Friday, November 27, 2009

happy thanksgiving!

I had a great time hanging with great friends yesterday. the day makes me not only hungover, but also grateful for said friends, and for who and what i am. it reminds me how lucky i am to have the gifts i have, the ability to connect with these people i love, and the ability to do so many of the things i want to do.

it may sound arrogant, but to all my actor/musician/artist friends, think about this: we are so lucky to be who we are. the truth is that there are a lot of people who have it a lot harder than i do, on so many levels, and who will never have the opportunities i have been given. it's good to remind myself now and then of just how lucky i really am.

however...bringing it back to a more concrete level. i do this every year, and it's probably tired and worn out for some of you, but below is william s. burroughs' 'thanksgiving prayer.' it is supercrazydepressing dark, but also honest. which is what i think i admire most about burroughs' writing: he was a twisted, freaky fucker with powerful addictions and bizarre lusts and completely insane dreams/thoughts/visions--as are we all. but he laid it all out there unflinchingly. and of course that's his secret: he was just saying shit we all imagine, in an incredibly ballsy way, especially when you think about the time period when he was at his peak.

anyway. food for thought follows:

graham chapman's memorial service

If you've been within spitting distance of me in the past few days, (sorry about that, btw) you've been lucky enough to hear me ranting about a monty python retrospective i've been watching on on demand. Terry Jones' son directed it, and it's a really cool glimpse into the lives of these amazing guys whom (who? i never can tell) i have admired since i was like 13 and stumbled across 'Holy Grail' on some late night tv station.

Anyway, i believe it's an IFC channel production. Look for it if you have any interest in them. Lots (but not enough) backstage chat, old footage, and contemporary interviews.

At any rate, i happened to see this was posted on videosift, and thought i'd share it with you. it is the most fearless, honest, sweet, and horrible eulogy ever in history, delivered by john cleese. thank god someone had the poor taste and good sense to shake up the grim ceremony.

when i die, if you happen to attend a service for me (and frankly, i hope there isn't one--just a party and some umbrellas a la a new orleans jazz funeral) please please have the poor taste to say something equally awful. :)

and, now for something completely different. This still makes me laugh.

and a sketch that is underappreciated, the four yorkshiremen. reminds me of every family reunion i've ever been to. :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

dual New Orleans post

Today my review of 'Ameriville' at Curious Theatre came out. Read it here--it's a 90-minute, spoken-word/hip hop melange of anecdotes with video accompaniment, with four actors playing a variety of roles all related to the Hurricane Katrina mess.

It was moving for me to see this, to hear some of the stories the group Universes tried to relate in the piece; it's been years since I've been back there, and I'm still a little scared to go visit, afraid that what i may find won't be the place i remember. (I mean, of course it won't be. 'You can't go home again' and all that. But I wonder how broken it is...)

Coincidentally, a ruling just came down from a federal court that found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was indeed negligent in its upkeep of the city's levees and one canal in the Lower Ninth Ward in particular, for years prior to the storm.

The story is complicated, and there is much more to it than the paper of record reports here. (Go here to read Harry Shearer's latest on the ruling, but also go back and check out his earlier posts. He is a New Orleans resident and has been a forceful, relentless voice describing the myriad injustices that have taken place there since 2005.)

The gist of this latest ruling is that over the decades of obsession with cost-cutting and budget-trimming, infrastructure like the levees that is vital to the survival of American taxpayers has been critically neglected. And, paranoia aside, can anyone honestly say that they would not at least question whether a wealthier, whiter city would have been treated differently over the years?

These were Americans who drowned, who lost their homes, their history and their futures. They paid taxes and had a reasonable expectation that their government would do the work it is assigned in return.

As a character in 'Ameriville' says: 'Are we not citizens? Are we not you?'

Monday, November 16, 2009

no-hitter...with a little assist

This is the stuff of legend. If you are any kind of baseball fan, then you have heard the story of Dock Ellis and the no-hitter he threw while tripping on acid. To me, it was always one of those semi-tall tales, a story that everyone knew, but no one could back up. Like spider eggs in Bubblicious or something.

(Does anyone else remember that? Or am I just that ancient?)

Even if you aren't a hardcore fan of baseball, you have to understand how insanely rare it is for a pitcher to throw a no-hitter. According to that Wiki thing, only 263 have ever occurred in over 130-plus years of record-keeping in the major leagues. It's not the same as a perfect game, which means no runners reaching base. (As Ellis tells the story, he pegged a couple of batters and maybe walked some as well.)

But still, it is an amazing accomplishment even for a sober, well-rested pitcher. For a guy who didn't know he was pitching that day until someone pointed out his name listed in the sports section as the starting pitcher, and who ate more than one hit of badass circa-1970 LSD to step out on the mound and pull this off is downright miraculous. Even the thought of taking the field in front of all those people under those conditions is terrifying, let alone performing.

Anyway. His recounting the story here is animated and hilarious.

Ellis died of cirrhosis complications in 2008, and RIP to a rare breed. The balls on this guy would make Hunter Thompson proud.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

hell has frozen over, folks

If you saw The Daily Show last night, you saw Jon Stewart exposing the latest in pathetic Fox Noise hackery--in covering last week's Michelle Bachman loonfest tea-bagger rally on the Hill, Stewart and his team noticed that something looked very different in various clips:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Sean Hannity Uses Glenn Beck's Protest Footage
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Now, of course it's not news that Fox lies. What's news is that, hell has frozen over. Sean Hannity has actually apologized. Er, sorta:

What's funny to me is that even in admitting his producers cut in footage of the much larger rally back in September, Hannity still can't say they deliberately misled people. He has to play this 'mistakes were made' canard, a mistake which would be really hard to do--taking old footage and running it as new. And as Chez Pazienza said on HuffPost, Hannity managed to come off as '...both contrite and a smarmy little prick.'

What's more striking to me is that he didn't really apologize to his viewers, at least not for what he should really be sorry for: assuming they are idiots. That should be the first thing he says, you would think: 'Folks, sorry we assumed you were all pathetic sheep with no will of your own or ability to think critically about anything you see here. We assumed you are so stupid you would swallow anything we dangle in front of you.'

Of course, you'll never hear that from Hannity and his ilk; they are getting rich off of that assumption, and it has served them well for a long time.

ADDENDUM: the hannity vid seems to have been nuked, but here's a link to another version, for however long it lasts.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

some randomness...

...but maybe not so random.

I admit I have been watching Mad Men lately and that may have been a jumping-off point for my brain on this. But more so I was thinking about the little notes scrawled in old books, who they meant something to. And I remembered how it was so utterly sad to me being in my mom's house after she died and seeing little notes she had jotted down to herself, lists of tasks that would go undone, people she would never call, etc.

At any rate, I woke up the other day and started spewing this. Enjoy:

The sadness of junk. It is in the lost hopes and dreams in the things we sell or give away or leave behind. This is perhaps a newish phenomenon, one birthed of the unholy post-war marriage of unprecedented wealth and unprecedented free time, combined with the ascendancy of advertising and consumer culture. But it’s a place in history to which we can point and say, ‘Here.’ Here is a moment where the record skipped, where things went off-track, where our promise and potential got stripped, hijacked, and sold off piece by piece.

The moment where we began to transition from mostly rural to the weird netherworld of suburban is also the place where things, objects began to be invested with something other than their intrinsic, utilitarian value.

It’s actually hard to imagine a world in which things might be just things--useful, nothing more. A world in which the fetishization of objects isn’t ubiquitous. But I suspect that that was the world before I was born, before the post-war boom. If you bought a new car or a new stove or a new tie, you did so because the old one no longer worked properly or was worn out. Simple. Not because you secretly held a hidden emptiness inside and suspected--albeit on a subconscious level--that owning this new thing would fulfill it.

What seems to have happened after the post-war boom had been rolling merrily along for a decade or so, is people began wondering: where is MY happiness? Why, if we have won, if we have so much, if we are able to do and have and be anything we want, why am I still not happy? Or even satisfied for any length of time? There must be more.

And the flip side of that, the place where the sadness of objects comes from is the lie we told ourselves when we bought that thing, the one thing that was going to make us happy. The new car, the new refrigerator, the new outfit--walking out of the store, everything was golden, we could see a perfectible if not a perfect world, one in which everything could be ours and we could be happy. A world where the hole inside was filled.

The sadness of junk in pawn shops and especially older stuff--estate sales, objects in the homes of grandparents who have died, scrawled notes in the flyleaf of a yellowing book--is in seeing these things as they were once seen when they were new. These things that would once save us from the gaping maw of loneliness inside, now tossed away, scorned with rueful little smiles: how could I have ever liked that?

There is a giant crack in humanity. We have pretended for decades to have the ability to fill it with things, with work, with noise, but it only grows more petulant and demanding.

The other day, an assault of news stories: here is a man who hanged his girlfriend’s kitten and videotaped himself tormenting the animal in an act of revenge against her.

Here, a story on abusive practices at Vermont feed-lots--workers tormenting animals deliberately, a shot of a calf with its front hooves cut off left to squirm and suffer in the muck, a forklift driven through living cattle to move them while workers laugh.

Here, a Colorado fourteen-year-old suspected of murdering his parents.

Now, here is a story on a crack in Africa that may someday be a new ocean, as the continental shelves slowly pull apart.

But that ocean will take millions of years to form. The gulf that is much more urgent and immediately dangerous to our species is the one inside us. One begins to suspect that the fetishization of objects--which is the very medium in which we live our daily lives--has a darker side: the concurrent objectification of living things around us, including other people.

The crack begins to spread and the lies shine through.

The sadness of junk, of things discarded is that it is in these things that we have invested our humanity.

And now we find it too is as worn-out as the sad, dusty objects we once loved.

bob dylan and tom waits backstage

er, seth macfarlane's vision.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

the not-so-great debate


Go now to buy tickets for a debate between GW Bush and Bill Clinton, taking place on Feb 25.

Er, what? Really. Isn't that a bit like staging a fight between Mike Tyson and Cicely Tyson? Between Jack the Ripper and Jackie O? Between the New Orleans Saints and Saint Francis of Assisi?

Oh and the best part: the title of the series is "Minds That Move The World"

So...many...things...wrong with that statement. Head smashing onto keyboard--commence.

(full article below)

Clinton and Bush Set Debate

Run, don't walk, to grab tickets for what's being billed as "The Hottest Ticket in Political History." Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will face off at Radio City Music Hall on February 25, as part of a "Minds That Move The World" speakers series. The program brings together liberal and conservative thinkers, such as Karl Rove, James Carville, Al Gore, Bill Maher, and Mike Huckabee. The tickets, which go on sale Sunday, are being hawked for $60 to $1,250.