Monday, April 24, 2017

It's not plagiarism; it's sampling.

I don’t know why I bother. All the good writing has already been done, creating a rich natural resource. It’s just a matter of judicious harvesting. Like I found 58 percent of today’s rant on Wikipedia, ripe for the cutting and pasting: “Handfeeding or touching large barracudas in general is to be avoided. Spearfishing around barracudas can also be dangerous, as they are quite capable of ripping a chunk from a wounded fish thrashing on a spear, or out of the arm which is holding the spear. Humans are not on their preferred menu, but haste can lead to confusion.”

Monday, April 17, 2017

Because expired meds might be dangerous

Imagine you have your head in the refrigerator and notice that the cottage cheese is about to pass its sell-by date so you grab a spoon and some celery salt and sit down and eat that stuff until you feel soggy and morose. Arkansas was going through something like that with their death penalty drugs; they needed to hurry up and kill eight people in 11 days before their poison expired. I’m picturing Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson sitting on the edge of his bed reading the Viagra bottle and saying, “Honey, we need to have intercourse seven times before May.”

Monday, April 10, 2017

Stravinsky! Gandhi!

Here’s an experiment you can conduct in the privacy of your own head. Find a photo of Pablo Picasso as a young man, an early picture of George Szell, and one of 30-year-old Henry Miller. Okay, now compare what they looked like as old men. Holy crap! They’re like, um, triplegangers. I call this MFC (Male Facial Convergence) and it strikes an alarming percentage of us. Beyond a certain age there’s just three basic models: Geezer, like the previous examples, codger (Mao, Churchill) and coot (George Burns, Amiri Baraka). Of course, there’s also a strong family resemblance between all newborns.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Finally, an actual rant.

Leaf blowers are a great way to create a market for small engines and gasoline. They’re perfect from the seller’s point of view – a solution that creates its own problem. You blow leaves and other garden detritus over your property line, and your neighbor has to fire up his own leaf blower. You could always use a broom and rake, but that would be cheaper and quieter, plus those are food-fueled technologies which improve the user’s health and reduce gym expenditures. Better to buy something to address the sense of need created by the previous purchase. Like I said. Perfect.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Retroactive advice

Saturday was voting day, a small election to choose between three lawyers who want to be civil court judge. Nobody shows up for these; probably the candidate with the biggest family has the edge. I voted for the one whose campaign invoked Faith the least. The next day I saw a Vermont license plate, pretty rare down here. The motto was “Green Mountain State,” which is sort of silly, because that’s what “Vermont” means. Like if Pennsylvania’s said “Penn’s Woods State.” Then I passed a leftover sign that said “Vote Today.” And I thought, “Actually that should say ‘Vote Yesterday.’”

Monday, March 20, 2017

You finally lay your burden down

The first LP I ever bought was called The Beatles' Second Album. I must have recently turned 10. Took it home, put it on the turntable. My dad’s stereo was, as we used to say, bitchin’. A McIntosh 240 into a pair of AR 2a speakers, which if you had that stuff today you could sell it a collector and use the money to buy it back. Anyway, the first song started with this great guitar intro and then George Harrison’s reedy double tracked voice came in and that was it. “Roll Over Beethoven” is still my favorite Beatles’ song.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Oh, ick.

Look, you don’t have to like anything about Steve Bannon and his ideas to concede that he is an educated, intelligent, accomplished, and imaginative creature. Yeah, he’s some kind of monster. He’s also a working-class guy who’s managed to earn a couple of master’s degrees and had successful careers as a naval officer, an investment banker, a media executive – before becoming maybe the most powerful grownup in the entire world. He gets paid to tell a rich kid what to do. Tough gig. I’m guessing probably the hardest part of the job is concealing his utter contempt for Donald Trump.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Candyland

If you’re like me, you’ve had it pretty good so far. We got to watch Howdy Doody and Whirlybirds and Man from UNCLE. We listened to Chuck Berry and Brenda Lee and Sheb Wooley, noshed on McDonald’s and Hostess and Bonomo Turkish Taffy. They dressed us in Keds and Levis, drove us around in Fords and Chevys and Oldsmobiles and Kaisers, immunized us against polio and smallpox and diphtheria and pertussis and tetanus. We had Schwinns and Yoyos and Silly Putty and Barbies and GI Joes. Nobody’s ever had it better. Ever. So where did all this meanness come from?

Monday, February 27, 2017

Writing feverishly

When a really terrible viral infection started killing off millions of people in 1918, Europe was still having what we call the First World War (they called it the Only World War). To keep up wartime morale, newspapers in countries like Germany and England didn’t report on the deadly epidemic. But Spain was neutral, and those death tolls were made public earlier. So that’s why it got called Spanish Influenza, though it actually may have come from Kansas. Graham crackers also come from Kansas, and are sometimes given along with lukewarm tea to people who have the flu. Coincidence? Perhaps.

Monday, February 6, 2017

My golden hour

I like going to Walmart, because that’s where America is. One time I was in the Walmart in Lewisburg, West Virginia, and a little girl said, “Come on, Daddy, the shoes are over yonder,” and he said, “Alright.” Bet nobody says yonder at Nordstrom. Yesterday I rode to the one on Tchoupitoulas and we were all cheerfully bumping into each other and saying excuse me and I got 11 dollar pants and a cellophane package of Israeli tea biscuits. The package fit nicely in my shirt pocket, so I rode my bicycle home at dusk, eating cookies all the way.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Nope

No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Ramshackle!

It’s not the hats. You can tell the good guys because they spend their days teaching young’uns how to whittle and helping schoolmarms off stagecoaches. Bad guys, when they’re not kidnapping the daughters of ranchers whose spreads lie over rich veins of gold, tend to sit around in ramshackle hideouts playing cards and drinking whiskey. They lie and cheat and are not nice to their horses. It’s not like the two sides on a checkerboard. It’s asymmetric, like two different games. To win, the bad guys have to kill the good guy. Good guys win simply by remaining good guys.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Moot and rhetorical

Questions for this week: Are all the angry white men going to stop being angry now that they’ve run the table? Or is being angry the whole point? Will we finally get back all the guns that Obama took away back in 2008? Will the pace of global warming accelerate as a consequence of the tremendous friction of 38 dead presidents spinning madly in their graves? And finally, how could anybody imagine that a smart businessman would pay somebody in Moscow to piss on him when there are millions of Americans who would be happy to do it for free?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Also pants without sewing

You can dig in your heels all you want, but if like me you are a member of the Biggest Generation you’re on a steep slick slide to oblivion. The void looms ahead. For some of us, it feels like the bright promise of decades of fatalism is finally paying off. Whee! Meanwhile there’s a lot of loose talk about staying independent in our Golden Sunset Years, which is really crap if you think about it. Seriously, for your whole life you’ve had shelter without building, bread without baking, meat without slaughter. It’s been assisted living from the git go.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Stealth bummer

We’ve had ninjas all wrong. The real deal is they make themselves invisible in whatever environment they‘re in. For some theater production in the past, the director dressed his sneaky murderer as a sceneshifter, because audiences were used to seeing these figures in black lurking around the set and wouldn’t expect them to interact with the plot, much less kill somebody. So what we think of as a ninja costume is just a Japanese stagehand outfit. To be really ninja-like, you’d want to dress as someone truly invisible. Like a homeless veteran. On a busy corner. With a cardboard sign.