Thursday, December 31, 2009

Why I Would Make A Terrific Leader

10.) All - ALL - religious institutions will no longer have tax-exempt status. Churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, gurdwaras, all of them.

09.) I'd legalize it. This also means I would tax it.

08.) Three words: Open Border Policy. Immigration reform would make it 5 years to become a citizen instead of 10.

07.) The rich would be mercilessly taxed. Middle and lower classes would pay a national sales tax.

06.) I would illegalize lobbying.

05.) The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would end the day I was inaugurated.

04.) The day after my inauguration, the troops will be sent to Darfur.

03.) The right for workers to unionize would become the 28th Amendment.

02.) Defining marriage as "A union between two consenting adult humans" would be the 29th Amendment.

01.) I would do away with the Electoral College.

Why I Would Make A Much-Hated Leader

10.) I have no idea how the economy works.

09.) The legal system would be tied up for years as I mercilessly pursued Big Business, Big Pharm, and Big Insurance for anti-trust and other unethical practices.

08.) The copyright laws will no longer apply to musicians who are dead or have made at least $10,000,000.

07.) New drugs would be tested on prisoners guilty of murder, corporate theft, or domestic violence.

06.) Capital Punishment would be enforced against mentally competent sex criminals found guilty by DNA evidence.

05.) All other prisoners will be rejuvenating, building, or just resurfacing our national infrastructure.

04.) I'd give the Native Americans their land back.

03.) I would take a guy out of the unemployment line and make him my Secretary of Commerce.

02.) The phrase "Sanctity of Marriage" will gradually become erased from our lexicon. It is about love. Whether it's little more than evolutionary instinct or something given to us by a greater Being, love will never be spun towards any system of belief in the law.

01.) The First Amendment will be rewritten so as to both make an exception to Hate Speech and to define Hate Speech in no uncertain terms.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Death Of The American Dream, Part One: Hell Is A Decade, Not A State Of Mind

After four months away, I'm back in Indiana, and thank God for Shelley's laptop and wireless capabilities. It is hard to think that ten years ago the idea of people having laptops as their sole computer rather than a luxury, let alone a fairly widespread network wirelessly connecting us all to the Internet...which in 1999 was still the domain of the dot-com and all the frivolity those businesses seemed to symbolize. People weren't blogging. People still bought and read magazines and newspapers. Print media was still worth a damn. News networks could, at the right time of day, still throw proper factual news your way.

And yet, ever since my first Christmas break from college when I would stay up late nights and read Wikipedia on my own little laptop, I can't imagine life without wireless. At my apartment in Brooklyn, we use this computer for the wireless coming from downstairs. No dial-up, no cables. Though I don't own one, there are phones out there with full-on Internet capabilities. The fax machine has gone the way of the Oldsmobile (and, funny enough, most of the American auto industry) since emailing became a standard form of communication. Sure, I still get cards on my birthday through the mail, and I treasure them a lot more than emails, but still, emails have become the norm for me and millions of others. I don't own stamps. In fact, it's a hassle when I actually DO have to send something in through the mail. (I say this knowing full well that last year at this time I was nervously wringing my hands while listening to Neil Young and filling out my grad school applications.)

Digital video discs, which have a shelf-life of centuries, effectively made the VCR obsolete. The first commercial DVD's were out around 1997, but I was still seeing VHS tapes at Wal-Mart mid-decade. Not anymore, though. Television as a physical medium is now (mostly) widescreen, and if you have the right kind of TV and cables hooked up to it, shows will look (and sound) better now than they ever did. Hell, you can get by without a television in 2009 and yet still be caught up on all your favorite shows. YouTube, at least in theory, could have revolutionized entertainment. One could shoot, edit, and then post a full-length movie online. Sure, most kids today have the attention span of a dog in the back of a car, but the idea is still there.

Music is being remastered into crystal-clear quality; of course, had they not screwed it up in the 1980's by mastering CD's with LP settings (read: high treble and virtually no bass) or competed in the loudness wars, we might have had Neil, Bob, The Rolling Stones, and (after HOW many years?) The Beatles sounding perfect the first time.

Before this derails into a low-budget audiophile extolling the virtues of hearing music as the artists heard it, which would somehow include my rant against Frank Zappa remixing Cruising With Ruben & The Jets and dubbing some fairly crummy vocals on the magnificent Sleep Dirt, I will go ahead and get to my point: technologically, this was a pretty bad-ass time to be alive.

That said, TIME magazine has gone ahead and called the past ten years "A Decade From Hell." When I started brainstorming this article - my first since Halloween, I'm sad to say - I had originally intended to get cynical. It has been a decade of decadence, the fallout of the era of Reagan manifesting itself with frivolous CEO's, frivolous wars, and the corporatization of the media. But then I wrote what I did, about how this decade has brought us some fantastic technological advances. Believe it or not, your German dungeon porn, your "2 Chicks 1 Cup" aside, the Internet actually works for the greater good of man. I don't have to be friends with only the people in my pocket of the world. Staying in touch is a infinitely more doable, and without spending a cent on postage. Yes, friends, this was a decade of globalization.

Politically, this decade has been a nightmare. The fear of the build-up to Y2K, the over-cautious response to two misfit teens gone mad in Colorado, and the celebrity scandal treatment given to President Clinton's (dickish, overly macho, pig-like) behavior all seemed to be the opening act for the 00's. We have become a nation terrorized, not by Islamic extremists (although they tried) but by the media. This decade, the global population has been frightened by SARS, the bird flu, the swine flu, shark attacks, Islamofascists, Republican candidates, Democratic candidates, identity thieves, snipers, a black man running for President, propaganda-spouting dictators, a war on Christmas, the possibility that our neighbors might be terrorists, Mexicans, scary black men who carve letters onto the faces of Republican campaign workers but didn't really, and an Alaskan separatist who abandoned her post as governor for the all-important purposes of selling a book.

Oh, wait, we do need to worry about that last one.

Still, this has been a decade of fear, plain and simple. In spite of statistics showing that we're safer now than ever, they have been trying to convince us (with great success) that anything and everything out there can and will kill us.

The institutional response to Columbine meant schools had to have metal detectors and "resource officers" (read: "Cops with guns who would not be afraid to kill a child if he thought said child was a threat because these gorillas don't believe in shooting anyone - ANYONE - in the knee") to prevent a repeated incident. This was just the appetizer for the main course of airport security following 9/11. With that, racial profiling became a-okay once again. The scary brown man with the scary beard and the scary turban might be a TERRORIST!

Wait, what? He's not a terrorist? He's not even a Muslim, he's a Sikh? What's a Sikh? You mean there are other religions out there than my precious Abrahamic traditions and those Eastern philosophies I've never bothered to read about because I'm set in my own ways?

That's another problem that came in the last decade: the rise of the anti-intellectual. For some reason, the phrase "liberal elitist" seems to roll off the tongue much better than "conservative plutocrat." Because of this simple little semantic well-how's-about-that, people on the left were considered intellectual snobs. The country wanted a President who wasn't a Rhodes scholar, like Clinton was, they wanted a guy they could have a beer with.

They got more than they bargained for. They got a guy who, twenty years ago, wouldn't have just brought the beer, he would have probably brought some Bolivian marching powder, too.* Not only that, he was a complete and utter moron. He fucked up when he talked, inventing new words and butchering the grammar of our language. He lied during his campaign, he got his facts dead wrong, and he wasn't above playing the religion card as a way to really charm the plebs. Not only that, was re-elected four years later.

The American public was dense enough to believe that "one of us" had to be President, and that university-educated eggheads weren't welcome. In spite of the fact that it makes perfect sense to me that only the best of the best, the A+ overachievers of the world should be the ones seeking public office, most other folks seemed to want the exact opposite. See also: Palin, Sarah.

Just pause for a second. Realize that intellectuals have not been, aren't, and will never be the majority. They may have been part of a ruling class at some point in a now-lost society, but they never made up a majority of the global population.

Call me a liberal elitist. Go ahead. I'll thank you for it. The greatest folly one can commit is willful stupidity, and yet the willfully stupid are the ones breeding in record numbers. They can't afford it, the kids aren't being raised in a loving environment, and the public school systems just want them to pass so they can look good on paper when it comes time for the department of education to allocate funds.

Then there were the wars. Oh, the wars...

...wire-tapping (which Mr. Obama has not done anything to stop, by the by)...

...and the callous indifference to 230,000 non-white non-Christians dying in a natural disaster...

...and the equally callous indifference by local, state, and federal authorities while one of America's most culturally rich cities was underwater...

...and the whole torture thing. Even if McCain had gotten elected - which had he not picked Dumbass as his running mate this could very well have happened - we still would have had a President who would have put an end to these "enhanced interrogation techniques."

That's another thing that I think is going away: the Bushian double-speak. Lines like "the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence" or the whole "there are unknown unknowns, that is to say things we don't know that we do not know" thing. Instead, political opponents of our current President opted to question his citizenship, his religious affiliations (because God forbid someone other than a WASP was running this country), and the contents of the healthcare bill he was pushing.

Towards the end, the Bush II administration began to just get lazy. No more clever NuSpeak jargon, just flat-out lies. I can hope that carries on, because that's a level of bullshit much easier to cut through.

Now, TIME was making the comparison between this decade and the standards of the decades of the 20th Century. did a wonderful article showing how the 2000's ranked among those decades in question. It's a lofty claim, and with the things above that I mentioned, this decade does sound shitty.

But this decade was nothing more than a pizza-fueled orgy compared to some other periods in history. Thanks for the hyperbole, TIME, but the Aughts don't have shit on any of the Crusades, the Roman Empire's anti-Christian sentiment, Soviet pogroms, Pol Pot's reign of terror, the Holocaust, or any number of horrific leaders throughout history. One thing I've said about Bush is that as much as I despised him as a leader, the Hitler comparisons were exaggerated. A lot. But I guess we need to take this decade and compare it only to the standards of the modern world. Not only that, but we need to gauge it by bad things that (mainly) happened to white people in the United States, while name-checking the Boxing Day Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina to balance out the oversight of extraordinary rendition, the Saffron Revolution, the horrific actions on the part of Israel, violence in Georgia against South Ossetia, the harassment of Sikhs in the United States, or Darfur.

In reality, it's just business as usual, with the evils of greed and violence rearing its ugly head the world over. It's only that these horrors, which we blissfully ignored in the past, have made their way into the West that TIME is calling this a "Decade from Hell."

It's shitty by, say, the standards of someone like George Orwell or Aldous Huxley. The fact that there's happy pills of all shapes and sizes now, to the point that they've had to make up diseases to have pills prescribed to treat them, really makes the modern world seem like Huxley's Brave New World with Orwell's Big Brother in power.

Give me a break! J. Edgar Hoover spent half of the past century spying on the most dangerous subversives to set foot in this country from Charlie Chaplin to John Lennon. You think wiretapping is new? You really think our country has never tortured a prisoner before? Sure, we built up a lot of dictatorships after World War II (mainly to keep them from getting guns and bombs from the Soviets), but at least we've decided to topple them this decade. A hundred years ago, cocaine was thought of as an all-purpose wonder drug. Issues of class hierarchy and racism resulted in the illegality of marijuana. Then the government banned alcohol and failed...that was the drug of choice for the American public. Then came the hippies. Now that they're older and on the right side of the law, they still need some sort of chemical enhancement to cope with the fact that they blew their chance to save the world in the 1960's.

World, meet big Pharm. Big Pharm, meet an idle class of Americans who need your drugs to combat such first-world afflictions as anorexia, bulimia, restless legs syndrome, erectile dysfunction, and pet hair allergies. Meanwhile, in the 21 seconds it is taking you to read this paragraph, seven children all over the world have died from hunger, poverty, and illnesses that we have largely eradicated in the Western world. Still need that Claritin?

I'm being hard on pill-heads and ex-hippies. They're easy targets, and they deserve at least a little bit of scorn. Deserving of far more scorn are the American businessmen who were more interested in their own profits and clinging dearly to the old adage of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" This pig-ignorance made for another massive failure on the part of American industry: not being prepared for what I consider one of the greatest challenges the world is going to face in the 21st Century.

In a word, DEINDUSTRIALIZATION. We need to start worrying about what we're pumping into the air. We need to find a more economical and environmentally friendly power source for our automobiles. We need to understand that mechanization is occurring at all levels in industry. Jobs will be displaced, but not lost. Schools need to stop exclusively preparing students for "careers" and university life. For one, they suck at it. Two, not everyone wants a career. There need to be more trade schools. I hate saying "the world needs garbage collectors," but...the world needs garbage collectors. Not everyone can go into the liberal arts, the sciences, law, education, or business.

We saw deindustrialization coming from miles away. President Carter warned of our effect on the environment, never mind that we've known fossil fuels were a limited resource since the 1970's. Instead of working towards a solution in the 1980's, big industry and the banks (who were, to quote Shady Tree in Diamonds Are Forever, were "out playing Monopoly with real buildings!") waited until the last possible minute, were told "they are too big to fail," and received bailout checks with about as much transparency for where the billions given to them has gone as swamp-water.

That's like some guy drinking himself to death, only to be rich enough to afford a liver transplant. Oh, wait...

We've seen some ugliness. That's for sure. But, maybe - MAYBE - we can hope that since the United States has finally seen, in glimpses, the sort of things that happen daily elsewhere, we can push for a brighter future. Believe it or not, I'm a terminal optimist. As technology flattens the world into a global community, perhaps differences can be shed. Education can become much more widespread. This year, I've read so much about world religions that I've realized there is something linking them throughout all mankind, and that's the promotion of peace, love, and charity. There are some very well-educated men out there who are making compelling arguments against religion, but the joke is on them. They're singling out the extremists. Specifically, the Abrahamic extremists. They're also ignore the core message, under all the misinterpreted bullshit, that encourages peaceful behavior.

The world is changing, and yes, we are at a crossroads. This is definitely going to be a period of growing pains for the modern world. With the right leadership - not regressive lunatics who can see Russia from their house or people who want to turn the Bible into the Constitution or build a border fence down South - we can all work towards overcoming this hump. It won't be utopia. That's an idyll we need to stop chasing. So long as man wants stuff, there will be greed. But there is a greater good that is worth working towards.

Let's stop embracing age-old hegemony like the Victorian notion of sex and the 1950's incarnation of the American Dream. The answer to true gratification is not found in picket fences or in killing the bad guys. Maybe it's in celebrating life itself. Whether or not you believe in God, that we as human beings even exist is a fantastic occurrence. Maybe it's in shaking hands with our enemies and finding out why we are supposed to hate each other.

Let's redefine the American Dream. Let's see if it should even be called the American Dream anymore. Let's look a little further than our neighborhoods or our side of the mountain.

Let's make the 10's a decade that only the crudest of cynics would shamelessly embellish as being comparable to time served in Hell.

*I know, I know, Obama has admitted to smoking pot and trying cocaine in his youth, but there's the key: he admitted to it. No "I didn't inhale," no magic black marker hiding documents suggesting his piss-poor attendance as a member of the Texas Air National Guard were linked to substance abuse, he was honest about it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Lyrics - rattled off like I was taking a piss.

You know, fuck it. Google my name and this site will pop up right after you sift through several pages about the jewelry designer in Sydney of the fairer sex with my exact same name. But I don't care anymore. I adopted this attitude during some of the darker moments in my relationship with my parents and we all respectfully agreed to disagree and realize at the end of the day, our bond has, to crib a quote from Neil Young, "staying power, through thick and thin."

I wrote some lyrics. They flowed out of me, based on little more than the three simple words that comprise the title. Shelley's mentor gave her variations of this message time and time again, that and the reminder to just stay calm and "Breathe." Bit like Grapefruit-era Yoko in that regard. I decided to publish them here. Since I've now owned a guitar for almost two months (and still suck at it, but time to get some practicing in has been a bit scarce of late), the chances of this and other similarly subtly-phrased gems being put to music has become 78% more likely.

Here goes. Dig in.

Hang In There (For Her)

If I could I’d like to share that burden on your back
‘Cause it seems to me like you’re about to crack because
Two small people with smaller minds, even smaller hearts, and no soul
Are causing big problems and they’re taking their toll on you
They say they’re right but we know they’re wrong
They’re short in sight but words still hurt that’s why I have this song
For you, the only thing that matters is you, your life’s your own
Don’t let it get you down, don’t give in to sit and piss and moan

Hang in there, hang in there, I can’t say too much more
Hang in there, hang in there, hang in there
Say it day and night, hang in there, hang in there, hang in there

You’re not some foolish child, the source why things are bad
You’re up against people who’ve never been glad that you’re
Not a junkie, not a hooker, not a burnout, not a dropout
Not a victim, not a killer, not a thief, not a copout
That you’ve got your marbles and you don’t need a machine to breathe
Ain’t worth a puddle of truck-stop vomit because you don’t believe what they believe
They fear you because you’re free and follow a different set of rules
What they can’t understand is how you live pursuing your own muse

Hang in there, hang in there, I can’t say too much more
Hang in there, hang in there, hang in there
Say it day and night, hang in there, hang in there, hang in there

You’re not a fuck-up, you’re not a failure, you’re an angel, you’re a savior
Your own worst enemy is you, but they’re tied for second place
But you’re stronger than that, your aim is true, you’re no head case
But they are and they can’t stand that you’re thinking for yourself
And putting their archaic dusty tomes where they belong on the museum shelf
You’re with the program, you get the picture, you’re a 21st century girl
And you’ve done no wrong except embrace the freedom of life in the modern world
It’s cliché, but it’s okay because you’re not alone.

Hang in there, hang in there, I can’t say too much more

Hang in there, hang in there, hang in there
Say it day and night, hang in there, hang in there, hang in there

(10/26/09, 6:32 AM)

What else could I have said? It's gotten past the point of mere tolerance, and it's taken a toll on us, her, me, them (though I say you've shat in your own bed and must lie in it), and even my parents. As we've both learned, parental approval has become something we seek less and less. My mom found out that I simply blocked her on Facebook for the sake of my privacy - why else did she sign up, seriously? - and there were no consequences.

I'm not saying we should all unleash our inner animal, but what's the point of walking around on eggshells on one side and broken glass on the other? Who gives a shit, just put on your boots and stomp a path for yourself. You've got to be happy with you, because you're the only person who will be with you from birth to death. At the end of the day, who you are and how you carry yourself is between you and (if you believe, like I do, and Shelley does) your God.

"You can live a lie until you die,
One thing you can't hide
Is when you're crippled inside."

-- John Lennon

The people we're dealing with need wheelchairs, by the way.


Monday, October 19, 2009

New name.

I had a comment from someone who really does suffer from hypergraphia. My own compulsions and introversion be damned, hypergraphia itself is not what I have.

To the guy (Harold Knight) and others who really do have this, connected with mania, epilepsy, and bipolar disorder, I'm really, really sorry.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Reunion? What?

Yeah...class of 2005 is already getting the five-year reunion off the ground.

I received the following message:
"Hi Alex,

I am needing some information from you in regards to our class reunion that will be coming up this summer. Can you believe it's already been five years?! If you have any suggestions feel free to send them my way.

Also, could you please give me your home address, email, and best number to reach you at? This will help me update contact information for everyone in our class. ******* **** and myself will be the only people with access to your information =)

Thanks for your help!
***** **************"
(Names omitted for obvious reasons)

Now, I couldn't help but remember how this person - and probably anyone else responsible for the planning of this soiree - never really talked to me in high school. Never mind my promise that if I'm in Seymour it had better be Christmas, a wedding, a funeral, or all of the above at the same time. So I had to ask myself, how to rub my situation in the face of my hometown?

With tact and grace, of course.

"Hi ***** -
I know for sure I won't be able to make it. I'm in graduate school in New York, and getting home is kind of a hassle...I do know I'll have classes this summer, Shelley and I are getting married (!!!!!!!!!!!), and we'll most likely be honeymooning in Europe. So........yeah.

Will you still need my contact info?

I wouldn't go if it was all expenses paid. Why waste my time? That said, I kind of realized how good I have it. I'm in graduate school in New York, engaged to a great woman, and we have plans for a European honeymoon.

"One sweet dream came true today."
- The Beatles, "You Never Give Me Your Money"

Friday, September 25, 2009

Back up to speed...

Being my 141st blog post since I resuscitated this thing back in the summer of 2007 (which seems both like yesterday and eons ago), I'd like to start off by saying that, and Forrest - you're going to love this, tonight's entry is brought to you by the Tupolev Tu-141.

Cheap joke? Check.

Semi-nostalgic statement? Check.

Acting like my life story is the most important thing to my friends, passersby, or the whole of the Internet? Nah. I'll just write about what I feel is worth documenting.

There will be horror, humor, romance, suspense, action, and drama -- ALL ON ONE PAGE!

(Incidentally, can anyone tell me how to widen my margins on this blog? It really pisses me off that my carefully paced and constructed paragraphs wind up looking like news clippings from a side column with no reprieve. I mainly need to know how to fix this on my review blog...)

The art gallery opening I mentioned in my last real entry? Ugh. You know those stereotypes about the art world being this world of truly talented but overlooked artists, pretentious asshole artists who get all the recognition, and then the vapid rich dummies who buy it to say they spent that much money on it?

They all exist. A progressive couple brought their trophy adopted son, someone brought a fucking dog, and any lady there over forty-five looked like a gypsy librarian. Someone said someone else's necklace was "To die! To die!" Seriously? Four syllables. Could have saved a syllable and just been a normal human being and said, "To die for!", even though to consider such an ornamental object something worth paying with your life demonstrates both shallowness and a logical flaw: if you'd die to have it, what's the point? (I might be more Buddhist than I thought...yikes.)

Have any of you seen the Woody Allen film Stardust Memories?

...kind of like that.

We were there for all of thirty minutes, at least five of those minutes spent being way too polite to interrupt the ladies talking to the host so we could say, "We're leaving! See you later!"

Oh, and it was raining.

Oh, and I was getting awful stomach cramps, which quickly turned into abdominal cramps. This could only mean one thing: diarrhea was knocking on my door. Normally, this wouldn't be such a big deal, just go to the nearest place with a restroom and let loose.

Unfortunately, we were walking across the Williamsburg Bridge. The cold air, the rain, the wind, it was pure torture. I don't think I've ever endured so much pain in my life. We were halfway across the bridge when the pain struck me, and it took about twenty minutes to get to the other side because I had to stop every few minutes and double over from the pain. I had definitely eaten something bad - perhaps the cause of my flu-like chills?

So we go to Burger King, right off the bridge in Manhattan. Closed.

So we go to McDonald's, where I have a rather normal BM. I instantly felt better.

This state of bliss lasted maybe ten minutes.

Somewhere in Chinatown, I had a really hot fart - hot as in warm, not hot as in, oh, baby, baby, fart on me - and I told Shelley if I didn't get to a bathroom in two minutes, it would be messy, embarrassing, and of a horrifying quantity. So we rushed into a Chinese restaurant, owned by Chinese people. In Chinatown. They had one bathroom, attached to their kitchen.

So I sit down on the pot, and I LET LOOSE.

Kind of like this, except honest to God, I was on the can even longer.

Now, this took time itself. The very act was like I took a long, hot piss out of my button. But then I had know...wipe.

It's a common assumption that if you're in a public restroom for more than fifteen minutes, you are doing one of five possible activities:
1.) Vomiting.
2.) Masturbating.
3.) Committing suicide.
4.) Taking the biggest fucking shit of your life.
5.) All of the above.

When I walked out, a bounce in my step although my face was still ghastly pale, a member of the kitchen staff snickered while the waitress gave me a dirty look, as if I had done the second item on the above list.

I ordered the sizzling beef, which was good, though it was just a little too much of a certain shade of brown for me to completely enjoy.

Last weekend I attended an experimental jam session with some musicians. We were the youngest people there, but it was fine. The lineup was as follows:
+ Tenor sax
+ Four-string bass
+ Six-string bass
+ Keyboards
+ Guy with microphone and effect boxes
+ Guy with little noise boxes that beeped and blipped like an old Moog synthesizer and generated some sweet sounds
+ Drums

It was in the same building as the headquarters for The Militant newspaper, the periodical of the Socialist Workers' Party. Anyone who's been following me long enough might remember my first real leap into political writing amidst the 2008 campaign, and maybe - just maybe - you remember me saying this:

"If that horror of a human being [Hillary Clinton] gets the nomination, I am voting for Róger Calero. He is running as a candidate for the Socialist Workers' Party."
- Alex DiBlasi, "The Gloves (And Muzzle) Come Off." Insomniac Ramblings, now Hypergraphia, 30 January 2008.

As I pointed out to Shelley on the building's business directory that "This is where the Militant is published," an older man turns around. I happened to be wearing my hammer and sickle t-shirt (also, as a side-note, let me just say that our current President is not, repeat NOT, a Socialist. I am, I will admit to it that I am a Socialist of the Trotskyist variety and a Marxist of the Groucho variety. But Barack Obama is not a Socialist. Left of center? Yes. But nowhere near Socialist.), and I was thinking, "Uh-oh, here comes my first NYC browbeating..."

"I like your shirt. I'm actually headed up there right now, I'm their candidate for mayor."

And you know what? His name is Dan Fein, and he is.

And he is a very nice guy.

In the elevator, I told him that Calero would have had my vote had Obama not received the nomination. He said with a smile, "Oh, you just walked right by him in the lobby!"

Awesome, right? At the office, the various employees smiled at my shirt - they knew Shelley and I were friendlies - and we got some fliers for their weekly meetings. We are so there.

After the jam session, we went out to eat with the six-string bass man. Turns out he plays Chapman Stick for the Blue Man Group, so yeah...he's no slouch. He wants us to get together with him and some other friends for a salon party.

Sounds gay, right? Maybe by modern definition.

The meaning in question is "...a gathering of people for a social or intellectual meeting."

Still sound gay? No? Sounds more...I don't I think so, too. Like I said, it's really nice that we've actually got something resembling a social life.

I don't normally talk about television programs, mainly because I hate damn near all of it, but these first two episodes of The Office's sixth season have been grand slams all-around. I have not been as thoroughly entertained by this show since last season when Jim proposed to Pam.

Season Four - not a typo - boasted a lot of promise, as Jim and Pam had FINALLY gotten together, former temp Ryan got a job at corporate, and Dwight and Angela broke up. But then came some really stupid moments - like when a guy at a bar asks Pam if she'd ever ridden on a motorcycle, at which point Jim puts his arm around her and the guy goes away - and then there was the issue of the Writer's Guild strike.

The pre-strike episodes were pretty good, but not remarkable. Mine and Eric Condon's long-posited thought that The Office needed to be an hour-long show was quickly erased as the fourth season started with four one-hour episodes. Of them, only one ("Launch Party") was a truly seamless forty-four minute story. The rest all seemed like two episodes separated only by a three-minute commercial break rather than a week's time.

In these first few episodes, Michael reached Homer Simpson levels of stupidity. It was one thing for him to chuckle at the Diversity Day counselor when he says his name is Mr. Brown and Michael responds, "Nice try...not falling for that one!" But in the first four episodes of that season, he hit an employee with his car, drove his rental car into a lake, kidnapped an asshole pizza boy, and literally ran away from his financial problems - running to a nearby train and claiming he could "go off the grid." What made Michael such an endearing character was the sympathy we could occasionally feel for him, his moments of true competence (more often than not when assuming the role of a salesman and not a manager), and his social gaffes that are like a PG-rated Curb Your Enthusiasm. But he was just ridiculous in these episodes.

Between Karen chewing Jim out in "Branch Wars," during which he slowly, painfully shrinks in a realistic tongue-lashing that could only come from the awkward reunion of ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend ("Oh, you and Pam are doing great? Great! Great! That's totally what I want to hear. Why don't you tell me more?" - I shudder every time...) and Jim's complete failure to run the branch while Michael is gone in "Survivor Man," it seemed that had the season been full-length, our man would have gotten to enjoy some character development a la Pam in season 3.

But alas, it was not the case. After a brilliant episode, featuring Michael and his back-stabbing girlfriend/former boss Jan in her attempt to sue Dunder-Mifflin, that was light on Jim/Pam, the show was off the air effective early November. While I agree with the demands of those involved with the strike, it was kind of a blow. Thankfully, production resumed in February (though as anyone who has been following me since that time knows that I'd just broken up with Kate when the show stopped...and had just gotten back with Shelley as the show came back). Negotiations were made, and they were given until the end of the regular television season, mid-May.

As a result, the second half of the season (that is, post-strike) seemed to jump through story arc-advancing hoops at warp speed, from Michael becoming single again, Jim revealing he's going to propose to Pam, Andy and Angela getting engaged, Dwight banging Angela, Ryan's fall from grace, and Michael meeting the dorky girl of his dreams, Holly.

Very little development for Jim as a character in these episodes, though I really love his ballsy voicemail to Ryan - which he unfortunately never hears - when he realizes that Ryan is simply trying to get him fired because of things he said to the company's CFO at an unseen Christmas party about Ryan's online paper-selling system, Dunder Mifflin Infinity.

And then there was the perfect set-up for Jim's proposal to Pam, with fireworks, a nice "couples" montage, and "Just My Imagination" (one of the best love songs from the 1960's, and this is from the same group that did the almost-as-good "My Girl,") playing in the background. Then professional douche Andy pops the question to his lady, citing the fireworks Jim paid for as creating a moment that just seemed perfect to him. It wasn't necessary, I thought, for the show to display Pam's disappointment with Jim not proposing...for me it just caused unnecessary "Oh, no! Trouble in paradise!?!?!?!" feelings.

Still, nice work on the writers' part for keeping their proposal from being a picture-perfect moment.

In fact, the actual proposal scene almost made me cry then, and it still gets me a little watery now. Probably had everything to do with the images of Shelley and myself that I see in these two awkward geeks and the fact that I was working towards an engagement ring myself at the time:

Not a bad way to start last season. Not at all.

Last season doesn't sound that long ago, but unfortunately the proposal happened in the season premiere. The rest of the season had its high points - I really liked the story arc of Michael starting his own paper company, and his rare display of business sense in getting his job back along with Pam and Ryan's jobs in the episode "Broke," and the no-nonsense corporate bastard Charles, played by Idris Elba.

The other high point of season five was Michael's relationship with Holly, the new HR representative introduced in the final episode of the fourth season. Since I seem to be in the mood to keep putting up videos, let me show you a scene I absolutely love.

Awkward pause. But right when we think he's blown it...

My eyes lit up right alongside Michael's!

Another great moment with these two, just to provide some context Michael's ex Jan, pregnant with a sperm bank baby, was due at the office for a bridal shower. He hides his affection for Holly the entire time by being mean to her. But it turns out Jan already had the baby without telling Michael, who has expressed on several occasions he really, really wants to settle down and raise a family.

See what I mean?

Also, though it's not as obvious in these clips, Holly reminds me of Shelley. If Holly and Pam got together and had a baby, it would be Shelley. Dorky, awkward, nerdy, artistically gifted, and sweet, a girl so sensitive that "I don't even like the thought that Al-Qaeda hates me. I'm sure if they got to know me they'd think I was nice!"

But most of it was middling at best - the Christmas episode where Meredith the office drunk catches her hair on fire, the disappointing resolution to Andy (Ed Helms) challenging Dwight (Rainn Wilson) to a duel after learning he's been banging his fiance, and the "why was this made into a big deal in the promos" return of the super-hot Rashida Jones as a very pregnant Karen Filipelli, now married and not at all carrying Jim's love child, as the promos suggested. (Yeah, for real. Jim and Karen broke up in May 2007, and this was February 2009.)

And in its low points, it was a mildly amusing soap opera - Pam goes to art school at Pratt (in Brooklyn, funny enough...) but then fails one of her classes and comes back and everything is back to normal. Michael's love affair with Shelley's onscreen doppelganger Holly Flax got cut short by corporate, creating the A-plot for the episode "Employee Transfer," which along with its B-plot of Jim's brothers jokingly picking on Pam at a friendly lunch made for what I contend to be the worst episode of the series. It was a beautiful story arc, and maybe it just hit a little too close to home for the times Shelley and I had been separated by lots of miles, but I hated the way it ended, but Amy Ryan had other commitments.

While it wasn't the worst moment of the series or the season - that would be "Employee Transfer" - I was pretty insulted with how the fifth season finale, "Corporate Picnic," ended. After a minor ankle injury in a volleyball game, Jim takes Pam to a local doctor's office for a once-over. The episode ended with the doctor summoning Jim to the windowed exam room. He takes off his microphone and the doctor tells the couple something - which makes them extremely happy and they hug and kiss, before Jim comes back out, turning his mic back on, and tells Dwight they won't be able to return to the game.

As if it wasn't obvious that Pam found out she was pregnant, an earlier scene featured Pam getting wheeled away by a nurse who asks, "Now, we're gonna be x-raying you, is there a chance you may be pregnant?" And yet the Internet fan community EXPLODED with "What was it? What was it?" It took one of the producers saying, yes, Pam is supposed to be pregnant before they finally shut up about it.

For a show that had a track record of seasons two, three, and four all ending with AMAZING cliffhangers - Jim kissing Pam, Jim interrupting Pam's talking head about "Jim and I will just always be friends" to ask if she was free for dinner and says "Great, it's a date!" leaving her smiling with tears in her eyes and saying "I'm sorry, what were we talking about?", and Phyllis walking in on Dwight having sex with the just-engaged-to-wannabe-Ivy-Leaguer-Andy Angela - this was a disappointment. It already sucked that the finale had been a half-hour long, after season two's "Casino Night" was a deluxe-sized episode and three and four ended with hour-long finales.

Naturally, as a hater of television because of its existence as a series of tropes with few exceptions, I was worried. So far, The Office had taken the twelve-episode UK series' "will they, won't they" dynamic and stretched it into "Pam's engaged to an asshole, Jim pines for her, Jim is dating another girl, now he's single again, then he decides to transfer to another branch, then he tells Pam he loves her, she rebukes him, he kisses her, he still transfers, she's left her asshole fiance, he starts dating Karen, Karen and Pam are friends, Jim kind of blows Pam off, Pam gets back with Roy, Pam tells Roy about the kiss and he freaks, Roy attempts to beat Jim up, Pam's apology turns into Jim snottily saying she and Roy will get back together, Karen learns about Jim's crush on Pam and gets pissy, Jim and Karen both decide to interview for a job at corporate, Pam reveals in front of everyone that she left Roy because of Jim, Karen thinks Pam is a bitch, and Jim dumps Karen and asks Pam out."

And you know what? Aside from the really cheesy promos that made The Office look a lot like a soap opera featuring the comic musings of Andy, Dwight, and Michael...

...the progression of the relationship worked. It worked because it was real, because it doesn't just happen overnight, and because (and I'm saying this with a knowing wink to Shelley) as bad as that time of "won't they?" was, it only made the pay-off for "OH MY GOD THEY WILL!" sweeter.

Anyway, the office now knows Pam is pregnant, and they plan on getting married at Niagara Falls as soon as conceivably possible (it is, in fact, to be the hour-long episode on October 8th). The season got off to a wonderful start. The first episode was a throwback to the Michael-as-a-total-ass we hadn't seen much of since season two, and this week's episode saw some development in Jim being promoted to co-manager along with Michael, who almost sabotaged Jim's promotion with the CFO.

Two episodes, back-to-back weeks, showing off the two things I love the most about this program: the nuanced interactions of the huge-but-you-still-know-who's-who cast against their socially retarded boss, and some great comedy interspersed with plot-oriented tension in the second episode.

One last thing. Shelley finally chewed her parents out for convincing us to delay the wedding. They claimed they wanted to get to know me better, but then at Jared's wedding said they could never consider me part of their family and encouraged Shelley that if she studied Judaism more, even though it isn't what she believes, she would eventually "get it."

That's like saying if you only eat cheddar cheese every single day for two years, it will eventually become your favorite food.

We also found out that it was her dad's intention to keep asking us to postpone our wedding until we eventually broke up. The postponement, once we realized it was for naught, most certainly did put a strain on us. Breaking up was never seriously considered, but we certainly had a bumpy summer. But we made it. I guess you could call that our final test.

Now, Shelley isn't pregnant...but we've agreed that as soon as we get steady sources of income.............

.............we're getting married.

Speaking of cliffhangers...

*Because I can, and I because I think it's Woody at his absolute best, here's another clip from Stardust Memories. The bit starting around the 4-minute mark with the balloons is Eric Condon's favorite moment in the history of moving pictures. I don't necessarily agree, but I always like pointing that out. It's certainly a beautiful sequence, uniquely paced with moments so varied in style and presentation it's like the visual equivalent of The Beatles' White Album. Beautiful.

Enjoy. If you really like it, watch the rest of the movie. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

So, I took this quiz...

...the topic being something like "What Religion Is Best Suited For Me."

Here are my results:
1. Mahayana Buddhism (100%)
2. Liberal Quakers (98%)
3. Unitarian Universalism (98%)
4. Neo-Pagan (95%)
5. Jainism (88%)
6. Reform Judaism (88%)
7. Hinduism (85%)
8. Theravada Buddhism (83%)
9. Sikhism (83%)
10. New Age (81%)
11. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (78%)
12. Baha'i Faith (77%)
13. Taoism (66%)
14. New Thought (65%)
15. Orthodox Judaism (57%)
16. Orthodox Quaker (56%)
17. Scientology (55%)
18. Secular Humanism (53%)
19. Islam (48%)
20. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (38%)
21. Seventh Day Adventist (30%)
22. Nontheist (28%)
23. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (27%)
24. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (26%)
25. Eastern Orthodox (21%)
26. Roman Catholic (21%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (17%)

Fascinating stuff.

Friday, September 11, 2009

So... appears I have more than a few followers of this blog. (Andrew Crowley, I'm looking at you.) I don't really know if I can carry this one on. Like I've said before, there's plenty I could write about if I had no respect for my privacy or Shelley's privacy.

Don't worry, she and I are doing quite well. Better than ever, in fact.

It's just we have lots of grown-up issues we're dealing with (parents), and...I don't know, it's not as fun as it was once, to revisit some of the bad things we've both experienced in the name of putting it in prose form and putting it on my blog. Never mind that, I'm still super paranoid (as with last time) that my parents will stumble across this again. I could probably do a little better than to have my name as the URL, but whatever.

I'll say this: my last week at home (in Seymour) was not fun. Very uncivil behavior over my getting rid of the PT Cruiser. In all fairness, though, we were able to patch up before I left. When Dad hugged me goodbye and said, "I love you," he was choking up...which in turn made me choke up. I fought back the tears, which completely dried as I approached the security checkpoint. I changed planes in Atlanta, since as you know that is totally on the way between Indianapolis and New York City. Still, doing that saved my parents a couple hundred bucks.

I'm liking school, though having two night classes once a week doesn't exactly feel the same as the campus life that came with Indiana University. Maybe it will be better when I actually move into my apartment, which will literally be a five minute walk away from the school. Why, dare I say it, I can go to the campus in the daytime!

One thing I thought we'd have to sacrifice was mine and Shelley's penchant for late-night walks, seeing as Bloomington at 3 A.M. is considerably safer than Brooklyn at the same hour. We still go on walks, just in the daytime. It's a 55-minute walk from her place to the campus, so we're not lacking in exercise.

I can tell you already there are some things I miss. In fact, let's make a list of it:

10. Honestly, I miss Kroger. The grocers here are slightly overpriced, and their selection is quite limited. As an upside, though, is that the Big Banana grocer on King's Highway also has Turkish, Russian, and Hispanic cuisine - I bought caviar for $4.99. And you know what? It's delicious. I've also got some terrific Russian soda called Kvass, which is made from malt flavoring.
09. I miss driving. But at the same time, I couldn't drive in NYC. The traffic here is abysmal, and there wouldn't be any place for me to park. Besides, being 13 hours away from Seymour would have been a real pain in the ass of a trip.
08. The smattering of parks (aside from Central Park and Prospect Park) don't really do much justice to nature. They're just places to play basketball or play on the playgrounds. There's trees on the street, but there's usually dog shit underneath them.
07. I can't believe this, but I miss Shelley's cat Phyllis.
06. Let me just go ahead and predict that I'm going to miss autumn in Bloomington/Indiana. I love the fall, it's the time of year that everywhere you go things are orange, red, or yellow, and the delightful smell of leaves burning and bonfires. Yeah, I'll miss that. I will NOT be missing the drive between Bloomington and Seymour. That sucked, whether you took 37 to Highway 50 or 446 to Highway 50 or Highway 46 (arguably the worst in terms of deer and tailgating assholes) to I-65 (easily the best part of the drive, as you can go eighty without worrying about critters).
05. I hate Seymour...but I sort of miss my parents' house. It's an old house, and it has a distinct smell to it.
04. There's more than a few professors I miss: Glenn Gass, Michael McGerr, Andy Hollinden, Joan Hawkins, and Paul Aarstad from the IMP.
03. This one's more of the idea of it than the actual event (due to my own dislike of most of the losers I went to high school with, and the fact that some bridges were burned by some of my former friends making some dumb choices), but I think I'll miss Seymour's Oktoberfest.
02. My friends (Graham, Andrew, Jordan, and others)
01. The sense of community with Bloomington? I'll miss that, for sure.

It isn't unsafe here. I'm not dodging bullets every time I go out...though my mom's former boss tried to make it sound like a nightmare. Of course, what he was describing to me was the Bronx in the early/mid 1990's and not present-day Brooklyn. Like anything, you just have to be smart. Don't be out piss-ass drunk at 4 in the morning, which is advice I'd give if I was in Bloomington.

I don't know how the weather has been in Indiana, but after a couple days here, it's like summer came to an abrupt end. It might have been around 80 or 90 degrees my first few days in NYC, but then it rained and it's been in the 70's, never going above 80, since then. Maybe autumn comes early here? I don't know.

Another thing I'm excited for is that I'll be speaking at the Mid-Atlantic Popular/American Culture Association (MAPACA) conference in Boston this November. My topic is "Rust Never Sleeps And The Death Of Classic Rock." Like my previous work on The Kinks, I'll see if I can get it published online somewhere. I wonder if still accepts submissions.

It's so late it's now early. I've been combating the early stages of a nasty cold - aches and a peppery throat, mainly - and my solution tonight was to sleep under two comforters. I had a dream that I was being smuggled through a Middle Eastern city (I'm not sure which one exactly) in a wooden box with an oxygen tank so I could breathe, which in turn was covered in rags. Naturally, I woke up literally drenched in sweat and somewhat dehydrated. I had two glasses of water, some cashews, a grapefruit (vitamin C, dammit!), and a surprisingly good flavor of Kosher ramen: tomato beef.

Anyway, I went to bed at 11, woke up around 3...I'll eventually get the rest of my six to seven hours' worth of "a good night's sleep" and hopefully be up before 11. I just hope I don't feel achy tomorrow, as the art gallery where Shelley is interning is having a show open tomorrow evening. I'd like to go because 1.) there will be free food, 2.) being an arty crowd there will most likely be some decent cheese and some decent wine, and 3.) Shelley and I haven't really had the chance yet to actively make friends here, so that would be nice.

Ah, the Hell with it. I guess I'll keep this blog up. I can't guarantee regular updates, but I'll be around.


PS - Don't laugh, but I'm in the early stages of doing some James Bond fan-fiction. It won't be anything dumb - like a lot of fanfic can be - but just a straight up story. I'd like to think I have a knack for writing, so hopefully it will be a step above the average fan fiction? We'll see. Not being English I feel puts me at a slight disadvantage.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Let's Get Down To Brass Tacks...

...I'm putting a lot more time, effort, and by proxy more of myself into my other blog.

My personal life is solid, though there are lots of things that, out of respect for my future wife's sense of privacy, I refuse to write about.

Things are in order, don't worry about that. My journey to and (at least) two-year residence in Brooklyn should be a Hell of a ride. But you all have Facebook, right?

Anyway, without any drama, there's no intrigue. I hate drama, and if I start writing creative stuff again (which I have/am,) I won't be posting it online where someone could just as easily copy, paste, and post it, calling it their own.

It's been fun, but I think I'm too old to just write about myself like it's front page news.


Friday, July 24, 2009

50 Questions

1. What time did you get up this morning? Noon-ish.

2. How do you like your steak? Not at all.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? Up. It was terrific.

4. What is your favorite TV show? The Simpsons, All In The Family, The Office, The Boondocks, Malcolm In The Middle...that's about it for the American shows. Best ever, hands-down, Monty Python's Flying Circus, closely followed by Fawlty Towers.

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? New York, California, France, Italy.

6. What did you have for breakfast? Chocolate peanut-butter and cherry jam on white toast with coffee.

7. What is your favorite cuisine? Turkish, Greek, Middle Eastern, authentic Italian (sorry Fazoli's!), Japanese, Chinese, no particular order.

8. What foods do you dislike? "American" food outlets like Chili's, Applebee's, and Americanized versions of foreign food (Taco Bell, Fazoli's), overly greasy food...ugh...

9. Favorite Place to Eat? Whatever answer I provide now will be horribly obsolete after I move to Brooklyn. I'm led to understand there's a few restaurants over there.

10. Favorite dressing? Most any vinaigrette.

11.What kind of vehicle do you drive? PT Cruiser (black)

12. What are your favorite clothes? jeans, casual button-up/t-shirt, Chucks

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance? Europe, Japan, India

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full? How much ice is in it - could very well be 3/4 empty.

15. Where would you want to retire? I fully intend to die working.

16. Favorite time of day? The hour the sun sets and the hour the sun rises. Always lovely.

17. Where were you born? Louisville

18. What is your favorite sport to watch? None.

19. Who do you think will not tag you back? I suppose since I'm not really tagging anyone then this question isn't applicable.

20. Person you expect to tag you back first? See number 19.

21. Who are you most curious about their responses to this? Same readers as usual: Shelley (always), M@ (most of the time), Forrest (a lot of the time).

22. Bird watcher? I hate birds. I fear them.

23. Are you a morning person or a night person? NIGHT.

24. Do you have any pets? Does Phyllis count - she's Shelley's, not mine.

25. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share? Sure. Dave Emlen, owner of, posted a link on his "What's New" page to my blog review of The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society. If you'd like to set aside the time, each song listing has a YouTube link so you can hear each song on the album!

26. What did you want to be when you were little? Believe it or not, scientist. Also, astronaut, lawyer, Beatle, filmmaker.

27. What is your best childhood memory? Any day I wasn't being used as a drug mule for select members of my extended family was a good day.

28. Are you a cat or dog person? In moderation, either. I don't think I'd want to own a dog.

29. Are you married? Not yet, but it's in the works.

30. Always wear your seat belt? Yes.

31. Been in a car accident? Never in the driver's seat.

32. Any pet peeves? Hypocrites, liars, gossips, people who talk big but don't do shit, people who can't be relied on for anything, most recreational drug users, white people who think they "get" Bob Marley because they've gotten high to it.

33. Favorite Pizza Toppings? Pepperoni.

34. Favorite Flower? Honeysuckle. Best to look at? No, but best-smelling...and edible.

35. Favorite ice cream? Uh...most any.

36. Favorite fast food restaurant? If a gun was held to my head, I guess White Castle, maybe Taco Bell if I'm feeling zesty.

37. What are you obsessed about? IN THIS ORDER - my future wife, spiritual enlightenment, my academic pursuits, everything else.

38. From whom did you get your last email? An autobot response since apparently apartment shopping is a haven of people who want to rip you off. Assholes.

39. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? If I had one, a CD store. Oh my God I would go broke.

40. Do anything spontaneous lately? Not yet. But it's in the works.

41. Like your job? Being a student, you mean? Sure, it's a gas, gas, gas.

42. Broccoli? Yes, thank you. Put some cheese on it if you'd like.

43. What was your favorite vacation? New Orleans. (Does that count? If not...St. Louis.)

44. Last person you went out to dinner with? I'm looking at her right now. She will eventually realize I'm looking at her and go, "What? Do I have something on my face?" and then I'll smile and resume writing while she darts to the bathroom to make sure.

45. What are you listening to right now? The Rutles

46. What is your favorite color? Naples Yellow.

47. How many tattoos do you have? Zero.

48. How many are you tagging for this quiz? See #47.

49. What time did you finish this quiz? 3:15.

50. Coffee Drinker? YES!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Maybe It's Just Me...

...but when you're alone, cheesy pop/love song lyrics ring all the more true.

Then again, I've always been a sucker for that romantic codswallop.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Gift That Keeps On Giving


She's doing the 2 DVD's per shipment thing, so we can each pick one. I've already searched a few result-less movies (200 Motels, Kenny Vs. Spenny), but that's just me being difficult. It still stands that we are going to get our (her) money's worth out of this. Especially since she'll be back in Texas from the 14th through the 23rd. I'll need something to do those nine days. Might as well do something semi-constructive.

In other news, I've been reading Ian Fleming's original 007 novels, purchased with graduation money. I really, really like them. My only complaints are that as a high-class Englishman he tends to write rather disparagingly about other nationalities (especially minorities), though at the same time I understand that this was the 1950's...not that it makes it ok, but still...and the fact that his writing style is so detailed it's not stuff you can just sit and read when you're tired. Otherwise you'll be lost.

Ok, it was exciting until Shelley started searching the site. Now it's just boring. Just pick one. Seriously.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Maybe now would be a good time to shamelessly plug my other site, which I hope to turn into a haven of album, film, TV show, and occasionally video game reviews.

I just waited so that I'd have a few entries under my belt before making it "public," for the three of you who read this.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Obama Endorses DOMA...As Only A Cowardly Democrat Can

(Bloomington) Well, the cracks are forming. Beyond the lack of prosecuting members of the Bush camp - let's face it, that was little more than a pipe dream for those of us who in a previous lifetime participated in the French Revolution - Obama is collapsing into little more than an impotent populist. Moreover, he has officially broken his first campaign promise, not that you would be seeing this on the CNN Politics page or anything.

President Barack Obama has considered the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) to not be unconstitutional. Just what is DOMA? The current federal law in effect from DOMA is two-pronged:

"1. No state (or other political subdivision within the United States) needs to treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state.
2. The federal government may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose, even if concluded or recognized by one of the states."

DOMA was signed into effect on September 21...1996? What?!

That's right - a Democrat. The same Democrat who promised to allow gays in the military throughout the 1992 election, only to do it in the most backhanded and cowardly of ways, with the discriminatory and oppressive "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Obama promised to repeal the policy during his own campaign last year, saying that he agreed with the stance of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Shalikashvili, who wrote in 2007:

"I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces [...] Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job."

In actuality, the Obama Administration is defending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in court, a contrast to his post-election announcment of delaying the repeal until 2010, which said he "first wants to confer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his new political appointees at the Pentagon to reach a consensus, and then present legislation to Congress." I guess a letter from 28 retired generals and admirals or the current Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, telling the West Point graduating class that there should be a repeal just wasn't enough persuasion.

Ok, so this actually makes a second broken campaign pledge.

This entry chronicles the details extraordinarily well.

Rather than give a full endorsement of DOMA, the Obama Administration has instead taken a cowardly route, in a move Clintonian in nature. They have expressed that it isn't unconstitutional, using some parallels straight out of the James Dobson/Pat Robertson playbook, in that they compare a state's right to not recognize a gay marriage performed in another state with a marriage of an incestuous nature or a marriage involving a minor similarly being unrecognized.

Beautiful - gay marriage is in the same category as incest or preternatural courtship. Why don't you throw in a comparison to bestiality for good measure? The argument is also made that it will save the federal government money.

Mr. Obama, with all due respect, this stance is cowardly and a misstep. Upon your election, I fully understood your fallible nature and knew you would make statements and decisions with which I did not fully agree. But this stood as a key domestic issue, involving a demographic that is reliant on you to liberate them from inequality, discrimination, and social stigma.

Ours is the generation raised on 9/11, Bush's compassionate conservatism devolving into a push for ideological absolutism in a war that has proven little more than a failed attempt to corner the oil market, and a world where the Internet functions as a forum of accountability-holding fact checks. Ours is a skeptical, authority questioning generation. The online community held your opponents Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Sarah Palin responsible for half-truths and full-on falsehoods during the 2008 election cycle.

As the candidate who endorsed CHANGE as the almighty buzzword throughout your quest for the highest office in the land, reneging your stance on this sensitive, crucial issue is a move that smacks of butt-kissing populism. You made lofty promises, which in tandem with your honest, untarnished nature and your youth, put you into office. More than McCain's senescent gaffes, more than Palin's hypocrisy and stupidity, more than Hillary's reptilian game of race-baiting politics, it was your merits.

Don't buy into the Washington ball-playing you set out to bring to an end. Your re-election hinges on it. And don't think this won't go unnoticed or unforgotten.

Guest columnist Alex Charles DiBlasi is a Master's student at Brooklyn College. The opinions expressed are solely his.

North Korea To Weaponize Plutonium

So, the UN passed a resolution condemning North Korea's test back on 5-25-09.

Among the provisions:
+ Authorization of member states to inspect, "in accordance with their national authorities and legislation, and consistent with international law," North Korean cargo on land, sea and air, and to destroy any goods suspected of being connected to the DPRK's nuclear program.
+ Requires the North Korean government to return immediately to the six-party talks and renounce its announcement of withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
+ Preventing financial services that could contribute to the nuclear or ballistic missile related programs.
+ Instructs member states not to provide financial assistance to the DPRK nuclear programme, or enter into loans with the country, except for humanitarian or developmental reasons.
+ Extending the arms embargo on North Korea by banning all weapons exports from the country and most imports, with an exception to small arms, light weapons and related materiel – though member states must notify the Security Council five days prior to selling the weapons.
+ Demands that North Korea halt its nuclear weapons programme and conduct no further nuclear or missile tests.
+ Asks member states to notify the Council of steps they are taking to implement the sanctions within 45 days.
+ Affirming the Security Council's commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to the situation.

North Korea responds by saying any further sanctions or resolutions would be considered a "declaration of war", while weaponizing their plutonium, carrying on with the enrichment of uranium, and taunted that any blockade was "act of war that will be met with a decisive military response."

President Obama, where are you? This is your chance to step up to the plate and show your critics, skeptics, and indeed the global community that you have a hard edge. I'm not asking for another game of nuclear brinksmanship, we have learned our lesson from the Cold War (we have, right?), but this is frighteningly threatening rhetoric. These aren't the words of Osama Bin Laden, whose threat to the United States since 9-12-01 has been little more than propaganda delivered from a perpetually undisclosed location.

We found no enriched uranium coming from Africa into Iraq. We found no enriched uranium in Iraq. Here is North Korea - a developed nation, not a terrorist organization, but a nation with a constitution and a government, a global power - promising to carry on a WMD program.

Sanctions and resolutions only go so far. I don't advocate a campaign to send North Korea back to the stone age, but should this situation continue to escalate, I'm able to comfortably step away from my pacifism and say military force may be needed to ensure an end to their nuclear program.

Why didn't we invade them back in 2003? Their withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty wasn't enough of a hint of things to come? What could they possibly stand to gain from nuclear armament? Are we too scared to confront them because of their ties to China? Or worse, their ties to Russia?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Best One-Sided Conversation I've Ever Had.

Thank God for insomnia. I get a lot done in a few hours' time: I read about some of Bob Dylan's electric albums while listening to Music From Big Pink by The Band.

Two things: One, The Band still does absolutely nothing for me. An album later, I was underwhelmed and literally yawning. I will admit, the song "Chest Fever" is pretty cool...but what do you know? The lyrics were made up on the spot, and the song itself functioned as a way for organist Garth Hudson to show off his chops...

From this, you could assume they were some bad-ass proto progressive rock act. Nope. While it's easy - and fun - to dismiss it as lazy hillbilly music that should have just stayed on the back porch, there were some nice qualities to it. One is Garth Hudson's sense of tone, though at times the "cutting edge" synthesizers he was using in 1968 now sound like Nintendos.

But yeah, on the whole, very dull...Zappa used this phrase to dismiss Dylan's Blonde On Blonde, but it works here: "cowboy music." That's what it is. I just don't relate to it. Then again, neither did they, nor anyone not from a century earlier.

The conclusion: I'm still not enthralled by The Band the way so many other rock/music fans are. It's weird, being a Neil Young fan, a Dylan fan...but not liking The Band. I don't know, I guess the issue of authenticity paired up with what I consider a rather monotonous sound puts them in a lower regard.

Then again, I'm not afraid to give a record a second listen. I really ought to sit down and come up with the "Albums I Initially Hated, But Now Swear By" list. You'd be surprised both by the artists and the albums that made it.

Second, I regret not getting into Dylan earlier. In all fairness, I spent 8th and 9th grade delving into The Kinks, Zappa, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, and The Ramones. In 10th grade it was Cheap Trick and shitty 80's music because The Gill and I came up with a movie script we never quite got around to - probably for the best - called Cortland Vice. (See what I mean?)

I had a big Bowie kick the summer of 2003, mainly Diamond Dogs and bits and pieces of Aladdin Sane...though it wouldn't be until May 2005 that I finally picked up what I contend to be two of his four sublime efforts, Low and "Heroes." (The other two being - duh - Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs. And though I've had it since fall of 2005, I've still not listened to Hunky Dory. Guess that shows you what a rush I'm in.) After Bowie, though, it was The Rolling Stones.

Curiously, at the beginning of my senior year, I picked up both a Stones album (the dreadful Black And Blue) and a Bowie album (Scary Monsters, which I rank in the "good, not great" category that most albums tend to fall into), as if to signify the passing of the torch to...Marilyn Manson. I know.

And the weird thing is, I still like him. Once I actually have two nickels to rub together, I will pick up his new album.
"We're From America"

But I was too self-righteous. Too serious...on the other hand, maybe Dylan wouldn't have helped. The first year of college I was too focused on getting laid and then later mellowing out with Shelley - and showing her the music I already had - to do much in terms of expanding my collection. The Smashing Pumpkins made a brief - but probably not brief enough - rotation, as did Nine Inch Nails. Sophomore year of college is was HIM in the fall, and then Frank Zappa came back in a big way. This lasted right up to the spring of 2008 when I met The Residents and Captain Beefheart. This school year it's been Neil Young and The Kinks, the latter for obvious reasons.

So...maybe it was perfect timing.

Maybe I needed the unique - to some, grating - vocals of Billy Corgan from the Pumpkins and Neil to prep me for Bob. Getting acquainted with those ancient blues, folk, and country recordings in Z385 and Z201, along with developing a tolerance/acceptance level for said musics by way of Neil Young that got me ready for the wheezy harmonica and the country/rock/Biblical strains of the magnificent John Wesley Harding, which I may have blown off a year ago. (Forrest, I think you'd like some of this stuff. Neil, too.)

My current situation involving parental units - I won't say whose - only made the defiant "fuck you" of songs like "Maggie's Farm" and "On The Road Again," both off Bringing It All Back Home...well, bring it all back home for me. Of late, the phrase "I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more" has entered my lexicon...and not as a lamentation of my hatred for agrarian-level servitude.

Long story short, "Positively 4th Street" is a perfect summation of the death of my friendship with Gill. As of this week, as far as I'm concerned, the dream is over. He did acid and then asked ME for the number to the local Buddhist temple.
"Positively 4th Street"

You got a lotta nerve
To say you are my friend
When I was down
You just stood there grinning

You got a lotta nerve
To say you got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on
The side that's winning

You say I let you down
You know it's not like that
If you're so hurt
Why then don't you show it

You say you lost your faith
But that's not where it's at
You had no faith to lose
And you know it

I know the reason
That you talk behind my back
I used to be among the crowd
You're in with

Do you take me for such a fool
To think I'd make contact
With the one who tries to hide
What he don't know to begin with

You see me on the street
You always act surprised
You say, "How are you?" "Good luck"
But you don't mean it

When you know as well as me
You'd rather see me paralyzed
Why don't you just come out once
And scream it

No, I do not feel that good
When I see the heartbreaks you embrace
If I was a master thief
Perhaps I'd rob them

And now I know you're dissatisfied
With your position and your place
Don't you understand
It's not my problem

I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment
I could be you

Yes, I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
You'd know what a drag it is
To see you

On the subject of God, I've developed this paranoid, irrational fear of death. It's bubbled under the surface for about a year - namely, if there isn't a God, is it really just lights out? Like that scene in Terminator 2 when the T-800 robot is lowered into the liquid steel, where everything just goes black and THAT'S IT?

I couldn't bear the thought of that. The atheists have a good argument, and in all honesty you could do far worse than a man like Richard Dawkins as a spokesman. He's intelligent, he is a master debater (masturbatory pun not intended!), and he's British. Dawkins is like C-3PO in human form, but with an agenda, unlike that war-supporting lush Chris Hitchens. Science. It's all about science...if we can't see it, it cannot be, right? If its existence cannot be scientifically proven, it doesn't exist, right?

We can't see air. But we know it's there because we can feel it...even if it's completely still outside, without a touch of wind, we still acknowledge the presence of air.

Subatomic particles exist...but only in theoretical predictions. Quarks, mesons, etc.

The conditions that exist for this planet to sustain life are too spot on for it to have just been an accident. Our universe had a definite beginning, suggesting the role of a Creator. Whether it was the "Big Bang" as read or a "Big Bang" in the sense that, like the origins of the Earth, took eons to occur is up for debate. It is also unknown.

And yet we can all agree the universe exists, can't we?

Desperate last Friday night, I found myself turning where I thought I would never return. I don't even know why I still have it, but I cracked open the Bible. I read part of Habakkuk and part of Nahum, which respectively address why bad things happen to good people and that the Almighty handles the "smite the deserving" department quite well, in turn rewarding the righteous.

It didn't even answer my initial query on death and the afterlife, yet it still proved to be a solace.

I'm writing this for you on the assumption that
a.) you aren't my parents, and
b.) you won't breathe a word of this to them.

I wouldn't want them to think for a second that their "Oh, he'll come around" mentality had anything to do with this. Because before I turned to the Bible, I read some of the Bhaghavad-Gita. Dull, but worth a second glance, for sure. They ever find this out, in typical Christ-like fashion they will rub it in my face. Besides, their church is boring. I don't like the songs. That and I feel I need to investigate God further before I go into re-investigating the main star of the New Testament.

One more time for the world: this was all me.

For the first time in a long time, I prayed at great length. Just to be extra safe, I did it on my knees, facing east.

In light of the past, present, and future, I asked for guidance, patience, and strength. Guidance that I be assured I am doing the right thing. And if not, that it be revealed to me what to do differently. Patience...ah, patience...something I don't have much of, ever. I'm too hasty. I'm ready for it to be the end of August, yet a lot must be done before then - a wedding to attend, an apartment to hunt, etc. Strength? Um, hello? Have you met the people I'm up against?

A seven nation army couldn't hold me back...but I wouldn't mind having the strength of a seven nation army to back me up in this battle of wits.

I'll provide more details later - I've not slept.

So much for being out of the ditch. Oh, well. I might still be in the ditch, but at least I'm further enough up the proverbial road to cope with it, understanding just why it's going on, and ready to work my way out or die in the process.


"All Along The Watchtower"

There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief,
Theres too much confusion, I cant get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.

No reason to get excited, the thief, he kindly spoke,
There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and i, weve been through that, and this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.

All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.

Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl,
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.