Friday, September 30, 2011
Wrapping up our look back at the rise of the Seattle sound, 20 years later -- here's a band a lot of people forget came out of Seattle around the time of the titans. Rather than pummel you over the head, the Posies opted for swirling guitars and a whole lot of impressive harmnoies.
Here's Definite Door.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
"We're glad that Mr. Wickersham is going to be OK, but we do hope that after this painful and frightening experience he will consider the terror and pain fish feel when they are impaled and suffocated to death. Maybe he will consider taking up another pastime."
PETA spokesperson Ashley Byrne, referring to a San Francisco man who was attacked by a shark while spear-fishing last weekend
The attack was the impetus for PETA's latest contrivedly shocking ad campaign; that's it above.
For what it's worth, I'm not sure even a shark would bother eating a vegan since I have to imagine they taste terrible. But I do love the implication that maybe if this poor bastard hadn't been out fishing the shark probably would've given him a pass. Love to test both theories by tossing a bunch of vegans into a tank full of great whites somewhere.
Also, I have a fantasy that involves Ingrid Newkirk and a plane-load of PETA personnel crashing in the Andes and being forced to resort to cannibalism.
"Well, I've changed the course of music five or six times. What have you done except fuck the president?"
-- Miles Davis to Nancy Reagan at a White House dinner, after she asked what he'd done to merit an invitation
Is this quote for real? Who the hell knows, but I'd really like to imagine it is.
Yesterday marked 20 years since Miles's death and, in case you haven't noticed, things just haven't been the same without him.
Here's Miles and Coltrane -- So What.
Our theme week looking back on the rise of the Seattle sound continues with a surprising facet to one of the most powerful bands of that or any other genre.
Here's Alice in Chains performing acoustically.
This is Brother.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
"Christian God is the one and only true living God, the creator of Heaven and the Universe! ... I love Jesus! Jesus Christ is God! Jesus Christ is the son of God! ... Jesus Christ is god, Barack Obama is the Antichrist!"
-- Anonymous heckler at last night's House of Blues fundraiser event in Los Angeles as President Obama was speaking
I'm too busy right now to be able to come up with a decent punchline -- and luckily with this I don't have to.
In the words of the kid from Animal House: "Thank you, God!"
I hadn't planned on doing this and I'm generally not a huge fan of theme weeks for the daily Listening Posts I foist upon you nice people, but late last night I watched PJ20 for the second time and couldn't get over the deep and wide range of emotions it once again brought out in me. The aching nostalgia I felt for both a wonderfully innocent time in the lives of me and my close friends -- not all of whom made it out of that era alive -- and, of course, the wide-eyed enthusiasm we all felt when being smacked in the face with a blistering new brand of rock and roll that in fact wasn't really new at all.
We hated the Generation X label, and yet we fully embraced the notion that this was our music -- that something had finally come along that paid tribute to the best parts of the past while forging a thoroughly original path forward.
And it started with guys like Andy Wood.
Before there was Pearl Jam, there was the mighty Mother Love Bone.
This is Holy Roller.
Monday, September 26, 2011
More Nirvana references for you, I guess.
Just wanted to let everyone know that it might be a bit of a hit and miss week around here. I've got a lot of things on my plate right now that are either going to preoccupy me or keep me away from my computer keyboard entirely.
Thanks in advance for your understanding.
I used to jokingly refer to Smells Like Teen Spirit as the musical version of the Kennedy Assassination. As in, the song packed such a profoundly overwhelming punch that chances are you probably remember where you were the first time you heard it.
I happened to be at a Metal and Hard Rock convention in Los Angeles -- the kind that at that time was still packed with a whole lot of guys sporting impossibly massive hair and all ridiculous manner of cowboy boots -- and had decided to tool around the city in a rented convertible with friends when KROQ fired the first shot that would inevitably become an onslaught. The DJ broke the new song from a Seattle band called Nirvana; we all listened, exclaiming a disbelieving "holy shit" at least three or four times throughout its 4:38 run time; we eventually drove back to the hotel, our eyes having been opened, and wandered amongst the instantly rendered relics of the past with the knowledge that, whether they knew it or not, a meteor had just struck the Earth that was destined to doom the dinosaurs. Everything would change in rock and roll; you knew that immediately.
Yes, it's been said often, many different ways and as enthusiastically as possible but it's always true: Nirvana's Nevermind was an epochal, once-in-a-generation record.
And yesterday, it turned 20 years old.
Here's On a Plain, performed live.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Rick Perry’s New Michael Bay Trailer; Republican Branding of Patriotism; Keeping Up with the News; Ralph Nader is a Troll; The Death Penalty and Troy Davis; "Bobby Flay's Dick Move"; and much more. Brought to you by Bubble Genius.
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"We have to move forward with conforming with what was happening in the past."
-- Rick Santorum at last night's Republican debate on Fox News
Chances are you've seen it by now, and if you haven't I promise you probably will several times throughout the day, but this statement was made while Santorum was answering a question submitted on YouTube by a U.S. soldier currently fighting in Iraq. The soldier wanted to know if any of the Republican candidates would work to circumvent the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell if elected president -- that's because the soldier happens to be gay.
The response of several members of the live audience at the debate to this question -- to a United States soldier who volunteered to put his life on the line in defense of this country?
They booed him. Loudly.
For those keeping score, so far at these GOP debates we've seen crowds of supposedly hyper-moral and unfalteringly patriotic conservatives applaud 234 executions, cheer for the death of the uninsured, and now verbally attack a U.S. soldier because he's gay and doesn't feel like pretending he isn't just to calm the nerves of those whose fragile sensibilities require them to go on believing that gay men and women don't exist.
And that's really what it's all about, the meaning behind the above quote: The conservative movement has always been terrified of change and progress -- like cavemen batting at raindrops, anything new that intrudes upon their limited view of the world and shatters the bubble they exist in either by choice or circumstance they lash out at angrily. I mentioned on the podcast this week that you should never be fooled when a GOP candidate or elected official tells you that he or she believes that America's best days are ahead of her. This is 100% bullshit. Now more than ever before, Republicanism means not simply an embrace of the past but a fetishistic lionization of it, and a cold-sweat-inducing fear of the future. These people cannot come to grips with the fact that the world and the country are changing: that a black man can become president, a gay man or woman can serve in the military with distinction, or that instant mass communication has helped to democratize the world and rendered the notion of imperial patriotism -- to say nothing of the global respect and admiration of America as a shining city on the hill -- somewhat obsolete and most certainly tired.
So many of them long to return to the comforts of a nostalgically idealized past -- when things weren't so damn confusing. Like Brooks getting out of prison after fifty years in The Shawshank Redemption, they're overwhelmed by how insane the world has become and they just want to go back inside their prison where it's nice and safe. Who gives a shit if there are bars on the windows -- turns out they keep the ugly world out as much as they keep you in.
So, yeah -- they booed a U.S. soldier. Because he's gay.
Think of that, read the above quite yet again, and it becomes crystal clear that all that stuff about looking toward the future is a bunch of crap. In the mind of the average conservative, America will never again have another day as good as yesterday.
It still leaves me dumbfounded to think that Pearl Jam have been around for 20 years -- and that, in fact, we're kind of celebrating in general the 20th anniversary of the era in which a whole slew of bands from Seattle shook the world and saved rock and roll.
I can say without hesitation that Pearl Jam's April 23rd, 1992 show at the Cameo Theater on Miami Beach remains to this day the best concert I've ever been to. It wasn't just a rock show -- it was a religious gathering.
If you haven't seen Cameron Crowe's incredible PJ 20 documentary yet, you really need to.
From '92, here's the band covering Rockin' in the Free World.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
"Hey, One Million Moms. Guess what. The whole god damn world doesn’t revolve around you and your stupid kid. Ben and Jerrys can make an ice cream with fish hooks and ecstasy tabs in it for all I care. Your kid, your problem. Leave the rest of us alone. And I bet that for every letter you write demanding this be stopped your husbands will write 2 demanding more if that's what it takes to keep your fat asses away from ice cream."
-- Brendon at What Would Tyler Durden Do, on the "One Million Moms" protest against Ben & Jerry's "Schweddy Balls" ice cream
It's important to remember that the humorless harridans collectively known as One Million Moms make up an offshoot of the ultra-conservative American Family Association, so their daffy indignation here should surprise no one.
You know something, though? Considering the kind of country One Million Moms are constantly insisting we need to return to, how are they finding time for activism?
Shouldn't you ladies be, you know, in the kitchen or something? Your husband's not going to be happy if he gets home and finds that supper isn't on the table. And you know what happens to you then.
Yesterday, after 31 years making music, R.E.M. announced that they would be "calling it a day."
It's impossible to overstate the impact that Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry had on the indie and alt music landscape and on good pop music in general, so I'm not going to even bother trying. Suffice it to say that the band I played in back in the late 80s basically worshiped the ground these guys walked on -- with good reason. And I'm sure a lot of other college musicians felt the same way at the time.
For the record, my favorite R.E.M. album is Automatic for the People, with Sweetness Follows being my favorite song. But in high school, this was the track from the band that I truly loved -- and maybe it's best to go all the way back to the beginning anyway.
Here's Perfect Circle
"Their ability to shape their own reality — to blame the president for the entire recession while simultaneously rigging the game against the recovery is unprecedented in American political history. It’s evidence that the modern Republican Party has ceased to be driven by policy and ideas, and, instead, has become nothing more than a marketing and advertising firm selling candidates like packs of cigarettes. You’ll look cool and it’ll feel so good. They fish you in, get you hooked and you wind up voting against your own best interests while lamenting, 'Why-oh-why does the nation have cancer? Must be the black guy.' It’s infomercial fiction pitched and sold using Fox News propaganda, AM talk radio fury, cinematic production values, easy-to-remember Frank Luntz zingers and all varieties of star-spangled cheerleading. They’ve been able to so effectively whitewash their guilt in this economic mess that the current Republican frontrunner is a top-down J.J. Abrams reboot of George W. Bush who actually was president when the economy collapsed."
-- Bob Cesca, in the Huffington Post
My podcast co-host's stuff has been exceptional lately, but seriously -- his take-down of the new Rick Perry: A Michael Bay Film trailer is a thing of beauty.
The conventional wisdom is that grunge killed West Coast metal.
But that's not entirely true: For a short time, the impending dominance of the Seattle sound actually made a lot of L.A. rock bands try harder. It lit a fire under their complacent asses to expand their horizons. And it also gave bands that had been doing that for years a chance to finally be heard.
This was one of those bands -- one of the best no-frills rock and roll acts to kick around the Sunset Strip then finally break through when the rest of the chaff was cut away.
Here's Love/Hate's Wasted in America.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Well, this is pretty much the least surprising news item ever.
The Huffington Post: Cenk Uygur Heading To Current TV/9.20.11
Here's the thing: I respect Cenk and what he's done with "The Young Turks" on the web and there are times when I definitely wonder if I was too hard on him during his short-lived run on MSNBC. I stand firmly behind the comments I made when he decided to go out in a blaze of glory at the network -- namely that while he had reason to hold his head high for sticking to his convictions, he really couldn't complain if MS thought he was too combative and not polished enough to be given a permanent high-profile slot, since both were absolutely true. But obviously, he had -- and has -- passion to spare, and that he deserves credit for.
That said, Uygur's constant hectoring of President Obama -- the pissy and bitter expressions of exasperated outrage and disappointment that have become his stock-in-trade -- diminishes a lot of the deference I'm willing to show him. What's interesting about Current's predictable decision to bring him on board is what it says about the network and about partisan news outlets in general.
Fox News came into being because Murdoch and Ailes felt like the right wasn't getting a fair shake and that they could both create an entire network around a conservative worldview and reap the rewards of broadcasting almost solely to that supposedly disenfranchised audience. It was always utter horseshit, but it worked beautifully; by stoking the fear, anger and paranoia of its core audience, it not only created a wildly successful programming model but it proved to that audience why Fox News was necessary in the first place, as a bulwark against the traditional liberal media onslaught. In other words, Fox just didn't think the mainstream media were conservative enough for it and its presumed audience, so it did something about it.
And now Current is apparently doing the same thing, just from the opposite side. The network is exploiting discontent with the traditional press, only it's saying that the mainstream isn't liberal enough and, more importantly, that it can't be fully trusted because it's under the control of a handful of corporate media behemoths. To some extent, I can't argue with this, but my concern is that those corporate media outlets -- the ones not Fox, of course -- are becoming the centrist players in the game. If Current's line-up were to turn into a sanctuary for only one point-of-view -- that of the perpetually unhappy "emo progs" -- then that standard of ideological purity will make the information it delivers somewhat suspect and ultimately divisive. Maybe I'm naive, but even in the face of a powerful adversary that's incredibly adept at coming together and staying on message, I have to believe that progressive politics these days needs to be inclusive of different, sometimes conflicting perspectives, and those include the ones in the center -- because right now the center is almost as far removed from the extremist Tea Party madness that's consumed the GOP as the avowed left.
If Current positions itself as the "liberal" alternative to Fox News -- which I'm hoping it isn't consciously doing -- then it's going to alienate the large audience that's as dedicated to progressive politics as somebody like Cenk Uygur but which, unlike him, chooses thoughtful, long-term strategy over blunt-force militancy.
It's sad when the much-maligned mainstream press starts to feel like it's at least more likely to give you several sides of a story than its fiercely independent counterparts.
A word-for-word transcript of the entire comment left by "Too Many Jimpersons" over at Balloon Juice -- specifically a post called "Caution: Geniuses at Work" which laments the short-sighted, self-defeating sanctimony of the Hamsher/Greenwald/Sirota crowd (whose patron saint, egomaniacal jackass Ralph Nader, has returned to the public eye to demand a primary against Barack Obama):
"Dude, if you don’t like something Obama has done—or hasn’t done—then by all means call him on it. He said as much way back while he was still running. Nudge him further the way you’d like him to go.
But for fuck’s sake, do it in a way that helps rather than hinders. Don’t start screaming about primary challenges because he hasn’t done everything you wanted. Don’t go all over Fox and screech that he’s a sellout and as bad as Bush was.
Those were a few handy 'don’t's. Here are some 'do's:
Go out and work for the candidates in the primaries who fit your bill. Show up at their offices and do shitty, dull work for them. Trudge through the rain canvassing on an October Saturday when you’d much rather be at home. Send them some money. If you don’t like who’s running, run yourself.
Those are helpful tips. But before you do all that that I suggested, here’s another 'don’t':
Don’t work for some Democrat you love above all else if it means you’re likely to badly weaken the Democrat in office who votes as you’d like 9 times out of 10, or even only 7 or 8, or even only 6 or, yes, even only 5 out of 10, if—and here’s the thing—the 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 out of 10er is the best you can get. Examples: O.K., we all know Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson are irritating assholes. But before you go out and work your ass off for Louisiana or Nebraska’s version of Dennis Kucinich, bear in mind that Landreiu and Nelson are the best we can hope for in those states. Yeah, I’d love it if Louisiana sent somebody who speaks and votes like Al Franken to the Senate. But that isn’t going to happen. The choice isn’t Mary landreiu or Al Franken; it’s Mary Landreiu or some dickwad who votes like David Vitter. There are reasons Minnesota sends people like Franken to Washington and Louisiana doesn’t. Those reasons are called 'voters'.
I live in Virginia. In 2006 and in 2008, I worked for Jim Webb and Mark Warner when they ran. If Virginia were a place where somebody like Franken or Sanders or Sherrod Brown could win statewide, I’d happily have worked for them. But it isn’t, and no amount of wishing by me will make it so. So I worked for the best I could reasonably hope for. And much to my delight, I got two Democratic senators in the last two elections we had here. They aren’t as liberal as I am; they aren’t as liberal as I would like them to be. But none of that matters. I live in Virginia in the early 21st Century, not some fantasy world where everybody thinks the way I do.
Now as for Obama, well, you know what? I would like it if he were more like Al Franken or Sherrod Brown. I’d love that. But right now, it’s hard to get somebody like that into the presidency. It isn’t going to happen right now, however much you might want it to. So, yes, maybe Obama does what I’d like 8 or 9 times out of 10. Guess what? I lived through 8 years of George Bush, who did what I would have liked 0 times out of 10. And Rick Perry and Romney would also do what I’d like them to 0 times out of 10.
0. 8. 10. Those are the numbers to keep in mind next year, 0, 8 and 10. There are, to be sure, fantasy candidates who would give me what I want 10 times out of 10. (Nader sure as hell isn’t, however many people wrongly think of him as some kind of liberal crusader; he’s only an egoist who wants to throw fits and show everybody how wrong they were. If he got in, he might well appoint somebody like Palin just to stick a thumb in our eyes. I don’t trust him or anybody who works with him.)
Anyway, 0, 8 and 10. Keep those in mind. Maybe President Franken would give you what you want 10 times out of 10. But that means nothing. He’ll never be president, not in this country, not as it is. This is a country that chose George Bush 7 years ago, knowing fully what it was getting. So 10 is an important number because it’s what you—we—won’t be getting. That leaves 8 and 0. What we have to choose from is getting our way 8 times out of 10 or no times out of 10. Maybe you don’t like that. Tough shit. That’s what you have, and whether you’re happy with it has nothing to do with the world as it is.
Do you want to get your way 0 times out of 10 as long as you can happily, smugly tell us all about how pure you are and how devoted to The Cause—whatever it may be—you are? Are you willing to live with that? Or would you rather have somebody who does what you like 8 times out of 10? That isn’t as good as 10 out of 10, I know that. But what if these are your only choices? Then what? Are you going to work to get Rick Perry voted in so you can feel like you’re one of the few who are really, truly committed to doing what’s right, even though you might have to take a few lumps for it? (Keep in mind that you are unlikely to get any lumps; it’ll be some other poor losers, but, hey, eggs and omelettes and all that, right?) Or will you take the 8 out of 10 and be willing to be let down once in a while for the sake of all of us? Because these are your choices. These two. Forget about 10. Forget about President Franken. Forget about President Sanders. Forget about President Kucinich, and for the love of God, forget about President Nader. Can you do that? I hope so, since you’ll never get them. Understand that: You will never get them. It won’t happen. You get to choose between President Obama and Governor Perry, or between President Obama and Governor Romney. That’s it. That’s all.
And if you work for Nader or some other asshole in the primary, all you will do is weaken President Obama and make the likelihood of President Perry or Romney that much greater. That’s what primary challenges to sitting presidents do. It happened in 1992. It happened in 1980. It happened in 1968 (Humphrey was running more or less for Johnson’s third term). It happened as far back as 1912. Each time—each time—the challenging party got the advantage and each time it won. That’s what happens when you run a serious primary against a sitting president: you help elect somebody from the other party. We can’t afford that.
Now, before anybody weeps and wails about 'Don’t I have the right to vote for whomever I want? Isn’t this a democracy, don’t you believe in democracy?' let me just say: Yes, you have the right to vote for whomever you choose. Yes this is a democracy. And yes, I believe in democracy. Yes, yes and yes. Nobody is telling anybody else, 'You have no right to vote for Nader,' or anything like that. What we are saying, what we are asking you people who have legitimate criticisms of Obama, is to put your own feelings and your own egos and your own need to feel holy or to feel like martyrs to the cause to the side. That’s all we’re asking. We’re asking you to take a good look at what’s going on here in this country, and to swallow your pride for a little while, and to get over the bruise Obama gave your ego when he didn’t do everything just the way you wanted him to.
We aren’t telling you; we aren’t ordering you. We aren’t shooting you or threatening you or jailing you or hosing you down with fire hoses or beating you. We are asking you. Yes, sometimes you (collectively; people like you) piss us off and we call you mean names and say intemperate things to you. But, Lord in heaven, get over it. If you can’t even take a few nasty comments without crumpling up and whining about how this is just like what Martin Luther King or somebody had to go through—and there are manic progressives who go on that way; I am not saying you are one of them—then you really aren’t the fearless liberal warriors you like to think you are.
So, again: Please do not work for or encourage primary challenges to President Obama in 2012. If you do, you greatly weaken his odds of winning next year, and if you do that, then lots of other Democrats will get highly pissed off at you, and we withhold the right to call you mean names. If we do that, then live with it. It’ll be the least you’ll have to worry about."
0. 8. 10.
I swear to Christ, that's gonna be my new battle cry.
(via Angry Black Lady)
Monday, September 19, 2011
"I always think to myself, 'Fire the first shot' ... Bring it on. We outnumber them in this country, and we have the guns... I’m not kidding."
-- Andrew Breitbart, speaking to Tea Partiers in Massachusetts last Friday
You know, I'd unleash a giant ration of outrage at the fact that the right continues its insatiable addiction to irresponsible, hyper-violent rhetoric even though that kind of thing has already had frightening consequences.
But this is Andrew Breitbart we're talking about. He's a blogger. He lives in fucking Los Angeles. He couldn't be less of a tough guy if he had peacock feathers sticking out of his ass and was sucking on a Hello Kitty pacifier coated with pure estrogen.
If you let Brietbart so much as hold a gun he'd shoot his own balls off.
The answer: She doesn't.
Rotten Tomatoes: 18%: Sarah Jessica Parker's I Don't Know How She Does It Takes in Dismal $4.5 Million at the Box Office
Oh, wait -- you mean "continue to get work in movies." Yeah, that I don't know.
National punchline Joe Arpaio, the impossibly ridiculous sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, has rounded himself up a posse.
That dad-gum varmint Barack Obama doesn't stand a chance.
"Arpaio has a volunteer 'posse program,' which allows regular citizens to pretend to be heroic characters in old westerns, instead of just sad old white people terrified of a changing nation and some intangible decline of privilege... I can't imagine anyone finding anything wrong with the prospect of a white western sheriff forming a volunteer 'posse' to go after a black man. That certainly doesn't have any incredibly ugly historical echoes."
So yeah. Arpaio and his merry band of equally senile old white guys are officially on the case and plan to get to the bottom of that whole Obama birth certificate thing. Once that's finished, look out, Bandit -- your days of bootleggin' for Big and Little Enos Burdette are over.
I honestly wonder sometimes if the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has its own laugh track.
"I get the anger driving the protest — boy howdy! — but I don’t see any specific appeal to folks on Main Street yet, and I don’t see Main Street Americans responding. Anonymous, which has pushed this campaign to 'occupy Wall Street,' has no clear set of goals, preferring to think the crowd will magically produce a set of demands by consensus. The 'theory of change' seems to be (1) protest (2) ????? (3) change!"
-- Matt Osborne on this weekend's interesting but ultimately silly "Occupy Wall Street" rally, promoted largely by Anonymous
Obviously, at this point almost any show of organized, non-violent resistance has the potential to do some good. The problem is that "Occupy Wall Street" wasn't organized nearly enough. And for the record, you want to make a real statement? Try descending on Wall Street when it's not a Saturday and there are some, you know, actual people there. The overall idea was right -- it's just the execution and the platform given to certain self-defeating lunatics that was all wrong.
"We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable... This isn't class warfare -- it's math."
-- President Barack Obama, announcing a deficit-reduction plan that includes $1.5 trillion in new taxes for the very wealthy and promising to veto any proposal that includes cuts without new revenue
In case you're curious, the president is responding to a thoroughly predictable preemptive "NO" from the perpetually obstinate congressional Republicans, including melodramatic super-twerp Paul Ryan who said recently, "Class warfare might make for good politics, but it makes for rotten economics."
Three important things to remember: 1) Yes, it is class warfare we're talking about -- and the upper class is winning in a rout, 2) Paul Ryan has zero credibility on matters of economic policy, and 3) he and his GOP cohorts don't give one forlorn crap about you. Not a one.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Friday, September 16, 2011
The Greatest Sitcom of All Time; Bob’s Apartment Crisis; Adult Life Versus Teenage Life; Chez’s Marriage, Rehab and September 11th Experiences; Regrets and Embarrassments; The CNN Republican Debate; Cable News Is Hurting Democracy; Rick Perry and HPV; Anthony Weiner is an Idiot; and much more! Brought to you by Bubble Genius.
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Just in time for Halloween, Marilyn Manson is back with what may honestly be the most viscerally disturbing video of his or anyone else's career. Directed by Shia LaBeouf -- who's apparently a hell of a lot sicker and more twisted than any of us thought -- this hypnotic, six-and-a-half minute descent into hyper-literate hell is absolutely NSFW.
Credit where credit is due: If Manson set out to prove that he can still shock once in a while, he did it.
Happy Friday, kids -- here's Born Villain.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
There may be hope for Saturday Night Live after all.
Presumably in an effort to fill in all that laugh-free blank space between the Digital Shorts, SNL has hired Onion News Network/Funny or Die writer Chris Kelly for next season.
The Huffington Post has put up some of Kelly's best work over the past couple of years -- and these two clips had me just about on the floor.
I'm not sure what's funniest: the fact that Fox News was stupid enough to invite a guy who describes himself as a guerrilla artist on the air live (while apparently forgetting what the whole "guerrilla" thing means); the surprise comment that that artist, Jay Shells, unloaded as his live interview was wrapping up; or the near-lifelike, "uncanny valley"-creepy response of the blonde Fox android to the comment.
Regardless, this guy rules.
Gawker: Gordon Ramsay's Porn Dwarf Double Eaten By Badger/9.15.11
Yes, this story is 100% true.
As for the badgers who apparently feasted on poor Percy Foster -- or had a light snack, as it were -- I guess Randall was right.
This is actually very good news if it turns out to be true.
TV Newser: Soledad O'Brien Back To CNN Mornings?/9.15.11
I always believed that taking Soledad and Miles off mornings was a terrible idea. The problem was never the anchor team -- it was always the show itself. And it looks like CNN's going to correct that problem once and for all by separating its morning news into two distinct two-hour blocks, with Soledad anchoring the second.
Anchoring the first, according to the rumor mill?
Damn, and to think that I just republished my book and listed Banfield as working at ABC News in the "Where Are They Now" section of the new afterword. Things move fast in this business.
Anyway, glad to see both Soledad and Ash back in the anchor chair if this whole thing is really on the up-and-up. You go, girls.
"I think that one of the things we have to keep in mind is what we're charged with and the amount of debt reduction this represents in terms of our entire debt and how significant that is... As I said in my questioning of him, it's about three percent of outlays that we're looking at. It's about one percent of our GDP over the next decade. So I don't think that triggers the kinds of dynamics he was testifying to in other areas."
-- Republican Rep. Dave Camp, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee
The person he's referring to is Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf. What he's saying? Well, allow me to translate: "Fuck you."
See, Elmendorf essentially endorsed the basic premise of President Obama's "American Jobs Act" during an appearance before Congress's own Justice League -- the Super Committee -- on Tuesday by saying that a combination of government spending and middle-class tax relief is what's needed to kick-start the economy. According to Elmendorf, the choke-the-government-to-death austerity the Republicans have been pushing for months will actually hurt our fragile economy and what's necessary is to spend and help the working-class now then cut back and concentrate on the deficit later. Remember, this is the non-partisan CBO saying this -- ostensibly, the voice of reason.
Again, Kryptonian High Council-member Camp's response to what's presumably the last thing he and his fellow Republicans want to hear right now? "Sorry, don't care. Lalalalalala, I'm not listening!"
It's barely worth mentioning the right's history of simply disregarding any facts it finds inconvenient. Evolution, global climate change, the likely innocence of whatever death row prisoner they lust to throw the switch on, it's all entirely up for debate and in the end their views wind up carrying the most weight, even if their reasoning is based on ignorance and obstinacy. So why shouldn't they simply shoot down the testimony of a guy who's paid by the organization they work for to present the facts dispassionately? Hey, what are facts anyway? Yeah? Well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.
I've said it before but it bears repeating over and over again: These people will never give Obama an inch. Not one. They will burn this country to the ground if it means that they can pile the ashes around the current president and use that image to usher them back into the White House -- where they'll rule whatever's left while we all suffer.
It's weird: I've never hugely been into this band, but there's no denying that Amy Lee's a powerhouse and that My Immortal was a stunningly beautiful song.
Hence, I'll pop up the new single from Evanescence.
Here's What You Want.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Since the first time I heard this album I've considered it one of the best -- and as it turns out, most criminally underappreciated -- albums of the 80s. The cool thing is that these women continue to make excellent music to this day.
And God how I still love this song.
From their 1987 self-titled debut, this is Wendy & Lisa's Waterfall.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Just another update on the print release of my book, Dead Star Twilight. I'm currently going over the proof copy of the paperback and unfortunately I've already found a couple of minor problems with it.
With that in mind, the pre-publishing process will have to begin again and that means that it might be another week-and-a-half or so before the thing actually becomes available to buy.
Remember that you can still download the e-book on a pay-what-you-want basis by heading over to the sidebar off to the right of the main column on this page. The download itself is free; if you feel like you want to put any money toward it, just click the Paypal link beneath the e-book info.
I'll try to keep everyone up to date on how things are progressing.
"We have to bring drunken 'Uncle Omar' in front of the House Judiciary Committee, drill down into this, and tell America what's going on."
-- Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa, referring to President Obama's uncle, Onyango "Omar" Obama, who was arrested on a DUI charge in Massachusetts three weeks ago and who's apparently in the country illegally
Your United States Congress at work, ladies and gentlemen: Keeping America safe from half-brothers of long-lost fathers of presidents who get popped for a relatively minor charge while you, your family and everyone else in the country sink into a second Great Depression.
Somebody seriously needs to take a running start and kick King in the balls.
"Adults are basically just children who've grown fat, watched their dreams die, and learned to shrink from confrontation."
-- From the Happy Place introduction to its ongoing "Most Enjoyable Cantankerous Notes Ever Posted in the Workplace" segment (which is hilarious, by the way)
I was telling someone on Facebook yesterday, I'm going to start my own version of the "It Gets Better" movement, except mine will be called "It Doesn't Matter."
First of all, it doesn't get better -- it gets worse. No matter who you are -- gay or straight, black or white, cool or goofy -- unless you're Bill Gates or something, life generally gets shittier as it goes along. Yeah, so you get picked on in high school -- you still don't have bills to pay, the wreckage of bad relationships to deal with, a shit-ton of regret for your therapist to help you through or a life that didn't in any way turn out the way you planned to mourn. Getting stuffed in a locker is a hell of a lot better than getting divorced, being unemployed, having your own ungrateful children or trying to pee through a prostate the size of a cantaloupe.
Still, the important thing to remember is that, again, it doesn't matter. Nothing in high school matters. Nothing that you think is so all-out important at the time matters one fucking bit. Unless you decide to shoot up your classroom or manage to be one of unfortunate ones who falls victim to the kid who does, you're gonna get out of high school pretty much unscathed, safe in the knowledge that nothing you did during the last few years of your life means much. The right girl didn't like you? So what. Got a "C" on that Calc exam? Who cares. The bitchy kids called you names on Facebook? Fuck 'em.
Sure, there are the occasional life-altering tragedies or decisions that are so ill-advised that they really do have lasting repercussions, but let's face it -- those are anomalies.
For the most part your teenage years don't matter one bit.
You're probably going to hear quite a few iterations of the word "ghoulish" tossed around today. That's pretty much the best way to describe the response by Tea Party sociopaths in Tampa last night to the idea of letting someone die if he or she doesn't have insurance and can't afford to pay medical bills.
Chances are by now you've seen what I'm talking about, but in case you haven't yet, here it is: a hypothetical question posed by Wolf Blitzer, moderator of CNN's Tea Party debate among the GOP candidates for president, to crazy old man Ron Paul. Listen for the audience reaction; that's the gold.
Now it's worth pointing out that Blitzer -- who proved throughout the debate why you shouldn't listen to him while driving or operating heavy machinery -- predictably telegraphed his punch by making the hypothetical patient in question a guy who chose not to pay for health insurance rather than, you know, one of the millions across the country who can't afford insurance. Regardless, this is the second time in as many weeks that we've seen a crowd full of presumably fiercely pro-life Republicans unable to contain their orgiastic bloodlust at the idea of killing somebody. You'll remember that the audience at the Reagan library last week -- Simi Valley suburbanites, all of them -- just about had the largest non-gangbang porn-related mass climax in history when Texas shit-kicker action figure Rick Perry bragged about executing 234 people, at least one of whom was very likely innocent.
Here's the important thing to keep in mind, though -- the basic message of the Tea Party jackasses like the ones that grow up out of the ground in a place like Tampa: They get to decide who lives and who dies. Who's worthy to live or die.
Are you a fetus, even one that's the product of rape or incest, or who's almost doomed from the start to be unloved and to eventually choke the state system -- child protection or penal -- that many on the right believes is the only legitimate recourse? Congratulations, you live -- no matter what. Are you somebody who, ironically, committed a vicious crime as an adult or who was at least convicted of doing so, or maybe even just some poor idiot who made a really bad decision about his or her life and who now stands to pay for that mistake with that very life? Sorry, fuck you, parasite -- you die.
That's really what it comes down to: The sickening Randian "producers vs. parasites" horseshit ethos that can be distilled down to a battle-cry-ready slogan with almost no effort, one that fits really nicely on a bumper-sticker. The problem, of course, is -- who decides who's a producer and who's a parasite? I'm terrified of leaving a decision like that to people who diabolically cheer death like Romans at the Coliseum.
My favorite part of last night's monster truck rally in Tampa, though? That Wolf Blitzer actually lauded the whole thing as evidence of a substantive debate on the issues. Unless CNN actually set out to give the Tea Party and its vile philosophy enough rope to hang themselves on national television, what we witnessed was nothing more than the continued elevation of a relatively small, shockingly ignorant group of pretend freedom fighters simply because they make for good TV. They're splashed across your screen, over and over again, precisely because they're guaranteed to do ridiculous shit like shout for the deaths of those who disagree with their view of the world.
In the end, the Tea Party and its ilk amount to nothing more than the ultimate reality TV show.
Monday, September 12, 2011
You know, I tend to defend the Huffington Post, despite the fire it's drawn lately over its content and lack of willingness to pay a lot of the people who supply it. My decision to continue contributing to the site is one I've explained more than once so I'm not going to bother going down that road again. You want to write for the site? Great. You think Arianna's a tyrannical modern-day plantation owner? Again, great -- don't give her your time and effort.
All of that said, in the immortal words of Ian Malcolm, "HuffPost High School" is one of the worst ideas in the long, sad history of bad ideas:
"It will join an ever-expanding constellation of topic sites that already includes religion, tech, parenting and divorce. But it will be unique in that it will be the only site produced by minors: Its editor, wunderkind Myles Miller, is only 17, and it will feature the work of teenage bloggers.
Meanwhile, Patch, the network of more than 800 hyperlocal news sites also overseen by AOL editor in chief Arianna Huffington, is also soliciting adolescent contributors from high schools — and even middle schools — as it seeks to recruit thousands of community bloggers.
The practice raises new questions of privacy and ethics. People share overly personal information and make fools of themselves on the web every day, but the impulsiveness of teenagers plus the visibility of Huffpo could be a uniquely combustible mixture. Should teenagers who can’t legally vote, drink or have sex be allowed to decide for themselves what to publish in a place where it could potentially be read by millions of people? What if a 15-year-old wants to write confessionally about having an abortion... or joke about smoking marijuana...? And what if that 15-year-old’s parent wants to have that posting deleted? And what if that parent is divorced, and his ex-spouse who shares custody gives her permission?"
That's Jeff Bercovici, the damn good -- and surprisingly well-paid -- media writer for Forbes, and he's pretty much dead-on. Adults making the informed decision to contribute to HuffPo is one thing; enlisting a bunch of 14-year-olds to write for you for free is something completely different. The kind of audacious arrogance that would make a company think it can get away with something like that is the sort of thing that could -- at least in a just world -- spell its undoing.
Although Arianna's on to something if her aim is to use this program to teach kids about journalism in the modern age.
Lesson #1: Get ready to starve.
*Sorry, Arianna. My pathetic need to prove how clever I am generally trumps my desire not to burn bridges. Nothin' but love.
Yet another entry in our ongoing series which brings just some of the PR-firm junk e-mail I regularly get to you, the readers.
As fans anxiously await the season premiere of Glee on September 20th, those looking for even more mash-ups, more show-mance, and more Sue need only head to their local bookstores to get their hands on any of the three pitch-perfect original Glee novels currently available from Poppy/Little, Brown. Recognizing the show’s powerful and passionate fan base, each book in the Glee publishing program is created in close collaboration with the creators of Fox’s hit show, and reflects the series’ intelligent comedic sensibility and quirky, heartfelt story lines.
GLEE: THE BEGINNING
Want to know what was happening with Rachel, Kurt, Quinn and Finn before Will Schuster took over the Glee Club? Find out in the first Original Glee Novel, a prequel that transports readers to McKinley High's hallways before the show began.
GLEE: FOREIGN EXCHANGE
Can Rachel Berry rock a beret? McKinley High goes international when a French glee club comes to town in the second pitch-perfect original Glee novel!
GLEE: SUMMER BREAK
In this brand-new story officially approved by the creators of Glee, Mr. Schuester doesn't want the glee club to lose its momentum over summer break, so he's talked Rachel, Finn, and the crew into running a singing workshop for local kids.
Please let me know if you have any questions or if you need me to send copies of the books/additional information.
I'd be happy to send you books for a giveaway!
And now, my response:
OMG! This must be my lucky day! You know, I was just sitting here thinking to myself that if only there had been a phenomenon like Glee bukkakeing the face of pop culture during my high school days, I probably wouldn't have grown into the bitter, elitist, middle-aged heterosexual asshole I am today. That's because Glee makes being a gay teenager look so, well, just so darn awesome that I likely would've tried to convert in the hope of eventually becoming a bitter, elitist, middle-aged homosexual asshole like Glee creator Ryan Murphy.
Alas, there were no shows like Glee during my formative years, and so a childhood spent feasting on The A-Team and Knight Rider meant that I was one of the unlucky, drab ones who didn't get to dance around his or her bedroom to whatever was the Katy Perry-esque underdog anthem of the era, proudly proclaiming how cool it was to be so liberatingly uncool.
Anyhoo, bottom line: No, not really interested in any Glee books, even for a free giveaway. In fact, I'm trying to figure out why the hell anyone would want to read a story that's usually set to music if you can't hear the music. Although if you do happen to be in direct contact with Ryan Murphy -- and he's not busy trying to remove the guitar Dave Grohl jammed up his ass -- please let him know that every time Gwyneth Paltrow makes an appearance on his show and butchers a song, I realize just a little more that Seven had a happy ending.
Chez : )
I'm really not a fan of companies or products appropriating the legacy of 9/11, but I have to admit that this commercial from State Farm -- which aired yesterday and was directed by Spike Lee -- brought me pretty close to tears.
Let's hear it for New York.
It's got the twin titans of b-movie schlock, Brigitte Nielsen and Udo Kier; it's probably the most layered and interesting song this band ever did; and it's the only video that actually bothered to pay homage to Alien Resurrection.
Here's Korn's Make Me Bad.
Happy Monday, boys and girls.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
A very quick excerpt from my book, Dead Star Twilight -- one that attempts to relate the chaos, fear and overwhelming heartache that permeated New York City in those first hours and days following the 9/11 attack.
September 13th, 2001
I have a song echoing through my head. I know it’s from Moby. I think it’s called My Weakness. I’m not sure. I’m not sure of much of anything at this moment. I’m simply forcing myself to pay attention to what’s happening around me, because I know that someday someone will ask me to describe this and just shaking my head in overwhelmed silence won’t do it all justice—even though it will seem the most appropriate response. I’m surrounded by people. There’s sound everywhere and yet for some reason there’s no sound at all. It’s almost dead quiet to me—as if each individual noise has merged into the other at some sub-atomic level, creating one punishing, dull drone. It’s constant. I want to scream but I already know that it would simply disappear—consumed in the vacuum created by the sudden disappearance of so many lives. This is not the world I know. This is a hole punched in the fabric of reality created by more human suffering than is imaginable.
One particular sound finally slices through the deep thrum. I recognize it immediately and my brain quickly categorizes the possible sources of it. I look up to the sky. As I do, I catch a glimpse of hundreds of other people doing the same, many with looks of fear and confusion on their faces. They’ve heard this sound before—and the last time, it brought with it terror and death. I wasn’t here for that. For me the sound of a jet still qualifies as nothing more than routine. Now, though, it’s the sight that shocks me back to whatever is left of reality: Three fighters, in tight formation. They streak by—the shockwave of sound deafening. For a moment the entire crowd at the corner of 25th Street and Lexington Avenue is stunned into absolute silence. It is an eerie and frightening moment. The jets are visible for only a few seconds. From my perspective on the ground, they appear almost directly overhead, clearing the horizon created by the top of one building—screaming diagonally across the open sky and leaving vapor trails like dark scars—then disappearing behind the top of the giant building on the other side of the street. The sound lingers long after the spectacle that created it has disappeared from view. My mind comprehends it all and finally puts it into impossible words inside my head:
There are fighters flying cover over an American city.
As the artificial thunder of the jets reverberates and retreats through the canyon of structures surrounding the historic National Guard Armory, I stand across the street, taking in the incomprehensible scene playing out all around me. I arrived only a short time ago, taking the PATH train from Hoboken to 33rd, then catching a cab to this location. This is where I’m supposed to meet my crew because this is where hundreds of people have gathered to look for, at best, hope—at least, answers. The Armory at 25th & Lex is the processing area for the families of those still missing less than forty-eight hours after the attack that leveled the World Trade Center. If the Trade Center site itself overwhelms with the sheer size and scope of the recent cataclysm, this place overwhelms with the inescapable anguish caused by it.
I’m moving through the crowd now, trying to push the fragile figures in my path aside as gently as I can. Some are crying loudly. Many are implosively silent, their—figuratively, literally—ashen faces proof enough of their pain. In the confusion, I feel someone grab my shoulder.
“Are you from the TV?”
I spin around and I’m face-to-face with a young Hispanic woman—probably in her early twenties—and an older woman who I immediately assume is her mother. The old woman is shouting something in Spanish. I’m confused over the odd phrasing of the question for a moment, then I realize that yes, I guess I am from the TV.
“As of about an hour ago—yeah,” I answer, noticing that the young woman has reached down and is holding the MSNBC ID dangling from around my neck.
“Can you put us on TV? We’re looking for my husband. He worked in One World Trade,” she says, as the elder suddenly produces a white piece of photocopied paper from somewhere and hands it my way. On it is a dark reproduction of a wedding photo: The woman standing in front of me and the man she’s now trying to find. Above the picture are his name and a telephone number. If I pull my eyes away and look in any direction, I’ll see hundreds of similar fliers being carried by hundreds of different people. The format will be the same: Picture, name and phone number. The desperation will be the same—some say, “please help us,” or “we miss you.” Some will even have the gut-wrenching augmentation, “I love you daddy.” Only the names and faces will be different. People are walking around with these things. They’re taped to walls and public telephones. They’re everywhere—an endless, collective cry for help.
I’ve got my hand on the woman’s shoulder now and I notice I’m shouting above the crowd.
“What’s your name?”
“Okay, Alicia, who’s this?” I say, motioning toward the older woman.
“This is my husband’s mother.”
Guess I was wrong.
“Alright, listen to me—” I’m trying to be as authoritative as I can. “I’m gonna get you some help. Come with me.”
She acknowledges and says something to her mother-in-law. What I neglect to tell her of course is that I have no idea how I’m going to get her some help. I just arrived and don’t have the slightest idea where the hell my crew is. As I push through the throng, with the two women in my wake, I’m simply trying to get a handle on the fact that someone actually asked to be put on camera. Normally, news people are looked upon as vultures, and when you see one of them coming, you run like a scared four-year-old. But that was before everything everyone knew to be true was turned upside down by some very pissed-off Arabs with control of four commercial planes. Now as I glance around I pick out dozens of news crews—each with a line of people waiting patiently, fliers in hand, ready to make their pain public in the hope that someone, somewhere can make it stop.
I’m still not spotting my own crew among the crush of journalists, so I reach behind me, grab Alicia’s hand and begin moving off the street and toward the sidewalk along Lexington. Somewhere in the middle of all the chaos, I spot one reporter and photographer who look as if they’ve just finished setting up. So far no one seems to have noticed them. Perfect. I direct the two women toward the reporter. As I get closer, I see that his photographer is wearing an ID around his neck: WWOR—Channel 9 in New York. Locals.
Oh well—beats the Travel Channel, I suppose.
I move Alicia up onto the sidewalk, with her mother-in-law right behind her, and ask them to stand next to the photographer. Hopefully, given the situation, any amount of ass-kissing on my part should be painlessly minimal.
“Hey—can you talk to these two?” I say to the reporter, thumbing over my shoulder. “The young one’s looking for her husband.”
“Her and about a thousand other people here,” he says, forcing a look that he doubtlessly hopes will scream sympathetic nice-guy. Unfortunately, from where I’m standing it comes off more like irritated asshole. “Giuliani’s supposed to come through here in a minute. I’ve got to finish setting-up.”
Okay, look you arrogant prick—talk to these people or I’ll pull that tape out of your camera and smoke it on a piece of tin foil, and believe me, I COULD RIGHT NOW.
“Look, man,” I say, choosing to be sweetness-and-light for the sake of the two women standing nearby. Now I lower my voice—speaking just loud enough for the reporter to hear me above the surrounding noise. “September 11th was their third wedding anniversary. She just had a baby—he’s a month old. He probably doesn’t have a father now.”
I’m not trying to appeal to his humanity. I’m simply piling it on thick—baiting him with the kinds of angles sure to elevate a story from good TV to Emmy-assured TV. He punches his fists into his hips, one hand holding his microphone. He looks off into the distance, craning his neck above the crowd—probably to see if hizzoner is coming.
“Please. They need help,” I say quietly. Now I am appealing to his humanity.
He lets out a loud sigh.
“Okay. Let’s go.”
As he moves them in front of the camera, Alicia gives me a joyless smile and mouths a quiet thank you. It’s not hard to grasp that this will likely be the first of countless times over the next few months that someone else’s searing pain and loss puts my own into perspective. For a moment, everything goes quiet and everyone else disappears. I look at Alicia and return her sad smile, mouthing back a silent good luck.
On a corner, one avenue over from Lexington, I’ve found a relatively calm place to make a cell phone call to my elusive photographer and reporter. I’m appreciating the irony of standing under the awning of an Afghan restaurant, one which chose to close its doors today—probably wisely. A handwritten sign on the door reads: Our hearts and prayers are with our fellow New Yorkers during this terrible tragedy. May God bless us all. As the line rings, I lift my eyes from the sidewalk and look across the street to where a WABC news van is parked, surrounded by the constantly shifting mass of people. The engineer inside the truck has his feet up on the dashboard. He’s asleep.
Download Dead Star Twilight Here
(The physical copy of the book, unfortunately, is still in the proofing stages, so it won't be available for another couple of days.)
Where were you on the morning of September 11th, 2001?
It's a question you've no doubt heard several times over the last ten years -- regardless of who you are or where you live. It's because the attacks of 9/11 stand as the defining moment of this American generation. I remember where I was all too well, and I remember the days and months that followed because it changed me incalculably, as it did so many people. The events of 9/11 became the focal point of the book I wrote, Dead Star Twilight, and, in a way that even now seems utterly surreal and ironic, may very well have wound up saving me from absolute self-destruction.
Five years ago, I wrote two pieces to mark the anniversary of the single most epochal event in modern American history. Looking back on them now, it's shocking to see how much has changed even since then -- in our country and in my own life. But as is tradition on this day, I'm reposting those pieces -- back to back.
It would be impossible to.
Part I: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times.
I miss the days and months immediately following September 11th, 2001.
Although it may seem incomprehensible to make such a statement, it's a fact that I have no choice but to own up to. In spite of my belief in man's unparalleled ability to consistently make bad situations worse, I honestly never thought that I'd look back on the initial aftermath of the worst terrorist attack in history and quietly pine for that time. Years later, however -- as we mark the anniversary of 9/11 -- I realize with more certainty than ever before that the violence which claimed so many lives on that day, unwittingly and for a short time, created a city, country and world of which I could say that I was proud to be a part.
I admit that I had an often overwhelming front-row seat for the constant display of pain and perseverance by being in New York City following the attack. Covering the story from the area which would in short order become universally known as "Ground Zero," and from the Armory at 25th and Lexington -- the area where families of the victims were sent in an often futile and heartbreaking search for answers about their lost loved ones -- gave me a perspective not everyone else may have had. Still, I'm certain that you didn't need to wade knee-deep in the indescribable human suffering to see that an equally indescribable human spirit was also asserting itself -- and proving to be far more powerful than many believed possible.
In those first months after the attack, a wounded America found its heart and its soul.
We put aside the trivial concerns that divided us -- the inane distractions that casually connected us. We were shown in an excruciating way the true meaning and value of words which up until that point had only been used as disposable ad-campaign hyperbole: heroism, compassion, sacrifice, family, strength, unity -- even love. We saw constant displays of these because after all that we witnessed on that day -- after the hideous destruction caused by a few, and the selfless response of so many -- after the bar for human emotion was raised so high, it was almost as if it was our responsibilty to act in kind. To follow the example set by those who were no longer with us.
We were stripped down to our raw nerve, and in spite of the chaos and terror that caused it, what we found there was beautiful.
The world seemed to follow suit. On September 12th, 2001 -- the morning after the attack -- the headline of France's Le Monde newspaper read "We Are All Americans Now." The crew of a German ship manned the rails when it came alongside an American destroyer -- a show of respect and solidarity. Billions across the planet felt our anguish, believed in the dream that was America, and stood with us.
When we struck back with a mighty fury at those who killed our innocents, our indignation was indeed righteous. Our cause truly was just. We stood together as a country -- political affiliations and personal concerns be damned -- and understood with one mind that this was the way it had to be. We shouted with one voice, "You have unleashed this."
We felt lost, but were comforted in holding on to each other. We were both terrified and fearless. We were powerful in our vulnerability.
It's true that all things are relative, and if the current condition of our country and our world is the yardstick by which we measure the past, then maybe my effusion is somewhat prejudiced. Maybe the past has an unfair advantage. Maybe any past would.
I'm not sure that's the case, though.
Years ago on this day, the world changed -- not forever, as was first forecast, but for a short time.
It's that short time that continues to give me faith in us.
It was during that time, when things were at their worst -- that we were at our best.
Part II: The Revelation Will Be Televised
At 8:46:40am, 87 people are killed instantly.
They are the passengers and crew of American Airlines Flight 11, which departed out of Boston's Logan International Airport a little more than an hour ago -- at 7:59am to be exact -- only to be hijacked and turned into a flying bomb.
An unknown number of people in the North Tower of the World Trade Center likely die as well, at that same moment -- 8:46:40 -- as they would be unlucky enough to find themselves at the point of impact of this flying bomb.
At 8:46:40am, almost no one outside of the affected area has any idea that the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history has just come to fruition in New York City, and that it's only the beginning.
At that same moment, in a small two-bedroom condo fifteen-hundred miles away, I'm sitting up in bed, thinking about -- well, nothing really.
I stare quietly at the TV set in the corner of my parents' guest bedroom -- maybe not at it so much as through it -- while the Today show drones on and on. This is in no way an endorsement of that program, as anything on the television would provide the same focal-point of worthless distraction, and in fact has for most of the early morning and previous night. MTV2 has supplied me with enough colors and sounds to hold my attention and replace the sleep I've desperately desired, but which has refused to come.
I watched videos throughout the night, while taking in none of them. I listened to the occasional passing car or two outside my window slowly multiply until becoming the steady din of morning traffic. I saw the curtain over that same tiny window begin to glow as the sun came up.
I did anything but sleep.
Heroin addicts fresh out of rehab don't sleep. They can't sleep.
Where I am at 8:46:40am on the morning of September 11th, 2001, is the culmination of a ten-month-long spiral into oblivion. It began in Los Angeles, where I lived with my wife in an impressive two-story apartment on the edge of Beverly Hills. I worked as a television executive. I made six figures. I drove a fast car. I had a life few could complain about -- which made it all the more sadly ironic that in truth, I was frightened, insecure and more than likely clinically depressed. At some point, I began to feel my wife pulling away from me. I began to feel my life ripping apart, even though no one could see the straining in the fabric or the tearing at the seams.
I felt like I was being abanoned by her -- like I was being left behind. I felt completely alone.
So I found something to help me feel warm, comfortable and safe from harm.
What began as an occasional means of self-medication quickly turned into a constant hallucinatory nightmare of homemade pipes, scorched tin-foil, lies, cover-ups, broken promises and the terrified realization that I couldn't wake up, no matter how hard I tried. It drained me of every penny I had. It crushed my already tenuous relationship with my wife. It ate my soul alive.
Finally, at the beginning of August, 2001 -- realizing that I had almost nowhere left to turn and no one left to turn to -- I asked my wife to drive me to the airport, allowed one last painful kiss between us, and got on a plane and came home to Miami. When I arrived, my heartbroken parents picked up their damaged and dying son and drove him to a public rehab facility.
I spent four days in gut-wrenching detox, having my insides liquify and try to escape my body through any and every possible route -- like rats abandoning a sinking ship.
I spent the next month trying to recover from what I'd spent the past nine months doing to my body, mind and soul.
During that time, my wife moved out of our apartment -- leaving me without so much as a glance over her shoulder. During that time I gave up my job -- leaving it without so much as a glance over my shoulder.
The day after I left rehab, my father and I flew back to a haunted Los Angeles. We packed up what little was left of my life, put it into storage and drove my car back to Miami -- back to my parents' small two-bedroom condo.
We arrived five days ago.
I haven't moved since.
Five days ago marked the first day of the rest of my life -- the rest of my life doing absolutely nothing.
I don't eat. I don't sleep. I don't speak. I exist only within the tiny confines of this guest bedroom. I watch TV. I walk a few steps to the bathroom. I don't even think about what to do next. I don't even know where to begin. It's as if I'm nothing but empty space.
I'm not even aware of what Matt Lauer is talking about at 8:46:40am, because I'm not paying the least bit of attention. It's four minutes later, though, at 8:50am, that something breaks my reverie. I blink -- my brain finally seeming to activate as if cued by some mysterious force. Lauer says something about a very big story; he says something about an accident at the World Trade Center. The Today show goes to commercial. In a daze I pick up the remote and switch over one channel to ABC. That's when I see for the first time what happened at 8:46:40am, fifteen-hundred miles away.
I slowly get out of bed and stand -- my jaw going slack. I'm moving before I know it -- throwing open the bedroom door and storming out into the living room. There my mother is staring at the TV; her face is a mask of awe and horror. We begin talking about what's happened; my voice is dry and scratchy from not having been used in days. There's confusion and fascination -- a sense of amazement at what's surely a tragic accident. This thought is still firmly entrenched in my brain when a jet -- United Flight 175 out of Boston -- screams into the live picture for only the briefest moment before disappearing into the other tower. For a split-second there's nothing -- then a massive fireball erupts which splits the building in half in a blossom of orange and black, and a shower of debris.
My brain can't process the image fast enough, and my first thought is, "How could that kind of mistake happen twice?"
After only one more breath -- one more second to allow it all to sink in -- do I realize what's happened.
The next few hours are spent as one with millions across the nation and around the world. I watch in absolute horror as my country is attacked, as people are killed, and as indescribable chaos reigns. I pace maniacally back and forth in front of the TV. I feel like a caged animal. I want to do something. I feel utterly helpless and I want to do something. I want to work. I want to help. I want to get the hell out of here. I want to live. People are dying, and I'm wasting away here. I want to live. I want to make a difference somehow. My life isn't over.
And that's when it hits me.
I have no job. I have no wife. I have nothing.
I have nothing holding me back.
If I stay here, I'll be worse than dead. I'll watch the world fall apart on television. I'll watch the destruction and the sadness -- the heroism and heartbreak -- and I'll feel sorry for myself for my pathetic little losses while so many others try to fight their way back from losses greater than I can ever imagine. I'll sit quietly and helplessly by while an entire country mourns.
It's at that moment that I walk to the phone and place one call -- to a friend of mine who's now an executive producer for NBC in New York. I let him know that I'm going to be in New York and that I'll be available to work if he needs extra help, which I'm almost certain he will. Then I run back to the guest room and begin packing a suitcase.
I'll work if they'll let me. I'll hand out water and food if not. I'll do something. I have no idea where I'm going to stay or how I'll pay for anything, but I have to go. I have to see this for myself.
The next morning I leave before dawn, driving across the new America -- a land eerily quiet, where the shock of what's happened seems to show on the face of each person I meet. I drive through sun and rain, into the night -- occasionally scanning the empty skies with the realization that at no point in my life have I lived in a country where all public air travel was prohibited.
Years ago, I read a book from Clive Barker called The Great and Secret Show. In it, the forces of good and evil battle for supremacy as they always seem to do in fantasy novels. However, one moment in the story now comes back to me and seems to have an astonishing relevance. When the character of Jaffe finally masters the ability to control time and space -- what Barker calls "The Art" -- he grabs reality and literally tears a hole in it. At the moment this happens, Barker explains that all around the world people stop; they get out of their cars or they wake up or they generally freeze in their tracks. They do this because, no matter where they are, they know that something has changed. They know that something is wrong, even if they can't explain what it is.
This is what it feels like in the days following September 11th, 2001: Something is wrong. Everything is wrong.
A hole has been torn in the fabric of reality.
That hole -- the largest of three anyway -- is in New York City.
At some point, as I speed up the highway to this destination, my cell phone rings. I answer it and am told by the woman on the other end of the line that she's from NBC, and that my friend needs me to report to work as quickly as possible.
She explains where I need to go. She sets me up with a hotel room. She wishes me luck and says goodbye.
I pull over and close my eyes -- taking deep breaths.
I made a leap of faith, and found a place to land.
There isn't a writer or a poet alive who could properly describe or explain the next few months. I lived out of a hotel. I worked inhuman hours at the center of the most agonizing single event in American history. I held a woman in my arms as she realized her husband was dead -- and I cried with her because although my own marriage was over and I missed my wife terribly, I couldn't even begin to imagine her suffering -- and through that I was helped to heal. I was reborn as a person I didn't even recognize -- a stranger in a strange land, in a larger world which seemed alien to everyone. I shook my head at the utterly surreal and tragic series of events that led me to be at the one place I never expected or intended to be -- but through unbelievable circumstances became the one place I was supposed to be. I found strength in those who were stronger than I could ever have hoped to be. In the shadow of death, I learned to live again.
And in time I fell in love again -- with a girl named Jayne.
I met her through a friend of mine. He was supposed to be working at the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11th, but called in sick at the last minute.
But that's his story.