Tuesday, January 31, 2006

FLASH POLL

Should I buy Chipotle stock?


I love their burritos. Will I love making money, too?

I, FATTY

Right now I'm reading I, Fatty by Jerry Stahl, and so far it's great.

Here's a question: Why doesn't someone make a film about Fatty Arbuckle? I mean, come on. Hire Michael Badalucco and you're halfway there.


I probably just made someone a million dollars with this fucking genius idea. You're welcome, Hollywood.

WRECK

I couldn't help but notice that the film "Crash" grabbed a number of Oscar nominations this morning. Saywah? The first half of the film was fantastic, the second half horribly pat. For those of you who haven't seen the film, here's a breif synopsis:

Jim and Peggy are married. They are white. A couple of minorities enter their life. Later, these minorities get involved in altercations with other people, some of them white, some of them not. In each instance, and in each conversation, race is brought to the forefront. Now, in the middle of the film, you have maybe 15 characters. Most of them are connected by some event that happened during the day. By the end of the film, the loose ends are neatly tied up, and everyone is connected to everyone else. The strange circumstances that intertwined the lives of 15 people would not have been plausible in a town of 10,000, let alone Los Angeles. Everybody learns a damn good lesson about other people, including us, the viewers. A movie about real life if real life were a TV show. James Frey couldn't have written a better film, but at least Frey would have included a suicide. Wait, was there a suicide in "Crash"? I don't even know.

In other words, boo. Boo to the nomination of "Crash". If they have to give it to one of the films nominated, give it to "Capote". Now there's a quality flick.

But "Crash"? Furreals?

Bah humbug.

Friday, January 27, 2006

CUTTING EDGE HUMOR

With the recent passing of Richard Pryor, much ado was made of the state of American comedy. Pryor transformed the genre of stand-up, a profession once reliant on skits and one-line jokes, by adding the daring element of confession; of vulnerability and personal revelation. Today the torch has been passed, and modern comics like Zach Galifiankis, Louis CK, Sarah Silverman, Bob Odenkirk, and Patton Oswalt peddle a new, "alternative" brand of comedy. It's a strange hybrid of hope and cynicism, irony and decency - these comedians make fun of the America they find themselves in, not because it's the only gristle around to grind, but because by lampooning it and its citizens, they hope to improve it. No comedian of this new breed stands out as a more perfect example than Ann Coulter, whose jabs at liberal Americans are the ne plus ultra of subversive comedy. Just recently, in fact, Coulter had this to say when asked about the country's Supreme Court: "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee," Coulter said. "That's just a joke, for you in the media."

Notice how the first comment - We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee - deftly plays off of conservatives' strongly held and alarmingly innacurate stereotypes of liberals - they of the pansy race, epicurians with so great a hunger for French cuisine. The meat of the joke, however, is in her blunt assessment and dissection of current conservative hyperbole, especially in regards to the sickening adoption of the belief that violent means are necessary to achieve ever ignoble goals. Simply the idea of a person poisoning a Supreme Court justice in an effort to repeal civil rights is enough to induce laughter, but to express it so flippantly and carelessly (Coulter possesses a unique, genre-bending deadpan delivery) is the true genius of her art.

Finally, notice how she pauses before continuing - That's just a joke, for you in the media - again taking a simple statement and elevating it to farce. Of course you're joking, we think to ourselves, but it's a sick and cruel joke, and not that funny - before being blindsided by the obviousness of her admission. Once again Coulter subverts our expectations and plays with the media's unbending and belabored concept of who she is and what she represents. She seems to be winking at us while lobbing another Molotov cocktail through our window - humor with a shot of cocaine; a final joke, a hilarious one, as she splays us out on the stretching table and cranks away with a relentless, eerie vigor. This is humor in the 21st century - funny, biting, relevant, and, most of all, incredibly painful and almost unbearably sad.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

REPRISE

It's that time of year again. American Idol time. And though I had remarked earlier this year that I would not be watching this season, it's grabbed me like a fever that I can't shake. And though I watch it, I don't like it. My thoughts on the subject haven't changed much in the past year.

IN THE TIME OF CHIMPANZEES, I WAS A MONKEY

Who knew there was a person out there who could say the things I thought and felt but couldn't articulate? Not me, of course. I'm a singular person, unique in every way. My personal history - the strange dramas and failed chances that have comprised my life thus far - combined with my inherent melancholy, intense morality, and infectious mirth, mixed together with a stunning physical prowess, and topped off with a dash of mania and a splash of depression, is mine and mine alone. The tint through which I view the world lies somewhere between rose-colored and outright dismal, and if I didn't wallow so often in my own miserable middle-class disaffection, I'd try to articulate what and how I felt about things better than I do. But I don't, so suck on a grape.

Is that even an expression?

Anyway, I recently discovered this guy Joe Bageant, who on the surface seems like just another internet personality with white-hot blood and a million excuses to rant. But the guy is a good read and has some prescient insights. More than a few of his essays are great, and as I read through a number of them today, I found that this one left me a bit speechless. In fact, there were a few times he so squarely hit the nail on the head I almost shouted at the screen. And though his ideas may not be profound or revolutionary, they are varied enough and expressed confidently enough to be truly impressive. From this jumping off point:

Allow me to get down to the nub of this and say what urban liberals cannot allow themselves to say out loud: "Christian majority or not, the readers of such apocalyptic books as the Left Behind series are some pretty damned dumb motherfuckers caught up in their own black, vindictive fantasy." There. I said it for you. Let us proceed.

He then plods along to state that Forty years later Merton is still right. Like most American liberals, not to mention all of Europe and the rest of the world, I learned through education to write the U.S. born-again literature off as kitsch religion, merely bad theology in an unholy marriage to bad writing. Another product of the American Jesus industry.

And then eventually winds his way to Essentially it comes down to the fact that a very large portion of Americans are crazier than shithouse rats and are being led by a gang of pathological misfits, most of whom are preachers and politicians. We are not talking about simple religious faith here. There is a world of difference between having religious faith and being a born-again zealot who believes in his heart that he is thumping Darwinian demons out of classrooms and that Ted Kennedy is the anti-Christ. Trading down to the Democratic party of the pussies really will not save us. It will just buy a little time. But we have whipped the hell out of this dead horse before, haven’t we? Forgive me.

Well, whatever. Read it yourself.

Here is another of his essays that I found particularly intriguing in a "I've felt that but never really thought that" sort of way: Revenge of the Mutt People.

Ok, I was going to write more but why? Just read the articles and tell me why he's a douchebag. That's what the internet's for, right?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

TERRENCE MALICK'S SCREENPLAY ABOUT A FIELD TRIP TO THE ZOO

A boy of 10, JIM, dangles his hand over the side of a bus seat. It is hot. With his other hand he wipes the sweat from his brow. As he turns to look out the window, we follow his gaze until we see, through the window, fields of high grass, swaying in the wind.

JIM (V.O.) (whispering)
Why does grass grow so high? Why did God make it green, and the sky blue?


CUT TO: From the grassy field, we see the yellow school bus pass in and out of frame. A falcon flies into frame and rests on the branch of a dead tree.

JIM (V.O.) (cont.)
Sometimes, when I think about dying, my heart aches and the world turns gray, like looking at pictures in a newspaper.


CUT TO: Close up of the falcon, bobbing its head. It shrieks then flies away.

TITLE slowly dissolves into frame from nothing: THE DAY OF ANIMALS. It fades out and we

CUT TO: School bus pulling into a parking lot. It brakes and as the doors swing open, small children run out into the sparkling noon sun. Their teacher, PEGGY DONALDSON, follows them off the bus.

PEGGY (V.O. - whispering)
Acorns turn to trees and then to lumber. I am a tree that gives the world no acorns, and no lumber.


PEGGY
All right everybody, I need your attention. Buddy up with your partner and hold hands. Is everybody here? Good. Let's get in a single file and follow me.

The procession of small children starts moving toward the door. The camera, weightless, floats next to a pair of hands, clasped, swaying in time to the rhythm of the children's stride.

CUT TO: A monitor lizard rests inside a fake and artificial habitat. It lies still, until a fly lands on its shoulder. It moves its head slowly. From inside the cage, the camera cuts to a shot of the children looking through the glass at the lizard. The glass is dirty and mottled, and the children are not decipherable; they move slightly but otherwise could be in an impressionist painting.

CUT TO: Close profile of a small girl, JANE, looking in at the lizard.

JANE (V.O.) (whispering)
Does an animal get lonely? Or think of his home? Does he know he's in a cage? Does he suffer like me? Does he know he's gonna die?


CUT TO: The camera floats, following two children who run through the maze-like outdoor corridors of the zoo. They stop outside the MONKEY ENCLOSURE, though the camera swoops past them and upward, until it is level with two CHIMPAZEES in a tree. The chimps groom each other, eating grubs from each other's backs.

CUT TO: A little girl, JULIA, holds the hand of a boy, JACK, as they peer up at the monkeys. JULIA looks over at JACK, but JACK keeps his gaze fixed on the animals.

JULIA (V.O.) (whispering)
Who are you? Are you the face of love to me? What am I to you? When night comes do you wish I were there? Do you cry like I do when the sun comes up and you are not with me?


CUT TO: As the chimps continue to groom each other, the chimp in the front turns around and stares into the eyes of the chimp behind it, then looks down, closes its eyes.

CUT TO: A Galapagos Turtle carries a lemur on its back. A peacock intersects the frame, as chimes can be heard faintly in the background. As the turtle slowly crawls to a dirty watering hole, we hear:

PEGGY (V.O.) (whispering)
For whom do I toil? To whom do I give care and comfort? When I am frail and hungry, who will tend to me? Is it enough to be a good person in this world? What is asked of us - what can we ask of others?


The turtle reaches the water and bends down to drink. A sparrow enters the frame and the two drink in silence, together.

Fade out.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

ALEC BALDWIN SPEAKS TO A GROUP OF SECOND GRADERS

Alec Baldwin: Let me have your attention for a moment. 'Cause you're talkin' about what...you're talkin' 'bout...bitchin' about not being able to count money? Some son of a bitch buys a stamp, gives you a dollar, now you've got to figure out what he gets back, so forth, let's talk about something important. Are they all here?

Teacher: All but one.

Baldwin: Well, I'm going anyway. Let's talk about something important. (sees child in back of class with carpet square). Put that square down. Carpet is for counters only. You think I'm fuckin' with you? I am not fuckin' with you. I'm here from Central Administration. I'm here from the superintendent's office. And I'm here on a mission of mercy. Your name's Dakota?

Dakota: Yeah.

Baldwin: You call yourself a change counter, you son of a bitch.

Randall (another child in the class): Mrs. Roberts, do I have to listen to the bad man anymore?

Baldwin: You certainly don't pal 'cause the good news is you just got a time out. The bad news is you got all you got, just one week to learn how to count change, starting with today, starting with today's recess. (The children start shifting about and crying) Oh, have I got your attention now? Good. 'Cause we're adding a little something to this month's change-counting contest. As you all know, first prize is a carton of chocolate milk. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a gold star. Third prize is time out. You get the picture? You laughing now? You got fake change. School system paid good money for that fake change. Your teacher even cut them out. You can't count the change you're given, you can't count shit, you are shit, hit the bricks pal and beat it 'cause you are going in time out.

Dakota: The change is screwed up.

Baldwin: The change is screwed up. The fuckin' change is screwed up? You're screwed up. I've been counting change for 15 years. You think that just because the fake nickels are a little orange and the quarters are a little small, you can't learn how to count fuckin'...

Randall: What's your name?

Baldwin: Fuck you, that's my name. You know why, asshole? Cause you rode the bus to get here today, I drove an 80,000 dollar BMW. That's my name. (To Dakota) And your name is you're pathetic. You can't play in the big girl's game, you can't count change? Then go home and tell your mom your troubles. Because only one thing counts in this life. Make change with the money which is in the drawer. You hear me you fuckin' faggots.
(Flips the blackboard)

ABC. A, Always, B, Be, C, Counting. Always be counting. Always be counting. Get out there. You got the money coming in, you think they don't want change back? A guy don't walk in your daddy's 711 looking to buy a Fudgsicle with a twenty dollar bill not expecting change. They're sitting out there waiting for you to give them their change. Are you going to give it to them? Are you man enough to make it exact? (To Randall) What's the problem, pal?

Randall: You, boss, you're such a hero, you're so rich, how come you're coming down here and wasting your time with such a bunch of second graders?

Baldwin: You see this watch? You see this watch?

Randall: Yeah.

Baldwin: That watch costs more than your daddy's car. I made 970,000 dollars last year, how much change you think you can make from that? You see pal, that's who I am, and you're nothing. Nice guy? I don't give a shit. Good son, good brother, fuck you, go home and play capture the flag. You want to make it to third grade, you learn how to count change. You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cock-sucker. You can't take this, how can you take the abuse you get when a customer comes in the door asking for change for a stick of a gum and a hundred dollar bill. If you don't like it, leave.

Get mad you sons-of-a-bitches. Get mad. You know what it takes to make change? It takes brass balls to make change. Go and do likewise, kiddos. The money's out there, you pick it up, you change it wrong, I got no sympathy for you. You want to go out to the popsicle stand and make change, do it. If not, you're going to be shining my shoes. And you know what you'll be saying. Bunch of losers sitting around in a bar: "Oh yeah, I used to count change. It's a tough racket."

(To Randall) And to answer your question, pal: Why am I here? I came here because the superintendent asked me to, he asked me for a favor. I said the real favor, follow my advice and send those little dickheads to the remedial class, because a loser is a loser.

JAMES FREY

Turns out that James Frey made up all of his book, not just some of it. Shocker!

And if you want to be really entertained, listen to this interview that he gave a few months ago in which he describes what prison is like (it's toward the end). Does it get any creepier than that? I'm shivering with shame and anger.

Friday, January 20, 2006

LET'S ROLL

Ok, people, let's move. Let's get going.

Let's roll.

Let's bounce. Let's get a move on. Let's giddy-up. Take off those slippers, gramps. Time to lace up the sneakers. It's do or die. Back's against the wall.

Let's roll.

Let's skedaddle. Let's blow this popsicle stand. Let's scram, vamoose, head out, beat it. Let's dog it and duck out. Let's hightail it on out of here.

No time for dilly-dallying. This is not a time for fiddling around. Move it or lose it, buster. No time to monkey around. Stop that dawdling and diddling. Shape up. Then we'll ship out.

Ok, people. You ready? Ready to make like a tree? And leaf?

Let's roll.

What I'm saying is maybe we should leave soon.

Hurriedly.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

THE NIGHT THEY DROVE OLD DIXIE DOWN

For as long as I can remember (and presumably even before then), I've been allergic to shrimp. When I was eighteen months, my father held out for my hungry, puckered lips a small spoonful of peanut butter ice cream: little did he know that I was allergic to both peanuts and milk. I slurped a sample and swallowed and my lips puffed up then burst, bleeding; hives broke out over my body and face; and my eyes swelled shut. Luckily my parents got me to a hospital before I died, and the doctors pumped my little freaked-out body full of epinephrine, the only truly soothing salve for the allergically-afflicted. With my body's defenses now operating at warp speed, pumping the errant histamines back to their respective cells, my body cooled and settled down until finally I was a wholly restored little bumpkin once again. What a relief the sight of a healthy child must have been to my parents, who in their negligence had already allowed the blinding of another of their children five years earlier. One can only imagine the little speeches they must have been rehearsing to themselves, wary of some inevitable consultation with Social Services - "Yes, of course we kept track of his diet! Yes, of course we understand you're not supposed to give small children peanuts. What's that? Why did we? Well, I suppose we thought that peanut butter ice cream was more cream and butter than peanut. Plus, he looked hungry. Come again? You're asking me why my daughter has a small, blackened eye? Umm, well, she was born that way. Genetic thing. I'm sorry? Oh, you're wondering why my son just claimed that it was actually he who stabbed his sister in the eye? Well, you know kids - they'll say anything for a laugh. What's that you say? Just who exactly is in charge of this house? Well, Jesus is. He watches over us, and we look to Him for guidance. Oh God, oh Jesus! Not my kids... please, oh please, don't take my kids! I meant Jesus metaphorically! I SWEAR TO YOU WE AREN'T CRAZY NEGLIGENT PARENTS!"

Once my body had finally settled down, they ordered tests on me, drilling little holes into my back and dropping allergens into them, waiting for a reaction. When the results became apparent, it confirmed the prudent suspicions of the doctors: dairy products and eggs would cause my skin to erupt in hives and eczema, while peanuts, fish, and shellfish would cause immediate and perhaps lethal anaphylactic shock, a process that involves my mast cells exploding with histamines - little buggers who race through my bloodstream with baseball bats and a coke habit, a million little Johnny Depps let loose in the huge hotel of my body. It's not a fun party, though, and when it ends, there are no fireworks or nude twister or Kate Moss. Just a throat swelling shut and a body in shock, powering down the remaining operable organs and telling everyone to just go home, there's nothing to see here.

So it came as quite the surprise to me when, just over a week ago, my new allergist tested a blood sample and informed me that I am not, in fact, allergic to shrimp. At all. That I am, strangely enough, more allergic to potatos than shrimp. More allergic to tomatos and honeydew and kiwi and, by assocation (oh, fear of all fears), latex. In fact, I am, one could say, as allergic to shrimp as I am confident of pleasing a woman sexually. Which is to say not at all.

The first thought that crossed my mind was that my doctor was an idiot and a charlatan. Everyone knows that I'm allergic to shrimp. It's one of my many badges of conflicted, wounded honor, ranking just behind the notion that I had true love and lost it. Being deathly allergic to shrimp was the first salvo in a barrage of charming self-pity that I had been peddling for years. Do you know how poor my eyesight is? Are you aware that I occasionally break out in hives when the weather is too warm? Can you belive that I have overcome so much, with so little, to become the monster of a man I am today? No, honey, me neither. I simply can't believe it. Now, let's take this back to my place, where I will lay you down upon my allergen-free, plastic-sheeted bed. I will offer you a glass of wine - white wine of course, for red wine contains too many sulfites, which make my skin tingly and sort of itchy. Yes, wonderful. Are you feeling comfortable? Come now, rest your head upon my shoulder - ow! No, no, it's not your fault. I just bruise easily. My skin is tender, but no more tender than my heart.

Love me.

And now this new doctor tells me that my entire sham is a sham. Well, I wasn't convinced. Sure, he had fancy technology and centrifuges and microscopes and trained professionals on his side, but I had something, too. It's called gumption. And I did what any person in my situation with a little gumption would do: I performed a medical procedure on myself without telling my doctor. Now, some of you may claim that running a clinical trial on oneself, with absolutely no medical training whatsoever, is the height of folly. You'd be wrong.

You see, because I have been going to allergists my entire life, I have a pretty good idea of how to perform a simple skin test. In fact, it's dangerously easy and fun. All one needs are four things: a sharp object to puncture the skin (in this case, a safety pin); juices or extracts from the possible allergen (today's samples would be shrimp juice, peanut butter, and avocado); an Epipen for immediate relief if the trial goes awry; and a sober and competent friend in charge of emergency hospital-driving or 911-calling duties. After dabbing a bit of extract on the end of the safety pin, merely prick ther skin and embed the allergen just underneath, cleaning the lancet after each puncture and repeating the process. Fortunately, the last two safety precautions proved unnecessary, as the skin test was executed with clinical precision: no reaction in the area where I pricked the skin with filtered water (control), no reaction for shrimp (meaning that I truly am not allergic to it after all), no reaction for peanut butter (interesting...), and a huge reaction for avocado (the food to which I am the most allergic...ladies??).

The stage was now set for a momentous moment of momentous importance: the eating and ingestion of shrimp. Lady Spoonbender prepared a sizzling pan of shrimp a la Spanish spices and saffron, and we sat around the table staring at the little critters, waiting for a move on my part. I showed Lord Spoonbender the proper technique one employs when using an Epipen and then I ate a little shrimp and then I waited. I say "little" because they were perhaps the smallest sized shrimp you can purchase, which I later realized was the perfect way to be introduced to them. The flavor of the spicy saffron sauce overwhelmed the shrimpy smell of the seafoody shrimps. I consumed perhaps four of these shrimpy shrimps and, truth be told, was slightly underwhelmed. The flesh of the shrimp was denser than I had imagined, less flavorful, and dry and gritty. But still, I had conquered the mountain. I had eaten shrimp. I had not died. I had not even developed a small headache or a slight irration of the skin. As a hero of mine is wont to say, FTBSITTTD. And boy did I FTBS and boy did I then TTBSD.

But still I felt unsatisfied. I had, in my own estimation, "pussied out". I had only eaten a few very small shrimp, I hadn't prepared it myself, and in my concern and worry of eating something that I had always thought would either kill me or make me violently ill, had failed to savor the flavor of the little scrumptious crustaceans. So I resolved to make my own batch of shrimp, big shrimp this time, the kind of shrimp that look like that thing that popped out of that guy's stomach in Spaceballs. Jumbo shrimp.

I went to the store and purchased a pound of the stuff and asked my sis-n-law for a good recipe and then found myself, last night at seven in the evening, in the curious position of standing above a sautee pan covered in hot olive oil and roasted garlic with a bag of smelly, fishy shrimp. Bombs away, and I dumped the bag. Lord, what a smell. For twenty five years, the programming has been set, reinforced, and hammered into every fibre and wire of my body - upon the immediate smell of seafood, a hurried and frantic, "Retreat! Retreat! Retreat!" And here I was not only not fleeing the scene and searching for my Epipen, but actively preparing the dish myself. I felt like a hemophiliac preparing my wrist for a ritualistic blood-brothering. But still I persevered, because I am strong and I will not allow my will to be conquered (Oh, AM, how do you go on in the face of such strife? I don't know, love. I wish I knew - wish I could bottle it and give to you, but I can't and I won't.)

I finished the preparation and then continued, carrying out each step with less and less conviction. By the time the meal was ready and I had scooped five or six huge shrimp on my plate, pink and white and covered in parsley and salt, I had nearly already made up my mind: I will not eat this. They were too imposing, the jumbo shrimp. Too...shrimpy. Imagine if someone told you today, "You know, eating your own shit won't make you sick. In fact, it's quite tasty, and very good for you." Would you do it? I don't think you would. The mental hurdle is too great. If it were decimated and pureed and hidden in something else, like maybe a chocolate and shit shake, then maybe you'd be able to do it. But imagine a huge, solid turd on your plate next a sprig of parsley and a bowl of fruit. I really doubt you'd have the resolve to take a bite. So get off my back and stop judging me already.

I should mention that I did eventually manage to eat one whole shrimp, cautiously and sheepishly and by way of three nervous nibbles, while enduring my roommate's cavalier assertions that, "Man, shrimp sure is great!" as he polished off the rest of my plate. Unfortunately, one shrimp is not a victory. It's a concession. It's a slapping of the mat, a cry of "Uncle!", a white flag. Shrimp: 1, American Mastodon: 0.

So there you have it. The punchline-less and not greatly dramatic story of how I came to eat shrimp, for the first time, at the ripe age of twenty-five. But surely, this story is not yet finished. For though you may have bested me this time, shrimp, this is hardly the last you'll see of me. I will build my tolerance to your gross fish-odor, your fleshy little fingerish shape, your flaming pink gayness, and your way over-priced cost. I will suffer in my hunger to develop a...uh, hunger for you. I will one day enter a Red Lobster and order you, as they say, in the "Scampi" way, and I will dip you in sauce and I will enjoy your flesh on my tongue and I will laugh. I will laugh and laugh and laugh and keep laughing for as long as I want, because no harm will come to me or my throat. I know that now. You can't take that away from me - that knowledge. Sure, you may think you own me now, but today is already turning into yesterday and next week is just around the corner and pretty soon it'll be next year and the year after that and I will be eating you for every meal, every day, all the time, for no good reason other than to shame you in the same way you've shamed me all these years.

I will OWN YOU.

FTBSITTTD.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

KOBE AND SHAQ


I wish I knew how to quit yew!

Friday, January 13, 2006

HAVE A HAPPY WEEKEND

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great man and it makes me proud that America could produce such a fantastic human being.

In a lot of ways, he reminds me of myself.

Have a good one, everybody.

DOUBLE YOU TEE EFF?

This can't be true. Can it?

The Jews. Will they ever cease to amaze?

INDIGO GIRLS

Some of you may have noticed that last night I posted a bit of an email I received from a man known to many as The Young Professor, only to take it down earlier this morning. I did that because he asked me to (The Young Professor is an elusive and mysterious creature, roaming the hills and hillocks of central Ohio, somewhere around Utica, for all anyone can tell), and though he later obliged, the posting of his email made me feel small and petty and there was really no reason or need to post it in the first place. I certainly didn't mean it as any sort of rebuke to TJ, though maybe it came across as that.

As the days get longer here in the middle of January, I worry more and more that I won't ever leave this job and that I'll continue to fill the boredom of my working days with blogging. Someone should write a memoir about that.

And just in case you weren't convinced that our country is fucked, that people are always dumber than you give them credit for, or that New York has stopped being an Eden of opulence and instead morphed into a strange parody of a paradise of the shallow, dumb, and rich, read this article.

I don't disagree with the parents in the article that our world is in trouble. Unfortunately for them and their children, they have no idea that they are the trouble. Those poor fucking kids, man. Jesus.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

FTBSITTTD CONTINUED

I made a promise to myself last night, after watching James Frey spend his evening hemming and hawing on Larry King Live, to forget about the entire thing. To let it go. To be, as I had implored myself earlier in the year, a bigger man.

But what is a "promise"? Hemingway and Kerouac made "promises" in their life that they subsequently broke. Was I, in fact, just another in a long line of great writers who had made promises and then gone back on my word? Perhaps a promise is not a bond between the person making the promise and the person to whom the promise is made, but rather a suggestion that, in the future, I may get around to doing whatever it was I just "promised" you. In fact, there is a great discussion right now in literary circles about just what, exactly, a promise is, and the boundaries to which one can go to before breaking one's own "promise" if, in fact, one can break a promise at all. Is it not naive to suggest that a promise can be broken? Doesn't that suggest a rigidity of vocabulary, a world of blacks and whites and absolutes? I think that in the future it will be very interesting to see what sort of a definition of "promise" we can agree on, if ever, and how my "broken" "promise" will be viewed by the prism of that newly categorized idea.

But I am breaking my promise; I am completely obsessed with Frey and I'm trying to figure out why. The more I think of him and his book and this controversy, the more interesting it all becomes to me. I had earlier said that Nabokov would have loved a person like Frey; he would have loved eviscerating his false machismo, his bragadaccio, his faux-tough guy persona. And, on top of all that, he probably would have mimicked Frey's writing style, and would have mimicked it better than Frey could have written it. Thus being the genius of Nabokov.

This Slate article hints at the complexity of Frey and the complexity of the situation he finds himself in. It's very good and it brings up a point that I've been trying to wrap my head around and articulate - Frey's weird, macho fear of seeing himself as a "victim" led him to fabricate a life that was painful and extreme enough so as to explain the sadness and despair he felt. So here, then, is a tragic character that I would have enjoyed reading about. Unfortunatley, it's not the tragic character Frey did write about. The book could have been a fantastic memoir if he were either a better writer or possessed the ability to articulate those emotions that he has refused to acknowledge within himself - the feeling of being just another regular rich white kid from the suburbs of America during a period of rapid and overwhelming change. The conquering of the apathy of helplessness and despair of being that kid, which is the kid he actually was, would have been a better book, because he would have been articulating his personal emotions - which, he seems not to understand, are our universal emotions - instead of supplanting his depressed and frustrating childhood with some imagined Life of Crime.

Funny that in a world of sadness, desparation, and helplessness, it is the story about the Life of Crime we are interested in reading and not the more honest, frustratingly real story of how our lives have become mundane and boring. Frey went further than some people would go to break themselves out of that monotony, but he didn't go as far as he said, and that's interesting. Who's he trying to impress? His dad? Does he truly imagine himself as a present day Norman Mailer? Or is he just trying to sell books?

But there's even more to Frey that is interesting. I've known people like Frey and I've lived with people like Frey. They were as equally fascinating to me and for all the same reasons. A rich kid who's father worked too much and who didn't pay enough attention to him. A mother, a kind woman, projects all of her desires and aspirations onto her son (this was so clearly evident on Larry King Live it was actually shocking) and refuses to believe that he is anything other than perfect, though she will concede that he is perhaps misunderstood by others. Where does this dynamic lead? To a young man who does desperate and destructive things to both garner the attention of his father and to repel the unnatural and harmful affections of his mother. In the case of the person I used to live with, that meant excessive drug abuse, violent outbursts, lots of crying, lots of yelling at his mother and a deep, painful need for a constant acknowledgment of his existence by his father.

Now that Frey has written his book and set it loose into the public sphere, there's no going back for him. He really has no option but to hunker down and ride out the storm. Maybe he'll be finished as a writer. Maybe, instead, this controversy will propel him further into the mainstream. "From the controversial author of A Million Little Pieces comes a gripping new story..." I wouldn't be surprised either way, I suppose, but eventually, I do hope that someone will write the story - fictional or not - about the kid Frey really was, and the person that millions of Americans are. Unfortunately, I don't think most people have any interest in being that capital "H" Honest with themselves.

Finally, these are some of the best links I could find about Frey (via Maud):

Jumping for that Elusive Truth
Time to Floss
Frey's Fairy Godfather
Talking Points (nails the slipperiness/deceitfulness of Frey's LKL appearance)

No more Frey stuff? Ok, deal.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

TRILOBITES

If you'd like to print out and read the short story Trilobites, you can find the PDF here.

Trevor brought up a good point in his last comment. Pancake was not a dirt poor good ole boy from the hills and hillocks of West Virginia, but he passed himself off as that and that perspective was reflected in his stories. I suppose writers and other dramatists have an innate sense of romance; instead of shaping yourself to fit into the world, there is the desire to shape the world to fit your idea of what it should be.

Either way, I didn't know much about Pancake before I started reading his stories, but you can tell they come from a very real place. Even if they didn't - even if they were written by a middle-aged homemaker from Myrtle Beach - the writing is fantastic. No excessive prose, just lean and poetic. Good stuff.

JAMES FREY UPDATE: In an uprecedented move, Random House offers a refund for A Million Little Pieces. My Schadenfreude can now no longer be measured by numbers, but rather by imaginary numbers, and logarithms, and the like.

HOW JAMES FREY HAS CHANGED MY LIFE

James Frey will appear on the Larry King Live show tonight. Really? Do you think this was something that had been scheduled for awhile or did the Larry King people ask him yesterday? I've never in my life been excited to see someone on Larry King. James Frey has changed my life.

Last night, as I boxed up The Big Red One to take back to Vidiots, I stopped in front of my tv, turned the volume up, and watched the last few minutes of The Situation with Tucker Carlson, as he was talking about James Frey. Never in my life have I stopped doing something to watch more Tucker Carlson. James Frey has changed my life.

The Farmhand sent me this Oprah link last night - be sure to read it before it's taken down. This is my favorite part: Question 2. A Million Little Pieces is a nonfiction memoir, but does it also read like a novel? How does Frey create suspense and sustain narrative tension throughout? Oooh, ooh, ooh, I know! By making shit up? Never in my life have I visited the Oprah website. James Frey has changed my life.

It looks like they're still going to do the film adaptation of A Hundred Thousand Small Fragments. Weird.

Oh, and this is a great review of the book, because it's so funny. Excerpt:

But then Frey is no expert observer, as he proves in one of the funniest scenes from his nature walks, when he meets a "fat otter": "There is an island among the rot, a large, round Pile with monstrous protrusions like the arms of a Witch. There is chatter beneath the pile and a fat brown otter with a flat, armored tail climbs atop and he stares at me."

Now, can anyone tell me what a "fat otter with a flat, armored tail" actually is? That's right: a beaver! Now, can anyone guess what the "large, round Pile with monstrous protrusions like the arms of a Witch" would be? Yes indeed: a beaver dam!

Any kindergartner would know that, and anyone with a flicker of life would be delighted to see a beaver and its home. But for Frey, a very stupid and very vain man, the "fat otter" is nothing but another mirror in which to adore his Terrible Fate. He engages the beaver in the most dismal of adolescent rhetorical interrogations:

"Hey, Fat Otter.

He stares at me.

You want what I got?

He stares at me.

I'll give you everything.

Stares at me...."

And so on, for another half-page. You want to slap the sulking spoiled brat. The Fat Otter should've slapped him with its "flat, armored tail" and then chewed his leg off and used it to fortify its "Pile with monstrous protrusions."


You know, before I got sidetracked indulging my pure, visceral hatred for James Frey, this whole post was going to be about how last night, before going to bed, I tried to read some stories from Breece Pancake's short story collection, and couldn't do it. With the whole JT Leroy and James Frey debacles, I was jonesing for some real writing. I wanted to read some of those stories that had long ago made me understand, for the first time, how transcendental great writing can be. How fiction can speak to the truth of a life, and of living. Words. Put together. In such a way. In just the right way.

But I couldn't read them because I couldn't focus and I couldn't concentrate. Every sentence sent me back to the small room in which I spent my sophomore year of college, listening to Beth Orton songs and feeling sorry for myself, one hour wondering how to break up with girlfriend and the other hour wondering if I should drive the three hours to see her. It took me back to the days of driving through the hills of southeastern Ohio on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, trying to find the perfect dirt road. I've read the stories so many times it's become difficult to parse what they are from what I've always made them to be. If I have time, I'll try to post Trilobites, his best story, as a PDF. Then you can read it yourself, if you can concentrate long enough.


Breece Pancake, above, a phenomenal writer, killed himself when he was 27, because he knew that he could not live in a world occupied by James Frey.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A TON OF REALLY TINY BITS OF THINGS

(Because I just can't stop myself)

I wake to the sound of the ship docking and the feeling of something warm dripping down my chin. I lift my hand to feel my face. My last three teeth are gone, I have a hole in my cheek, my nose is broken and my eyepatch is missing. I open my eyes and I look around and I'm on a brigantine and there's no one near me. Someone's slipped me between two six pounders and I can smell the smoldering gunpowder of a recent battle. I look at my clothes and my clothes are ripped and dirty, just rags now, they're covered with spit, snot, urine, vomit, blood, phlem, and black and yellow bile. I reach for the rigging above me, rope connected to a mast, and I touch it and I pull it and I try to get up and a pirate sees me and he comes over.
Aaaargh. How are you?
What's going on?
You don't know?
No.
We're headed for Zanzibar, sir.
How did I get here?
Aaaargh. Doctor and two men brought you on.
They say anything?
They talked to the Captain, Sir. We were told to let you sleep.
Am I a slave?
We were not told, sir. The Captain spoke with the Doctors.
Where are we now?
Port of call. Mogadishu.
Thank you.
I hear chains and irons clank and I feel the pull of the boat sliding against the riggings. I look around for anything I might have with me, but there's nothing. No dagger, no canteen, no ventilator, no hogshead, no Pieces of Eight. I sit and I wait and I try to figure out what happened. Nothing comes. I smell the salty air of the African port and my head throbs. I try to stand and make my way to the pier. After about five steps I sit back down. Walking is out of the question. I see another pirate and I raise a hand.
Aaaargh.
Please.
Aaaaargh. What's wrong?
I can't really walk.
If you make it to the plank I can get you on a gally.
How far is the plank?
Aaaargh. Not far.
I stand. I wobble. I sit back down. I stare at the floor and take a deep breath.
You'll be all right he says.
I need glog.
He laughs and his tri-tipped hat shakes in the stiff but welcoming breeze. He holds out his hand and I take it. I stand and I list against him and he helps me toward the plank. We pass the mizzenmast, the main sheet, the lugsail. My mind races. I'm still loaded to the gunwalls and I need to get off this brig. We get to the plank.
I'll be right back.
I let go of him and I sit down and I listen to the cries of the gulls. Their shrieks echo in my head, my head, an empty canyon, a void, housing not thoughts but just simple desires. I need a nipperskin of Nelsons folly. I feel squiffy.
The pirate returns and laughs and I watch him walk away and I close my eyes. My head hurts, my mouth hurts, my eyes hurt, my hands hurt. Things without names hurt. There is a black hole in my soul and it hurts. Inside the black hole in my soul is a negative number generator generating negative numbers and all of those negative numbers hurt. Nothing hurts. Hurt has lost its meaning. Hurt is like a word in an ancient language.
I rub my stomach. I can feel it coming. Fast and strong and burning. No way to stop it, just close your eyes and let it ride. It comes, the old, rancorous salmagundi, and I recoil from the stench and the pain. It all flies into the ocean, and the gulls circle overhead.
My God. What has happened to me. I am a slave on a pirate's ship and I am sick and I need glog and I have no soul and the soul I do not have does not hurt for that word doesn't exist.
I punch myself in the face.
Just to feel alive.
Oh my God.

Monday, January 09, 2006

A FEW MORE THINGS

Oh no! My town's professional football team is not as good as your town's professional football team! Grow a pair, dickhead.

I want to watch this tonight, but boy is it long and boy does it sound depressing.

So, I just went to the mall and purchased some new shoes. A couple of thoughts: holy cow! These shoes are really incredibly comfortable! It's like I'm wearing slippers. I love my new shoes. I feel just like Carrie Bradshaw! The other thing is this: it turns out that my right foot is an entire size smaller than my left foot. Funny, right? And most importantly, it finally explains why the left side of my penis is so much bigger than the right side of my penis!

Lookoutnow!

A COUPLE OF POINTS

James Frey, the author of the fictional novel "A Million Little Pieces", has been accused of fabricating wholesale sections of his Oprah-book-club-selected "memoir". In fact, the linked article reveals that he had attempted to publish the work 17 times as a piece of fiction before an enterprising publisher decided to buy it and sell it instead as a work of non-fiction. Since Frey has a tattoo on his arm that reads FTBITTTD (which stands for "Fuck the bullshit, it's time to throw down"), does that mean he's going to have to fuck himself, or throw himself down, or do whatever it is to bullshit that the tattoo on his arm is threatening to do to bullshit? I will say this: although I haven't read Frey's novel, won't read Frey's novel, and could care less about Frey's novel, his inspiring story of riches to even more riches has prompted me to get a tattoo of my own, which reads FTMFBMFIMFTTFTTBTIWPRTD ("Fuck the motherfucking bullshit, motherfucker, it's motherfucking time to fucking throw the bullshit that I was previously referring to down").

Now that I have my awesome tattoo, I have no excuse not write stories that are real, raw, and unhinged. All I have are my addictions, my tribulations, my personal demons - and fuck them, for they are bullshit. Here's a scenario I've invented in which I have reached the proverbial bottom and I have no place to go but up.

I'm outside the clinic and the snow falls and I pick up some snow and look at all of the snowflakes. Bill stands me next to me, he says Fuck the snow. I open my pants and pull out my penis. I shove the snow down my penis hole and I say You mean Fuck the snow like this, you Cocksucker and he laughs. I ask him if he has any heroin but he doesn't and then I get mad at myself for asking. I go inside and smash my head against a wall until I can't feel anything. Just warm blood rushing down my cheek, which has a hole in it, inside my mouth and down my throat and then I cough on it and choke and I wake up in a hospital. I pull out of the wires and get up and put my clothes on. I step outside my room I see a nurse who tries to chase me down and I collapse. My body is so worn out. I haven't hit the wall, I've hit the wall and banged my head against it until I started bleeding and I've fucked the wall. Fuck the Wall. The nurse falls on top of me and starts kissing me. We fuck in a closet and I ask her to give me as many drugs as she can or I will fuck her again so we fuck again and then I threaten to kill her and she gives me a bag of the best stuff in the hospital. I step outside and drink an entire bottle of something. I flag down a taxi and punch the driver in the face I'm so fucked up. I pull him out and get in and run over him and then I drive back to the clinic and I see Bill standing outside muttering Fuck the snow to himself under his breath and I think Same old Bill. And about how I missed this place.

***

Ok, well, here's something else that is pretty fun and weird - turns out I'm not allergic to shrimp. Or so says my new allergist. In fact, according to him, I'm more allergic to potatos than fucking shrimp. This is either the greatest or worst news I've ever received.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION

I haven't really set out to alter my life in any significant or precise ways this new year. However, in a more general sense, I would like to push myself to be a better, bigger man. "What's a bigger man," you ask? Well, a bigger man doesn't get mad at old people for being grumpy, pushy, hunched over, mean, and slow drivers. A bigger man doesn't mock people for being of a particular race. A bigger man doesn't kick dogs. A bigger man doesn't masturbate six times a day. And a bigger man doesn't make the easy joke when small-minded idiots say something stupid.

For instance, last year, when I wasn't such a big man, I would have tried to make fun of this. But it's a new year, I'm a bigger man and, in the end, it's just not worth it.


Pat Robertson, above, is not a person I have an opinion of, one way or the other, and whatever he says is not that important, in the grand scheme of things, so let's just ignore him.

YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE MY LUCK

But - and, again, I know that this is just insane - eHarmony has extended their New Year's offer to me for just a few more days. This is an extraordinary chance for me to try eHarmony — three months for the price of one!

Remember, eHarmony uses more than 35 years of research to match people based on what works in thousands of successful marriages.

I can use this special offer to start 2006 with a commitment to finding the love I want and deserve.

Through January 12th, they're offering me 3 months of eHarmony service for just $49.95 — that's less than $17 per month!

So, how is your all's New Years, people?