Monday, May 31, 2010
"There's no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back."
-- BP CEO Tony Hayward
Really, jackass? You want your life back? You know who else does? Every fisherman along the Louisiana coast, whose means of supporting himself and his family has been strangled by your monumental fuck-up. And seeing as how you're raking in around 4.5 mil a year, I'd say your life's pretty damn good regardless.
Back in the early 90s -- when the various members of the Seattle scene ruled the musical landscape, regularly playing on each other's albums and creating incestuous side projects -- a band called Brad released a terrific album called Shame. The members of Brad included Stone Gossard, Regan Hagar of Malfunkshun, and vocalist Shawn Smith, who became the go-to soulful voice for one 90s band after another. (His noteworthy work includes Satchel's masterpiece of melancholy, Suffering, and the Lo-Fi Allstars' remix of Pigeonhed's Battleflag.)
The story behind why the band chose the name Brad is the stuff of rock legend: They apparently wanted to name themselves Shame, but were sued by a guy named Brad Wilson who claimed that he had already taken the name for his own band -- surely you remember them -- and so, out of spite, or just as a really great joke, Gossard and company decided to call themselves "Brad."
Thank God Vevo finally made this clip available for embed, because I've been waiting for it for a very long time. Here's the gorgeous opening track from the debut Brad album -- Buttercup.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Look, we all know that the cosmo-swilling cougar crowd and the younger women who -- for reasons I'll never fully understand -- aspire to be a part of that one day, will make Sex and the City 2: The Sands of Time a massive success at the box office this weekend. That's the bad news. The good news is that, believe it or not, the movie is apparently so indefensibly bad that it may eventually be known as the singular event that drove a much-needed stake through the heart of these kinds of films -- the female fantasy rom-coms that I've ridiculed ad nauseam around here over the past few years -- and ended their reign of terror in Hollywood. Given that Sex and the City really does stand as the Fairy Godmother (or is it bitchy, Crawford-esque Step Mother?) of this entire genre, if even it sucks harder than Samantha trying to convince herself she's still 25, what hope do those other Carrie-come-lately movies have?
For those of you who will be lucky/smart enough to never suffer through Sex and the City 2, the Huffington Post has compiled some of the best lines from some of the worst reviews for it.
And keep in mind, as of Friday, this movie had a Rotten Tomatoes ranking of just 8%.
"This film is an epic eyesore. It's as if they set out to make a movie that said, 'You're right! We are hideous!'"
-- David Edelstein, New York magazine
"The ugly smell of unexamined privilege hangs over this film like the smoke from cheap incense... Your watch will tell you that a shade less than two and a half hours have elapsed, but you may be shocked at just how much older you feel when the whole thing is over."
-- AO Scott, The New York Times
"The women-too old now to pout, whine and babble about their wet dreams, affluent and successful for reasons that are never clear-are all vain, narcissistic, selfish, superficial and really rather stupid. The actors work hard to perform triage, but they've been playing these roles so long they've grown moss."
-- Rex Reed, The New York Observer
"As tasteless as an Arabian cathouse, as worn-out as your 1998 flip-flops and as hideous as the mom jeans Carrie wears with a belly-baring gingham top, 'Sex and the City 2' is two of the worst movies of the year... Despite its 'Lawrence of Arabia' length, this film -- the Sexless and the Self-Pitying -- is as unfunny and shapeless as another famed desert epic. Just think of it as 'Bitchtar.'"
-- Kyle Smith, The New York Post
"The movie's visual style is arthritic. Director Michael Patrick King covers the sitcom dialogue by dutifully cutting back and forth to whoever is speaking... Carrie narrates the film, providing useful guidelines for those challenged by its intricacies. Sample: 'Later that day, Big and I arrived home.'"
-- Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun Times
"Thanks to writer-director Michael Patrick King, I now have a fair idea how it might feel to be stoned to death with scented candles."
-- Cliff Doerksen, The Chicago Reader
"I sensed a claustrophobic panic growing at the screening I attended. Like Martin Sheen waking from his uneasy slumber in Apocalypse Now and thinking: 'Shit, I'm still in Saigon,' various members of the audience would emerge from their periodic reveries and mumble out loud: 'Shit, Carrie and her friends and by that token, we the audience, are still in Abu Dhabi.'"
-- Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian UK
"What might I have done wrong, in a past life or in this one, that I deserve to have my eyeballs seared by Sarah Jessica Parker's loony desert-princess getups? ... To gaze upon a couple of amazingly well-groomed camels and realize that they have better hairdos than the human movie stars astride them?"
-- Stephanie Zacharek, (who now inexplicably writes for moveline.com)
"It would have been more merciful for writer-director Michael Patrick King to have rented Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda out to the 'Saw' franchise, or to Rob Zombie, so we could watch them get shot in the head or skinned alive by Arkansas rednecks. Instead of that, we get something that's truly sadistic: the SATC girls as haggard specters, haunted by their freewheeling '90s past and stupefied by the demands of work, marriage and/or motherhood. This bloated, incoherent movie mimics an SATC episode in structure -- vague social relevance at the beginning and the end, conspicuous consumption in the middle -- with virtually none of the wit or panache, and seems devoted to destroying our affection for these characters."
-- Andrew O'Hehir, in the one review you have to read start-to-finish in Salon.com
And my personal favorite:
"If this is what modern womanhood means, then just fucking veil me and sew up all my holes. Good night."
-- Lindy West, Salon.com
Saturday, May 29, 2010
You know, I've been debating all week what to do with this little item -- whether I should make it the focus of some long-winded diatribe, do a general point-and-laugh, or maybe just put it out there as a kind of Moment of Zen, considering that it really is open to such a wide variety of comic/ironic interpretation.
The fact is, though, that I couldn't simply leave it alone -- if only because doing so would be undeniably conspicuous, given what you've come to expect from the material on this site.
So I'll just say this: Chances are by now you've heard that last weekend Sarah Palin spoke at a retail real estate convention in Las Vegas. Depending on whom you believe, she either brought down the house with her unmatched skills at giving a sloppy backseat blow-job to the entire notion of unimpeded Randian capitalism, or she plowed the conductor-less Palin Express right into a brick wall by doing what essentially amounted to her usual tightly-scripted "Palin in 2012" stump speech, and not much else. To be honest, it really doesn't matter one way or the other whether Palin scored a hit or a miss with the real estate crowd; the fact remains that the group wanted to hear from Palin -- who, mind you, generally gets six-figures to speak publicly -- to begin with.
What's also worth mentioning, by the way, is that among that crowd was my soon-to-be ex-wife, Jayne. She's the executive assistant to the CEO of the organization which hosted the event, and that means that she was at least tangentially associated with the Palin speaking engagement.
Do I find this kind of funny? Well, in the words of Palin herself: You betcha. Especially considering how much Jayne purports to loathe and stand in diametric political opposition to Palin.
So in the end, I guess I have to look at it this way: A self-described "small town girl," who through sheer luck and no tiny amount of well-disguised ambition managed to ascend to heights far beyond her humble upbringing; a woman who's little more than a compulsively lying opportunist whose amoral narcissism knows no bounds and who will go to any length to further her career and to afford herself the lifestyle she believes she deserves; someone who uses her looks and charm as a weapon and likely had an entire room full of old, wealthy white guys eating out of her hand with nothing more than a wink and a smile -- this person was the center of attention, and even though it probably ate her alive inside, out of decorum and propriety, Jayne couldn't say a thing. She had to remain completely silent.
I can't imagine what that felt like.
Friday, May 28, 2010
On the one hand, I feel really bad for her -- because she's Hayley Williams and we all know my thoughts on her.
On the other hand -- well, my other hand is busy.
WWTDD: Paramore's Hayley Williams Topless Photos Leaked on Twitter/5.27.10
"Putting a mosque at Ground Zero is like building a Benihana at Pearl Harbor."
-- Comedian Jim Norton, on a New York City community board's near unanimous decision to allow for the construction of a mosque within spitting distance (in more ways than one) of the former site of the World Trade Center
The New York Times: Near Ground Zero, the Sacred and the Profane/5.27.10
For the record, I see both sides of this issue and -- as much of a cop-out as this may seem -- I'm very much on the fence about it. Having been in New York City, at the World Trade Center site and with the families of the missing and dead, right after 9/11, I completely understand the outrage of many of them -- and think that it's more than justified. Putting a mosque at the exact place where the towers once stood feels grotesquely insensitive, given the undeniable link between the warped ideology adhered to by the attackers and the supposed "religion of peace" that is Islam. That said, I also get that the creation of a shrine to the very belief system the attackers midguidedly saw themselves as the defenders of would be a fun little of "fuck you" to their memories -- and to the extremists who still consider America the Great Satan. The thing is, I don't think the gesture would matter one bit to those in the Muslim world who despise us.
Since yesterday I posted the Sun Kil Moon Heron Blue trailer for Gears of War 3 -- I figured I'd continue the video game theme to end the week.
From the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack -- and proving that games truly have risen to the level of playable movies, and of actual honest-to-God art -- here's José González's staggeringly good new single, Far Away.
Happy Friday, everybody.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
I can't stress enough how sorry I am that things have been so phoned-in around here lately, but all I can do is promise you that the drought won't last forever.
Until then, as I said last week, I'm glad guys like Cesca can do a lot of the heavy lifting for me. I was waiting for someone to point out the mind-bogglingly shameless hypocrisy of the normally anti-government, horseshit populist crowd on the right suddenly pleading for federal help in the wake of the BP oil disaster and demanding the "government takeover" of the clean-up effort -- and he does it flawlessly in his column over at HuffPo this week.
It's not even a surprise anymore that the entirely self-serving political schizophrenia of these assholes has them contradicting their own positions from one minute to the next -- but it still requires being dragged into the daylight and put on a pedestal for all to see as often as possible.
The Huffington Post: Republicans Demand a Government Takeover and Bail Out of the Oil Spill/5.26.10
Sun Kil Moon is the brainchild of singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek, who, in addition to fronting the spectacular Red House Painters, was also the voice behind the simple, moving lullaby featured in the "Sleep" episode of Yo Gabba Gabba. For those who remember, it's a song that I sing to Inara before she goes to bed every night and one that brings me very close to crying uncontrollably whenever I hear it and she's not with me.
The rest of the pop culture universe likely knows Kozelek and Sun Kil Moon from the use of the band's hypnotic and haunting song Heron Blue in the breathtaking new teaser trailer for Gears of War 3.
For everyone else, here's another example of Kozelek doing what he does best with Sun Kil Moon: creating gorgeously evocative music. It's an unexpected take on Modest Mouse's Ocean Breathes Salty.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
"I would expect the ideas that come out of this web site and the involvement of our members will lead to ideas that we can attempt to implement today. We want to continue to offer better solutions to address the problems that America is facing, and we see this as a giant step forward, directly engaging the American people in the development of those solutions."
-- House Minority Leader John Boehner on the GOP's new "cutting edge" website "America Speaking Out," which solicits policy suggestions from average Republicans throughout the United States
"End Child Labor Laws. We coddle children too much. They need to spend their youth in the factories."
"How about if Congress actually do thier job and VET or Usurper in Chief, Obama is NOT a Natural Born Citizen in any way. That fake so called birth certificate is useless."
"A 'teacher' told my child in class that dolphins were mammals and not fish! And the same thing about whales! We need TRADITIONAL VALUES in all areas of education. If it swims in the water, it is a FISH. Period! End of Story."
"Don't let the illegals run out of Arizona and hide. . . . I think that we should do something to identify them in case they try to come back over. Like maybe tattoo a big scarlet 'I' on their chests -- for 'illegal'!!!"
-- Just a few of those suggestions so far
I'm in good company when I say that the Cure's Disintegration is easily the band's best album -- considering that the South Park boys only semi-jokingly called it "the best album ever."
It's one I keep going back to again and again in my life, feeling as if I'm discovering something completely new about it each time.
Here's the album's title track, Disintegration.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
With the usual engine of contrived concern and indignation once again revving up in Washington over the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court -- the dog and pony show from both sides of the aisle meant to deflect your attention away from the fact that no matter how much Oscar-worthy hemming and hawing you see and hear, the end result will be exactly the same -- I figured I'd bring back this bit from May of last year. You know, the last time the country had to go through this sort of thing.
"Judge Dread" (Originally Published, 5.1.09)
So Supreme Court Justice David Souter has announced that he'll be retiring, putting President Obama in the position of making yet another decision, in just his first few months in office, that will have consequences for this country that reach far beyond his presidency. Unfortunately, whomever he picks won't tip the overall ideology of the High Court, given that Souter -- who was appointed by the first President Bush -- shocked the crap out of his GOP benefactors by typically siding with the court's liberal minority in ruling after ruling. This unconscionable betrayal earned him instant apostate status and with it the kind of ire from the far right usually reserved for gay pedophiles or people who don't stand for the National Anthem at NASCAR races.
What this means, though, is that very soon we'll be treated to a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing sure to be contentious, to say the least. It would've been anyway, but Jesus, with the state of the GOP right now -- the daily bukkake of crazy coming from the disarrayed pack of howler monkeys that used to be an actual political party -- can you imagine what Obama's nominee is going to have to endure? P.T. Barnum couldn't have come up with something like what we're gonna see.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont, Chairman): These proceedings are now called to order. The chair recognizes the...
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma): If... If I may, Mr. Chairman. I think it's imperative that the nominee immediately address rumors that she once masturbated to thoughts of Karl Marx. Is that true?
Sen. Patrick Leahy: I'm sorry, Senator Coburn -- but I fail to see the...
Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina): ARE YOU NOT A WITCH, MA'AM?
Sen. Leahy (banging gavel repeatedly): Please. This hearing will come to order, Senators.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) (suddenly standing and raising his finger): Mr. Chairman, the distinguished gentleman from the Independent Republic of Texas wishes to be heard. Remember the Alamo!
Sen. Lindsay Graham: MA'AM, ARE YOU NOT A CARRIER OF THE SWINE FLU?
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona): Riddle me this -- how do you feel about gay marriage abortions? Would you be surprised to learn that I am the product of one?
Sen. Lindsay Graham: Mr. Chairman, I wish to go on the record and apologize to Rush Limbaugh if I insulted him by using the word "swine" a few moments ago. I am deeply sorry for the offense.
Lindsay Graham pulls a small caliber pistol from his jacket and shoots himself in the head.
Sen. Tom Coburn: MY GOD, IT'S ALL BARACK OBAMA'S FAULT!
Sen. Jon Kyl: We must immediately invade Liechtenstein!
Sen. John Cornyn: Texas pledges four troops, a couple of highway patrolmen in mirrored sunglasses, the corpse of Janis Joplin and a pick-up truck full of Mexican day laborers, all named Juan, to the war effort!
Cornyn stands and begins singing ZZ Top's Tush.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama): If I may, ma'am -- what are your thoughts on replacing the U.S. Constitution with a sexually explicit memo written by Bill O'Reilly to Andrea Mackris?
The body of Lindsay Graham twitches; with his last gasp he shouts: FREEEEEDOOOOOOOM!!!!!!
Michele Bachmann's head appears from under the table in front of Orrin Hatch. She wipes her mouth then seductively licks a large gold crucifix dangling atop her cleavage.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) (smiling with satisfaction): Mr. Chairman, I move we adjourn for the day.
Leahy bangs the gavel once, throws it over his shoulder, gets up and walks out.
It's always good to see Stone Temple Pilots back together -- especially since you know going into it that Scott Weiland, his gargantuan ego, and his insatiable love of drugs will invariably render any reunion attempt futile in short order.
Enjoy it while it lasts -- here's the new single, Between the Lines.
At first, I saw this and thought, "Lovely, all it needs now is a Sarah Palin co-byline -- or maybe a follow-up link to a story about how Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus had been spotted out partying with the cast -- and this specific circle of my hell would be complete."
But then I realized that if anyone can show the inexplicably enduring Sex and the City phenomenon the respect it deserves -- while simultaneously proving through her patented brand of stimulating analysis my point about the number of brain cells required to have any sort of appreciation for it -- it's Heather Havrilesky.
Heather, my dear -- do your worst.
Salon: "Why Sex & the City Won't Go Away" by Heather Havrilesky/5.24.10
Monday, May 24, 2010
Just a warning: The official press secretariat and PR firm of the Duggar family has called a news conference for today. In other words, the Duggars are reportedly booked on the Today Show this morning.
(Update: So I didn't see and I don't really have time to go looking -- anybody got a status report?)
(Update 2: They either got bumped -- which is doubtful -- or weren't scheduled in the first place. False alarm. You can go about your business. Nice drill for the real thing, though.)
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
"And that's why the best rap on libertarians isn't that they're racist, or selfish. (Though some of them are those things, and their beliefs encourage both bad behaviors, even if accidentally.) It's that they're thoroughly out of touch with reality. It's a worldview that prospers only so long as nobody tries it, and is too unreflective and self-absorbed to realize this. In other words, it's bratty. And that's bad enough."
-- Gabriel Winant in Salon
Man, Rand Paul is just the gift that keeps on giving these days. Of course it's tough to feel too sorry for a guy who just said that beating up on poor, put-upon BP is "un-American" because, well, "accidents happen" -- and that's probably the least idiotic thing that came out of his mouth this week.
Friday, May 21, 2010
"To be clear: this is my decision, and one that I have been thinking about for some time As for why, I could have said, that I am stepping down to spend more time with my children (which I truly want to do). Or that I am leaving to pursue other opportunities (which I also truly want to do). But I have never had much tolerance for others' spin, so I can't imagine trying to stomach my own. The simple fact is that not enough people want to watch my program, and I owe it to myself and to CNN to get out of the way so that CNN can try something else. CNN will have to figure out what that is... My plan right now is to help CNN through any transition, and then to enjoy, for the very first time, the nightly ritual of 'Good Night Moon' and good night kisses with my two little boys. I wish my CNN colleagues all the best. And as long as bedtime doesn't conflict with primetime, I will be watching and pulling for them."
-- Campbell Brown, in an official statement declaring that she'll be leaving CNN
I've always liked Campbell, so for the largely barren wasteland that is cable TV journalism these days, this is unfortunate news indeed. But she's right: Goodnight Moon trumps stressing over a couple of extra ratings points (generally siphoned off by whoever happens to be whipping up the most bombastic indignation) any day of the week.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I have to apologize that I'm still only at about maybe 35% around here these days -- meaning that I just don't have the time to put up a lot of content, to say nothing of the functioning brain cells necessary to make any of the content I do put up worth a damn.
Thankfully, for the time being anyway, I can allow guys like Cesca to speak for me. His new HuffPo column -- which not only tears libertarianism's freshly minted ambassador, Rand Paul, a new asshole, but also points out the ridiculous folly of libertarianism in practice -- is the kind of thing I would've written if I had anything approaching free time right now.
It takes balls of fucking titanium to offer public paeans to the notion of an absolutely unrestricted free market these days, after the abuses of power we've witnessed over the past several years -- the ones that essentially ran a train on the poor suckers dumb enough to put their their trust in the American dream and their money in banks that were always betting on them to lose. But I'll give old Rand this: He's a True Believer, almost religious in fervor, in the idea that only laissez-faire capitalist Darwinism will save us.
And as such, he proves with almost no outside effort just how impractical, stupid and outright dangerous genuine libertarian ideology can be.
The Huffington Post: Rand Paul's Underscores the Tea Party's Connection To Race/5.20.10
The covers performed by the bands that play BBC 1's Live Lounge are always interesting, to say the least. Is this one a hit or a miss? I'll let you be the judge.
Here's 30 Seconds to Mars doing Lady GaGa's Bad Romance.
(Whatever you think, it's better than that annoying kid with the Justin Bieber hair -- the one who's managed to become the next tween sensation we'll all be forced to suffer through by posting a clip of himself playing Paparazzi on YouTube. Somebody please stop the madness.)
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I'm as entertained as anyone by a clever conspiracy theory, but let's face it: Unless you have something more than a couple of admittedly peculiar coincidences to back up an outlandish claim, you're just talking out of your ass. That said, when one of those curiosities smacks you right in the face -- or threatens to arrest you for trying to take pictures of oil-slicked beaches -- you're naturally going to want to peel back the onion and see what, if anything, is at the center.
By now this video, shot yesterday by CBS News's Kelly Cobiella -- who's a good friend of mine as well as an all-around terrific reporter -- has made the rounds far and wide. It shows Kelly and her crew being stopped at sea by a Coast Guard boat and ordered to turn around under threat of arrest. CBS had chartered their own boat in an effort to get video of the impact of the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf -- specifically of one shore in South Pass, Louisiana that's now completely blackened with oil. What's disturbing is that on board that Coast Guard boat -- apparently working in conjunction with with the Guard -- are several BP contractors. After stopping the CBS crew, one member of the Coast Guard tells Kelly, "This is BP's rules -- it's not ours."
In other words, if you believe what we seem to be seeing and hearing, BP is giving orders to the United States Coast Guard and apparently has the authority to commandeer our armed forces to keep the press away from public property.
Isn't the first rule of a conspiracy that you don't willingly let anyone know about it?
“I have a message. A message from the Tea Party. A message that is loud and clear and does not mince words: We have come to take our government back.”
-- Rand Paul, political neophyte and son of Ron Paul, crescendoing his victory speech after winning yesterday's Kentucky primary
First, Paul's win should shock absolutely no one; if ever there was a place where unfocused and largely incoherent white resentment grows up out of the ground like weeds right now, it's Kentucky. The important thing to keep in mind here is this: He won the Republican Senate primary because he's a Republican -- and for some strange reason, I suppose in an effort to be taken more seriously and to deflect accusations of racism, the tea baggers often like to pretend that they eschew political affiliation, which is horseshit. The reality has always been that the "Tea Party" is nothing more than the militant wing of the GOP -- it's what Hamas is to the PLO (minus all the acts of terrorism -- for now). The tea baggers feel like the Republican party just isn't crazy and scary enough on its own these days, so they're pulling a Vince McMahon and creating an XFL to "compete."
Second, I don't want to hear one more supposedly high-minded asshole trying to convince me or anyone else that Ron Paul is someone who should be taken seriously -- at least as far as his ideas are concerned. Anyone who names his child after Ayn Rand -- and does it ostensibly as an adult and not some pissy, arrogant teenager who stalks the halls of his high school trying to convince himself that the world is beneath him and he's secretly more evolved than the kids who are regularly flushing his pack of cloves down the toilet and stuffing him into lockers -- doesn't deserve even an ounce of credibility.
Finally, how chilling is it getting to hear this "take our government back" crap?
"(I have) sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff."
-- Republican Representative Mark Souder of Indiana, an avowed evangelical Christian, announcing his resignation yesterday following an affair with a female aide
Ah, those evangelicals -- always looking for an excuse to fill you with the Holy Spirit.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
"The Republicans can't stop playing dress up. Between the cowboy drag and the flight suits, the GOP is nearing Village People status."
-- Bob Cesca, commenting on what he rightly calls a must-see Republican campaign commercial from Alabama (of course) that takes self-satire to entirely unprecedented levels
This one stirred up quite a bit of discussion back in November of last year. It also stands as one of the few times on this site that, when writing about something that wasn't personal, I've managed to make it through about a dozen or so paragraphs without really swearing or being vulgar (for those who keep track of DXM trivia).
"Feast of Burden" (Originally Published, 11.25.09)
Last month while in Washington D.C., I ate at a place downtown called Founding Farmers. If you live in the D.C. Metro area you're probably, at the very least, familiar with the restaurant and if you'd like I can give you a minute to stop salivating. Yeah, it's that good.
Founding Farmers's claim to fame is that it's a certified "green" restaurant, which means that in addition to closely monitoring its carbon output in an effort to reduce the strain on the environment, the food it buys and serves comes only from family farms, ranches and fisheries. Self-proclaimed foodies will recognize this distinction given that the green-market trend has been all the rage over the past couple of years; a lot of America's most famous chefs have jumped on top of the nearest tables to shout to the masses about their decision to forgo large farms in favor of nothing but locally grown product.
So do all those steps taken to promote sustainability make a difference in the taste of the food at at place like, say, Founding Farmers? Honestly, I have no idea. The meal I had was spectacular and it's always nice to know that while I'm enjoying it I'm also behaving responsibly -- given that I'm probably having a couple of drinks and will almost surely not be behaving responsibly later in the evening. But considering the fact that high-end restaurants almost always seek out the best and freshest ingredients anyway -- whether they're locally farmed or not -- does the extra flair of going green-market really show on the plate? I'm not talking overall quality or various health considerations here -- just taste.
I bring this up because with Thanksgiving being tomorrow, I want to throw a question out there: Do you really care where your food comes from?
Before you answer, know that I don't mean would you just shrug it off if you knew that Upton Sinclair's severed right leg had been hefted into a meat grinder somewhere and then sprinkled over your Campbell's Minestrone. I mean, if you know that the food you buy at the grocery store or order at the local TGI Friday's has passed USDA inspection -- and it tastes good to you -- do you spend a lot of time worrying about the conditions in which it was grown, farmed or raised?
In case you haven't heard, the "publicity sluts" at PETA -- the words of the group's, ahem, "controversial" leader Ingrid Newkirk, not mine -- are once again at war with NBC. You may remember that earlier this year the network refused to air an ad during the Super Bowl that featured girls in lingerie nearly pleasuring themselves with vegetables; the tag line of the thing was "Studies Show Vegetarians Have Better Sex." (For the record, I haven't seen these studies myself.) Now PETA's been shot down again by the NBC suits, this time over an ad the group had hoped to air during -- wait for it -- the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. The commercial opens with a family gathering for Thanksgiving dinner, but when the little girl at the table is asked to say grace, she thanks God for the turkey, which came from a farm "where they pack turkeys into dark little sheds for their whole lives, where they burn their feathers off while they're still alive," and where the turkeys "get kicked around like a football by people who think it's fun to stomp on their little turkey heads." The girl then gives special thanks "for all the chemicals and dirt and poop that's in the turkey we're about to eat."
What a precocious little scamp, that kid. I know somebody who won't mind being sent to her room without supper.
Obviously, NBC standards and practices brought the ax down on the ad like it was the soft flesh of a turkey's neck. Even more obviously, it doesn't matter one bit -- PETA never really intended to get the thing on the air anyway. As far as the group is concerned, the controversy over once again having a commercial banned from network television is as valuable in pushing its message as actually getting it broadcast. Although it admittedly would've been entertaining to watch the fireworks had an unsuspecting America suddenly seen its parade -- and its Thanksgiving preparations -- interrupted by Little Miss Turkey Shop of Horrors.
Was NBC right to shoot down the ad? Yeah, actually -- it was. It's rare that I choose decorum over a little good-natured subversion, but even I'm capable of accepting that there really is a time and a place for everything. You don't beat the viewers of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, many of whom are children, over the head with incendiary political messages -- particularly not ones that deal in turkey feces. First of all, if your supposed goal is to stop people from eating turkey on Thanksgiving then the ad's completely ineffective anyway, given that there isn't a soul out there who's going to throw out his or her entire meal at 10am on Thanksgiving morning -- even if the kids are now crying at the thought of little turkey heads being crushed underfoot. If PETA's intention were really to make a difference on Thanksgiving day, the ad would've been running for weeks now.
Beyond that, though, the ad itself is somewhat disingenuous -- which isn't a surprise if you know anything at all about PETA. It ends with the tagline "Go Vegan," which essentially means that entreaties made to viewers to consider their own health when they sit down for dinner -- you know, all those chemicals and dirt and poop -- are nothing but, pardon the pun, red herrings. Vegans generally don't choose not to eat animal products out of a concern for their own well-being; they do it out of a concern for the animal's. It would've been one thing if PETA had been pushing vegetarianism; an argument can be made there that eating vegetables is, for the most part, less dangerous in the long run than eating red meat, or even chicken or turkey, these days. But the reality is that PETA doesn't really give a crap about you, or your family for that matter -- all it cares about is the animal you want to have for dinner. PETA doesn't want your Thanksgiving turkey to be treated more humanely in the days and months leading up to you eating it -- it doesn't want you eating it at all.
There's been a lot of debate recently over a new book called, pointedly, Eating Animals, by entirely too pretentious best-selling author Jonathan Safran Foer. In it, Foer retreads ground already well-broken-in by guys like Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser, and Michael Pollan, who wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma. The main gist of Eating Animals is that the industrial agribusiness system in this country -- the big "factory farm" as we know it -- is slowly poisoning both us and the environment. Foer makes plenty of points worth giving serious consideration to -- admittedly, it's a daunting notion to entirely trust a profit-based leviathan like the American factory farm industry with the food we put into our bodies -- but it should surprise no one that he approached the material with a conclusion already well in mind and is hamstrung by his own sanctimony and desire to push a personal agenda. Still, that's not stopping some of the usual suspects within the always delightful liberal intelligentsia from glomming onto Foer and his findings; after all, if you happen to agree with his agenda, why wouldn't you?
Environmental activist Laurie David, who produced Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, took to the pages of the Huffington Post a few days ago to slam a write-up of Eating Animals (a book she calls a "game-changer") by the New York Times. David was furious that the author of the book review had the temerity to ask a question that rightly gets leveled at PETA and animal rights activists quite a bit -- namely, why when there are people who are starving around the world, people who could ostensibly be fed by large farms, should anyone really worry about the plight of an animal stuck in a cage that's too small? David's evisceration of the writer was based around an argument that really caught my attention. Her point: Caring is not a zero-sum game. According to David, there's room to care for both the humans suffering from hunger -- and other various tragedies and crises for that matter -- and the animals suffering in factory farms.
Except there isn't -- not for everyone.
And here's where I answer my own question from earlier: No, I just don't have the time or the inclination to concern myself with how the animals I eat are treated.
I of course don't want to see animals tortured needlessly, but as heartless as this may sound I think I'm like a lot of Americans when I say that I actually do have only a limited reservoir of empathy and compassion and I've learned to personally prioritize the way in which it's dispensed. The reason for this isn't so much that I honestly just don't give a damn, it's that I understand that if you let every injustice claw at your insides you eventually lose the ability to function. Call this a cop-out or a defense mechanism or what have you, I simply have more pressing issues to concern myself with than whether the bacon I ate for breakfast was comfortable up until its untimely death. Once again this will sound awful, but as long as you're not slaughtering the thing in my front yard, I'm good. I eat meat -- and turkey and chicken and fish and just about anything else -- because I enjoy it. I'm an adventurous eater and always have been. As Anthony Bourdain famously said, "My body isn't a temple, it's an amusement park."
This way of thinking is also very likely the reason that I don't spend too much time dwelling on just what might be in the food that I eat. I actually do eat quite healthy these days, but not healthy to the point where I pick apart every little thing to ensure that it's never been near a chemical or pumped with an occasional preservative. Admittedly, both Jayne and I are much more careful about what we feed Inara, but she still eats animal products and neither of us lets it paralyze us with fear or make us run screaming into the streets at the horror of a cow being bled out.
Why? Because I believe that a person's wants and needs are more important than the well-being of cattle. Call me a savage -- that's just the way it is.
But that's obviously not the way PETA thinks. In the eyes of PETA and Ingrid Newkirk -- who's been called everything from a demagogic militant to a full-on sociopath, with good reason -- the safety of an animal, any animal, is not only as valuable as the wants and needs of a human being; it's just as important as the very life of that human being. Newkirk after all is the same woman who once wrote Yassir Arafat to plead with him to stop using donkeys in suicide bombing attacks (while ignoring the people he was killing); she's the same person who backs the terrorist Animal Liberation Front in its campaign to free research animals that save human lives every single day; the same woman who wants to ban seeing-eye dogs; the person who wrote to Al Gore to lecture him on the fact that he eats meat, which she claims is antithetical to caring for the environment; the one who says fish should be called "sea kittens."
The woman who believes, "The smallest form of life, even an ant or a clam, is equal to a human being."
This is the kind of lunacy Ingrid Newkirk espouses and acts on day after day after day.
But here's the thing: Ingrid Newkirk may be completely off her rocker, but she's by no means stupid. She has to know that her methods, tactics and beliefs will do little more than rally millions to stand not simply against her cause but vehemently against it. Newkirk and PETA don't just antagonize those you would think they're hoping to win over -- they create an army of people who out-and-out hate them. Trying to hit America in the face with turkey torture during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is not what you'd call a good P.R. strategy. It's a great way to make people despise you and your cause -- which doesn't save one single animal. All it does is feed your gargantuan ego and your need to, literally and figuratively, stir the pot. It seems as if these people aren't activists so much as narcissists -- as if theirs is at times an entirely self-indulgent endeavor.
That's too bad, because you would think that the plight of defenseless animals would be an easy sell -- and, yes, a necessary one.
Although I've already admitted that I have the ability to put that plight out of my mind and just enjoy my meal, which I'm sure is why PETA is hoping to force me and millions of others to confront the realities of the modern American food chain.
The thing is, it still won't change my mind about my Thanksgiving dinner or anything else I choose to eat.
And I doubt I'm the only one who feels that way.
Monday, May 17, 2010
A slightly edited version of the Polanski piece from last night has been on the front page -- as well as the main entertainment page -- of the Huffington Post all day.
Feel free to peruse the comment section and marvel at some of the faux-intellectual self-satisfaction that's pretty much the hallmark of a good portion of the HuffPo peanut gallery.
I'd repost some of the more entertaining contributions here, but I'm just way too fucking tired. Suffice it to say, while a lot of conservatives these days wear their willful ignorance proudly on their sleeves, the same number of liberals just can't help reveling in the ability to over-think even the most unambiguous subject -- especially if they've recently watched an indie documentary on it.
On the plus side, it's fun knowing that there's an unrelated piece by Bernard-Henri Lévy also up at HuffPo right now.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Roman Polanski is accused of molesting a young girl.
Anyone who's watched or read the news for longer than a few minutes this weekend probably knows that 42-year-old Charlotte Lewis -- who was once 16-year-old Charlotte Lewis, drop-dead-gorgeous star of Polanski's unmemorable 1986 film Pirates and who later became the only thing worth looking at in The Golden Child -- is now coming forward to claim that Polanski essentially raped her during an early audition for his movie. Why she waited 26 years to speak up about an incident that she says she'll "never forgive Polanski" for is one of those things I'm not going to dare get into. Whether you're willing to believe her story now, after all this time, kind of cuts to the core of childhood sex abuse claims made by adults or accusations of rape made long after the fact; it likely reveals just which side of the fence you generally come down on in cases like this.
I can appreciate Lewis's assertion that she simply got tired of watching Hollywood and the European intelligentsia shamelessly rally around and cover for a guy as rotten as Polanski, just because they happen to consider him one of their own. But that still doesn't explain why she didn't crack last year, when the entertainment world's heaviest hitters unforgivably began adding their names to a petition in support of Polanski, and pompous assholes like Bernard-Henri Lévy were penning impassioned diatribes from on high that both sung the praises of the director and decried the supposedly puritanical forces aligning against him from the ignorant unwashed across the pond. Once again, though, who's to say how any specific person should or will react to a traumatic experience in his or her own life? It's up to you to decide if you're willing to take someone like Charlotte Lewis at her word and not immediately try to sniff out some sinister ulterior motive on her part.
Personally, I don't think it's much of a stretch to imagine Polanski plying a hot 16-year-old with champagne and then screwing her -- the same way I don't think it takes a huge leap of logic to assume that the same 16-year-old aspiring actress would use her beauty and sexuality -- or at the very least allow it to be used -- to get her a part she desperately wanted. That Polanski happens to have a proven track record of pulling grotesque shit like this only goes to further remove any benefit of the doubt somebody might be inclined to give him; that Lewis had her coming out party during a press conference called by none other than her new counsel, diabolically opportunistic puppet-master Gloria Allred -- a woman who never met a camera she didn't like or couldn't damage irreparably with her steely Medusan gaze -- suddenly makes her intentions seem more than a little suspect.
The bottom line, though, is that Lewis's claim -- true or false -- changes nothing. Not a damn thing. Anyone with an even perfunctory sense of right and wrong already knew that Roman Polanski was a despicable little toad who gets off on preying on young girls and gives himself a pass for it because he's an artist; one more accusation thrown into the mix isn't going to alter that perception, possibly not even in court. As hopelessly cliché as this may sound, it'll eventually come down to her word against his, and in the end he'll win. No, what matters is that no one needs to accuse Polanski of anything at this point. That's because he's already been convicted. From the very beginning of the "debate" over whether or not Roman Polanski should be forced to return to the United States to face justice for the rape of a young girl -- that would be the 13-year-old he was proven to have molested -- the whole thing has been bogged down by misguided apologists for Polanski who've tried to take your, my and everyone else's eye off the ball. They've done it by muddying up the otherwise crystalline waters with irrelevant points and extraneous arguments; they've done it by making the legacy of the State of California v. Roman Polanski about the supposed vagaries inherent in rape cases -- instead of about the simple, irrefutable fact that faced with an outcome he didn't like, Polanski ran. He chose to become a fugitive. He was convicted in the court of the state and country where he committed his crime -- yet he never accepted a sentence other than one he decided for himself, that he felt he deserved. That's not the way it works. He's not above the law.
If Roman Polanski really did force himself on a young Charlotte Lewis, then that's sickening and obviously a very serious tragedy for her personally -- one she's had to come to terms with throughout her life. But make no mistake: The people of the state of California don't need the testimony of Lewis to make a case against Polanski. They already did, 33-years ago -- and they won.
The rest, Polanski did all by himself.
Here now is the original piece I wrote for this site and the Huffington Post in response to the arrest of Roman Polanski back in September of last year.
"The Fall of Roman" (Originally Published, 9.29.09)
I'll try to make this quick.
Roman Polanski needs to come back to the United States and face his conviction for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Period.
Why? Because he intentionally ran out on the justice system in the country where he committed his crime and has never been held accountable for what he did by standards that weren't his own. Simple as that.
Now, does he deserve prison time? Does he deserve mercy? These are questions for others to debate so I'm not going to bother getting into them, but one byproduct of the admittedly surprising arrest of Polanski in Switzerland really is worth exploring, because it's something that should leave a bad taste in the mouth of just about everyone, yet strangely doesn't. I'm talking about the idea that Roman Polanski should somehow be considered above the law because he's a talented artist.
It took all of a few hours after Polanski's arrest in Zurich for the notoriously pompous European artist community to rush to his defense, claiming outrage and indignation at the notion that Polanski could be impolitely busted while visiting Switzerland to receive a lifetime achievement award for his filmography. They're calling it a "provocation." The implication is crystal clear: There is often an unnavigable gulf between the artist and his work and, dammit, that's okay; you can honor the man's abilities without letting your paean be tarnished by any of the nastier realities of who he is or what he's done. If this kind of nonsense sounds familiar, it's because we all just lived through weeks of it when Michael Jackson died. Although it's never wise to willfully trample on someone's grave, you can't simply pay tribute to an artist's talents without recognizing that there's a very real person who may be guilty of very real crimes at the center of your love-fest.
And yet Europe's artistic community -- specifically French, Swiss and Polish filmmakers and cultural trendsetters -- seem to truly believe that Roman Polanski's abilities should amount to a Get Out of Jail Free card. That it's okay if the stereotypically tortured artist broke a few eggs along the way as long as the omelet came out looking like The Pianist. That in the end, the greater good was served by having Polanski free to make movies.
Just some of the reaction to the arrest: "(Polanski was) thrown to the lions," says says French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand, melodramatically. "In the same way that there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America that has just shown its face."
"(He has) atoned for the sins of his young years. He has paid for it by not being able to enter the U.S. and in his professional life he has paid for it by not being able to make films in Hollywood," says Jacek Bromski, head of the Polish Filmmakers Association.
You're kidding, right? Roman Polanski has paid for raping a kid by not being able to live in Hollywood and being forced to make his movies -- and his vast fortunes -- in France? A comment like that is just shocking in its detachment from the reality you and I call home.
It's true we let talented people -- from musicians, to actors, to athletes -- get away with quite a bit more than the Average Joe in our society. As Chris Rock famously said, if OJ Simpson had been simply "Orenthal the Bus Driving Murderer," he would've been in jail twelve years ago. But there's a difference between admitting that we can occasionally be starstruck blind and literally making excuses for someone's criminal behavior because they happen to entertain us with their music, movies, etc. Once again, I'm not arguing whether or not Roman Polanski belongs in prison; I'm saying that he shouldn't be able to avoid prison just because he's Roman Polanski.
We can let our entertainers get away with being assholes -- but not rapists. In a case like this, you can't separate Polanski the man from Polanski the artist. And it's reprehensible to even try.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
"Just out of curiosity — exactly how much of a wuss does your God have to be, do you think, if he can’t take being picked on by a Swedish cartoonist? I almost can’t wait to see which fringe/attention-hungry satirist decides to make himself a Canal Plus documentary subject by publishing the next image of The Prophet. Can we all take bets on this? I’m lobbying hard for the next Rob Schneider movie — maybe a supernatural-themed sequel, like Deuce Bigalow 3: Gigolo of the Eternal Afterlife or something – to include a bi-curious Mohammed scene."
-- Matt Taibbi on last week's attack on a Swedish cartoonist who dared to draw an image of the Prophet Mohammed depicted as a dog
Despite my best efforts, I haven't been able to ignore the fact that Sex and the City 2: Postmenopausal will be exploding into theaters on a wave of needy girl excitement later this month.
There's already been an amusing little controversy over just how extensively the four leads had to be airbrushed to make them appear even mildly palatable in the movie's posters and ads, given that they're all well into their 70s by now and one of them is a horse. But lately, after paying a little more attention to the commercials for this thing, I've noticed that there seems to be something else at work in the film that pushes the suspension of disbelief well beyond the breaking point.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't a major plot point in the Sex and the City sequel that our plucky heroines jet off to Abu-Dhabi for a "girl's" vacation?
It's true, yeah?
So let's see if I've got this right: Four sexually liberated American women, at least one of whom openly brags about how she drinks semen for breakfast -- whose entire ethos, at least in theory, is rooted in the modern metropolitan woman's refusal to render herself subservient to the tradition of male superiority -- these four "girls" decide they're gonna take their act to an Arab country.
You know, if this movie had anything even approaching a realistic ending, I'd be the first in line to see it.
Oh, and if somebody could please make the obvious joke about Lawrence of Arabia "riding" Carrie -- that'd be gold.
Friday, May 14, 2010
There's always one thing you can count on when it comes to the far-right, particularly in the South: They wear their ignorance and stupidity like a badge of honor.
Just watch the first maybe ten seconds of this campaign commercial from disgraced former Alabama judge Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore, and try not face-plant into your keyboard -- although by now, this kind of hillbilly horseshit should come as no shock whatsoever.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
"Obama came into office promising change and people clutched that to their breasts and ran off in every direction thinking that their pet liberal/progressive cause finally had a champion who would make everything all better overnight. But sometimes change is gradual and, now sixteen months later, he is unacceptable. Quite frankly the country Obama inherited is a fucking mess and, while I’m not entirely thrilled with everything that has gone down under him, I’m willing to cut him some slack. So, have a little faith. This is not the end of the world. Pick your battles wisely and, seriously: chill the fuck out. (Again)"
-- TBogg at Firedoglake, on liberals who are screaming bloody murder about Obama's nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court
Couldn't have said it better myself. Of course I wouldn't want to be the one Jane Hamsher comes after with a kitchen knife.
These guys already scored one of the best covers ever with their absolutely mind-blowing version of Running Up That Hill; this rendition of another 80s classic is a bit more by-the-numbers, but the original stands as one of my all-time favorite songs, so it's worth popping up.
Here's Placebo, doing Nik Kershaw's Wouldn't It Be Good?
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
"Let's take a ride in Bill (Whites)'s Way-Back Machine, shall we?:
'Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.'
-- James Madison, 1774
'How has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?'
-- John Adams, 1816
'Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth... I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology.'
-- Thomas Jefferson (whose original words in the Declaration of Independence read 'All men are created equal and independent. From that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable,' which Congress later changed to include a reference to a creator).
'Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by the difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be depreciated.'
--George Washington, 1792
'I wish [Christianity] were more productive of good works ... I mean real good works, not holy-day keeping, sermon-hearing, or making long prayers, filled with flatteries and compliments despised by wise men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity.'
-- Benjamin Franklin
'Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half of the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind.'
A five minute google search is all you need to see that our secular, deist, Freemason founding fathers were practically falling over each other to keep religion out of the framework of the new, enlightened government they had created."
-- Votar, responding to the Sarah Palin Quote of the Day regarding our invoked-to-death Founding Fathers' supposed feelings on the subject of the link between church and state
Congratulations, Votar. You've won yourself a half-eaten roll of Certs (now with a tiny drop of Retsyn).
Special "Photoshop of the Week" credits go, as usual, to Greg -- who earns the first ever "Chez's Evil Twin Garth Honorary Award for Most Inspired Simultaneous Desecration of a Religious and Cultural Icon" for the utterly offensive and thoroughly brilliant image. This could actually be the first time in the history of this site that I feel like I probably just punched my ticket to hell.
"Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant. They're quite clear -- that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the Ten Commandments."
-- Sarah Palin
Cesca's right: At this point, this daffy jackass may as well get her own special category -- just say the hell with it and give "Sarah Palin Quote of the Day" a separate label.
Released in 1992 (which as I've mentioned before was, as far as I'm concerned, the best year for music in my lifetime), Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy's debut album was a triumph of that early subgenre of rap known as social consciousness hip-hop. In fact, Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury really may stand as one of the landmark albums in the entire rap game, period -- tackling subjects from violent homophobia, to war in the Middle East, to the destructive power of cacophonous television, and doing it all in stark, unequivocating terms.
What's really amazing, though, is that I happened to be going through some old compilation CDs the other day and came across this, the opening track from that album, and was instantly struck by how astonishingly relevant it is right now. Sure, a couple of the references are undeniably dated -- but more than a few of them aren't. Replace one or two words and it could easily have been written a week ago.
Proof that the more things change...
Here's Satanic Reverses.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Think this is interesting? Wait til Playgirl does it.
The Telegraph UK: Playboy Centerfold Goes 3D/5.11.10
When I look back over the history of this site, which celebrates its fourth "birthday" this month, I'm struck quite a bit by what stands out to me that didn't used to. Throughout its history, DXM has always acted as a kind of mirror -- occasionally the funhouse kind -- held up to my own life. This means that no matter what I was writing about -- whether it was personal or political -- where I was in my own headspace was always almost shamelessly obvious. This is depressing in and of itself.
The following piece was rerun once before, two years ago -- but hasn't been on the main page since. At the time I wrote it, I hated it, considering it nothing more than a jumbled, stream-of-a-wrecked-consciousness mess. But interestingly, a lot of readers responded very positively to it, and looking back on the emotions and state-of-mind that it conveys both in spoken and unspoken terms, not only have I grown to appreciate it over the years -- I now consider the whole thing laughably quaint, taking into account the events that have transpired since and where I am today.
"The Dreams in Which I'm Dying" (Originally Published, 12.19.06)
During most of the trip, we listened to BBC Radio One, which as good fortune would have it is one of the 653,287 channels available on Sirius satellite radio -- a special feature my friend Chris was sure to request when he rented the car we would be using to cruise around Las Vegas. The music on Radio One is generally very good (a lot of material not heard here in the states). The DJ's are, well, to co-opt an appropriate phrase, bloody brilliant (Scott Mills spent one afternoon buying Christmas presents for those on his list by calling QVC and ordering whatever happened to be on-screen at that particular moment, despite not being able to see exactly what kind of God-awful crap he was purchasing). The news being reported by Radio One at the time, however, was ominous (a prolific serial killer was working his way through Ipswich's prostitutes, evoking memories of another legendary British murderer with a taste for women of the night). These snippets of carnage from eight time-zones away provided a strange contrast to the neon-lit, sugar-coated, overglossed surroundings in which we had chosen to immerse ourselves for five days. Vegas after all, in spite of an undeniably malevolent underbelly, is still America's playground -- a place where people come from miles around to indulge in gambling, $5.99 prime rib and the comedic stylings of Carrot Top, who as it turned out was annoying nightly in our very hotel.
There were moments, though, that I couldn't help but wonder if the fictional forensic detectives of the Vegas CSI wouldn't somehow be able to assist the overwhelmed DCIs in Ipswich with their hooker killer -- or at the very least turn down the lights in their squad room to make it look less like a police station and more like a lounge with a $20 cover charge.
Needless to say, I tried to put the serial killer out of my mind and go on about my way enjoying the massive hotel suite my wife had secured for the two of us -- with its whirlpool bath and unrivaled view of the strip; the days driving out to Red Rock Canyon and beyond; and of course the nights eating venison at Bobby Flay's and caviar at Red Square, losing money at the Hard Rock casino, drinking beer by the gallon and dancing on the tables at the Hofbrauhaus, and the highlight of the trip: hosting an impromptu party in our room which involved several bottles of Makers Mark, a deck of cards, Cuban cigars, and watching Jackass Number Two on Spectravision.
Good times and good friends, making good memories. It's tough to ask for much more.
Despite an excellent turn of events which deposited our tired asses on a flight back to New York that was practically empty -- allowing us the comfort of stretching out and relaxing -- my and Jayne's return to reality was marked by the kind of general malaise we've come to expect whenever one of our mini-vacations comes to its inevitably abrupt end. Neither of us was ready to return to the day-to-day drudgery of our lives here in the Manhattan meat-grinder -- she with her very long hours, me with my very bad hours -- both of us slaves to an unpredictable subway schedule and a pathetic wage. For me personally, it was a situation made worse when I, in fact, returned to work to find that the "big story" holding the rapt attention of my superiors centered around three missing mountain climbers who'd gotten themselves lost somewhere on Mount Hood in Oregon. It seemed nothing less than an attempt to create and perpetuate a national obsession with an ongoing incident that in my mind merited no more than a passing glance or two before each weather segment -- one which had been blown so far out of proportion as to become an infuriating waste of time and resources, both for the overworked rescue crews forced to put their own lives in jeopardy to help find these three idiots who were selfish and stupid enough to take the risk of going up the mountain in the first place, and for the network news crews covering the search. My first day back, however, did yield at least one hilariously Darwinist moment which helped to put the possible mindset of the missing climbers into quick perspective: With cameras from around the country trained on her, the mother of one of the hikers made an impassioned plea to Mother Nature herself, saying, "I want the mountain to release our sons. The mountain has no right to keep our sons." It was at this moment that I realized that the cost of the search -- whatever that may have been -- was money and effort well-spent.
Later, during that first day back at work, it was announced that an arrest had been made in the case of the Ipswich serial murders.
I read over the incoming wire reports carefully, then purposely ratcheted my focus away from them -- well aware that my co-workers might consider my fascination with the case to be unduly morbid and probably a little disturbing.
I chose instead to concentrate on the surprising fact that I, yes I, had been chosen to receive the honor of being named Time magazine's "Person of the Year."
And I hadn't even prepared a speech.
As the magazine described in tones both glowing and effusive, I had apparently changed the world over the past year by taking control of what I and those around me saw, heard and felt. I had changed the political landscape through blogging. I had taken record executives out behind the figurative tool shed with a figurative rifle by downloading whatever kind of music I wanted to hear -- callously and insousciantly tossing aside their notions of what should and shouldn't be popular. I had become my own network executive by ordering television shows quite literally "on demand." I had made myself seen and heard through sites like MySpace and YouTube and through that, had become the single most powerful person in the world -- master of my own little info-tainment universe. I was the king of all I surveyed.
My immediate reaction to this, the official coronation of the new "Me" generation, was to feel a smile curl at the sides of my mouth. Certainly the editors of Time had made a choice which was not only assuredly clever, but one with which no one reading the magazine would dare argue. It was the ultimate crowd-pleaser, slyly cast in the form of a desire to appeal to no crowd whatsoever.
My second reaction was to agree that indeed, in some ways I was worthy of such an honor. Over the past year, I had, after all, started my own website which I continued to use to air my views, hone my skills, promote myself as a writer and develop a surprisingly extensive fan-base. I had staked out a virtual apartment on MySpace which I used to promote my other site and further increase my visibility; I had also made a few new "friends" in the process -- one even being BBC Radio One DJ Scott Mills, from whom I fully expect to receive a set of QVC's Fenton Art Glass Legacy Bell figurines at any moment. I had contributed to the financial ruin of one of my old haunts, Tower Records, by downloading my music on-line and, in a somewhat ironic twist given my chosen profession, had even thumbed my nose at the television ratings system and the advertisers it kept in business by opting to watch Battlestar Galactica on its new Chez-approved, on-demand time of 10am Sunday mornings.
These quiet musings led me to wonder whether I'd be a just king or an iron-fisted demagogue -- whether I'd rule my domain with justice and mercy, or oppressive brutality. I had been single-handedly responsible for killing off the old world and shrugging off its bonds, I deserved to wallow in the spoils, didn't I?
But then came another reaction -- one I've grown far too accustomed to lately -- and it brought my dreams of avarice crashing down around me.
I felt tears begin to pool in my eyes, and I was forced to get up from my desk and surreptitiously make my way to the bathroom where I found an empty stall in which to sit and quietly cry.
This is the way it's been for some time now.
This is because I suffer from severe depression.
There's a difference between being melancholy and being truly, clinically depressed. I've always reveled in a certain amount of melancholy, and mined that territory to fuel my artistic endeavors throughout the years. It's a well-worn stereotype that writers have an inherently sad streak -- being that the very act of writing is one done in isolation, far outside the scrutinous realm of polite society. This, however -- the way I feel these days -- is different. Despite my wish to believe otherwise, I'm forced to acknowledge that the brain surgery I underwent back in April of this year changed me monumentally -- both physically and mentally. I've mentioned before that the face I see in the mirror no longer resembles the face I've been staring at for years into decades, and I've come to realize that this is not simply a natural product of the aging process. The pinball-sized tumor which lived in my head for God-knows-how-long warped my brain chemistry and destroyed a good portion of the gland which regulates my hormones. The result is that my skin -- once a supple and oily indicator of my Italian heritage -- is now dry, cracked and papery-thin due to a lack of testosterone. The lack of that same hormone has also decreased my sex-drive to practically nil, and although I admit that it's somewhat refreshing to be mercifully free from the tyranny of my own penis for the first time in my life, it's put a strain on the desire of my wife and I to start a family.
I'm constantly exhausted. I rarely have the drive to do anything other than sleep. I have painfully vivid dreams from which I typically wake up sobbing. I feel desperate and alone, even when I'm surrounded by people I love and who love me. I'm a walking pharmacy of pills and hormone replacements.
I sat in the bathtub in Vegas, crying to myself, when no one was looking.
I have no doubt that there are outside factors contributing to my current state-of-mind: turning 37 and being forced to take stock of a life which bears little resemblance to the one I had hoped for for myself and my loved ones; the continuing pressure of a career which I lost a hunger for years ago; the long, cold nights and short days of winter; as I recently stated in no uncertain terms, the overwhelming feeling and punishing belief that I'm damaged beyond repair; and then, most recently, the last-minute collapse of what would have been a stellar and potentially lucrative book deal. It's all been a lot to swallow whole.
At the core of it, though, is the tumor, and its lasting effect on who I am -- on my sense-of-self. It's a disconcerting feeling beyond description to simply not feel like the person you've been for so long. It's also a feeling that can't be put into words in any meaningful way. How do I feel? I can't explain it; I just don't feel like me.
The most portentous by-product of this feeling -- the very recent weight of it -- is the effect that it's had on my writing. I promised long ago that this little experiment of mine would never become so self-indulgent as to be an ongoing description of what was happening to me right now, at this moment. To put it succinctly, this blog would never be a "blog," in the traditional sense. I wanted to write about universal themes and voice my admittedly worthless opinion on a host of issues and, aside from a few rare occasions when I've felt the absolute need to wear my heart on my virtual sleeve, I hope I've done just that. Anything else wouldn't make for any sort of good reading by anyone -- not even myself. That's the problem I now find myself faced with though: I've used this site not so much to help me cathartically work through my own personal tragedies as I have to spin some of that pain and discomfort into gold in the hope of landing an audience, and in turn, a career as a writer. This is a different situation if only because it's caused me -- for the first time since starting this site seven months ago -- to be an unfocused mess who can't seem to string together a series of clear thoughts, much less perform at my usual level of semi-hilarious pithiness.
So where do I go from here?
To a counselor of course and -- despite advice to the contrary from internationally-renowned neurologist Dr. Tom Cruise -- to a psychiatrist.
The one promise that I'm willing to make is that I will do my absolute damndest to make sure that my output on these pages doesn't suffer. Over the past seven months, this has been one of my few true joys -- one my wife has recognized and encouraged -- and I refuse to allow it to suffer, even if I do occasionally. The show must go on, and it damn well will.
On my second day back at work, after spending an evening pondering whether or not I was worthy to be crowned "Person of the Year" by the gentle mental giants over at Time, I learned more about the suspect in custody in Ipswich.
I learned that he was 37-years-old.
I learned that he had a site on MySpace.
I learned that he, too, had been named Time magazine's Person of the Year.