Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Listening Post: Halloween Edition

Because it's Halloween, why not bring you the most disturbing music video ever made -- the only one that can genuinely be described as a five-and-a-half-minute nightmare.

It's director Chris Cunningham and electronic maestro Richard James's menacing masterpiece -- Come to Daddy, from Aphex Twin.

And as an added bonus, an impressive little montage of the kind of horror movie scenes that would make Dario Argento and Jose Mojica Marins wet between the legs -- set to Ministry's early-techno classic, Everyday is Halloween.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Trial by Fire

(Update, from the "Six Degrees of Immolation" Department: I know this guy. A friend of mine called to remind me that she and I went to college with Paul Addis; I had several classes with him in fact. I remember him being a bit odd but otherwise he seemed relatively sane -- or as sane as someone who's willing to put himself into debt to the tune of $685-per-credit-hour (U.M. tuition at the time) can be. I wish I had some kind of great story regarding his early outlandish behavior, but unfortunately that might be reserved for my friend, who in fact slept with Addis and would like me to let everyone know that he has a small penis. I'll do my friend the favor of withholding her name.)

Awhile back, I wrote a column dealing with a man who'd set fire to the titular "burning man" from the most recent installment of that yearly tribute to latter-day hippie nonsense, the Burning Man Festival, a few days before its scheduled torch date (It was a Pleasure to Burn/8.31.07).

At that time, I gave the suspected arsonist -- a San Francisco performance artist named Paul Addis -- a very minor amount of credit for returning a spark of radicalism (if you'll forgive the pun) to an event which has become the furthest thing from what its creators had originally intended it to be.

Well, it now appears that Addis's affinity for arson extends beyond the desire to make a point to a bunch of stoned kids playing hackey-sack.

Sunday night, Addis was arrested -- still wearing his Burning Man makeup I might add -- for allegedly trying to blow up San Francisco's Grace Cathedral.

This is the ultimate case of mixed emotions for someone like myself, given my palpable loathe for both silly religious iconography and anyone who actually has the bad sense to publicly proclaim him or herself to be a "performance artist" (a designation which essentially means that that person has no real job to speak of).

Put another way: I couldn't care less if someone blew up a cathedral; I also couldn't care less if Paul Addis had set himself on fire in the process. In fact, if both had indeed occurred, I would've considered it a win-win situation.

No, I mention this again really for one reason only: it's an excuse to publish Addis's hilariously stupid mugshot (see above).

Listening Post

A lot of good musicians and even better side projects have been spawned by Jane's Addiction over the years, but none better than Deconstruction.

Featuring Dave Navarro on guitar and the unsung hero of Jane's, Eric Avery, on bass and vocals, the band's one and only self-titled record was released in 1994 and went largely unnoticed.

That's a shame, because the thing was spectacular from start to finish.

This was the first track on that album and the best song ever written about Los Angeles -- the appropriately titled L.A. Song.

Monday, October 29, 2007

In Praise Of...

Ellen Page

There are plenty of young actresses in the world; they generally range from the merely irritating (Dakota Fanning, Amanda Bynes) to the beautiful-but-worthless (Hillary Duff) to those permanently relegated to the bathroom floor and, consequently, the virtual pages of (Lindsay Lohan).

It's gotten so that someone who's young and talented, who's in it for the long haul rather than the quick flame-out, tends to go relatively unnoticed.

This is why I love Ellen Page.

For the uninitiated, the 20-year-old Canadian was the screen-chewing presence behind one of the most complex and unnerving characters in recent film history. In 2005's Hard Candy, she played Hayley Stark, a seemingly innocent teenager who turns the tables on an older man whom she believes to be a sexual predator -- a man who may or may not be responsible for the kidnapping death of another young girl. Ellen's performance is nothing short of astonishing: she goes from quietly demure and submissive to fiercely, explosively violent within seconds. Given that the movie is essentially a two-person play, it's a laudable feat that a relative newcomer can carry most of the it so handily. Hard Candy is one of the most intense and disturbing movies you're likely to ever see, and Ellen Page is a large part of the reason why.

If you paid close attention, you also saw her turn up in X-Men: The Last Stand, playing Kitty Pryde.

And next month, she'll likely up the ante in her career when Juno hits theaters. Ellen plays the title character -- a razor-sharp and worldly teenage girl who winds up pregnant and makes a level-headed decision not only to have the baby but to give it to a couple who can't have children of their own. The movie's already earning raves from critics for its humor and heart, and many are convinced that it will make Ellen Page a household name.

I'm really hoping that's true.

Anything to bring a little dignity and a lot of talent back to the young actress mantle.

(Watch the trailer for Juno)

Listening Post

Words really can't do justice to the absolute authoritative might of Killing Joke.

From their early punk days to the more melodic later years, even on to their recent return to a sound that's almost Lovecraftian in its visceral brutality, the band has been an unstoppable force for close to 30 years.

Their sound is epic and apocalyptic, but at the same time passionate and beautifully moving. Every industrial and nu-metal band of the last two decades has owed its existence to Killing Joke; they've all basically played in the field plowed by Jaz Coleman, Geordie and company, whether they knew it or not.

This remains one of my all-time favorite songs.

From the 1985 Night Time album, it's Love Like Blood.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Listening Post

There's nothing about this that isn't perfect.

Duran Duran's best and most enduring song, covered by Sneaker Pimps, set to the original, luxuriously sexy video.

Here's The Chauffeur.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Black and White and Red All Over

It had to be Southern California, didn't it.

It figures that the first Biblical plague-level natural disaster to descend upon this country since Hurricane Katrina would happen in a place where the contrasts between the two events could be so pronounced in every possible way.

The sunny paradise of affluent San Diego and Orange County versus the oppressively humid swamp of impoverished New Orleans.

Majestic hilltop homes versus shotgun shacks situated well below sea level.

Powerful celebrity governor Arnold Schwarzenegger versus ineffectual frump Kathleen Blanco.

Cool efficiency versus utter chaos and corruption.

Quick response versus outright neglect.

White versus black.

Fire, as opposed to water.

There quite literally couldn't be two situations more diametrically opposed, and yet we have no choice but to group them under the same banner -- the one which rightfully recognizes both as catastrophic national emergencies requiring any and all effort we as a nation can bring to bear against them. In each case, there are people suffering who need our help -- ours and the government charged with protecting and aiding us in times just like these.

But once again, such noble, academic pronouncements do little to quell the nagging questions that claw at the inside of our skulls as we watch the organized evacuation procedures, the calm and rational reaction of the victims -- as well as the care and compassion with which they're being treated -- the lightning-fast federal mobilization, and the outpouring of national support, all in response to the devastating wildfires in Southern California.

When compared with Katrina, it's simply night and day.

Anyone looking for a simple answer as to why is either painfully ignorant or likely looking to further a political or social agenda; there in fact are no easy answers.

I admit that I'm counting the seconds before an Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson -- and who am I kidding? It would be one of those two or no one at all -- begins grumbling about the response to the Southern California wildfires and how it just proves once again that the rich and white are attended to in times of crisis while the poor and black are left to die; how those who can easily provide for themselves are still given a governmental leg-up while the underprivileged are exterminated via attrition.

Still, would this argument be valid?

And what about America's dependable cadre of blowhard bigots? It's only a matter of time before the usual suspects on the far right point out that, so far at least, Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego -- nexus of the current evacuation effort and temporary home for almost 15,000 refugees -- is the picture of efficiency and cleanliness; while it took less than twelve hours for the supposed savages bottled up inside the Superdome to turn it into a nightmare of vandalism, robbery and rape -- essentially, a ghetto.

Would there be any validity to this argument?

F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously said, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."

Applied in one way: the underprivileged and disenfranchised victims of Katrina -- most of whom were black -- were indeed abandoned undeservedly by a government that simply didn't care about them; while the reaction of those same victims was at times reprehensible and seemed to confirm the worst kind of preconceived notions about their penchant for victimization and lack of civilization.

Applied in another: the affluent and middle-class victims of the Southern California fires -- most of whom are not only white, but represent a powerful voting bloc -- are being cared for in the most effusive ways possible; while there's little doubt that many of those same victims had both the means and the opportunity to do for themselves all along and will likely have little trouble rebuilding what was lost, should they wish to.

Again though, at the core these two scenarios -- these two disasters -- are the same; at least they should have been.

In a perfect world, the local, state and federal response to Katrina would've been as swift as the response to the fires -- and the calm and organized reaction of those who found themselves at the center of the fires would've likewise been on display by those facing the trauma of Katrina.

But obviously, it's not a perfect world.

Which is why we're left with such a painful contrast, and more questions than answers.

"And Then You Did... French Whores."

A 100% True Item, Exactly as it was Written on the Wire:

James Lipton, the host of U.S. talk show, Inside the Actors' Studio, once worked as a pimp in Paris, France.

The revered TV presenter, who has sat down with Hollywood's biggest names for in-depth chats about their life and work over the last 13 years, has revealed he once procured clients for French hookers.

He says, "This was when I was very very young, living in Paris, penniless, unable to get any kind of working permit... I had a friend who worked in what is called the Milieu, which is that world and she suggested to me one night, `Look, you'll be my mec... We would translate it perhaps... as pimp.

"We were earning our living together, this young woman and I, we made a rather good living, I must say."

Lipton reveals in his new book Inside Inside he would set up sex shows for clients of his lady friend.

He adds, "I had to accompany my clientelle to the Rue Pigalle, which is where these things occurred. And then I'd take them up to the room and I had to remain there because they were very nervous, they were young Americans for the most part... and they didn't speak French."

That's it.

I quit.

I couldn't improve this this comedically if I tried.

You have to give him credit though -- this pompous jackass can even make being a pimp sound pretentious and esoteric.

Project Office Mayhem

Your assignment, as usual: Quietly put the following link up on every computer in your office, then crank all the speakers to full volume.

Mischief points: 123

(Arnold Rave!)

Listening Post

Elbow -- Forget Myself

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's Not Just a Series of Tubes

The Internet is a Wonderful Thing, Part 1:

Radiohead's entire new album In Rainbows is now available for download from the group's website The best part -- for those of you who haven't heard -- is that you can pay as much or as little as you'd like for it. That includes paying nothing at all.

The Internet is a Wonderful Thing, Part 2:

Wes Anderson's new short film Hotel Chevalier is also now available for download, free from iTunes. The 13-minute mini-movie stands as a sort of prequel to his new full-length feature The Darjeeling Limited, which stars, as always, every Owen brother ever squeezed out and that annoying Schwartzman kid.

But really I could care less what the hell it is; all that matters is that Natalie Portman is nude in it.

I've seen it.

Several times.

If only I could find a way to bottle that feeling and carry it with me everywhere I went.

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's Too Easy Being Green

Like most Americans, there's nothing I love more than a completely ineffectual and purely symbolic gesture -- particularly when it comes to dealing with an honest-to-God crisis.

People sticking yellow ribbons all over their SUVs; the dipshit Republicans in Congress pushing to censure the dipshit liberals in for insulting General David Petraeus; the laughable burlesque of holding a "funeral" for the dreaded "N-word;" All of this and more just serves to remind us that when decisive action is required, we as a nation can always be counted on to immediately rise to our feet, wave our arms around wildly and parrot a catch-phrase or two, then sit the hell back down and watch American Idol.

The latest nail in the coffin of our once-intransigent spirit of diligence and sacrifice: all week, CNN is changing the color of its onscreen logo from the usual trademark red, to an all-too-familiar eco-friendly green.

To borrow a line from Bill Maher, it's literally the least they could do.

Actually, the reason for the change isn't simply because Larry King has been less willing as of late to donate blood from his personal bank in Transylvania to color the logo; it's part of a big promotional push by CNN -- a wholly-owned subsidiary of Time Warner, may I remind you -- for its documentary Planet in Peril. (Someday I'm going to find the person who first convinced a news manager that silly alliteration makes for good TV -- then I'm going to punch him in the throat.)

Planet in Peril is hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta of Harold and Kumar go to White Castle fame, and the Ambiguously Gay Duo, Anderson Cooper and Jeff Corwin.

Despite its apocalyptically alarmist title, I have no doubt that the show will in fact be a well-crafted and thought-provoking investigation, and I certainly have no issue with the subject with which it deals.

The problem is that, as with few other pop culture zeitgeists that the mass media has greedily perpetuated in the name of ad sales, an important issue is now in danger of being pushed across the fine line separating the need for public awareness from an inevitable oversaturation. The word "Green" has already become the one thing it never should have been allowed to: a Madison Avenue tagline. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised, in fact, if come late December, the word begins popping up on those snotty lists of terms which have been so overused during the past 12 months that the authors decree them officially "banned" in the coming year. (Unfortunately, it'll probably be right beside "Africa.")

I consider myself a serious proponent of environmental issues -- I have been for quite some time in fact -- and even I'm sick of hearing everyone from the most wasteful of mega-conglomerates to the idiot up the street with the 900-foot-tall wind turbine sticking out of his ass flaunt their "eco-bling" and boastfully promote how green they've gone.

Once again, I'm not saying the issue's not important.

I'm saying that it's too important for the media to treat it as if it were any other fad, thereby creating what will surely be an eventual backlash.

There's too much at stake.

Albus't Your Ass

What better way to return to form than by once again taking aim at my old nemesis -- the topic which once incurred the wrath of a substantial segment of my readership: Harry Potter.

Apparently over the weekend, inexplicably wealthy hack J.K. Rowling outed one the most beloved characters from her insanely popular series of crap books. While speaking to a group of hypnotized, pint-sized acolytes right here in New York City, Rowling admitted that the fictional headmaster of the fictional Hogwart's School for Wizards from the fictional (do you get why I feel the need to keep repeating this?) series of Harry Potter and the... books, Albus Dumbledore, was gay.

There are too many potential "magic wand" jokes, so I'll just skip it.

The good news is that, thanks to this little revelation, Rowling can now bring back Dumbledore for a spin-off series that takes place in the "Deathly Hallows Ghost World."

Coming soon kiddies, look for the first book:

Albus Dumbledore and the Call-boys of Fire Island

Just think how refreshing it's going to be for your kids to use the same argument for reading the new series that you used for spending a decade of your life immersed in Pottermania:

"I came of age with Dumbledore."

Malcopedia: Indignity


1. an injury to a person's dignity; slighting or contemptuous treatment; humiliating affront, insult, or injury.

2. Disgrace

Example: The deputy mayor of New Delhi, India was killed over the weekend -- reportedly by a band of wild monkeys. Relatives say 52-year-old S.S. Bajwa slipped and fell from his terrace while trying to fend off the monkeys, which invaded his home and had begun biting and scratching at his face en masse.

See Also: Hilarious

See Also: Reason #3,649 never to live in India

Listening Post

Happy Monday kids -- it's brand new Oasis:

Lord Don't Slow Me Down

Thursday, October 18, 2007

And So It Goes...

Before I attempt to bring any humor at all back to what have admittedly been some pretty dour proceedings on this site over the last month or so, I need to get something out of the way.

It may have seemed recently that my "personal crisis" was a temporary one, or at the very least, that strides were being made in a positive direction.

Unfortunately, neither of these is the case.

There's no way to say this that doesn't make me want to cry.

After three-and-a-half years of marriage and more than five years of being inseparable lovers and best friends, my wife Jayne and I are splitting up.

I've always been honest when it comes to what I write and I've never held back -- often using this forum as a way for me to work through some of the most difficult traumas in my life.

I won't lie, but I will hold back the details this time around.

To say that I'm devastated just wouldn't do the situation any justice. I have no doubt that this is going to be the most painful and heartbreaking thing I've ever had to endure; I already know that nothing I've experienced before -- nothing -- will even come close. I'm sure Jayne feels the same way.

I've made terrible mistakes during our time together. She's made just as many. It's both our faults. It's no one's fault.

At the moment though, the only thing I know for sure is that there's nothing I can do to change this.

Since I began this site, Jayne has been my muse and inspiration, my biggest fan and staunchest defender, and of course, what she's been since the day I met her: the love of my life and a woman I've always been honored to be married to. I've written about her so many times -- mentioned my passion and concern for her in so many different ways -- that I honestly have no idea how I'm going to go on writing without her there.

I never knew romance until Jayne.

Is our separation permanent? Only time will tell I suppose -- although I'd be a fool not to be realistic.

I want to thank everyone who's written words of encouragement, commented and shared their own stories, or just been there with a kind thought over the past few weeks; your good will is appreciated more than you'll ever know.

But no matter how deeply I feel, I still might be making the whole thing sound a little too sterile. Believe me, it's anything but; this is killing me inside.

And writing it out finally makes it seem real.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bring the Noise

There's a somewhat overlooked movie from way back in 1981 called Continental Divide, the claim to fame of which is that it featured John Belushi in his only "dramatic" role.

In the film, Belushi plays a Chicago newspaper columnist -- Ernie Souchak -- who's known for his acerbic wit and cutthroat copy. His readers love him; the targets of his ire can't stand him; his editor is driven crazy by him -- which is why he sends Souchak out of the city on an assignment to cover the work of a woman who's dedicated her life to saving bald eagles. Needless to say, Souchak accepts the gig unwillingly and hilarity ensues as the cigarette smoking big city loudmouth rubs up against the granola-eating nature buff. Eventually, as is wont in stories like this, the two find common ground in their dedication to what each believes in, and they fall in love over the three months spent together in the woods.

When Souchak gets back to Chicago, his copy is, shall we say, "softer" than previously. He writes pieces with titles like "What I Did During My Summer Vacation;" it's a change not welcomed by his readers -- particularly when there's so much insanity and injustice out there that they feel requires Souchak's attention and anger.

Eventually he does get back to cranking out the kind of stuff for which he's known and loved, while not fully abandoning the more emotional material that indeed came straight from his heart.

Why do I bring this up?

My medical leave is over.

It's time to get back to work.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Things You People Wouldn't Believe

More Life

When I was 12 years old I enlisted, of all people, my grandmother to drive me to a theater in Miami and sit with me while I excitedly took in a movie which would eventually be considered a masterpiece: Blade Runner.

The irony of course is that, as with films such as 2001, Psycho and Citizen Kane, Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi landmark was at first met by reviews that could at best be described as lukewarm. Most critics admired its abundance of style, but panned the movie overall, claiming that it was slow, pretentious and downright silly. It would be years before Blade Runner's cyberpunk aesthetic and astonishingly prescient themes of globalization and genetic engineering -- as well as its masterful production design by Syd Mead and Laurence Paull -- were heralded as brilliant and groundbreaking.

When I was 12 however, I paid little attention to the opinions of critics; I allowed Blade Runner to wash over me, giving myself to its world completely and, as such, leaving the theater believing that I'd just seen something bordering on genius.

10 years after its brief theatrical run, Ridley Scott released a special "Director's Cut" DVD, which removed both the blasphemic narration track -- designed to aid the more obtuse within the audience and essentially provide clarity to a storyline which was never intended to be completely concrete -- and the studio-approved "happy ending," while adding a dream sequence, the aim of which was to suggest that Harrison Ford's character, Rick Deckard, may himself be a "Replicant."

I own that DVD and have watched it more than a few times, even asking my wife to sit through it recently -- as it's the kind of film that she, despite her excellent taste, might have otherwise overlooked. Her thoughts after viewing it echoed mine -- that even with 25 years of advances in special effects and camera-work, the movie has a beauty and power that defies antiquation -- that it's as good now as it likely was at the time of its release.

Except that it's not.

It's actually better.

I now know this because last week, on a cold and rainy day here in New York City, I grabbed a cab to the legendary Ziegfeld theater in Midtown and relived a part of my childhood by seeing a new cut -- the supposed "Final Cut" -- of Blade Runner on the big screen.

The new edition adds little in the way of unseen footage -- although a scene in which Replicant leader Roy Batty kills his maker, Dr. Tyrell, is considerably more gruesome -- but the cleaned-up and remastered print is pristine, allowing the audience to enter into the world that Scott created like never before. The already lush production now seems exquisite and flawless; the effects as gorgeous today as they were all those years ago; the soundtrack by Vangelis, moving in a way that's nothing short of otherworldly.

Once again, I fell completely under the film's spell.

This time though, it was the story that affected me most. Given the recent difficulties in my personal life, the concept of one man desperately craving more time, and another who may eventually be forced to face the reality of his very nature rang especially true for me. There's been considerable debate throughout the years as to whether or not Deckard is, in fact, the very enemy he's chasing. He is. The new version, with its crystal-clear print, allows the audience to see unequivocally his eyes glowing orange for a brief second. This revelation lends an extra sense of satisfaction to Tyrell's already smug smirk when he meets Deckard, supposedly for the first time, earlier in the film.

Deckard has no idea who and what he really is, therefore he has no idea that his time may be running out -- as Replicants weren't built to last.

His nemesis meanwhile, Batty, is well aware of what he is; he's tortured by it. He knows that his life will soon be over and he can't come to terms with it. No amount of prosaicism will convince him that his end is something to embrace or even to celebrate. Tyrell attempts to console him with platitudes: "The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long," he says -- as if this will provide comfort to a dying man.

The film ends in an unexpected way, with a startlingly quiet moment between Deckard and Batty. It's during this scene that Batty -- resigned to his fate -- delivers a sad monologue recalling all that he's seen in his all-too-short lifetime.

"All those moments will be lost in time -- like tears in rain," he says.

A man longing for more time -- for life; for love; for redemption -- speaking to a man who's unaware of his true identity, and unaware that he may one day face the same fate.

It's the definition of tragedy.

Aren't You the "Good" Man?

In the days following my 20-year high school reunion, held a few weeks ago (Life's What You've Made It/10.2.07), my old friend Suzy and I continued to reconnect. Once again, I was reminded just how well she understands me, even now, after all this time. It's somewhat startling to realize that although experience, success, loss and time in general may change a person, somewhere buried under all those layers of life is still the foundation -- that earliest and most lasting incarnation. Know someone during those formative years and you'll know him or her for life.

My old friend read through the virtual pages of this site -- my little experiment -- and listened to me talk about the painful difficulties now facing me in my personal life; she paid close attention and responded not only with love and kindness, but with surprisingly intuitive advice and several pertinent questions for me to answer, not for her but for myself.

"What's your identity? Who are you?" she asked during one phone conversation. "Do you even know?"

"What do you mean?"

"I read the blog. I see what you've created there -- the image you've created -- but is that how you really see yourself?"

I said nothing, unsure how to respond. She continued.

"I mean, do you consider yourself an ex-heroin addict, an asshole smart-ass, damaged beyond repair, someone who's defined by his past? Because that's what it sounds like."

"I guess I'm not really sure."

"You don't deserve to torture yourself like this. You've made some mistakes -- taken your knocks -- and you've definitely paid for all of it. You've done your time -- let it go."

She was -- she is -- absolutely right.

So who am I really?

I'm not what everyone thinks, nor what anyone would suspect. I can occasionally offend, but my intentions are never to do outright harm. I'm secretly an idealist and believe that good can overcome evil, we just need to try harder. I love with everything inside of me, and sometimes that's to my own demise. I've lied on more than one occasion throughout my lifetime, mostly to keep the peace, but I realize that that's not a valid excuse and am both genuinely sorry for my actions and am working hard to change the behavior which led to them. I've endured life experiences which would seem a dream to some and a nightmare to others -- regardless, they've made me who I am today, and that's not so bad. I can find more beauty and passion stepping outside my front door than some find in their entire lives; this has made the world wondrous to me, but also caused me excruciating grief. I admit that I've spent a good portion of my life looking for something "more," and am only now learning the pure joy of quiet contentment. I'm tired of upheaval. I believe in family. I love my mother and father and understand that without them, I likely would've been dead a long time ago. I'm not aloof as much as I am shy -- a situation that's led me to be, as trite as this sounds, sorely misunderstood. I believe that love can last, despite so much proof to the contrary. I believe that, yes, there's something bigger out there -- although I also believe that no religion is even close to understanding it. I simply believe -- and will fight for those beliefs. I'm often an exposed nerve. I'm grateful to those who care about me and my well-being. I accept that I haven't always done the right thing, but likewise I've paid enough penance for my sins to where I can finally forgive myself. I forgive others far more easily. I'm not perfect and never will be, which gives me something in common with every other human being on the planet. I can find humor in just about anything. I'm occasionally high-strung and have a quick temper, a situation I'm working harder on than I ever have before to rectify. I know my faults better than most. I'm not always easy to live with, but I hope that the immense benefits are worth the risks. I'm learning to finally let go.

I've been wrong all this time: I don't, in fact, want to be normal.

I am normal.

An Itch You Can't Scratch

The morning after I went to see Blade Runner, I did some running of my own.

I pulled on sweatpants and a long-sleeved shirt to protect me from the cold and headed out to run around the reservoir in Central Park. The city was beautiful -- with heavy, low clouds severing the tops of the buildings and absorbing the usual cacophony, and a chilly mist being whipped along the jogging path by a light wind. I pushed myself hard. I listened to the hypnotic slap of my feet into the soft mud and allowed the thoughts I'd tried to contain for so long to break free and swirl around my consciousness. I let the memories of my time with Jayne come.

After awhile, the path ahead of me began to blur. The cold sting of water on my cheeks became warm. I realized that I was crying.

I cried for a candle that burned twice as bright, and not nearly as long.

I cried for all those moments that will be lost in time.

Like tears in rain.

Listening Post

dirty DNA - World Destruction

Add to My Profile | More Videos

In keeping with the recent "Very Metal" theme, this is a friend of mine's band from South Florida.

If I didn't actually like them quite a bit, I wouldn't be posting them here; on the contrary, this is a damn catchy song.

Dirty DNA -- World Destruction. (You can hear more of them here.)

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Adult Swim's Metalocalypse is pretty much the best show in the history of television.

Here's proof: The top 30 Dethklok quotes.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Not the Same Old Song and Dance

I'll make this quick.

A couple of nights ago, my wife and I got dressed up and braved the tourist-inundated nightmare of Broadway to finally see Spring Awakening.

The show won several Tonys this past year, including best musical; among its claims to fame are the unusual style of its music (all written by the brilliant Duncan Sheik and his occasional co-writer Steven Sater) and its brash subject matter (all sex, sex and more sex).

Suffice to say, the hype is true: the show is absolutely fantastic. I'm damn picky about musicals (loved Cabaret, Chicago and Wicked -- wanted to claw my eyes out at Mamma Mia) and this is the first one I've been to that was more like a concert than a Broadway show. I knew many of the songs going into it, and basically couldn't wipe the stupid grin off my face when I finally heard them live. How can you not love a show which features musical numbers with titles like "The Bitch of Living" and "Totally Fucked" -- as well as gorgeous pieces like "The Guilty Ones" and "Song of Purple Summer?"

In particular, Lauren Pritchard is a revelation. Hearing her breathy, husky, yet completely vulnerable and feminine voice is like sinking into a warm and luxurious bath -- or having a little girl cup her hands around your ears while leaning in to tell you a secret. It's that life-affirming.

Why am I bringing all of this up?

Just as a reminder that the next time you're in New York City, please do yourself and the rest of us a favor and skip whatever unadulterated crap Disney is pushing on Broadway, or whichever third-rate movie has been turned into a bombastically kitschy musical -- Legally Blonde and fucking Xanadu are now legitimate shows for Christ's sake -- and go see something with original music and real talent.

I'll owe you one.

While dressed up and on the town -- in Times Square and at Sardi's -- Jayne and I snapped a few pictures of each other, just to prove that we clean up good.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Page Turns

It would figure, wouldn't it?

A couple of weeks ago, I said that I was shelving the manuscript I've written -- mostly for personal reasons.

So what do I do now that a senior editor at Vintage Press (Cormac McCarthy, Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, William Faulkner) has sent me an e-mail raving about what they've read here on my little corner of the internet and wanting to set up a meeting with me for next week?

I say yes, or course.

Can I get a "hell yeah."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Life's What You've Made It

A Side: The Psychedelic Furs -- Love My Way

B Side: The Plimsouls -- Oldest Story in the World

A couple of years back, my wife Jayne read a novel called The Frog King.

In case you've never heard of it, the book is author Adam Davies's seemingly semi-fictional account of a young would-be writer and menial-media-job holder's attempts to both eke out a living in New York City and forge an at least respectable relationship with the woman he's in love with but to whom he refuses to admit as much.

These efforts unfortunately are hampered by the fact that the character in question is an asshole: he's severely damaged, typically selfish, willfully misanthropic, he hates his job and he drinks too much -- qualities which are, contrary to his own delusional beliefs, not, in fact, invalidated by the excessive amount of intelligence and charm he wields.

Obviously, Jayne "suggested" I read this book about two seconds after turning the final page.

I finally got around to it last week. Suffice to say, I wish I'd read it earlier instead of making the requisite excuses involving a backlog of reading material on my nightstand and/or some sort of general malaise; as my grandfather used to say, I mighta learned somethin'.

There are of course several big differences between the nominal protagonist of The Frog King and myself: For one, he works at a publishing house, whereas I work in television news. Also, his name is Harry.

It's a disconcerting feeling on par with having those naked pictures turn up on the internet to know that a complete stranger has written a book which nails your entire existence in such an impeccably precise manner. The similarities are indeed uncanny: Harry fancies himself a writer but -- mostly out of fear -- never gives it the full push that might get him noticed; the love of his life meanwhile is a bright, beautiful, funny, supportive, upwardly-mobile and preternaturally tolerant young woman, who also happens to suffer from an acute and extraordinarily painful case of endometriosis.

Despite a big heart and genuinely good intentions, Harry is constantly making all the wrong moves and all the wrong decisions. Even the densest of readers can understand that he needs to grow the hell up, stop taking his soulmate's seemingly bottomless reservoir of love and forgiveness for granted and begin putting his talent to good use instead of using it to ridicule everyone he believes to be beneath him.

For awhile, there's something almost noble about Harry's willingness to assume the role of the loveable but difficult eccentric; as the story progresses though, he becomes intolerable, insufferable, and by the time it's all over -- in more ways than one -- he comes to the sad realization that everyone else came to long ago: he's the one thing he's always despised -- a stupid, worn-out cliche.

Harry believes himself to be in the right in his relationship because he's always there during the bad times -- to hold Evie, his love, during her excruciating endo attacks; to ride in like Gallahad and save the day when there's a crisis. He knows nothing if not the art of the passionate statement or sweeping gesture.

His favorite chant of exquisite praise: "Viva la Evie."

Harry never asks himself if such histrionics are enough to sustain a truly adult relationship, and it's this nescience which leads to his inevitable fall from the grace of Evie's favor.

The Frog King is subtitled "A Love Story." It is, but it's an absolutely heartbreaking one.

A Side: U2 -- A Sort of Homecoming

B Side: The Smiths -- These Things Take Time

Last weekend, I went to my 20 year high school reunion.

The experience was as surreal and mildly unnerving as you might expect; simply coming to terms with the fact that it's been two decades since my high school graduation required an extra hit off the Wellbutrin pipe. Seeing my teenage classmates in their late 30s seemed just fucking preposterous on paper, even before my arrival at the Palms Hotel on Miami Beach; actually taking it all in for three hours last Friday night was far beyond my powers of worthwhile description.

On the whole, the Pace High Class of 1987 aged surprisingly well: A receding hairline here, an extra couple of pounds there, but otherwise my old friends didn't look all that different from how I remembered them from back in the days when we camped out on a sidewalk for Pink Floyd tickets and likely played a substantial role in driving at least one teacher to drink himself to death. The women especially looked not only exceptional but by and large better than they did as kids; the girls who were once cheerleaders or simply the mental kindling for many a teenage boy's bathroom masturbation ritual retaining their allure in ways which seemed slightly supernatural.

But really, when push came to shove, there was only one woman I was interested in seeing; the girl I chased for three long, psychically catastrophic years; the girl who changed everything about the way I would deal with women for years to come; the girl I hadn't laid eyes on in two decades.


To say that I had a crush on Suzy during high school would be like saying that the Khmer Rouge came up with an effective solution to Cambodia's population problem. I was utterly smitten with her. She occupied center stage in my mind and heart from the moment we first ran into each other outside of school, at the Immaculate Conception carnival sophomore year. I dreamt of her. I burned for her. I was her willing but ultimately frustrated lapdog for most of our high school career. I would've sold my soul for that girl.

So, you can imagine what it would be like seeing her after all this time.

It's probably right about now, by the way, that I should mention that Suzy -- despite professing a love for boys during high school -- eventually turned out to be gay. (Don't ever let it be said that I don't know how to pick 'em.)

It goes without saying that this little infatuation set the stage for the seemingly endless cavalcade of absurdly Quixotic endeavors to come throughout my lifetime.

I noticed Suzy the moment she entered the bar area where our informal re-meet-and-greet cocktail party was being held. I happened to be across the room at the time and worked my way over to where she was standing, pushing through the heavy crowd until it birthed me directly in front of her. Her eyes widened. Somewhere an ancient electrical switch covered in cobwebs was thrown. We smiled and pulled each other into a warm hug. It was, admittedly, wonderful to see her.

A little while later, we found ourselves camped out on a couch in the hotel's lobby -- with its tempered lighting and cool music -- talking about the ghosts of high school past. We reminisced not about specific events but about overall feelings and emotions.

She told me that I was the only man she ever truly loved.

I told her that I regret having been at her disposal for three long years in a misguided crusade to win her affections.

And that's when something dawned on me: At face value, she and I had vastly different views of what happened between us all those years ago; my memories involved heartache and suffering; hers involved good times spent with someone she considered her best friend. It was a reminder, however trite this may sound, that two people can look at the exact same relationship in completely different ways.

It took only a moment though for me to realize -- and maybe this is simply the benefit of years of emotional padding -- that her view was, if not completely without fault, at least a "better" one than mine. She remembered something that I'd stupidly allowed myself to forget -- that we were as close as any two people can be at that age. We loved each other dearly, regardless of the secret agendas and occasionally underhanded machinations that may have come into play during our time together.

I loved that girl, and I understood her -- and what's more, the feeling and understanding was undeniably mutual.

It was a couple of hours later that Suzy suggested a handful of people continue the party at the high-rise apartment she shares with her partner.

I was looking for an excuse to relive my Miami Vice days anyway, so I piled two friends in the Audi A4 convertible I'd rented and sped along the beach back to Suzy's place -- and it was a gorgeous place indeed, the kind about which a New Yorker like myself can only dream: two bedrooms, a big kitchen with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, an incredible view of the beach, and a rent that's about three hundred less than what Jayne and I pay for our Manhattan Matchbox.

We each had another drink before my Chased Amy once again sat down on the couch with me -- this time though, the topic of conversation was life after graduation.

It was as revelatory as it was utterly tragic.

I told her about my recent personal troubles and my sad history of broken relationships.

She told me about her self-destructive tendencies and inability to believe that love can fully heal her.

I spoke softly as I voiced my wish that my wife could be with me at that moment.

She pulled down the waistband of her pants and showed me a tattoo of a zero with a line through it. Literally, nil -- nothing.

"How did we get this way?" I finally asked. "What happened to us?" There wasn't a hint of humor in my voice; I was all-but-begging her for the answer I'd been looking for for years.

A resigned and bittersweet "I don't know" was all she could muster.

A Side: Depeche Mode -- Everything Counts

B Side: Howard Jones -- What is Love?

At the end of The Frog King, Harry loses Evie.

He screws up badly. She leaves him for a recently established author whose career she helped launch. She gets a big promotion and enters a new stratum, a place to which she's convinced he simply cannot follow her. Despite a heartfelt attempt at redeeming himself -- he writes the basic outline of a manuscript which centers around her and their relationship, then shows it to her -- she tells him that she just can't do it anymore; she reached her "saturation point" and has moved on.

In one final grand gesture, Harry dresses up in a frog costume (one of Evie's friends refers to him as the eponymous "Frog King" earlier in the story) and crashes a New Year's Eve costume party to confront the love of his life and plead his case.

When finally face-to-face, he reminds her of all the wonderful moments they shared; all the times he took care of her; all the times she took care of him; all the love they gave each other.

Except that Evie doesn't remember it that way.

Evie's memories are laden with pain, difficulty, uncertainty; all the times Harry wasn't willing to commit; all the times Harry hurt her.

To her -- there's nothing worth trying to get back.

Two people, seeing the exact same relationship in completely different ways.

Before walking out of his life forever, Evie insinuates to Harry that the true test of a partnership has less to do with being willing to swoop in when things are critical than it does with being strong and steadfast when things are thoroughly mundane.

It's security she craves -- something she believes he can't provide.

On the final page of the book though, Harry takes a deep breath and the first step in the journey toward becoming the person he needs to be -- the person he's always wanted to be, even if he was never willing to admit it to himself.

Viva la Evie isn't a life plan.

Neither is Viva la Jayne.

A Note from the Management

About the above post:

I'm writing today from my parents' home in quiet Sebring, Florida. Although it's certainly relaxing and quite literally just what the doctor ordered in reference to my health and general wellness issues, it's slightly bittersweet being here.

Four years ago, Jayne and I spent three months essentially living in this house. I began writing my manuscript here -- at this very keyboard. There are memories everywhere I look and everywhere I drive. As this is a family home, there are pictures of Jayne and myself in abundance here -- and in the home of each relative I've visited nearby. Given that Jayne is in South Africa on business right now, and we're going through uncertain times as a couple, it adds a strange sense of sadness and dread to return to a place where she and I have spent so much "family time" over the years.

It also doesn't help that earlier today, I visited my cousin and got the chance to hold her new little girl. The baby is quite simply the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, which belies the fact that, unfortunately, she's very sick. She's already had a minor stroke and may have cranial bleeding, and she's going to have to have corrective heart surgery within the next few weeks.

It reminded me just how fragile each of us is at birth. It also reminded me how much I want to have a child with Jayne -- how often we've talked about it.

It's thoughts like these which make the uncertainty I mentioned all the more painful.

I should add one more thing.

Once again, Jayne and I are going through a difficult time, but make no mistake -- and she'll tell you this if asked -- we love each other very much. I realize that I make certain parts of my private life -- our private lives -- public on this site; I do this with the understanding that there are those out there for whom a statement of marital difficulty on this site is akin to ringing the dinner bell.

Put it another way: some of my so-called friends -- not to mention hers -- have already wasted no time in "reaching out" to my wife, if you get my drift.

I won't bother calling them out by name; you know who you are.

Bottom line -- knock it the hell off.

The aforementioned most beautiful thing I've ever seen -- Chloe.