Monday, April 30, 2007
In case you missed Mary Welp's review of Blackwater in Saturday's CJ, check it out, here:
'Blackwater': privatizing America's military
Just when you think the news coming out of Iraq couldn't possibly get any worse, it does. As does the news coming out of America. Alternet excerpts Naomi Wolf's upcoming book:
Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps
Friday, April 27, 2007
"The rain it raineth on the just,
And also on the unjust fella.
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust hath the just's umbrella"
-Lord Justice Bowen
Candidates gone wild
The already-entertaining governor's race took a turn for the hilarious last week. Quasi-democrat Bruce Lunsford had to defend charges of plagiarism when BluegrassReport blogger Mark Nicholas discovered that Lunsford's campaign had copied language verbatim from the platform of Florida candidate Jim Davis. After downplaying the pilfering as inevitable in a world where good ideas are finite, Lunsford then outted foe Steve Beshear for swiping platform language from Iowa governor Chet Culver, which resulted in both campaigns cribbing heavily from the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Denying Wrongdoing in an Election."
Meanwhile, fellow dem and orthopedic surgeon Steve Henry made headlines thanks to a previously undisclosed 2005 malpractice lawsuit. A 22-year-old Finchville woman sued Henry and two other surgeons claiming that Henry damaged her hip during surgery and didn't notice the damage on X-rays, forcing a subsequent hip replacement. The lawsuit comes after Henry's 2003 settlement with the feds over Medicare "misbilling," last year's lawsuit against Henry's wife Heather French Henry for not honoring the terms of a book contract, and a complaint filed by a former campaign worker, charging Henry with financial shenanigans in his current campaign. Proving he's got governor-level chutzpah, Henry's team noted his ability to get doctors and lawyers "together at the same table."
Not to be out-headlined, republican Anne Northup made news by offering to sell yard signs ("fade-resistant finish!") instead of giving them away. Northup's supporters must shell out ten bucks if they want to display a yard sign, a sales campaign that is no doubt more successful in St. Matthews than in Monkey's Eyebrow. The strategy begs several questions: Is Northup so self confident that she believes she doesn't need front-yard marketing? Or is her campaign worried about running out of cash? And will wiseguys who wouldn't normally deface a free NORTHUP/HOOVER yard sign feel free to rearrange the letters on one they bought fair and square to read, say, "PROVEN HURT" or "VOTER PORNO?" Only time will tell.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Whoever ghost-writes Mitch McConnell's op-eds has finally explained what's causing Mitch's stances on global warming, stem cells, oil drilling, "intelligent design," and the whole Bush rubber-stamp clusterfuck:
"As a child, my parents encouraged me to do better in my math and science classes in school. I'll admit they weren't my best subjects. I just couldn't see -- as a kid -- how math and science would be that important to me in the future."
Here's what not to eat today:
Hogs quarantined after eating tainted pet food
Cow 'emissions' more damaging to planet than CO2 from cars
KFC agrees to warning about cancer in California
Ask yourself: What Would Charles Do?
Great Moments in Journalism...
Is it just me, or is there something redundant in this headline?
And, from the unintentionally ironically subtitled Barnstable Brown bash sizzles with all-star list:
"From the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue (where Peyton presented a Colts jersey to President Bush this week) to the white house on Louisville's Spring Drive — now that's a Super shuffle."
Join us again next time for more Great Moments in Journalism.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Don't do that. Thank you.
Every astute watcher of the Zeitgeist from Walt Mossberg to John Hodgman knows that iTunes is the mackdaddiest music player since Antonio Stradivari slapped spruce to maple and lubed it all down with some sweet-ass black-market Arabic gum. But the out-of-the-pipe iTunes can leave today's suburban uber-hipster a little gobsmacked, especially if your particular disorder leans toward the attention-deficit or home-schooled vintages. Fortunately, the Oh, For God's Sake! how-to team is here with these handy iTunes tips!
1. Crossfade to black
Back in the good old days, people used to actually listen to entire "albums" before right-clicking the mouse (or whatever they did!) to advance the "needle" to the next "record." Some old-timers even claim the silence between tracks served a purpose: cleansing the palate and providing negative space for the next song. Schhhhhwhatever! If you do find yourself listening to an entire song by accident (it could happen), don't settle for iTunes' default maddening silence between songs. You want another song and you want it now! Arrrrgh, that silence! Make it stop! Hurryhurryhurry! Here's how to change the setting so All American Rejects melds into Arctic Monkeys before even one nano-second of silence can let Satan whisper suggestions about boiling oil in your cube farm:
Choose Edit, Preferences.
In the Prefences dialog box, click the Playback tab.
Click to select "Crossfade playback"
Click on the scrollbar to toggle to a setting you like, from 1-12 seconds.
When Windows crashes, reboot and return to where you were.
Play some songs and experiment with the settings to get just the effect you want.
Click OK to lock in the setting.
Imagine the perfect crossfade setting, then blink your eyes. (Not too hard; you don't want to poot!)
2. The pump don't work 'cause the vandal took the Handel
Thanks to iTunes, stealing music has never been easier! On a LAN, it's a piece of sachertorte to steal more music in one afternoon than you can listen to in a lifetime. (In fact, this presents a curious conundrum for the digital age: If you steal music but don't listen to it, is it really theft? But that's beyond the scope of Oh, For God Sake!'s team of legal theologists' pre-granola mental bandwidth, so we'll save that for some day's post-lunch post.) Besides music, you can also steal movies, TV shows, and other proprietary media some have the brass neck to call "intellectual property," as if intellectuality could be ownnnned, man. What might surprise you is that, in addition to popular media formats, the iPod also allows you to pilfer all kinds of other cool stuff, from your boss' Faberge egg to your hot neighbor's virginity. Here's how:
On the Edit menu, choose Infiltrate
In the Infiltrate dialog box, click the Neighborhood tab.
Click the Browse button.
In the Browse dialog box, choose the neighbor you want to infiltrate.
When Windows crashes, reboot and return to where you were.
In the Infiltrate Neighbor text field, type the action you want to perform.
Focus your ch'i on the action you want to perform.
Hold down the Apple key and hum Kenny's portion of the theme from South Park.
Build a small shrine in your bedroom to how cool this command is.
3. The Leftover Salmon of Doubt
One of iTunes' many undocumented features is its ability to determine whether or not there is a god. A word of warning: use this trick only if you are prepared to hear the answer. Also, while not officially sanctioning the procedure, Apple has issued a statement advising that users keep a bottle of shiraz handy and add Yusuf to their shuffle playlists. (This technique is not available on Windows.)
Choose Play > godcast
Sip wine, listen to Yusuf
Relax afterwards by downloading some porn and photoshopping the images to suit your personal sense of aesthetics.
That's it for this edition of Pimp Your iTunes. Be sure to add this page to your Favorites and come back next week, when our tech team will explain how to drive your Prius through a wormhole to Gliese 581C, where the Paneras have drive-thru make-your-own smoothie machines!
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Y'all haven't forgotten that it's National Poetry Month, right? In case you missed the Stephen Colbert/Sean Penn Meta-Free-Phor-All the other night, here 'tis. This must be one of TV's most hallucinogenic moments since H. R. Pufnstuf went off the air:
Here is Robert Pinsky's Samurai Song. I can't help but wonder if he's lying in that last line.
When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.
When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.
When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.
When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.
When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.
When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.
Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Stop it. Thank you.
The results of the OFGS cheerleader poll are in. 83% of you said cheerleaders should in fact have their own cheerleaders, even if the fallout creates a warp in the space/time continuum. 17% of you voted no. And Mom wrote to say, "A bit is 12 and 1/2 cents. A guy at Conner Prairie showed me one a few years ago. He had a cloth bag in his pocket that contained coins that had been cut into four bits." Thanks 8 million bits to you all. Now, a new poll:
The Louisville Green Guide is pretty groovy. In addition to local environmental news and events, the site includes a wiki that people can use to share info. That could be pretty cool if it catches on.
Meanwhile, LEO writer Stephen George has given up his car for a month and is blogging about it here. I've found that Louisville is much more bike friendly and TARC is much better than I ever gave either one credit for. (A minor rant: yesterday I rode the downtown-to-Portland portion of the Riverwalk and, great as it was, it sure would be a whole lot sweeter if it didn't have a noisy, smelly, polluted, rubber-spewing interstate roaring overhead.) Check out the Louisville Green Guide and Stephen's Share the Road blog and get your green on.
And now, for an opposing viewpoint…
Here's what's making me happy today: Vandaveer.
"…despite the possessions that we boast
we're all parasites and ghosts
and our planet's just a temporary host…"
You guys have got to check out the new album from insanely talented artist and Apparition Mark Charles Heidinger. It's haunting, delicious, gorgeous and you will like it. Vandaveer is in store at ear X-tacy on Thursday and plays that night at 930 Listening Room, 930 Mary Street, Louisville. Warm up here and here.
Friday, April 20, 2007
This just seems like it's fraught with all kinds of logistics problems:
Catholic Church buries limbo after centuries
If Plato and Socrates and all those pre-Jesus "virtuous pagans" - plus all those babies - get out of limbo at once, won't there be a terrible crush at the gates of heaven, sorta like that Who concert in Cincinnati? They will probably have to issue tickets, so the heathens can proceed to heaven in an orderly fashion. And if limbo is an "unduly restrictive view of salvation," what other unduly restrictive views of salvation can Catholics look forward to being overturned in the future? Contraception? Voting for John Kerry? Pre-marital sex? Homosexuality? Coveting thy neighbor's wife on the Sabbath? According to Slate, heaven has never been that hard a country club to get into:
Saintly Bad Behavior
Sounds like it's party time, people! And just in time for Derby!
OK, this is the last thing I'm going to say about Thunder Over Kablewy-ville until next April. I promise.
I was writing a tasteless parody of war re-enactments when I realized that our society is so speeded up now that we actually re-enact wars while we're waging them. Every year, there's a Revolutionary War re-enactment at Locust Grove and a Civil War re-enactment at Perryville. Fine. I love history. And if we can learn from history while also giving chubby, bald, lonely men something to do on the weekends besides watch NASCAR, why the hell not?
So I was thinking Ka-Thunder Over Kablammyville is a re-enactment of Baghdad today, while it's still happening. But really, it isn't. It's a re-enactment of the Shock and Awe of 2003. You know, "Mission Accomplished," and all that shit. (For a re-enactment of Baghdad today, see Tech, Virginia.) So, really, not only is Thunder a tacky, diabolical display of war weaponry, it's a tacky, diabolical display of war weapons that no longer work.
So, look up in the sky in wonderment tomorrow, Louisvillians. Admire the billions you spent to enjoy a re-enactment of a an ongoing failure of antique war weapons. Maybe in a few years, we'll have body armor flying over Louisville to kick off the Derby festival.
Mr. John E. Brown, Jr.
Louisville Commercial Operations
P. O. Box 14601
Lexington, KY 40512
Dear Mr. Brown,
I am in receipt of your letter and accompanying two-page form requesting information about my "other insurance coverage." It is so considerate of you to, as you state, "update my records to make sure my claims are processed accurately and timely."
Funny thing: the same day I got your friendly letter with homework attached, I got a call from my doctor saying you've refused to pay a claim until I complete my homework assignment. What a coincidence!
I appreciate your concern about my records being up to date, but nothing's changed about my "other insurance" since six months ago when you requested the same information: I don't have "other insurance." Just like I didn't when I signed up with Humana 12 months ago. And just like I won't six months from now when you hold up a claim while you ask me again, in order to "make sure my claims are processed accurately and timely."
Besides, what's it to you if I have other insurance anyway? Have I not faithfully paid each and every premium? Do you not therefore owe the money? What are we, in a monogamous relationship? You should know that jealousy is very unattractive. I hate to break it to you, but your clinginess is making that Aflac duck look hotter and hotter.
Mr. Brown, I think we both know what's going on here. Insurance companies, riding high on the shoulders of capitalism, routinely deny claims for some bogus reason, knowing that A) some percentage of customers will never follow up, which means your company pockets the cash; and B) the rest of us who do follow up will do so only after several days or weeks have passed, during which time you will earn capital on our money. Pretty sweet for you, huh? There are probably other fiscal advantages I don't even know about, some of which might even have been thought up by you. After all, you're a vice president! You probably have all kinds of tricks up your monogrammed sleeves, which no doubt end in cufflinks I paid for! Kudos to you, sir. Can you sleep at night? If so, double kudos! But not if you rely on Ambien. Unless Humana pays for it, in which case triple kudos!
But here's the bummer for you. I don't really want to fill out the two-page form asking about other insurance I don't have. That form has about 40 questions! Some of them are about Medicare, which I won't have for quite some time, god willin' and the crick don't rise. I'm in the pink of health, if you want to know the truth. But you already know that because you almost never have to pay a penny back out of the thousands and thousands of dollars I pay you every year. Thousands and thousands. And when I do go for an annual physical, what happens? Claim denied! Oh-oh.
That makes me sad.
Guess who else is pissed at you. My doctor's office. They had to stop and call me and ask me to call you, but I don't have time to call you because I'm already busy with the homework form you sent me. My doctor and doctors all over the country have to hire employees just to deal with your shenanigans. And guess who else doesn't have the time. My HR department. (I knew they'd want to know.) So here's the chain of pain, Mr. Brown: You reject a claim. The doctor's office bothers me. I bother HR. They bother you. You agree there was no cause to deny the claim. You notify HR. They notify me. I notify my doctor. That, sir, is what you call a good old, American cluster you-know-what. And it's one big reason insurance costs thousands and thousands of dollars in the first place.
Dang, aren't you proud?
Of course, unlucky for you, your greed is also why universal health care is eventually going to put you out on the street. Bummer.
Here's another funny thing. I don't really have time to fill out your paperwork but I did find time to write you this letter, which I sincerely hope has brought you as much annoyance as your two-page homework form brought me. This is probably a pipedream, but I hope that you have some sort of grievance procedure there at Humana and that this letter will have to be routed around to several Humana stooges, suits, and assorted thieves, and perhaps be entered into some database, wasting precious robber-baron moments, so that you can feel the way I felt receiving your letter. Maybe then you'll see what your life's work has become.
But oops, guess what! The joke's on me. You've got all the "hand" here. This being America and you being the giant, conscienceless corporation that you are, whatever I do, I'm screwed. If I actually place your form where it belongs -- say, in a dumpster full of old chicken parts rotting in the sun -- you'll get your wish: You won't have to pay my claim. And we can't have that. So you know what, Mr. Brown? You win. Like you always do. Enclosed, please find my form, explaining in excruciating detail that, in fact, I do not have "other insurance."
You've won this round, Mr. Brown. Talk to you in six months. Unless millions and millions of Americans get their wish and universal health care has put you out on the street by then!
PS: Please look forward to my upcoming two-page form certifying that you are my one and only. I'll need you to fill it out and return it before I can pay you any more premiums.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
From Mary via Fresh Air: Lil' 9/11. "Based on a true story." I've watched it twice and still can't tell any difference between this version and the real one.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is soliciting citizen input on ideas for Kentucky.
The mind reels...
Take the money away from basketball and give it to teachers. Raise taxes and fund higher education. Take a sledgehammer to that godawful Ten Commandments monument. Clean up Rubbertown. Give Dan Seum a nuclear wedgie. 86-64. Tell the feds no more cheap coal until they destroy the weapons of mass destruction stored in Richmond. Put David Williams in prison. Fully fund all-day kindergarten. Move state government to Louisville where there's a labor pool of non-retarded workers. Dismantle the idiotic Kentucky Chamber of Commerce citizen-input web site. Dismantle the idiotic Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. Build passenger railroads down the middle of interstates 64, 65, 71, and 75. Impose a 5% tax on everything sold at Wal-Mart and give the money to mom-and-pop merchants. Glue Dan Kelly's mouth shut. Elect legislators who aren't washed up real-estate agents and car salesmen. Raise the cigarette tax $4 per pack. Take the nuggets, tots, Cokes, Twinkies, corndogs, twizzlers, and Cool Ranch Doritos out of the school cafeterias. Put Jim Bunning in a home and give him a nice, warm blankey. Make anyone involved in mountaintop removal mining rebuild the mountains using only plastic sporks. Until they do, no more coal. Tax Southeast Christian, Highview Christian, and other megachurches and give the money to businesses and workers who've been fucked out of business and jobs because of the networking for Jesus. Give Mitch McConnell a titty twister. Every day. On TV. Legalize marijuana, dilute its potency, tax the shit out of it and sell it to all those ADHD adults. Use the proceeds to fund Head Start. Make free condoms available in every public school. Place a 100% surcharge on the sales of all Hummers and give the money to TARC. Confiscate automatic weapons, melt them down, sell them for scrap metal and give the proceeds to victims of gun violence and the police. Make it illegal to wear more than one article of UK attire at once. Stop blowing Ford, Dow, DuPont, Humana, and BAE, and start sucking off Amazon, Apple, Evergreen and Google. Outlaw big hair. Outlaw coach's shorts. Outlaw wifebeaters. Invest in some high quality, extra large turds and cram them in the pandering pieholes of everyone at WHAS radio and all local TV news stations. Confiscate all the country clubs and convert them into recreation centers for underprivileged kids. Give Ernie Fletcher a wet willie. Make him write "I am a waste, fraud, and abuse" 1000 times on the state chalkboard. Legalize gay marriage, formally apologize to all the gay people for abusing their civil rights, and save ourselves the trouble of doing it in 20 years. Give Al Mohler a chocolate swirlie. Offer Northern Kentucky to Ohio in exchange for a blowjob and lifetime Bengals tickets, then scalp the Bengals tickets and use the money to go to the movies.
Anyway, that's a start.
When insanity reigns, there's only one sensible thing to do: form a coalition. Um, maybe not. But The Peaceful Skies Coalition is sponsoring an alternative party to Thunder on Saturday at Iroquois Park anyway. Hey, what can it hurt? From the news release:
"Since when are bombers and fighter aircraft family entertainment?
A group of local churches and peace and justice organizations is continuing their effort to convince Louisville Metro and the Kentucky Derby Festival to eliminate the flyover of warplanes during Thunder. The KDF has said fighters and bombers flying overhead are "family entertainment."
For whose families?
Not for some in Louisville's growing immigrant communities-Southeast Asians, Bosnians, Sudanese, and others-who have seen warplanes fly over their heads and bomb their towns.
Not for Kentucky's Japanese auto companies and their employees, who were deeply offended by the Tora! Tora! Tora! military reenactment during Thunder seven years ago. A Courier Journal poll then showed the community was evenly divided about that show's appropriateness, and our local Aldermen opposed it.
The key word is "divided". Substantial numbers of long-time residents -veterans and non-veterans alike-rightfully questioned the unnecessary presence and glorification of these symbols of war. Displays of the power of our military weapons are divisive, and politicize Derby.
The Derby Festival committee labels Thunder a patriotic show. We won't have our love of country reduced to a show of military might. We don't equate the greatness of our country with its military firepower. And yes, the fact that it does literally scare refugees and others in our community is worthy of community consideration. And yes, the warplanes only come if three trailers of military recruiters get free space on the Great Lawn Thunder Day."
I salute the organizers for organizing an alternative to the outrageous, creepy, repulsive military display, but there's only one leeetle problem: if you go to Iroquois Park, you're still going to be under Thunder. My advice: get the hell out of dodge, especially if you have young children. If you leave now, you might get far enough away by Saturday that you won't have to suffer the ruckus. Other possible alternatives:
- Wrap your house in bubble wrap and crank up Thomas the Tank Engine to top volume.
- Buy the kids a drum set and pretend the F-16s are part of the performance.
- Use it as a learning experience: "Yes, Mommy's and Daddy's taxes paid for those mean killing machines, but it was only because the bad president forced us to."
- Lie: "Oh, don't worry, sweetie, that's just God bowling."
- Be brutally honest: "They won't bomb us, kids. Those jets are for bombing other kids, in other lands, far away."
- When all else fails, the fetal position can be surprisingly comforting. Also: beer.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
The results of the recent Oh, For God's Sake poll are in, resulting in a rare tie. 48% of you said I should totally let myself go, while 48% said I should not. Curiously, 5% advised "Maybe just let yourself go partially, like for instance cultivate fat earlobes?" This seems to confirm not only that OFGS readers are seriously disturbed but also that Polldaddy has some problems with arithmetic.
Because of the split decision, it seems wrong to either let myself totally go or be really careful about diet and exercise. Accordingly, I'm going to have a healthy lunch of lentil soup but I'm going to stir it with a Snickers bar. Thanks for nothing, people. And now, a new poll:
Now that cheerleading is a sport, shouldn't cheerleaders have cheerleaders cheering them on? And shouldn't those cheerleaders have cheerleaders too, and so on, and so on, and so on, until infinity?
by Cheryl Wheeler
Maybe it's the movies, maybe it's the books
Maybe it's the bullets, maybe it's the real crooks
Maybe it's the drugs, maybe it's the parents
Maybe it's the colors everybody's wearin
Maybe it's the President, maybe it's the last one
Maybe it's the one before that, what he done
Maybe it's the high schools, maybe it's the teachers
Maybe it's the tattooed children in the bleachers
Maybe it's the Bible, maybe it's the lack
Maybe it's the music, maybe it's the crack
Maybe it's the hairdos, maybe it's the TV
Maybe it's the cigarettes, maybe it's the family
Maybe it's the fast food, maybe it's the news
Maybe it's divorce, maybe it's abuse
Maybe it's the lawyers, maybe it's the prisons
Maybe it's the Senators, maybe it's the system
Maybe it's the fathers, maybe it's the sons
Maybe it's the sisters, maybe it's the moms
Maybe it's the radio, maybe it's road rage
Maybe El Nino, or UV rays
Maybe it's the army, maybe it's the liquor
Maybe it's the papers, maybe the militia
Maybe it's the athletes, maybe it's the ads
Maybe it's the sports fans, maybe it's a fad
Maybe it's the magazines, maybe it's the internet
Maybe it's the lottery, maybe it's the immigrants
Maybe it's taxes, big business
Maybe it's the KKK and the skinheads
Maybe it's the communists, maybe it's the Catholics
Maybe it's the hippies, maybe it's the addicts
Maybe it's the art, maybe it's the sex
Maybe it's the homeless, maybe it's the banks
Maybe it's the clearcut, maybe it's the ozone
Maybe it's the chemicals, maybe it's the car phones
Maybe it's the fertilizer, maybe it's the nose rings
Maybe it's the end, but I know one thing.
If it were up to me, I'd take away the guns.
Monday, April 16, 2007
When I was 16 years old, my English teacher, Mr. Ruhe, tossed me a book and said, "I think you're ready for this." The book was Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Flattered, I cautiously cracked the book open, expecting it to be cryptic like Joyce or arcane like Emerson. Instead, it was horrifying, thrilling, poetically pure, and goddamned hilarious. It's not an overstatement to say my life has never been the same.
After Slaughterhouse-Five, I devoured Player Piano, Cat's Cradle, Breakfast of Champions and all the rest of the books Vonnegut had written up to that time, reveling in each unorthodox construction, each science-informed indignation, each wicked outburst of corporate and religious iconoclasm. Vonnegut wasn't somebody to read; Vonnegut was somebody to hang out with. And pay really, really close attention to.
When a new Vonnegut book came out, it was an event every bit as important to me as a new Stones album or Who concert. I collected his books and anything related to him. I scoured used bookstores in vain trying to find a copy of the out-of-print (and hilariously titled) "Canary in a Cathouse," even though all but one of its stories had been reprinted in my tattered copy of "Welcome to the Monkey House." When Vonnegut made a speech on behalf of the Kentucky Civil Liberties Union, I talked my parents into taking me. When he signed a book for me, I was too nervous to speak coherently.
I had become a Kurt Vonnegut nerd.
Kurt Vonnegut made sense to me in a way my teachers, my parish, my society and my world did not. His fiction proved that there was more to life than meets the eye. His characters showed that wars are always bad and almost never good. He told of something called "secular humanism," a philosophy that provided all of the caring, charity, goodness, and consolation of religion without the pesky wars, violence, bigotry, chauvinism, guilt, extortion or crackpotism. He was anti-war when the people of his generation were calling for bigger and greater weapons. He warned about corporations destroying the world back when Dick Cheney was still dodging the draft. He made bitter comedy of religion just when I was beginning to wonder if it was a little cuckoo that everyone seemed to want to kill, steal, cheat, or otherwise commit atrocities in the name of a god who'd been supposedly born to a virgin 2000 years ago, came back to life after dying, and who could now read all of our thoughts. He understood that destroying our planet is a stupid thing to do. He showed that one of the most important things you can do is play with words.
After 9/11, when I felt that our leaders' response was wrong in almost every possible way, when flags flew from practically every automobile, when it became dangerous to voice one's opinion right here on American soil, here's what I felt like: A man without a country. And guess what, at age 83, Vonnegut titled his last book?
Before Kurt Vonnegut, when you wanted to tell somebody off, you said something quaint, like, "go to hell" or "shove it up your ass." After Kurt Vonnegut, you said, "why don't you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut?" That's exactly the kind of visionary he was. He brought us wampeters, granfalloons, ice-nine, Bokononism, and wide-open beavers. What on earth was there not to love?
And now he's gone.
Some critics have suggested that in order to fully appreciate Kurt Vonnegut, you have to be an angst-ridden, sardonic, teenage boy with a sophomoric sense of humor. Having been just such a creature all my life, I can't exactly refute that assessment, but I don't believe it's true. Kurt Vonnegut has something for everybody. If you want to understand what's wrong with war, read Slaughterhouse-Five. If you want to know why American workers are desperate, read Player Piano. Want some pointers on how to write? Study the introduction to Bagombo Snuff Box. Want some insight into nature, suffering, mental illness, suicide, consumerism, loving kindness, capital punishment, morality, racism, cruelty, social justice, the afterlife, greed, love, sex, or comic timing? It's all there, right in his words. Unlike that beloved grandparent whose memory fades after his death, Kurt Vonnegut left a living record: his books. They will make you cry and they will make you laugh. And you really can't beat that.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
OK, y'all, I'm turning off the 'puter to go party like a Christian Academy junior with her 6th Mai Tai in one hand and a laminated virginity pledge in the other. Woo-hoo! Spring Break! Let's meet back here around April 16. OK? Ready… break! Oh. Wait, here's some shit to do if you get lonely: Watch the Born Again Floozies play Sly and the Family Stone's "If you want me to stay." What else, let's see…read some reviews of the world's worst movies. I know: Read the most boring sounding article in the New Yorker. Twice. Out loud. To a small child or dog. In your choice of two of the following accents: Italian, baby talk, pig Latin, Henry Kissinger. End each sentence in Flava Flav's "boyeee." Take up a new religion, then lose it. Learn why bats are endangered and why you should care. Listen to some music. If you think the iPod's clickwheel is fun, check out the navigation on this baby. Learn about the Battle of Verdun. Imagine 300,000 men dying in one battle. Wonder if it was worth it. Wonder what it smelled like. Wonder if "tyranny" is a word either side could look you in the eye today and speak out loud. Wonder how a different perspective would make you feel. What if you were a young soldier's mother? What if you were the Kaiser's favorite farrier? What if you were an officer's pregnant mistress, a homely woman with a goiter on your back whom nobody had ever loved except that soldier, now dead, being mourned by his wife, a goiter-free, perky woman who would soon take another lover while you struggled to give birth to your baby in a burned out village? Meditate. Here's a mantra: On inhale, "May all people seek knowledge." On exhale: "And tread lightly upon the earth." Too lofty for you? How about: On inhale, "May all people watch 'Now with David Branaccio.'" On exhale, "And buy their produce locally." Still too lofty? OK, on inhale, "May all people watch The Daily Show." On exhale, "and wash their hands before eating." STILL too lofty? You people. Fine. On inhale, "May all people watch Good Morning America." On exhale, "And try not to poop in their cereal bowls." Ya happy? Have a debate with yourself, out loud. Ten minutes each side for the opening arguments, five minutes each side for the rebuttals. Here's a topic: Was Robert Pirsig accurate when he wrote this in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?: "When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it is called Religion." Vote on whether I should totally let myself go. (Results when I get back.) Sometimes opportunity knocks. Although it might seem like a long shot, it's probably worth double checking: That Sunday on the way to church, did she say "Are you up for some Mass?" or "Are you up for some ass?" Go see the new baby elephant at the zoo. Aw. Go outside. Dare to eat a peach. Wear white flannel trousers and walk upon the beach. Rank these fears in the order in which they terrify you: A) Your thinning hair, B) al-Qaeda, C) everyone will find out about the affair, D) the Watterson at rush hour, E) your recurring sex dream involving your high school geometry teacher and Barry Bernson, F) your government, G) the likelihood that the man whose hand you just shook was suffering from a communicable disease, H) people from the other side of the tracks, I) China, J) the afterlife. Ponder this: If you were a Taco Bell rat with a discerning palate, which Nachos Bell Grande item would you be most likely to reject? Rewrite all the advice in "Annie's Mailbox," assuming that the world will end in 3 weeks. Make your own ice cream while getting a workout, then blow it all by eating the ice cream. Eat the seaweed salad at Sapporo, go to the Speed Museum and admire Awakened Man, get out anything – anything – camouflage you own and burn it. It is high time you revisited Sissy Hankshaw's thumbs. Rent Entourage Season 3, say something nice to that asshole co-worker, park a block away from home each night, start a MySpace, google "Abiogenesis," guess whether God or Satan killed more people in the Old Testament then check the bar chart, score the new Son Volt, make sure you understand the difference between immaculate conception and virgin birth, get down, make love, eat a miniature Krackel, flash the mailman, sow, reap, break a commandment, volunteer at Kentucky Harvest, patiently listen to the tedious meandering conversation of a 3-year old, and hug the fucking sap out of a tree.
James Howard Kunstler's speech "We Must Imagine a Future Without Cars" has some interesting implications for Louisville, 8664, our crappy, crumbling highways, light rail, and passenger trains. Some juicy excerpts to whet your appetite:
"The so-called "warehouse on wheels" composed of thousands of trucks circulating incessantly around the interstate highways will not work economically in a new era of scarcer and expensive oil. Not to mention the 12,000-mile supply line to the factories of Asia which we have tragically come to depend on for so many of our household goods."
"We're going to have to move people and things from place to place differently. It is imperative that we restore the US passenger railroad system. No other project we could do right away would have such a positive impact on our oil consumption. We used to have a railroad system that was the envy of the world. Now we have a system that the Bulgarians would be ashamed of."
"The infrastructure for this great task is lying out there rusting in the rain. This project would put scores of thousands of people to work at meaningful jobs, at every level, from labor to management. It would benefit all ranks of society. Fixing the US passenger rail system doesn't require any great technological leaps into the unknown. The technology is thoroughly understood. The fact that from end-to-end of the political spectrum there is no public discussion about fixing the US passenger rail system shows how un-serious we are.
There's another compelling reason we should undertake the great project of repairing the US passenger rail system: it is something that would restore our confidence, a way we could demonstrate to ourselves that we are competent and capable of meeting the difficult challenges of this energy-scarce future. ... And it might inspire us to get on with the other great tasks that we will have to face."
Paul Simon, "Old:"
The first time I heard "Peggy Sue"
I was 12 years old
Russians up in rocket ships
and the war was cold
Now many wars have come and gone
genocide still goes on
Buddy Holly still goes on
but his catalog was sold
First time I smoked
guess what - paranoid
First time I heard "Satisfaction"
I was young and unemployed
Down the decades every year
summer leaves and my birthday’s here
and all my friends stand up and cheer
and say man you’re old
We celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas day
and Buddha found nirvana along the Lotus Way
About 1,500 years ago the messenger Mohammed spoke
and his wisdom like a river flowed
through hills of gold
Wisdom is old
The Koran is old
The Bible’s old
Greatest story ever told
Work ’em out.
The human race has walked the earth for 2.7 million
and we estimate the universe at 13-14 billion
When all these numbers tumble into your imagination
consider that the Lord was there before creation
God is old
We’re not old
God is old
He made the mold
Take your clothes off
Adam and Eve
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Oh, Doris. You sexy, sexy thing. You might be 80, but you've still got it, kid. You've got what it takes to get an editorial writer HOT, baby. Your pretty freckles, your tight black dress, your stretchy nylons, your humps, your lovely lady lumps. MMM-mmm. I'm going to have to read some Rabbit Angstrom just to calm my jangled nerves. What do you say, Doris, to some pillow talk, just me'n'you? C'mere, baby, and lay one on me. Give me some of that guileless, authentic, post-war mojo, Doris. These cynics around this state are bumming me out but girl, your triumph over adversity and squeals of exasperation are SMOKIN' hot, kid. Here, I'm gonna sing you a song:
When I was just a little boy in Pikeville
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty? will I be rich?
Here's what she said to me.
Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.
When I was young, I fell in love
I asked my sweetheart what lies ahead
Will we have rainbows, day after day
Here's what my sweetheart said.
Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.
Now I have children of my own
They ask their mother, what will I be
Will I be handsome, will I be rich
I tell them tenderly.
Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.
Christopher Benfey examines The Dark Side of Van Gogh - How the Expressionists misunderstood their hero in Slate. Can't take my eyes off the Art Institute of Chicago's "The Bedroom."
Al Gore writes:
[I think it's so cool that he writes all 555,392 members of his fan club a personal note! But hey, he's the one who invented this neato internet, so I guess he can do anything.]
… Step It Up 2007 has organized a National Day of Climate Action on April 14. They've already scheduled more than 1,100 rallies in all fifty states - locations vary from the melting glacier on top of Mt. Rainier, to the levees in New Orleans, to underwater in an endangered coral reef off the coast of Florida, to your neighborhood park.
You can find the rally closest to your home, or if there isn't one nearby, host one yourself by visiting:
One simple message will unite these rallies - 'Step it up, Congress! Enact immediate cuts in carbon emissions, and pledge an 80% reduction by 2050. No half measures, no easy compromises - the time has come to take the real actions that can stabilize our climate.'"
If you can't make the coral reef rally or the Mt. Rainier rally, there's are going to be two downtown, plus several elsewhere around the state.
April is National Poetry Month (Is it just me, or did Blood Donor, Black History, and Fire All The Prosecutors And Lie About It months just FLY by?), so I thought I'd share a couple of my poems:
Ahem, excuse me, buddy?
While on the moving
please stand to the right
to allow those
wishing to walk
to pass safely on the left.
OK, OK, I'm just warming up.
Brady Bunch, The Lost Season
Greg gets Marcia pregnant, takes job at Sam's butcher shop to pay for the abortion.
Carol drinks too much scotch, hits on Alice, passes out.
Bobby watches Jan take a shower, gets stern lecture from Mike.
Peter sprouts a pubic hair, gets special celebration dinner from Alice.
In order to become more popular, Marcia tries cocaine but it only makes her nose bleed.
Cindy tries to pee standing up.
Greg sells pot out of his attic bedroom, narrowly avoids bust when cops bring Jan home after shoplifting arrest.
Carol accidentally bites down on Mike's penis during minor California earthquake.
Cindy walks in on Mike trying on Marcia's underpants.
Alice bakes a pornographic cake.
Peter is plagued by spontaneous erections. Alice prepares a celebratory dinner.
Jan experiments with homosexuality.
Sam locks Carol in meat locker, tries to take off her pantsuit.
Bobby and Cindy take up smoking.
Alice masturbates with a summer sausage in Sam's store. Sam refuses to refund money to customer who buys it.
Peter robs liquor store, gets stern lecture from Mike.
Jan eats hash brownies, hurts Peter's feelings by laughing while he's feeling her up.
Marcia takes off her top at a Monkees concert.
To make ends meet, Mike pimps Carol and the girls.
Peter discovers that he's limber enough to suck himself off.
OK, sorry. I guess it's pretty obvious poetry should be left to the masters. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start celebrating with these talented Kentucky poets:
Frank X Walker
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
At what point in America's failed war on the Middle East does Thunder Over Louisville become tasteless even to Louisvillians? Thunder, which is to war glorification what, um, Thunder is to rednecks getting loaded, taking their clothes off, making out, and watching fireworks, has enough F-18s, B-52s, Apaches and Jayhawks every year to scare the diarrhea out of everybody from Seymour to Bardstown. I guess there are some people who hear those jets and feel secure, but it makes me think of roadside bombs and shock and awe and surface-to-air missiles and tactical nuclear warheads and Slaughterhouse Five and napalm in the morning and Dick Cheney's brainwashing eye beams.
Each year, Thunder somehow manages to top its previous atrocities, which I guess will eventually culminate in total nuclear annihilation. Or maybe the Stealth Bomber, which apparently can fly to Takrit and back under a cloak of invisibility but can't fly in bad Louisville weather, will finally careen into corporate Louisville, setting the cigarette, whiskey, pizza, fried-chicken, firearm and insurance poisonocracy aflame. Until then, we can at least keep an eye on each year's greatest Thunder atrocity, which so far this year appears to be its Thunder Funder marketing campaign.
In the past, you had to scratch your head and marvel that individuals would actually cough up their hard-earned money to help pay for a simulation of the indignations they've previously funded to kill people and steal oil in real time. Now you can see exactly who these supporters are.
(Curiously, there's a "Big Bang" donor level, which seems like it might be offensive to the Thunder-donor demographic. Wouldn't an Intelligent Designer donor level make more sense?)
And speaking of design, isn't that home page a work of fucking art? This year's sponsor, McDonald's, isn't satisfied with the rate at which it's killing the world's people with its nuggets and cowdust fries, so it's upping the ante by getting its McWar on too. This year's theme is "The Magic of Thunder," and all fireworks are going to be set to lame oldies rock songs about magic. So the whole shitstorm of American culture is flying out of a magician's hat: An attack helicopter shoots lasers but misses a large Coke, signifying military incompetence, as well as the golden, ten-minute stream of pee that's going to come out of you after you drink that 32-oz Coke and the shooting begins. Meanwhile, on the right, a bomber suddenly appears, dropping stardust daisy-cutters on the sleepy village. Hot damn, that is making me hungry for two all-beef patties and some special sauce on a sesame seed bun, with a side of Armageddon. I'm fuckin' lovin' it.
Be good to yourself. You deserve a little treat. So today, as a special indulgence, Giada De Laurentiis is going to prepare a little penne with spinach sauce for you, John and Yoko are going to perform Give Peace a Chance,
Lewis Black is going to tell you some jokes,
and the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Treasures to Go site is going to show you some contemporary folk art. Enjoy!
Monday, April 02, 2007
Should I totally let myself go?
Cumberland Brews' porter
recent surgical/transplant advances
better able to empathize with average Americans
the sizzling catfish with black bean chile soy sauce at Azalea.
more likely to be made fun of by wisecracking bloggers
assumed to be American in foreign countries
need to request seatbelt extension on airplanes
ring around the heinie
constant need to fend off "May I have your autograph, Mr. Gandolfini?" requests
always scraping the car door across the sidewalk
I'll do whatever y'all say. Please complete the poll below.
Mark Twain describes Tangiers in "The Innocents Abroad:"
"What a funny old town it is! It seems like profanation to laugh and jest and bandy the frivolous chat of our day amid its hoary relics. Only the stately phraseology and the measured speech of the sons of the Prophet are suited to a venerable antiquity like this. Here is a crumbling wall that was old when Columbus discovered America; was old when Peter the Hermit roused the knightly men of the Middle Ages to arm for the first Crusade; was old when Charlemagne and his paladins beleaguered enchanted castles and battled with giants and genii in the fabled days of the olden time; was old when Christ and his disciples walked the earth; stood where it stands today when the lips of Memnon were vocal and men bought and sold in the streets of ancient Thebes!"
The votes are in and these are the top choices to replace "awesome" in my vocabulary:
quite merry indeed
I will begin using these in rotation immediately.
According to Where I Stand, here's where Mitch McConnell stands:
Presidential campaigns should be funded through private contributions only.
Congress should eliminate the estate tax.
The government should regulate marriage.
The U.S. should not enact a constitutional amendment prohibiting the burning of the American flag.
The government should withdraw funding for art it considers offensive.
Prayer should be permitted in public schools.
Congress should fund a troop surge in Iraq.
The U.S. should deploy more troops to Iraq.
The U.S. should not set a timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq.
The U.S. should expand oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
Global warming is not a problem primarily caused by humans; there is no conclusive evidence that the Earth is warming unnaturally.
The U.S. should allow drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
The federal government should not subsidize the creation of new stem cell lines.
My cat Fluff is so lazy! I mean, all he does is lie around taking naps all day. Just getting up to eat is a major pain in the ass to him. I hate to complain, but he's just not pulling his weight around here like he used to. Just a couple of years ago, Fluff was a busy beaver, chasing birds and field mice. Once, he even killed a baby squirrel just for sport and left it for the dog to eat. How we grimaced when we heard those soft bones crunching lightly just before Jake swallowed the whole baby squirrel in one furry gulp! But those days are gone. Now it's just sleep, sleep, sleep. Frankly, I'd think it would get awful boring just lying in the sun all day like a frat boy who smoked too many one-hits on the Fourth of July and watched an entire interleague baseball double header, too lazy to even get off the couch to score some Flamin Hot Crunchy Cheetos. And he's somewhere in the middle of nine lives of this shit! I mean, climb a tree. Jump off a limb and land on your fuckin' feet, for Chrissakes. Lick your butthole. Would it kill you to swat around some fucking yarn? I guess we all slow down as we get older. Maybe I'm just jealous. I guess it would be pretty nice to just take a load off for a couple of years. Maybe I'll just take a little siesta right now. Jesus, what a pussy.