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.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Insomnia Report Special Cooking Edition

For this recipe you will need:

1 regular-sized jar of mayonnaise

1 regular-sized jar of Miracle-Whip brand psuedo-mayonnaise

1 tub of sour cream

1 tub of cream cheese
1 tub of cottage cheese

Some fucking “horseradish”, whatever nauseating filth that is

50 mushroom slices picked off of a room temperature Domino’s delivery pizza

50 cubes of Spam-brand crypto-meat

2 tins of tuna

Some prawns

A bag of prawn-flavored pork rinds*

A jar of gefilte fish

A bunch of lutefisk

A “family-sized” box of Cocoa Pebbles brand cereal

A “family-sized” box of Chicken in a Biskit brand chicken-flavored crackers (crushed finely)

A pinch of cayenne pepper

A dash of testicle sweat**

Take all ingredients and pour into a large cooking pan. Whack repeatedly with a wooden spoon. Place into oven and cook at 450 degrees for approximately seven minutes. Take out and let stand for thirty-six days. Serve to your worst enemies in cubes or as a fondue.

*Available, no kidding, at the Asian grocery down the street from me
** Single ladies without ready access to testicle sweat may substitute by using slightly more horseradish

Friday, October 13, 2006

But wait! I'm not done with my running gag yet!

I just wanted to drop in here and say that I’m one hundred percent against the growing habit on the left of comparing Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld to a greasy butt plug. This is just juvenile. And, if you think about it for any time at all, you’ll find that the analogy is deeply flawed. Greasy butt plugs have given many people all around the world a few moments of harmless, private pleasure. Don Rumsfeld has done no such thing. In fact, he’s done much the opposite.

That’s why, when I have to insult him, I prefer to insult him by bringing up his resemblance to the terrible, three-headed beast known as Ghidorah:

According to Wikipedia: “Ghidorah is among the most powerful creatures in daikaiju eiga with a reputation that has earned it the title "The King of Terror". It is often considered Godzilla's greatest rival. Indeed, so awesome is Ghidorah's destructive power that Godzilla is often required to ally himself with another kaiju, even several kaiju, before engaging the three-headed monster in battle.”

Doesn’t that sound a little more like Rummy to you? Please adjust your vocabulary accordingly. Thanks!

Stuff I'd like to do one of these days...

1) Learn Arabic: No writing looks more beautiful than Arabic writing. No singing sounds more heartfelt and passionate than Arabic singing. It’s a fascinating language, and I’d like to be able to speak and read it. I imagine this isn’t easy, though. I bet it’ll take a couple years of constant, concentrated study. Being a word nerd, however, I pick up language rules and vocabulary pretty easily. It’s the pronunciation that kills me. I studied French for a couple months before going to Paris and, even though I understood simple sentences and could read signs and menus and the like, I still would up sounding like Cleetus le Doofus whenever I tried to say anything to anyone. This was me: “Booojoo, massooooor! Ooooo ehhh la twah-lay pour ‘oms? MARCY BOOOOOCOOOOO!”. The French were very nice about it, but I bet deep inside they were thinking “Sacre Bleu! Our beautiful language, mangled and urinated upon by this strange foreigner! It is like my ears are being scoured with scorpion venom! I shall speak to him in English and spare myself the horror of hearing our glorious tongue being further subjected to his appalling ignorance of simple accent rules!” It was sort of embarrassing. But maybe one day, a few years in the future, I’ll be hanging out in Casablanca or Lebanon or Cairo or Tunis, sounding as smooth as sunburned Midwesterner kickin’ it in the Middle East possibly can.

2) Write a play: I don’t go see plays very often. And when I say, “I don’t go see plays very often”, I mean I haven’t seen one in eight or nine years. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to put together one of my own. If I did write one, I’m pretty sure it would be a comedy. I usually don’t enjoy watching big, weighty dramas on the stage—the intimacy of all that rubs me the wrong way for some reason. I’m a guy who churns out a new dire, depressing story each month, so I’m certainly not opposed to the weighty and sad, I just prefer that mode be kept as an individual experience. True theater people will probably be aghast, but I think that if you go out to catch a show, you ought to get a good time for your money. It’s a social occasion, and social occasions ought to be happy times. That’s why my play would be light-hearted and wacky. I don’t know what it would be about, though. Maybe it would be about a dangerously insane amateur herpetologist/sex therapist suddenly finding himself in charge of writing the health curriculum for a conservative rural Midwestern school district and all the charming misunderstandings that would ensue from there. Or maybe it would be about a urban hipster who takes it upon himself to become a country music star. Or maybe it won’t be about either of those things, but instead about something good. I don’t know. I’m just throwing shit out there.

3) Visit the Hagia Sophia: I remember back when I was in my college art history class and my professor showed us a picture of the interior of the Hagia Sophia. The whole class—comprised mostly of hardened stoners and jocks who wanted an easy “A”—gasped at how gorgeous it was. Then and there, I vowed that I would go to Istanbul and see it before I died. I’ve been a lot of places since that day—Miami and New York City and Paris and Berlin and Madrid and Omaha, Nebraska—but Turkey has so far managed to elude my traveling capabilities. However, there are rumors of a voyage to Athens shaping up for next summer, a destination that would place me within ferryboat distance of Istanbul. I think I’m going to learn some Turkish, just in case.

4) Encourage the publishing industry to translate more Latin American authors: One thing that the Anglo-centric literary world has a hard time accepting is that some of the greatest writing ever done comes from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Nicaragua and Mexico. This isn’t just global dilettantism speaking, either: Juan Rulfo and Virgilio Piñera and Jorge Luis Borges are every bit as great as the American and British masters of high-modernist avant-garde writing. Jose Donoso or Osman Lins can write rings around Paul Auster, Don Delillo or any other “post-modern” posterboy. Machado de Assis is a peer of Hawthorne, Conrad and Poe. It is a great shame that so much shelf-space at Barnes and Nobel is taken up by Oprah-certified weepers and pompous writers workshop drivel while writers like, say, Horacio Quiroga or Clarice Lispector are all but unknown and quite hard to find in this country. If I was in charge of the publishing industry, I would change that.

5) Play the piano: I have a piano in my apartment. I wish I could do something with it besides jam out on very slow, very clunky versions of “Jingle Bells”. It would be pretty cool to be able to make actual music with it, but that would also require me to sit there and work through that whole torturous “don’t-know-anything-can’t-do-anything” phase. It’s so much easier just to give up and spend my leisure time doing things that I’m halfway competent at. That’s a bad habit of mine: to not want to do the things I can’t do well. I’m a terrible amateur. I hate it when I suck. I’d love it if someone could just implant a microchip in my brain and program my fingers to press the keys the right way. I’m not saying I want to be a virtuoso or anything, I just want to be able to produce sounds that don’t make my neighbors hate me.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Oh, and another thing...

My dear compatriots on the left, we must also abandon the divisive, hurtful and somewhat inaccurate habit of referring to Vice-President Richard “Dick” Cheney as “Lucifer”. This is the sort of thing that causes the average American, who may even be sympathetic towards our aims and positions, to disengage from politics. Because, as the Bible makes clear, Lucifer was once an angel. Dick Cheney, on the other hand, has always been kind of a hard-on.

Heed my words, progressives, liberals, socialists, Greens and assorted other folk: next time you feel the urge to call Dick Cheney the Anti-Christ, consider calling him “the Republican version of the dreaded Mothra” instead.

The comparisons here are much more apt. Both Dick Cheney and Mothra live in a hollowed out volcano, are capable of firing a “death ray” from their segmented eyeballs, and have been created by humanity’s callous disregard for our natural environment. Rumors that Dick Cheney is, like Mothra, attended day and night by a pair of identical, sweetly-singing Japanese nymphs have not been confirmed as of this writing.

Your attention please, my fellow leftists...

To preserve our credibility, we must immediately cease the practice of comparing President George W. Bush to Hitler. Hitler was nothing like Bush. Hitler had facial hair, a sort of suspicious affection for tough-guy uniforms, and—at the end of the day—was a crazed, brutal, vicious genocidal madman. President Bush, on the other hand, is simply a suck-ass President who sucks at everything he does except getting elected suck-ass President in the first place. The parallels with the Nazi dictator are few and specious, and those of us on the left side of things only look like screechy assholes when we pretend otherwise.

That is why I propose that, as of today, we all start afresh. Instead of as a “new Hitler”, we shall now describe the President as “the reincarnation of Godzilla’s most powerful foe, Rodan”:

Your compliance in this will be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Babs is bad..

Awful but widely-admired butcherer of the Great American Songbook, Barbra Streisand held what might have been her 54,320,983rd farewell/comeback concert the other day. In the midst of it, she took a break from her despicable caterwauling and performed a skit of sorts with a George W. Bush impersonator. By all accounts this stab at comedy was awkward and not funny, and so certain members of her audience—thinking, no doubt, of the $5000 they spent on tickets—began voicing their desire to hear some more golden chestnuts brutally abused. The diva did not take this well, and commanded the hecklers to “Shut the fuck up”, a momentary tantrum which apparently sparked a wild ovation from the audience.

I must say, this strikes me as weird. On the one hand, you have people so depraved that they would actually go to a Barbra Streisand concert. On the other, you have people who not only would actually go to a Barbra Streisand concert, but also become incredibly annoyed when she doesn’t spend enough time singing. This is baffling to me. Of all the inexplicable gay icons in the world, Barbra Streisand is by far this clueless heterosexual’s least favorite. I would rather listen to the scratch-scratch-scratch of Cher shaving her armpits than listen to Barbra Streisand at her greatest moment. I’m sorry if any of you out there are fans, but I just can’t stand her. I don’t know what it is. Perhaps when I was in the womb, someone jostled me really hard while “Funny Girl” was playing. Whatever the reason, I break out into the cold horrors whenever I see her face, whenever I hear her talk, and whenever she closes those eyes to begin belting out syllable after tortured syllable of raw badness.

Disliking Barbra Streisand is the only thing I have in common with real conservative people. Because, as a liberal, I can’t help but cringe when she issues some sort of public proclamation, knowing as I do that a certain set of rightists are going to hold it up as fresh evidence of my ideology’s peculiarly dim evil. She is the very essence of the “limousine liberal” and, even if her heart is in the right place, too often her mouth is just spouting off embarrassing egotistical nonsense.

All of this is why the meaningless story of Barbra Streisand swearing at someone provoked such consternation in me. Because, in the end, it brings up one of those impossible-to-answer dilemmas, like whether you would rather die by drowning or by being shot, whether you’d rather make out with your grandfather or eat a giant bowl of snot, whether you’d rather swim naked through a river of dung or drink a mixture of mayonnaise, vomit, tabasco sauce, egg yolks, and Dick Cheney’s pus. That question is this: would you rather go to a concert where Barbra Streisand wouldn’t stop singing, or a concert where Barbra Streisand did nothing but reminisce about the past and tell “topical” jokes?

I don’t have an answer for that question. But I’ll tell you this: if after I die, if I meet someone claiming to be Saint Peter and he the first he does is ask me that, I’ll know that something terrible has happened and soon the puffy clouds will turn to scorching flames, the sky will ring with diabolical laughter, and the all the beautiful angels will become wicked gnomes intent on shoving glowing coals up my butt.

And I’ll say to myself, in the split second before my eternal damnation begins, maybe I should have gone to church or something...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Kim Jong Illin'

I am a patriotic American. As a patriotic American, I want to be of service to my country, a country which has given me so much, especially in terms of compact discs and electronic trinkets. You see, I’m an American, not an American’t and therefore I refuse to give in to all this “Oh no, North Korea has nuclear weapons, woe is me, woe is me!” business going on in the mass media. Many times in our proud history, we have faced grave challenges and come out stronger because of them. World War II, the Suez Crisis, and that time we all saw Janet Jackson’s boobie are just some of these that I can recall off the top of my head. In each of these situations with the possible exception of the last one, ordinary Americans hunkered down, summoned their vast reserves of courage, and rose to the occasion.

Which is why I’m offering to head up a delegation that will travel to North Korea and convince Kim Jong Il that being a nuclear power isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

What I propose is the creation of a multi-national, multi-disciplinary team which will be deployed to Pyongyang immediately. I will be the operational leader of this lean, versatile force and I will operate under the code name “Colin Powell” in the hopes that this will confuse the North Korean leadership as to my actual identity and status within the United States government. Crucial to our success will be the presence of one “Mr. Sponge”, a man with military experience and excellent musical tastes. His responsibility will be in coordinating and carrying out “Plan Bravo”, the contours of which will be made clear shortly. In this he will be assisted by Jet Li, a martial arts expert and well-respected actor and Natasha Le Loup, a Belgian master of disguise. Rounding out Mr. Sponge’s division will be my brother, Matthew, whose encyclopedic knowledge of all things “science” related will prove invaluable if our operation ever comes into direct contact with the nuclear weapons in question.

As the leader of “Plan Alpha”, I will be traveling with a smaller force. At my side will be my good friend Tara, who is currently earning a higher degree in psychology, rendering her invaluable when it comes to unlocking the psyches of North Korean government officials. Logistical support for our end of the operation will be provided by the mysterious Ali Wahid Hassim Al-Fadl bin Shahab, a “fixer” so secretive and well-connected that the CIA has requested that I only mention his name once in this blog post.

The success of “Plan Alpha” hinges on diplomacy. Tara, [name redacted], and myself will present ourselves to Kim Jong Il and his top advisers under the “cover story” of being top-level United States officials concerned about his recent nuclear test. To prepare for this, I will spend at least two weeks learning Korean in the nearest Berlitz school. After normal pleasantries are dispensed with, I will then proceed to apply gradually increasing pressure on the North Korean dictator. After each successive level of rhetorical fireworks, I will turn to Tara and she will offer her professional opinion on how close Jong Il is to “breaking”. We will do this in English, so that there will be no chance of our conversations being monitored. If in the unlikely event that the North Korean delegation includes a member trained in our language, we will simply conduct our discussions in Pig Latin. “Is-say Im-Kay Ong-Jay Il-ay eakin-bray?” and so on and so forth.

The specifics are still being worked on, but I believe my first approach will be flattery. I will say, “Honorable Kim Jong Il, you do not need nuclear weapons, because the might of your brave People’s Army—through proper ideology, discipline, and your father’s immortal concept of juche---can repel any attack from any source, thus rendering the decadent weapons of the capitalist system useless against the will of the gallant and socialistic population of your proud and world-straddling nation!”

If this doesn’t stir the weirdo’s emotions, I will quickly change my tactics to focus on the practical. “Kim Jong Il, your possession of nuclear weapons can only destabilize all of East Asia! You don’t need them, given that China will inevitably ensure your nation’s security needs. Furthermore, willingly disarming—much like the South Africans did in the 1980s—would be a signal of your nation’s desire to enter into the community of nations, which might lead to an eventual lifting of the crippling sanctions that worsen your country’s perennial famines and stunt your small and vulnerable economy...”

If even this doesn’t sway the stubborn dictation, I will be forced to point out that you cannot hug a child with nuclear arms.

While it is hoped that “Plan Alpha”—talking our differences through like mature adults—will be sufficient to check Jong Il’s nuclear ambitions, I know enough about global affairs not to depend on this route. This is why “Plan Bravo” will be taking shape as we try to wheedle the North Koreans into voluntary disarmament. Essentially, the aforementioned espionage grouping will come ashore in an inflatable amphibious vehicle, disguised as nuns. If a bunch of nuns in North Korea seems conspicuous, they will instead disguise themselves as rocks, trees, and birds indigenous to that area. Thus costumed, they will slip past any sentries, guards or whatnot and penetrate into the inner sanctum of the North Korean nuclear arsenal. This is dangerous work, of course, and all of them might not come back. This will be profoundly sad, but at least they died for the sake of world peace, and not just because they were old. Take comfort in that fact, Team Bravo, you crazy bastards you...

Anyway, once they have inserted themselves into the storage shed where the nuclear warheads are kept, they will quickly and clandestinely disarm the devices. At this stage of the game, I am not sure whether you’re supposed to cut the blue wire, the red wire, or the green wire, but I’m sure such details will be ironed out by the time we’re “in country”. And, besides, it’s not like I really have to worry about that part of the plan, since I’ll be many miles away with “Team Alpha”, sitting around eating dainty cakes and making small talk about hair-care products with Kim Jong Il.

That’s about as much of the plan as I can disclose to an audience of mixed security clearances. As I’m sure you’ll agree, it seems destined for certain success. Yes, there are a few details that haven’t been worked out yet—such as whether we ought to buy walkie-talkies, how to book flights to Pyongyang (Orbitz doesn’t seem to be much help here), and the all-important question of our compensation—but all in all we’re ready to roll. Now all I need is for the government to shoot me an e-mail, and we can have this “nuclear North Korea” thing nipped in the bud as early as next Wednesday.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Time out for toilet humor

Sometimes I feel that the English language’s repertoire of smutty slang terms is a little too small for my taste. And other times I feel that book nerds like me too often act like the surest ticket to renown and immortality is to write a brilliant novel, a piquant short-story, or an impassioned essay. These things are over-rated, I feel. A far more flattering accomplishment would be to contribute a new swear word to the lexicon. My good friend Mel has already made her mark on this scene by popularizing the expression “fuckchop”, an insult so intense and damning that it should only be applied to the worst sleazebags, lechers, and Vice-Presidents out there.

It might be childish of me, but I want to give birth to a beautiful new bad word too. In my old age, I want to be able to stroll the assisted living center with my head held high, secure in the knowledge that I’ve helped to make our language coarser. To that end, here are ten brand new curse words. Please do your best to use them whenever appropriate.

1) PRANG (noun): The most prominent vein on the male sexual appendage.

Suggested usage: “Before I answer that question, Mr. Russert, I have to suggest that you lick this mustard off of my prang...”

Suggested usage: “Man, she’s so hot she makes my prang want to jump out of its skin...”

2) CANDIRÚ (noun/verb): Any severe and agonizing injury to the genitals.

Suggested usage: “Man, the worst candirú I ever had was that time I got it caught in my zipper...”

Suggested usage: “I swear to God, if you call me ‘Little Missy’ again, I’m gonna candirú you so hard you’re never going to be able to use it again...”

3) BI-PARTISANSHIT (verb): The act of defecating and urinating during the same visit to the toilet.

Suggested usage: “We would have made a lot better time on our road-trip if Doug would have just learned to bi-partisanshit...”

4) WANKHOLE (noun): The unmentionable minutes of the day that someone spends playing with themselves.

Suggested usage: “I tried calling Stevie, but he didn’t answer. He must be deep in the wankhole...”

5) REPUBLI-LOVE (noun): A disturbing and disturbingly common S&M activity in which the passive partner is repeatedly humiliated, dominated and left unsatisfied by the active partner, who then goes on to portray him/herself as the noble, self-sacrificing victim of the relationship.

Suggested usage: “I never thought I’d ever try Republi-love, but since Earl’s got that premature ejaculation problem, it’s pretty much all he’s capable of...”

6) GROINLETS (noun): Detached pubic hairs left in public view, most commonly in a bar of soap.

Suggested usage: “Oh yeah, I used to think Cindy was some sort of clean freak, but then I saw the soap she uses. That thing’s got so many groinlets on it, it looks like a damp hamster...”

7) TAHITIAN TREAT (noun/verb): Urine that comes out bright red. Or, alternately, the act of urinating such a substance.

Suggested usage: “After that candirú last month, I never thought I’d stop making Tahitian Treat...”

Suggested usage: “If you’re going to the bathroom, don’t use the first stall. Trust me, the thing is full of Tahitian Treat...”

8) DEM-FLOWERING (noun/verb): A portmanteau of “Democrat” and “deflowering”. A sexual experience in which one partner constantly asks the other whether he/she “really likes this”, whether “this is okay”, etc., etc. Basically, any sexual experience that’s ruined by one partner’s attempt to cover up their awkwardness and insecurity by refusing to shut up.

Suggested usage: “I totally got demflowered last weekend. It was horrible. At one point he even started to cry...”

9) DEFPLOSION (noun/verb): Any trip to the toilet so “productive” that you’re embarrassed to have other people use it after you’re finished.

Suggested usage: “Dude, stay out of there for awhile. I was in there, taking my morning bipartisanshit and I totally had, like, this earth-shattering defplosion! Whooooooo!”

10) LIL’ ABNER (noun): A very, very, very small male sexual appendage.

Suggested usage: “Not only was it the worst demflowering I’ve ever had, the guy had a Lil’ Abner on him that even a Republi-lover could laugh at...”

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Fence

Our government wants to put up a fence on the border between the United States and Mexico. Proponents of this ambitious landscaping plan claim that this will help accomplish three things: (1) discourage migrant workers from entering the U.S. illegally, (2) help curtail the narcotraffic in the region, and (3) prevent terrorists from sneaking in across the desert. I don’t buy it, though. Furthermore, I don’t think there’s a single lawmaker naive enough to believe that a silly fence—even a high-tech zillion dollar a mile fence—will do much in the way of resolving any of those issues. It’s more a symbolic gesture than a practical one. It might be a boon for a few lucky fence-builders, but otherwise it’s an ill-advised, pricey, and undiplomatic scheme. Which means, of course, that it’s right up the Bush administration’s alley.

But, just for the hell of it, let’s try to come up with ways that people can come into this country illegally even if there’s a big ol’ fence in their way...

1) According to maps, there are two large bodies of water flanking Mexico on either side. To the west, there is the “Pacific Ocean”, while to the east lies the so-called “Gulf of Mexico”. Seeing as this is true, it stands to reason that a person could, theoretically, get their hands on a boat. Armed with a floating conveyance, the border-crosser could then completely circumvent our fancy new fence!

2) Abundant in both Mexico in the United States are contraptions known as “ladders”. These devices, if a person was limber and willing enough, could be used to scale the fence. Now, we must take into account that our fence isn’t a single fence at all, but instead three fences in a row, all of which will be outfitted with sensors and infra-red gadgets and whatnot. It is very possible then that three ladders will be required, and that the individuals wielding them will have to be quick about it.

3) Also easily available in Mexican and United States hardware stores are implements known as “shovels”. Given a certain level of desperation, a group of border-crossing individuals could perhaps band together and use these tools to burrow underneath our fence. This would, however, take a lot of work, so maybe we should just assume that thousands of hungry people with impoverished families to feed would all decide spontaneously that such a major digging endeavor isn’t worth the trouble.

4) It is understood that any fence across the entire U.S.–Mexico border would have to be a very long fence indeed. Since this is true, and since our Border Patrol can’t be everywhere at once, it seems likely that if someone has their mind set on coming into this country, they might be tempted to find an unguarded spot and just break through the fence.

5) Finally, if all else fails, someone with their heart set on crossing the border could take it upon themselves to hide in someone’s trunk, trailer or cargo hold and then slip through our fence

You don’t have to be particularly devious to come up with this stuff. You don’t have to think very long before it becomes obvious that fencing ourselves in won’t do much to prevent illegal entry into the United States. It’ll just make it more inconvenient and perilous. But that’s good enough for the officials who trumpet this plan and, strangely, it seems to be good enough for a large swath of the Republican base. These are the people who want our leaders to “do something” about illegal immigration, and by “do something” they don’t mean something with foresight, wisdom, and/or intelligence. No, they’d prefer us to do something hollow, ignorant and counterproductive so that they can feel like their leaders are standing up for our national sovereignty and stemming the scary foreign tide that threatens our culture, our language, and our way of life. Our government, in its reliable zeal to pander to the confused and scared, is only too happy to oblige.

The problem is that illegal immigration has become yet another one of those issues that have been debased into soundbites and screaming by our current political/media situation. So, instead of a reasoned, thoughtful discussion on the effects that undocumented workers have on our economy, we get paranoid blather about “reconquistas” and their Aztlan scheme. This constant race to the lowest possible level of discourse is a big part of what keeps us from making any progress on the issues that vex us.

Do undocumented workers depress wages for everyone? Or do they benefit our economy by doing necessary labor for comparatively little reimbursement? Would a guest worker program really benefit them, or would it only legalize their exploitation? How would an amnesty program work? Who would qualify and who wouldn’t? Wouldn’t the best way to reduce illegal immigration be to encourage higher wages in Mexico, so workers there wouldn’t have as compelling a reason to risk crossing the border? Finally, why shouldn’t we just consider illegal immigration a natural result of a wealthy nation sharing a border with a poorer nation? Is it possible, or even advisable, to try and “do something” about a phenomenon which is as natural and predictable as the earth going round the sun? Should we change our focus to finding ways to channel this flow to the benefit of both countries, rather than trying to stop something that cannot and will not be stopped?

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, of course, but I’d like to hear them debated more often. Too many, the discussion gets bogged down by people who, for whatever reason, want to demonize and abuse the people who cross the border. This is bullshit, plain and simple. Most of these people are hard-working, honorable people who have made a choice that makes economic sense. Why toil for twenty cents an hour, when you can make fifty times that in the United States? If I had a family to provide for and I could only earn enough to give them a better life by sneaking into Canada, you can bet I wouldn’t be too concerned about the legalities of going up north. Sure, there’s inevitably going to be some sleazy people coming over, but they’re the exception and shouldn’t be allowed to tarnish the reputation of the rest. And as for their inability or unwillingness to speak English, who cares? No one’s going to force you to learn Spanish, even though you probably should, because it’s a really beautiful language.

It comes down to this, though: we can’t fence the world out. We can’t put up a wall and then think that we can just stop dealing with the things we don’t want to deal with. We shouldn't hide when we ought to be talking

Saturday, October 07, 2006

It's like a non-stop scandalathon around here

In other news, Alan Fine, Republican longshot candidate for Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District seems to have had a 1995 domestic violence charge expunged from his record. Around these parts, Fine is known mainly for pretending to be a nice guy up until Insomnia Report endorsee Keith Ellison won the Democratic primary, at which point he dropped the act and started blathering on interminably on how aghast, aghast! he was that someone who used to be friendly with the Nation of Islam might end up in the House of Representatives. It was more of what we’ve all come to expect from Republicans, and I didn’t pay his ravings much mind. He’s always had about the same chance of winning as my left asscheek, and all his noise was just a shameless ploy to scare fence-sitting voters away from the Democrats in statewide races. To hell with him, I say.

But, before I resolve to never mention him again, I will do him one courtesy that he hasn’t bestowed on his political opponents: I’ll leave his past alone. It’s a sordid he-said/she-said story and I don’t have the facts, much less the desire, to determine who the liar is. I have my suspicions, of course, but I’ll spare you people those. If he really did what his ex-wife has charged, he’s not worth voting for. If the accusations aren’t true, he’s still not worth voting for. Either way, may he slink off into the obscurity he deserves.

Insomnia Report Celebrity Edition: crazed British starlet insults America's finest city, disappointment and sadness fall upon the land

If you’re like me, you probably hunger for news stories that aren’t about members of Congress and their forbidden lust for underaged boy-meat. Maybe you want to read about something a little scandalous and a little outrageous, but you’re not looking for something that’s going to put you off your food. Just some garden variety naughtiness, you think, that’ll be just the ticket to clean the palate after a week of hearing nothing but repulsive details about repulsive Republicans and all their repulsive peccadillos.

Well, I’m sorry to have to be the one to break this to you, but an even more appalling and crass incident has just erupted onto the national consciousness like some sort of oily, greasy zit on the face of that one Dungeons and Dragons nerd who used to sort of hang around you back in high school and sort of kind of passively make it known that he sort of kind of wanted to go out with you, but he was just too shy actually ever to ask a beautiful, intelligent, cultured woman like you out so he just brought you gifts he made out of popsicle sticks and told you jokes you’d need to be a “Battlestar Galactica” fan to understand in the hopes that someday, somehow and for some reason you—the prom queen—would ask him out and spare him the trouble of putting his feelings on the line and/or facing the most agonizing rejection of his entire life. Yes, I’m afraid that this new, fevered drama has inserted itself into the national discourse like a candirú fish inserts itself into the urethra of an unwitting Brazilian fisherman, causing unprecedented and unbearable burning, irritation, and swelling to such an extent that previously normal genitals now look like over-inflated cruise-ship floatation devices.

I am speaking, of course, of the fact that actress Sienna Miller has insulted Pittsburgh. In fact, this young "lady" has gone so far as to call that fair and gentle town “Shittsburgh”. In the course of her rambling, deranged assault upon Pennsylvania’s most appealing city, she even went so far as to complain, “Can you believe this is my life? Will you pity me when you're back in your funky New York apartment and I'm still in Pittsburgh? I need to get more glamorous films and stop with my indie year...”

This aggression will not stand.

First off, I must hasten to assure the world that there are many, many, many mid-sized American cities that Sienna Miller might find far duller than Pittsburgh. Maybe if Miss Miller found herself making a movie in Des Moines, Iowa or Wichita, Kansas, she would be less dismissive of Pittsburgh’s charms. I know, I know, I know: she’s a big fancy movie star who diddles Jude Law when Jude Law isn’t diddling someone else, so maybe historic and unpretentious Americana isn’t her thing. I mean, for Christ’s sake, this is a woman who talks—with apparent seriousness---about her “indie year”. The glories of Pittsburgh are wasted on such people.

Because, in my mind, those glories are many. Sure, I’ve only been to Pittsburgh once and then I was only there for about eight hours, but I still consider myself a Pittsburgher at heart. From the Allegheny River to the Ohio River to the Monononongowhatever River, Pittsburgh is the shiz-nit. From it’s tree-clad peaks to it’s Andy Warhol museum to it’s mind-bogglingly confusing layout, Pittsburgh kicks ass up and down the entire Rust Belt.

In fact, it has long been a dream of mine to bring the woman I will marry to Pittsburgh for our honeymoon. There, we will celebrate our love while visiting many tight-knit and colorfully-ethnic neighborhoods. We will clasp hands and skip joyously down the Boulevard of the Allies from Duquesne University to Point State Park, calling out a fond hello to all “yinz” Pittsburghers we pass on our merry way. We will sing the songs of Pittsburgh native Billy Strayhorn from the slopes of Homewood to the hipster hang-outs of Oakland by day, and by night we will make sweet juicy nookie to the sounds of the Pirates being defeated at PNC Park.

It will be glorious. But poor, poor Sienna Miller will never experience such bliss. Her loss, I suppose.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Winkie the Lizard-Cat, Mexican actress Salma Hayek, legendary rappers Run DMC and Morroccan President Driss Jettou say "Happy Birthday, Mom!"

Things I know that I wish I didn't know

1) What it feels like to bang your foot hard against a broken air conditioning unit and then having to spend the rest your morning picking sock fuzz and chunks of toenail out of the gory mess that used to be your big toe.

2) That, in Africa, the hippopotamus kills more humans than any other animal. The hippopotamus can run over 20 miles per hour in order to crush you with its tremendous head, stomp you with its four ton body, and bite your head off with its gaping, toothy mouth. When they’re not slaughtering the innocent, hippopotami spend their days flinging a fetid cocktail of dung and urine at each other in a never-ending quest to establish themselves as the alpha hippo. Hippos are assholes.

3) That in the United States we’re living in an era where believing in evolution, global warming and the Geneva Conventions is dubious, but believing in the rapture, abstinence-based sex education, and Rush Limbaugh means you’re right there in the mainstream.

4) How a human body looks after its been run over by a city bus.

5) That surgeons sometimes extract tumors that weigh twice as much as I do and resemble man-sized blobs of Big Red chewing gum.

6) At least 70% of the lyrics to approximately 84% of all songs performed by the Cure, the Smiths, Joy Division, Depeche Mode, and New Order. In addition, I know at least 68% of the lyrics to roughly 79% of all songs performed by Morrissey as a solo artist.

7) That there exists, deep in the jungles of Brazil, a slender and merciless fish known as the candirú which has been known to slither into the urethras of innocent swimmers, where it proceeds to lodge its spiky spine into your flesh and suck your blood until you can find a doctor to cut the thing out.

8) That there is a thriving subculture of people on the internet who trade in homemade drawings depicting Simpsons characters having hard-core pervert sex

9) That, in 1994, a Russian jet crashed in Siberia because, and I swear I’m not making this up, the pilot had gotten out of his seat and let his children fly the plane. Let me repeat that one: nearly a hundred people died in a fiery crash because their pilot let his children fly the plane!!!

10) That when television's premiere comb-over blowhard and mouthy demagogue Bill O’Reilly lets his creative id run free, the results are paragraphs like these:

"Ashley was now wearing only brief white panties. She had signaled her desire by removing her shirt and skirt, and by leaning back on the couch. She closed her eyes, concentrating on nothing but Shannon's tongue and lips. He gently teased her by licking the areas around her most sensitive erogenous zone. Then he slipped her panties down her legs and, within seconds, his tongue was inside her, moving rapidly."

11) How Coca-Cola "Blak" tastes

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The ugliest men in America

In the last week, there has been two separate instances in which terrible men have attacked school classrooms with the intent of sexually assaulting and murdering young girls. On September 27th, a petty criminal named Duane Morrison entered an honors English classroom at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado and took six female students hostage. After molesting all of them, he released four and began negotiating with the police. When this failed, a SWAT team stormed the classroom, resulting in Morrison fatally shooting 16 year old Emily Keyes before committing suicide. Five days later, on October 2nd, confessed child molester Charles Roberts IV stormed into a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, ordered all the male students and several adults out, and then proceeded to tie up the ten remaining girls, aged seven to thirteen. He had brought with him a board to truss up his hostages and two tubes of lubricant. He did not, however, sexually assault the children. Instead, he shot them each in the head before killing himself. Five girls died, and five are still hospitalized.

These kinds of crimes are rare, of course, even if the rapid succession in which these events happens suggests a sort of epidemic. Most people will never have to face people like these. However, I believe that the attitudes and pathologies that underlie such incredible viciousness are widely dispersed throughout our culture. These assaults are, in many ways, the acute manifestation of two chronic, interlinked social problems: misogyny and male inadequacy.

First, allow me to explain what I mean by misogyny. I’m not talking about sexism, which is the belief that the essential characteristics of one particular sex render it superior or inferior to the other in some regard, but instead about a related, but altogether more malevolent phenomenon. A misogynist doesn’t just believe that women are inferior to men, he believes that they are dangerous, hateful, sinister, wicked, inhuman and frightening. Women, to the misogynist, are necessary and desired objects that have to be controlled, whether by manipulation, by threat, or by outright violence. People disagree on what provokes this awful mindset in certain men, but I tend to believe that it’s the result of upbringing and psychology, not something that’s dispersed by the media. In other words, I think men learn to be woman-haters by watching their fathers and uncles and friends hate women, I don’t think they learn it from the movies or from rap lyrics. The latter can play a supportive role in the misogynist’s development, though.

Where the main fault of our society lies, I feel, is in its failure to separate misogyny from masculinity. Machismo, as it is presently formulated, is a shameful thing, more of a peacock performance than a real ethos. Macho is pretending to be strong and independent when you’re really fearful and weak. Macho is dominating through force and winning respect through intimidation. It’s a sick parody of masculinity. Only the feeblest psyches need to hide behind violence and ruthlessness, but our culture allows for and often valorizes these vicious weaklings. A healthier society would be better able to distinguish a true man from a tantruming child, a man of honor from a worthless, domineering thug.

Why does this happen? Part of it comes from our disgusting habit of taking everything at face value. The man with nothing to prove has nothing to show for himself. The angry man has been wronged somehow. The man who hits the hardest is the strongest. These are foolish ways to think, and dangerous too. Misogyny thrives in those men who are too fragile to question anything, men so emotionally stunted that they can’t countenance the smallest challenge to their ego. This is where inadequacy comes in. A misogynist, essentially, is a worthless person who has found a despicable way of hiding that worthlessness. The man who beats his wife to keep her from leaving him tacitly admits he never deserved her in the first place. The men who threatens violence against women who speak their minds are trying to force upon others the stupid fear and hate that have ruined their own lives.

And, sometimes, these men reach the point where they abuse and murder little children because even those children are more powerful than them. Charles Roberts left notes to his wife detailing his rage and his sorrow over his own child’s premature death, but this is just more of the bullshit that really miserable, self-deluding people can’t live without. Rage and sorrow are fine emotions, far too good for a man like that. No, rage and sorrow had nothing to do with what he did. What he did, and what Duane Morrison did, was all about cowardice and futility. These were men who sought to show the women and the little girls of the world that they weren’t as weak and empty and ugly as they felt and, in committing their idiot atrocities, only managed to prove their weakness and emptiness and ugliness beyond any doubt.