Monday, July 24, 2017

The Garbage People Have Arrived

Newport, RI, once home to the summering elite from the mid-nineteenth century to about the 1930s, has again been found by the Garbage People. Don't get me wrong - I don't have any room in my heart for mansion dwellers or real estate magnates, but at least when the move around in their weekend-khakis and tucked seersuckers, they do so with some semblance of grace and dignity. But not the Garbage People.

The Garbage People move from bar to bar in a jerky fashion like the dice in a Pop-O-Matic bubble. If seen from above they would come off as frenzied ants under a cruel child's magnifying glass, scrambling away from something unseen, probably their past, but who knows. These are Jimmy Buffett's people whether they like it or not, lost in the world and invasive, like some choking vine. But here they are ignorant of the aloha shirts and kitschy pseudo island music that allows the general population - good, wholesome folks such as myself - to identify them at a distance. No, for the Garbage People, the music is a more personal decision. Perhaps it's the Eagles, Hall and Oats, or maybe the Rolling Stones.

These are not people of conventional trappings. They might own a boat. They may, at times, drive around in a forest green Jeep Wrangler with deployed airbags draping lifelessly into their laps as they avoid pedestrians. Perhaps they buzz around on a rattly old scooter (for legal or other reasons). But when the sun goes down and they head out on the town, they will get stinking drunk on a mix of cleverly named cocktails, and proceed to crash about in restaurant bathrooms and dance haphazardly in the delightful breeze of the electric hand-dryer, squealing in delight. The are, after all, Garbage People. They have to ruin everything.

A dramatization of a Garbage Person in real life, as portrayed
here by this particularly haggard looking lost doll.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Don't Trust the Lies of the Gluten-Industrial Complex

It's been brought to my attention that in my efforts to avoid wheat, I may have been inadvertently ruining spaghetti time for all. I get it. It's no fun to not eat pasta and bread and, seemingly, everything else. It's a very sad existence foraging, nachos all the time, grudges, and heavy judgment. No one understands this more than me. And I do understand.

But it is important to point out that while the initial gold rush of the gluten-free fad has hopefully peaked - a peak covered with dustcakes and slime pasta and foambread - and has left many a forsaken avoider hung out to be dry-mouthed by the false promises of all the faked breads and noodles. In light of all the fad driven shenanigans, it's important to remember that there are a bunch of people still avoiding and it's only getting worse. There are nearly as many articles that might as well be titled If You Have Ever Had Gluten Even Once You're Already Dead as there are 10 Reasons You're Going to Die Tomorrow if You Don't Eat More Gluten Right Now God Damnit! It's all lies - be it from the granola-eaters or the Gluten-Industrial Complex.

But still, even as a skeptic, I felt I had a build-up of some unidentifiable compound in my body, so I experimented. I had no idea what brain fog was until I started avoiding at first gluten, then, more specifically wheat. Now I know - it's that pervasive lack of critical thinking capability that I thought was just the result of being a tired parent in my thirties, but now I believe there were other sinister forces at work. As I continue to avoid wheat and my body flushes something out, I live with much less brain fog, I don't eat antacid every night, my afternoons aren't a struggle to stay awake, and I'm starting to become more smarter-er again, albeit slowly. So there is a thing here, but what?

After spending what must have been tens of minutes looking into it (thanks internet), here's what I've learned. Here, National Geographic talks about the herbicide Round Up, made by Monsanto (GMO people), and how it may have carcinogenic effects (and how the active ingredient, glyphosate, is not included in the US government's testing for toxic residues in food). Here, on the Round Up website, are instructions for pre-harvest application of Round Up (skip to page 36 for the Harvest Management benefits). And here, Reuters talks about how the EU almost banned (but eventually didn't) the stuff, while Malta, Sri Lanka, the Netherlands and Argentina have. The state of California even says it can cause cancer (just like everything else). Ok, so what?

Here's the deal: there has been a gradual increased use of Round Up not only to help squash weeds that could take over crop lands just after harvest of wheat, barley, soy, corn, etc..., but also to help control the harvest. Once the good stuff, the kernels, are just about ready to go, a farmer could just dowse the crop with Round Up, which, in turn speeds that crop to a more uniform maturity (ripening as it chokes), enabling it to be straight cut instead of swathed (easier, more productive harvest). Sure, it makes it easier for the farmer... but what about the brain fog?

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 is 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.