of us to Vegas in the first place. To her credit, she somehow managed to keep a smile on her face and a spring in her step, despite having to sometimes deal with a veritable tsunami of imbeciles from around the world.

One encounter which she relayed to me stands out:

On the last day of the convention, as Jayne was standing at her booth offering leftover bags of potato chips and such to delegates, she was approached by two men. Upon being informed of the free vittles, their eyes lit up and one of them immediately muscled past my wife and began greedily scraping bag after bag of chips off the table and into his waiting tote. As he did this, the other man -- who had now identified himself and his snack-deprived partner as convention delegates from Oklahoma -- attempted to deflect Jayne's attention away from the surreal feeding-frenzy by striking up a conversation with her; an action that, as far as he's concerned, apparently involves making a presumptuous and insulting comment about someone's home city, which in this case just happened to be displayed on the badge of the person with whom he was speaking.

"So, you're from New York; that's where all those liberals are?"

Keep in mind -- it's my wife's job to be nice.

"Well, there are all kinds there really," she responded.

"A lot of Muslims there, huh?"

Also keep in mind -- as he's saying this, his friend is bent over the table directly behind Jayne, grabbing all the snacks he can get his hands on. Did I mention incidentally that both men are fat enough to be lost moons of Jupiter?

The talking chimp continues:

"Man, all them Muslims need to be rounded up and sent home. Get 'em out of America."

Now, Jayne's just about done.

"With all due respect, I have several Muslim friends -- and their home is right here."

"Oh yeah? That sounds like a New Yorker. I've got some friends in New York and they say the same thing. I always tell 'em, 'You just wait til you see that big flash of light -- then you're gonna be sorry you argued with me.'"

"I take it Christians are okay though, right?"

At this impertinence, Snack-boy's ears prick up and he stops shoveling crap into his bag. He once again hectors his way past Jayne and joins his friend's side.

"What did you say?" he asks, with equal parts astonishment and defiance.

"Christians have caused violence for centuries; they still bomb abortion clinics to this day."

Fat-ass #1 -- the guy who initially started this pleasant conversation -- immediately feels the need to identify his friend.

"You should know that this man is a Baptist minister, and he preaches about the dangers of Muslims at church every Sunday."

And now, having been properly introduced, the minister speaks authoritatively.

"Christians bombing abortion clinics is different."

Having been vindicated by ignorance and stupidity, my wife pisses on the proverbial fire and calls in the proverbial dogs.

"Sure thing. You gentlemen have a nice day -- enjoy those snacks."

I have no doubt that those two walked away thinking that my wife was the biggest heathen bitch on the planet and would pay for her uppity insolence with her very soul -- which is why I love her more than anything.

Meanwhile, on TV...

Dave Jones

I've made it abundantly clear that I'm not a fan of what passes for television news these days, particularly at the local level. (Every market in America boasts a "Problem-Solvers," an "Eyewitness News," a station which claims to be "On Your Side," and one whose "Coverage You Can Count On"). Given this rather cynical appraisal of the business, it's strange that I still find myself drawn to the television whenever I travel -- especially right around the time-slots usually inhabited by local news. It'd be easy and somewhat forgivable to claim that I'm powerless against the hypnotically awful onslaught of Rod Hodgson, Tracy Takamura-Velez-Gonzalez, Flip Skipwell with Doppler/Viper-700,000 Weather, and Bobby Turdwarden, now 37 days sober, with All-Cliche' Sports; unfortunately, that would do little to justify the outrage that invariably ulcerates my stomach about ten minutes into each broadcast I choose to endure.

Here's the thing though -- there's no denying that the outrage stems from a sense of disappointment, which would mean that my expectations aren't being met, which would mean that I have expectations in the first place, which would mean that I haven't entirely given up hope on local news.

Which brings me to KLAS Morning News Anchor Dave McCann.

When I first saw this guy, my thought was, "Holy fucking shit -- why in God's name did they put somebody who's obviously on Klonopin on a morning news show?" McCann's near-comatose manner could easily serve as Vegas's official snooze button, leaving an entire population plunked quickly and unsuspectingly into thousands of bowls of Corn Flakes at the slightest hint of his dull monotone. He's bland to the point of being practically non-existent. He's the fucking Sandman.

Yet, the longer I watched Dynamic Dave -- while valiantly fighting off the overwhelming desire to go back to sleep -- the more I started to realize that something utterly subversive was lurking behind those vacant eyes; it was this realization that made Dave McCann my new hero.

A quick scan of Dave's bio on the KLAS website tells you that he's been at the station for 15 years -- an unimaginable tenure in local news. He was born in Orem, Utah and is the oldest of 10 children. He has 5 kids of his own. He went to BYU. He's a Mormon (as if that needs to be stated outright).

All of this immediately makes him suspect, simply because no one on earth can possibly be that boring.

My theory: Dave McCann is either a serial killer hiding in plain sight -- taunting the police with every word he utters on-air, or, more likely, he's a performance artist of unmatched caliber who's pulling the most impressive practical joke in history.

There is a third possibility -- one that Dave's own stoic persona seems to hint at if you watch him long enough.

He's just given up. He's a guy who's been at the same station for 15 years and now cries himself to sleep every night knowing that the following morning he'll once again be stuck making trite segues to traffic and interviewing a woman who won a walk-on role on The Guiding Light.

Regardless, Dave McCann is my new favorite person in television news.

But on to L.A....

Driving Force

Jayne and I rented a 2007 Miata and drove it from Vegas to L.A.

The car was seriously one of our favorite parts of the entire vacation.

Speaking of cars...

I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Idiots

The last time I was in South Florida, Anna Nicole Smith died there.

Last week, while I was in Los Angeles, Lindsay Lohan drove her car into a tree and wound up in rehab and Charles Nelson-Reilly, literally, flamed out.

Coincidence? I think not.

And finally...

There Are Many Copies, and They Have a Tan

Jayne cleverly pointed out that, as with the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica, there are really only 12 models of Angelino -- with each person representing only a slight variation on one of a dozen possible themes.

I'd tell you what the models are, but really, why spoil the surprise ending?

Brothers in Arms

As much fun as it would be to get in touch with my inner-Kaufman, I'm far too lazy to successfully perpetuate the ruse that I'm shutting down Deus Ex Malcontent forever -- so, we press forward.

Although Memorial Day 2007 is now behind us, the violent and wholly unnecessary conflict which threatens the lives of an entire generation of our young soldiers rages on, seemingly without end.

It's because of this unfortunate fact -- this ongoing war, advanced by insane, immoral men, most of whom have never known life-or-death combat themselves -- that I ask you to take a few moments to read something which manages to assert with moving eloquence our nation's profound debt to those in uniform, while also making it clear that right now, there is only one way to suitably honor the sacrifice of such brave men and women.

Votar Says: They Are Not Toys (5.28.07)

Happy Trails

The Year of Living Stupidly

Today marks one year since the birth of this little experiment of mine.

On this dubiously auspicious occasion, I'd like to honestly thank everyone who's kept me busy writing over the past year -- those who've been kind enough to read, comment, and share. It's all meant a lot to me.

Now that I can cross "Become a Blogging Sensation" off my To-Do list, I plan to terminate this site -- effective immediately -- and move on to my next personal goal, which involves transforming myself into a crime-fighting rodeo clown.

Incidentally, everything I've written over the past year has been a lie; I'm actually a 78 year old grandmother of six from Fresno.

And don't ask about the picture; I Google Image Searched "Happy Anniversary" and that's what I got.

Typically Pseudo-Nihilistic Thought for the Day, Upon Returning to Work Post-Vacation

A lot's been said about the disparity of status that can be witnessed every minute of every day in a place like New York City.

I look at it this way: To the average person, this city is a constant reminder of how much better or worse things could be.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Land of the Los

Jayne and I made it out of Vegas alive (although not before enduring a comically surreal lecture from a couple of fat Midwestern fucks about the importance of converting to Christianity).

We picked up the brand new Miata from Hertz and drove through the desert to Los Angeles -- and then spent today just driving around with the top down, soaking up the flawless weather.

There's much more to report really, but I see no reason to bother right now being that I'm sitting on the pool deck at the Standard, drinking a Mojito.

We may never come home.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Trek Record

So, since a lot of people apparently got the reference to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Homo, I may as well disclose the following: in keeping with the Trek theme, I just finished having a drink at "Quark's Bar" which is part of the Vegas Hilton's ill-advised Star Trek Experience. (I'm a big fan of submitting to the utterly surreal.)

I had a "Romulan Ale," which is really nothing more than a beer with some blue food-coloring dumped in it -- although to her credit, when I inquired if that was indeed what I was drinking, my bartender managed to keep a straight face and stay in character while dismissing my obvious wise-assedness.

As expected, the menu featured standard fare rechristened with a clever Star Trekian play on words. (Hambugers became "Hamborgers, etc.) I admit that I really got my hopes up when I saw something called the "Sulu Toss." Unfortunately, it was a stir-fry dish, as opposed to a salad -- which would've been just hilarious.

Next up for me -- going back to the place with my Battlestar Galactica t-shirt on and starting a fight.

The Cynicist Manifesto: Vacation Edition

Greetings from sunny Las Vegas, where I've recently wrapped-up the most comfortable sleep I've had in ages and am now sitting poolside listening to the Stereophonics' Language. Sex. Violence. Other? album on my iPod and waiting for my first, but certainly not last, cherry-bourbon of the day. (Before anyone gives me crap, I'm still on East Coast time.) It's from this enviable remote locale that I once again bring you a few new additions to the list of silly random thoughts that don't necessarily merit a full column. Enjoy.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

A note to all managers -- no matter your particular profession: please refrain from ever attempting to correct an employee's work by looking at him or her in a condescending manner and uttering the words, "Well, don't you think it would work better if..." The only proper response to this -- besides a vicious beating in the face with a boot -- is to say, "No you fucking idiot -- if I thought it worked better that way, I obviously would've done that from the beginning."


There is no clearer or more insulting proof of management's complete lack of faith in you as an employee than the presence of self-flushing toilets in your office bathroom.

Pull the Plug

There is no worse idea in the long, sad history of bad ideas than the following two words: "Korn: Unplugged."

Nom de Douche

Never trust anyone with three first names. Ever.

Hey, Denny's Actually IS Racist

I miss Sambo's restaurants. The place got a bad rap because of the name. I'd knock a few years off my life just for one more bite of their kick-ass French Toast.

Sixx Sixx Sixx

Mitt Romey is the Anti-Christ. Tell me he doesn't look like Damien Thorn in The Final Conflict. Plus, he has a son named Tagg -- which leaves me wondering if he didn't name his other kids Hitt, Buntt, Runn and Free-Agentt.

Save the Date is now offering six free months of service to any subscriber who hasn't found a compatible partner within an allotted time period. This is worthless; they should pay for someone to come to your house and perform oral sex on you.

Smelling Assaults

"Secret" anti-perspirant/deodorant is now advertising a "clinical strength formula" version of its product. If you feel that you require this level of wetness and odor protection, please do the world a favor and don't ever leave your fucking house.

Fortune Favors the Fool

Supposedly, one of the most popular shows on Iraqi TV right now features a fortune teller who claims to be able to predict the future of those who call in. Exactly how hard can this be? "Tomorrow, you're gonna be blown to pieces -- thanks for calling."

Maternity War

Does every woman in America have a long-running dysfunctional relationship with her mother? If not, for Christ's sake, why do all chick-flicks not falling into the "implausibly fairy-taleish romantic comedy" category seem to deal with adult women coming to terms with the latent resentment of their mothers for the lifetime of insecurity the elders instilled in the younger? There are millions of men out there still nursing physical and mental scars inflicted upon them by their fathers -- you don't see them bitching about it and longing to revisit the trauma while curled up on the couch with a box of Kleenex. Buck up ladies.

Go Fish

I'm fully behind the plan to lure two wayward whales back out to sea by playing underwater whale sounds in their direction; in addition to saving the lives of the animals, it should also serve to deter the alien space-probe which will begin destroying the planet if it doesn't soon hear the familiar call of the humpback whale.* Unfortunately, because these two whales migrated up to Northern California from Mexico, due to the newly approved U.S. immigration bill, they'll be required to return to Mexico where they can then officially apply for citizenship in the United States.

(*Obscure reference alert)

The Cynicist Manifesto (9.22.06)

The Cynicist Manifesto: Addendum (1.31.07)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Auto Reply: Out of Office

I'll be in Vegas and L.A. for the next week, though the MacBook will be coming with me.

Hold my calls.

Look Back in Languor: And Now, a Message from Satan (9.19.06), Return of the Attack of the Creeping Surrealism (9.20.06)

Perfectly suited for a lazy weekend morning, we once again rummage through the archives to pull out a couple of the more popular columns of the past year -- in honor of the one year anniversary of my dark little corner of the internet.

Since it's Sunday, I figured this was appropriate:

And Now, a Message from Satan (9.19.06)

And, since it references an unfunny comedian who happens to be playing New York this week -- and, since I'm off to Los Angeles in a few hours, America's "Rome" of Creeping Surrealism:

Return of the Attack of the Creeping Surrealism (9.20.06)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Automatics for the People

The moment I learned that Jerry Falwell had slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of whatever, I chuckled quietly and returned to my work-out (given that I was at the gym at the time); a couple of moments after I learned of the entirely timely death of Jerry Falwell, I wondered to myself what would become of those poor souls sure to suffer most in the wake of such a staggering loss.

I'm speaking of course of the media, which for more than three decades had been complicit in elevating Falwell from Otherwise-Run-of-the-Mill-Sociopath to Influential-Spokesperson-Whose-Opinion-Deserves-Consideration.

What would the 24-hour cable channels do now that they'd lost their go-to zealot? Where would they find another voice so sure to hand them a ratings bonanza on a silver-platter by consistently spouting inflammatory nonsense? Who else could provide the perfect caricaturish counterbalance to equally extremist viewpoints from the opposite side of the political and religious spectrum? Would anyone else look as hilariously perfect inside a two-box graphic opposite Al Sharpton?

If you have a working television and an IQ above that of a ferret, you know that I'm not exaggerating one bit about the media's seemingly incurable obsession with allowing only the most fanatical agitators to speak for the masses when it comes time to debate so-called "controversial" issues on the airwaves. I've sat in focus group after focus group -- listened to letter after e-mail after telephone message -- which attempted to convince those in control of our nation's various news departments that Falwell, Robertson, Sharpton, Jackson and their rotten ilk don't speak for a majority of Americans.

Such pleas were always paid the requisite level of self-reflective lip service; you've been able to see for yourself how much effect they had when it came time to once again book a guest to expound on the morality/immorality of gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, adding nipples to mannequins and so on.

The fact is, whether a topic is being legitimately and rationally debated matters little; what matters is that batshit-crazy makes for great TV.

As someone who draws a paycheck from a major network and spends almost every other waking moment cultivating a career as a writer and author, I sometimes find myself in the unenviable position of being torn between my loyalties to each facet of my life. Regular readers of this little experiment of mine can probably correctly surmise by now that my loathe for what television news has generally become, combined with my passion for writing, typically makes it a pretty easy call on those rare occasions when the two sides conflict: in spite of the shot of adrenaline that the news business can sometimes offer, I find writing to be an infinitely more worthwhile and noble endeavour.

Which is why it pissed me off to no end to find that some news organizations had begun moving the ridiculous extremist debate that they'd popularized on television to a new forum: the written-word domain of the internet.

In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, featured two online columns written by two guest contributors with opposing viewpoints. The topic was gun control.

Taken at face value, the idea of such a point/counterpoint -- particularly considering the gravity of the subject and the tragedy which had spawned its discussion -- seemed admirable. Unfortunately, it was who they had enlisted to pen these polemics that left me shaking my head in equal parts bewilderment and disgust.

Taking the stance in favor of gun control: former editorial page editor for the L.A. Times, current UCLA professor and freakishly nerdy liberal archetype Tom Plate.

Taking the anti-gun control stance: Ted Nugent.

Needless to say, it was the kind of debate guaranteed to convince absolutely no one on the opposite side of either argument. On the contrary, each contestant stood as such a laughable stereotype -- no doubt confirming the other side's worst fears and shallowest preconceptions -- that it was likely from the beginning that the entire effort would only serve to further polarize the two camps in the debate.

So what the hell was the point?

Well, as was surely expected, it was entertaining.

Plate pontificated eloquently and uber-articulately -- peppering his prose with plenty of Scrabble triple-score words -- that the second amendment should be overturned and that Americans should completely lay down both their arms and their right to bear them.

Nugent sounded like the guy who wrote Wango Tango -- blasting away at the liberal pussies who want to trample on your "God-given right to keep and bear arms" and arguing that what America needs is more guns, not fewer.

It was great theater -- and it accomplished absolutely nothing.

Like all those who had complained for so long that a battle between zealots left 99% of America without a voice, I found myself infuriated that such an important subject -- one worthy of serious discussion -- had been sacrificed on the altar of pop-culture burlesque. The searing aftermath of a human catastrophe of such magnitude wasn't the time for arrogant chest-thumping and gutless preaching to the already converted.

In other words, regardless of the part I play in the news media itself -- I found myself within that huge percentage who felt like its myriad views weren't being properly represented.

A little background: I've always had a fascination with and an appreciation for guns.

I have no doubt that this stems from the fact that I was raised around weapons; they were a regular feature of life in my house for most of my formative years. My father is a former Navy SEAL and was a commander with the Miami-Dade P.D. during a good portion of my childhood; he was armed upwards of 18 hours out of each day. I never found this to be all that disconcerting -- on the contrary, I remember thinking that it was pretty damn cool at the time.

I also remember my father going out of his way to make me understand that there was nothing "cool" about it.

From day one, he taught me the right and wrong way to handle a gun. He taught me an awesome amount of respect for its power and for the responsibility that goes with even holding one in your hand. After handing me his HK Compact .45, he made me check to make sure it wasn't loaded, even if I had just watched him do the same. He demanded that I always keep it pointed at the ground, and never at another human being -- even if I knew beyond a doubt that it had been emptied and therefore rendered ostensibly harmless. He taught me how to shoot, and shoot well; how to aim and fire with confidence rather than fear. He made sure I understood that the use of force is never something to be taken lightly -- but that if by some chance it ever became absolutely necessary, to defend myself or someone I love, I had to act without hesitation and be willing to kill.

I had to detach.

I never had a problem with this -- which admittedly worrried him on occasion.

I bring all of this up, because I think it needs to be understood that I see both sides of the gun control issue. I'm no extremist in either direction, which I hope qualifies me to offer an opinion that can be seen as at least somewhat valid by either side of the debate.

In spite of my familiarity with guns, my respect for them, and my belief in the good they can do in the proper hands, I'd gladly make every single one of them vanish from the face of the planet if I could. I realize, however, that this is impossible -- and that if even one such weapon exists, many more must also.

Make no mistake though, the escalation does have to end somewhere.

Last night, in the town of Annandale, Virginia, hundreds of people -- many toting exposed dual sidearms, as if expecting to encounter a wild west gunfight -- converged on a tiny county government building. What drew them in droves were two chances: one was the chance to win a brand new pistol and rifle; the other was the chance to send New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and gun control advocates like him a defiant message.

Recently, Bloomberg filed a series of federal lawsuits against out-of-state weapons dealers, claiming that the shops allow the illegal sale of guns which are then used to commit crimes in New York City. Six of the targeted dealers are in Virginia.

And so, supposedly as a form of protest, a gun-rights group calling itself the Virginia Citizens Defense League held a "Bloomberg Gun Giveaway." Its members raffled off a Para-ordnance handgun and a "Varmint Stalker" rifle (and no, I'm not making that up) and showed off a cake adorned with an unflattering picture of Bloomberg.

They laughed, they ridiculed their supposed oppressors, they showed off their guns -- they had a hell of a time.

Meanwhile, outside, a small group gathered to protest the giveaway -- among those standing quietly, the parents of several of the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting.

When asked about the vigil going on right outside the door, the president of the Virginia Citizen's Defense League, Philip Van Cleave, said that he sympathizes with the grieving families, but -- and here's the argument you could've seen coming a mile away -- that their loved ones might still be alive if more people had been armed that day.

To call the entire thing obscene would be an insult to obscenity, and I have no doubt that the use of such impotent language would only serve to reinforce this group's belief that anyone who disagrees with it is a leftist wimp.

So let me use a few words the members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League might better understand: if ever there existed a bunch of people who need to be disarmed as quickly as possible, it's these fucking idiots. Anyone whose judgment is so lousy that he would throw a party and gleefully thumb his nose in the face of families recently devastated by gun violence can't be trusted with a deadly weapon. If the mere feelings of another human being are of no consequence to these dolts, I find it impossible to believe that the human life they have the potential to take will be of much more value.

These aren't gun enthusiasts -- these are gun worshippers. That's the problem, because as my father taught me so long ago -- there should be no such thing.

It's one thing to recognize a weapon as a necessity, a means to and end, even an instrument of sport -- of enjoyment; it's another thing entirely to believe it to be a large part of your identity -- your very manhood.

Anyone who thinks this way shouldn't be allowed to own a gun.

The members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League -- a laughably muscular name for a group that's made up largely of overweight rednecks -- taunt Mike Bloomberg, telling him to mind his own business and worry about New York; this proves that they're too myopic to be able to understand that in this day and age, an event in Virginia has the ability to affect change in New York City -- proving that they don't understand the potentially catastrophic consequences of their own actions.

Proving that they should in no way be in a position to take a life in the blink of an eye.

They claim that the world would be a safer place if more people were armed to the teeth -- and that the Virginia Tech massacre could have been avoided if more of the students had been able to shoot back. Yet, I have no doubt that if those heavily armed students had been schooled in the use of firearms by the misguided idiots of the V.C.D.L., there would've been accidental deaths long before that awful morning.

They shouldn't have guns, and they damn sure shouldn't be allowed to inflict their stupidity and lack of respect for the power at their fingertips on others.

Each person who crowded into that building last night wasn't there to stand up for his rights -- he wasn't there to secure his ability to hunt or shoot for sport, or for the necessity of self-defense; he was there because, to him, his gun is sacrosanct -- the knowledge of his ability to kill imperative in maintaining a sense of authority -- of power.

He's a zealot -- unwilling to concede or compromise.

And once again, as my father taught me, he's the last person who should be carrying a gun.

Listening Post: L.A. Edition

Not only is it Friday, but it's the start of my vacation. In a couple of days, I'll hop a flight to Vegas then pick up the rental Miata I've reserved and Jayne and I will drive it through the desert to that land of enchantment -- Los Angeles.

As astute readers of this little experiment of mine will know, L.A. is my former home and the birthplace of my rather nasty brush with life's seedy underbelly. Suffice to say, it now holds nothing more threatening than the possibility of tripping over a coked-up Lindsay Lohan, but I run that same risk here in New York.

I'm looking forward to living it up on the West Coast for a week or so, relaxing by the pool at the Standard in Hollywood, seeing friends, enjoying every second of the perfect weather, etc. L.A.'s the kind of place I can only take for a few days at a time, which is why vacationing there always works out so nicely.

In honor of my cross-country jaunt -- here's Wired All Wrong's Lost Angeles.

While I'm at it, I'll throw in a couple of songs which consistently remind me of L.A.

Deftones' Change (In the House of Flies).

And, Paul Oakenfold's Ready Steady Go.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Killing in the Name Of

In the year since starting this little experiment of mine, one column above all the others has spawned the most heated debate -- and by that, I mean the most bitter indignation against my admittedly worthless opinion. In November of last year, I wrote what I initially believed would be a throw-away diatribe in response to the ejection of six Muslim imams from a commercial airliner (Imam-a-Rama/11.22.06); the men were pulled off the flight after another passenger complained that they had been acting suspiciously.

My provocative proclamation -- judging by the readers who subsequently proceeded to berate the living hell out of me -- was that a certain amount of ethnic profiling at our nation's airports is not only logical, it's necessary.

In the rather tempestuous back-and-forth that followed, I argued that many of those calling me a right-wing troglodyte were choosing to zero in on only one particular symptom of what I actually claimed was a much larger and more problematic disease: America's unwillingness to admit that it is, in fact, at war with an entire religious culture -- an intractable Middle-Eastern element which believes that God demands that it and the rest of the world never advance beyond the stone age.

An extremist viewpoint that demands absolute worldwide submission and requires the destruction of any and all who dissent.

At the time, I put it this way:

"One of the most gargantuan lies we've been told since 9/11 is that this isn't a war of cultures; on the contrary, that's exactly what it is. It is a fundamentalist religious culture which considers us heretical enemies of the one true God, and therefore dangerous and unworthy to exist upon his Earth. It considers us not only an abomination, but one which has humiliated and subjugated it simply by virtue of the fact that it has become the dominant way of life on the planet. As a good friend of mine once put it so beautifully, as far as Muslim fundamentalists are concerned, this is not World War III, it's World War I; it is the same war that's been going on since the dawn of time, between a theocracy bent on never moving past the first century and enslaving or destroying those who oppose it, and the forces of modernism and enlightenment. All one has to do to understand this fact is to look at the reaction to a harmless set of cartoons in Denmark, or a beauty pageant in Nigeria, or an absurdist comment from a silly little man in the Vatican."

Or, most recently, the decision of a teenage girl in Northern Iraq to leave her insular faith and convert to another to be with the man she loves.

That one choice -- that one attempt to take control of her own life and her own destiny -- cost 17-year-old Du'a Aswad her life.

She died in the most brutal way imaginable: she was viciously stoned by a mob of angry men -- some of them, members of her own family. It was what's known as an "honor killing," a tradition dating back centuries and one which inexplicably continues unabated in the Middle-East, here in the early days of the 21st century.

What's worse, if you can stomach it, you can now see for yourself this girl's final terrified moments, as she was dragged into the street by men who felt insulted and emasculated by her unforgivable attempt at autonomy -- men who felt empowered by their god to punish such impudence; as she was kicked and beaten while pleading for her life; as her beautiful yet sinfully seductive face was pummeled with rocks until it was nothing but bloody pulp; as she lay dead in the street -- at the age of 17.

You can see all of this, because one of her attackers -- one of these powerful men of God -- shot the entire thing with his cell phone camera, as if it were a celebrity sighting or a weather phenomenon.

There simply aren't words to fully convey the sheer insanity of the fact that such Biblical savagery can still exist in the year 2007 -- or that it can in any way be abided by the rest of civilized society.

It's true that action -- in some cases very brave action -- is being taken by many, both within the Middle-East and without, to put a stop to this kind of inexcusable barbarism. Still, I firmly believe that the root cause of this draws a straight line back to my original argument from last November -- and that until the issue of the region's overall religious fundamentalism is addressed, any attempt to halt honor killings will be akin to putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. The fact is that the comprehensive mindset of the Middle-East has to change -- and change drastically; it has to either be cajoled quietly or, if necessary, yanked forcefully from its irrational adherence to 1,000 year old superstition; it must be pulled, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century, for the good of all of us. Appeasing such lunacy through platitudes and inefficacies, particularly in this day and age, only puts the civilized world at risk.

I have no desire to die because of someone else's delusional claims as to the will of an invisible supreme being.

Likewise, I have no desire to see another Du'a Aswad die -- but another will, again and again, until someone steps up and makes it clear that there's no place in the modern world for the unreason that both fosters and condones such inhumanity.

It has to be done.

23 Days Later

She hasn't even gone to jail yet and America's sweetheart Paris Hilton has already managed to get her sentence reduced from 45 days to only 23 -- for "good behavior."

Apparently unable to see the hysterical irony inherent in making such a proclamation, L.A. County corrections officials have decided to set a new low standard in the sad history of low standards: they've given her credit simply for showing up to her last court appearance.

Then again, this is Paris Hilton we're talking about; the fact that she didn't accidentally wind up in Fresno with a dead body under her car that she'd been dragging for the past 130 miles is a fucking miracle.

Green Days

Continuing the proud tradition of ass-to-mouth 69ing known euphemistically as "corporate synergy," this week McDonald's begins pimping Hollywood's latest computer-generated reason to seriously consider drowning your children, Dreck Shrek the Third.

The chain will be offering Shrek "collector's" glasses, figurines and other assorted choking hazards for the next several weeks or until Christ returns to mercifully smite us all, whichever comes first.

On a personal note, I'd like to thank McDonald's execs in advance for putting my life and the lives of everyone living within a ten block radius of a McDonald's in jeopardy by making its employees wear little green "ogre anntennae" on their heads -- thereby foisting what could be the final indignity on the dangerously high-strung emo kid at the fry station.

"You want a bullet in the head with that Mister?"

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Learning Curves

I'll make this quick, as it incenses me to the point of wanting to fly out to El Reno, Oklahoma and throw my laptop at the first person who looks at me the wrong way.

It's within that quaint, Midwestern town that a scandal is raging which has attracted the attention of hack news managers from coast to coast. It concerns a local school teacher who's under fire after a topless picture of her began circulating among students. Parents are of course calling for her immediate death by immolation, and school administrators are trying to decide how to judiciously handle the situation.

Did I mention that the topless picture was tucked away among the digital photos on her personal cell phone, and that the innocent and wholly unimpeachable lambs whom the parents are so desperate to shield from corruption never could've seen the offending image without taking -- or at least finding -- the phone and going through it? Or that upon discovering the picture, they then text messaged it to half the school?

A bunch of little angels those kids.

I admit that I'm giving the teacher -- a 41-year-old veteran whose name I won't disclose -- the benefit of the doubt in assuming that she didn't wander the halls wearing a sandwich board that read, "My Cell Number Spells BIG-TITS." From what I remember of my own youth though, kids have an almost supernatural way of finding out a teacher's weaknesses and exploiting them until there's nothing left of the poor fucker but a lifetime prescription to Lithium or the comforting taste of a gun barrel.

The fact that many parents are demanding that this woman be fired simply for having a private life is absurd. Certainly, the wisdom of bringing such an image anywhere near school can be argued, but it was still hidden away -- part of her private property. The last time I checked, teacher or not, she has every right to take all the naked pictures of herself she wants so long as she's not doing it at school and not getting a student to help her.

Worse is the lecherous reaction of the local news stations in the Oklahoma City area, particularly KOKH, FOX 25 -- who giddily asserted news-market dominance by boasting that this tawdry crap could be seen "First on Fox." Their reporter was more than happy to stick a microphone under the nose of redneck idiots like Ray Coat -- a name I will disclose; he's a parent who doesn't see anything the least bit foolish about proclaiming that anyone who takes a topless picture of herself "shouldn't be allowed around kids."


What this woman does on her own time is none of his business -- and damn sure wasn't any business of his precious kids.

Here's a lesson for the parents of El Reno, Oklahoma: look up puritanical; you'll find it in the dictionary, right between private and putrid.

The Clean Air Act: Epilogue

XM Satellite Radio, a subscriber-only service which bent over backwards to sign Opie & Anthony, has made the decision to suspend the on-air duo for 30 days.

The punishment is a direct result of crude sex comments made about Condoleezza Rice, Laura Bush and Queen Elizabeth during their radio show.

A statement issued by XM management said that the action was being taken, "to make clear that our on-air talent must take seriously the responsibility that creative freedom requires of them."

I challenge you to read over that last sentence again and attempt to make sense of it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

In Memoriam


Oh, let me catch my breath...


Man, how I wish I could've been there for that split second before the lights went out for good, when you realized that nothing you expected was there. It must've been beautiful -- just to see that smug smirk finally wiped away in a moment of utter, terrifying clarity.

An entire lifetime spent persecuting and judging and castigating and warning and bloviating and attacking and attacking and attacking -- earned you absolutely nothing.

Enjoy oblivion, you fucking repugnant dog.

The Funniest Thing You'll See All Day

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Clean Air Act

One of the most unintentionally hysterical movie lines in history comes courtesy of that classic Tom Cruise vehicle Top Gun. Not only does the film stand as irrefutable proof that Cruise is not, in fact, gayer than Carson Kressley blowing himself, it also gave us this little gem of Hollywood screenwriting brilliance:

As Tom Cruise's character prepares to fly his hard, phallic F-14 within spitting distance of the skyward-jutting, phallic control tower, he's warned by his radar-man "Goose" -- played by Anthony Edwards -- that his actions are unauthorized and therefore a bad idea.

"Uh, you can't do that Maverick," says Goose.

Right -- because if you do, they'll, uh well, change your name to something that doesn't suggest an impetuous willingness to ignore orders.

This is what I think of whenever I hear the following words come out of a news anchor's mouth or see them splashed across a front page: "Shock Jock (fill-in name) is in big trouble today for (fill-in something offensive said or done on-air)."

Obviously, this particular brand of disengenuous outrage has received plenty of attention lately thanks to the whole Don Imus fiasco; in fact, Imus himself is now fighting for the money remaining in his canceled CBS contract by asserting that his bosses indeed knew exactly what they were in for when they put him on the air in the first place.

They don't call them Shock Jocks because they have issues with static electricity.

Which brings us to Opie and Anthony.

When I made the decision to leave New York City about four years ago (this is my second tour-of-duty in Gotham) one of the features of life here that I knew I'd miss the most was the Opie & Anthony show. At that time, it was on WNEW FM and was a staple of my weekday afternoon. It was rude, offensive, juvenile -- and the funniest goddamned thing on the air. When O & A were finally banished by a torch wielding mob for staging an on-air stunt in which a couple had sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral -- which was hilarious by the way -- I figured they'd remain radioactive for at least a good five years.

Then they turned up on XM Satellite Radio, and I rejoiced; the gloves were off.

Since then, Opie & Anthony have actually managed to steer clear of any real controversy. Their show remains funny, and at times surprisingly insightful. They've even managed to get a watered-down version of it simulcasted on terrestrial radio.

But it was only a matter of time.

Now, once again, the usual suspects are screaming for the heads of O & A.

The offense this time: why, nothing less than suborning the rape of our own beloved Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice (cue the gasps).

Basically, during their show last Thursday, a guy known as Homeless Charlie went on a minute-long rant about how he'd "love to fuck that bitch," (that would be Condi), how he also wanted to do the same to Laura Bush, and how the Queen of England shouldn't have been allowed into the U.S. because she has a horse-face and was on the losing side of the Revolutionary War to begin with.

It was admittedly only funny for its audacity in skewering such sacred authority figures; I'm always a fan of that. Needless to say though, you could've counted the seconds before the mushroom cloud of bullshit outrage appeared on the horizon. By Thursday afternoon, the line of perpetually aggrieved stretched around the block, ready to once again grab a collective torch and demand mob justice. Al Sharpton -- who, it should be noted, was also one of the targets of Homeless Charlie's venom -- decried the remarks as ugly and hurtful, but stopped short of again demanding the outright censorship of a nationally-broadcasted radio show; the cynical might point out that in this case, while Opie & Anthony are white -- traditionally, Sharpton's favorite straw men -- Charlie himself is black, and therefore in possession of a genetic get-out-of-jail-free card as far as Big Al is concerned.

Those who truly do spout arguably dangerous and occasionally outright false invective over the airwaves were also happy to assume the laughable position of moral authority and join in the pile-on. Vaudevillian buffoons like Glenn Beck and Neal Boortz did somersaults of logic in an attempt to have it both ways -- blaming the rise of such "garbage" on the time-honored boogeyman of leftist moral-relativism while at the same time wrapping their own on-air race-baiting and fear-mongering in the comfortable cloak of the American flag; the argument against such nonsense, all but bulletproof: Opie & Anthony do comedy, Beck and Boortz don't -- at least not intentionally.

For anyone who wondered quietly if the unnecessary firing of Don Imus and the surreal pandemonium which led to it would eventually create a dangerous chilling effect across our airwaves -- wonder no more; your worst fears have been realized. Those who successfully silenced a powerful voice in broadcasting -- dumb, but powerful -- have been emboldened by their victory. Now, like a kid with a new toy, the ones for whom even the slightest offense is unacceptable -- regardless of the context -- have declared themselves rulers of America's on-air sandbox.

What you find funny isn't important; if it offends someone, it simply cannot stand -- for the good of everyone.

Even if you've chosen to pay for the privilege of hearing adult language and, occasionally, juvenile comedy -- as those subjected to the offending Opie & Anthony bit had -- it doesn't matter.

If someone, anyone, is offended by it -- it has to go.

Within the past couple of days, CBS Radio -- in keeping with its proud tradition of willfully allowing its spine to go flaccid at even the slightest hint of pressure -- announced its decision to cancel The Dog House, with JV and Elvis. The reason: the show's hosts staged a prank phone call to a Chinese restaurant which infuriated the Asian-American community.

Jeanette Wang of the Organization of Chinese-Americans is already calling it a "victory... for all." I have a feeling that most of JV and Elvis's listeners don't feel that way.

Whether or not they, or Opie & Anthony, can genuinely be called "mavericks," I'm not quite sure -- but I know that the world would be a very boring, and in this case very frightening place, if everyone followed the rules.

(The Nth Degree -- 11.21.06)

(On the Offensive -- 10.15.06)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

For Mom

There aren't many subjects that leave me unable to properly translate my thoughts or feelings into words.

Still, I suppose that if anything in this world should rightly leave me so overwhelmed that I'm rendered speechless -- simply because I wouldn't even know how to begin to express what's in my heart -- it's my relationship with the woman who raised me and has stood by me through good times and bad.

My mother was a fashion model and a beauty pageant winner when she met my father. If that was the best you could say about her, I have no doubt that they never would've gotten together. As I get older however, the remarkable qualities that led my Dad to want to spend the rest of his life with her become more and more apparent to me.

She's frighteningly smart, wickedly funny and sophisticated as hell. Yet, for all of her worldly qualities -- traits which, in the hands of someone like, say, myself, would be used for pure evil -- she remains unabashedly optimistic.

Put simply, not only does she care -- she believes.

She believes in the good of humanity, and in the love of something larger than all of us -- something unexplainable. I don't always understand it, but I never doubt its sincerity or its integrity.

Its this optimism that's allowed her to deal with some of the more heartbreaking traumas life has thrown her way -- cancer, the loss of her own mother, her only son's descent into depression and addiction. Her extraordinary grace in the face of these crises has always shown me something to which I could aspire.

Because of that, all I can say on this Mother's Day -- the only thing that seems fitting -- is thank you.

That, and of course, I love you.

Happy Mother's Day Mom.

Look Back in Languor: Jesus Loves Me, This I Know; For My Parents Tell Me So (10.08.06)

Over the past year, I've taken aim at religion on several occasions, but one particular column stirred up a surprising amount of ferocious debate.

On the occasion of the first anniversary of this little experiment of mine, my admittedly cheap and lazy look back at the most irritating, humorous, entertaining, annoying, and thought-provoking posts of the last year continues.

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know; For My Parents Tell Me So (10.8.06)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Listening Post

It's one of those songs that I just never seem to get tired of hearing, and it's perfect for the start to the weekend. Plus, the video features David Cross and a cameo by Canada's own answer to Borat -- Nardwuar.

The New Pornographers' Use It.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Blair Ditch Project

Of all George Bush's negative traits -- and they're far too numerous to list -- I'm not sure that any bothers me more than his uncanny ability to render otherwise bright people unforgivably stupid. We've come to understand that Bush has the IQ of a lemon and accept that he'll never be able to approach any situation, no matter how significant, with anything but the most rudimentary of motor skills. He's a dumb, lumbering jackass, and we know it.

But it's this very fact that makes it all the more inexplicable, and all the more painful, that he seems to have a preternatural gift for bringing those around him -- the ones who, simply in a relative sense, have nowhere to go but up in terms of IQ points -- down to his brain-cell basement level.

Typically, this phenomenon is merely unfortunate: I was never one of those people who believed that Condi Rice was a genius to begin with, despite a doctorate and her admittedly masterful skill at concealing her secret life as a hardcore lesbian; her mindless repetition and defense of Bush's nonsense never convinced me that it was a long fall to the bottom for her.

Other times though, the effect is downright criminal: like a young girl who'd been sexually assaulted, it took some time for Colin Powell to recover his sense of personal honor in the wake of being debased and made a fool of by the White House -- this, despite being surrounded by supportive voices which constantly proclaimed, "It wasn't your fault." Powell was an impressively untarnished soul until the Pimp of Pennsylvania Avenue wandered onto his block and somehow conned him into giving the U.N. a lap dance then spreading his legs for Halliburton.

And the pollution of Powell was nothing compared to what the Bush clan did to a man who was once one of the world's most popular and respected heads-of-state.

This morning, after ten years in office, Tony Blair announced his intention to resign his position as the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

It marks the somewhat anemic end to what was once considered to be a stellar political career. Blair goes out -- in the words of the oft-quoted expatriate Brit T.S. Eliot -- not with a bang, but a whimper.

The fact that someone like Tony Blair is forced to dispiritedly walk off the field as opposed to being lifted aloft and carried away by a grateful nation is nothing less than tragic. Blair rode into office ten years ago on a wave of optimism in the U.K. which delivered him and his Labour Party a landslide victory; he was less politician and more rock star, and he revitalized Britain in indescribable ways. Blair was, and still is, extraordinarily bright, articulate, charming, focused and passionate.

In short, he's everything our own leader isn't -- which is what makes it so thoroughly baffling that he willingly followed George W. Bush down the road to oblivion.

If others found their better judgment merely victimized by the White House, Blair's was literally thrown around the room and gang-banged, then dumped in an alley somewhere as Bush and the rest of the frat boys high-fived and drove off into the night. Tony Blair's good name and excellent reputation were utterly defiled, then left to die.

And remember, Bush considers Tony Blair one of his closest friends; no matter one's own stubborn willingness to do so, enabling another to go down in flames is reprehensible.

Whether through fabrication, suggestion, intimidation, coercion or some combination of all, George W. Bush -- the dumb, lumbering jackass -- managed to do what at one time would have seemed impossible: make Tony Blair look incredibly stupid.

I have no doubt as to what Bush's legacy will be.

I wish better for Tony.

Look Back in Languor: There's No "I" in Oprah (10.25.06) / Veruca Assault (10.29.06)

Continuing my admittedly cheap retrospective in honor of the upcoming one-year anniversary of this little experiment of mine, two columns from late October of last year. One deals with the true source of all evil in the universe, the other, with the pretenders to her throne.

There's No "I" in Oprah (10.25.06)

Veruca Assault (10.29.06)

Mickey Mao

Every once in awhile, something comes across my desk at the office which forces me to get up out of my chair as quickly as possible, run across the street to Duane Reade and buy duct tape so that I can completely wrap my head to hopefully keep it from exploding.

I'm not quite sure how to put into words the relentless and punishing insanity of one particular news item currently making the rounds -- the one involving the surreal, state-run "Bizarro Disneyland" now open in Beijing.

Apparently, Having exhausted every other form of copyright infringement possible, China has opted to go for broke and open its own version of the so-called "Happiest Place on Earth." Shijingshan Park -- or, the "Happy Fun Good Place on Earth Go!" -- is quite simply the weirdest goddamned thing you've ever seen. It's a mirror-image of Disneyland, provided the mirror in question is the kind you'd normally find inside a carnival funhouse. The park features a cast of characters that look eerily similar to the ones popularized by Disney -- there's a large-eared rodent, a white duck which appears to be on meth, and a raven-haired temptress surrounded by seven little people; upon closer inspection though, something about each of them seems just a little bit, off. It looks as if they've all been exposed to toxic waste and have consequently mutated into something that remains recognizable, but in the same maddeningly confusing way that your high school classmates appear at your ten-year reunion.

Your brain instantly responds because it knows what it's seeing, but then begins to turn cognitive somersaults in your head because something just does not compute.

China of course claims that all the characters and images in Shijingshan Park are original creations.

On the one hand, you have to hand it to the Chinese for their audacity, not to mention their bravery; Michael Eisner alone spent a good portion of his time at the helm of the Mouse House crushing outright and drinking the blood of anyone who dared display an unauthorized reproduction of Mickey and Company on his or her daycare, school bus, private ranch designed to entice little boys into having sex, etc. It's surprising to think that Disney is only now dispatching its 102nd Airborne Attorneys Unit to China to chopper up onto the park from out of the horizon while blasting It's a Small World in an effort to terrify the locals. On the other hand, the Chinese have turned product piracy into -- well, if you'll forgive the irony -- an art-form. Bereft of any apparent imagination of its own, China has created cheap, inferior clones of practically every form of mechanical, technological and intellectual property currently in production; what's worse, it's done it under the protection of a socialist government which opts to feign naivete while playing a clever little shell game with the very people it's ripping off.

"No, see -- this Disneyrand, with an 'R.'"

The end result of course is that the U.S. winds up with a 233-billion-dollar trade deficit with China.

And Mickey Mouse winds up looking even more ridiculous than usual.

(Just to add an entirely separate layer of mind-pulverizing lunacy to this story, take a look at the Asian television report on the Disneyland controversy. Believe me when I tell you that you don't need to understand the language to enjoy every twisted second of colorful batshit-crazy contained in this six minute piece. I'm pretty sure this is what the Alliance used to trigger River in Serenity; if she happens to be anywhere near you as you watch it, do yourself a favor and stand back.)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Girls, Girls, Girls

(Part 1: Heaven's Cates/05.04.07)

Part 2: Screen Savors

It's safe to say that if my taste in women ran toward the Jessica Simpsons and Carmen Electras of the world, not only would my wife hang her head in shame -- she probably wouldn't be my wife in the first place. Having lived in both L.A. and its retarded little brother Miami (the town that gives creedence to Obi-Wan Kenobi's maxim, "Who's the more foolish -- the fool or the fool who follows him?") I know what it's like to be submerged in a sea of bleach-blonde hair, incomprehensibly large fake breasts and literally three-quarters of an IQ point. Maybe that's the reason why the hot-but-stupid thing has never done it for me; kind of the way the guy working 35 hours a week at McDonald's would rather take a shotgun slug to the chest than even think about a Big Mac -- no matter how many millions and millions might line up for them daily.

As far as I'm concerned, "hot" is easy; it can be attained through any manner of makeup, airbrushing or fancy camerawork. True beauty, on the otherhand, is an infinitely more fascinating and precious commodity; it really is more than skin deep -- the overall indefinable product created by mixing so many other exquisite qualities: intelligence, passion, wisdom, talent, humanity, strength, wit, vulnerability, grace, class, etc. It's ironically both pervasive and elusive, and although often impossible to describe, you always know it when you see it.

Every guy's first loves appear on the big screen, and he always carries a torch for those gorgeous women of the movies.

These are a few of my favorites.

Diane Lane

Make no mistake, young women can be a lot of things -- "sexy" usually isn't one of them. Sexy is something that comes with age and confidence. Diane Lane has that locked.

Naomi Watts

The phrase "Lovely and Talented" was invented for her.

Maria Bello

The woman is a daring force of nature on the screen, and I can't think of any movie star who looks balls-out sexier in leather pants. I want to go drinking with her.

Embeth Davidtz

All kinds of class, plus the ability to convey an astonishing combination of frailty and strength.

Laura Linney

It's inexplicable how someone so warm and radiant can play flawed and insecure so well.

Audrey Tatou

If her mischievous, pixie-like smile in Amelie didn't melt you into a puddle, you're Dick Cheney.

Thandie Newton

The only line Tom Cruise ever delivered convincingly: when he looked into her eyes in Mission Impossible II and said, "Damn you're beautiful."

Rachel McAdams

She's got flawless skin, talent to burn, and Ryan Gosling -- the hands-down best actor of his generation and my admitted man-crush; what's not to love?

Next: The Rock Stars

Something Wicked This Way Comes

So, Dick Cheney makes a surprise visit in an effort to speed up the construction of the new Death Star push the government of Iraq to move forward with political and security reforms.

I'd make the requisite snide comment, but in this case I'll defer to the wise-asses over at Chug Bleach.

"Rage" Against the Machine

Way back in August of last year, I went out on a limb and conjectured that upon its release, 28 Weeks Later would prove to be much more than just an inevitable by-the-numbers sequel. I had a feeling early-on that the filmmakers behind it were instead planning to create a story that would stand as an allegory for the United States' political and military folly in Iraq. (God Save the Queen... From Us/08.15.06.) The most disconcerting part of this theory, was that it relied on the filmmakers' assumption that the situation in Iraq wouldn't improve by the time of the movie's release. Of course the situation hasn't improved; in fact, it's gotten much worse.

This Friday, 28 Weeks Later hits theaters.

Turns out I was right.

"The War on Horror" -- by David Edelstein, New York Magazine

About Faith

New York, NY (AP) -- The Reverend Al Sharpton, who recently fought for the dismissal of radio host Don Imus following a racially insensitive remark, is now himself under fire for making a controversial comment. Sharpton denies he was questioning the Mormon faith when he said that "those of us who believe in God" will defeat Republican Mitt Romney in the race for the White House.

Romney is a practicing Mormon.

Sharpton's statement came during a public debate with British author Christopher Hitchens -- who is currently promoting his new book God Is Not Great -- and was, he claims, an attempt to contrast himself with Hitchens's atheist beliefs.



(By the way, how much do you love that picture of Sharpton? It just screams, "You damn right I'll kick yo' ass for those Earth, Wind & Fire tickets!")

Listening Post

Because Shirley Manson is sex.

Garbage -- Bleed Like Me.

In Response to Yesterday's Film Clips, Here's Today's Acid Flashback

The Noise from Brazil

Pope Benedict XVI is now on his way to Brazil.

During his first official visit, he'll be canonizing Brazil's first-ever saint, holding a massive outdoor mass which millions are expected to attend -- and of course stopping by Dr. Mengele's place to see how that little cloning project is coming along.

You've got to hand it to the former Josef Ratzinger -- it took him sixty years or so since the end of the holocaust to make it to South America, but you knew he'd wind up there eventually.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Look Back in Languor: Things To Do In Texas When You're Dead (8.25.06)

Being that the end of May will mark the first anniversary of this little experiment of mine, I'm going to use this auspicious occasion as an opportunity to revisit some of the less nonsensical nonsense that I've churned out over the past twelve months. During the next few weeks, I'll be republishing my favorite Deus Ex Malcontent columns -- the ones that seemed to entertain, enlighten, provoke, infuriate or just plain annoy in a more ambitious fashion than the others.

If you're new to the site and haven't had the time to check them out, here's your chance.

If you've already read them, then you're right to think that I'm just being lazy.

Up first, a look inside a place where death is literally doled out on an assembly line. In August of last year, a camera crew and I traveled to a little town just outside Houston, Texas -- it's only claim to fame is that it happens to be the home of Texas's well-known, and very busy, death row. Our assignment was to interview a man who was scheduled to be executed the following morning.

It's a strange experience to talk to a dead man.

Things To Do In Texas When You're Dead (8.25.06)

The final twist to the story, however, was absolutely startling -- and I don't use that word lightly.

The Final Act (9.20.06)

Film and Loathing in Los Angeles

Many moons ago, a very good friend of mine and I sat in the living room of my Hollywood Hills apartment, dropped a shitload of acid and proceeded to subject ourselves to an experience so psychically transformative that, to this day, we speak of it with equal parts reverence and revulsion.

That experience was a movie called Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America.

I will in no way attempt to explain the onslaught of unrelenting insanity contained on that 85 minutes of film, I'll only say this: if, by some miracle, you can find this brilliant, terrifying gem tucked away in the back of your local comic book shop or cult video store, grab it immediately.

Steal it if you have to; I did.

I promise you, you will never -- NEVER -- be the same once you've seen it.

And you know what? Just for the hell of it -- a couple of little bonus features from that particular evening's film selections:

At least I think that's what we watched; for all I know, it could've been all in our heads.

This, by the way, should explain everything about the way I am today.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Kansas: The State that Manages to Somehow Disprove Both Evolution and Intelligent Design at the Same Time

"We've heard people say -- you know, well you're in the hurricane zone, you're in tornado alley, you shouldn't build there. You know what, this is America, we build where we want to build."

-- Major General Todd Bunting
Kansas Director of Emergency Management

The Rocket Returns

Apparently, I was wrong about there not being a benevolent god somewhere up there in the heavens.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Big Daughter Is Watching You

I'll make this quick, both for the sake of my sanity and the desire to start my weekend off shooting-rampage-free.

If you haven't already seen it, there's a rather startling piece of video making the rounds at the moment which shows irredeemable dingbat David Hasselhoff, shirtless and drunk off his ass, being interrogated by his 16-year-old daughter (who reportedly shot the video and can be heard off-camera).

The whole thing is shocking for several reasons, not the least of which is that Hasselhoff manages to accomplish the laudable feat of making himself into an even more pathetic and embarrassing caricature than the one we've all come to expect by now. More disconcerting though is the fact that the video represents the second highly personal interaction between a father and daughter in the past few weeks that has somehow become public fodder. You'd have to be Sunny Von Bulow not to know that Alec Baldwin has a nasty habit of calling his child a "rude little pig" when he gets angry enough; audio proof of this fact was such a hot media commodity a couple of weeks ago that you could practically see the drool glistening in Pat O'Brien's ridiculous 70s porn moustache at one point.

Now Hasselhoff gets the YouTube Shaming Treatment.

While there's certainly something to be said for watching "The Hoff" babble like an idiot while trying to drunkenly stuff a cheeseburger into his gaping maw, I'd gladly forfeit that little bit of Schadenfreude if it might bring a quick end to a troubling trend plaguing our land these days -- one that I have to assume will only get worse in the coming years. I'm talking about the fact that there's simply no such thing as a private moment anymore. If you haven't noticed, the past several months have been littered with proof of this: although one could legitimately argue that Michael Richards got what he deserved for shouting racist epithets in a crowded room, Paris Hilton -- despite being a worthless twat -- never intended for her own racist comments to go any further than the small group of "friends" to which she directed them. Likewise, the arrest of a violent gang-leader in L.A. turned into another tired and unnecessary referrendum on police arrest procedures simply because one person armed with a cellphone camera believed it should. Then of course, there's the Baldwin/Hasselhoff photo-finish, in which two separate daughters of two separate celebrities made the decision to shame their respective fathers' bad behavior by showing it to the world.

The message is so Draconian as to almost border on a form of terrorism: be careful what you say or do, because you are being watched at all times. In the paralance of the X-Files, trust no one.

While I damn well don't condone Baldwin's vicious tirade or, for that matter, Hasselhoff's very existence, it chills me to the bone to know that modern technology and an unscrupulous and hungry media beast have allowed a couple of frustrated or spiteful children to hold such power over their parents, and in effect provide an object lesson to all that public ridicule is never more than a YouTube posting away.

Welcome to the new millennium, where Shame TV is on the air -- and you're the star.

Girls, Girls, Girls

Part 1: Heaven's Cates

Although not as often associated with the supernatural these days as, say, San Francisco or New Orleans, New York City still manages to project its fair share of mythological allure -- it being, after all, America's one and only true "gotham," as well as the home of the Ghostbusters. Yet in spite of a past steeped in creepy mystery and a present littered with the East Village-Stygian, Anne Rice-a-Looney goofballs who find themselves drawn to such nonsense, my adopted home has never presented me with a paranormal experience worthy of note -- unless of course you count the tendency of my credit card to inexplicably disappear at some point every Saturday night.

No matter how much magic this city may hold, it's just never shown me any of "that old, black" variety.

That is until this past weekend.

Contrary to what you may have been led to believe by the aforementioned Ghostbusters, the true superconductive antenna for psychokinetic activity in New York City isn't a foreboding art deco-style apartment building on Central Park West -- even though it was directly in front of one such building that Yoko Ono incomprehensibly dodged five bullets taken by John Lennon; it is in fact a small and rather unassuming boutique, bas-relief etched into the face of one of the many tony, monolithic pre-wars along the Upper East Side. Inside this quaint little shop, the laws of time and space are nothing more than mercurial afterthoughts, infallible clairvoyance is commonplace, and grown men can be reduced to desperate, hyperventilative sobs in the face of the kind of religious experience that makes Saul's road-to-Damascus conversion look like a dizzy spell.

The shop is called Blue Tree.

It is owned and operated by Phoebe Cates.

As in that Phoebe Cates.

As in THAT Phoebe Cates.

For those of you who, A) aren't heterosexual males, and B) didn't come of age -- and given the subject matter, you'll forgive the pun -- in the early 1980s, the overwhelming magnitude of what I've just implied will no doubt escape you; the rest of you -- the straight men my age -- understand precisely of what I'm speaking and, as such, I'll give you the few moments necessary to properly collect yourselves.

A lot's been made over the years of the monumental impact that Phoebe Cates's seminal scene -- once again, you'll pardon the pun -- in 1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High had on an entire generation of men. I have nothing to add to the discussion, simply because I can't; the singular import of that thirty seconds of film -- its initial and continued effect -- cannot be overstated. I still look upon the act of Phoebe, as sex kitten Linda Barrett, unclasping her red bikini top in slow-motion to the hypnotic purr of the Cars' Moving in Stereo with more reverence than my first real sexual experience; they each lasted about the same amount of time, but the girl who unwittingly took part in the former was Phoebe Cates -- whereas the latter involved a slightly overweight fifteen-year-old who would, a month later, surprise me by running out of her house, suitcase in hand, as I pulled into her driveway -- then spend the next hour begging me to help her run away while her heavy metal brother threatened to destroy my car with an aluminum baseball bat.

Phoebe offered no such threat of bodily harm or imminent arrest though -- she was just the perfect girl exposing for me and the rest of my generation her perfect, perfect body. The fact that the overactive imagination of Judge Reinhold's character in Fast Times was the very reason for Phoebe's nudity in the first place created what to this day remains one of the greatest meta-reality moments in film history -- with poor, put-upon, Pirate Brad both standing-in for every male member of the audience at the time and creating the very masturbatory fantasy we'd all take with us to the grave.

To this day, I still fantasize about Phoebe Cates, and that one glorious scene. Like almost every single straight man my age, I long to watch her rise up out of the pool and say the words, "Hi (insert your name here), you know how cute I always thought you were."

I want her to stride toward me in the slow, fluid motion that resembles nothing less than one long, orgasmic sigh -- pull open her bikini top -- and kiss me passionately.

I've wanted this for twenty-five years.

And you know what? Phoebe Cates knows this.

My wife and I had just spent the afternoon taking a leisurely stroll through Central Park -- literally, walking from the zoo at 60th street, all the way up to 91st and 5th Avenue -- when we stumbled upon Phoebe's little boutique. We were both tangentially aware of the shop, having read in one magazine or another a profile which mentioned Blue Tree and its noteworthy proprietor, and so, finally being in the neighborhood, we decided to stop in.

Of course I'm making this decision sound like a much more nonchalant affair than it actually was. The reality is that my heart was in my throat before my hand even touched the door; by the time the thing actually opened and I felt the rush of cool air from inside, I had devolved into a thirteen-year-old again; and when I glanced across the store and saw her -- well, you could've cleaned me off the floor with a bucket and a mop. As I stepped inside and heard the door whisper shut behind me, I suddenly felt as if I'd just downed three shots of Absinthe. Possessing both a preternatural forethought and an unparalleled concern for my well-being, my wife actually turned to me as I floated down the steps into the store, gave me an amused smile, and asked, "You gonna be okay?" I'm pretty sure that I attempted to answer but nothing translatable came out -- the words I'd put together in my head escaping my mouth in the form of two or three feeble, high-pitched squeaks.

As Phoebe walked out from behind the register stand and I finally saw her -- head to toe -- I almost collapsed. She looked, she looks, as if she hasn't aged a day since turning twenty-five. She's as beautiful and youthful now as she was in 1982 -- a fact which is more than a little spooky. She's gorgeous, she's thin -- she remains perfect.

Time indeed seemed to slow as she moved toward me, the music coming from the shop's overhead speakers not the Cars, but something even more narcotic: Fleetwood Mac's Gold Dust Woman. She wore a tight black sweater and matching black pants rather than the red bikini I'd dreamed of most of my life. Still, she flashed that flawless smile as she squeezed past me, en route to help a customer who'd gotten her attention -- and when we looked directly into each other's eyes, that's when it hit me.

I'm the naked one.

There are very few times in life that a person can literally read another's thoughts -- that someone can be reduced to the proverbial open book. In that moment, not only did I realize that Phoebe Cates knew exactly what I was thinking, I understood that she was capable of pulling the same trick day after day, hour after hour -- with almost every single man she meets.

She knows what they're all thinking -- every one of them, without fail. She knows they're all exactly like me, and in a twist worthy of a Hollywood ending, the guys who once ogled her nakedness are now the ones exposed.

The realization was enough to make me look away quickly -- feeling no small amount of embarrassment -- before finally turning back to face her again, smiling and nodding at the exquisite irony of it all.

Phoebe Cates read my mind.

Later that night, my wife and I were lying on the couch -- comfortably draped across each other -- watching Helen Mirren's flawless, Oscar-winning performance in The Queen, when that familiar feeling dawned on me again: something bordering on love. I remembered becoming enraptured with Helen Mirren the first time I saw The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.

I understood that Phoebe Cates was the first woman I fell for from afar, but she certainly wouldn't be the last.

Maybe it's time I paid a little respect to all those beautiful, brilliant, strong, funny, cool, sexy, remarkable women I still put up on a pedestal -- with good reason.

Next: The Actresses