Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Wish List Part 3 - Music

Hey you! Buy me some stuff off of my Amazon wish list.

Alright, so I haven't really got all these postings where I plead for gifts my my adoring public done in time for anyone to have presents sent to me in time for Christmas. But since I'm not a Christian anyway, and loathe everything about Christmas except for the part where people buy me stuff, it doesn't really matter if you get it to me before or after the holiday. The spirit of giving to me can last all season long...

I love music. I love buying music. But there are only so many dollars I can commit to buying music that hard choices have to be made when at the record store.

The band most responsible for making me a music fan to begin with is U2. Prior to discovering their music on my own in my very early teens, I didn't think I liked music very much. Unlike a lot of kids in my generation, I didn't have parents who turned me on to Bob Dylan and The Beatles or an older sibling who opened my eyes to The Ramones or The Clash. No, my mom listened to shit like Air Supply and my brother had records from the likes of Kiss, Kansas and Foreigner.

My dad did give me my very first album. It was Bobby Vinton's Greatest Hits. I'm pretty sure that the first albums my mother ever bought for me were the two Disco Duck records.

So yea, I pretty much thought music wasn't my thing. But then I heard U2 and I turned into a lifelong music geek. Just finding that one great band made me realize there was great music out there and I went looking for it. They profoundly changed my life. And while I have been pretty disappointed with their output for the last decade or so, (hitting their most horrible low point with 1997's Pop) I will always feel grateful to them for their earlier work. It's those early albums that got the re-release treatment in the last year or so.

Last year was the 20th anniversary of The Joshua Tree, which made me feel really old since I can remember going to the Turtles Records and Tapes nearest my house in Stone Mountain to buy it on the day in came out like it was yesterday. So they put out a few different editions of a remastered version of the album. The best one is a 2-CD/DVD set that comes in at over 50 bucks.

Earlier this year they released new, remastered versions of their first three albums - Boy, October and War - each one with an extra disc full of bonus tracks. And then they also put out a new version of their live album Under A Blood Red Sky, packaging together the album and the DVD for the first time.

Together, they are like a box set of my high school years.

Like I said, I have a limited music-buying budget and hard decisions have to be made. It is really hard to justify throwing down more than 30 bucks (or more than 50 for Joshua Tree) for albums you already own, even if they do sound a whole lot better and are loaded with extras, when you can get two brand new albums that you don't already own for that same price.

But man, I really want these bad.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Wish List Part 2 - Movies

Time once again to try to convince all of you out there to buy me stuff from my Amazon wish list for the Winter Solstice celebration. If anybody is interested in buying me some DVDs this holiday...

After Before Sunrise, the single best movie from the decade of my twenties, the other two movies from the 90s that I feel the most connected to are Kicking and Screaming and Beautiful Girls. I have probably spent enough money renting them both over the years that I could have owned them a dozen times over, but they are still not a part of my video library.

By the mid-90s, several movies were trying to encapsulate the whole "slacker"/"Gen X" thing. The most notable of these was the contrived, pedestrian, hipster piece of shit Reality Bites. Unlike that garbage, Kicking and Screaming is full of characters that seem like real people. The debut movie from Noah Baumbach, who would get well deserved notice a decade later for the excellent The Squid and the Whale, begins with a group of friends at their college graduation night party. Several months later and they are all still just hanging around their college town wondering what to do with themselves. Josh Hamilton is excellent as the hapless Grover, who is wandering aimlessly since breaking up with his girlfriend, played by Olivia d'Abo, because she went to do a program in Prague. Their courtship is played out in the film as a series of flashbacks, giving us the hopeful ending without the cheesy sentimentality. Chris Eigeman, a veteran of the Whit Stillman movies, is his usual dry self. Eric Stoltz plays that student who never leaves, we all know one of those guys, right? And then there is the young Parker Posey, who seemed to be in every movie I saw between 1993 and 1997.

This movie really has a special place in my heart. It came out about a year after I graduated college and what was going on in it looked a lot like my life at the time, minus the snappy jokes. I also visit my old college fairly often, and even though I graduated 14 years ago I can walk into the Jackson Street Pub in Macomb, IL and will see a guy that I went to school with who never left.

It is also a really funny movie.

And it has one of my favorite endings ever.

Available for years only on VHS, it finally got the Criterion (can we pass a Constitutional amendment that says only they get to make DVDs?) treatment a couple of years ago.

Released only a few months later than Kicking and Screaming, Beautiful Girls captures a different group of the same generation, a few years older and way less educated. Unfortunately not on a Criterion edition, and not even manufactured anymore it seems.

Timothy Hutton plays a guy who returns to the small town where he grew up to go to his high school graduation and try to figure his life out. Really, Ted Demme's best film (I don't care if you think it's Blow). Hutton is the only one of his group of friends that left, with the rest seemingly content with their empty jobs and nights at the bar.

There are many things to love abut this movie, but the thing that stands out for most people is the relationship between Hutton and a thirteen-year-old Natalie Portman. In the hands of anybody else, these scenes would have come across as only creepy. But with these actors and this director, they play out as a completely understandable crush by a 27-year-old man on a pubescent girl. For this film alone Portman is forgiven for Padmé Amidala and, well, pretty much her entire adult career.

The whole thing also works, of course, because in the end it is not really about the love between a creepy guy in his late twenties and a middle-schooler. It is really about a guy who is ten years out of high school not wanting to accept that he is a grown-up. Something I really related to when I saw the movie at the age of twenty-five, and why I fell in love with it so much.

It was in this movie that I realized for the first time that Matt Dillon is a pretty good actor. And it introduced me to the genius of unknown character actors Max Perlich and Noah Emmerich.

Beautiful Girls is also responsible for making Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline a cool song again (or for the first time depending on your point of view), and probably why it is played at so many sports stadiums now.

Remember, gift-wrapping is completely unnecessary.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Late Monday Hate - New Parent Edition

So since I became a father it is impossible to get anything done on time. I'm thinking that my Monday hate postings will kind of come on whatever day I can get to it. And since we're in a parent mode, why don't we list the things I'm hating about child-rearing?

First off, parenting books. I've seen a bunch of these things now and I've come to the conclusion that they are all full of shit. Most of them seem to be selling one agenda or another and all they succeed in doing is making parents over think everything. None of the things you are told to do in these books are backed up by any real scientific study, they will just make broad claims as fact.

Like, there are some that make it sound like child abuse if you give your baby a pacifier. They tell you that you kid will never learn to suck her thumb and ruin any chance she has of getting in to Harvard. They don't actually back their claims up with any actual facts, you are just supposed to take it at face value because they are the "best selling" parenting book out there. What's really going on is the breast feeding hippy-Nazi's going all freaky about putting anything in a baby's mouth besides mom's nipple and maybe a twig off a hemp plant because there will be "nipple confusion." I've figured out that nipple confusion is as big of a myth as the lost city of Atlantis and compassionate conservatism. I've heard a lot about how it "can" happen, but no instances of it actually happening. And the people who have a problem with pacifiers are the same ones who think it's perfectly OK and normal to breast feed your kid until she's in junior high.

Baby cries, baby is given pacifier, baby stops crying. It's all good. And my kid knows how to suck her hand with no problem and can tell the difference between the nipple with the food and the one without in about a millisecond.

Throw the books away and just ask your pediatrician for advice. The kid will give you a pretty good idea what to do, too.

Speaking of pacifiers...

I hate the cutesy alternative language people make up for kids. Why the fuck can't we call things what they are just because a child is involved? What the hell is a binky? That doesn't mean anything. Pacifier is really appropriately named thing, why do parents insist on renaming it to something so meaningless? It's not a onesie, it's called a bodysuit.

There's also the putting of a Y on the end of words to make them sound more kid-cute. You know that it doesn't make a crap-filled diaper smell any better by calling it "poopy," don't you? What the hell is wrong with just poop? Personally, I prefer shit. But the wife has an opinion on my language around the daughter.

Another version of this is talking to the baby how you think she's going to say things. If my mother calls herself "Gamma" one more time I'm going to scream.

Don't even get me started on the stupid words parents make up for genitalia.

Seems to me it shouldn't be a radical idea to teach kids the right names for things and the correct way to pronounce them.

And then there are the people who think they know who the baby looks like. I have heard just about every possible combination of who my daughter looks like. People have told me she looks like me, others say my wife. I've had some of my family say my daughter's various cousins or other relatives. You know what? She looks like a baby. Babies this young (weeks old) don't look like anybody. Any claim that she looks like anybody is just people projecting some preconceived idea on my kid. Babies are like Cylons in the new Battlestar Galactica, there are about seven basic models. That's why it is so easy to switch them in the hospital and there are identity bracelets on every limb to make sure that doesn't accidentally (or purposely) happen.

The most dangerous thing I can't stand is the "blame medicine for Autism" movement. I am so sick of seeing this anti-intellectual movement treated with legitimacy. I have heard so many claims of there being "studies" that show a connection between vaccinations, oxytocin or some other drug and Autism. None of it is true, and the studies they site as evidence of these connections are either real studies that are being misrepresented or just flat-out made up. Because of the misinformation spread by these wackos, more parents are choosing to not get their children immunized, and they put my kid at a higher risk.

But you want to know one thing I love about having a baby around? You really don't realize until you have one just how much babies fart, and ours really let's 'em rip with the best of them. And they stink like crazy.

So these days I can just cut loose with mine and blame it on the kid. That's the joy of fatherhood right there.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Holiday Wish List Part 1

Since we had a kid there is not a lot of money to be blown on myself these days. So I'm going to use my blog to shill for the stuff I want this year, hoping for some kind souls out there in cyberspace to go to my Amazon wish list and send me the shit I want. Why not, some guy got a house by trading a paperclip, right?

I have been wanting to see this show ever since I heard Jill Sobule (she wrote the theme song) mention it at one of her shows last year or so. It has finally come out on DVD, though hard to find anywhere but Amazon, and I'm hoping someone (cough cough, wife, cough) might buy it for me for the ancient Pagan winter solstice holiday they now call Christmas.

Julia Sweeney tells the story of her journey trying to find her faith before finally Letting Go of God.

A journey similar to mine and many other non-believers.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Hate

Oh man, it has been two weeks since I last posted something. Time flies hen you are changing diapers every fifteen minutes.

So a quick hate post today, just to let everyone know I'm still alive:

D.L. Hughley. Good god, who thinks this guy is funny? I caught part of his new Daily Show-wannabe" show on CNN last week when he was talking to Dan Savage. Holy shit, I haven't seen such unfunny comedy since Saved By The Bell was on the air. And besides being unfunny, there is nothing worse than stupid people who pretend they're smart. I would say it's the comedy version of O'Reilly except that O'Reilly is probably funnier.

At one point Hughley basically told Dan Savage to his face that being gay was the wrong way to be. And he defended it with the whole "way I was raised" nonsense. This was how he was defending the African-American population in California for voting for Prop 8 in such high numbers, because of their religious upbringing. He then said that he had never met a black atheist.

Seriously? Fuck D.L., how many black people do you know then? How is it you are a black man who grew up around other black people and you don't know any black non-believers, yet I'm a white guy who grew up in the suburbs and I've met more than one?

I'm not sure if that was a sign of him being a huge liar or completely clueless.

This country has such a rich history of great black artists and entertainers. Why has that brilliant culture become represented by brainless hacks like Hughley and Tyler Perry?

Paul Robeson must be spinning in his grave.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Hate

Well it has been a few weeks since my last hate list. The whole having a kid thing has been really taking up a lot of my time. Did you know that you can't just leave out food for them and hit the bars for the night? I should have thought this through a little better.

But I'm coming down off my high, so it's time to do some hatin'.

I really only have one thing this week...

Back to basics, let me reiterate my hatred of religion. This isn't one of my usual ranting entries about what I'm hating right now. I'm not really seething about religion at the moment (for that we would be talking about my mother-in-law, who was here for three straight weeks making snide little digs at the guy who isn't good enough for her daughter).

No, I'm more just in the mood to celebrate how smart I am for not believing in religion. Besides all the usual crap that I use to point out why religion is complete bullshit, one that I like to bring up is the ridiculousness that the three main world religions (Islam, Judaism, Christianity) are always fighting with each other even though they worship the same imaginary deity. They bitch and moan with each other over who the prophet is, but still, same damn god.

The utter stupidity of religion got highlighted in the news in a delicious way this weekend. Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks came to blows with each other at the church in Jerusalem where these people believe Jesus was crucified.

Scratch that. Came to blows again. This happens pretty much on a regular basis.

And these guys don't just worship the same god. The groups at this church that are always fighting each other believe in the same exact messenger/saviour/prophet as well.

What's that whole god's love thing again?

More evidence to add to the pile of proof that religious belief is a mental disease.

This shit cracks me up. Keep in mind when watching the video that this is one of the holiest places in all of Christianity.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Promises To Keep

Forgive me a little self-indulgence as I subject you all to an open letter to my newborn daughter.

Hi Sam,

This is your Dad. But feel free to call me Deni, we don't hang our hats on titles in this family. "This family," what an odd new thing to be saying. With you here I guess that's what we are now.

You'll have to let me know eventually how you like your nickname we created by giving you the initials S-A-M. You don't have to use it but it is there if you want it. Your mom's idea, to make sure you had options for what you want to call yourself. Between this, your real first name, the first name shortened and your middle name you can pick whichever you want.

I'm writing this and you are only a few hours old so you probably can't read it yet. I'm not sure when you'll read this, maybe when you are a teenager and wondering why your father is such a freak and can't be normal like everyone else's dad.

Sorry about that. Not really much I can do. Ask your mother, she's known me since I was 18 and can vouch for my inherent weirdness and that it is not a purposeful thing meant to embarrass you in front of the cool kids. Those kids aren't your real friends anyway. Trust me.

I wanted to talk to you now so that we can lay down some ground rules. Not for you, for me. See, I'm just as new at this fathering thing as you are at being a human. I'm going to make mistakes. Oh boy am I going to make mistakes. But hopefully I can keep them to enough of a minimum that you won't end up spending your 30s on a therapist's couch.

So to that end I thought maybe we should have a little social contract between us. Not to worry, there will be nothing demanded of you in this, these are promises I have to keep. You're too young at this point for your signature to be legally binding anyway. Except maybe in Mississippi, where I think you might already be of legal marrying age.

I guess I want you to be able to have expectations of your dad, not just have them demanded by him. That seems to be the one-way street of most parent-child relationships.

I guess I'll start with what most parents tell me is an easy one. I will love you unconditionally. As someone who just became a parent this is still not too easy to grasp. I suppose that it's true. Frankly, it is hard to imagine loving you unconditionally if you become a serial killer, (highly unlikely since you're a girl) Republican, Jesus freak, racist, Wal-Mart shopper or a gay-basher. Or show up in a Girls Gone Wild DVD. But I'm sure I will stick to this one.

I won't try to fake you out for my own entertainment. There is no such thing as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy or Jesus. As a child you are perfectly capable of making up your own imaginary friends, you don't need me to do that for you. I'm sure yours will be a lot more interesting than the ones any adult can think of. You may need to keep this one to yourself or you'll be the most hated kid in your second grade class and I'll have a lot of angry parents calling me.

"Because" is never the answer to any question. Don't ever accept that from me if I ever dare to pull that on you.

"Because I said so" is not a reason for things to be done my way. Sure, there will be rules. But you are a person and you deserve to be treated with the same respect as everyone else. If you want to know why we have a certain rule for you I'll tell you. If I don't have a good reason then it's not a good rule to begin with. For instance, you'll probably want to know why we don't let you camp out in front of the TV like most of the other kids get to do. This one will be easy, as all I'll have to do is ask you who you'd rather be like. A smart, hard-working, successful physician like your mom? Or your father, who can tell you the difference between Cylons, Ferengi and Sleestaks?

No matter what disagreements we might have, the phrase, "While you're living under my roof..." will never pass my lips.

I'm kind of hoping you'll be a little bit of a tomboy. If you instead turn out to be one of those girls that wants her dad to wear a tiara and sit in a little chair to have a tea party with all your dolls, I'll do that. I'll probably hate it, but I'll do it.

The day I raise my hand in anger or punishment to you or say something I know will be hurtful to you is the day I pack my bags and remove myself from you and your mother's lives forever. One thing you should never have to experience is the same kind of violence and emotional abuse that was thrust upon me as a child and teenager. That family tradition stops here.

I absolutely will not abdicate my responsibility of talking to you about sex and defer to someone else. I will look you in the eye and give you honest information and answers to your questions. There will be no embarrassment or agonizing from me because you are my "little girl" and I'd rather not think about you having sex. That father is the kind that ends up with a pregnant 16-year-old. I'm not saying I think it will be easy. But it is your mother's and my responsibility and it is too important. We won't let you down.

I will try like crazy to get you to love music because it is one of my passions and I hope it will be something we can share together. I'll do my best to not force my favorite music down your throat, just expose you to it and let you decide. This might be difficult for me to accomplish, just ask you mother. If you decide to say to me one day, "Deni, I just can't stand Robyn Hitchcock or Billy Bragg," it won't kill me. I'll cry myself to sleep that night, but I'll grudgingly accept that you like what you like. This would probably be my biggest test of that unconditional promise listed previously.

To that same end, if you come to really love your generation's version of Debbie Gibson, Hannah Montana or *NSync (shudder) and want to go see them in concert, I will take you and sit there the whole time, dancing if you want me to. I'll probably spend the whole evening fighting off both my gag reflex and the urge to make snarky remarks about this future teen idol, but I will deal with it if it makes you happy.

I won't freak out about the haircuts you get or the clothes you wear. Well, within reason. I'll probably draw the line at skirts that show your butt and tank tops with "slut" or "juicy" declared across the front. But if you come home with a Mohawk one day, big deal. It's just hair. Lots of parents worry too much about their kids dressing weird or getting crazy haircuts. I'll be worried if you go through your teen years and don't try to do things like that. I'm not going to sweat the small things, and teens dressing weird is most assuredly one of the smallest.

I won't try to relive my childhood through you. There will be no pushing you to do the things I liked to do or wanted to do when I was younger. You don't have to be in drama club. That would make me happy if you want to do that, to be sure. But it will never be about me. You also don't have to go to prom or march in graduation if you don't want to. Those are the two most overrated things in high school anyway. Seriously, my first bit of advice to you is that prom is a stupid school dance that costs a lot of money to drink punch and listen to a bad cover band. It will not give you the memories of your life they say it will and you won't have some empty hole in your life for missing it.

I will not see it as my job to scare the boys, or girls, who come to pick you up for dates.

You might like boys. You might like girls. Both your mother and I are cool with either way you turn out. You'll be raised to know that both ways are normal and healthy. Though I must admit, that part about not scaring your dates will probably be easier for me to live up to if it's girls you're bringing home.

You will see more of the world by the time you are a teenager than I had seen by the age of 30. We want you to be exposed to different cultures, places and people to give you a wide view of the world. We don't want you having to play catch-up in your late twenties and thirties like me. We promise to take you to many, many different places around the world.

When you are old enough, after high school and during college, you will be given the opportunity, means and encouragement to strap on a backpack and see part of the world by yourself. I may even insist. This means a real international trip, like backpacking through Europe while staying in hostels or doing volunteer work in a village in Cambodia, not spring break in Cancun with thousands of frat boys and sorority sisters. That, I can assure you, your mother and I will not pay for.

These are my promises to you little one. I will probably think of more that I need to add to this list over the years as I figure out this whole fatherhood thing. But no promises can be renegotiated by me no matter how hard to keep they might turn out to be.

I hope I do not stray from these vows I make. I'll do my best.


Deni - aka "Dad," "Pops," "Daddy," "Papa" or whatever you want to call me.

Anything but "Father." Please.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday Hate

I'm really reaching this week, with nothing really itching at me to rant about. There is just this one thing I have to bitch about right now, but I was reluctant to write about it since it is a little too close to a post my buddy Joe wrote less than a week ago.

But fuck it, he's so loopy from being up for the last three days straight, because he's dancing on the cloud of new fatherhood, that he won't notice.

I have got this damn zit on my nose. Now it is not what you think. Unlike Joe's demonstration of girl-like vanity, I'm not worried about how it looks. In fact, no one can even see it. I guess it might not even technically be my nose since it is on the bridge between my eyes.

And that's the problem. It is a somewhat painful little zit that is situated perfectly for my eyeglass nose pads to sit right on top of it.

It is really irritating and there is not much I can do about it. I haven't owned a pair of contacts since I was about 20-years-old. So the two options are to deal with the annoying pain or have blurry vision.

Now I know what Sophie must have felt like with that no-win choice. It's tragic I tell ya.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Big O

I was perusing the on-line edition of the Chicago Tribune last week, I tend to keep up with the newspapers from the places I've lived, and I came across this story. I wouldn't have even clicked the link to the story had I not recognized the name of the person it was about.

It is about a project by a woman, Robyn Okrant, I did a play with several years ago in Chicago, a long-form improv parody of the TV show ER. It was a big hit in Chicago for many years, running for I think almost ten years. We were involved in one of the later incarnations.

When I saw the article I thought, "Robyn Okrant? Hey, I used to know Robyn!"

Having done theatre in several cities over the years it is not uncommon for me to run across names of people I know in newspaper articles or see faces I recognize in commercials, TV shows and movies. It is usually fairly minor - a bit part in a commercial or movie, a mention in a review of a play - though sometimes there is some real meaty, high profile stuff.

Too often it seems to happen only with completely unlikable and untalented self-promoters, like that douche bag Mike Daisey (who I knew in my Seattle days) with his vacuous monologues that he's convinced so many hipster theatre-goers are deep and artistic.

But seeing the attention Robyn has been getting got me so psyched. Not only is she one of the nicest and most genuine people I ever did a show with, she is also one of the most talented and original. And funny as hell. Honestly one of my absolute favorite people from my former theatre career.

After reading the article in the Trib I found a bunch more media attention she has been getting for a while that flew under my radar. She has been interviewed for a bunch of radio shows, including All Things Considered (I don't always get a chance to listen) and many media outlets have written about it. I would have discovered this a while ago when the New York Times ran a story, since I read the Times every day, if not for the fact I was in Taiwan in the middle of August when the article appeared.

And the project? Well, she decided to live for an entire year as Oprah advises people to do in her various formats (show, magazine, website, etc) and write a blog about it. One of the articles I read mentioned that she already has a deal with a publisher to write a book about the experiment.

Like I said, I wouldn't have even read that article had I not seen Robyn's name. I'm bored by pretty much anything Oprah. I just don't get why people like her so much.

But with Robyn Okrant doing a take on it I know it will turn out fantastic. She has a brilliant mind for both analysis and comedy.

I'm truly happy for her and I'm posting this really just to let all of you know about it. Because, you know, with her coverage only coming from pipsqueak media outlets like NPR and the New York Times I need to do all I can to help out an old acquaintance with my myriad of readers.

I haven't had too much time since I heard about it to really read her blog, I'm just now starting to weed my way through it. I think I'd rather wait for the book to tell you the truth, to read the whole thing when she's done. Hard to create a story arc with daily blog postings.

You should check it out. Living Oprah.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday Hate

Time once again for a trip through what my brain is hatin' at the moment.

I woke up today with nothing to write about, but on my walk to work toward Rockefeller Center on 5th Avenue I was reminded of what today is. So I've got one item today:

People who still celebrate Columbus Day. I mean come on! Really? Even after all we have discovered about that monster, the stuff they didn't tell us in school, we still have a parade in his honor being set up this very morning on 5th Avenue.

I don't know if it still the same today, but if you are around my age or older, and went to public primary and high schools, you more than likely were told the usual heroic sounding story of Columbus "discovering" the "new world" and that's how the founding of America began. Period.

This is the moral equivalent of schools teaching that Adolph Hitler was this guy who designed the Volkswagen Beetle, bringing affordable transportation to the working class.

It wasn't until I got to college that I finally got to discover the truth about the barbarian that enslaved and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of human beings. It is estimated that his actions caused the death of over half the population of Haiti in just one two-year period. And the long term effect of enslavement and slaughter led to complete disappearance of the original population on Haiti by 1650.

Think about that. There are parades around America today in honor of a man who is responsible for the eradication of an entire race. Not even Hitler accomplished that, try as he did.

The parades are not as big as they were in years past, thankfully a lot more people are aware. But the Italian-American community in so many cities still stick to celebrating the man. This kind of ethnic pride is sickening.

They may as well have a parade for Mussolini.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Monday Hate

Not too long before my blogging will almost assuredly slow down for a while with the child soon to appear. I imagine at that point my weekly hate list will consist mostly of items like "poop" and "spit-up." I'll try to do more than just these Monday hate posts, but most of my on-line attention is being given to my other blog for the time being.

But until Out Of Tune becomes nothing more than bitching about lack of sleep and colic, enjoy these precious moments we have together, just you and I and the things I'd like to beat with a stick.

This week's things I can't stand:

Kirk Cameron. I know, why would I even waste the energy hating a bad, has-been actor? Well, I'm reading my New York Times this morning and I come across a story in the Arts section about some crappy religious propaganda movie about a firefighter who saves his marriage by "turning to god." It stars the former teen actor and current religious fanatic star of the bizarre Left Behind movies. There was this section included in the article:

Mr. Cameron, who has been married for 17 years and has six children, also said that his faith had helped him survive in Hollywood. “As a teen idol who makes it to 37 without being a crack-smoking transvestite stuck in a drug-rehab center over and over, I’d say, wow, those values have served me pretty well,” he said.

I'd say, wow, you're a dick Kirk. So what about the rest of the "teen idols" who made it to adulthood not being addicted to crack? You know, the majority of them? Just because a few from basically one show (Different Strokes) had some issues over the years, people forget that that doesn't represent the whole of people who were ever famous teen actors. Lots of actors can keep their wits about them without having to turn to ancient fairy tales you smug jerk.

And what the hell is wrong with transvestites? You god-loving types just can't make a comment without taking a dig at gay, transgendered or any other people who are different from you, can you? You homophobic, hate-mongering piece of shit.

Miley Cyrus. Disneyland was shut down for a private party, Miley Cyrus' 16th birthday celebration. Guests paid $250 to attend. Need I say anymore?

Boston Red Sox. As I'm typing this they just beat the Angels to win the series and go to the ALCS against the Rays. It reminds me how annoying I remember Red Sox fans being and what a god-awful place Boston is to live. The Red Sox were a lot more likable when they tragically lost in the postseason all the time.

Sarah Palin. I try to keep the political stuff over at the other blog, but I just can't help this one. I really thought it wasn't possible for my hatred of this woman to get any bigger, but the more and more I get to see her the more I cannot stomach this sorry excuse for a human being. Nothing would please me more than to see this woman get beaten with moose antlers by a group of gay environmental community activists from Planned Parenthood on their way to buy some arugula.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday Hate - Sports Special

Time once again for my Monday hate list. This week, in honor of the baseball playoffs about to begin (GO CUBS!), we're going with an all sports related list:

Public financed sports stadiums and the boobs who mindlessly cheer on the crooks who took their money. Watching the final game festivities at Yankee stadium, the way the announcers talked about the new stadium and the way the fans cheered the mention of it was mind-boggling. Most people around here are clueless about just how much the new Yankee Stadium is going to cost us. And how little it will end of costing the billionaires who own the team. But hey, we should all be helping the poor Yankees pay A-Rod $30 mil a year, right?

By the way, all you Yankee fans who were holding signs that said "The House That Ruth Built" that night, he didn't. The taxpayers built the first one, too.

Rally caps. To anyone who I've told that praying is the single biggest, stupidest waste of time and energy, I owe you an apology. I was wrong. It is definitely rally caps.

The idea of putting your hat on in as stupid of a way possible to give your team the good karma they need to make a comeback when they are losing late in the game...well, do I even have to finish that sentence?

Interleague play in Major League Baseball. OK, we've been doing this "experiment" for twelve seasons. Can we please stop now? Look, I know there is this argument that there is such big excitement with regional rivals being able to play each other, but once the novelty of the whole thing wore off it turns out it is just another series. And it gets in the way of how often a team plays the teams in the other divisions, which is a hell of a lot more important when it comes to deciding the best team in each league.

Besides, for every Mets-Yankees and Cubs-White Sox series, you also get handed Pirates-Royals and Reds-Mariners. And just how is that exciting?

And while we're at it...

The Wild Card and expanded playoffs in MLB. When this started in 1995 it took away one of my arguments of why baseball is such a better game than other American sports. After a 162-game season if you can't win your division, tough luck. No rewards for second place. Not only did this new system ruin any chance for any more of those great pennant races between two great teams and make the post-season way too long, but we also get some really weak-ass teams in the playoffs that shouldn't be there. It is only a matter of time we get a team with a losing record in the playoffs, as is so commonplace in basketball. (Why do they even have a regular season in the NBA when practically every team makes the playoffs?)

The Steinbrenner family. Just when you thought there couldn't possibly be a bigger prick in baseball than Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, along comes his son Hank. That whole family seems to have jackass in the genes.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Album Review: Who Killed Amanda Palmer?

I've never made any secret of the fact that I think one of the two best bands to pop up on the scene this decade is The Dresden Dolls. (The other one is Rilo Kiley)

Certainly one of the most creative and unique bands to come around in a while, who else is doing "Brechtian punk cabaret" music?

With such a creative songwriting talent, I was looking forward to lead singer/piano player Amanda Palmer's solo album, the oddly titled Who Killed Amanda Palmer? Even more exciting, the album was to be produced by Ben Folds.

Unfortunately, as an album it is something of a disappointment despite some fantastic moments. At its best moments the record really flies with some great melodies, lyrics and imagery on tracks like Astronaut, Leeds United, the beautiful rocker Guitar Hero and my personal favorite, the wonderful teenage-viewpoint storytelling of Oasis.

But filled in between these tracks is the drudgery of songs like Ampersand and Blake Says, which were really surprising songs in the fact that I didn't think Amanda Palmer was capable of doing something so utterly boring.

These are not the worst moments on the album. Much worse than those is the really self indulgent cover of What's The Use Of Wond'rin from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel that makes one wonder what the hell the point is.

The album really bottoms out with the performance art-like opening of Strength Through Music, a song that is not half bad except for the fact that it begins with what must be the most ridiculously pretentious minute in the history of pop music.

Walking up to the line of self-indulgent pretentiousness without crossing over it is something The Dresden Dolls have been doing since their first record, but on this album Amanda takes the huge leap on more than one occasion on this record.

(To be sure, the Dolls cross that line on many occasions at their live shows, but they keep it in check on their albums)

The big question I have about this though is, why make this record? The sound is in no way a serious departure from that of her regular band. And when one half of that band is the best drummer in the business, why record tracks with Ben Folds at the kit?

In many ways, this album is a lot like The Dresden Dolls' most recent release, an album of outtakes called No, Virginia...

That one also suffers from a combination of great or really good tracks, including an awesome cover of Pretty In Pink, and a bunch of throwaways.

It's too bad. Take the best tracks of these two records and we would have had a really kick ass new Dresden Dolls album instead of a couple of mediocre CDs that require too much use of the skip button.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Newsman Hate

I've got just one thing I'm hating today, besides my mother. (Don't even get me started. I found out she believed and forwarded that awful email going around lying about what was in Michelle Obama's Princeton thesis, basically accusing Mrs. Obama of being a "black power" racist. It is one of the most disgusting things I've seen in all of the awful slander being thrown at that family. It looks like something written by the KKK)

But bitching about my mother will do none of us any good at this point, so I'll just stick with one item for today's hate list, which I'll also post over at my political co-blog.

Here's who I'm really annoyed with today:

Scott Pelley. The hiring of Pelley as a correspondent for 60 Minutes marked a low point for the news magazine, at least until they tragically let the fluffy Katie Couric sit at the adults' table.

Pelley's interview last night with John McCain was infuriating. He doesn't lob softball questions, he gently arcs badminton shuttlecocks at perfect spiking level.

As to be expected, McCain made sure to take every opportunity, no matter what the question was, to: a) Bring up his five years in a prison camp in Hanoi and: b) make false accusations about Barack Obama's record and his own record.

And what does Pelley do, especially when McCain tells lies about Barack Obama? He moves on to the next topic.

It's not like McCain said anything new that Pelley wasn't able to check on right away. McCain came out with all the same stupid talking points he's been saying for weeks now, stuff that Pelley could have easily had follow-up questions to challenge McCain on his claims.

McCain claims that Obama has never reached across the aisle to to work with the other party, despite there being a mountain of evidence to the contrary for both his time in the Illinois Senate and the U.S. Senate. Pelley says nothing.

McCain says Obama is the most liberal Senator based on "his voting record." It should have been pointed out that Obama was called that by a right-wing magazine attack machine, the same one that called Kerry the most liberal in 2004 (gee, what a coincidence), and that their survey has been easily discredited due to the fact that they just pick and choose which votes to count in the survey.

Hell, you wouldn't even have to go through all of that. Just mention that the U.S. Senate still includes both Bernie Sanders, a self-described Socialist, and Ted Kennedy to make the point that it is kind of a silly accusation.

But did Pelley do either?

Even in his own record McCain tells really big lies and Pelley can't bring himself to challenge the Senator. He asked McCain how his administration would be different from Bush's and two of the things he mentioned were torture and the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

Did Pelley then ask him why, if that were true, he has either voted "no" or not even voted every time the 9/11 Commission recommendations came before the Senate and that he also voted against the bill banning torture?

Do I have to answer that question for you?


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Anatomically Correct Dad

The wife and I were in the Poconos over the weekend, we got a free stay at an all-inclusive resort because she was invited to give a presentation. A bizarre experience this place, mostly because we felt like we were on the Love Boat in the middle of NE Pennsylvania, with all the activities, the assigned tables for meals and the REALLY HAPPY people that work there.

Maybe I'll expand on that some other time. This post is about something else I heard while I was there.

I used this trip as a chance to do some swimming and hot-tubbing since I don't often get to indulge in either.

I was in the men's locker room getting changed into my swimsuit for my second trip to the pool that day when a guy roughly my age walked in with his young son. They were just finishing their trip to the pool.

The kid was about 4 years-old, an age when parents are generally trying to guide their kids in doing things instead of doing everything for them. And his dad was really laid back and patient, asking his son if he wanted to take a shower or just change into his clothes without rinsing off.

After he asked the kid about three or four times, his son decided he just wanted to dry off and put his clothes on. So the father said OK and started instructing his son on what to do.

"Take off your trunks and dry yourself with the towel. Make sure you get all over."

I think the kid then started to put the towel down without being sufficiently dry.

"No, make sure you dry off everywhere son. Make sure you get your testicles."

Man, how awesome is that dad? A parent that actually uses the correct terminology for genitalia with his kid.

I have always been annoyed with parents that use silly terms for genitals when talking to their kids, like "privates" or "thingy." (The latter is an especially annoying way of doing it.)

It was so refreshing to hear a parent not treat the right word for his kid's genitals as if it were the same as the vulgar term for it. Too many parents are the type that are aghast if you say something like "vagina" in front of their child and act like you just said the dirtiest word in the world. This is why Eve Ensler had so many problems advertising her play The Vagina Monologues in smaller-town newspapers.

So kudos to this dad. I don't think I knew what a testicle was until I was in 8th grade. I learned all the other words (both childish and vulgar) for girls' and boys' equipment by that age. Just not the correct ones.

I seem to remember that by dad somehow thought that "nut sack" was a good term to use for my testicles. And I'm pretty sure that my penis was referred to as either my "thing" or a "wiener."

When we were kids, my sister had a "coochie."

I'm pretty sure that's the word my mother still uses for vagina.

This is what I learned to call genitalia growing up.

How dumb is that?


Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday Hate - Word Special

Today I was thinking of words I hate. Here are a few:

Arguably. This is one of the absolutely worst words around, and newspaper writers seem to love to use it. Look, either something is or isn't the best, most, top, strongest, whatever; or it isn't. Don't be such a wus and and just commit to an opinion.

Elitist. Absolutely the dumbest of all the insults being thrown around this political season. It is usually a way to malign someone for being too smart. This year it has taken on an extra special meaning: Uppity nigger.

Belittle. I gotta say, I don't really have a good argument for hating this word. It is just that my mother used this one waaaaaayyy too much when we were growing up. Anytime you said anything that she saw as a criticism, she would say you were "belittling" her. It was belittle this and belittle that all the time from that crazy loon. Would it have killed her to buy a dictionary and learn the word condescend (which is what she really meant much of the time) or maybe disparage, just to mix things up a little bit?

Folk or Folks. Don't get me wrong, when put in front of something like "music" or "art" folk is a perfectly good word. But as Susan Jacoby asks in her new book, The Age of American Unreason, when exactly did we all suddenly become folk instead of people? This has become the way to refer to the general populace, as "folks" rather than people or citizens. Listening to Barack Obama, former president of the Harvard Law Review, use the word folks all the time makes my ears hurt every time he does it. I know he's trying to appeal to the moron masses, but can't he stop dumbing down his speech and just refer to everyone as people? He's running for President of The United States, not the Sheriff of Mayberry.

(Jacoby makes a great point in her book by asking her reader to imagine Lincoln at Gettysburg saying "Government of the folk, by the folk, for the folk..." Just points out the idiocy of the whole thing, doesn't it?)

Numb-nuts. Of all the childish names my brother called me growing up, this one has never made any sense top me. Why is it an insult to have chilly testicles? I'm not sure he even knew what he was calling me. It had the word nuts in it so I guess that was good enough for the simpleton that is my older brother.

Antidisestablishmentarianism. Is this word actually used in any way other than as the answer to a fourth grade trivia question?


Monday, September 08, 2008

Monday Hate With A Touch Of Love

All right, time for my weekly hate list. But this week I'll wrap it up with something that I'm just lovin' right now

But first, the hate:

New York Parents. It pains me that I'm soon going to be a member of this group. There seems to be a narcissistic disease that kicks in when you have a small child in this city. They are one of the most annoying things about living in this city. If they are not running you down on the sidewalk with their over-sized strollers, they are pushing their kid out into oncoming traffic while talking on their cell phone. When their kid needs his hat straightened they'll park the stroller across the the entire sidewalk, because pulling it to the side is just too much fucking trouble, while they take their precious time tending to the little one. The rest of the world, namely the people trying to use the sidewalk, be damned.

They don't even need to have strollers to block the sidewalk. If you live in this city you have to try to make sure you don't walk by one of the schools when it's about to let out. I think every single parent and their nanny is camped outside on the sidewalk waiting for their rug rat. And by camped out I mean they are standing around drinking their Starbucks and blocking the sidewalk. And walking their kids home, oh boy. Just today I got stuck behind two mothers walking their broods home, about five kids stretched out across the entire sidewalk between the two moms, walking as slow as Tim Conway's old man character from the Carroll Burnett Show. I had shown up at the corner, from a different direction, at almost the same time as them. One of the mothers looked straight at me, saw me with my rolling grocery basket, and instead of letting me go first, made their kids jump ahead real quick to get in front of me.

So there I was stuck behind little kids and moms side by side like the Monkees, walking at a snail's pace, with me unable to get around. Both mothers each looked back and saw me, neither made an attempt to let me go around. Wouldn't want to do anything that might disturb their precious babies.

Getting back to my building, a place crawling with annoying parents, I have to put up with kids who get on the elevator and press several floors, as they are going through that fascination with buttons phase.

Their clueless parents find them so cute. I do not. I find stopping at four extra floors where no one gets on or off something different than cute.

These are just some of the examples of dealing with the most self-centered group of people in all of Manhattan on a daily basis.

I hope to god there is a vaccine for this plague.

Unsolicited Advice. Man I've been getting a lot of this lately. With my wife expecting a baby next month, I have had a steady stream of pointless pointers from so many people even though I never asked the question.

There is something about so many parents that they seem to think just because they have a kid they know exactly what you are experiencing and exactly the "right" choices you should make. About everything. Geeze, I managed to knock up my wife without anyone else's help, I think between the two of us and some classes and books by actual professionals we can figure this out.

Oh, and I don't count those fucking hippie "doulas" among the list of professionals. The most fraudulent profession since palm reader and Cato Institute fellow.

OK, I got that off my chest, now for the thing that has just been making me giddy lately:

The Yankees Sucking. Opening the sports section today was such a pleasure. The dreaded New York Yankees are in fourth place after losing last night. Hehehehehehehe-hahahahahaha-hohohohohohohoh!

The only thing better than your own team winning is the Yankees losing. Knowing that Jeter and Rodriquez are going to miss the playoffs altogether this year is soooooooo satisfying. It more than makes up for the fact that my Atlanta (racist mascot)s are sucking hard this season.

There IS joy in Mudville.

My Yankee-fan brother-in-law will now boycott my blog for, oh, about the next week or so. Sorry man, had to be done. To awesome to ignore.


Friday, September 05, 2008

The Moment Of Realization

I spent almost the entire day yesterday looking up , researching and calling pediatricians. I thought finding a decent dentist for myself was hard, trying to find a doctor for your unborn child is mind-numbing experience.

Like most New Yorkers, we wanted to find a pediatrician within walking distance of home, just like the deli or the natural foods store. The problem with that for us is that we live on the Upper East Side/Lenox Hill. It is really hard to find a good peds doc in this neighborhood that is taking new patients. This area is just crawling with small children and the good pediatricians on our insurance plan are all booked. Or, even more frustrating when calling them, we find out that there are several listed on our plan that no longer accept new patients from our specific insurance plan, only taking it for continuing patients.

After hours of looking onto alternatives in our neighborhood and finding nothing but doctors who didn't take our insurance, had really bad reviews from parents or went to questionable foreign medical schools, I was left with one choice in the neighborhood. The local big university hospital peds clinic.

Those of you who have gone to these kind of places for your own doctor know how frustrating they can be. The staff at these institutions is usually made up of a bunch of fat women more interested in what kind of donuts are in the break room than actually helping patients. These are the kind of places that you call and tell them you are peeing blood and shooting fire out of your rectum and they tell you there is an opening in about three-and-a-half weeks. And then when you are there you have to wait for 2 hours until the doctor finally sees you. But if you are five minutes late yourself they tell you that you have to reschedule.

I hate dealing with these institutions. The only reason I see a doctor at one is because I don't need to go there very often. But do you know how often you have to take a kid to the pediatrician in the first couple of years of their life? I'm looking at eight damn doctor's visits minimum over the next year alone, I'm not spending them with grouchy women with powdered sugar on their face.

So we finally found a good place, we think, on the Upper West Side. Yes, that would be the other side of town, for you non-New York people.

This whole episode caused what would be considered my first parental headache. I didn't think that would come until she was a teenager.

Then my wife got home and had with her our first delivery of the eco-friendly G-Diapers, in a box almost as big as my wife. Which is about a week's worth of diapers. I just recently learned how much newborns poop, which by my calculations seems to be about their entire body weight every single day.

Looking at the cute little orange, reusable liner, chemical free, biodegradable insert diapers, it suddenly dawned on me, "HOLY CRAP! This is really happening."

This self-centered, lazy, overly-opinionated, and driftless ass-hole is going to be responsible for another life soon. A really small, helpless life. Really damn soon.



Thursday, September 04, 2008


Hey everyone!

Since I never really wanted to let this blog become a totally political place on the web, I don't want to pigeonhole myself, yet I really want to rant a lot about politics lately with the election coming up, I now have another outlet. A couple of guys I know in Seattle and I have started a group blog to be the place where we put most of our political stuff during this election season.

We are calling it The Savvy, The Extreme & The Idealist. We'll leave it to you to figure out who is what in our trio.

Anyway, give us a visit and please leave comments. It should be a good way to vent about all the crap that will be happening over the next two months.

My first post is up now, as well as the Beigey's first one and the welcome message.

Game on!


Monday, September 01, 2008

Monday Hate List

Oh man, I forgot it was Monday today. Hopefully I'll get this in under the wire...

I have only one thing I'm hating today:

Hypocrisy. I know, I know, professing a distaste for hypocrisy does not exactly put me in a class by myself. But with the general election season officially underway we are going to be seeing a lot of it in the coming months, and it has already begun.

John McCain - a misogynistic pig who is against reproductive rights and equal pay for women, and is well known for telling mean-spirited jokes making fun of the looks of women he finds unattractive, including innocent teenage girls - chooses a woman as his running mate and suggest that women should vote for him because those dirty Democrats are sexist for not nominating Hillary. The woman he picked, someone who belongs to the oxymoronic organization Feminists For Life, paraded her family around the stage at the rally to announce her nomination. Like all politicians, she was using her family to advance her career. But then it is suddenly discovered that her 17-year-old is five months pregnant and now Governor Palin is requesting that we respect the privacy of her children.

Excuse me, but if you start off by not respecting the privacy of your own children, you don't get to then demand it from everyone else. (And don't even get me started on how the press has so far decided to ignore the irony that Palin is against comprehensive sex education - the usual crap about it encouraging underage sex - and praises the virtue of abstinence-only sex ed. That's a blog for another day)

Not that the other side doesn't pull the same silliness. Barack Obama let his daughters be interviewed by some fluffy magazine and he later decided he didn't like them being exposed like that, so he declared them off-limits from now on. That didn't stop him from using his cute-as-a-button little girls and their precious charms at the convention for his own political purpose.

Sorry, but you don't get it both ways. Use your family to sell yourself and your agenda, all bets are off. If the Bush girls get to do their little giggly introduction of Dad at a political event, then Dad doesn't get to bitch about the picture of them falling down drunk at a bar popping up in the paper.

(And again, it's a different issue, but Palin's daughter as an example of the fallacy of her sex education agenda wouldn't be off limits either way)

You either want to keep your family life private or you don't. Pick one and stick to it.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Childhood Lessons

I was watching my usual gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Democratic National Convention last night. I know it is nothing more than a precisely choreographed infomercial with fake drama and I shouldn't give credence to such things, especially being the anti-party, independent voter that I am. But I can't help it, I am an admitted political junkie. I'll even watch the Nazi....err, I mean Republican Convention next week. Only for that one I'll have to change the channel several times a night as my blood pressure rises and I can feel my neck veins about to pop out because of the stupid crap that will be flowing forth from the mouths of morons.

Anyway, that's not my point today.

I was watching Joe Biden's speech last night and he pointed out his mother in the audience, then went on to talk about the important things in life she taught him. One of those lessons was the usual thing about how nobody was better than him and he wasn't better than anyone else.

Now I understand why parents tell their kids this, and there is probably a good chance that I will try to impart the same lesson on my soon-to-be-born daughter. I want her to have the confidence in herself that I was lacking as a kid without the cockiness of a spoiled brat. The simplicity of the "good as anyone, not better than anyone" lesson is probably a really effective way of imparting this.

But isn't this a pretty dishonest thing we tell our children? And won't they realize that we were blowing smoke, eventually, after they get older and have more life experience?

Aren't lots of people better than other people? By the same token, aren't lots of people lesser humans than others?

Name anyone and I can name someone who is better than that person and someone who is worse than them. Except for maybe Hitler, I doubt I could think of anyone worse than Hitler.

Isn't accepting the fact that some people are better than you a part of being a grown-up? Knowing that you are a better person than some others is also just a fact of life, not always an uppity attitude.

I have no problem accepting that Martin Luther King, Paul Robeson, John Lewis, Sargent Shriver, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, my wife and the founding doctors of Médecins Sans Frontières are/were better people than myself.

I also know I'm a better human being than Stalin, John Gotti, Dick Cheney, Robert Mugabe, Mother Theresa, Cindy McCain, Vladimir Putin, Ralph Reed, the entire Bush family and all 265 guys that have been the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

Each list is a lot longer, of course. These were the ones I thought of off the top of my head.

I don't believe that not thinking of myself as equal to the people on each list is a bad thing.

But I'm sure that won't stop me from feeding my daughter that other line of crap.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Better Hate Than Never

I almost forgot to restart my regular Monday Hate feature after getting home from my trip. Looks like I'll get it in just under the wire...

Well, I had a great time in the absolutely beautiful country that is Taiwan, so my list of things I'm hating this week won't be too long. But I've got a couple.

Coach seating on an international flight. Sure, sitting in coach is not great no matter where you fly. But on a flight lasting about 13 or 14 hours, it is absolutely inhumane. There should be a law that all flights lasting more than 6 hours should have a bar on them. A real bar, where you could hang out and mingle with people and listen to some nice jazz or something.

The fact that I don't know a foreign language. Traveling always reminds me that I'm a lazy American who never put in the time or effort to learn to speak something besides English.

Hillary supporters who say they will vote for McCain. Great idea! You are so pissed off about her not getting the nomination that you'll vote for a guy who has an anti-feminist agenda and will load the Supreme Court with guys who will for sure take away every single one of your reproductive rights. Just brilliant! If there was ever an argument for taking away some people's right to vote...


Friday, August 22, 2008

Belgian Hypocrisy

I love the Olympics. Or rather, I love the idea of the Olympics. The idea of the youth of all the countries of the world coming together in the spirit of friendly competition just warms my heart.

But I can't watch this year.

What has happened leading up to and during these Games is exactly what those of us who were against China being awarded them in the first place said would happen. Which is basically that China continues to act like China and they don't give a rat's ass what the rest of the world thinks about that.

The International Olympic Committee told us when they awarded China the Olympics that this would be a way to bring them into the mainstream of the world and that they would improve their human rights record, give more press freedom, fix their pollution problem, make the world a sunnier place for gumdrops and rainbows and sugarplums and blah blah blah...

They supposedly got a lot of promises from China about these issues, so the IOC told us. About how many of these promises did China keep do you think? I'll give you a hint, it is a number between 1 and -1.

China certainly pretended to keep promises, as they are wont to do. They did, in fact, set up three locations for public protests to take place during the games, albeit far from the venues where any athletes or fans would actually see them. And anyone wanting to use them would have to get a government permit. But hey, it's a step, right? Wrong.

Out of a reported 300+ permit applications, not a single one has been approved. And any Chinese citizen that has applied for one has been arrested and taken off to reeducation camps, including two very frail elderly women, or they have just simply disappeared.

And this doesn't even count the dissidents that were gathered up before the Olympics. Then there is the brutal crack down in Tibet, a country that China has illegally occupied and oppressed for over 50 years, as well as China's continued support for the regime that is conducting genocide on the people of Darfur and the military junta that continues to crush the people of Burma.

And Beijing still has the foulest air in the world.

So with all this going on, what has IOC President Jacques Rogge's panties in such a bunch that he feels the need to speak out? The way some kid from Jamaica celebrates after a race. Really. He has kept completely silent as the host country of his Games continues the wholesale oppression of its own citizens, as well as those of other countries. But some runner gets a little too exuberant after a race and suddenly the man who had a major hand in giving the Olympics to one of the worst human rights-violating nations in the world is offended.

What a morally empty human being.

Rogge said that sprinter Usian Bolt should "show more respect for his competitors."

Well Mr. Rogge, maybe you should show more respect for the suffering people of China, Tibet, Darfur and Burma; and to human decency.

Until then, you've got no right.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Formosa Bound

I'm off to Taiwan for two weeks for a business trip. When this message posts, I'll be in Seoul for my layover between flights. No way in hell I'll be blogging while I'm gone. So expect nothing from me before August 21st, at the earliest.

Don't like to leave my wife right in the middle of pregnancy, but this was a great opportunity. Besides, she has been rockin' cool and supportive about the whole trip since the possibility first came up.

I married well.

I'll talk to you when I get back.


Monday, August 04, 2008


No Monday Hate post today. Just a moment of silence for long-time Atlanta Braves sportscaster Skip Carey, who died yesterday.

In my screwed up childhood I had music as an escape, something I've written about too much before. But I also had baseball in Atlanta. I basically grew up in Atlanta-Fulton County stadium during the summer. And when the Braves were on the road we listened to Skip Carey call the games. He started as the Braves broadcaster the same year my family moved to Atlanta when I turned six. Skip is a big part of the soundtrack of the good part of my childhood.

My mom and my (1st) step-dad had painted a huge fishing net red and made a banner that said Barry's Basket, for outfielder Barry Bonnell. Yes, we were that dorky family. Skip Carey nicknamed my parents Mr. and Mrs. Fishnet.

At least he did in my memory as an 8-year-old. I may have completely made that up.

I do know that, the Braves being a completely sucky team for so many years, in the middle of a particularly bad losing streak that he once said at the beginning of a game something along the lines of, "Like lambs to the slaughter, here come the Braves."

Thanks from the 8 year-old me, Skip.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Accelerate - Or: You Can Go Back To Rockville

I really love the newest REM album, Accelerate. I really do. I had pretty much expected to never say those words again. A happy surprise.

It took me a while to come around to the fact that I really like the new album, which is why I'm only mentioning this now. Why did it take me so long? Well, my relationship with REM over the last decade or so has been somewhat damaged. Buying a new REM record had become an exercise in disappointment and anger.

I know anger seems a bit strong, but let me explain why.

Anybody who knows me knows that I have had an absolute love of the boys from Athens since I was about 14 years old. They were my best friends in high school, for reasons I've written about before (here and here). But the things that have come out of them lately severely tested the bonds of friendship.

Let's come up with an analogy of what its been like buying REM albums over the last several years, shall we?

Imagine you are at home and your best friend is on the way over. You are excited as hell, as you haven't seen him for a while, and you can't wait until he arrives.

The doorbell rings and you leap to greet your very favorite person in the world. You open the door with great anticipation...

...And your best friend swiftly kicks you in the nuts.

"What the fuck was that? What the heck is wrong with him?"

On the next visit he kicks you in the nuts again. Harder.

After that you start to question if you should even answer the door. But he's your best friend, maybe he's just having some problems. You should stick with him through thick and thin, that's what best friends do.

You don't even tell people that he's been kicking you in the nuts, even though others have asked you if something is wrong with him lately. They point out that he doesn't seem himself. You claim to not have noticed and even go as far as telling everyone that he's as cool and awesome as he's ever been.

You feel so dirty for lying. Not so much for lying to others, but to yourself.

On the next visit from your best friend you have your hands over your nuts, ready for the kick. But you still answer the door in hopes he won't do it again and your friend will be back to normal.

This time he pokes you in the eyes, you move your hands to your head and he kicks you in the nuts again. Really freaking hard.

At that point you finally smarten up and stop answering the door. You can only keep your hands over your crotch for so long and you know he's going to kick when you let your guard down. It's best not to hang out with your best friend anymore. You've got pictures and memories, that should be enough.

In the ensuing years you hear how he's doing. It seems that he was pissing off a lot of people besides you, as a lot of his old friends have abandoned him. He's been seen hanging out with a different, and much smaller, crowd. A more pretentious one that likes to smoke cloves and listen to Philip Glass music. You don't even like knowing such things. It makes you sad.

You figure your best friend is lost to you forever.

But then other friends start telling you that he's come back from the wilderness. They claim he has stopped kicking his friends in the nuts. You want to believe, but can you? It's been over seven years since you stopped answering the knock on the door. Can you ever be friends again?

So you invite him over. You put on a cup and a face mask.

He comes to the door and there is no nut-kicking right away. You sit and have cocktails and conversation. He is saying lots of nice things, and it seems like old times in some ways. But you are having a hard time concentrating on what he's saying or trusting him because all you can think about is the times that he kicked you in the nuts.

So you don't let your guard down for a long time, keeping your hands over your nuts and not trusting completely that he isn't there to kick you again. Eventually you come around to the fact that he really is just there to hang out with you and be your friend again.

And that's why it took me so long to realize that the new REM album is fantastic.

Welcome back, friend.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Yaz Fans Are Stupid Poseurs

The week before last was a great week of concert-going for me. The wife and I saw Robyn Hitchcock out in Ridgewood, NJ on Saturday and then I saw him again on Tuesday and Wednesday. Great shows, and I met some great people there, fellow music/Robyn geeks like me. I am trying to write something about those nights in a different format than my blog, that's why I haven't gushed over those shows here. I'll let you know if something comes of it.

The week was rounded out by my wife and I going to see Yaz on Thursday and then the Broadway show Passing Strange on Saturday night, which was pretty much like going to a rock concert.

We were really looking forward to the Yaz show. Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke only made two albums as Yaz before breaking up and going on to a solo career (Moyet) and forming Erasure (Clarke) so we never got to see them live back in the day. They are doing a short reunion tour so there was no chance we would miss it.

And it was a really good show. Alison Moyet's voice sounds as good as it ever did and since it is electro-pop Vince can't really fuck up playing the music. You don't really screw up a chord or anything when you are playing a pre-programed computer.

To be able to see a group that was such a huge part of the soundtrack of my youth was just so awesome in an 80s tubular kind of way. I which I could say the same about the crowd.

I really expected that the audience would just be a bunch of middle-aged ex-dance club kids from the 80s, and while they were certainly represented, it was not the bulk of the crowd. I couldn't believe how many scenesters were infesting the crappy space known as Terminal 5.

(If you haven't been to Terminal 5, it looks like a three-tiered prison block or something out of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. They also only open one exit when the concert is over and it can take 25 minutes just to get out even though they have doors on all sides of the space)

Normally when I'm in a place filled with gay boys I'm having a good time because I always have a good time hangin' with the gays. Unfortunately, Terminal 5 was full of a bunch of Chelsea poseurs and their fag hags who were more interested in being noticed at the show than actually listening to it. The first sign we were in trouble was the fact that so many people were screaming the lyrics as loud as they could, seemingly trying to prove they knew the words more than the next guy. If they weren't singing they were turning to their friend and talking really loud, right in the middle of the song.

At one point Yaz brought the mood down for one of their softer, lesser known songs. Winter Kills is a number that really lets Moyet show off her powerful voice and she was kicking ass singing it. Yet at least half the crowd was talking at that point. I mean really talking. If you had walked in to the show not knowing who they were, you would have sworn it was the opening band. You know what I'm talking about, an unknown - or not so good - opening band is on the stage and the place basically sounds like a bar with music playing in the background. That's what it was like. During the band that everyone there paid 65 bucks to see!

And then there were the pictures. Good fucking lord, people would not stop taking pictures. There was a girl right by us that took several pictures during every single song. I'm talking an average of at least ten shots during every number. Some people were even posing in front of the cameras, so it would be a picture of them at the Yaz show.

It seemed like so many people were there to be seen instead of listen to a great music group (I'm loathe to use the word "band" since it is just a guy with a computer, not that there is anything wrong with that). I wish they would have stayed at Polly Esther's Culture Club where they belong.

I'm willing to bet that these annoying ass holes can't name half of the songs played that night.

But hey, at least they have about a hundred pictures of a singer standing in front of a microphone. Whatever that's worth.

Damn hipsters sure know how to ruin a good time.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Hate - Fashion Edition

For this week's hate list I decided to go with a fashion theme. Here are things that people wear that I find utterly annoying.

Baseball caps with the little gold sticker still attached. Have you seen this? Every hip-hopper-wannabe leaves this sticker, which is nothing more than the authentication tag, on the the bill of the hat. It has got to be the stupidest looking thing since wearing your waistband around your knees.

Hey hip-hop guys, you know this has been done before right, wearing a hat with the tag still attached? Her name was Minnie Pearl. So way to go, great fashion trend you're following there.

Izod-type shirts with the collars turned up. This is really common here on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where Yuppie culture has seemed to survive. I will see these guys wearing shorts, deck shoes without socks, Top Gun-style sunglasses on top of their heads and these shirts with upturned collars, often in the most ugly pink and/or green color.

I guess I didn't get the memo that we leaped back to 1986. Seriously, you Yuppies need to get a new look. The whole James Spader from Pretty In Pink thing is maybe a little outdated, don't ya think?

Shorts with a belt and a tucked-in t-shirt. Really? You think this is a good look for you? Look, either dress up or don't dress up. But don't think just because you tuck in your "Alpha Omega Rush Week '98" shirt that you are dressed nice. By the way, leaving the shirt un-tucked would go a lot farther in covering up your middle-aged gut.

Men with gold chains. I know you think it makes you look tough, but it really just makes you look like a dork.

A shirt proclaiming to be "The World's Best" or the "#1" Dad/Mom/Grandma/Grandpa or anything like that. How many of those do you think were given to anyone by an actual kid? I would bet zero.

This new trend of women wearing outfits that look like maternity clothes. How the hell is a guy supposed to know if he should offer his seat to a young lady on the subway if you can't tell the difference between the pregnant women and the fashionable ones? It's madness, I tell you! Madness!


Monday, July 21, 2008

If It's Monday, I Must Be Hating

I'm in a good mood this week, so I think this list will be kind of short. But I can always think of something that is bugging me....

Diplomat drivers. Walk around anywhere close to the U.N. building and you'll see that pretty much every fire hydrant has a car parked in front of it. Then look at the license plates to those cars and you'll see that they all have diplomatic plates. Then when they almost drive you down in a crosswalk and yell at you like it's your fault, you'll be blogging about it on Monday. Ass holes.

Broadway houses. Pay in excess of 100 bucks to be shoved into an old, run down theatre with no lobby space, an inadequate number of bathrooms, seats that are the perfect size for a person four feet tall and get treated like shit by the house manager. Let the good times roll!

Manhattan on a hot and muggy July afternoon. I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating.

Though this caused me to find something I love more than life itself - a mango slush in Chinatown. So it turned out to be not so bad of a day.

I know I'm breaking my own hate-blog rules with that last one. I told you I was in a good mood.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Bimbos On A Plane!

A couple of Wednesday afternoons ago I was at the San Antonio airport waiting to catch my flight home from the conference I was attending. When I booked my ticket months earlier it I didn't even think about the fact that I would be traveling two day before the 4th of July weekend. Needless to say, the airport was a zoo.

As we got closer to boarding time they announced that the flight was overbooked and asked for volunteers to be bumped. I jumped at the chance for some free airfare. When they first announced it they said the credit would be $350, but by the time I got up there they had raised it to $500 to entice more people. They could not get me on another flight to New York that day, but could get me out the next morning and put me up in a hotel that night as well as buy me dinner. Oh, and the only seats available on those flights were in first class.

Pretty much a no-brainer.

So I spent my night at the airport Hilton and watched the Rays beat the Yankees on the big screen at the hotel bar. A good day all the way around.

Up early the next morning for my flight to Houston where I would change for the flight to Laguardia. First flight was uneventful and we were only in the air for 38 minutes. I was sitting on the aisle in the first row, so for the first time in my life I was actually the very first person off of a plane. It was kind of weird.

After about an hour-long wait in Houston I boarded my New York-bound plane. This time I was in the fourth row. I was sitting there reading my book when the person with the seat assignment next to me showed up. It was this woman wearing pink sweatpants and sweatshirt carrying two big purse-like bags and a tiger-pattern fur blanket. She was all a fluster when she squeezed into the window seat and plopped her stuff on the floor.

She had long straight dyed-blonde hair, skin that spent way too much time in the sun and too much makeup on her face. As she squeezed by me I could see that she had her pink sweatpants pulled up as tight as they would go to make sure the complete outline of her ass was there for everyone to see. One would presume, though I didn't not see, that she must have also had quite a cameltoe going. When she took off her sweatshirt, I noticed she had on a black t-shirt with large, graffiti-like letters on it. I was afraid to look, knowing that it was going to say something like "porn star," "bitch," "slut" or "juicy" on it.

It turned out to be "juicy."

She was talking over people's heads to another blond in the second row, it seemed there was a group of them travelling together who didn't get seats next to one another. The one in the second row had gotten on the plane before the one next to me and had actually walked down the plane looking for her seat before finally coming back and finding the right aisle. Seriously, I know that those signs with the row numbers can be small, but if you are in row #2 and get lost you are a major idiot.

So they close the door and make all the usual announcements about turning off electronic devices, stowing your crap, putting your seat up and fastening your belt tight across your lap. This is when the bimbo pulls out her iPod, turns it on, pops the headphones in her ear, puts her seat back and loosens her belt so she can turn to lay sideways. Neither of her bags were under the seat, just on the floor at her feet.

After we took off, and were told we could use our electronic devices, I put my headphones on and kept reading. Soon after, the girl decided to talk to me.

"Did they say we could get up yet."
"Well, the seat belt light is still on, so I don't think so," I answered.
"I really need to pee," she said.

Like I cared. What I wanted to say to her was, "You haven't actually followed any of the rules since you got on the plane, so why do you care now?"

But I resisted.

I thought that would be the end of it but she decided, for some unknown reason, to try to make small talk with me. She asked me if I was from Texas or New York, why I was in Texas, what I did for a living, blah, blah, blah...

I gave her the shortest answers I could and didn't ask her anything, assuming she was just a trust-fund baby from Texas. And I didn't care.

She asked me about the Hamptons, she and her friends had rented a house out there for the weekend. Specifically, she wanted to know if people were nice there or shitty New Yorkers, asking me to compare it to South Beach in Miami or L.A., her example of awesome places to hang out.

I said something like, "Well, people are just as shallow in the Hamptons as those other places, so you'll probably like it."

I was fully prepared for a slap to the face, but it would have been worth it.

She didn't even get what I said. She actually seemed relieved and said, "cool!"

One thing I should mention. This chick was not around 18 or 20 as the pulled tight pink pants, "juicy" shirt, bleached hair and general air-headedness would lead you to believe. No, this as somebody who looked to be about her late 30s. She could have possibly been in her early 30s and just aged badly due to the tanning and the cigarettes, but still.

I hated these kind of bimbos when I was in my 20s and they only get more and more annoying as I get older

I'm always happy to come home to my wife when I'm away, but I've never been more appreciative of the woman who puts up with living with me after that encounter.

But I'm also reminded how hard it is for women. For every step forward taken for womankind by professional, smart, educated and hardworking women like my wife, there are narcissistic boy-toy bimbos taking them two steps back.

And I know it's not even the bimbos' fault. It's the fault of the too many men who prefer the dumb slut over the smart, accomplished woman. If it wasn't for those jackasses there would be a lot less bimbos in the world.

And I wouldn't have to be so annoyed when I fly.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Another Day, Another Hate List

What am I hating this week? I'm glad you asked...

Joe Torre. Have you seen this stupid commercial he made for an insurance company? Look, I get it, he moved from New York to L.A., from a city where a lot of people get around on foot and public transportation to one where everyone drives. So along with all of the other silly stereotypes (doing yoga, writing a screenplay, etc.) he portrays in the ad, he also refers to his new life of "driving."

OK, here's the thing. Joe Torre lived in Westchester when he managed the Yankees and he drove to the park every day in one of his expensive cars. This idea that Torre was taking the subway to the park, or anywhere else for that matter, is just dumb. Every photo or video clip in of him arriving or leaving anywhere is always him in his car. I'm willing to bet that he hasn't been on the New York public transportation system in over 30 years.

Jim Carrey. Most of the time I've been a big supporter of this guy. He has been the most outspoken American celebrity on an issue that is very important to me, freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi and the liberation of Burma from the stranglehold of the illegal military junta.

But now he's shacked up with that dumb bimbo, ex-Playboy model and god-awful "writer" Jenny McCarthy. So now he has jumped on her silly "I know vaccines cause Autism despite the total lack of any actual evidence" bandwagon.

Look Jim, I know those breast implants must be a real comfortable place to rest your head every night. But just because you're sticking your dick in that skanky snatch doesn't mean you have to drink the Kool-Aid and believe her bat-shit crazy nonsense.

TMZ. Do these guys have a life? How pathetic must your existence be if you make your living by showing video of Henry Winkler getting off of a plane, Tom Hanks eating in a restaurant and making fun of female celebrities for being 5 pounds heavier than they were last summer; and calling them fat when you have a bigger gut and ass than them.. The guy who started this brain-dead organization apparently used to be a lawyer, which I guess wasn't bottom-feeding enough for him. (Apologies to my friend Megan, who does good with her law degree)

I didn't think it was possible for there to be anything dumber than People Magazine. I was wrong.

Lou Dobbs. I don't even know where to begin with this xenophobic, racist, bloviating prick. I accidentally saw five minutes of his show yesterday and I almost had an aneurysm. He claimed that Obama was an "elitist" (every person who I've heard make this charge against Obama is a millionaire member of the bourgeois) for suggesting that it would be a good idea for American schoolkids to learn a foreign language. Dobbs would prefer that our population remain uneducated and unworldly hicks. Hey Lou, how's that worked out with our country being led by one of those types for the last 7-1/2 years?

I'd like to see that ass get beat to death with a garden hoe wielded by one of the immigrants who does his lawn.


Monday, July 07, 2008

Monday Hate

Too much kindness was being heaped on me last week at a conference, but I'm back in a hateful mood once again. Here's what I'm hating this week:

People who say "They're in a better place" after someone dies. Really? Exactly how the fuck would you know, you've been? I can't imagine anything more rude and hateful to say to a loved one than telling them that their kid/parent/spouse/etc. is better off dead than being with them.

Wolf Blitzer. Of all the hack journalists out there he has got to be the hackiest. (Non-FOX News category)

Jury duty. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of the democracy and civic responsibility of jury duty. But I had to spend my whole morning in the jury pool waiting area of the New York State Civic Courthouse. And their free wi-fi blocked me from writing my blog. I didn't get picked for a jury selection room, but I still have to go back tomorrow. Sucks.

Trying to find a dentist. I just have to pick out a name from the list my insurance company provides. Jeez, I don't even go to a restaurant based just on the name.

Girls who wear t-shirts with phrases like "Juicy," "Porn Star" or "Slut" written across the front. There are parents out there who need to be kicked in the face.

Also, pants with anything written across the ass. I don't care if it says "Valedictorian," you look like a moron with writing across your ass.