Friday, December 31, 1999

Party like it's 1999 ...

The new century approaches. Happy happy, joy joy.

You know, if the turn of the last century was any indication, you might want to save the confetti.

Thursday, December 30, 1999

Mind your manners

Mind your manners, they may come back in style.

My Dad used to say that. So far it hasn't happened.

That's the problem.

This social decay and fear and loathing on all sides? The end of civilization as we know it? The grim slide into the abyss? Our jolly ride in the hellbound handcart?

It all boils down to bad manners.

In the South, for years, we've had good manners because in the South, for years, most of us have had guns...except for black people which, fortunately, has now been largely corrected. Now everybody has guns!

Which is why you're not going to see any Columbines in this section of the country. You may get the occasional chalk outline or two in the High School Gymnasium but none of this mass slaughter shit.* Why?

First, even the dumb jocks down here are smart enough to assume that a deranged social outcast in a trenchcoat is probably fairly well-armed.

Second, if the "Dorks for Satan" ever do blow off their A-V volunteer work for an extracurriculur killing spree, they would find, not a helpless pack of sheep for the slaughter, but a well-armed student populace.

Down here, we treat each other with respect because everybody knows that everybody else is potentially armed.

At least, that is, until all these outsiders with their fancy ideas and metal detectors started coming down here from up north and taking jobs in school administration.

It's all about manners.

Yes. I may drive like a maniac, but I'm a polite maniac. If I see you've got your turn signal on, I'll let you change lanes in front of me -- after which I'll have the common decency to slide over to the next lane, after using my turn signal, then speed up to get ahead of you, then change lanes again, and get back in front of you. I'll be way the hell in front of you. Even then, I'll use my turn signal.

Because you might shoot me.

But now our manners are going to hell.

The water fountain at the YMCA I go to now has a sign: PLEASE DON'T SPIT IN THE WATER FOUNTAIN. Can you see what a commentary on society it is that we actually need a sign like that? Like some guy is going, hock, hock, hocckkkkkkk, working up a nice, phlegmy blue oyster in the old mouth cavity ready to send it hurtling like some snot meteor into the drinking fountain -- but, then he stops -- ohmyGOD, there's a sign! Oh, I didn't realize they had a problem with that...thank God they warned me in time! So he swallows it. Gulp. Right.

What's next?




Which is what they say in the movie theaters: SILENCE IS APPRECIATED BY EVERYONE...instead of: SHUT THE FUCK UP. No, no. We don't want to put it that bluntly. Better to say it in the inoffensive passive voice so our moviegoers will work their way through the following enthymene:


Far better than the much ruder SHUT THE FUCK UP, dontcha think?

But the movie is running and everybody's still talking. Subtle hints don't work with rude motherfuckers.

Wednesday, December 29, 1999

The Policeman is your friend

America, of course, is now totally humped. We've all been given credit cards so we've got a little breathing room before they ship all our jobs to China and say SURPRISE.

Kinda like musical chairs. We're all dancing, lalala. The music stops. If you don't get a rich person seat you get to spend the rest of your life picking for recycled hypodermic needles in the garbage dump. It
can't happen here? Bullshit.

See, we don't have secret police in America. We have undercover cops...that's different! And of course it's different when the undercover cops are driving unmarked police cars. What's up with that? I mean, fuck, that's the secretpolicemobile, that's what that is. I mean, fuck it, I can deal with the cops if you've got a sporting chance.

If you're such a braindead chump you don't notice the motorcycle cop hiding like Jaws in a little alleyway, dada...dadada...if you're not constantly alert, constantly scanning for cops you DESERVE to get a ticket. But when they fucking sneak up on you in a black SUV that doesn't even look like a cop car? That's not fair! Goddamnit, I thought this was America!

So I see the lights flashing in some black SUV that's magically transformed into a copcar. The cop's waving...doing this cop-mime: You, yes you, asshole. You. No. Seriously. You. I caught you, you.

So I stop. He gets out and says...

Cop: Was there some REASON you were compelled to endanger your life and the lives of others by driving like that?

It doesn't occur to me to squirm in my seat and say...

Me: Reason? Poor city planning, by God, that's the reason! Come on, can't honestly expect to cram this amount of vehicles on such an inadequate road system without...


Me: AGGGGGHHHH, oh God officer, God, this is so embarassing, I'm about to have an attack of explosive diarrhea, aahhh, I've gotta get to a toilet, ahhhhh...


Me: Officer, I sweartagod there's a man up ahead of me PULLED A GUN ON ME! In an SUV just like YOURS! I was trying to get his license number when...

No, no.

I just shake my head like Goofy and go...

Me: No. Uh-hyulk. Nope. No good reason, officer, hyuk-hyuk-hyuk.

He says...

Cop: I have to tell you. The way you were weaving in and out of traffic, changing lanes like that? That's some of the WORST driving I've ever SEEN.

I don't have the balls to say...

Me: Worst driving you've ever seen? Goddamnit, I drive like that EVERY DAY. I've been driving like that for TEN YEARS and nothing's ever happened to me because I'm GOOD AT IT, goddamnit. I've got the reflexes of a race car driver...the reflexes of a cat!

Nah. I just shake my head in sorrow and offer some cringing, insincere apology. Yes sir, officer this, officer that, because I don't want him to slap reckless this and endangering that to my ticket.

You can't fight the system. I know it. Now they're putting up fucking SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS in every intersection...but it's not a police state, no, no, those cameras are for your protection, citizens! That's different!

God, the hypocrisy. I'm fucking pissed off about it! I'm boiling with moral outrage!

The fact he gave me a ticket has nothing to do with it whatsoever.

Tuesday, December 28, 1999

Hell in a handcart

This just in: the world is going to hell in a handcart.

The world is going to hell in a handcart.

The world is going to hell in a handcart.

The world is going to hell in a handcart. Sorry if I'm repeating myself, but I always liked the sound of that. "Hell in a handcart." Like something Ozzie Osbourne would say. "Hey lads. We're going to hell in a handcart!" Sounds kinda fun when he says it. "Hell in a handcart! Hey!" Like a ride in a heavy metal amusement park. Ozzie's handcart to hell...Mr. Choad's Wild Ride!

I mean it's almost Y2K and all. I was expecting, y'know, more of a big production. People in white robes on the mountaintops, guys with long beards with signs saying WE'RE GOING TO HELL IN A HANDCART.

Instead ... there's that new diamond commercial. Yes, more shameless emotional manipulation from the same folks who brought you the "WANT SEX, GIVE DIAMONDS" shadowplay ad campaign.

The new spot from the Diamond Dogs? They show this guy giving diamonds to a woman who is presumably his wife in Times Square while everybody else disappears. Yes. How sweet. What they don't show is the power going off ten seconds later and the mob killing them for their diamonds.

These ever-loving commericals are, of course, brought to you by the ever-loving diamond cartels...South African, mostly. I truly hate those manipulative chuds. Reminds me of the bad guys in "Lethal Weapon 2."

I can just see the meeting back at Cartel headquarters. Cavernous, darkened, smoke-filled room with ceiling fans, natch. Some big, fat, cigar-chomping, important white guy resembling Sydney Greenstreet at the head of huge table talking to other fat, important white guys.

SYDNEY GREENSTREET: Good evening, gentlemen. Well, apparently, the kaffirs can vote now. Hmm-hmm. Well, you can't have everything. Old business. Mr. Secretary?

PETER LORRE: We shall continue to suppress the creation of gem-quality diamonds using industrial diamond technology. Certain inconvenient scientists will have accidents.

SYDNEY GREENSTREET: Well, they're accident prone. New business?

PETER LORRE: I'm afraid we must move the mass graves from the diamond mine tailing pits. The new government might consider it ... distasteful.

SYDNEY GREENSTREET: Night work to be sure. Most expensive. Well, gentlemen, we need to adjust our cash flow. What say we make it two months salary for an engagement ring? Two months salary, a neat little formula, everyone can remember that, even kaffirs.

The table of evil bastards laughs.

SYDNEY GREENSTREET: But who could argue with it? And, obviously, the love of your life is worth two months salary, hmmm-hmmm.

PETER LORRE: Yes. Yes. Obviously. "Honey. Spend two months salary or I'll know you don't love me. Buy me a lump of crystallized carbon so I'll know it's true love!"

SYDNEY GREENSTREET. Love. Hmmm-hmmm. Yes. The dream that stuff is made of, hmmm-hmmm. Meeting adjourned.

Diamonds. Much, much worse than flowers. A far deeper level of emotional blackmail. Very clever.

The world is truly going to hell in a fucking handcart.

A diamond-encrusted handcart.

Saturday, December 25, 1999

Behind the Eight Ball dept.

Goddamnit, I used to be smart. My mind was a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives. Now, I punch myself in the head and the answer comes up in my mind's eye: ASK AGAIN LATER.

Predictions ...

Al Gore will not be our next President. George W. Bush will be our next President. Bush is an idiot, but he's telegenic. Al Gore is Mr. Timbertoes. You know. Wooden. A man made out of wood. OK.

Gore will get the nomination at the Democratic National Convention next summer. Then he'll fuck it up -- make some guilt-tripping speech, or something. Bush will flash his frat boy smile. America will love him. Bush will win. Bush will be our next President. He couldn't manage a baseball team. But he'll be our next fucking President.

Bush, I shoulda mentioned, will get the Republican nomination. McCain will not. Yep. Some powerful Republican mofos have made their decision. The National Review, the Weekly Spectator et all are ALREADY fucking crime scenes of character assassination against McCain. Yeah. He's an unstable, post-traumatic, Bruce Dern-type Vietnam vet nut case who could snap at any minute! The fix is in. It's fucking obvious. And fucking sickening.

The impending election (and Bush's impending victory) may seem like the inevitable swings of the pendulum. With the clarity that Guinness provides, I can say it's more like a knife to the gut.

You can say that, can you? Have you lost your bloody mind? The Republicans win in 2000. That's a stab to your abdomen?

Fuck the Republicans. Fuck the Democrats.

Ah, I see. Fuck 'em all. That clears everything up.

I'm an independent, OK? I have no party affiliation. I've never marched in my life. "A plague on all their houses" is my only position. It's a point of pride to me.

Your lack of commitment and aversion to personal risk is duly noted.

Yeah, whatever. All I'm saying -- I'd always hoped that the idiots on the Left would cancel out the efforts of the idiots on the Right.


I guess.

What changed the equation?

Clinton's penis.

Excuse me?

The Presidential willy. The Oval Office shlong.

Surely you can't...

Don't call me Shirley.

That was an old joke in --

1980. Yeah, I know. I'm out of fucking jokes.

Clinton's penis has ushered in the End of Days?



Not yet, OK?

Friday, December 24, 1999

The death of the Left

The American Left fragmented by the late 1970s.

What used to be a more-or-less unified Left wing liberation movement shattered into Black Liberation, Gay Liberation, Women's Liberation, Chicano Liberation -- etc. Basically, standard issue advocacy and grievance groups.

The Far Left either evaporated, went underground, or went to prison. What was left of the Far Left were nutjob factions like the SLA.

Mainstream American liberalism -- basically, the heart of the Democratic party -- assumed that, after the triumph of the Civil Rights movement, the debacle of Watergate, the fall of Nixon and the loss of the Vietnam war, they'd won the hearts and minds of America. Fucking idiots. But that's what they thought.

By the end of the 1970s, America's mainstream liberals were thinking big picture. Utopian ideology -- not strategy. Why worry about strategy when you've already won? Liberals figured they'd stomped the American Right into the ground for all time. Now, they were just mopping up the messy details. And educating the dumbass American public about racism, sexism and pollution. Norman Lear came up with the People for the American Way -- a liberal political action group. He spoonfed sermons to the American people disguised as sitcoms in "All in the Family" and "Maude." Somebody else invented a group called Common Cause. These chumps figured they were going to enlighten America.

The American Right was thinking strategy -- and small picture, street level victories.

America put Ronald Reagan in the White House in 1980.

Deep thoughts.

As the bloody millenium draws to an end, I feel pressed for something clever to say. Uh ...

I'll get back to you.

Merry fucking Christmas eve.

Thursday, December 23, 1999

Pigasus, now

How shall I put this so it doesn’t sound patronizing …

Ah, fuck it. I'll just come out and say it.

The Republicans managed to draft God.


God is now a Republican.

What’s the Biblical evidence?

The Bible…what’s a nice way to say this? The Bible is basically horseshit--the ravings of various Middle Eastern paranoid psychotics that add up to whatever you want. It’s a Rorschach blot in leather binding. You can quote the Bible to set slaves free. You can quote the Bible to make slaves tote your cotton. As an intellectual exercise, it ain’t that hard. But the Democrats are lazy bastards. The Republicans beat ‘em to it.

Now it’s their Bible.

To put it another way, imagine that a network of Wobbly union camps existed from coast to coast. Folks meet in these camps and sing songs. When we all go into battle, which side are you on? Folks discuss strategy—then act. Joe Hill makes a speech. Then miners and truck drivers and machinists march—across the country!

That’s a left wing wet dream. It’s a right wing reality.


On the right wing, the equivalent network exists.

They’re called churches.

No fucking kidding.

Various pastors, priests and preachers within these churches steal their sermons from the bulletpoints of various rightwing think tanks. This started in the 1970s. It’s SOP now, but brilliant pioneering back then.

Here's what happened ...

In the late 1970s, Richard Scaife and his pals took a page from Jerry Rubin. “Community empowerment,” or whatever the fuck the yippies called it. The strategy was simple: Don’t go for the top. Don’t try to elect congressmen, mayors and senators. Thinks small. Elect dog catchers. Elect school board representatives. Create coalitions on the community/street level. Think local, then build from there.

That’s exactly what the American Right did.

Jerry Rubin played the media like a harp from hell. So did Richard Scaife, Richard Viguerie and friends. Rubin was a pioneer. So was Viguerie.

Like Rubin, Viguerie was an early adapter when it came to media. He wasn’t too proud to jump into stuff that was dirty, low-rent, cheap, unsexy. Viguerie pioneered direct mail marketing. Computer printers that fucking printed the preacher’s signature on a personal appeal for money to destroy some liberal politician – Viguerie invented that shit! The chump on the receiving end opens the letter and thinks, dang, Jim Bakker wrote this personal to me! I better send him a check to stop them goldurn secular humanists! Brilliant! Effective!

Thanks to these savvy media tactics, there was an explosion of right-wing Christian orgs in the late 1970s and early 1980s – the Christian Coalition, Jesus for America, Moral Majority, whatever. In a nutshell, these entities identified the agenda of America’s ruling class with the will of Jesus Christ. In the process, they shifted the debate.

Before: the rich bastards want to own you lock stock and barrel. Discuss.

Now: the secular humanists want to kick God out of public schools, put condoms on bananas, marry gay folks, euthanize grandma and abort fetuses. Discuss.

At the dawn of the 1980s, this tide of shit (born in direct mail marketing and mega-church, televangelist sermonizing) flowed into another media paradigm shift – TALK RADIO!

Yeah, FM killed the AM radio star. But it gave birth to lots of fucking yappers.

Predominantly right wing.

By the mid-1990s, Rush Limbaugh and pals were bloviating their blather over the airwaves everywhere. None of that pointy-head intellectual shit a la William F. Buckley. No fucking quotes from St. Thomas Aquinas. These cats distilled the bullet points of the Heritage Foundation and various other entities with slick, stand-up comic professionalism. Sucking cigars, coming back with one-liner smackdowns to idiot liberal callers. Smug. Secure. Tough. Powerful.

More than anyone else, Rush Limbaugh embodies (and what a fat fucking body) Jerry Rubin’s subversive vision of media mindfuck. He’s the medium and he’s the message. He’s an empty fucking suit, and proud of it. He’s a bantam in pine woods. He’s fat, fat, fat, fat, fat. Hear me now and believe me later.

Rush Limbaugh is Pigasus.


Wednesday, December 22, 1999

Viz-a-viz the metabolic processes, he's had his lot.

As someone once said, political philosophies don't die because someone refutes their basic arguments. They die because the people who believe in that philosophy die out.

The old union guys died out. Or wound up in cement in some Jersey freeway.

The reporters Ben Hecht wrote about died out.

The Old Left died out.

The New Left got jobs on Wall Street.

In the meantime, a generation grew up that doesn't understand what it means to be poor.

Tuesday, December 21, 1999

Suppose they gave a revolution and nobody came?

OK. The Boomers were supposed to change the world. We didn’t. Who fucked up?

Here’s my two-part theory.

A) The Great God Feelgood ate his children.

The counterculture was both an assertion of solidarity and an assertion of the pleasure principle. To beat a dead Marxist horse, that’s a contradiction.

So, back in the 1960s and early 70s, Baby Boomers took to the streets to fight for civil rights and fight against a dumbass war.

But Boomers also fought for the right to party. Sex, drugs and rock and roll, man! The repressive evil old fuckers who control the System don’t want us to have any fun! So we fought ‘em. If America was Faber college, the counterculture was Animal House.

But a party ain’t no revolution.

The Great God Feelgood despises solidarity.

And the pleasure principle leads inevitably to consumerism – and atomized individualism.

The revolution was lost when Sears started selling jeans.

Just to be tedious, the Weathermen and other wackos were a freak show, not a revolution. Maoist mental masturbators with suicidal tendencies. The now-forgotten Freaks led the real revolution – Steward Brand and the many children of the Whole Earth Catalog. Build your own, grow your own, do shit. That’s where it’s at. If you want a !@# counterculture, best whip out your hammer and built it. This Emersonian alternative really was a counterculture. It never died. But it never took over, either.

This was not a conspiracy. Just supply and demand.

B) The Man got his act together.

This really was a conspiracy – in the sense of long-term political strategy, not in the sense of the fucking Illuminati putting on robes and meeting in a catacomb. I’m sure that – granted infinite time and lunatic persistence – the bits and pieces are all there in black and white in the archives of the National Review.

Back in the early 70s, Nixon, Agnew or somebody took a look at the swelling tide of liberal goodness and said fuck this shit. We’ve got to cut these assholes off at the legs.

I can hear Nixon’s voice right now…

“If you want to go to war, blowing up the other guy’s tank is not the smart thing to do. You cut off his fucking gasoline. Now you’re being smart, see? His tank runs out of gas in the middle of some goddamn field somewhere. You put a bullet in his head when he finally thinks it’s safe to come out.”

The Republicans had a strategy meeting.

Forget political philosophy. What are the Democrats’ key sources of supply?

The press.

Labor unions.

Public education and the university system.

The noblesse oblige of the Eastern Elite.

The South.

The inertial mass of government itself – all those New Deal and Great Society programs and their constituency.

Populist suspicion of fat cats.

Republicans came up with a strategy to cut off these sources of supply.

Through the magic of inference, I deduce that the strategy was this:

Fuck the press. Beginning with Spirochete Agnew, conservatives managed to “rebrand” America's press as “the liberal media.” Reporters used to be heroes. (Superman’s alter ego was a reporter, remember?) But we had real life heroes. In 1974, Woodward and Bernstein triumphed over Nixon’s machinations. America applauded these gutsy reporters. By the early 1980s, many Americans thought reporters were leftist villains. Why? America’s press had committed no obvious fuck-up, no scandal – but clever, relentless right wing bullshit had done the trick. “Liberal media, liberal media, liberal media.” Keep throwing that shit on the wall. Eventually, it sticks.

Fuck the unions. Hey, unions can be corrupt. But so can corporations. Unions, rotten as they often were, created a check on corporate power. Conservatives suggested this interfered with the average slob’s right to work. Damned if I know why, but the average slobs bought it.

Fuck teachers. Teachers, like reporters, were also heroes in the American mind. The right wing splattered them with mud then dragged them into the mud. (Phyllis Shafley, I recall, suggested that public school teachers were MOLESTING your children—at least mentally.) Teachers, when they’re not molesting children, are usually lazy bastards protected by the wing of evil TEACHERS’ UNIONS. They get three months off every year! And Christmas! If my kid can’t learn, it’s the fucking teacher’s fault!

The universities, of course, are evil egghead factories where tenured shitheads impose political correctness, speech codes and burn flags, when they’re not engaged in homosexual orgies.

America turned against its teachers.

Teachers became the enemy.

Along the way, critical thinking did too.

Fuck the Eastern Elite. As the authors “The Irony of Democracy” pointed out, the poles of our political system represent different factions of America’s elite. (Duh.) Be that as it may, conservatives managed to demonize any liberal who wasn’t a fucking dirt farmer. So, instead of being the party of the common people, the Democratic Party turned into a catered affair for limousine liberals in the public mind. They send their kid to private schools. But they want your kid to go to school with n—black kids. They think they’re smarter then you. They think they’re better then you. They want to tell you how to live your life. They don’t believe in God.

We love the South. Back in the 1960s, the Democrats bet the farm on civil rights—specifically, rights for black people. Johnson famously said his party had probably lost the South for a generation, thanks to civil rights legistation. That was probably too optimistic. Nixon and friends—as everyone knows—came up with “the Southern Strategy” to vacuum up all the disaffected Southern democrats into the Republican party. It worked. The “Solid South” turned solidly Republican.

Fuck the government. I’m not sure this started with Nixon. The conservative movement—legitimately—has battled government overreaching. But not government itself—or its legitimacy. Beginning with the New Deal, there’s been a rough consensus that some social safety net is a good idea. How big is the net was the question. Reagan changed the question. I’m from the government. I’m here to help. How fucking terrifying. Sometime in the 1980s, neo-con ideology got its foot in the door. Specifically, the “starve the beast” strategy.” Run up government debt. Bankrupt government. Force government to kill the New Deal and Great Society programs. It seems to be working.

Aside from the sheer perversity of the strategy, this cuts the legs of the power of pork. You help me, I’ll help you. You want a bridge, a road, whatever. I’ll make it happen. Thanks to “starve the beast,” Democrats can’t make it happen. If Uncle Sam ain’t the sugar daddy, Democrats ain’t got shit to offer.

Fuck populists; we love rich people. OK, Marxists have a Manichean notion of sacred workers at war with evil bosses. It’s dumbass history for fifth grade comic book minds. As may be. Simplistic Marxist fantasies aside, there are still evil rich bastards trying to give poor slobs the ungreased shaft. Poor (and middle class) American slobs have always been keenly aware of this fact. We weren’t born yesterday. Our mammas didn’t raise no fools. But, hang on, EVERYONE CAN BE RICH, if they simply visualize wealth with the godlike power of their reality-creating minds! This class warfare shit is a goddamn trick to keep you poor! America’s slobs, like Madonna, said, “Duh. I’m living in a material world. I wanna be rich. It’s morning in America. Reagan will make me rich. Duh. I will vote for Reagan.”

Evidently, by the 1980s, lots of mammas had raised lots of fools.

Monday, December 20, 1999

Talking about my degeneration

OK. Fuck it. The 20th century is almost over. The Boomers were supposed to erase the stain of original sin and make it a happy planet where we all hold hands like a fucking Coca Cola ad. Didn't work out that way.

We're we doomed from the start? Was the deck rigged. Is this a case of historical inevitability?


My working ontological model is historical evitability. "No fate," as John Connor once said. I.e., if you rewound the universe to say, Nov. 22, 1963, Oswald might've missed. That said, there's a main tide of events with a broadly predictable flow -- for both societies and individuals.

In other words, most of the time, us Naked Apes are all fairly robotic. We have free will -- sometimes -- like a fish leaping out of the water. Then it's possible to break the pattern. A moment of grace, ya want to put it that way. These moments are offered. Humans being humans, we usually fuck up.

So, OK -- WWII being, basically, the collateral damage of Charlie Manson with his own country -- it was still a moment of grace for the Land o' the Free. Silver linings and all that. We gained a sense of "solidarity" as a pinko might say. "We're all in this together," as Harry Tuttle once said.

Not only solidarity, but righteous solidarity, baby. As I said before, the 60s revolution wasn't a rejection of our parents' values -- we were taking those values seriously. We're the good guys. We're the Lone Ranger. The Lone Ranger doesn't !@#$ing burn kids alive.

So, my generation (with the exception of the YAF and apolitical cartoonists) took to the streets -- with brains full of shithead ideology in many instances -- but committed nonetheless. We were going to change the world and all that shit. The world changed us. The Man took a dump on our moment of grace. Ain't nothing inevitable about it, IMHO. It was a very clever long con.

Which is a sneaky way of dumping responsibility on the Man. To put it more bluntly ...

The Boomers had a chance. We sold out. We fucked up.

We could have changed history, yeah. But we didn't.

But the Great Boomer Fuck-up is just history now. Ironic, ain't it?

Yeah, despite all our big talk, here we are up to our necks in a world of shit. Sorta don't matter how we got here or how inevitable it was.

My working hypothesis: We're living in the universe in which George Bailey killed himself.

Thursday, December 16, 1999


Ah, yes. Heard a song today by a neo-neo punk band called "The Offspring." (Not new -- came out in '94 - but I just heard it, OK?) Title: Self-Esteem. Nice hook, rather catchy, bit commercial. As may be, it's a statement of intent by a pussy-whipped dude with no self-respect (or self-esteem) who endures all manner of personal humiliation, faithlessness and ego assault from his non-girlfriend girlfriend in exchange for, well, you know, personal benefits.

This got me thinking as to the current wave of dark shit the current generation of young'ns (which would be my youngest son, Andrew's generation) is surfing. Marilyn Manson, with his sickass routine (and implied sickass portmanteau collapsing Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Manson); South Park, with its mocking after school special lesson, "I learned something today" at the end of every show; Korn with its implications of child abuse and self-loathing. So it goes. Why so fucking dark?

It occurs to me my g-g-generation left the current generation with nothing left to rebel against but self-esteem.

The hippies attacked their parents as robotic, militaristic, anti-life repressed tools of the Man. The punks attacked the hippies as fucking hippies -- but the punks weren't self-hating. They hated YOU, man. (Truth is the punks and hippies are two sides of the same coin. Country freak, city freak. 'Nuff said.) What's left to rebel against?

Well, uh, us. Specifically, the value system of self-actualization based on self-esteem the Boomers imposed on successive generations. I.e.: if you like yourself and feel good about yourself, you can be the best that you can be. The notion being, if you applaud the runner BEFORE the race, they're more likely to win. In retrospect, it's a stupid notion. But there it is.

On top of that, if you (all you Baby Boomers parents or authority figures) promise you have nothing but the self-actualization of your offspring -- and in fact give them (worse case scenario) physical or sexual abuse or (typical scenario) neglect, benign indifference or second rate attention -- your promise of a higher standard (based on love for what's best for the kid) makes your child's bitterness of your failure to meet that standard sting more.

We tried to be our kids' best friends. At the same time, we tried to BE kids, forever. This is the result.

The WWII generation of parents was more like George Liquor in the banned Ren and Stimpy episode. They told their kids to, "Shut up, do what you're told, work hard and don't embarrass me. You think I OWE you something? You gotta another think coming. Clean your !@#$ room!" Our generation told our kids, "We want a family where everyone's free to be, you and me! We want what's best for you; we want to listen to you; we want you to grow; we want to treat you as persons in your own right; we want you to feel good about yourself!" Talk is cheap. We set an impossibly high standard for ourselves. We failed. Now our kids hate us. To get back at us, they hate themselves.

Yep. The only thing the kids have to rebel against is the one standard we tried to impose on them: self-esteem.

They express their rebellion against us as self-hatred. They listen to music that's as dark as a suicide note; their comedy makes George Heller look like Bozo the Clown.  

It's a damn fucking shame.

And pretty bad for my self-esteem.

Thursday, December 9, 1999

Deja vu all over again ... again

I dunno. I'm getting this strange feeling of deja vu. I dunno. I'm getting this strange feeling of deja vu.

Didn't I say that already?

Sunday, December 5, 1999

There's just one thing that's bothering me ...

In my commitment to stating the obvious, let me just add one more thing.

Clinton is a sleaze. No question.

That ain't the point.

The point: government by perpetual investigation is a bad idea. The notion of arrest and trial -- even for sleazy Presidents -- should be based on probable cause, not the principle of , "I hate that guy. Find some dirt on him." I.e.: the Special Council shouldn't be out on a fishing expedition.

So, say, a bank examiner thinks the the bank president is human scum. He accuses the bank president of embezzlement. He gets a court order to search the guy's house. Nothing. He hauls the guy into court anyway, and makes him give a deposition. He gets the guy on the stand under oath. So, instead of asking about missing funds, he asks the guy. "Say. You ever cheated on your wife?" The bank president says, "No." The bank examiner charges him with perjury.

Bad idea.

Whether for bank presidents -- or the sleazy President of the USA.

Saturday, December 4, 1999

Looking backwards

Ah, the 1990s. What a jolly decade.

I can't wait to read the definitive history of the 1990s -- except I never will. Future historians will look back and say, "Stuff happened. We're not sure what." All the notes, journals and records about anything that matters have probably been destroyed.

Yep. In the Republican rush to judgment of the Clinton era, private journals and notes were declared legal fair game to investigators. (Screw the self-incrimination principle!) Legal counsel to the President was denied executive privilege -- if it's talking about the person and not the politician. (Which you can only decide by making private communication public.) There are no private statements anymore. The only safe assumption? You're always on trial. Everything you say (or write) is now testimony.

From now on, everything you say can and will be used against you.

Basically every new administration is going to put the last one on trial. If you've got enough votes, you'll put your political opposition on trial while they're still in office. From now until the end of time.

Nothing like government by perpetual investigation, eh?

The Founders were adamant that political deliberations should never be criminalized. No one should ever fear jail for giving advice that an opposing faction might punish you for if it gained power.

But what did they know?

Wednesday, July 28, 1999

The Bitch, Bitch, Bitch Project

OK, I'm back. Thanks for the cards and letters. Consciousness returns like a bad habit.

Here's the story ...

About two nights ago, flu hit me like a short, sharp shock. Saw a bunch of pseudo-documentary promos for "The Blair Witch Project" on the SF channel when I was sick with a nasty, thermometer-popping fever. My deliriosified brain didn't process these obvious infomercials as fiction. Then I fell asleep. Throughout the night, I replayed the "Blair Witch" scenario -- without ever actually seeing the movie -- in an unpleasant round of realistic, sweaty fever dreams about the slaughter of the four filmmakers in the woods. And now, today, I find out the whole thing was a shuck.

The actual movie comes out in two days. But I'm boycotting the fucking movie.

Whatever horrors they show will never match the ones in my head.

Friday, April 23, 1999

Be happy. Be normal.

As I've said, America isn't tolerant of oddballs. Especially oddballs in American high schools. We talk a good game about individuality. But it's bullshit. We celebrate non-conformity -- just so long as you look like all the other non-conformists.

In England, if you march to a different drummer, you're "eccentric" -- part of humanity's rich fucking tapestry. Just try that stunt in America. If the jocks see you marching to a different drummer they beat the shit out of you. You're a loser, a fuck-up, a dweeb, etc., etc. You're shunned. America's flood of firearms helps explain this.

In England, the quirky, Willy Wonka-esque fellow in the purple top hat might smear some chocolate on you or pour tea on your head. In America, they might pull out a Glock and aerate you. Different is dangerous over here.

So we shun the different. And, in one of life's cruel feedback loops, some of the rejected oddballs stew, feel rejected, develop a persecution complex and shoot up the high school.

So, now we're dealing with Columbine. America, the land of blame, is now on a scapegoat hunt. If something bad happened, it must be someone's fault. That's the American way!

The standard narrative: somebody should have seen this coming. Those two weirdo kids were, well, weirdos. Their killing spree was predictable. They were, after all, wearing trenchcoats.

Based on that logic, American high schools should institute an Orwellian oddball hunt. Every weirdo is a potential killer. We need to screen the weirdos out. We need a weirdo list. We need to watch the weirdos very carefully.

Being a weirdo myself, I think that's a bad idea.

Tuesday, April 20, 1999

Jeremy Spoke in Class Today

Jesus. Some massacre just went down in a school in Colorado. Evidently, some kill-crazy kids celebrated Hitler's birthday.

They're celebrating together now.

Saturday, April 3, 1999

The Matrix

I'm in awe. Larry and Andy Wachowski -- the screenwriting/directing band of brothers behind this thing -- hit it out of the park. This has got to be one of the best SF movies of all time. Though not the most original ...

The plot/premise is a distillation of Philip K. Dick’s brand of paranoid Gnosticism. Basically, “reality” is a virtual reality dream concocted by an "evil genius" – in this case, a network of AI entities who kicked humanity’s collective ass in a recent war and deleted most people's memory of that history. A few hundred years later, the mass of humanity parties like it’s 1999 – naively assuming that’s the real year and they’re living in the real world. But that’s a digital delusion pumped into their brains to keep them asleep. In reality, humanity is hooked up in a series of goo-filled cells. The machines have reduced the formerly proud human race to the status of batteries. We’re powering them; they use our body heat to generate electricity.

But a few rebels survive in an underground city called Zion. Every now and then, Zion sends out a team to wake up a sleeping human, unplug their body from the Matrix, and make them part of their revolution. They do this to a dude name Neo -- Keanu Reeves, in a whoa-filled performance. But Neo's more than just another dude. He’s the savior, Jesus and Buddha rolled into one.

Well, at least according to Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), the leader of the band in the hovercraft that rescues Neo. Morpheus is convinced Neo's the savior -- aka "The One." (In practice, that means Neo can potentially bend the virtual reality world of the Martix to his will.) Joe Pantoliano plays the devilish Cypher (his first name is probably “Lou”)who plants the seeds of doubt. Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss, as an old man’s fancy and a young man’s dream in black leather) gives Neo her faith. Like Jesus in the garden, Neo wrestles with his divine destiny. Meanwhile back in the Matrix, the artificial “Agents” (led by Hugo Weaving's implacable, Joe Friday-like Agent Smith) who guard the dream world, do their best to track them down. But the good guys bring the battle to them. After a few switcheroos and plot reversals, Neo plugs back into the dream world for the final battle between good and evil.

The storytelling rocks – a nice mix of action flick and philosophical head-scratcher, liberally stealing, not only from poor dead Dick, but William Gibson's Neuromancer, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Alice in Wonderland – you name it – and, above all, Oshii's Ghost in the Shell. (The climactic shoot-out is basically a scene-for-scene remake.) But stealing’s fine with me.

In terms of special effects and cinematography, it rewrites the book. (And neatly solves the problem of improbable Kung Fu wire work. Hey, it's a dreamworld, right? Of course it breaks the laws of physics!) Some really sweet stuff, kids. See it.

As cinematic storytelling, The Matrix is purt’near perfect. As a science project, it’s not going to win any prizes.

OK, fanboys. Hate to drop a turd in the punchbowl, but nobody told Larry and Andy about the second law of thermodynamics. I.e., it’d take more energy to keep the sleeping humans alive than the humans would generate. And spare me the “combined with a form of fusion” – if you’ve got fusion power, why wire all of humanity together in a vast Rube Goldberg scheme to turn them into batteries? For that matter, why not use cows?

Who cares? It’s a movie, not a science lesson.

And, for all I know, the “human battery world" is just another illusion.

I'll wait for the sequel.

Sunday, March 21, 1999

The New Devil's Dictionary

The New Devil's Dictionary of Modern American Usage
(with apologies to Ambrose Bierce)

Government, Politics & Civil Order

Armed forces: A government make-work program in which unemployable, unskilled young men and women from the lower strata of society emerge from their term of service with a high degree of skill in shooting people and blowing things up.

War on drugs: A conflict in which the government attempts to shoot and blow up the highly-skilled, underclass people who are shooting and blowing each other up in their efforts to sell the drugs which the government has previously sold them.

Drugs: Mind-altering substances which people, either rich or poor, take so they don't have to think about the depressing shit I'm talking about here.

Illegal Drugs: Untaxed drugs.

Drug treatment: Treatment for rich people can be very expensive, involving rehabilitation clinics and highly trained medical professionals. Treatment for poor people is even more expensive and involves prison, vicious beatings and buggery.

Human rights abuse: An outrage perpetrated by a country or political faction I disagree with.

Free enterprise: Socialism for the rich.

Socialism: Capitalism for the nomenklatura.

Pork: Government money that someone else got.

Religious tax exemption: A means by which the government subsidizes religious institutions with successful building programs.

Insurance: A subsidy for the stupid, risk-taking behavior of rich people paid for by poor and working class people.

Foreign policy: This consists of sending poor and working class people to various foreign countries to shoot angry brown people as a way of subsidizing the wealthier percentage of the population with jobs in the defense industry.

United States energy policy: Shooting Arabs until the Middle East runs out of oil.

Public education: Jails for children which allow their parents to go to work. Also, educational institutions. (archaic)

Private education: Institutions by which the natural arrogance and cruelty of the upper classes is refined. They also teach Latin and Rugby.

Weapons development: An ongoing process in which the defense industry makes military technology increasingly complicated, unreliable, expensive and harder to use. (See upgrade.)

War: An ongoing miniseries in which the American military kicks the shit out of various dirtbag countries in order to get free photo-ops for their latest weapons systems on CNN.

PAC: An acronym for "Political Action Committee." An organization which prevents political action.

Republican: Somebody with money who thinks the government should write his corporation big checks. Believes in the principle of borrow and spend.

Democrat: Somebody without money who thinks the government should write him big checks. Believes in the principle of tax and spend.

Libertarian: Republican who smokes pot and doesn't want any government checks.

Religion and Philosophy

Religion: A multilevel marketing scheme combining a belief in the supernatural with a successful building program.

Cult: A multilevel marketing scheme combining a belief in the supernatural with an unsuccessful building program.

Scientology: Former cult now boasting a successful building program, airhead Hollywood spokespeople and numerous unmarked graves.

UFO Cult: A belief system which holds advanced extraterrestrial civilizations developed faster-than-light travel as a means of crossing the universe and sticking things up people's butts.

Moral highground: A convenient place for crucifixtions.

New Age Thought: Neither thought nor new.

Free Speech, Art & Popular Culture

Popular Culture: Fads stolen from the real culture of black people and sold to white people.

Free Speech: When I call you a dickhead.

Hate Speech: When you call me a dickhead.

Libel/Slander: When I sue you for calling me a dickhead.

News: Advertiser press releases rewritten in the third person.

Freedom of Speech: The inalienable right to print whatever the advertiser tells you.

Investigative reporting: Negative articles about businesses and individuals who don't advertise.

Political reporting: Occasional filler between articles about advertisers.

Intellectual property: Ideas, music and images stolen from black people without good lawyers.

Post-modernism: A literary & philosophical movement whose adherents have cast off the mind-forged manacles that prevented them from being longwinded, unclear and dull.

Appropriate: A post-modernist term for plagarism.

Eclectic Art: Bad art. A term used by art critics who don't want to say "bad art." (See Eclectic Artist)

Avant-garde: That percentage of the population dressing like it was Greenwich Village in 1955 or Paris in 1870.

Alternative: Teenagers and people in their early twenties who dress like each other.

Hippie: A popular subculture of the late 60s-mid 70s denoted by bad frayed clothing in combinations of earth tones and cotton and the use of mellowing, mood-altering drugs.

Punk: A popular subculture of the late 70s-mid 80s denoted by bad ripped clothing in combinations of black and leather and the use of stimulating, mind-altering drugs.

Goth: A popular subculture of the 90s, similar to punk but 10 years younger and more catatonic.

Left-wing intellectual: Somebody who swallows his or her opinions whole from "Mother Jones."

Right-wing intellectual: Somebody who swallows his or her opinions whole from "National Review" and the "Weekly Standard."

Rational discourse: Left-wing and right wing intellectuals screaming at each other in scripted dustups with all the spontaneity of championship wrestling.

Professions & Gainful Employment

Eclectic Artist: Bad artist.

Naive Artist: Not-so-naive artist who pretends to be bad because crappy art sells.

Art Director: A bad artist who, in sympathy to other bad artists, fills their publication with bad art.

Performance Artist: A stand-up comedian who isn't funny.

Ad Agent: The only human being capable of bending over and kissing his or her own privates.

Politician: The only human being capable of being over and kissing his or her own anus.

Spin Doctor: A cross between a politician and an ad agent. Can spin around and kiss anything.

Journalist: A j-school graduate trained to do search and replace in advertiser press releases. (see Newspaper.)

Fiction writer: A writer who believes in the fiction of a successful career as a fiction writer.

Sex Worker: Honest whore.

Golddigger: Dishonest whore.

White House Intern: Honest political whore.

Lobbyist: Dishonest political whore

Fashion industry: A form of employment for gay men with design skills and young women with eating disorders.

Advertising Agency: A place giving employment to either failed or aspiring writers and visual artists willing to suck their own privates or anybody elses.

Restaurant: A place giving employment to failed or aspiring actors and directors.

Newspaper: An advertising agency employing writers and visual artists too ashamed to admit they're in the advertising business. (See News.)

Editorial Department: As distinct from the advertising department. That portion of the newspaper staff devoted to up-to-the-minute interviews, articles and reporting concerning the advertisers.

University: A place providing employment to actors and directors too clumsy to work in restaurants and writers who can't get work at ad agencies and newspapers because they can't write. As of this writing, continued funding for university positions for bad photographers and visual artists who can't paint or draw remains in doubt.

English Department: That subsection of the humanities department in which English teachers, when they aren't drinking or smoking pot, teach their students to be English teachers in order to teach the next generation of English Teachers, and so on.

Government: An entity providing employment for right wing firebrands attempting to eliminate government.

Walt Disney Corporation: A hellish realm where writers, voice character actors and visual artists cursed with too much talent are forced to begger and bugger themselves to Satan on a daily basis. A constant source of wholesome entertainment for kids of all ages.

Science & Industry

Leading Edge Technology: Stuff that doesn't work yet.

Product Development: Originally, corporations designing and testing products until they work. Now, convincing people to buy shit that doesn't work so they can keep paying the engineers until somebody figures out who fucked up. Eventually, this results in products which work -- after which the product line or industry standard is discontinued.

Product Support: A means by which corporations charge you money to fix their mistakes.

Product Help Line: A person from India you can't talk to who doesn't help.

Upgrade: When software developers improve their products by making them worse.


Asshole: Metaphorically, a term for any other driver who drives the way you do.

© March 1999-February 2000

Friday, March 12, 1999

'The Prisoner' explained

OK, kids. Here's the secret of The Prisoner.

Most of you nerds know the show inside-out. In case you’ve been wasting your time making money instead of watching old TV shows, here’s the basic premise:

Sometime in the late 1960s, a high-level secret agent (not to be confused with Secret Agent) resigns from MI5 in Great Britain. He doesn't say why. When he gets home, unidentified bad guys fill his flat with knockout gas, capture him and bring him to an unidentified “Village.” The place is a creepy holiday camp where Muzak fills the air and the brainwashed residents have numbers instead of names. If you try to escape, a wicked, self-motivating, white spheroid (aka “Rover”) either eats you, amoeba-style, or herds you back.

A headmaster-like authority figure calls the Prisoner into his office. He’s Number Two. (Numero Uno is never seen.) They talk. The show’s two big questions emerge.

Why did the Prisoner resign?
Who's running the Village?

The Prisoner refuses to say why he resigned. Number Two refuses to say which side is running the Village. (The show is set in the Cold War era. It’s either the Commies or the West.) So, the Prisoner tries to escape; the Village tries to make him talk. A game of cat and mouse goes on for 17 episodes. The show continues to tease you with those two big questions:

Why did the Prisoner resign?
Who's running the Village?

You never find out until the last episode — Fall Out. Actually, you don't find out then, either. What you get is a goofy, surreal, allegorical, bad acid trip. McGoohan (the show’s lead actor, producer, frequent screenwriter and all-time Jr. God) fills your brain with trippy imagery then pisses on your head. He leaves the big questions hanging. Big joke. Because the big answer hides in plain sight.

Take The Prisoner on its own terms.

Supposedly, the Village is a prettified internment camp for spies and people who know too much. It’s designed to protect or extract information and test new brainwashing techniques. The world power behind it wishes to remain anonymous.

Realistically, what would a place like that look like?

First, they’d rotate the nationality of the man in the big chair. There’d be a Russian Number Two. They’d be followed by an American Number Two. Then Brazilian, Chinese, Indian, and so on. If you wish to remain anonymous, that’s how it’s done.

Second, a village of spies wouldn’t be a village of sheep. Spies are the least sheeplike people imaginable. They’re cunning, inner-directed, analytical chess-players who get in other people's heads. They wouldn't be bossed around so easily. The Prisoner wouldn’t be the only rebel.

But that’s not what it looks like.

The Prisoner isn’t a realistic scenario. As anyone remotely familiar with the show knows, it’s an allegory. OK. An allegory of what? Individualism vs. conformity. Sure, but that’s far too general. The allegory has a far more specific target.

Consider the picture it paints …

The Village pretends to be a democratically elected government. The people in charge are really thugs. Behind its techno cleverness, the Village's default solution to people problems is a punch to the gut, a kick to the head or a lobotomy. The rulers rule by force and tell the people they’re free.

The Villagers believe them. Because they want to.

The Villagers are a herd of mindless conformists. They shout slogans, twirl umbrellas, march in parades, discourage “un-mutualness,” trust their leaders and think they're living in a democracy.

Some prisoners are actually jailers in disguise. The Village is a village of finks. And many CCTV cameras. An Orwellian nightmare with pseudo-Italianate architecture.

The leaders have a superior attitude. They feel entitled to grab you out of your home, plop you into their system and tell you want to do and how to think.

And all of the leaders are British. Every last one of them.

Yes, there’s some half-hearted misdirection involving foreign languages. But every bloody Number Two is obviously from Great Britain. British, British, British. On it goes, for all 17 episodes.

The Number Twos are not simply British. They exude the smug, preppy, upper-class, Cambridge/Oxford, old boy arrogance of Britain's ruling class. (With the working class exception of Leo McKern's Number Two, who'd been forced into the job — and ultimately helps bring the system down.)

The Village = an allegory of Great Britain.


Yep. Patrick McGoohan, with his fiery Irish background, has given us a satire of Great Britain. The Village = the UK. From an Irishman's perspective, it's an ugly caricature of the vast hypocrisy of British democracy that, coincidentally, aired about the time of the "Troubles."

Case closed.

Sunday, January 17, 1999

Deja vu all over again.

From about the age of 13 to age 17, I was temporarily psychic. I dunno what caused it. Adolescent hormones, who knows. But I was constantly experiencing déjà vu. Sometimes dramatic,

I saw my dog die, twice. Pal. He was chasing a cat, doing a figure eight around our Volkswagen and a Norfolk Island Pine. I was running around trying to stop him. At the end of the final circle, the cat ran out into our street; my dog followed; a car hit him.

While I’m running around trying to catch my dog, I remember the dream. I can see the future. I know exactly what’s going to happen, and there’s no way to stop it.

I even remember remembering the dream – within the dream. And the feeling of absolute helplessness.

Screech. Thump.

So it was written.

Most of the time, it was random crap. I’d dream shit and it would happen and there was absolutely no point to it. Some friends took my bicycle apart and put it up in a tree as a joke. Walking through the mall with my cousin. The cover of a book. No significance.

I’d get into a certain mental state, a feeling of clarity, connectedness and disconnectedness at the same time. In that state, I could do ridiculous runs of coin flips. Heads, head, tails, heads, tails, tails, tails, heads, tails, heads. I'd call it; I'd be right, again and again. Ask my sister.

I won a math contest by seeing the number on a flash card – 33 – and working out the score before the math genius had a chance. Up goes the card. “1089,” I say. OK, card counting maybe. But this kind of thing happened all the time.

Then, about age 17, it started to fade.

Now, aside from this bizarre experience, I’m the most materialistic, least hoo-doo person in the world. The idea of atoms deeply reassured me. It meant the coat in the closet couldn’t turn into a monster. Great. But I actually experienced this shit. I know the conventional explanation of a temporary lag in two normally coactive sensory nerves is bullshit. I had dreams that came true. I told some of them to various people, wrote some of them down in advance. I can’t prove it. But I know.
And, if you think about it logically and scientifically, the implication of any psychic prediction of the future is deeply disturbing. Before we start, let’s eliminate reincarnation. I wasn’t walking around a fucking mall with my cousin in a past life. But you knew I was going to say that, right?

OK, here goes …

Explanations for precognition:

Time is like a four-dimensional movie. The self (spirit, soul, whatever you want to call it) can project itself ahead on the timeline and scope out the coming attractions.

Time is a four dimensional structure. Our senses give us data about what’s happening “now.” Other, subtler senses are receiving data from the future. In dreams or certain meditative states, we become aware of it.

The human mind is an amazingly powerful computer. On a subconscious level, it’s capable of figuring out exactly what’s going to happen in the future. It’s not really precognition; it’s a deduction.

The human mind has the power to alter reality. I.e.: the precognitive dream didn’t predict the car wreck. It caused the car wreck.

The human mind creates reality. Nothing exists “out there.” Life is just a dream. Sometimes we dream the same thing twice.

Life is a virtual reality game or entertainment scenario. We have, literally, seen certain segments before. Some mechanism causes us to forget. Occasionally, the mechanism doesn’t work.

Some entity (good, evil, spiritual or material) with access to information about the future is feeding that information into our heads.

Well, that’s all I can think of for now.

Does any of that seem fun?