Friday, March 31, 2017

This Is Bullshit - Jack Ziegler, 7/13/42 - 3/29/17

He was going to live forever, or die in the attempt.
- Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Standing in my father's kitchen eating fistfuls of black forest deli ham and swiss cheese from the Hy-Vee (which I assumed is a pharmacy but now hope it's not), I look out the window at the blooming dogwood and get what he saw in this place. It's great. The neighbors and friends who brought the food over, all great. Those of us here in the aftermath, I like to think he thought we were pretty great, too. I worry very little about what he would have wanted now because I know he already carved out of life what he would have wanted.

Earlier in the week as I made my way from airport security down to the concourse the text from my sister came in: "Holy shit, its over." He stood so goddamn tall, and he cut a hell of a swath. Over the following days, bits from here or there would come in, outward condolences and praise for what he did, who he was, the greatness that he represented to so many. The gravity of this, measured against the approval I had always sought, the respect I had gained as a young man, growing, starting a family, all the warmth that I never really noticed as a child (he used to call me Gnat Boy because I was constantly assaulting him with jokes), my transformation into someone whose opinion had value, who could make a great martini and could entertain in a way that he loved.

I'm really not disappointed that I didn't get to say goodbye. Although I was on my way, I know he didn't want to be seen in a hospital bed as his last impression. The final conversation we had was cut short by some sort of phone issue, but things had been looking up that day, and the nurse had come in to wash his hair. He was practically giggling because it was so wonderful. "This is great," I'm sure he said. Although we were cut off, never said goodbye, never said I love you, I am okay with all of it because it's such a wonderful, absurd memory.

While on the phone in the confusing hours shortly after the 9/11 attacks, my dad, wit so sharp even when noticeably shaken by the chaos and bereft at the thought of lost friends, said the final thing that ever needed to be said about it; "It's like everyone you've ever known has just died." And it's true; one of those multi-layered truths that speak more as years go on. Now, as I sit at his desk in the basement studio of his home in Lawrence, Kansas, grappling with this, I can only muster the reflection I had on that Southwest flight out of Hartford shortly after his passing: It's like every hero has died - every great artist, every great writer, every great musician, and every great philosopher. Bob Mankoff said it best, I think, in his own memoriam: "Fuck! Jack Ziegler Is Dead!"

Goddamn it's beautiful down here, looking out the sliders onto the greens, peppered with strong trees. It's great.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Team America - Not in the Playoffs

"That's it, man. Game over, man. Game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?" - Private Hudson, Aliens (1986)

Something horrible has happened over the past, oh, say - thirty years. Politics in America has become The War on America. But this one isn't fought out on the front lines, this one it trench warfare. The trenches are so deep that neither side can see anything that isn't two feet in front of their collective faces.

Team Politics has become so prolific, so rampant, that the enlightened serf of America who has been classically trained in the art of team worship and rivalry, has become a split-camped, foam-mouthed, rabid sociopathic rotten curd of the really underbelly-cheese. Blindly so do they frolic forth, vitriol streaming from both sides. It's as if they've been trained, from a very young age, that the other side poses a threat to their very way of life, to rob the coffers and send do-gooders to the pokey, and those baddies would sell out America to get what they want - and what they want is the purity of unfiltered evil. But here's the rub: both sides think this.

Wade through all the baloney, all the rhetoric, peel back the patina of importance, look beyond the talking heads - try, just this once, to participate in the Actual Truth, and this one fact will become blindingly clear. What is the real a-bo-bo of truth here isn't quite a lie, but rather, an exaggeration. What has happened over these thirty-some-odd years is that what was once a simple and well-intentioned leadership vote has been fueled by every throbbing pundit-exaggeration into a gas fire and can be distilled into one simple question: Are you ready to submit to orifice-probing by your new Martian Nazi Overlords?

The Truth: If everyone is so wrapped up in the greased-back slime pitch of either party, convinced that the opposite team is trying to destroy America - blood-lusting, screaming, frantic - guess who wins? Take a moment and think about who stands to gain the most when a royalty-free, content generating behemoth not only takes over the airwaves, but takes over all the attention, AND - and this is the big one - AND pays through the nose for a huge chunk of prime airtime throughout the land?

Could it be? Could the media be stoking the flames of discontent, only to sell airtime to a couple of bozos who it has been established that nobody likes - and everyone is on the sidelines lapping it up like a bunch of grateful strays?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Peak America

The jig, as it were, is officially up. We have reached peak America. The experiment has died on the table, the only thing left in it's wake is something like a granfalloon consisting solely of our own truncated philosophies. The nubs of these philosophies poke out, probing, searching, never fully expanding - for fear of Stepping on Toes. We have become a nation of toes. You can be anything; you just can't do anything.

So, with that I present to you: Peak America. We are speeding toward an election, the foreplay of which has lasted much longer than anyone could have ever, not in their most nightmarish dreams imagined, we shutter down the tracks at break-neck speed in this unruly game of chicken. As a child I remember the worlds most dangerous roller coaster, at Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury, CT; the Monster Mouse. The rickety construction of it wasn't particularly scary, nor was the ride, until you made your way to the top, and the fear kicked in as the little cart cut ninety degree turns, at speed, far too high off the ground, and that crummy little cart would go on two wheels, and it wasn't fear of heights or speed that gripped you, it was the fear that some half crazed drunken coaster designer didn't factor in all the calculus that keeps a young boy from being ejected from the top of this hastily constructed scaffolding. But I digress...

Back to the facts: Due to recent events, this has now become a gun vote. There is a huge swath of middle America that has, much to their horror, had their collective face rubbed in men in dresses, and now in their agitated state they are being told that men dark-colored suits will arrive at their homes in black SUV's to take their guns. The lizard brain vote is now activated. This was a sleeping giant two months ago, and the lizard brain demands a lizard king.

Enter the Reality Show Host officially as a contender. Not even his own party can stop him, try as they might. The genie is out of the bottle... His speech patterns are erratic, stream-of-consciousness style, and dripping with the thickest sauce of velvety bullshit. The very type of bullshit I know rote, because I see the same identical meandering quick-thought patterns that I use when completely out of my depth and unable to stop talking, grasping for the punchline. Completely eviscerated of all meaning. But this type of talk the lizard brain eats it up, like so much bagged food, because it's not about meaning, it's about presentation. The unwashed reality of it assaults the senses. Acrid. Pure entertainment, like traffic-cam footage of highway pileup. One simply cannot look away.

But there is hope. All party lines aside, there is one factor, one weapon, that could change what looks to be the apex in American history - that moment when the poor, destitute remnant of society look back to and see the glaring flaw to which we are all so blinded, unable to steer the past and avert complete and utter wreckage. Ryan Seacrest. If there is one person who could divert this disaster, it would be him. An anti-political battle-royale with Michael Bay at the wheel - give the people their bread and circuses. Ryan Seacrest is the only pop culture figure as ubiquitous; the benign to Trump's malignant. If we're going to crazytown anyway, might as well.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Kevin Bacon to Win Prestigious Nicholas Cage Award


Kevin Bacon, best known for his work on Wild Things (1998) and Diner (1982), has been awarded the prestigious Nicholas Cage Award for his work on the FOX television series The Following. The award is presented to an actor or actress whose commitment to their craft allows them to achieve a level of acting that goes well beyond the conventional portrayal of a mere character, attacking the script and stage cues with a veracity and an exceptionally whimsical interpretation. Often, such performances come off, to the untrained eye, as a sort of What would a 12 year old do? type of expression of the piece, a sort of I don't quite understand what acting is. representation. Ah, but to those classically trained, these crude-seeming displays of ineptitude are truly the avant garde of stagecraft - to be able to come full-circle and visit the inner child of the writer, to be the scared kid, weary of all the lights and catastrophic demands of the world of acting... That, my friend, is Acting!

I was able to catch up with a refreshed Kevin Bacon at an undisclosed in the seedy veil of Manhattan. "Frankly I'm shocked," said Bacon. "I've always respected Nick for the work that he does - did he put you up to this? No? Are you sure?" Bacon went on to describe, off record and in a hushed tone, his a primal fear of Cage. He relayed a short tale of a night with Cage, fueled by what he referred to as several South Central Iced Teas, and the subsequent week long detainment in Cage's underground compound on the outskirts of the New Mexico desert, where he was chained to a radiator. "The man is an animal at his craft," Bacon went on to say.

"Wow! Nicolas Cage Award... Nick! That sounds really incredible," said a pedestrian Christopher Walken, whom no one asked.

"I'm proud to extend this award, which takes my namesake, and I'm glad to see it go to with such tenacity. I'm humbled. He's a powerful ally and an even more powerful foe," said a disheveled Nicholas Cage. "I'd love to one day bite him and really find out..." Cage's performances have long been established as movie-ruining (with the exception of Raising Arizona (1987) and 8MM (1999), which were -and are- testaments to the craft). His performances could be described as that of a scared dog which has been foolishly tied up to a free-standing metal sign outside a convenience store near a busy intersection, who spooked and bolted, dragging behind it the the sign which flopped and banged like lightning, chasing the poor dog until it tired itself out. "My award speaks for itself," said a confident Cage, who then turned paranoid. "But what are we going to do to Kevin next?"

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cutting Cakes With Doctor Awful - Part 6

Continued from Part 5...

With Doctor Awful having left the room, the office folk had returned to their business. Loathsome Kevin stared sadly at the plate of cakes sitting on the edge of the desk, shifting his weight uncomfortably from one swollen ham to the other. "Oh no, this won't do..." he muttered to himself as he carefully gripped the edges of the flimsy paper plate where the fourteen half-circle cakes were arranged. Halfheartedly lifting, he slid the plate toward the edge of the desk and the garbage can waiting below.

It was in this moment when it all clicked for Mr. Somewhat Reasonably Normal. Time stopped moving fast. It would be a full two minutes before the cakes hit the bottom of the garbage can, seemingly, which would be plenty of time to stop them from falling all the way.

In the instant that the plate began to slide off toward the edge of the desk, a series of facts, ideas, and notions began to play in Mr. Somewhat Reasonably Normal's mind, and the fog began to clear. Doctor Awful hates Loathsome Kevin - thus the title Loathsome (this, of course, accompanied by his potent lack of physical fitness and pungent aroma). Doctor Awful is a known sociopath - the type who has Guns and Ammo magazine delivered at work. As of late, there had been a string of vandalism in Doctor Awful's neighborhood, where Mr. Somewhat Reasonably Normal lived - first it was mail boxes exploding, then manhole covers being blown out of place, climaxing with overhead power line transformer explosions that seemed to have been triggered by certain cordless phone signals. Nearly every home in the area was hit aside from Mr. Somewhat Reasonably Normal house and Doctor Awful's own musty basement apartment. But that had all stopped a month before.

The final fact that clicked as the cakes went overboard was that Doctor Awful had recently taken an advanced cooking class and was always quite vocal about the "lovely things you could hide in a cake."

It was at this moment that Mr. Somewhat Reasonably Normal sprang into action - dashing, albeit in slow motion, toward Loathsome Kevin's desk shouting "Don't!" Although his thoughts quickened, his movements had not. His mind, outpacing his body, had imagined his right foot well in advance of his left, catching the heel and bringing the entire man to the ground, chin first, with a sharp thud that went unheard under the deep thump of the cakes hitting the bottom of the garbage can. Loathsome Kevin watched with horrified disbelief on his be-jowled face - his eyes knew something was terribly wrong, but did not know what.

Exactly three seconds after the cakes hit the bottom of the can -- POOK! A controlled detonation sent a shotgun plug of burnt cream cheese frosting through the air, coating the ceiling and Loathsome Kevin's puffy, wincing red face as he let out a muted, squirmy yelp. The rich smell of mothballs curled from the smoking steel garbage can which recoiled and fell over, dumping banana peels and candy wrappers to the floor as garnish on the crime-scene mess that would be left there until the janitors came later in the week.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fulcrum Days

Every now and then a day has so much riding on it - opportunities braced at either side like fat kids on a see-saw, bouncing terrifyingly on the fulcrum of the day laughing that hideous hyena laugh, pushing your guts up excitedly out your armpits, your stomach up near your neck, rocks flying at your head, lawn mowers buzzing in your ears. These are good days, don't get me wrong, because nothing good ever happens without them. So sit at your cubicle and wait for them to send word...

For me, this translates into waiting to hear back about potential publication and an interesting opportunity - a possible side gig in the Social Gaming industry. Yes, that's right kiddies, I could be the guy creating new and inventive ways for you to dick around at work, like a modern day Robin Hood, robbing from the tragically bored, and giving to, well, me. Only time will tell.

But I will leave you with this: this past Saturday, during a elitist, line-skipping tour of Lake Compounce's Haunted Graveyard, walking through the narrow halls of castles and lushly appointed jungles, I found myself in a vertigo room. With a strobe light blaring and the whirly-twirly striped candy cane dingdongs dangling from the ceiling, coming right for me, I began to laugh, much louder and more manically than anyone else, and more so than I probably should have. But it felt good. I want that every day. I want crazy all the time.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Guerilla Warfare at Occupy Wall Street

There is a nine hundred pound gorilla in the room - but what is it? What does it want? These are simple questions, which, nowadays demand simple answers, but none are offered, and this is extremely upsetting to those in the 24 hour news cycle. They want to touch, hold and examine a moment then label and file it - but all they have is a movement that is not only taking place physically in cities around the country, but going on in peoples imaginations around the country.

So, like any other nine hundred pound gorilla, Occupy Wall Street was ignored, more or less, by the media - nobody wants to talk about it, as the old saying goes. But after a few weeks it was clear that this gorilla wasn't leaving and it was only getting bigger, so the media, having nothing better to go on than opinion and assumption, decided to put a hat on it, calling it some crude  Pro/Anti Left/Right Up/Down Green/Gray Rich/Poor Liberal/Conservative agenda machine. It was glorious - they could write if off as whatever they wanted it to be, waiting for it to lose steam, waiting to get in the last word.

But still the gorilla stays - more than a month later. And it's getting bigger. And it has no leadership, no demands. Now, after all that struggle, there's an increasingly large group of people who are fed up with the financial system and the state of jobs, who are soothing their angst with their numbers and with the power and momentum their cause. And because it has no figurehead or specific demands, it is finally settling in the public mind that it can be whatever they want it to be, too. With merely the power of presence, OWS can be the voice of an entire disillusioned nation who has watched the American Dream suffer the death of a thousand cuts, as the Dastardly Few worked tirelessly to sell the bones out of it, leaving a withered, deranged husk. We are a Gorilla Nation.