Sunday, February 01, 2009

Something new...

Hello, anyone anywhere who might still be reading this...

I've been off the blogs for awhile, because my glamorous job in Corporate America gives me little time to write fun stuff. I also got sort of bored with the whole "blogging culture", which often involves acting like an expert on everything and putting out something new each day even when you'd rather sit around listening to Frank Sinatra.

Still, I knew that one day the internet would draw me back in.

Melissa and I have a new team blog that you can look at here. It promises to be magical. I consider it sort of the Regis and Kathy Lee of the internet.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Only the most pressing, spectacular, and historic news stories will move me from my blogging stupor!

And, as I'm sure my fellow Minnesotans know, one of those stories has just recently occured. No, I do not wish to discuss the bridge collapse here. That's been covered in mind-numbing detail elsewhere. I don't know anything about bridges or how they might fall down, and so my only contribution to that discussion would be the same as anyone's: it's terrible and frightening and should never happen again. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

Instead, I want to talk about the guy who had his balls cut off by mysterious and not-entirely-competent "medical" personnel who then vanished and are now a fugitive semi-professional castration team. If there's something I want to stress to my entire readership of seven people, it's this: I do not support rogue bands of anonymous gelders rampaging through the streets of my fair hometown, slicing away people's testicles without so much as the slightest kind of credential. In fact, I'm strongly against it. I'm so firmly against it that I would support a law preventing amateurs from cutting off people's balls, no matter if the person in question requested such a service. You see, I take a "hard line" on non-certified man-nugget removal. It is a dangerous and bloody affair, and it should be dealt with harshly. If strict fines do not prove effective of containing this menace, I would even support jail time for repeat offenders. This is the sort of thing society simply can't turn a blind eye to.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Putting humiliation in its proper perspective...

I am a silly person. I thought it was embarrassing when I farted in the lake at family Fourth of July. I thought it was embarrassing when my grandma brought me to Hooters for my 19th birthday. I thought it was embarrassing when the naughty metal girl in eighth grade asked me if I liked her breasts. I also, in retrospect, recognize that it was embarrassing for me to have told her "no" because I thought that any other answer would be impolite.

In short, I'm easily embarrassed. Ask anyone. I blush when a slight breeze falls over my face. I'm half-Scandinavian. I have a very exaggerated sense of decorum.

That's why it pleases me to know that, unlike a certain Republican state representative from Florida, I will never be arrested in a men's room after offering an undercover cop $20 and a blowjob. Because that's not just embarrassing. That's fucking embarrassing.

And the worst part is, of course, that he didn't offer to pay $20 for a blowjob. No, he offered $20 to give a blowjob. Which is just sad. I suppose, though, if you're the sort of guy who might enjoy being slurped at in a public men's room by a ragged looking low-level Republican, it's a pretty good deal. Not only do you get several sweet minutes of a state representative's mouth on your man-bits, you also get some cash out of the deal. That's a pretty productive trip to the shitter, actually.

And I should probably state right out that I really don't care if people want to suck each other off in men's rooms. I'm a hedonist, and that sort of thing simply doesn't bother me that much. Let the Republican state representatives from Florida to Alaska go nuts with it I say, bothering the privates of undercover policemen the world 'round. At least it keeps them occupied.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Let's Talk About "Scooter" Libby...

I don't give half a watery sauerkraut fart about "Scooter" Libby.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Music Kriticism Korner!

Alright. I guess I always knew that Brigitte Bardot was the greatest actress the world has ever seen. But before buying this CD, I had absolutely no idea that she was also the greatest musician in the history of all time. Some people prefer Beethoven, Maria Callas, or Wings. These people are mistaken, and dumb besides. Has silly little Handel ever composed a tune as pretty and perfect as "Une Histoire de Plage", which my vague understanding of French tells me is a charming fable concerning Ms. Bardot's visit to the beach? Have Mick Jagger and Keith Richards ever put together a ditty as pleasant as "L'appareil a sous", which features nameless Gallic background singers going "ba-ba-ba" as Ms. Bardot makes indecipherable (to me at least) kittenish noises? No, they haven't. Why haven't they? Because they're just not as good as Brigitte, musically-speaking.

Oh, I can hear the voices of petty minds already. They're saying something about how Ms. Bardot didn't even write her own songs, how she was just a ridiculously-proportioned pin-up whose albums were just basically there to give lame-ass losers an excuse to masturbate to the picture on the cover. People who would say such things are not worth listening to. They have no dignity, and they probably spend their days listening to Scandinavian death metal and supporting terrorism. Did Frank Sinatra write his own songs? Didn't a lot of old ladies need to envision Frank Sinatra in bed with them in order to make the marital act non-repulsive? Well, how come Frankie is a showered with accolades while Brigitte is treated as a bosomy lightweight?

Because of the wretchedness of humanity, that's why.

P.S.: Did you know Brigitte Bardot is a scary right-winger nowadays? It's true!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Does anyone still read this thing?

Hello, everyone. Is anyone out there?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Two announcements

Announcement the first

I’ve had a lot of fun writing this website, and I’ve gotten far more readers than I ever thought possible. It is odd to think that countless strangers came from all over the world to partake of fake country songs, shameless invective, and the implacable mystique of Sweet Daddy Lovedrops. I hope that all of you have enjoyed coming here, and it would make me happy to know that I’ve given you a few laughs, introduced you to new artists/writers/musicians, or simply made your workday go by a little quicker . It was a blast for me, and your comments made it even more of a thrill.

Nonetheless, over the past couple of weeks I’ve grown less and less enthusiastic about keeping up this site. So I’ve decided to stop doing it for a little while. I don’t want what should be a fun hobby to become a burden, and I’m really looking forward to reacquainting myself with some of my less solitary hobbies. Also, I’m deep in a job search right now and I really need to focus on finding a better, more creative, more lucrative career, a career where I won’t get chairs thrown at me quite so often.

So, this is goodbye for now. I’m going to leave the page up, and I’m sure I’ll put up posts every now and then, but right now I don’t plan on continuing the Insomnia Report as a daily concern. I’ll still write each and every day, but from now on my emphasis is going to be on longer, more thought-out stories and articles. If I find a publisher for any of these, I’ll let you know.

Thank you very much for reading. You were, are today, and always will be the sexiest, most intelligent, best smelling, and wittiest blog audience in the history of the universe.

Announcement the second

None of you got the Robert Bly contest right. I wrote number two and number three. Still, there were valiant—if deeply flawed---efforts all around.

Monday, October 23, 2006

An Insomnia Report contest: find the fake Robert Bly!

Okay. Here's the deal: as a follow-up to my earlier attack on quasi-talent Robert Bly and his big payday, I have decided to throw a contest. What follows are six snippets of poetry. Four are legitimate Bly pieces. Two have been have written by me, a man with no discernable poetic gifts. Try and guess which ones are which and place your answers in the comments. If you're right, you win. What do you win? Well, you win the right to call yourself a winner, which ought to be prize enough for anyone, I should think.

Anyway, here goes:

1) Tell me why it is we don’t lift our voices these days
And cry over what is happening. Have you noticed
The plans are made for Iraq and the ice cap is melting?

I say to myself: “Go on, cry. What’s the sense
Of being an adult and having no voice? Cry out!
See who will answer! This is Call and Answer!”

We will have to call especially loud to reach
Our angels, who are hard of hearing; they are hiding
In the jugs of silence filled during our wars.

2) Under the patio’s peat-colored lamps
We dance a close tarantelle
You wear that gingham dress I love
Just as you love my cheap flannel shirt
Against your cheek

Raw like the beard I could never grow
Your father’s beard, speckled with seeds
That blew across the mustard fields
On his everyday journeys back to you
From the cannery

Does my manhood fall shy of his relentless fidelity?
Can my body’s gifts ever balk in you
His dignity, his battles, his poverty,
His gentle and inscrutable surcease?

3) Lo, did Ozymandias with grim hands
Raise forth a citadel in your warring
Minds, to fall victim to our age’s squalor?

The battle is join’d, the call is heard
Yet the ships list in the harbor
The generals, broken by television static

How fearful is your folly now!
Brave men, whisper me a ghazal
In Persia’s wisdom I now subsist!

4) Now we wake, and rise from bed, and eat breakfast!
Shouts rise from the harbor of the blood,
Mist, and masts rising, the knock of wooden tackle in the sunlight.

Now we sing, and do tiny dances on the kitchen floor.
Our whole body is like a harbor at dawn;
We know that our master has left us for the day.

5) The dying bull is bleeding on the mountain!
But inside the mountain, untouched
By the blood,
There are antlers, bits of oak bark,
Fire, herbs are thrown down.

6) I am still a mouse nibbling the chocolate of sadness.
I am an Albigensian reading Bulgarian script.
I am a boy walking across England by night.

Each time we fold in the fingers of our left hand
We bring our ancestors close to each other again,
So they can lie on top of each other in the bed at night.

Soon our grandfather and grandmother will kiss
Once more. Then death will come in his Jewish hat,
And tell Noah to start praising the rainy night.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A corrupt, venal, ignorant, vicious, duplicitous, dangerous band of bad spellers...

That's the United States House of Representatives for you...

"Each time you print it hurts my family And now I have lost them Along with Everything I have worked for during my 64 years of life...I am human not an Animal to keep whiping [sic]. I made some decissions [sic] Ill be sorry for the rest of my life."

former GOP Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, recently convicted of taking over $2 million in bribes and currently residing in prison, in a letter to a journalist who covered his crimes.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Iron John and the Ennui Cartel

Apparently, the University of Minnesota intends to give author Robert Bly three-quarters of a million dollars for his “archives”. Let me break this down for you people: that’s ten respectable yearly salaries, a hundred generous grants, or a thousand not-too-shabby story prizes—all for the same price as the contents of one overrated windbag’s supply closet. Nice work, academic lit types. Way to be responsible stewards of the public interest.

But perhaps it’s wrong to speak of any sort of “interest” when discussing the United States writing scene. Because, while the stories and poems and novels they produce are many things, “interesting” is definitely not one of them. We are living in an era where to be a “living giant” of this nation’s literature means that, nine times out of ten, you are a complete waste of everyone’s time: dull and pretentious, arrogant and sentimental, comfortable and dismal.

The literature and creative writing departments of our universities deserve a lot of the blame for this. For decades now, they’ve lavished praise and professorships on authors who dress up tedium with tortured syntax and mystical posturing, the sort who—like Bly—promulge the stereotype that contemporary literature is a pursuit suited only for pseudo-intellectuals in silly vests who go into raptures at the prospect of yet another eight page description of a snowy day.

Bookish types like to fret about how no one reads anymore. What they usually mean is that nobody reads “serious” writing. The problem, however, is that so much “serious” writing is actually little more than drippy kitsch. The preferred “voice” is warbly and self-important, the pace is slower than a quaaluded gopher crawling through glue, and if there are plots at all they’ve probably already been done a hundred thousand times before. In many respects, Bly neither exceeds or falls shy of this low standard. His early poetry is competent, his political work was commendable (even if undertaken in that self-righteous wannabe-shaman mode so popular with artists who have heard themselves called “great” too many times), and the works he chooses to translate suggest wide-ranging interests.

It is mainly his non-fiction philosopolemical mumbo-jumbo that reveals him as one of our premier unintentional comedians masquerading as a legitimate artist. A brief sampling from his ridiculous best seller “Iron John” will suffice to illustrate what I’m talking about:

Sometimes in a love affair, the lovers make love with the Wild Man—and Wild Woman—right in the room; and if we are those lovers, we may feel certain body cells turn gold that we thought were made entirely of lead. Lovers and saints feel their fingertips are golden, all right; they may sense in themselves a freedom from ordinary limits for days or months.

An artist feels a curious mood of intensity when he or she is working on an art object, a poem or a painting or a sculpture; we could say that the sacred pond is right there in the studio; and the artist becomes capable of thoughts and feelings much wilder than he or she ever experiences in shut down days. The fingers holding the pen or brush turn gold, and we suddenly see amazing images, and realize what we are really good at.

The Wild Man here amounts to an invisible presence, the companionship of the ancestors and the great artists among the dead. A love poem or an ecstatic meditation poem is really an ingenious way to preserve memory of the moment when the fingertip turns gold.

If you want to read page after page of this stuff, Bly’s your guy. The ponderous mixing of bunkum with the banal, the weak observations dressed up as philosophy, and the endless, earnest attempts to render common knowledge as sacred secrets—that’s the Wild Man’s main modus operandi right there.

One of the common tics of today’s literature is to take some weak shit off the top of your head and try and sell it as a “quirky” observation. Gullible and swoony readers think that this sort of thing demonstrates that their cherished author exists on a higher imaginative plane, but it’s really just the flouncy hand gestures of amateur magicians attempting to hypnotize a nursing home. As befits his reputation, Bly can show all the pikers how this presto change-o routine is really done:

Grandiose ascenders sometimes dream of rising in an elevator that is attached to the outside of a building, but when they get to an upper floor, they often find themselves with no entrance to the building. The flying man usually likes women, but may shrink a woman to keep her in a bottle so that he can carry her in his pocket. The young peur aeternus men are by no means negative, they love spirit and embody much of the spiritual energy in the nation. Their ascensions bring many blessings to the culture. Without them, the American culture would probably thicken and harden into concrete. So the grandiose ascender is a complicated person.


This is the author who Jim Lenfesty calls, “the greatest living international [literary] asset in the United States”, the guy who the University library spokesman believes “really is one of the greatest writers alive”. I’m sorry, but that’s just fucking sad. They blew $775,000 on a bunch of detritus from a writer no one will remember in thirty years; a writer who might inspire these doughty Wild Men of the faculty lounge, but only inspires bored giggles from anyone with any taste.

P.S.: If you want to read about a real great American artist, why don’t you go on over here and find out what Sonny Rollins is up to these days. Because, frankly, there is more beauty, wildness and truth in ten bars of Sonny Rollins’ saxophone than there is in a million pages of Robert Bly doggerel.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Poisonous as Hell, part three:

The Black Widow Spider

Allow me to present my version of the perfect wedding night.

First, of course, my beautiful bride and I will be feted by all our friends and family. There will be tears, there will laughter, there will be dancing, and there will be cake. Formal wear will be required, and those who choose—as so many do in these corrupt days—to sport the ridiculous khaki-clad “business casual” look will be treated to withering stares and smaller-than-usual pieces of Chicken Kiev. I shall be at my most witty, and I will have gotten a haircut at some point within the preceding three weeks. And, to use the SAT form of analogy, my wife will be to gorgeous as Evander Holyfield is to boxing, as Kool Moe Dee is to hip-hip, as Google is to search engines. To be more precise, she will be a witches’ cauldron of hotness. Her hotness, mind you, is not the simple and transparent hotness of some ordinary Czech supermodel, but instead the kind of hotness that accrues from compassion, kindness, insight, wit and brilliance. That isn’t to say, however, that the Czech supermodel kind of hotness will not be present in my wife. It will be. Still, it will be merely one luminous facet in the gigantic diamond of my wife’s inviolate essence.

Several times during the evening, I will turn to her and say things such as that. Things that can’t help but make her mist up at the glory of it all. As the assembled company clink on their wine flutes, we will kiss again and again, and I will not be at all reluctant to bring forth “the tongue”. I will sing Belgian folk songs in her honor, I will feed her bonbons and save her the trouble of chewing by moving her lower jaw around. If anyone makes an inappropriate comment in her presence, I will strike them roughly and have my best man throw them out. She is my dulcet cranberry cream puff from heaven, after all, and I shan’t countenance any crudeness or indelicacy that might sully her memories of the sweet, sweet evening.

But it is the night after where the most lasting impressions will be made.

Our bridal chamber will be appointed in an elegant Provençal style. There will be red wine from the state of Kentucky and there will be fresh-cut flowers in vases made out of plastic that very much resembles real crystal. On the goose-down pillow will be a single truffle, placed there beforehand by a professional truffle-placer brought over from Turkey specifically for this purpose. He will be waiting in the closet in case the truffle slides away from its perfectly-symmetrical position on the pillow. Once my love has eaten the truffle, he may leave. He will be well compensated for his trouble, and tipped extravagantly if he slips out without calling too much attention to himself. Especially if my wife and I are already engaged in the act of physical congress or, as I like to call it, “the naughty what-have-you”.

But before I get to that, I have to bring up a pertinent detail about the bed itself. There will be silk sheets upon it, but there will be no blanket. This is important. At first, however, my wife will be too twitterpated to notice, largely because of the awe she feels in the presence of my freshly-waxed chest and my clever “day of the week” boxer shorts. I will kneel beside her and, alone at last, I will recite her a poem I have laboriously composed in her honor. Discretion prevents me from sharing this poem with you, my anonymous audience, but I can mention that it’s title will probably be “Across A Room Filled With Lesser Women”. Or perhaps “Givin’ Up The Yup-Yup”. Or perhaps “Panoply In Petunia”. The title has not been decided yet.

Regardless, I will then commence to giving her “the business” every which way. Modesty forbids me from relating the styles, velocities, and positions we shall employ, but perhaps the essence of the episode can be gleaned by the following series of metaphors: an eagle wheeling in the sky, a dolphin gliding under the current, a cuckoo clock going through its routine every three minutes, a lone fisherman hauling in his nets, and a thousand dandelions blooming in a dewy meadow. It will be the sort of unbound, unhinged eroticism that would destroy, or at least gravely embarrass, most women. But my wife will enjoy it. Because she’s special.

With this accomplished, we will coo endearments into each others’ ears for at least five hours. Then we will settle in for a long slumber. But there is a problem. My darling little she-sparrow will be cold! This is partially due to the copious sweating brought on by the events of the preceding paragraph, but it is also the result of unseen confederates turning down the thermostat at just the right moment.

“Oh, are you chilly, my delicious ripe apricot of a brand new wife?” I will ask, with the utmost sincerity and solicitousness. When she answers in the affirmative, I will immediately reach beneath the bed and draw out a large Tupperware container. Within this container will be a heavy comforter woven from fibers which manage to be both incredibly soft and awesomely resilient. I will tuck her in under this rare piece of bedding and sidle in next to her, locking her in a manful embrace.

As we lay there, the tinglings that naturally follow six and a half hours of lovemaking ecstacy will naturally subside, replaced by newer, rarer, and far stranger tinglings. The blanket will caress all our naked crevasses, it will press itself to us and warm our chilling bodies with its curious alien warmth. In fact. It will be as if the blanket itself is alive and intent upon massaging us into slumber. “Do you feel that, honey?” I will ask.

“Mmmmm...” she will say, because she’s too happy to form entire words.

“Do you know why the blanket does that, darling?” I will ask then, just as I notice her eyelids trembling in the tell-tale way that suggests sleep is nigh.

“Mmmmm...” she will repeat, and I will plant a delicate kiss on her forehead.

“Because I took out the stuffing and replaced it with two hundred thousand black widow spiders. Because their little legs are so fleet, so warm, so gentle. And because I love you...” I will say at last, and then finally we will both drift off to sleep beneath our writhing, arachnid-filled blanket, dreaming in tandem of the glorious life that will await us only if I didn’t make any mistakes in sewing up the hole that I fed our deadly pets into...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Poisonous as Hell, part two:

The Bushmaster Snake

In the words of the great interactional theorist Ricki Lake, you think you all that. You have a BA from Harvard, an MA from Princeton, and a PhD. from Yale. Your hobby is investment banking, but your true passion is transcribing the oral tradition of the nomadic Berbers of the Rif Mountains. You own lofts in Paris, Manhattan, Kuala Lumpur and you’ve just negotiated yourself a good price on a pied a terre in Cleveland. You’ve published three volumes of romantic poetry and your screenplay is currently one of the hottest properties in Hollywood. You feel good about yourself, but no one who knows you would ever dream of calling you an egotist. They’d point to the seven hours a day you put in doing charitable work and they’d mention your groundbreaking research into natural water purification methods. Your selflessness, your compassion, and your self-deprecating sense of humor charm all those who meet you, even those who might otherwise be jealous of your wealth and good looks or dismissive or your diverse intellectual achievements. It would not be a stretch to say that everyone loves you.

Everyone, that is, except for the bushmaster snake of southern Guyana. In this creature, you have met your match. It completes Ms. Lake’s groundbreaking formula by reminding you that, in the end, while you may think that you all that, you actually ain’t all that. In other words, it is the nemesis to your hubris. The largest venomous snake found in the Western Hemisphere, the Bushmaster is a serpent which meets your achievements with silence, your generosity with defensive coiling, and your cultivation with sharp, poison-dripping fangs.

Perhaps it was foolhardy of you to venture into that untamed wilderness in search of a root which might one day be used to treat dengue fever. Perhaps you should have heeded local advice and stayed clear of the area known in the Guyanese argot as “The Place of the Really Mean Snake”. But a sense of adventure gripped you, didn’t it? A voice in your head told you that only risk-takers reap rewards in our modern world, that you’ve never settled for the safe in your life and you aren’t about to start now. Looking back on it, that was sort of a mistake, wasn’t it? Because it put you on a collision course with the rarely seen, reclusive bushmaster. It never would have found you in Monaco, Geneva, Aspen or Branson, Missouri, but you—in your damnable arrogance—had to go stomping right up to it in the heart of its inhospitable territory. Nice work, Dr. Dumbass.

Now, while the bushmaster is far from an intellectual, it would be wrong to say that it is a mindless, instinct-driven snake like the anaconda or the reticulated python. In fact, the Latin name of the bushmaster gives us hints as to it’s mental pursuits: Lachesis muta, meaning “mute fate”. This simple statement of purpose reminds us that, as we go willy-nilly through our lives, the future is always looming above, silent and judging. Despite all the scientific and artistic advances humans have accomplished, all the efforts we have put towards ordering our societies and our lives, fate lies in wait for us all, unmaking what we make, dismantling what we build, and wiping our fingerprints forever from the sheer, slippery hourglass that is our universe. More practically, “mute fate” also refers to the fact that pretty much everyone the bushmaster bites winds up dying. And dying in a way that perhaps can best be described as “hellish”.

Certainly, in the course of your studies, you have been appraised of the varying toxins and poisons that snakes can inject into your body. Even as you writhe on that South American forest floor, you understand that the bushmaster is of the viperid family, which (unlike the gentler elapids with their predilection for subtle neurotoxins) tend to use proteolytic venoms. These chemicals, you probably recall, not only immobilize you, but also begin the digestive process before the snake even starts to eat you. Now, since you’re not a small woodland creature or a bird, the bushmaster will not devour you, but it’s poison doesn’t know that as it goes circulating through your bloodstream and tissues, melting whatever it comes across, causing massive internal bleeding and rapid, catastrophic organ failure.

It’s really a pity. You’ll never hear the sound of Horowitz’s piano again, you’ll never experience the grandeur of a Rothko canvas again, you’ll never taste the salt air of the Mediterranean again. You had a good run, it is true, but the misery of your passing blots so much of it out. There, where the tree cover is so thick the sun comes down only in narrow streaks, you cannot remember the joy of discovery that once motivated you, nor can you recall your many happy friendships and love affairs. You think nothing of your many diverse accomplishments. You think only of the burning agony of your body being corroded from the inside out. As your heartless killer slithers away, your incredible mind becomes capable of only one thing: screaming.

Scream away, why don’t you? It won’t do any good, but it can’t hurt. It’ll give you something to while away the time before your heart forgets to beat and your lungs forget to billow and all your great potential comes crashing into the darkness that waits for all of us. Now your gym-toned body will bloat in the sun and then ooze away into a brackish, skin-colored puddle. Your corpse will grow moss and suckle insects. As the years go by, you’ll be remembered fondly by everyone, by the mighty and the lowly, by baronesses and by the tiny, shrew-like creatures that now use your naked ribcage as shelter during the rainy season.

Gird your loins for the inevitable Republican blame orgy

While nothing’s certain yet, it sure looks like the Republican party is going to suffer some losses in November. As a Democrat and as an American, this makes me happy. They’ve had their six years to run this country and all they’ve done is plunder, deceive and screw up. For them, defeat will be well-deserved. It’s too early to say for sure, but one could argue that widespread rejection of Republican candidates signifies the public’s (late) repudiation of movement conservatism.

The way I see it, a strain of conservatism, in the old-school sense, is woven into the American character. This plays out in most people’s reasonable disdain for government intrusion into private matters, their valorization of individuality, and their skepticism towards collective action. This is all fine and good, especially when balanced by a progressive, society-oriented counterforce. Movement conservatism, however, is a different beast entirely. This is where you get all your “why don’t we get rid of all these taxes?” crypto-libertarians, your “the U.S. can bomb anyone it wants because it’s special” warmongers, your “Democrats are making nookie with Osama Bin Laden” thinktank cretins, and your “angry Jesus can’t wait until you’re in hell” Bible-thumpers. These people may represent a small, extremist sliver of belief, but they’ve been awfully influential of late.

This is too bad, because if they didn’t wield so much power, they’d be absolutely fucking hilarious. These are the people who believe that the government that governs best governs solely on behalf of their interests. They’re the ones who feel that compromise is for clowns and the best way to win an argument is to call your opponents traitors. Few in number, perhaps, but louder than anyone else, they roam the airwaves and the internet in search of new enemies to scream at, new rugged right-wing idols to venerate, and new issues to drag into the sewer. A wacky bunch, to be sure, and one that’s overdue for diminishment back to fringe cult status.

One election won’t accomplish this, of course, but it’s a start. And, at the very least, their fevered blame-fixing will be a goldmine of unintentional comedy. You see, what distinguishes the movement conservative from your run-of-the-mill everyday conservative is that the latter considers his or her political philosophy as just that—a system of beliefs that sometimes corresponds, sometimes conflicts, and sometimes compromises with the greater world. Movement conservatives, on the other hand, tend to be fanatical. They don’t have opinions, they have dogma. They don’t have facts and perspective, they have blind faith and suspicion. They don’t have passion, they’ve got rage and fear. Conservatism, to these people, is a formula that never fails, a sacred scripture handed down from Goldwater to Reagan to Bush before he started being such a fuck-up. It is the fountainhead of all civic good—adhering to its precepts doesn’t just make you wise, it makes you virtuous, courageous, and—most importantly—the biggest victim history has ever seen.

This is why, when a movement conservative loses, it’s never due to their ideology’s lack of appeal and it’s lack of appealing spokespeople. No, it’s always a betrayal, a conspiracy, a spot of dirty pool played by adversaries without conscience or decency. Conservatism, to these people, is perfect. It never fails. Each setback is simply an opportunity to redouble the invective and the scorn hurled at the other side, simply more proof of their all-powerful evil ways.

In anticipation of this crazy-talk lighting up the internet in a few weeks, allow me to make some predictions as to who the main conservative-betraying culprits will be, in descending order from most likely to least.

1) The Media

In the right-winger’s head, the relationship between conservatism and the mass media is one of the greatest "high school dork versus bully" dramas the world has ever seen. Conservatives are cast as the loyal, earnest, straight-A student who, if he has a fault at all, it’s that he’s just too noble to sink to the same level as his appalling tormentor. Meanwhile, the cruel media endlessly picks on our poor conservative, mercilessly ridiculing it’s policy prescriptions and it’s best candidates. Again and again, conservatism is pantsed by the media. Again and again, it’s head gets stuffed into the toilet bowl of rhetoric and it’s science products get dirty words magic markered on them.

Eventually, however, it starts to look like—despite all this brutal attacks on its self-esteem—conservatism might get to go to prom with the prettiest girl in school (otherwise known as the American public). But, uh-oh!, just as conservatism is going up to her, all confidence and deep-seated valor, to ask for the favor of her company, in slinks the media, drunk on cynicism and Ivy League elitism, and announces to the whole room that conservatism eats his own booger and sometimes leaks a little poo into his underwear.

When something like this happens, you’ve gotta expect a little righteous anger from the wounded party. The whole analogy falls to shit, however, when you realize just how comfortably ensconced in the mass media many movement conservatives are. No matter, though: it’s always a kick watching televised millionaires like Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter inveigh against elitists.

2) The Democratic Party

Actually, the media and the Democrats are pretty interchangeable in the movement conservative’s mind. They’re both reliable founts of evil, what with their eternal refusal to validate every single right-wing notion that some crank comes up with. In a lot of the more paranoid stuff, however, the Democrats come off as not mere duplicitous scalawags, but as master deceivers. This is a party, drunk on gay sex and Stalin’s blood, that doesn’t think twice about smearing the innocent or contriving grand lies to win power. So wicked are they that they would orchestrate this whole Mark Foley mess just to thwart the will of the people.

But anyone who’s ever spent any time at an official Democratic Party function knows that the idea of these people orchestrating anything smoothly is absurd on it’s face. One of my favorite aspects of right-wing rhetoric about the Democrats is their inflated idea of our power and skill. If they only knew that we can’t even agree on how to canvass a neighborhood, perhaps they would be disappointed.

3) Illegal Immigrants

It’s pretty obvious that the Democrats, in collaboration with the media, are plotting to bring at least seventy million illegal immigrants into this country for two nefarious, linked purposes: to destroy our nation and to vote en masse for Hilary Clinton. We do this out of a curious mixture of liberal guilt and craven malice, and because we really like chorizo burritos.

Seriously, though, illegal immigrants are a catch-all scapegoat for those whose ideology demands such things. Our health care system is faltering? Blame it on illegal immigrants! Our crime rates are increasing? It must be those illegal immigrants! Children don’t speak English as well as they used to? You ought to hear the way those illegal immigrants speak, pal! Aunt Bea’s gardenias didn’t come in as well this year? Has she considered that illegal immigrants might have cut through her garden on their way to the voting booth?

It’s silly, of course, but xenophobia is always a reliable drum for demagogues to whack at when election time comes around.

4) The American People Themselves

If conservative defeats are large or frequent enough, some of them will probably vent their animus on the voters for being too goddamn stupid to understand why need to bomb six separate countries while simultaneously slashing capital gains taxes and signing our nation’s sex education over to Jesus freaks. We’re a timid people, after all, and perhaps our relative peace and prosperity has made us too decadent to fight World War Three funded solely by Wal-Mart cashiers’ FICA deductions. At their most generous, they might admit that, deep down, we’re probably not as bad as the terrorists, but we’ve allowed ourselves to become hopelessly corrupted by the dastardly media and it’s inherent bias against capitalism, Christianity and unleashing righteous genocide.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Poisonous as Hell, part one:

The Golden Poison Dart Frog

It’s happened to all of us. You find yourself walking around in western Colombia, enjoying the beautiful scenery and the magical freshness of the air. As you pass through the dense jungle, your eyes are drawn to a bright spot on a low branch. As you draw closer, you are struck by the brilliant colors of what turns out to be a small, placid frog. Where you come from, frogs are a dull brownish-green, so you cannot help be fascinated by this exotic, flamboyant amphibian. It’s so cute, with its blinking black eyes and its vivid, wildly-patterned skin. No one else knows this about you, but you’re sort of a frog fetishist. Nothing sick, of course: you simply enjoy the company of frogs. Seeing as this is so, it’s natural that you want to pick up this rare specimen of frogness, that you wish you could take him home and keep him shut-up like your own personal little treasure. Maybe you want to stroke him like the gentle, reptilian pet your mother never let you have. Maybe you even want to bend down and plant a kiss, a purely platonic kiss, on his trembling, gloriously-hued froggy back.

But you ought not do that. Because that harmless-looking creature’s flesh is coated with a batrachotoxin, a substance so potent that a mere 100 micrograms—the equivalent of two grains of table salt---would be enough to kill the average person. Fool around with that frog and before long several unpleasant things will start to happen. Your heart will beat out of rhythm, your cell membranes will depolarize, and your nerves will lose all control over your muscles—meaning that you’ll be paralyzed, but not just paralyzed in the “can’t move” sense, paralyzed in the sense that you can’t swallow, can’t breathe, can’t do anything but die a horrible death in the middle of the jungle. Sucks to be you, doesn’t it? Perhaps if you hadn’t been such a weird frog-loving nimrod, this never would have happened.

That’s why, when I’m traipsing around in unfamiliar ecosystems, I live by one simple rule: pretty frogs are evil. Heed this advice, and you greatly reduce the possibility that your relatives will be stifling giggles whenever they explain how you died.

My brother done made hisself a scientific discovery...

My older brother, the brains of the family, was part of a team that recently discovered that a comet or an asteroid collided with Saturn's rings back in 1984. He did a press conference to explain these findings to the media, findings which I barely understand and will not embarrass myself by attempting to discuss any further. Last time I talked to him, I tried to force him into admitting that the mysterious Saturn-attacking object wasn't a comet at all, but instead an alien spacecraft intent on colonizing our solar system and wiping out the entire human race, in a scenario similar to the one depicted in the well-known documentary War of the Worlds (2005 version). He denied that this was the case, of course. Science-types are always coming up with denials and equivocations when it comes to the possibility of technologically-superior extraterrestial overlords arriving and killing us all. They think we can't handle the truth, I suppose. Perhaps they're right.

These quibbles aside, I'm proud of my big brother. You kick astrophysics ass, Matt.

My nocturnal Brazilian odyssey

Last night, I had a dream in which a long-held fantasy of mine was finally satisfied. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, oh sweet mustachioed Jesus in flashy feety-pajamas, he’s not going to tell us about some horrible perverse vision involving Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, a Motel 6 in Kentucky, a vat of cooking lard, and a dwarf in a sailor suit banging cymbals, is he? Rest assured that I’m not. My dreams are wholesome and innocent, and I have to confess that I deeply resent your suspicion that they might not be. You are dirty-minded beasts, all of you! For shame!


As many of you already know, I love to travel. Unfortunately, I don’t get many as many opportunities to do this because of finances, work obligations, and so on and so forth. But a man can still dream. So, last night, while the real me was sprawled face-down across a futon in Minnesota, my subconscious self voyaged forth to the beautiful and mysterious nation of Brazil. It was a grand trip, but I suspect that the real place isn’t very similar to the version that exists in my mind.

For example, a quick glance at an atlas is enough to prove that Brazil does not directly border the town of Grand Marais, Minnesota. But it did in my dream. In it, some friends and I were passing a pleasant day up in that milquetoast northern town when it occured to us that maybe we ought to, you know, visit Brazil, seeing as it was right next door and all. The only way to cross the border into that country, however, was to wriggle through a narrow tunnel in a sheer rock wall, then climb up approximately ten thousand stairs, and finally squeeze your way through a maze-like passageway where the walls were coating on both sides with bat doo-doo. This took a lot of effort, and some of my friends (Greg) were opposed to the idea, but I whined and pouted until I finally got my way, just as I should have. It was, after all, my goddamn dream.

When we emerged onto the other side of the curious geological formations that separate the Upper Midwest from the heart of South America, we found ourselves in a bizarre tropical wonderland. I’m not sure if I can explain it adequately, but I’ll try. There were giant purple butterflies and shiny rainbows arching between glistening green mountains. There were rushing, pristine streams and dazzling flowers growing wild everywhere. There might have even been a giraffe or two, and I’m pretty sure that a volcano smoldered bewitchingly in the distance. All and all, it looked sort of like a Lisa Frank Trapper-Keeper cover illustration brought to life, if that means anything at all to you.

The actual Brazil is probably slightly less pink. And there aren’t any giraffes there, either. Which is sort of disappointing, when it comes right down to it.

Anyway, my friends and I took some time to drink in the wonder of it all. And then we wiped all the bat dung off of our clothes and went exploring. Shortly, we came to an establishment that was identical in all respects to the Sears store where I went to get my driver’s license when I was sixteen. Plunked down in the middle of a lush rainforest, it seemed somewhat out of place. Still, we were soon to discover that this Sears store wasn’t just any old Sears store, but instead the city of São Paolo.

“Oh! I’ve always wanted to visit São Paolo!” I enthused, and then we all went inside to shop for pants.

We didn’t have any trouble finding our way around. The only problem was our general reluctance to purchase clothing from a place like Sears, which isn’t known for it’s quality menswear. Still, we knew that the Brazilian climate can be sultry, so we felt that lighter cotton slacks would be appropriate. A long section of the dream involved us wandering among the pants racks, searching for our sizes. This was not particularly interesting and so, instead of rehashing it in detail, I’d like to take the opportunity to apologize to my Latin American readership for subconsciously confusing their great cities with Minnesota department stores. It sort of makes sense, though: I grew up in St. Paul, and here I was, dreaming of myself in São Paolo. So it’s sort of a sleepy-time cramming together of the place I came from and a place I want to go, made all the more convenient by the fact that the two towns have the same name. Someday I will make it to São Paolo—a city with a greater population than Los Angeles and Chicago combined---when I’m awake, and perhaps after that my dreams of it will become more respectable and creative.

Anyway, once we were finished shopping for summery trousers, one of us asked whether anyone spoke Portugese. One by one we all confessed that we didn’t. “Then how the hell can we buy these pants?” someone asked. “I’m not buying these pants if I have to buy them in Portugese,” someone else asserted. “We crawled through all that bat crap and no one can speak Portugese?” complained a third.

And that’s when I woke up.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

To hell with CBGB's...

Legendary punk club CBGB’s is closing. There was a stage in my life where this news might have upset me, but that's all over now. Nothing lasts forever, to be cliched about it, and very few things really ought to. Despite the hagiographic nattering penning by overwrought rock writers—people who want to bestow drama and undue significance on their treasured generational touchstones and subcultures—CBGB’s doesn’t count for much in the ecology of New York City. It was just a bar where bands played, and those places don’t have a very long life expectancy out there. Think of all the bebop clubs on 52nd Street, replaced long ago by office towers and ugly granite plazas. Think of the East Harlem joints where salsa and mambo bands would play until dawn, all gone now in favor of someone’s idea of urban renewal. The places that don’t die become ghosts of what made them special in the first place, like those faux-folk clubs on Bleeker Street where tourists pay six bucks for a cup of coffee and the chance to listen to some warbling throwback. Would the people who are mourning CBGB’s passing prefer it to live on as a slightly grubbier version of the Hard Rock Cafe?

Of course, back when I lived in Brooklyn, many believed that this had already happened. I never went there for the simple reason that no bands I wanted to see ever played there. It was cool to bring my friends from Minnesota past it so they could ooh and ahh at the history of it, but by the late 1990s it had become basically an insider’s place, a hangout for long-in-the-tooth band guys and scenesters whose scene has come and gone. Sometimes famous bands would have special surprise gigs there, but you had to be connected to know about those, further cementing its reputation as a club for those in a very specific set (and undercutting its bullshit myth as some sort of avalon for any misunderstood misfit who happened down the Bowery). There were far more vital places thriving on the Lower East Side back then, and while almost everyone I knew had an affinity for sloppy rock ‘n’ roll, none of them considered CBGB’s as anything more than a nostalgia trip.

But I’m probably not the person to eulogize such a place. I like punk rock, but the whole lifestyle and attitude that surround it leaves me cold. It’s one of the peculiar and annoying quirks of youth subcultures: while they claim to be all about authenticity and individuality, they’re usually just as obsessed with fashion and belonging as the mainstream society they consider themselves superior to. Individuality isn’t as easy as wearing a ripped-up shirt, authenticity has nothing to do with what kind of music you listen to. It’s just adolescent bullshit to pretend otherwise, and my appreciation of punk rock is hindered by how much of that attends the genre. Yes, it was necessary. Yes, some of it was truly beautiful. In the end, however, it’s the records, the songs and the memories that deserve to endure, not the grimy rooms that played host to that tiny, tiny sliver of history.