please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Since You Bring It Up...

Operating as I do, in an under-trafficked (sp?) area of the internet, the only real potential for blowback comes in the form of those who Google themselves, which is something everybody does once or twice, at least.
Also, we spend a lot of time around the house making fun of those who write for the local newspaper, as well as those syndicated columnists that said paper chooses to run. One day soon for instance, I'd like to do a celebration of Charlie Krauthammer's highly contagious self love, wonderful man that he is.

Matter of fact, let's examine this: Oregonian writers/contributors I've ridiculed include S. Renee Mitchell, Catrina Bush, Dan Neils, Pulitzer Prize winner/terrible writer Tom Hallman, Jr., and I at least took a swipe at Margie Boule. Local cartoonist Jim Adams was a recent focus, due to his shitty comedic skills. The Mercury's staff in general tends to get a good going over from me, as did local legend and all-around wonderful person Craig Marquardo.
But the only one who ever wrote back was Lillian Mongeau.

I didn't even write about her. However, Aunty Christ did, in the comments on the post before this one. Imagine our delight when the next comment, instead of being from one of the perhaps seven people who read this blog, was signed 'lillian', and it read:

"very smooth assesments. thanks for the constructive feedback. though rich, aunty christ did not actually say that i google myself a lot, you just came up with that. one of the best things about googling my name these days is the stupendous troll comments i sometimes find. it's pretty incredible what people are willing to write in the name of getting others fired up. you two did a good job though, specifically spelling my name all the way out so that i would find it easily, and then switching to writing "mongo" in an attempt to piss me off schoolyard fashion. very clever actually. keep it up, maybe you'll get chelsea cain upset. best of luck!"

And yes, it really was all lower-case. It looked to be written by someone with a Blogspot account, but there was no profile available, and probably no blog. Just created to respond, perhaps?

Point by point, then? Ms. Mongeau:
The observation that you probably Google yourself a lot was made around the house, not on screen. However, there's no way you would have found this blog without having done so, and that makes the above sort of pointless and sad.

In this particular case, you'd be the troll, Lillian. I didn't come to your virtual house and poop my pants. I personally never thought you'd be seeing this, or if you did, you'd remember that you are published on a weekly basis in a newspaper that is distributed statewide. Your comments, whatever one may think of them, are a matter of public record, and people might very well have things to say about them, some of them disparaging.
But what the fuck do you care? You have a public forum, so you win. Don't be a crybaby.

I'm not sure one could say that we were trying to get you fired up, either. In fact, that would suggest a highly Lillian Mongeau-centered view of reality that very few people actually have. 'Spelling (your) name all the way out' is what we do here in Good Grammar Land, and isn't some insidious plot to drag you back here and see yourself savaged by some heartless, anonymous and under-read bloggers. On the other hand, were I a nicer person, I could have spelled it M******, and we wouldn't be having this conversation.
Yes, around the house you are known as 'Mongo', assuming that is the way that 'Mongeau' (ah- there I go spelling it all the way out again) is pronounced. The 'schoolyard fashion' comment caused us to wonder if that is indeed what they called you on the playground, resulting in childhood trauma that lives with you to this day.
Those Generation Y kids, they can be so cruel.

So hey, about the constructive feedback? I know sarcasm when I see it, missy, but since you bring it up, let's do some o' that.
The fault lies at least partly with The Oregonian itself for thinking someone may adequately speak for their generation. Perhaps you yourself see the idiocy in this, but on the other hand, enjoy having a byline, and a place you can write your thoughts in public.

This leads, unfortunately, to a scenario in which you are forced to write about things in a somewhat narrow context. A fairly straightforward and not exactly unique set of observations about marriage must then be presented as something native only to people of a certain age group, which it isn't.
I bring this one up a lot, but Gore Vidal describes his time writing for television as an attempt "to do well what should not be done at all". Gotta make a living. I myself, more often than not, find myself setting stages for performers that I consider to be awful.
And so one finds oneself writing pieces to please a somewhat strange standard, as part of some arbitrarily determined 'generation'. It's patronizing and demeaning, and occasionally must kinda bother you.

I've been writing all my life, and never entertained any serious notion that I'd do it for a living. The lady of the house actually has been paid for things she has written. Having said that, it isn't bitterness that would cause us to say the things we do about you.
It's that you have the high place to stand and shout things, where at least some people will hear you, and yer doin' a shitty job of it, in our opinion.

Hm. Guess I don't actually have any constructive criticism after all. If you want though, you could complain about my blog in your column and make me pseudo-famous.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

New Virus Found!

In today's little slice of hell that The Oregonian calls the "How We Live" section (formerly known as the "Living" section, and waaayyy before that, the "Women's" section), well, y'get the comics, and 'Ask Amy', n' Carolyn Hax. You can do The Ziggy Circus (where you transpose the punchlines of 'The Family Circus' and 'Ziggy'), which last week resulted in one where Jeffy is looking at Grandma and says, "I'm into tough love these days. Go lay down on those rocks."

So in the middle of all that, as well as 'News of the Weird' type shit, you can also find Real Scientific Type Findings. In this case, a New York Times News Service story by someone named Sarah Kershaw titled "Can I talk to you about what it means when teen girls talk?".
Amazingly, this is a story about how teenaged girls, in packs, drive each other crazy. No really; their basic communication is neurotic, and leads to psychosis. Well, specifically, "frequently or obsessively discussing the same problem". And someone has decided to call this phenomenon "co-ruminating".

Heh heh. Note the subliminal suggestion that girls is cows (or 'ruminants'), chewin' their cud... And the other thing is, I've been around a few teenaged girl cliques in my life, and can certainly offer anecdotal "proof" that chicks in packs is crazy, all right, but hey; I'm not a scientist.
On the other hand, I'm not seeing, right off hand, who is the scientist in this article. Hm. In the sixth paragraph, it says, 'psychologists and researchers', who apparently are 'examining the question of how much talking is too much talking'. Shame that they don't italicize in your average daily paper.

Matter of fact, it takes nine paragraphs for an actual researcher with a name to show up. America, meet Amanda Rose, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri, Columbia:
"When girls are talking about these problems, it probably feels good to get that level of support and validation...But they are not putting two and two together, that actually this excessive talking can make them feel worse."

Hmmm...So -girls should talk less! Well, no not exactly; although it was pointed out earlier in the article that boys just don't do this...Which isn't actually true. I've been around a few teenaged boy cliques in my lifetime, and I can tell you that they do indeed work themselves up into a righteous lather about lots of stupid shit. This obsessiveness is a huge part of being an adolescent.
Worse than that, there's even a return in this wonderful pseudo-science to that whole "boys don't express their emotions" bullshit. So when you see boys play-fighting, wrestling, slapping etcetera, do you really think that's just raw, unbridled Id, or is it non-verbal communication? How about the elaborate, ritualized shit-talking that adolescents of both genders do? Folks communicate, and it does not do to label one gender's variety of communication as not communication. It's a fucking self-fulfilling prophecy.

As the article goes on, it starts to doubt itself. Well, about halfway through (after pointing out how The Technology; the email, your instant-messaging, the Facebook there, makes it all worse, of course), it says that "The research distinguishes between sharing or 'self-disclosure,' which is associated with positive friendships and positive feelings, and dwelling on problems, concerns and frustrations."
And I would love to see the pie graph/Venn diagram that some bright young assistant professor made up somewhere as to what makes up a 'positive feeling'. Anyway, "But they also say it is a mixed picture: Friends who co-ruminate tend to be close, and those intimate relationships can build self-esteem." Oh, I see. So why did you write this?

Of course, this is sciency-type stuff so the next line is, "For boys, such intense emotional conversations, which tend to occur less often, did not contribute to heightened anxiety or depressive moods..." Or at least none that we noticed, since we were too busy generalizing...
It is thereafter noted that Amanda Rose's study was published last year and will soon publish another one on the same subject. "Both studies confirm Rose's earlier findings," the paper soothingly notes.

Now that we've got the hard science part out of the way, let's go to the anecdotes! A thirteen-year-old is spoken to, and what she reports hardly sounds out of the ordinary for a girl, an adolescent, or anyone. They talk on the phone all day! And one time:
"My friends think my other friend did something wrong, but she didn't do something wrong. Sometimes it makes the situation worse."
Do you think that maybe that was her response to the question, 'Tell me about a time when co-ruminating made your life worse'? I'm not seeing anything...At all remarkable about whatever the fuck this article is about.

Then we meet a nineteen-year-old who tends to overanalyze situations and ask several of her friends what to do about various things. The varied responses "at times" made her feel more nervous.
Incredible. Then she got a job as a camp counselor, and noted -scientifically!- that nine-year-olds were already starting to obsess about their problems, and...

Um, I don't know, do you think maybe that we live in a culture with enough leisure time and relative comfort that we can view everything as a neurosis or pathology? And spend ridiculous amounts of time and energy discussing same, fueling a multi-million dollar industry that is more than happy to offer some Psych While-U-Shop for increasingly higher prices? Maybe we could develop some sort of pill for this basic facet of the human experience! I have 'kinda nervous about something' syndrome...
That, like all this shit, it's really your parents' fault. Leave it at that.

I'll leave the articulate nineteen-year-old (who is noted in the final paragraph as trying 'to stop negative thoughts') with the last word:
"From sixth grade, it's boys are stupid, boys have cooties. Then it progresses to boys have cooties but 20-year-old cooties. So you might as well change it when you can."

What 'it' is, and how one 'change(s)' it is left for another day.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Customer Appreciation

Some bars are good about hooking you up with a free drink here and there, but it's rare that you'll actually get a party thrown in your honor. Or at least, if not in "your" honor, then to acknowledge the customer base.
The owner of our favorite bar happens to own two bars. He seems to throw a shindig every year for his custies, and this year, we were invited. Invite only, bring no cash, no food, and Do Not Drive, as transportation would be provided.

Large joint, too: space for barbecue, a hoop for the shooting of baskets, grassy space for bocce, three pool tables, two bars, enormous kitchen and the inevitable video poker. In this spirit of overwhelming good will, I began to consider the economic state of America.
Bread n' circuses, like the occasional party to appreciate you, mixed with servicing your habits for which you must pay, and keep you coming back for more.

Let's flash back to the night before. That particular Friday was spent (thirteen hours of it, anyway) at a casino where Dennis Miller was going to be performing. We managed to bang out what little needed to be done in perhaps five hours, and the rest was just sitting around waiting for him to get done, as we wouldn't be loading out until the following night.
Dennis Miller, it should be noted, really doesn't deserve the label "comic" anymore, as his schtick these days consists of extremely medicated-sounding observational humor that isn't especially funny mixed with lots of right-wing propaganda. Mix in some needlessly obscure historical references, and you pretty much have it.

He rushed off stage at exactly sixty minutes, where he encountered my boss. He said, shortly, "Where's the hotel?" My boss indicated the door, but tried to remind Dennis that he had a meet n' greet with his fans scheduled at exactly right now, and maybe he should...
"Which way is it?", Dennis asked again, clearly meaning the hotel. He was noted afterward to have appeared to be having a panic attack. My boss again indicated the door, and Mr. Miller quietly said thank you, and rushed off into the night.
He utterly failed to engage in the Customer Appreciation. And his fans were rabid: any time any sort of vindictive, belligerent or just pro-McCain thing was said, they howled like people just waiting to be shown where the torches, pitchforks and axe handles were. Raw Meat, in short, but maybe he was just a little disgusted with it all, and needed to go hide.

A couple hours before, at my second trip to the buffet, I was approached by a rigger/conspiracy theorist who is ominously named Goldman Sachs. He was standing over by the slots, absurdly mouthing the words 'I am going to the bar' while pointing in the direction of Legends, which is what the bar is named. I waved him on, indicating 'dinner' in mime.
But I found him after, and again, since we weren't going to be working so much as sitting around waiting for Miller to get offstage so we could go home, I said sure; let's get a drink.

This was much less of a rosy prospect than it seemed. Unlike Vegas, this casino has only one bar that I'm aware of, and they have a two-drink maximum. This perhaps has to do with Native American propensity for poor alcohol absorption, but the customers are largely fat, white old people. Even more so, it's the only place you can smoke -as a customer- in the entire enormous complex.
So it's packed to the fucking gills, and there's nowhere to sit. If we had a table, we'd get table service, but no. And even standing room is packed; we're jammed into the well, getting in the way of the servers. The bartender finally gets to us fifteen minutes before the show.

I don't know how we got on this, except that Goldman Sachs is always wanting to talk conspiracy with not-just-me but anyone-who's-near, but we started prattling on about the economy, and how openly in the shitter it is.
Of course, it's no conspiracy, actually, unless you count the disproportionate amount of damage done by relatively few people to entire economies. But again, there's no secret here: this is done in the full light of day.

As people pressed in on all sides, either desperately shouting or shrilly trying to have fun, I was saying, "The way it was, at least the money used to get spread around some, you know? There was the G.I. Bill, and people got educations, and went to work, bought things, could afford houses and cars, while the military and industrial sectors had a fantastic research wing built handily into this system; the colleges themselves. And health care was affordable, so the job force was healthy, and everybody got at least some wealth. The heads of corporations were no less able to become rich and enrich their boards as well, despite the highest rate of taxation for the highest five per cent in American history.
"But now, they don't give a shit about America, and they've made this marvelously clear. They've given up, with the exception of constantly doubling the bottom line for their shareholders, forgetting that with no community left of people with money, nobody's gonna buy their products, and then where will they be?"

He agreed wholeheartedly, although his fears concerned less obvious things, like the occult origins of the American Sign Language for 'I love you' (turns out that Annie Sullivan's best friend was a contemporary of Crowley -which I'm pretty sure is impossible- and wanted to introduce that il cornuto Evil Eye devil-sign hand gesture into general use), and for exactly what Masonic reason Winston Churchill favored the 'v' sign (to combat the fascist use of the outstretched arm, which is also an occult power thing, see, and later when the hippies co-opted it, they...).
Furthermore, it didn't occur to me at the time that it's pretty funny that I was talking about this mass fleecing in a Soylent Green-esque crush of people who were entirely convinced that they could Beat the House, and become Rich.

Anyway, today Lehman Bros. went tits up, and various economists are advising cautious optimism, trust the smart men who are running the show, and try not to be bitter about the deregulation of the banking and mortgage system that brought all this about. That particular 1999 travesty overturned the strongest piece of Depression-era protection (the Glass-Steagel act) we had left, and no matter how many people at the time cried foul, it was a fait accompli.
Ever since the wall between banking and mortgage came down, the industry felt they could take increasingly crazy risks, and promise even more stupid things to their customers, who had been told that basically, you can use your house as an ATM.
And Wall Street piled on the dirt. We were so busy artificially driving up the stock prices of often non-existent and certainly non-proven web-based businesses that it was bound to fall apart, as boom markets always do. Speculation Destroys Markets, as I always have said, although like guns n' cancer, it's not like it's a new thing, and will probably be with us always.

Say it again: Speculation Destroys Markets. I witnessed this on a smaller scale with the antique market in the late 80's, then again with the comic book market in the mid-90's. You start artificially inflating prices, there will be a fall. Especially since those doing the inflating were not actually concerned with the long-term well being of the market and its clientele; they were only concerned with profit, and that poisons things.
I don't mean that in any holistic sense, either. I literally mean that you grow economies to grow and sustain communities; not profit is bad.

So we're at a place again where people's 401k's are disappearing, pension funds dismantled, people defaulting on house and car loans, and the market keeps talking cheery bullshit. The big lending houses (and pretty soon, insurance companies) are getting bailed out, the Chinese own all of our debt that isn't owned by India or Saudi Arabia...And why the fuck is the Stock Market even legal? To put it shortly, there's a boom and bust cycle at work in every market, and their whole job seems to be to make people forget that little fact. If you or me had so routinely driven the U.S. economy in the ditch, we'd be in prison right now, and rightfully so.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Search For Greatness In A World Gone Wrong

"The worst comic strip of all time is called Adam's Apples and it appears only in The Oregonian, because it is created by a Portland teacher. The writing is equal to that of Uncle Funny Bunny, the art is not quite as good, and it's general tone could be described as "gently scolding." It is one of the most miserable train wrecks I have ever seen in print."- posted by 'AARONHARNLY' on BoingBoing, August 3rd of this year

Boy, he's got that one right. Even in a world that includes 'Family Circus', 'Cathy', 'For Better or for Worse' and 'Mallard Fillmore', this is in fact a comic that I darkly suspected was written by a particularly slow junior-high school student.
The main character is another one of those straw men who -nonetheless- you will actually meet in your actual life: the teacher who makes no real secret of their intense hatred of children. In the insanely lame set-ups for the so-old-that-dirt-makes-fun-of-them punchlines, one is helpfully directed to the keyword by having it in boldface. Then the punchline is delivered, which causes the stupid, easily angered and highly unlovable main character to give you one of those defeated, disgusted "augggh i just can't take it anymore" sidewise looks to You, The Viewer, since you so clearly agree with his misanthropic bullshit. If only he could live in the same world as you.

So, Googling the damn thing doesn't work, and it seems to have no website to call home, although one may reach the author at I'd like to thank The Oregonian, as always, for its poorly designed and abysmally maintained website, which seems to have no comic strips on it, anywhere.
Going to Yahoo and searching for 'appletoons', by the way, still gets you no actual strips. It does, however, get you the following exchange:

"Jim Adams: I am an Oregonian unfortunate enough to be exposed to your strip in the paper everyday. I would strongly suggest you quit both of your jobs immediately. Teaching because you seem to hate it and your students so much, and cartooning becasue YOURS IS THE WORST STRIP I HAVE EVER ENDURED."

The reply to this is;

"How does a person ENDURE a comic strip? If you don’t care for the strip, don’t read it.
There will never be a strip, book, TV show, movie,etc that EVERYONE likes. The most popular comic strips, are often simultaneously the most disliked.
As for your comment about me hating my job; Do you mean like Dilbert hating his job or Dagwood hating his boss? It’s called humor!

Which is kinda what I'd figured he'd say. Especially the 'it's called humor' part, which is pretty much the equivalent of 'get over it', which is what shitheads say when someone has a perfectly valid criticism of something said shithead loves.

So my search for today's little gem is fruitless. Sigh. I must give you a transcription of it, then, Fiorello LaGuardia style.

First panel: Mr. Adams is leaning out his front door, placing and American flag in its holder. For some reasons, a short, fat kid in a backwards baseball cap feels the need to approach him and ask, "Why are you puttin' up a flag? It's not the Fourth of July."
As any reader of Jack Chick will tell you, ye shall know them by their headgear. The Bad among us favor The Backward Cap. Also, that flat statement/straw man ended with an abrupt period rather than the gentle ellipsis signals the arrival -very soon- of a painfully unfunny joke.

Second panel: Mr. Adams (who more than kinda resembles Jon from 'Garfield', another painfully unfunny comic captained by someone named Jim) is literally wagging his finger, while saying, "Don't you know today is September Eleventh?"
Hm. Well, the kid did note that it's not the Fourth of July. That still doesn't explain his penchant for turning up on strangers' doorsteps, questioning their decorating choices. Moreover, this kid isn't even a regular character in the strip.

Third panel: Closeup on said insolent kid's zitty, fat, heavy-lidded, backward-baseball-cap-wearing, stupid face, and he asks, "Yeah, but what's the reason for puttin' up the flag?"
There's that boldface I warned you about. Also, ye shall also know them by their droppin' of the 'g'.

Fourth panel: Now Mr. Adams has his index finger pointed Heaven-ward, and his brows are pointed downward, in barely controlled righteous fury. "On September Eleventh, there are 2,975 reasons!"

Well, I do remember that day seven years ago, when the estimate was just climbing higher and higher. True patriots like Jim Adams have the goods, though. There were not 'around 3000', but 2,975, and each and every one of them may now be exploited for any spurious political reason in the world.
Even in the service of a shitty joke.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Gaahl, or The Theoretical Ignoring the Obvious

"The problem is not just that these claims are preposterous but that the writers did not acknowledge they were saying things that common sense might call into question. This is the mentality of a cult, in which fantastical beliefs are flaunted as proof of one's piety."
- Steven Pinker, in what was admittedly a different context

In what seems like an endless thank-you note to heavy metal, some cable station available to me keeps playing "Metal: A Headbanger's Journey"(2005), in which an earnest young Canadian fellow sort of does an okay job examining the social issues surrounding his favorite musical genre, and a great job getting interviews with the players, artistic and otherwise.
The problem of a documentary made by a fan is that probably the guy is going to fail to be objective...And beyond there it turns into problems with the individual. For instance, his choice of questions.

In interviewing the lead singer of Norwegian black metal band Gorgoroth, there is this hilarious sequence where the singer is asked what his chief inspiration is. Taking a long, significant drink from his enormous glass of wine, he then fixes the camera with a verrry long stare that bespeaks great gravity and scariness before simply intoning, "Satan".
All previous interviewees had gamely noted that the whole Satanism thing was a metaphor at best, a salable pose at worst. Generally, they had said this with smiles on their collective face, too, as if to emphasize how obvious this fact is.

Not Gaahl (for that was his name), though, unless he's just early enough in his career to be still too concerned with the pose, and worried that seeming overly jovial about the whole thing might call his dedication into question.
But after this, in an extended discussion of how black metal devotees in Scandinavia have, at times, shown their devotion to...Something, by burning down churches, Gaahl was also on record as being one hundred per cent behind this sort of activity.

Well, okay: that's pretty indefensible, but if you say so...Gaahl isn't done though. He needs to express his socio-religio basis for this view of his, and suggests in the course of a longer sentence that "the semitic roots" need to be eliminated from Western culture.
And I'm screaming at the teevee, "Um, maybe you should go back and ask him to elaborate on that one a bit?" It goes well beyond the basic stupidity one may expect of your average shithead, and into fostering an atmosphere ripe for genocide, so maybe one should shed light into this area, which only happens when The Questions are asked.
In this case, they weren't.

But Canadian dude's a fan, not a journalist. He even asks the question at the end that I've heard more than one fourteen year old ask in my time: Why do they demonize and ridicule us so? Um, maybe just maybe metal intentionally ghettoizes itself due to the nature of its target audience, and sort of invites demonization and ridicule? Literally naming its bands things like 'Demon' and so on?
Of course, the forces of Good Via Consensus are right there to do the demonizing, playing into this stupid dynamic by simultaneously over- as well as under-explaining the whole phenomenon. As usual, it's the Music These Kids Are Listening To These Days, to say nothing of The Video Games, that is causing the problem, whereas I've always felt that the thing that led to the culture in which said music and said games are acceptable is that we live in a hyper-militarized bad dream of a nation that randomly bombs and invades other countries more or less whenever we feel like it, and we are repeatedly told that this is the just and good way of approaching life on Earth.

As always, this makes me think that people should pay me to sit around talking about things. Also, when we inevitably get around to how metal views and portrays sexuality, the discussion vis a vis homosexuality rapidly becomes hilarious.
Rob Halford of Judas Priest must be discussed, and as usual there's a parade of aging English gentlemen who pronounce themselves just shocked when they found out he was gay.

Even better than this is the endless footage that suggests to me that this guy was in Heaven -as far as his professional life went- in those days. He had a massive fan base of adolescent males who adored him and wanted to be him. By that of course I mean that they wanted to be some weird idealized biker/rock star fantasy, not a leather daddy.
Of course, almost all of said adolescent males were pretty damn heterosexist, and likely to miss the import of lyrics that alternately seem to be about the search for individual freedom or the thoughts of a man who spent much of his life in a country where it was literally illegal to be gay. Also, he may be a vampire.

This is all par for the course in metal. The target audience is adolescent males, again, and our documentarian makes a lot of hilarious generalizations about the need for teenaged males to come together in an atmosphere free from the confusing female influence.
A sentiment of not so much misogyny as it is terror of the female runs freely through the lyric content of this genre. The ongoing suggestion that women are just out to control you, take your money, have sex with your friends and ultimately entrap you with pregnancy and responsibility (See Ronnie James Dio-era Black Sabbath's "Walk Away" for a very on-the-nose example of this) is paired with many an celebration of the salubrious effects of hangin' with the boys. It is often suggested that one should only hang with the boys.

Yeah, so Canadian metal fan (okay; his name is Sam Dunn) is too much a product of this cultural meme to understand how gay that could easily be read to be, and cheerfully celebrates the camaraderie aspect of it. In fact, the documentary ends with an extended montage of fans detailing how rock n' roll music saved their lives, over a lot of slo-mo shots of teenaged males in baggy shorts, moshing and sweating.

The whole thing is that how fucking homoerotic the entire thing is sits uncomfortably side by side with how homophobic the actual practitioners and fans are. The genre holds equal roots in glam and blues, and I think that's part of it. Glam is where the subversive desire to shock at any cost came from, and blues comes through the transmogrifying lens of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.
Since the early songbooks of both bands were almost entirely comprised of old blues songs -the Rolling Stones giving credit where credit was due, and Led Zeppelin pretty much never giving it, despite their first album pretty much being a Willie Dixon tribute- a certain kind of misogyny attributable to old black men comes through.
On one hand, musn't generalize like that, but on another, listen to the songs in question, in the original, and come back and talk to me.

Somewhere down the road, through the mutation of decades and the generalized dumbing-down of the content, we get whiny dudes in spandex and studded leather with hair that looks like Stephanie Zimbalist's talking about how fuckin' evil women are, man...

Shit, speaking of which, I was originally going to turn this into a post about Sarah Palin and how openly vindictive she is, and how most Americans are pretty much like that, since to be endlessly angry and offended at the world is to acquire righteousness for oneself in the minds of the stupid, and how the Republicans will probably win because of that, but this has gone on too long as it is.
Maybe next time.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

The 13th Step?

So lessee: Had that seven-day week there, then we went out to the coast. That was three or four days of beauty; made a fire on the beach each night. Then, another seven-day week, although minus the ten-hour days and near-death experiences.
Another year, another PICA shirt: It's TBA (Time Based Art) festival time again, which is kind of like class reunion for me. These tend to be days spent with people I literally work with once a year.
And 'PICA'? Portland Institute for Contemporary Arts, not the psychological disorder in which you eat highly inappropriate things (like your own feces, or drywall), or the type-size.

In the middle of all of this, the Bear starts texting me again. A couple months ago, I received another one of those messages that seem to be aimed at the former holder of my phone number: "Hey man wuz up?" kinda shit.
As always, I respond, "Who dis?"

But this time, the response is "The Dream Team".
And I say, "What?"
And it comes back, "Is in the house".

Ah. That's the chorus to "In the House", by the L.A. Dream Team (members: Rudy Pardee and Snake Puppy), a mediocre dance assemblage of the early 80's. And yes, that was th' Bear, my old dance club-goin' buddy. I didn't say anything back.

As you may recall, the last time I had heard from him, he was on step nine of his twelve steps, where he was making reparations.
As you also may recall, I feel that above all else, this person is a vampiric presence in my life, and I don't want to encourage him in any way. He can find his own friends, and perhaps grow the fuck up a little...But the particular variety of insanity he displays is one common to many Americans: overwhelming self-absorption. These people tend to be violent when they fail to receive the proper kind or amount of attention, and I don't feel safe around them.

Oddly, Bee and I had just found a small copy of the Alcoholics Anonymous book on the beach, and had been enjoying it while also enjoying a few beers. When I get back to my phone, it showed me that he had sent me one that just said "Fuck u".
I wrote back, simply, "Stop."
He wrote back, "No".

Hehhh...So as usual, I know that if I engage him in any way, I'll be there all night. We drove back to Portland later on, and upon our arrival, I see that he has texted, "Puck you motherpucker".
This signals to me that perhaps that was a friendly fuck you earlier? Or something? And as always, I'm just failing to see the special, life-changing humor of this special, special guy who is only trying to broaden my perspectives and alter my consciousness with Zen-like pranks. Or something. In any case, I again did not respond.

This morning, I get a text that reads, "Sorry for trying will let go". Oh, I see. You were just passively aggressing and sort of behaving like a stalker in an attempt to show your love and care for me. Riiight. And I also see that it is my fault for responding in the expected and appropriate manner.
The thing is, I believe that he is being encouraged by a couple other friends of mine, who have expressed that it's just damn tragic that two people who were once such close friends can not find their way past their differences. One of them holds a degree in psychology, and in most other cases I believe would very easily accept that people have a right to put distance between themselves and those who make them feel unsafe.
Our differences here being simply; yes, I can't trust him, and I believe him to be borderline enough that he'd fucking harm me, given the proper "reasons". And too that it would be my fault for not seeing the simple beauty and indeed, Enlightenment in his fucked up behavior. I am a terrible, terrible man.

Interestingly, I note from the writing of Bill W. in the Alkies' Bible that the whole "higher power" concept -so problematic for the legions of alcoholics who also happen to not believe in God- sprung out of Bill W's equal disgust for religion, and its brutal effect on humankind. He goes on about it at length. The fact that the "higher power" thing -suggested to him by a successful ex-drinker- for some reason seemed a decent substitute is a matter for study, I feel.
It may very well have been the first time in American culture that someone suggested the whole mushy I-don't-know-what-it-is-but-there's-something spirituality that is now practiced, I feel, by most Americans. Before that, the idea of picking and choosing your divinity would have been pretty damn not okay, I think.

Post script: and since I wrote Disco Boy about this issue just a minute ago, Gmail did its usual helpful number and thought it might show me a few other places where people like me -with our interest in bears- might like to go. It came up with the Gloomy Bear Store. Enjoy at your own risk.