Lindsey Buckingham, "Go Insane"

>> Tuesday, July 31, 2012





Tonight, barring some unfortunateness, the ScatterKat and I will be seeing Mr. Buckingham in person, down at the Neighborhood Theatre up the block. Good stuff. The man is an utterly phenomenal guitar player. I should make an acoustic sound a tenth as good and consider myself a badass.

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I don't need another hero

>> Monday, July 30, 2012

I was involved in an exchange about gun control elsewhere on the web, and here's one of those responses that amuses you and pisses you off at the same time:

The day that men like Hitler, are no longer born will be the day we can actually give up guns and I will gladly do so. But until that day I will be the man who protects your liberal views, and your freedoms from people like that. And do not forget People with GUNS protect you when you do not have the courage to do it yourself.


This is a portion of the original; I'm leaving out the part where he says the Founding Fathers would have made phasers Constitutional if they'd had them (I'm thinking they would have stayed warmer at Valley Forge, but whatever). And the weird typography, spelling and grammar errors (though a gun-ownership advocate writing about "the gattlen gun" is kinda precious), etc. The portion that really interests me--and amuses me and pisses me off--is that portion I quoted.

Because there's something profoundly revealing in that breathtaking arrogance. Is that really how some gun owners see themselves? How some of these folks who take the text of the Second Amendment so powerfully to heart see themselves in relation to the world? And it must be. I don't suppose it's surprising, actually, that it is, it's just that it's nevertheless breathtaking in its presumptuousness.

Who died and made these guys Superman?

It doesn't even cross their minds that a bleeding heart, unarmed liberal like myself doesn't want them protecting our liberties. I don't have a lot of illusions about the actual usefulness of petitions, ranting online, going to vote, and the efficacy of the courthouses and such--I fear we've gotten to the point where money is what talks and everything else walks--but if we get to a point where we just reach the ends of our ropes, I really don't want some sad quixotic yutz charging a tank with his gun-show assault rifle and mail order body armor. That's just not good for anybody, certainly not for him when those tank treads grind him and his precious peashooter into the asphalt, not good for the citizens in uniform he thinks he's going to menace with a weapon that's only adequate for shooting up a movie audience, and it really doesn't do me any good.

I'd rather frankly prefer being a bearded, fleabitten political prisoner in a gulag, penning tracts in my own blood on the torn-off corners of stinking bedsheets that eventually get smuggled outside in the anuses of luckier cellmates. It's not that I romanticize the awful lives of history's Solzhenitsyns; I do prefer sitting up in my nice comfy townhome and not having to burn my own crap for warmth and pick lice from my pubes and so on. But if the revolution comes and they start herding the bleeding hearts into cattle cars, it's the Solzhenitsyns I identify with and respect, not the idiots who want to go out all Butch and Sundance, not even thinking that's what they're doing with their small arms because they have some dumb notion they're Wolverines (note: these guys know that movie actually ends kinda sorta the same way Butch Cassidy does, right?).

Hell, if it comes down to tanks in the streets, I'd like to be Wang Weilin. I know that's not everyone's bag of tea, I just think that guy--whether that was really his name or whoever he was--did a lot more just standing there than he could have done waving a gun around like he was Yosemite Sam on a tear. He represented man's dignity against oppression in a way that grabs the gut and holds it. Gods help me if I ever have to test my courage like that only to have some jackass spoil the whole capital-letters Great Moment In History by turning himself into a clay pigeon. Not because of my ego. And, frankly, it's very possible Wang Weilin or whoever the hell that hero was ended up in a shallow grave two weeks later, something I'd rather avoid (thanks). But because can you imagine that guy's balls-out stand (a literal stand) against tyranny, forcing his nation to face itself and holding the world's attention so the world had to say something about the whole thing, can you imagine his stand having the same power, forcing the same moment of stunned universal silence, if fucking Leeroy Jenkins came running in from the image's margin?!

I put this facetiously, but let's be serious for a moment: Wang Weilin denied the Chinese government their power for that brief moment precisely because he was unarmed. Because the Chinese government had all the weapons and all this guy had was his spine and balls made of unalloyed brass; and if he'd had a gun in his hand, they could have shot him in the street and said they were saving the public from a madman, but because he didn't, those soldiers in the tank and all the state power they represented had to consider whether they wanted to run over an unarmed man in broad daylight on international television or whether that might be really, really bad PR. And, okay, so maybe the Chinese government remains a totalitarian regime and maybe those student protests at Tiananmen Square didn't accomplish a whole lot and even had a retrogressive effect at least in the short term. But in the long term: in the long term, the Tank Man represents the idea that human dignity is a granite rock that endures for the ages, that can be chipped or pushed but still remains there forever, a sign that perhaps the human project is a rising effort, that there is a thing called human progress.

I'm not quite as sure you do that with a gun. I guess a lot of people would point out the American Revolution, but was the really lasting influence of that effort that a bunch of guys fired bullets bought with the money they borrowed from the French and Dutch, or did the really lasting influences come from the guys armed with quill pens in Philly in 1776 and later in 1787? I realize it's hard to separate the two insofar as the guys with pens were just asking for a hanging. But I'm thinking it's the ink that made the real difference, the ink that made even the Revolution something more than just a bunch of hicks shooting at their duly-authorized protectors because they didn't want to pay for the French And Indian War, transformed colonial freeloading into the predestined and foreordained final endpoint and goal of the entire Enlightenment. Not to put to a fine a point on it.

A point! The point! The original point! The original point remains: gun owners, if you want to own a firearm for hunting, I'm down with that. Game is excellent eating, game populations frequently need reined in how that we've displaced natural predators, I have no problem with this. And if you want to own a historically-significant firearm, be it an original or replica musket or merely something of more recent vintage a family member carried into service, I like that: history is important and historic tools can educate us and provide us with tangible memory. And if you want a gun for self defense... well, actually, I think that's a pretty retarded reason for owning a firearm, but I can probably put up with it. For target shooting? I guess, why not?

But if you think you're protecting me, you arrogant fucktard?

No thanks. A million times, no thanks. You are, among other things, an idiot, and I don't want to get stuck between you and the better-armed people you think you can save me from (and believe me, that's where I'm likely to be, whether through misplaced bravery or, more likely, plain old lousy, rotten luck). And, not only that, you're cramping my style. No, seriously: I don't need you shooting up the place if I'm brave enough to enlist in the war of ideas, or to die as a martyr, trying.

Go to Hell. And take your goddamn phallic symbols with you.












(Image: "Sculpture symbole de 'Non-Violence' réalisé par Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd", by Francois Polito, via Wikimedia.)

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Foo Fighters (featuring Joan Jett), "Bad Reputation"

>> Sunday, July 29, 2012





This was in the bar beside Wall Of Voodoo's "Back In Flesh" when I found it yesterday. The height of lazy blogging, I realize. But my brain is dried out and put in a jar, brain jerky for someone to muck with later.





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Wall Of Voodoo, "Back In Flesh"

>> Saturday, July 28, 2012






I think everyone thinks "Mexican Radio" with these guys, which is a great song if you're not still sick of it and a helluva lot weirder than its huge hit status in the early '80s would probably imply.

Another clip from URGH! A Music War. Obviously.

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Julee Cruise, "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"

>> Friday, July 27, 2012





I have been trying all morning to figure out what I should do about a Gallop poll showing nearly half of Americans surveyed believe "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so." More than half of the remaining half believe in God-guided evolution; I suppose they've seen 2001. I don't particularly care on that score--evolution without magic sky people, evolution with magic sky people, at least there's a large segment of the population who apparently have some notion of time scale and descent through common ancestry.

But nearly half of the Americans Gallop surveyed think the human species is less than 10,000 years old. Even if you quibble over the lousiness of the question--and I think it's pretty lousy, the way the question is phrased to start with--what the study is really showing more than how many people believe in Young Earth Creationism YEC) is how many Americans just have a basic ignorance of science. I realize those things overlap; but the thing is, someone could pick the "10,000 years" answer and not really even be a YECer, merely ignorant (e.g. some doofus might think the Earth is trillions and trillions of years old but God only got around to creating humans of whole cloth 3.6 million days ago give-or-take.

It isn't just the YECers fault. Partly, yeah. But we also just do a shitty job funding schools and providing for science education all around, y'know; someone could have picked the 10k option as a blind guess, for all we know, because they had shit for biology classes. And there's that whole endemic cultural thing we have going in America, where we mistrust elites--including scientists and educators and anyone who seems too nerdy; anyone can be an expert if they read enough books, so how dare you act like you're smarter than I am about climate, vaccinations or fossils? And a lot of that cultural mistrust, which goes back to the earliest days of the Republic when every gentleman or aspiring gentleman was a dilettante naturalist/general/statesman/philosopher/farmer/economist, has been amplified in the past twenty or thirty years by the political and media classes in various ways; the political classes love exploiting American paranoia, the media classes make their money by throwing fuel on it.

I get to wondering whether the Romans knew they were in decline. Or there's the Chinese example: the Qing just stuck their fingers in their ears and closed their eyes and made "Nuh" noises for their last hundred years until it was too late; they took a few half-assed stabs at reform and were washed beneath thirty years of civil wars, warlordism and foreign occupation until Maoism looked just swell (to be fair, up until the Cultural Revolution, I'm not sure it wasn't, but that's another topic). Did any of these civilizations that got too dumb, too complacent, too reliant on their military strength to keep getting them out of jams even while they were rotting from within, did any of them ever have any clue the tires were getting wobbly and were about to blow off just past the fail-safe point just around Dead Man's Curve?

I keep thinking about a line from Blade Runner, you know? Roy tells Pris they're on their own and Pris says--

Then we're stupid and we'll die.


--which sounds like an unfortunate summary of the status of American civilization right now. We are stupid, yeah. I think it's going to kill us.



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Quote of the day--he has a bad feeling about this edition

>> Thursday, July 26, 2012

If you don't vote for Barack Obama, you're insane. 'Cause without him I think the middle class will completely disappear. And you look at Romney, and I'm sure he's a nice guy, but I think he's like the Thing. He only imitates human behavior. He's not actually human himself.


Okay, confession: I don't give a rat's ass about who a celebrity is endorsing for political office. I just love that Hamill is comparing Mitt Romney to the title character from a John Carpenter movie based on a SF/horror classic.

I mean, at this point so many people have compared Mitt Romney to a robot--myself, included--that it might be becoming kind of a cliché. Props to Hamill--Luke Skywalker and the best Joker before Heath Ledger knocked one out of the park in his last role--to reach back for the solid science fiction reference to a polymorphous human-imitating bug-eyed-monster.

And it's a perfect comparison. The Thing poses as whichever person seems to be best-placed to advance its inhuman agenda--much like a certain politician who has bounced all over the political map on issues like health-care and abortion, depending on whether he wanted to be Governor of Massachusetts or right-wing Presidential candidate. The Thing is passive until challenged, whereupon it morphs into a hideous, aggressive creature--not unlike an unflappable candidate who has burst into public rages directed at importune journalists and political rivals onstage in live debates.

Oh. And they both have issues with dogs.

I think it can only make the metaphor sweeter that John Carpenter, who directed The Thing, and John W. Campbell, who wrote the story the movie was based on, are/were notoriously conservative. That's probably not wholly fair: I think both men come from a much more libertarian style of conservativism than whatever Mitt Romney is trying to stand for this week. Still. I find it amusing.

Anyway, I think I stand corrected by a superior geek, which is always humbling. I think I've been saying someone needs to give Romney a Voight-Kampff test. But that could be dead wrong, a dangerous mistake.

We need a hot needle and a blood sample.




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Dumb quote of the day--"Gee, thanks, Captain Obvious, why didn't they let you be President, again?" edition

>> Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Too often, those on the left make corporate statements to show support for same sex marriage, abortion, or profanity, but if Christians affirm traditional values, we're considered homophobic, fundamentalists, hate-mongers, and intolerant.
- former Presidential aspirant and
radio talk-show host Mike Huckabee,
announcing "Chick Fil-A Appreciation Day",
July 22nd, 2012.


Well, I mean... yeah, so what?

Look, I don't really care how someone justifies their bigotries, fears, hatreds, whatever. Certain religious people are squicked out by men putting their man-things into other men and maybe also (but probably a little less) by women getting it on with women; consequently, they want gays and lesbians to go away and meanwhile would deny them the civic benefits of the civil institution of marriage. They're retrogressive, ignorant and on the wrong side of history, and I don't give two shits whether they justify their beliefs by way of their interpretation of an old anthology of shepherds' folklore, royal genealogies and cultist chain-letters or because that's just how they felt when they woke up this morning.

Simple word of advice: you don't want someone calling you a bigot, how about not acting like a bigot? I don't think that's terribly difficult, or it shouldn't be. And if you act like a homophobe, get used to people calling you a homophobe. I mean, hell, if you're not going to be shamed into rethinking your core values, you might as well wear the word as a point of honor.

In fact, that's one of the things that gets me the most when someone like Huckabee wheezes about this kind of thing. They clearly don't like being called bigots, but they don't want to get out of that by not being bigots; it's like they expect to get whatever benefits they somehow accrue from being assholes about something without actually accepting any of the consequences of acting that way, e.g. being called "assholes" by people whose opinions, frankly, they don't seem to value all that much in the first place. It's kind of a weird mix of wanting to have their cake and eat it too, when they don't actually like cake to start out with.

One thing I'd like to be clear about is that Mike Huckabee has always struck me as a pretty good example of why "Someone I'd like to have a beer with" is a pretty lousy criteria for picking a national leader: Huckabee has always seemed to me like the kind of guy who would be a great, slightly wacky neighbor, the kind of guy who throws great cookouts and can be trusted to check your mail or water your plants when you're out of town, but you'd never actually do something like vote for him if he was running for school board or city commission or something (gods only know why anyone would let him run a whole entire state). The kind of guy, though, who anytime he started talking about religion or politics--or gay marriage--you'd roll your eyes and decide whether you felt like arguing with him or just letting it slide so nobody's cheeseburger buzz got harshed. I don't dislike Mike Huckabee, in other words, I just find his belief system pretty reprehensible and don't think that nebulous nice quality he radiates makes up for the fact that, yes, he is a bigot, he is a homophobe, he is intolerant, he is a fundamentalist. I guess another way you could put it is he'd be as lousy a friend as he would be a leader, but hey, probably a great neighbor.

The world can be funny like that.

I mean, same kind of thing, totally different angle: Huckabee is throwing his support behind Chick-fil-A, a fast food franchise that produces phenomenally good chicken sandwiches but has long left me a bit queasy over their up-front Christian values thing (their kiddie meals have featured tie-ins with the Narnia movies and the VeggieTales, and they cover the walls with posters promoting their family values initiatives). The ScatterKat is obsessed with their iced tea, and if that doesn't mean anything to you, I imagine you're not a Southerner. They have pretty good thick-cut waffle fries and their shakes are awesome. They were one of the first fast food chains to offer Coke Zero. And by most accounts, they're a great place to work; among other benefits, they're closed on Sundays. And oh, those chicken sandwiches! And the chicken biscuits, too! It actually breaks my heart a little that I've started boycotting them, because I can't abide giving them my money and then they turn around and give it to the Family Research Council (for instance), because losing those chicken fillets really is a very minor hardship; you can say I shouldn't be eating the fast food anyway, not ever, not even rarely, but that doesn't help. It was easy to give up Domino's as a political boycott, because Domino's is shitty cardboard discs laden with a greasy cheese-like substance and dubious meat products; it was easy to give up Coors products because their flagship beer is pisswater and even the halfway-decent Killian's Red they bottle and distro in the States is easily substituted by better beer.

Point is, anyway, that Chick-fil-A might be one of the best fast food joints you could pull up to while on a road trip or after an overworked day when you just need something fast and affordable, but they're supporting bigotry. It would be convenient if they were bigots like Domino's--bigots who make a product you'd rather avoid anyway even if not on principle. But they're not. Mike Huckabee seems like he might be a great guy to have living next door, but it doesn't change the fact he's a bigot when it comes to gay marriage.

And if you don't want to be called a bigot, stop acting like one. I'm not about to hold back just because you say it's your religion. And nobody ought to.






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Tales from the spam folder: my family likes me in skirts

>> Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On the other hand you could possibly re-wear a dress this is from a family member.
, Howdy! This is kind of off topic but I need some advice from an established blog. Is it difficult to set up your own blog? I'm not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I'm thinking about making my own but I'm not sure where to begin. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Appreciate it
,check my design [url=http://www.████████.███/█████/███████.█████████████
]inexpensive wedding dresses[/url]
Anonymous responds to
"The good, the bad, and the ugly news",
Monday, July 23rd, 2012


Hi, Mom!

Let me just allow that while green does suit me and goes with my eyes, I really didn't like what the hemline did to my legs. (I'm sure it would be better if I shaved them, but come on: I'm a guy, Mom!) Also, I just don't have the hips for that waistline, and I think someone really ought to wear fuck-me pumps with that number and I just don't have the ankles for them and they're hell on my back. I probably fell sideways, like, eighteen times just getting to the escalator and we won't even get into how much of a mistake that was. I don't know how women do it.

Unless you meant that strapless thing that kept falling down because I have no tits unless you count my manboobs. Not enough for that number, which kept wanting to slide down, anyway, though I guess someone else would be popping out, so maybe it's a disaster regardless. Anyhow, I could wear that with flats, yeah, I just don't think puce does a goddamn thing for my complexion.

But you really wanted to talk about blogging, not crimes against humanity authorized by the previous presidential administration and largely ignored by the current one. Fair enough. It's probably something I should cover sometime.

At the risk of telling you something you already know, I think you start your blog at the lumberyard. Unless you're doing something fancy with rebar, but that's pretty hard to work with unless you're pretty good with welding. The thing here is, you don't want to get halfway through your blog and discover you don't have enough boards to prop up the back end.

You also don't want to get too far ahead of yourself, okay? Like, for instance, you can wait and get the carpeting and mirrorballs after you've poured the cement and gotten the larger parts of the superstructure done. And there's no point in procuring the mice until you're good and ready to go live, seeing as how putting a blog together might take months or years, and at best you'll be buying way too much food for them and changing their cages in the meantime, at worst you'll end up going through a whole bunch of mice while construction continues. (Let me add that while some bloggers prefer horses, I find mice much easier to work with and less likely to get stuck in the valves. I appreciate the power and majesty an equestrian brings to any project, but have you ever tried to get one in or out of a nine-inch-diameter PVC tube?)

Assuming you have a good supply of wood and also, probably, enough concrete for the foundation, several hundred yards of sailcloth, and some paint, probably the next place to really start is at the bottom. Again, that probably sounds like I think you're stupid, but that's not the case and you would be surprised at how many bloggers think they can start at the middle and work their way out, only to discover they have nothing to connect the waterwheel to. Disaster! Or they start at the top and plan to work their way down and end up with an electrical fire or excessive humidity in the comments section. No, start at the bottom and build your way up; yes, it may mean that you have to hold all the yarn in your teeth and keep the hooks in place with your toes while you hammer the mainwheel back onto its axle, and it's a very difficult position to hold (not as difficult as wobbling up an escalator in nine inch heels, but I digress), but it's worth it when you hear the tuning fork hum for the first time and watch the little rooster spin around on the weathervane.

Things to avoid include crystal fittings. Yes, they look spectacular when the backlinks page slips out of the drydock, but they get very dirty and are prone to break in heavy weather. Transparent plastic is no good, as it tends to scratch; clear plastic tarps look cheap.

And, speaking of cheap: don't try to scrimp on bedsprings. Yes, I know, plenty of blogging guides say you can get by with remaindered springs or inexpensive ones, but ask yourself if you really want that many loose thumbtacks between the steam whistle and the gravy faucet? A nice long blast or an extra splurt of gravy, and where do you think those thumbtacks are going to go? Yeah, right in someone's eye, probably.

Troll traps are overrated, but broom handles are almost necessary. It doesn't really matter whether the broom handle comes from a push-broom or a standard broom, just don't substitute a mop handle and think nobody knows the difference.

Also, keep in mind: a little lighter fluid goes a long way.

In the blogging context, I've never really noticed much difference between transparent gift-wrap tape and duct tape, though this may be because I've generally used spackle here at Giant Midgets.

Do: plug leaks before all the helium leaks out, it's hard to replace and it'll totally burn out the cooling system. Don't: worry too much about water getting in the hold, as a decent, inexpensive bicycle pump is usually sufficient to get things to manageable levels, especially if you took my advice about mice over horses.

Do Not Under Any Circumstances: misplace your goose. Let me emphasize that: losing your goose is very, very bad. (Exception: if you have one of those newfangled gooseless apparatuses, obviously you're fine without a goose, though I have no idea what happens if the narwhal gets tangled in spiderwebs and dies.)

If you have a political blog, be careful with the placement of prepositions. Entertainment and pop culture blogs are generally more forgiving as long as you keep the microscope stage greased and don't let the bacon burn. If your bacon does burn, do not use the spatula to scrape it off the doily, even if it seems obvious the spatula is right there and close at hand: you need an unbaconed spatula to keep the hippopotamuses at bay if a Gawker site ever links to your blog.

Hiring a lighthouse keeper to guest blog on alternate Wednesdays may seem like a convenience and stress-saver at first, but I have learned the hard way: they tend to invite their friends for cribbage, and before you know it, your blog is infested by lighthouse keepers. They drink all your brandy and you find their curled up corpses in all your tupperware, you walk into the kitchen and turn on a light and there's a hundred of them swarming out from underneath the refrigerator and cupboards. (If this happens to you, a long stick with a bicycle reflector is your best friend, but you'll be happier if it doesn't come to that.)

The grapefruit is mainly decorative and you can skip it unless you just really, really like grapefruit.

And that's pretty much everything I know about starting a blog! Good luck!



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Thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises

>> Monday, July 23, 2012

I think the superhero movie may be dead. Sort of dead, in a kind of figurative way, not an actual one--they're going to keep making these things, and some of them will have Batman in them. But mostly dead. Artistically dead. Some of the ones coming may be enjoyable and amusing and exciting and even good (whether that's really good or "good for what it is" good); but it's hard to imagine they'll be necessary. Christopher Nolan may have done the genre in. Not in a bad way at all--he did it in the way that involves going down in epic fashion and whatever's left is put on a ginormous dragon-shaped boat and set afire before it's pushed into the ocean to drift out until the roaring flames melt into the sunset.

Not that I'm saying superhero movies were ever necessary in the first place. I like them, but maybe they weren't quote-unquote "necessary" in the first place. But I guess the next batch will be less necessary.

I don't know that I want to do a straight-up review of The Dark Knight Rises (DKR). First of all, because I think I want to watch this one several times on DVD before I have a fully coherent opinion. And second, because I think it's hard to talk about DKR without getting spoilerey; e.g. there was a casting spoiler months ago that had me knowing there would be a particular kind of late-act plot twist though I didn't know which way it would go and so any surprise was blunted when it actually happened, and I sort of worry any little thing I could say might lessen the impact of one thing or another. And third, you know, a lot of ink and pixels will be spilled on this movie anyway, and yet another review is unlikely to add much of anything.

But I can't just say nothing.

Because what Christopher Nolan (director, screenplay and story on this trilogy--Batman Begins, The Dark Knight (TDK) and DKR); his brother, Jonathan (screenplay and story on TDK and DKR), and David S. Goyer (screenplay on Batman Begins and story for all three)--what the Nolans and Goyer have done is an achievement; a clever, subversive achievement that manages to perfectly capture the source material while totally unraveling it and knitting it into something different, while spending a lot of Hollywood money to make movies Hollywood should instinctively hate and would hate if the films weren't making money hand over fist. I am a little in awe about what they've done, here.

You have to remember--I think you know this already--you have to remember that the way Hollywood likes to make franchise movies is you milk the cow until it's nothing but leather wrapped around dry bones attached to a flattened udder that looks like the remnants of a whoopee cushion after a fat man's through with it. You make features until nobody is lining up at the theatre, and then you make straight-to-video productions, and then you decide whether you want a reboot or a crossover. And this is why there are something like three hundred Highlander movies and someone is probably in pre-production for A Nightmare On Elm Street XIX/Friday The 13th The Really Truly Final Chapter/Hellraiser 57--Return To Heck/The Return Of The Son Of The Creature's Third Cousin's Nephew From The Black Lagoon (in which Freddie, Jason, Pinhead and a motion-captured CGI fishman modeled after the original Universal Pictures rubber suit slash/saw/pierce/glub it out). This, actually, is what was sort of supposed to happen to the Batfilms: the original intent was to do a fifth entry in the Burton/Schumacher series until Batnipples cratered at the box office, at which point rival pitches for Batman: Year One and Batman Versus Superman began respective Dantean tours of development Hell.

Indeed, Nolan and Goyer's Batman Begins is the most conventionally conceived film in the Nolan trilogy: while it's often inspired in its presentation, the plot is mostly a straightforward superhero origin story with action beats and laugh lines in the right places. It seems conventional, especially compared with its sequels, because it is conventional: whatever Nolan or Goyer dreamed they might be able to do, the studio's thought process was that this was a flexible reboot that could work variously as a prequel to the existing Batman films, a relaunch for the franchise, something to be ignored if it flopped, etc. Whether Nolan or Goyer would come back would have depended, I imagine, on how well it did (it did very well), and if the film shows some of Christopher Nolan's stylistic tics (and it has fewer than the sequels--Begins is a much more generic looking film, I think), those could nevertheless be ignored by whomever picked up the next Batproject.

I think in a visual and thematic sense, the Nolan "trilogy" is really a duology: Begins is an odd duck that leads into and is referenced by the Dark Knight movies, but doesn't quite look or feel like either one of them. And yet it has to be there: it gets referenced obsessively in DKR from the title to the plot to the visual callbacks (e.g.--and I don't think this spoils anything--the well-like construction of an underground prison visually references the well young Bruce Wayne falls into in Batman Begins, and there's even a flashback to the earlier film to make sure you notice the reference), etc. Begins has the same amber-and-indigo visual palette of nearly every other action film made in the last decade or so, a dramatic contrast against the washed-out, icy palettes Nolan uses in the Dark Knights (and in Inception). And Begins doesn't go nearly as deep as the Knights do as far as mining ideas about consequence and causation, responsibility and guilt, truth and deception.

The Dark Knight Rises is very much about the characters paying for the choices they made in the previous two movies, especially The Dark Knight. We begin the movie with people whose lives and bodies have been destroyed, and then it gets much worse.

And what I find really interesting here, other than how well this works dramatically, is how it really digs under a standard trope and then kind of crashes it. What I mean is, there's a standard-issue superhero movie thing, sometimes done in the second act of a movie if they're not sure if it'll make a franchise, or in a sequel if it is a franchise, where the hero decides he's going to have a normal life and tries to quit, only to get dragged back in again and put the tights back on (e.g. Superman II, Spider-Man 2). And this is usually handled as the hero is running from his destiny but can only be complete--and heroic--if he embraces his destiny and that his heroic side is his "true" persona, though he only learns this when he sees how bad things can get in his absence (General Zod threatens to take over the world, Doc Ock goes on a rampage, etc.).

Now, all this happens in Nolan's movies. Only, funny thing is: the hero dumps his costume and tries to retire offscreen, between the second and third movie. And he doesn't try to have a normal life, because what he thought was going to be his normal life got blown up in the second movie, so when DKR begins, Our Hero has basically gone all Howard-Hughes-ey. And when he comes back, there's as much a whiff of self-loathing suicide about the whole thing as there is an embrace of his responsibilities; he even gets accused of fucking things up by creating the necessity for his own existence. And his comeback is presented as... well, if not an outright bad idea, at least a dubious one. And it isn't exactly a triumphant return.

What I'm trying to get at is this (and it goes back to the whole "killing the genre" thing): on one level, the Nolans and Goyer are telling you the exact same superheroic fall-and-rise story you've already seen at least a half-dozen times already in assorted comic-book movies since 1980. And if that were the only level, it wouldn't be all that interesting, however well done. But the way the Nolans and Goyer do it--well, it's basically kind of fucked up and it's done in a way that's deliberately meant to mess with the audience. There's this intentional, "We know you've seen the hero throw away his costume or powers, so we're going to skip over that part entirely and get to the part where he's facing his comeback; only, see, we're going to make his throwing the powers away part a charade based on a bunch of two-faced (pun intended) duplicity and we're going to totally question his motives for coming back, plus the reasons he has to come back are basically his own birds coming back to roost anyway so it's kind of like the whole thing is his fault."

It's kind of amazing.

And this is the whole series. I think if you sit down and chart out the trilogy on a piece of paper, it doesn't come off all that differently from the Superman movies or Spider-Man movies or Iron Man movies or a whole bunch of one-offs like Daredevil or Green Lantern. It's when you get to the execution that all these classic tropes are being used basically for the purpose of undermining them. If that isn't art, I'm not sure what else qualifies.

There's another thing I wanted to mention, which is the interesting way a lot of people can overthink and underthink something at the same time, reaching around what's right in front of them and scrabbling around behind it thinking they're plumbing hidden depths when really they're just slapping around dust bunnies. Of course I'm talking about all the economic or social critiques you're seeing of DKR--it's anti-Occupy, it's a blistering critique of the rich, blah-blah-blah, and if you just look at the film, I think the answer is it's kind of anti-everybody. The Nolans have said they were inspired by The French Revolution and subsequent Terror, and that's fairly self-evident if you just watch the damn movie instead of looking through it for something more obviously contemporary.

I mean, nobody comes off terribly well in this movie. The rich are out-of-touch cowards, knaves, liars, fools, corrupt and greedy and sniveling and clueless. The poor and middle-class either join the easily-gulled mob and are manipulated by elites with selfishly utopian agendas or hide, impotent, behind closed doors. Those elites with their selfishly utopian agendas are a mess: some of them are nihilists and anarchists, others have compromised their honor with growing mountains of lies that, individually, all seemed like good ideas at the time and necessary, but now have left the entire edifice of their civilization worm-eaten and crumbling (I have completely mixed metaphors there, but I'm not changing a word).

I suspect if there's a message there, it's merely the one that people who actually understand history already know: that things can get very, very ugly in a society in which there are gross economic disparities, and there will be few heroes and much tragedy and horror. Our modern one percent indeed fail to understand they are flirting with a possible return of show trials and public executions; what some reformers may not understand is that if this happens, they will not be remembered as heroes. Nor will anyone who ends the bloodshed in the streets: Napoleon may have ended the Revolution, but he's largely remembered as a tyrant, not a savior.

In short, I think anyone looking at DKR for some kind of contemporary symbolism is basically missing the point: the only symbolism is what's there insofar as the movie sets up a contemporary version of what happened in France two centuries ago, and if there's a critique of contemporary circumstances, it's only to the extent our era might mirror revolutionary France. (And if you accept the hypothesis it does to any degree, I think you have to accept that nobody came out of the French Revolution with clean hands.)





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The Chocolate Watchband, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"

>> Sunday, July 22, 2012





Maybe I'm just stealing all my weekend blog posts from last week's Aquarium Drunkard show on SiriusXM. So sue me. That catchy Air Waves number I posted yesterday was followed not long thereafter with what sounded vaguely like Mick Jagger fronting The Byrds covering Bob Dylan, which turns out to be The Chocolate Watchband's version of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue".

I can dig it.

If there's any surprise for me here, I have to admit it's that I thought CWB's cover of "Baby Blue" sounded too much like late-'60s Bay Area garage psychedelia to really be late-'60s Bay Area garage psychedelia; this makes my surprise at learning the track really is late-'60s Bay Area garage psychedelia hard to imagine, especially to myself. Which is all kinds of weird metairony or something. You can get so used to things not being what they appear to be that it's somehow shocking when they really do turn out to be exactly what they appear to be; at least this happens to me sometimes, I don't know about you.

Illusions get shattered by reality all the time, but what do you call it when your reality gets shattered by reality? It figures there's some kind of dodecasyllabic German word for it, but I have no clue what it might be. Or a pithy French expression, the French are great for the pithy expressions (e.g. l'esprit d'escalier; I know all about that, could be the story of my life--well, or several chapters of it, anyway, or maybe just some key scenes).



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Air Waves, "Knockout"

>> Saturday, July 21, 2012





I can't tell you much about this one--I heard it on the radio the other day, and it was too infectious not to share. Besides which, this maybe reminds me to buy some of their music. I don't know if any of you readers with blogs do that, yourselves--use the blog as a memo to yourself that there's something cool, something worth sharing and worth remembering for yourself.

Oh, I can tell you this much more: here's Air Waves' MySpace page. Check it out.


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Amazing America

>> Friday, July 20, 2012

I have to say: living in a country of more than three hundred million people that insists on interpreting a Constitutional provision clearly and expressly intended to preserve effective state militias as carte blanche for every individual in the country to privately possess paramilitary equipment regardless of need, competence or mental capacity--it amazes me, simply amazes me that citizens attending enclosed public gatherings aren't massacred like cattle lined up in the chute to the abattoir every single day.

Let me be among the first--perhaps the only--to congratulate America's population of violent sociopaths for their relative sobriety and restraint. If it's not presumptuous to make a modest request: could any copycat mental and emotional defectives please forebear until the release of any Justice League movie that may or may not be in production and won't be released earlier than 2015 in any case? Thanks.







(Comments are disabled.)

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An open letter to Enlargement pils Free Sample

>> Thursday, July 19, 2012

See the desire in her eyes

Enlargemen​t pils Free Sample
To tof259@hotmail.com

From: Enlargement pils Free Sample (titusobfuscate@sofitel.com)
Sent: Wed 7/18/12 11:47 PM
To: tof259@hotmail.com


Scare people with your tool today

http://█████████.com/



Dear Enlargement pils Free Sample,

I received your e-mail today and am very intrigued. I think we don't need much help scaring people with our tool, which is more than sufficient, but I was wondering if you would be willing to trade notes, as you sound like somebody whose hobbies are similar to ours.

When Mom and I first started out, we didn't really pay much attention to our tool. We would just raid the kitchen and grab the first thing that came to hand, unless that was something like a wooden spoon (though that would have been interesting to try, I admit). The problem was, obviously, that maybe you don't want to use the same Victorinox 47521 or 47645 in the kitchen after a long basement session. No matter how many times you wash it, you still start worrying you might catch something, you know? Mom is really obsessive about germs, she was always afraid I would catch something if I spent too much time around other children, especially girls. I know it's completely unreasonable, but on the other hand, if we didn't care about containing messes, we wouldn't use a tarp.

So it was kind of inevitable we would eventually turn to something else. I guess we watched too many movies, because the first thing we went to when we decided the kitchen tools weren't cutting it (haha--see what I did there?) was get an Echo 18" 40.2cc Gas Chainsaw, CS-400-18. That was a big mistake. I'm not knocking the machine itself, which is probably really useful in the backyard or out in the woods or something like that, but try using it in a basement. We were deaf for a week. Plus the thing would get sort of, I don't know, gummed up, and then one time we broke a chain when we pushed through to the middle and that was a mess. Also, when it did work, it worked too well. That probably sounds weird. But you'd push all the way through the limb and next thing you know there's a huge mess way out past where the tarp is spread out to plus pressure drops to nothing almost instantaneously and you lose responsiveness. It's all over in seconds, pretty much. You're trying to scare someone with your tool, and the tool puts all your hard work in the parking lot to waste, well--that's not the right tool, I'm saying.

So where we are now, is, I had this epiphany when I saw that movie by the guys who did Dumb And Dumber, the one about the guy who finds a bunch of money then gets chased by the white guy from Men In Black, Woody from Cheers and an Indian. I was disappointed because it wasn't nearly as funny as I expected it to be and it had some stuff in it Mom wouldn't have liked if she'd been with me, like some of the cussing and all the whores in it and stuff like that. But the Indian guy goes around with this thing I latter found out was called a "captive-bolt gun," which isn't really a gun at all--I mean, it doesn't shoot bullets or anything like that. So I went home and told Mom about it, and I thought it was kind of a bad idea at first because it sounded so quick, but then I convinced Mom we didn't have to go right for the head, you could start with, for instance, feet.

So anyway, what Mom and I do now, is, we actually have two tools. First, we get kind of warmed up with a Magrath Stock Shock 22/38ESP, which is really reliable and can be relied on to just work as long as you keep it charged up (and the battery life is great). And then when we get tired of that, I switch over to a Schermer KR Stunner with the C-5 Yellows, starting on the outside and working my way in until Mom gets bored and it's time to wrap everything up. (Sometimes, just for old times' sake, I go up to the kitchen and we get a knife.)

So that's the tool we use to scare people, or tools, the Magrath and the Schermer. What do you use?




Sincerely,
[name withheld at authors' request]






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Vengeance Of Bain

>> Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The movie has been in the works for a long time, the release date’s been known, summer 2012 for a long time. Do you think that it is accidental, that the name of the really vicious, fire-breathing, four-eyed, whatever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bane?

This movie, the audience is going to be huge, lot of people are going to see the movie. And it’s a lot of brain-dead people, entertainment, the pop-culture crowd. And they’re going to hear 'Bane' in the movie, and they are going to associate Bain. And the thought is that when they start paying attention to the campaign later in the year, and Obama and the Democrats keep talking about Bain, not Bain Capital, but Bain, Romney and Bain, that these people will think back to the Batman movie--"Oh yeah, I know who that is." There are some people who think it will work.... Others think--"You’re really underestimating the American people who think that will work."
- Rush Limbaugh, as quoted by Paul Farhi,
"Rush Limbaugh claims 'Dark Knight' movie is liberal attack on Romney,
The Washington Post, July 17th, 2012.


He's right, you know.

It surprises me. I never thought I'd agree with Rush Limbaugh, of all people. But the scales have fallen from my eyes and I can see clearly: "Bane" and "Bain" are homophones, and this is an election year, and Hollywood is liberal and The Dark Knight Rises is one of the most hotly-anticipated movies of the year and will be seen by millions. None of these things can possibly be coincidental.

There have been a number of people, of course, who have inevitably challenged the existence of the conspiracy by resorting to mere, perceived, alleged, so-called "facts"; they say that Batman's antagonist, Bane, was created in 1993 for a story arc in which Bruce Wayne had his spine broken. These naysayers--and I can't say whether they're merely blind or how many have them have been bought out or blackmailed into compliance--these denialists could even elaborate, I suppose: they might go so far as to pretend that DC Comics went through a fit in the early '90s of trying to bolster sales with "collectable" miniseries rebooting several top characters, most (in)famously the "Knightfall" and "Death Of Superman" arcs in which their top two characters were crippled or killed, replaced by less-popular surrogates in updated, "hipper" costumes, then brought back almost as if nothing had happened in an ostensibly "unplanned" (yeah, right) New Coke/Coke Classic style fail-and-switch. They might then expand their so-called "history" of the Bane character in context by trying to claim that Dark Knight Rises director/co-writer Christopher Nolan "obviously" chose Bane as the villain of the final chapter in his Batman Trilogy because this is a villain who was specifically created to bring down Batman and bringing down Batman not only will obviously be a crucial plot point in Rises but indeed is a crucial piece of the story arc set up by The Dark Knight and calling back to themes set up in the very first film in the series, Batman Begins (e.g. most obviously, recurring flashbacks of Bruce Wayne's father, Thomas Wayne, asking Bruce why we fall and answering his own question, "So we can learn to pick ourselves up," a line repeated by Bruce's surrogate father and butler, Alfred).

To which I respond, bullshit. How dare these fools have the temerity to resort to historical facts and textual analysis when we are threatened by the possibility a pop cultural moment involving a fictional character who dresses in tights and hits people will be parlayed into an election-rigging piece of mind-altering propaganda? The fact that there is even a vague possibility that someone might see this movie and misunderstand a single repeated word because it sounds like another word people who follow politics have heard of and thus change his vote is far more important than your so-called "facts" and "logic" and "rationality". The Republic is under threat, sirs and madams!

And it's a deep threat.

Because I will give the denialists one inch of ground: the terrifying fact that "Bane" the luchador-masked villain was created in 1993.

Do you see what that means? Do you?!

It means that this goes deeper--it has to. And thus it must tie in to the Great Conspiracy itself, to wit, the Kenyan Socialist agenda to seize control of the United States Of America.

They infiltrated DC Comics.

But now someone might object and say something silly like, "Assuming this ridiculous and absurd claim is somehow true, and an extremely conservative comics artist was somehow willing to go along with creating a villain called 'Bane' just so someone else could make a movie featuring 'Bane' nearly twenty years later... Jesus Christ, I can't believe I'm even asking this question.... Fuck. Okay, assuming all that is true... I can't even keep a straight face. The fact we're having this conversation makes me feel like I woke up on the wrong side of the IQ this morning. Okay. Deep breath. Assuming this pathetic and ridiculous delusion is true, how did they know the 2012 Republican presidential presumptive nominee would be a guy who worked at a place called 'Bain Capital'? I cannot believe I'm even having this conversation. Forget it. Don't even try to come up with an answer."

Ah! But I will come up with an answer. Not just try--the answer is right there in front of us and I've already addressed it in a previous post: Mitt Romney is a Mexican Socialist infiltrator, and the Mexican Socialists must be working with the Kenyan Socialists in a manner yet to be fully understood (although knowing the relationship exists is the first step in untangling the web of lies and deception).

It's just that simple.

I mean, think about it: although Mitt Romney is supposedly an "experienced" politician who has run several political campaigns and been "successfully" elected to political office, and is the product of a political and business dynasty, nevertheless his campaign thus far has been typified by gaffes and embarrassing revelations, and asinine missteps like refusing to release tax documents. He was very nearly defeated during the primaries by a man on a book tour and a guy whose name has become synonymous online with the residue from anal sex. He faced serious primary challenges from Rick Perry and Herman Cain, two guys who are one Stooge short of a successful vaudeville act and film franchise. And he still faces a not-negligible-albeit-quixotic nomination challenge from a guy who looks and sounds a lot like Ross Perot's mentally unhinged, lives-in-a-backyard-bunker cousin. Sometimes he makes desultory attempts to prove he's not a robot, at which times he mostly manages to come off like a character in another movie starring Christian Bale, Patrick Bateman (note: if Mitt Romney wants to play you his favorite Huey Lewis song, comment upon the lateness of the hour, make a quick excuse ("I must shampoo my dog.") and leave town).

Does this sound like a competent political candidate?

Or does this sound like a fall guy? A stooge? A sacrificial lamb? A patsy designed to take a fall so the "right" guy can win the election?

That's right: Mitt Romney went to work for Bain Capital because his Mexican handlers knew another division would be setting up Bane The Batman Crippler, all with an eye on making sure the Kenyans' operative would get reelected in 2012. That's how far the rabbithole goes down, boys and girls. This goes back. Back to the CIA creating AIDS, back to Richard Nixon on the grassy knoll, back to Soviet infiltrators crashing their spyplane in New Mexico in 1947. That's right: I'm saying this involves the infamous Kenya/Mexico/Nixon/Soviet Axis, that's how serious this shit is.

You can laugh if you want. See if you're laughing when we're all speaking Swahili, or the other official language of Kenya. Maybe you think it's funny now. Just wait. Just you wait and see. This is some bad shit going down.





(A lifted corner of la máscara to Chez at Deus Ex Malcontent.)



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Quote of the day--one eye tied behind yer back edition

>> Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The question of 3-D is a very straightforward one. I never meet anybody who actually likes the format, and it’s always a source of great concern to me when you’re charging a higher price for something that nobody seems to really say they have any great love for.
- Christopher Nolan, as quoted by David Germain,
"No 'Dark Knight' 3D",
Associated Press, July 17th, 2012.


Gods bless Christopher Nolan for saying it. Gods bless somebody in Hollywood saying it. I think I've seen two movies where 3D was worth the bloated ticket price, and only one of them was any good (that would have been Martin Scorsese's Hugo; the other was pretty much a near-total piece of shit).

I actually was grateful when I recently learned that one of the friends I see movies with is made nauseous by 3D, since he and his wife were the only reasons I ever went to see an upconverted "3D" film. Otherwise, I just don't want to see a 3D film unless it was shot in 3D, and I'd really prefer it if directors didn't bother with 3D unless they're going to do something remotely interesting with it.

I mean, credit to Scorsese for using the technology to try to convey the kind of thrill Georges Méliès' audiences might have felt seeing his multilayered, dioramic, effects-laden films back in the first decade of the 20th Century; Scorsese even went to the trouble of re-creating several of Méliès most-iconic scenes and images in 3D, that we might re-see those images anew, images we've seen so many times the familiarity inevitably bred contempt (it's easy to forget there was ever a time when nobody had ever seen the man in the moon get shot in the eye with a spaceship, you know). So this is maybe the one example I've seen where a director used 3D in a way that was not merely a gimmick, but rather an aesthetically sophisticated gimmick.

But there's the rub, right? I think Scorsese's use of 3D in Hugo is pretty damn cool and adds something to the experience of the movie and enhances one's appreciation for Georges Méliès, who is a major character in the film and whose work is a major point of the film, and whose work Hugo pays homage and tribute to. But it's still essentially a gimmick. It isn't like you can't enjoy the story and acting in Hugo if you see it downconverted into a flat field-of-view. This sort of brings us to that other movie I alluded to with pretty 3D, Prometheus, which looks utterly spectacular when viewed the way it was meant to be viewed, but isn't really worth viewing at all because it's an insipid, stupid--ironically enough, shallow--film in any number of dimensions. (I can't help singing a Sex Pistols chorus as I write that: "We're so pretty, oh so pretty--we're vaaaa-cant", Prometheus being, indeed, just that.)

Having written all that about 3D, I have to ask myself if IMAX--the cinematic technology Nolan used for several scenes in The Dark Knight and to an even greater degree in The Dark Knight Rises isn't just as much a gimmick. And he is charging extra for it, of course. And I have to concede that it might be a gimmick, but, if it is, I'd suggest it's much more of the Scorsesean gimmick than just a pretty gloss on a turd à la Ridley Scott's last film. An eighteen-wheeler flipping end over end towards you in high-res on a three-story screen is something else. It's actually a bit like the apocryphal scene Martin Scorsese recreates in Hugo where early film audiences were supposedly frightened into trying to jump out of the way of an "oncoming" train projected onto a movie screen (this probably didn't happen in fact, but then nobody tried to get away from the tumbling tractor-trailer when I saw Dark Knight in the theatre, either).

Anyway, the point was that I hope Nolan is planting a seed of some sort, and people will stop making these 3D movies unless the technology is somehow helping the film instead of just being stuck in there as a replacement reason-for-watching. I'm not opposed to the technology per se anymore than I'm opposed to Technicolor, I'm just sick of this being The Next Big Thing, is all, especially when it isn't much of a thing to start with--pay extra to where uncomfortable extra glasses over my real glasses for ninety minutes so I can see a diorama and feel vaguely nauseous sometimes, gee, sign me up.





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Emmylou Harris (featuring Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller), "Love And Happiness"

>> Monday, July 16, 2012





The other evening I found myself in the mood for some Emmylou Harris, but discovered (to my chagrin) that the only album I had uploaded to Google Music was her collaboration with Mark Knopfler, All The Roadrunning. That was good enough, and then the ScatterKat and I listened to some Dire Straits with dinner, still....

I have quite a bit more Emmylou. The situation right now, though, is that the CDs are upstairs with the amplifier, which has evidently gone deaf in the left channel, and meanwhile the surplus netbook that was drafted into service as a music server in the living/dining area just hasn't been cutting it and I've basically unplugged it, and I may have rehabilitated a laptop that was having some hard drive problems as a replacement (switching out the dead drive for a happier one) but that hasn't gone into service yet--well, I can't imagine you'd care, actually. The bottom line is I found myself hungry for tunes the other evening and that meant streaming them from Google Music instead of a big hard drive or from CD, and I had available what I had available.

Meanwhile, enjoy this one. I'm still struggling to come up with something to write about, you can see.


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The Cure, "The Lovecats"

>> Sunday, July 15, 2012





No, not so much. I mentioned yesterday and Friday that the ScatterKat and I have brought our cats, Elvis and Mori, together--if by "together" you mean they are keeping a suspicious and hostile distance the way cats do. This is the kind of thing you expect, but one has to admit it's causing as much stress to the well-meaning humans in the picture as to anyone.

We'll survive, of course. Still, posting The Cure as a bit of ironic filler for a Sunday without much else to say was too precious to take a pass on.

Hope you're having a solid Sunday out there, folks.



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Elvis and Mori

>> Saturday, July 14, 2012

[ INSERT PHOTOGRAPH WHEN AVAILABLE]


I would love to provide you fine readers with a photograph of my cat, Elvis, and the ScatterKat's cat, Mori, doing something adorable, like cautiously sniffing one another, flirting, shyly eating in the same room, whatever.

Alas.

Alas, alas, alas. Also, alas. Did I happen to mention, "Alas"?

I think we can make this work, though. My idea, which I'll suggest to the ScatterKat when she is more awake, is, we can put Elvis' food and litterbox underneath our bed, since he's apparently decided to live there. Oh, and some cat toys, naturally. Maybe even a little lamp so he can still sun himself.

I'll let you know how that goes. Everything, I mean; including the conversation about relocating the litterbox.

And I was worried about Mori adjusting to the new regime....

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Twin Shadow, "Five Seconds"

>> Friday, July 13, 2012





I tried, you know. I went to all the usual sites I get blogfodder from, I went through my junkmail box and my comment spam; I just couldn't come up with a damn thing. It was, perhaps, less a lack of quote-unquote "inspiration" than it was merely the way my brain feels much like a pancake must feel (flat, puffy, full of holes, lightly browned on both sides, soaked in butter and maple syrup).

I think there's a very good chance the ScatterKat and I will be moving the ScatterKat's cat to my place this evening or weekend, part of a gradual shift and general positive direction in the relationship. Neither of the cats--the ScatterKat cat nor this blog's semi-official alternate backup mascot, Elvis1--have any idea of what kind of whirlwind of transformative transformation is about to do-si-doh through the mobile trailer park of their lives. The ScatterKat and I have spoken aloud of our shared optimism the two felines will get along and become a cute cat couple or at least friendly rivals, while (I think) silently harboring our expectant fears that we have weeks and more of protest shits and strike vomit to look forward to cleaning off floors, furniture, and treasured feline-accessible personal belongings.

Still, this is an inevitable step and this appears to be a convenient weekend to get it over with. Wish us luck. (Ta in advance.)




1For those of you who are new around here: readers voted in 2009 to make Wrolf The Mangy Bad-Touch Wookie the Official Mascot Of Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets, picking Wrolf over Doug The Semi-Self-Aware World's Largest Ball Of Navel Lint, and Scooper The Magnificently Poorly-Preserved Bunny Corpse. Elvis The Cat remains the proprietor's self-declared honorable mention, however.


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The Walkmen, "Heaven"

>> Thursday, July 12, 2012






A helluva busy week and can't really talk about it, nor should I. But the busiest part of it has past, though I can't promise that means any actual, you know, content or anything. Probably depends on whether anybody famous said (or did) anything especially stupid this week that I happened to miss. (When does David Brooks' next column run?)

I hope everyone is having, at least, a satisfactory week. Or an adequate week. How are you, by the way?


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Dumb quote of the day--maybe he should just move to Spain, already, edition

>> Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Liberals are going to have to be willing to champion norms that say marriage should come before childrearing and be morally tough about it. Conservatives are going to have to be willing to accept tax increases or benefit cuts so that more can be spent on the earned-income tax credit and other programs that benefit the working class.
- David Brooks, "The Opportunity Gap",
The New York Times, July 9th, 2012.


David Brooks went all the way to Spain to see Bruce Springsteen--maybe he needs to just go ahead and live there, seeing how he probably has a better grip of politics and culture over there than he does here.

The man's an idiot.

I realize bagging on David Brooks is like shooting fish in a barrel. Dead fish. Dead fish in a small barrel. Dead fish in a small barrel with a low-yield nuclear weapon. (I.e. it isn't difficult.)

And David Atkins does a fine job demolishing this latest post from The United States Of David Brooks (hat tip, by the way). But I just have to add this obvious point: that there aren't all that many liberals (if any) who aren't championing marriage before childrearing, in fact a pet issue on the left would be making it easier for gay people to get married so they can raise kids in two-parent households; and conservatives may balk on raising taxes, but "benefit cuts" are right up Grover Norquist's alley (and tickling his prostate while they're up there). I mean, seriously? Is David Brooks so alienated from the very subject he's paid to write about that he doesn't understand that he's recommending liberals and conservatives champion two respective issues that they are, as a matter of fact it turns out, actually already championing?

Just how long has Brooks been following Bruce Springsteen around France and Spain? Since the Nixon Administration?

Now, mind you, I can understand David Brooks confusion: liberals also believe that single parents shouldn't be professionally, economically or socially punished for their choices or circumstances nor should the children of single parents be allowed to fall through society's cracks; and conservative politicians are all for benefit cuts up to the point their constituents catch wind of it and the politicians have to backpedal furiously, pinky-swearing all the while that they only meant to cut food stamps and weren't planning on destroying Social Security (note: they really were planning to destroy Social Security, just in case that slipped past you in all the flustered walkback and vigorously streaming denial). So if you happened to be very dim, or perhaps had just arrived from Mars and were still struggling with human customs, or perhaps even just happened to be a very dim Martian, you might mistake the first set of policies for libertine-ism and the second set of postures for, well, "sincerity". But so far as I know, Mr. Brooks has been here for many of our Earth-years, and assuming his planet's elders know he's here and he isn't some unfortunate exile or stranded castaway, surely they could send him a book or a knowledge crystal or gold-plated-thought-scroll or whatever it is they use up there. (Though one can't neglect the possibility he's an exile--if Martians are indeed an older and wiser race than we, it only stands to reason they wouldn't want David Brooks, either.)

Mr. Brooks, please: phone home.





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Oysterhead, "Pseudo Suicide"

>> Tuesday, July 10, 2012





I have a passion for this band, even if it was as much a stunt as it was a supergroup: Les Claypool (Primus), Trey Anastasio (Phish) and Stewart Copeland (The Police) originally got together for a festival one-off, ended up recording an album together and doing a little tour together and the occasional reunion gig (though I'm not sure they've done anything together since '06). I'd be thrilled if they pulled it together for another album.

I mean, the snarky way to put this might be to say that Stewart Copeland, one of the greatest rock and roll drummers of all time, has been in a power trio with a phenomenal bassist and brilliant guitarist, and before that he was in The Police. Which isn't the least bit fair, since Andy Summers is a pretty damn good guitarist and the blonde guy who does that easy listening stuff these days is a pretty crafty bassist. Still: Les Claypool and Trey Anastasio and you'll see that and raise me a Stewart Copeland? Well, shit. That's hard to beat. Even when some of the actual songs veer a little bit towards the wanking off, if we want to be perfectly critical about it. (Sure, they're wanking around--but that's Claypool, Anastasio and Copeland "wanking around", thank you very much and good day, sir.)

Fun stuff. Fun. fun stuff.


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Violent Femmes, "American Music"

>> Monday, July 09, 2012






I expect to busy during much of the first part of the week, at least. Thus, intelligent commentary may be sparser than usual. You've been warned.

Still, have some Femmes. Some awesome, classic Femmes.



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Ella Fitzgerald, "Too Darn Hot"

>> Sunday, July 08, 2012





Yesterday I mentioned wanting to rant about the heat. Which is pointless. Everyone talks about the weather, but no one ever kills the weatherman.

Too darn hot? Try: it's too goddamn hot. It's too fucking hot. We've been joking when it drops into the nineties about the cold snap, is how hot it's been. The jokes haven't been funny, it's just the kind of thing everyone does when it's so goddamn motherfucking hot as hell.

It saps the will. No. It doesn't sap the will so much as it causes the brains to leak out the ears and run down the sides of your neck like so much grey clay washing away in the rain. Ninety-two Fahrenheit right now as of this writing and it isn't even noon yet. Fifty-one percent humidity. The Internet tells me this is making 92°F feel like 98°F, I say it's making me feel like cowering indoors in the air conditioning like a fat, pampered dog. We get angry and cooped up, a form of cabin fever; seems like there ought to be something you could do, but taking a walk gets the blood to boil and at a picnic your ice melts to the temperature of lukewarm tea in minutes flat; nothing much of anything is playing at the cinerama unless you're dying to see Spider-Man rebooted or live somewhere Beasts Of The Southern Wild has opened, or are a Wes Anderson fan (I'm too damn hot to see Wes Anderson right now, I think).

Actually, let's be honest: I could probably sit through something, but I don't feel like getting in the car because it's too hot and I don't feel like spending the money; what I really would like is going for a walk in the snow right now.







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Public Enemy, "By The Time I Get To Arizona"

>> Saturday, July 07, 2012





I was just planning on going with some kind of useless rant about all the goddamn heat, and maybe a summer-themed bit of music video to go with; but then I read Brother Seth's great riffs off a Salon article I linked to Facebook the other day--and, well, I decided to go with something a little more, um, militant.

The Salon piece is about some douchenozzle's effort to get a referendum onto Arizona ballots "allowing" the state to ignore Federal law. Seth also found out Mr. Douchenozzle was asked if the ballot measure's passage meant Arizonans could invalidate anti-discrimination laws, and that precious little Douchenozzle is "confident that wouldn’t happen.

Of course he's right, but not for the reason he implies: he's right because the ballot measure would be unconstitutional and illegal if passed. But if Douchenozzle understood the Supremacy Clause, he probably wouldn't be wasting his time gathering 320,000 signatures from other idiots who have never heard of it, either; no, Douchenozzle presumably means that Arizonans are such nice people, they'd never even think of being mean to black people or treating them unkindly in any way.

Enter Mr. Chuck D.

The history here, for those who have understandably forgotten, is that in the 1980s; Arizona was prominently against the creation of a MLK holiday; unsuccessfully tried to merge it with Columbus Day; and, towards the end of the decade (but before he was impeached for obstruction of justice and misuse of funds), then-Governor Evan Mecham rescinded the official recognition his predecessor had signed into law (though Mecham did try backpedaling by declaring a Sunday a MLK holiday). One of the strongest opponents of the Federal MLK holiday was none other than then-Arizona-Representative and subsequent Presidential also-ran John McCain, though McCain later said he regretted his vote against a Federal MLK holiday. So, y'know, even before the whole recent business with Arizona passing a law allowing cops to shake down Hispanics for their birth certificates and Arizona politicians (most prominently the infamous Joe Arpaio) going Birther, there's a whole background. This isn't recent.

Public Enemy's response to the MLK fracas was understandably harsh and typically unsubtle. Initially a b-side, "By The Time I Get To Arizona" ended up getting made into a controversial music video in which--well, you can see it for yourself up there.

I suppose in this day and age, I need to provide appropriate disclaimers about how violence against politicians is wrong, no matter who does it to whom; that statement ought to be unnecessary, and it's really only there for the benefit of mental defectives who won't believe or accept it anyway, but there it is for the record: violence bad.

And there's also quite a lot of irony in PE making a video in which characters are planning and executing terrorist operations against racists who dishonor Martin Luther King, a man whose entire modus operandi was non-violent resistance to oppression. It has to be said that Dr. King, had he seen "By The Time I Get To Arizona", would have understood the anger it was coming out of, but nevertheless would have been utterly appalled and found the presentation of the message both amoral and counterproductive. I just don't think there's any getting around that.

Having said those last two things, however: I think I empathize with what Chuck D. and company were after, at least as well as any pasty white guy who likes to think he has a good heart and good intentions can. I was pissed about Arizona's racist shenanigans (which ones? take your pick at this point), and I am, again, a pasty white guy. If I were the actual target of that kind of dismissal and disrespect, I can imagine that pissed feeling being squared, cubed, exponentially raised by factors defying conventional forms of math; I may not agree with the program, but I see where it's coming from, I think I grok what's going on. Chuck D., as I recall, responded to the fauxtrage the video caused when it blipped on MTV by saying the video was fantasy, like an action movie; you can decide for yourself whether that was walking it back or the truth (and even if the latter, whether that excuses it: Death Wish is just a fantasy, too--an utterly repellent and amoral fantasy with few redeeming virtues, possibly none, but I'll be charitable and say it might have something I've forgotten in the long time since I suffered that movie). I get the fantasy, if that's what it is: who hasn't been so angry they've thought or said they could kill someone, even if they'd never do it, and even imagined ways it could go down? (With or without agency from the ill-wisher: I can think of people I wouldn't mind seeing eaten by bears. Ginormous paleocene bears with huge sabre teeth and yellow claws a foot long, bestial ice age bears with sloppy table manners.)

Endorsement? No. Approval? Not really. Understanding? I think so. Nobody needs me to tell them they have a right to a feeling, but for whatever it's worth: yeah, there's a right to be angry, the anger has what I would call objectively legitimate causes. It's not like there's that much subjective, your-mileage-may-vary, reasonable-minds-may-differ, etc.-type wriggle room for whether or not you're getting shit on. And Arizona, as a state, has a history of shitting on people who aren't white.

If you've made it this far, I also would like to point out the track is classic PE, with Terminator X making crafty use of funky samples from Mandrill and the Jackson 5 to create an angry, buzzing backdrop for Chuck D.'s ever-smooth flow. I'm not enough of a hip-hop connoisseur to give you a good breakdown of the track, I'm afraid; I'm just someone who dips his toes in sometimes. But I think I know what's good stuff, and "Arizona" is brilliant stuff from a technical standpoint. Just thought I'd mention that.






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TV On The Radio, "Repetition"

>> Friday, July 06, 2012





Clever, me: I had a notion for a blog post for today, and as I'm typing the title into the computer, I notice Firefox is filling it in for me--seems I already wrote about that and whatever else I would've said would've been not much to add. And the other blog post wasn't even that long ago.

Dammit.

You get this, instead.

I'm off today--I took yesterday and today off because it seemed just stupid to have a holiday in the middle of the week. It seems to me, in fact, if you're going to have a national holiday in the middle of the week, you should at least cancel one half or the other half (or maybe even the whole thing). I know people who would probably say that's some kind of inefficiency, but I have to say I don't see how having two Mondays and two Fridays in a week cuts it: (real) Monday and (Thursday) Monday, everybody is trying to get their asses in gear, and then (Tuesday) Friday and (real) Friday, everybody is just counting down minutes to five o'clock and figuring out how they could leave early. Just call the week off, man.







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Andy Griffith, "What It Was, Was Football"

>> Thursday, July 05, 2012





One of my favorite moments of Andy Griffith's long career. 'Nuff said.



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Tom Morello, "This Land Is Your Land"

>> Wednesday, July 04, 2012





I don't know anymore, who this land was made for. I think, though, there was an era where the idea of this land was a bit bigger than the land was. I don't know if that's still true anymore.

The guys who founded this country: they were rich guys, you know? They were lawyers and planters and bankers and such; they weren't scruffy Ordinary Joes, for better or worse. Smart guys, yeah, but human. Political dilettantes and amateur philosophers, guys who had a lot of great abstract ideas for what a country could be, but lacking the strength and wisdom to carry their convictions all the way past the goal line. The guy who wrote this--

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


--owned and fucked slaves, and the guys who signed it with him would go on to establish a republican oligarchy in which the voice of the masses would be vitiated by being confined entirely to an inferior chamber of the legislature with few powers; the Senate and President would, in the original scheme of things, be chosen by those who rose to the top of the state power structures (the governors and state houses) and the Supreme and lesser courts would be appointed by these most-elite-of-the-elite. They talked a good game, talking about democracy, but if you actually read the Constitution, turns out they didn't think much of the idea at all.

And, gods know, maybe they're right. You leave it to mobs to make decisions, lousy things happen. They say people can't get married if they're interracial gay (the modern issue--the interracial thing is so pre-1967, that ancient and murky age only five years before I was born); that women are too childish to make long-term decisions about their plumbing; that if you want to teach kids science, you better make sure you cover the widely-accepted, completely plausible, perfectly scientific theory that man was specially created either right before or right after all the other plants and animals were either placed in a Garden or invented on successive days; etc.

Except, you know, the founders weren't necessarily all that clever, either. Their splendid organizational attempt to provide for a national defense that couldn't be co-opted by a tyrant resulted almost directly in Washington, DC getting burned to the ground and Detroit surrendering to the British within around twenty years. And that wasn't the bad screw-up, right? Losing Detroit and having a foreign army raze the nation's capitol was nothing compared to how all the compromises designed to keep the northern and southern states from killing each other disintegrated in 1861, leading to the northern and southern states totally killing each other by the hundreds of thousands, jolly good show.

This all sounds quaint, no doubt. But the messed up military situation still hasn't really been corrected: we have a standing army, now, yes, but the Constitutional organization of it is so inefficient that modern Congresses simply give modern Presidents blank checks in the form of Authorizations For Use Of Military Force (AUMFs) or similar legislative acts (e.g. the Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution), and then we wring our hands about how unconstitutional it all is (especially when the Other Side has the authority) without even noticing the problem is really constitutional in the sense of being a problem with the Constitution itself. And as for the other matter I alluded to in the last paragraph: if you don't think we're still, on some basic level, fighting the American Civil War, wake up and pay attention. What do you think all this "states' rights" horseshit is, except an ongoing attempt to re-fight the Civil War to a different result in the courts or on The Hill instead of a battlefield; and if you don't think all the batshit crazy garbage about the President's black--excuse me, Kenyan--father and the deranged obsession in some quarters with his swarthiness--excuse me, "citizenship"--is completely unrelated to white slave-owning Southerners' fears that the men and women they brutalized and exploited would rise up and reenact the Haitian Revolution of 1791, well--I'm sorry, you're an idiot. The questions from some quarters about the President's legitimacy to lead this country are a multiplied product of American conservatives' belief that liberals are illegitimate governors (nobody could have voted for them--they'd have to believe something not-conservative and that would call their entire worldview to question) and American racists' belief that blacks at best have it in for whites and at worst are not-quite-human.

These are the reverberations of what those great Founding Fathers hath wrought.

And yet, there in the midst of it, is an idea--

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


--it's a good idea. I said something the other day about the space between our aspirations and our achievements; I confess, I think I borrowed the phrase from Gahan Wilson (and Cthulhu have mercy on our tender bits--he wasn't writing about constitutions and inspirational declarations of human dignity and liberty: he was writing about the titular character from Robot Monster; maybe I shouldn't have told you that). Somewhere in all that obsolete 18th Century dreck is a collection of noble sentiments that are timeless: that if we don't all have dignity, we ought to; that if we aren't all equal, we could be; that if we are hostages of a tyrant--a king, then; plutocrats, now--we don't have to be. (And here, in my despair, is where I look up from my dark desk, hair in my hands, and see there is, in fact, a shining sliver of light passing under the door into my closed, dark room.)

Happy Fourth Of July, people. I guess.





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My Andy Griffith story

>> Tuesday, July 03, 2012

There's not much to my Andy Griffith story. I was almost rude to him on the phone one time.

Here's how it went: the summer between my second and third years of law school, I knew I was going to need a car for third-year clinic and the best opportunity I had for a decent-paying, short-term job was staying with my dad and working on a film in Wilmington, NC for the summer; I was able to get a guaranteed job as a production assistant via the time-honored strategy of shameless nepotism. So I end up working in the production office for the low-budget feature film adaptation of the Stephen King short story The Night Flier, answering phones, making copies, that kind of thing. (Oh, yeah: I'm the uncredited goober who suggested and wrote these for a sight gag the art people put together. Might as well go ahead and finally take credit or admit blame for it for posterity's sake. That was me.)

Ah, but Andy Griffith: so, my first or second day in the office, I'm answering the phone, and I get this call, and this voice on the other end asks for the film's production manager (a family member by marriage at the time); and I says she isn't there and ask if I can take a message; and the guy on the other end says yes, please, "This is Andy Griffith."

Now, my first impulse is probably a lot like yours: what I wanted to do was, I wanted to laugh and say, "Yeah, right" or maybe make a dumb joke about how is Barney doing or something. But before I do something really obnoxious and stupid, another part of my brain kicks in and reminds me the production manager was just working on Matlock not too long before production began on The Night Flier and holy shit, I've got Andy Griffith on the phone. "Yes sir, I'll tell her you called," I say, and take the number.

I'm not really the kind of guy who gets starstruck. I kind of figure acting and singing and such are, well, jobs, and they may be creative jobs (which I envy, fancying myself a creative guy), and they may make one famous or wealthy if one's commercially successful (which I envy insofar as it would be nice to have enough money you could get up in the morning and be able to be creative instead of having to go to a job that, to paraphrase Morrissey, pays your way and corrodes your soul). And (again, fancying myself a creative guy) there's also some feeling I have that being a famous actor or musician doesn't really make you all that special insofar as I've tried acting (and even got paid for one acting gig right after high school, though not much and we basically went around performing a struggling playwright's play for literally-captive audiences in nursing homes who were strapped into their chairs so they couldn't fall out of them, having reached states of decrepitude where falling out of a chair and breaking something was a harrowing and realistic possibility) and played some guitar and sang a bit (in abortive bands and alone, though just in rehearsals and jam sessions and never in front of actual audiences) and so it's kind of like: those occasions I've seen an actor or musician or writer out and about, I think, "Yeah, well I can do what he does (albeit poorly and with a pretty dismal lack of success). If you know what I mean. I also have some sense that someone who happens to be famous might prefer, if dining in a restaurant or something, to eat dinner instead of getting harassed or gawked at like he or she's an elephant shoving an orangutang in his or her mouth.

But I'm digressing again. The point, if there is one, was that there was, actually, a little bit of--what's the right word? "Awe" doesn't quite do it. "Amazement," maybe? There was a little bit of amazement at being on the line with Andy Griffith, having the completely banal interaction of writing down a phone number like you would for anybody in the whole wide world.

You have to understand, if you don't already, that in North Carolina, where I was born and raised, Andy Griffith, who passed away today, wasn't just a local actor who made good, he was a kind of cultural institution whose signature contribution to American culture, the eight years of The Andy Griffith Show, captured a kind of state of mind of the state of North Carolina. Ava Gardner was from North Carolina, but who the hell cares? (Well, probably people from Grabtown. Good gods. Did you even know there was such a place as "Grabtown, NC"? I sure as hell didn't until just now.) There is nothing quintessentially North Carolinian about Ava Gardner; one imagines that if Ava Gardner could have burned the whole state down to bury her origins, she might have reached for some matches. But Andy Griffith--Andy, it was like we all knew him--Andy was unabashedly and unashamedly from this place and in a lot of ways represented us the way we like to think of ourselves: open-minded, but grounded in tradition; smarter than we look, but unassuming.

I'm not saying we are that way. I have no idea if Andy was really that way: he invented a stage persona for stand-up and honed it and came up with variations, one of which became Sheriff Andy Taylor when the legendary Golden Age Of Television producer Sheldon Leonard pitched a show to Andy (then mostly doing Broadway) which was back-door piloted on The Danny Thomas Show. Don't get me wrong: Andy Griffith was a really nice guy during the two minutes we interacted with each other and everything I've ever heard about him is that he really was Just That Nice towards everyone he ever met. But Andy Taylor was a character that was written for him, you know? So was Matlock.

But that persona: y'know, if you want to understand North Carolina, maybe you need to understand that Andy Griffith is who we all would like to be, whether we're in the big cities or the little college villages or the rural farm towns or the mining enclaves, out on the shifting Banks sands, wherever. Actually, the Rosetta Stone for this damn state might be that all of us would like to be (or think we already are) Andy Taylor while deep down in our hearts we fear we are (or might actually be) Barney Fife. In our minds, we're almost boundless in our patience; profound in our wisdom; loyal to our friends and principles; cagey (but fair!) in our dealings; funny, clever, and witty in our words; sane and stoic even surrounded by a, shall we euphemistically say, colorful crowd of eccentrics. In our hearts, though, we know we're really batshit loons who fly off the handle at the least whiff of wind; who can't be trusted with more than one bullet at a time; who screech and whine when we're trying to sound erudite and serious; who are easily gulled into stabbing members of our own close family (who gave us our one shot out of pity) in the back (we will, at least, be stricken with remorse and rage at ourselves and those who led us astray, once we're aware of what we did); we are googly-eyed idiots with crooked backs and high-pitched voices, is what we really are. A state that is the size and shape of the space between aspiration and actual achievement.

Goodnight, Andy. And thanks. I'm really glad I didn't tell you to call back when you were ready to quit fucking around, and not just because I might have been fired.



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