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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review & Resolutions ... for You!

December 30, 2009: In lieu of New Year's, I decided to take a long, pensive moment this week to consider my behaviors and actions throughout 2009 -- for the whole first decade of our 21st Century, in fact. I deftly weighed my shortcomings and made an honest appraisal of all my various defects down to the most minute, with a brave and candid eye toward my ongoing improvement and spiritual growth ...

Yet when all was said and done, I realized I was just fine the way I was. It was everyone else who had the problems. So, armed with this proven knowledge, I thought I'd take a moment to candidly fill you, Dear Readers, in on exactly what's wrong with you.

To begin with, ask yourself, "What have I done for Jarret today?" It's no secret that the number of my Blah-ugh! readers ranks high. (Some have told me it's a staggering figure, perhaps topping millions!) Yet only 13 people have taken the trouble to register as Followers (and even some of these louts have been banned from reading my site because they annoyed me for one reason or another). Why is this? Do people not feel comfortable admitting their allegiance to me? Is it not enough that I slave to provide you with a veritable feast of cerebral fodder, yet you can't take the 20-second trouble to register some false identity in order to honor my work and increase my numbers?

More importantly, how many of you loyal readers are actually giving any time to spreading news of my site (and me, for that matter)? How many of you have taken a moment to email all your friends about the keen, culturally relevant commentary that flows from this electronic spinet? How many of you can honestly say you've done your part to tout the value of this enterprise, and perhaps help save its creator from the depressing life of underachievement that looms so precariously before him?

I don't want to harp on all this, however, because there are other faults to address. For instance, I received holiday cards from none of you! What's that about?! You have my email address listed here. Do I not rate some simple (even impersonal) electronic recognition? Are you so busy? Obviously you have time to waste reading this ridiculous website. Come now!

I also wanted to touch on your poor driving habits, which continue to mystify me, as well as your lazy work ethic, your variable hygiene practices, and your political apathy ... but there's only so much one can do in a decade. Let's try to stay focused on the point at hand -- namely, me -- and let's all pledge, as 2010 rolls around, to do our best to help further my aims and those of my most diligent disciples.

On that note, I bid you a Grand and Glorious New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Closure

December 27, 2009: Another lovely Christmas season is slipping away from me in a brittle flush of failed wrapping and the diarrhetic cramps of turkey undigested. It was a lovely holiday, despite some awkwardly odd regifted presents I received, and I'll remember it well (at least for a short time, and then I'll possibly forget all about it because of my brain damage).

But before it goes, let me throw out some last-minute thoughts that still clog my mind. First and foremost, kudos to the great Celine Dion, whose breathtaking version of "O Holy Night" has displaced just about every X-mas song out there for me. I don't know how many of you have heard of her, but this woman is a great singer, and I thought I'd give her a plug in the hopes of furthering her career. (I think she's French or Australian or something, but I still really like her.)

On the film front, I can never say enough for some of the most magical movies that make up my holiday playlist: "A Christmas Story," "The Bishop's Wife," and "Miracle on 34th Street." The first story -- you know, the BB gun one -- is just a wealth of low-budget fun. The scene where Ralphie helps his father change the tire is still my favorite, followed by the great Chinese restaurant moment. Try to find better lines than Darrin McGavin as The Old Man shout-groaning, "Sons of bitches Bumpuses" ... and "Not a fingah!" ... "The Bishop's Wife" -- Cary Grant as an angel -- Say no more! Still, Monty Wooley almost steals the show as the Professor ... For me, the whole thing is just plain Wow! ... And of course "Miracle" is such a brilliant story, and gets me jerking with tears, even more than "It's a Wonderful Life," which is yet another holiday favorite (but already gets so much press) ...

I didn't make a church service this year, but I just wasn't in a singing mood. I did, however, manage to keep a good fire burning while my family and I watched about 12 straight episodes of The Honeymooners ...

So now it's time to clench my teeth and fight off the awful fear of having to face another 11 months of reality in a cold, bitter world of rap music, E! Hollywood gossip and drivers who don't signal ...

Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In Good Taste

December 22, 2009: What an interesting discovery I made last week. So interesting that I forgot to mention it to anyone ... until now. You see, I don't want the year to end without you -- my ever-faithful reader -- gaining the greater value of my unique daily drama. (Little have I to offer you, you see, but for the more important shreds of my bitter experiences here on the planet earth.)

It all started on the way to work. I regularly meet my morning sustenance with a humble breakfast sandwich involving both peanut butter and jelly. (I'll usually trim away the lower quarter of crust, but I hesitate to mention that, as it makes me sound different from others.) Of late, however, I've re-discovered the joy of the banana, and have replaced my faithful fruit-only spreads with the unique-yet-ever-versatile mush of mankind's greatest fruit.

(On a serious note, it's important to be aware that the banana, as we know it, is in dire jeopardy of disappearing off the face of the earth due to a strange infection that scientists can't cure. I keep hoping to expound at length on that frightening dilemma, but I've been so busy lately with shopping and writing about Nazis, I haven't had time to give the topic the attention it deserves. Therefore, I'd like you to do some research on your own and understand the gravity of the banana situation.)

So it was I found myself ambling along Route 136, poised to bite ... and bite I did! But lo, what terrible poison was this affecting my sandwich. O, but it was bitter and tasted not like the grand peanut butter and banana of the day before. This was some awful anomaly -- a grisly mutation biting back my tongue, it's flavor a cold metallic monotone ...

It took me a minute to realize something, and imagine my surprise when I did. For you see, I had been eating my sandwich upside down. Yes, not literally, in the upside-down sense of having my head where my ass is (if you'll excuse the disgusting imagery), but rather I had foolishly gripped the sandwich so that the banana was on the bottom, and the peanut butter was on top. (If you're a normal person, you know that the peanut butter always gets spread first, and then the banana (or jelly, in some cases) gets put (mashed or spread) on top of it.)

I quickly turned the sandwich over and bit again. Needless to say, I was thrilled and relieved to find my breakfast returned to its former grandeur. It tasted great, in fact, and I ate heartily for the better part of my remaining morning drive.

So, I wanted to pass this bit of new information on to you. Do with it what you will, but I have no doubt its applications are great and far-reaching. I won't bore you with the scientific details relating to the reasons behind this phenomenon -- mainly because I have no idea what they are -- but instead let me wish you a Happy Christmas and a Tasty New Year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jewing It Down

December 15, 2009: In light of the recent unpleasantness infecting my Blah-ugh! -- (You people act like children, and all I ever wanted to do was to make you laugh, and sing, and perhaps take your clothes off and chant my name while writhing on some stone altar somehwere out on a moor at Midsummer's Eve!) -- I thought it best to focus on less controversial subjects for the time being (meaning until you all learn to behave!) ...

That said, I thought it a good time of year to address my fears of being Jewish. Please understand, I'm only half Jewish, but like being half black in modern America, they'll still send you to the inferior restroom as a consequence.

Jews today have, of course, found ever-increasing acceptance amidst the Goyum. But like other often-battered minorities (and Yes, I include the Eskimos here) our comfort is always a precarious one, forever at the mercy of some violent midwestern Redneck, or some well-educated northeast Protestant who firmly believes he has conclusive evidence to support some of the stereotypes.

When all is said and done, I simply feel it makes more sense to lay low. While I'm always one to tout my Jewishness amongst the Chosen People -- Hell, I've even purported to be all Jewish when I knew no one would really have the nerve to check -- I've found it practically safer to keep my Gentile face in front where others are concerned, if for no other reason than to avoid the chipper Gee-Whiz comments of the Christmas crowd. ("Oh, you're Jewish. That's great," the implication being "Better you than me!")

And Yes, it is an arduous brand we bare, as both Steven Spielberg and I know only too well. As a people with ne'er a land to call their own (outside of Israel, Hollywood and what the ever-dignified and articulate Rev. Jesse Jackson so sensitively referred to as "Hymietown), we find ourselves forever faced with the fear of being excluded, ostricized, and, on the worst days, put in ovens.

So, in celebration of Hannukah, I intend to stand by my anonymity and keep the crosses off the lawn. And should, God forbid, things ever take a real bad turn to the worst of human nature, I'll swear we were only using the things because we couldn't find candleholders.

Next Week: Honoring (and taming) the dormant anti-Semite in all of us!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Tribute to Johnny Mathis

December 13, 2009: Despite the exquisite joy that Christmas music brings me, I still get very uncomfortable whenever a black person sings "White Christmas." They'll sing, "May all your Christmases be white," and the disturbing racist implications for someone like me -- someone who is, if not necessarily overly sensitive out of kindness, certainly suffering under the shame-based yoke of dysfunctional hyper-awareness -- can be alarming.

But I didn't want to take that tangent today. Instead, I hoped to devote a gentle column of celebration to the remarkable Christmas work of Johnny Mathis, who is neither black nor white, but a kind of seasonal caramel cafe' au lait -- a toasted chestnut, best tasted at the holidays.

Our family prides four of Johnny Mathis's Christmas albums, and each is better than the last. For me, Johnny's vaguely nasal heartfelt melodic enthusiasm perfectly captures all that I love about this glorious season. (And let's be clear -- it has evolved into a season -- a positive celebratory season of good vibrations and comradeship, assuming one chooses to look at it that way. The lingering religiosity is, to me, a quaint, vaguely amusing archaic vestige of mankind's nervous past, but the spirit that it's based in is an ideal one, one which I welcome and celebrate.)

(How odd it was to even see in the story "A Christmas Carol" a subtle challenge to that religiosity, when Scrooge frankly (and not unkindly) questions the Ghost of Christmas Present as to why his "kind" insists on quelling the Christmas-like joy of community by making shops and restaurants and everything close every seventh day. No one ever leaves those lines in in any of the movie versions, but they're certainly striking ones!)

But we were talking about Johnny Mathis, and I did want to point out how silly he sounds pronouncing "Baby Yay-soo" in The Little Drummer Boy song, and isn't that wording itself just ridiculous! Yay-soo indeed! But better still, how much more flamingly flambuoyant could Johnny get than in Sleigh Ride, when he notes that friends are calling "Yoo Hoo!" Gads, you've got to love his unfettered fagginess! ("Gone away is a new bird. Here to stay is a (gay) bird.") The freedom that comes with his heartfelt spirited songs of voices, openly proclaiming words of love and joy and fun. It just makes me want to get up and prance, and not care who sees me. (Woe that more of us don't invest time prancing, especially at the holidays ... But I'll analyze the fatuous ninniness of homophobia another time ...)

So that's my Johnny Mathis -- the great gay (and I mean here in the happy sense) glorious voice of the holidays. What better light to shine upon our blessed heads this joyful season, and what better man than this to pronounce in Voices the Word of wonder and hope and peace that is our lovely Christmas time!

Next Week: A detailed essay on why I hate Ashton Kutcher so much.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jarret's Frank Film Forum (FFF) -- A Review of "A Christmas Carol"

December 10, 2009: I've decided that the Patrick Stewart (TNT) version of "A Christmas Carol" may ultimately be my favorite, unseating the very dear version that stars Quincy Magoo. Call it the special effects, or perhaps just seeing Joel Grey wearing that Gregg Allman wig, but something about it buoys my heart and makes me wholeheartedly glad I'm not a Jew. (No offense Bonnie, David, Efrem, Mrs. Goldblatt -- the whole lot of you people!)

No one can deny that Stewart is a very gifted actor (although I'm beginning to suspect that achieving greatness in acting merely consists of being English and orating grandiosely with a shaky timbre). The nice thing about seeing him play Scrooge, however, is that he dances like he means it. I also thought he embellished the role with some keen touches, like a bald head, and while I found his gagging scene a bit confusing and disconcerting -- at first I thought they'd left in an outtake -- overall I found myself carried along and appropriately despising his guts.

Richard E. Grant proves a fine Bob Cratchit, despite his large forehead. (I'm very wary of people with large foreheads for a variety of reasons, and you should be too.) He affects such a striking collection of twisted pathos-ridden faces, you'd think he really was some awful Camdentown wretch with nine mouths to support. His teeth, in particular, play a fine role, and one wonders what work he had done in order to even get the chance to try out for the role.

One thing I didn't like was the outfit worn by Belle in the break-up scene. The hood just seemed so overproduced, and I found I didn't even follow the dialogue because I kept looking at that stupid hood. Looking closer, I think I may have also recast the role of Feeziwig as well. While Ian McNeice was adequate, I thought the bulk of his fat chin and neck weren't matched by a believable girth, and so I found myself -- much to my own disgust -- wondering, for the sake of continuity, what he looked like naked.

I remain a fan of both the Reginald Owen and Alastair Sim versions, although I find the idea that someone created a musical version of this fine tale (which I've read numerous times) despicable. (I won't even touch the idea of Kelsey Grammar recreating the role, and will instead continue to pretend he doesn't even exist.)

To summarize, if you're only going to watch one version of this classic Christmas story this holiday season, try the Stewart version, though it's somewhat hard to find. TNT, which also created the greatest version of Stephen King's "Salem's Lot" has done it again, and while it took me 10 years to finally notice, I'll stand by my record of only supporting the best.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jarret Liotta on Writing -- Part I

December 2, 2009: Many of my most loyal readers constantly ask where I get my ideas for essays and stories. (Maybe they don't actually ask, but I can tell what they're thinking from the way they look at me.) As a rule I don't like to talk about myself, but I thought I'd make this rare exception and, per chance, enlighten some of my fans and followers as to the esoteric processes that drive and motivate this complex and -- dare I say -- scintillating young man.

In actuality, I get a great number of ideas when I'm out walking. I like to walk because it gives me a chance to ponder my victories and agonize over my defeats, as well as get a little exercise.

Just tonight, for instance, an idea came to me for creating a lengthy fantasy interview with a car company executive who explained to me why headlights were being made much brighter these days. (The blinding headlights I kept being flashed with also played a role. The exec's name was Milton Dickwad, and in that frustrating politically charged avoidant manner unique to corporate PR men, he tries to convince us that the brighter, sharper headlights, though they hurt one's eyes beyond reason, are actually generating more energy back toward the cellunoid (whatever that is) through a very complicated process we're all too stupid to understand, thereby making the car more fuel efficient and, therefore, more environmentally friendly. And, of course, in the most classic of mass-American-appeal fashions, we blindly take his word for it and exit the interview grateful for the little pine tree air freshner he granted us gratis.)

Another recent idea, which came about thanks to a coworker, after he saw me drinking a bottle of Snapple iced tea, centers on exposing the sham of Snapple's "Real" Facts inside their caps. Very few people seem to know that these "facts" are mostly lies, but not all them. In order to differentiate, you have to visit their stupid website. I find this somehow monstrous, as they're planting stupid ideas in my and my children's heads every time we're stupid enough to read their stupid caps (and believe me, we're that stupid!) It infuriates me, because I know from experience that misinformation, once learned, will, over time, become fact in a brain, unless it's replaced. Therefore, unless we take the time to flush the information out by researching the facts -- and I promise you, we never will! -- we're stuck going through the rest of our lives believing erroneous trivia about bees and Indian monkeys and a whole variety of other stupid things ... Fucking assholes! I wish I'd stop drinking their stupid tea. (That'd show them!)

But I digress. I merely wanted to point out how easily and arbitrarily my story ideas arise. The key is getting them down. In some strange way, once the idea hits, in an instant I can almost feel exactly how the thing is to be written, and yet I still have to discipline myself through the process of doing it. More often than not, as you can see from the above, I flippantly make some notes on one idea or another, then never get back to it. On rare occasions I'll regret it, and maybe even revisit an idea many months later, but mostly those ideas are replaced by new ones which -- upon entering the mind -- simply seem like the best, most vital, most original and engaging idea ever to be thought up ... until the next one replaces it ...

Anyway, the most important point is, Why are you wasting your time reading about these stupid ideas when you should be away from your computer nurturing yourself with ice cream and pornography? Haven't I taught you anything, O favorite readers of mine!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Practice of Gratitude

November 27, 2009: Your numerous comments of congratulations and praise following my last posting were a warm, loving and well-deserved tribute to not just me (for really, I merely consider myself the overworked conduit that brings us all together) but the idea -- the concept -- of this Blah-ugh community that you and thousands like you have helped foster. The warmth and love were palpable, and a fitting memorial to this season of gratitude and abundance, which has falled upon us like so many beanbag chairs.

I know I have a great deal to be grateful for, and I thought it appropriate to devote a minute (and let's be honest, also fill some space) with a short look at some of the things that keep me from pulling the trigger. There are many obvious ones, of course -- my kids, my sexual prowess, my ability to juggle -- but let's look deeper ...

Chinese restaurants are routinely open during high holidays, and I really appreciate this. More than once, during my lonely years, I had nowhere better to go than Golden House in Westport's Compo Shopping Center. There I was met by the jovial warmth of people who only speak English as a second (or even third) language, and while the restaurant was usually empty, I was full, mostly from overeating (although the time I found the giant grasshopper-like insect fried into the inside of the top of the silver dish cover still stands out in my mind as the most vivid Golden House memory).

Churches and synagogues also top my gratitude list this holiday, for they always have clean bathrooms. How many times do we find ourselves traveling the roads -- on foot or petrol -- only to be overwhelmed by a colon-cramping need to evacuate. We're not animals, after all, at least not here in the suburbs, where pastoral bathroom options are few and hard-to-find. But a beacon-like house of religion -- one with an unlocked door -- offers its greatest, most vital service by allowing anonymous passers-by the opportunity -- and yes, this is an opportunity -- to spend a few solid, still moments in contemplation and get both their spiritual and colonic needs met. (Please see my August 30 posting = "Finding God in my Toilet" = for more details on this topic.) I can't say enough for these wonderful organizations (even though they don't pay taxes and many of them perpetuate narrow-minded tomfoolery).

Finally, a shout out to records, which after all are light years better than CDs. Despite the crinkles and scratches, the sound is better, but more importantly, the VIBE is better. Something just happens when a record is played. Something comes forth from the speakers that is simply NOT there with CDs. On a whim, we finally purchased a crummy little turntable from Target last month, and I've been introducing my children to my beaten-up record collection. I'm finding myself doing something I NEVER did with CDs, which is just LISTENING to the record -- not doing something else, but just glancing at the big, beautiful album covers and LISTENING. And the sound is different. Mid-career Beatles songs are full, reverberate, echo and fill, unlike their poor CD counterparts. And why shouldn't this be so, as anyone who knows anything about sound knows that records are literally playing MORE of the recording, while the digital process of CDs breaks the recording down, eliminating miniscule parts of the actual piece in between the "pixels," so to speak. I'm very grateful I can FEEL the difference, even when I can't hear necessarily it ... and you will be too!

There's more, so much more, but I grow weary and bored, and I have to get back to work on my second novel, which well may be my first novel, since no one has interest in the first. But as my friend Manny L. used to say, "F*** 'em if they can't take a joke!" And I've got my records, my Chinese restaurants, and my holy toilets ...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Touting "Fray" Magazine ... and Myself

November 24, 2009: I was surprised to find five new issues of "Fray" magazine in my mailbox this evening -- the kind gesture of a thoughtful editor faced with the guilt and hardship of running a print quarterly in the 21st century. The guilt comes from not being able to enclose a check. While I've made various vows about never writing nonfiction for free -- never letting the fruits of my hard-learned craft nourish the public without fair recompense -- something about the issue's theme -- sex & death -- moved me to put out. Still, I'd be lying if I said my motivation was anything but an addict's interest in seeing his name in hard-copy print.

As many of you know, my professional credits are significant, and my writing abilities -- following more failed attempts than I'd ever want to remember -- have blossomed to the point where I consider myself one of the better writers in America. (No, I'm not trying to be funny. This is one of my serious pieces!) But the market has run dry, and most of the people I used to do regular work for no longer have the budgets, nor perhaps the nerve, to fund my radical, though eloquent, copy. (Bastards!)

Perhaps it doesn't matter. We should all continue to marvel at the frail value placed on the written word, and maybe start to embrace it, like we have television and rap music -- two mammoth blisters on our collective cultural toes, though not without some rare examples of merit. Or maybe we should just marvel at MY failure to achieve any ongoing success. I know it has ME confused. Is this due to my laziness, my failure to be as aggressive and focused as possible? Or is the failure that of the American people, who thus far have been unable to recognize my greatness and adequately reward my work?

I would have to say the latter, and I'm trying to be objective. (Believe me, it's not easy, but I'm a professional.)

Since I started writing this Blah-Ugh! I've let my principles deteriorate somewhat. Let's face it, I'm merely scraping for any glory I might receive by way of my 12 faithful followers (although I suspect that at least nine of you have stopped reading altogether -- Bastards!).

The point is, I'm happy to get my "Fray" copies, which have a retail value of $60. (That's a lot of money in the Sudan.) More importantly, I'm pleased to see my article ("Once Around the Corpse") featured in one of the more lovely nonfiction journals on the newsstand today, obviously run by a thoughtful editor -- Derek Powazek -- who, despite being of Polish descent, has created an intriguing product without resorting to macabre, catch-all crowd-pleasing topics, like violence or eroticism.

Order your copy of "Fray" today, but demand Issue #3, because you'll want to read my piece on getting a hands-on tour of a corpse at a medical school. It's vintage me, for those of you who aren't yet fed-up.

Next time: A shout out to all my new blog Followers!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

That Ugly Singer

November 21, 2009: Has anyone noticed how ugly this woman Susan Boyle is? She looks like someone painted a face on a giant big toe, then put a wig on it. I was just about to start writing a movie review of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" when I stumbled upon her picture and felt it was much more important that I report on her ugliness, rather than the film.

In case you don't know, she's that British singer from that British TV show that everyone loves so much. But I suspect it's primarily because she's so ugly and yet can sing fairly well that people like her. I guess she sings alright, but as an Oscar Wildian conoisseur of Beauty and Truth (and their subtle, if fabricated, connection), I have a hard time separating her innate ugliness from whatever chipper art she may produce.

Knowing me as you all do (or pretend to, those of you who merely suck up to me in order to say you know someone who writes a popular blog), you know that I've long maintained that appearances mean little to me. But did you ever stop to think that I was lying? In fact, they mean a great deal, and while I still struggle on a daily basis to even get my face shaved, my cologne applied, and my cuticles sanded, when it comes to looking outside of myself at others, I consider it my God-given American right to not be subjected to anything less than a striking, soigne apparition.

I grew up in a little town called Westport, in Connecticut, and here appearances are very important. Then I moved to Los Angeles, where appearances are vitally important. To now ask me to suddenly separate all of my most fundamental beliefs from what is, in essence, the good-natured choices of those with the luxury to be liberal, seems ridiculous and almost rude on your part. (What's your problem, anyway? Don't I do enough for our relationship without being asked to endure disturbing visions of the dissipated?)

Some of us don't have the luxury of accepting everyone as they are. We've been bred to be intolerant, and so our views and needs should always be given priority, if only because we suffer much more than other people, and at far, far less.

Again, I'm not disputing Ms. Boyle's right to exist, but merely her right to exist so publically. There's a reason God gave her a grand, old voice, I'm sure, and part of it involved His hope that she'd keep that hideous face of hers under wraps.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stereotypes Revisited: Part I

November 17, 2009: I don't like the idea of perpetuating stereotypes, but if I don't do it, who will?

These are pretentious times we live in. People are scared to acknowledge the historic truisms of race, nationality and religion, for they fear being perceived as insensitive, rude and narrow-minded. I, on the other hand, have no such fears, and little, if any, inherent shame. Therefore, the task falls to me to, if not simply perpetuate stereotypes, at least clarify them for the good of all people, regardless of what weird religion, race or nationality they might belong to.

Let's begin with race. It's long been understood that the Hispanic people are prone to theft. (Of course, we all know this is a gross generalization and should not be extended to anyone actually reading this, but I did work with a Mexican guy who was always stealing my pens.) It must be understood, however, that the Brown people don't actually steal more than other races. They simply get caught more, because they don't take the time to be as sneaky. This, therefore -- while smashing one myth -- actually confirms another, which is that they're lazy, and would do well to devote more energy to more creative thievery.

Another popular myth involves the superior athleticism of the black-skinned -- or Negroid -- race. They run, they jump, and they tackle better than anyone, by and large. But is this really based in truth? In actuality, most White athletes are scared when going up against a Black one, for they fear retribution via gun violence later on in the locker room, or out at the nightclubs. This stems from another stereotype that is basically true, which is that Black people want to stick it to the White man at any opportunity. And can you blame them? I feel it's a credit to their race that they generally confine their rage to the playing field, or tennis court, where it belongs.

Moving on to another racial group, the Red man (or "Native American," as he's been popularly portrayed) is stereotyped as an alcoholic bum. This is true, of course. At the same time, it could be said of almost all men throughout the world's blue-collar belt. The subtle difference is that the best Indian (and there, I said it! Somebody had to!) stock was butchered during our country's adolescence. The remainder were mostly the cowardly Indians, like the one in that pollution commercial who cries all the time. This is what they left us with, except for a few enterprising brainiacs, who created casinos and, like so many others who've suffered in the White world, continue trying to stick it to Whitey (although I'm still suspicious that some of these so-called Indians are really just Sicilians wearing turquoise).

This brings us to the White man -- the Caucasoids, by strict definition (at least according to this old atlas I have in the basement). These "Europeans" (or "crackers," as they're popularly known) are historically viewed as arrogant, self-righteous ninnies with a flare for genocide. Of course, one can't adequately examine the coarser qualities of this race without considering the impact moronic commitment to religious fanaticism has played in the execution of so many juggernauts, as well as basic fear. (But more on this later. I'm getting tired.) The stereotypes, of course, are mostly true, but have to be looked upon with some forgiveness owing to the fact that all the other races are virtually out to get this one with a potent mix of thievery, sports-related violence and casino gambling.

Next time we'll look at the numerous stereotypes associated with nationality, beginning with all the people who talk funny.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cologne Associations and Other Pressing Matters

November 10, 2009: The glut of requests that swamped me this week, demanding new, more-frequent entries into this online carnival I call my Blah-ugh! have been inspiring, as well as just a tad embarrassing. My God, you people are like shameless salivating dogs, begging me to keep up with this terrible electronic forum. My head tells me I should cut you off like the obsessed junkies I know you to be, and yet my continuing codependency makes it impossible for me to refuse anyone, regardless of the personal cost.

That said, I have so many things pressing upon my small mind that I'm struggling to find an appropriate focus for today's entry. My wife, for one thing, is making me so mad, as is my cat (and don't even try to convince me that the two of them aren't in on it together, because you won't!). Work demands remain substantial, as do those upon my very spirit, which, as you all know, is fragile, and even smaller than my mind. But, for the good of the Internet, I have to settle on something, and so I arrive on this weekend's purchase of some cologne. (Am I spelling that right? I always confuse the scent with the Italian city, which I understand also has a distinct aroma.)

Frankly, I couldn't afford to invest in my favorite, so I had to investigate the tacky line of stinks named after famous (though not necessarily fragrant) individuals -- Bob Beckham (or whatever his name is), Elizabeth Taylor, and some weirdo named BoBo, or ZoZo. Who the hell knows!

In true spirit, my codependency prevented me from being too inquisitive with the saleswoman. You see, I suspected she thought I really just wanted to get free samples, would blast myself with a couple of atomizers, and then flee. I couldn't risk having her not like me, so I fooled her -- and everybody in fact -- by not smelling anything, and instead opted for one of those mini collections of samplers -- six ornate bottles of classy stink.

I raced home like a greasy little immigrant stereotype, eager to hide the utter shame of my ethnicity behind a veil of fragrance, hoping to discover that one inviting smell to help make me a better class of citizen ...

And it worked! The results have been terrific, in fact. Already I feel much less of a need to shower. My clothes, also, will not need to be washed as frequently. At work I noticed people looking at me differently -- sort of standing back a bit and admiring my new funk. My kids have even gotten much quieter when I'm around, slightly agog in admiration of their father's new smell.

If you haven't yet, I'd highly recommend you go out and grab yourself some formidable stink perfume to help improve your lot. Be wary not to get something that smells like someone you dislike, as you'll begin to hate yourself, and a cologne shouldn't make you do that.

Anoint yourself with something that brings out those finer qualities, and then watch the results. If you're like me, you'll find yourself in a whole new cloud of utter aromatic possibilities.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Baseball Blah-ugh!

November 5, 2009: Despite my excitement over the New York Yankeees being in the playoffs, their final victory yesterday left me feeling empty and depressed.

It stands to reason that the greater part of my interest in the games centered on the opportunity to distract myself from my feelings, and let me tell you it worked wonders. Night after night, I glued myself to that stupid blue screen and watched pitch after pitch, as if I could ever differentiate between them. When the Yankees led, I grew bored (and drifted over to the Food Network), sure it was no great challenge for them to walk their way through the playoffs. When they were losing I felt worry and wondered if there would ever again be hope for the salvation of the known universe.

I used to love playing baseball -- softball too -- and it's a sad substitute to be groping for any vicarious fun through a television set. I used to love watching the games, too, but now it's a depressing phony spectacle. There are no Earl Weavers or Billy Martins to vent emotions, kicking dirt on umpires and cursing with rabid zeal. The fans no longer mob the field and bring the lovely spontaneous chaos of reality. Television won't let that happen anymore.

Now when the players win the big game, they jump up and down in a cluster near the mound -- up and down, up and down, hop hop hop. They always look the exact same, no matter what team it is, as if they've studied films of how teams are supposed to celebrate victories and act accordingly. The players all make the same comments after the game. The faces all affect the same humble grit and bonehead spirit.

Another sad thing is the inevitable hats and shirts, which are rushed out of the winning dugouts before the umpires are even off the field -- prepared special hats to highlight the spontaneity of the surprise victory. Surely another batch was waiting in the losing team's dugout, too, but what becomes of those? And if that wasn't awful enough, literally before a minute had passed since the last out of yesterday's Yankee victory, Fox TV ran a commercial selling these same hats and shirts that were being handed out to the players.

Perhaps I'm being too critical. The truth is, the pointlessness of investing all those hours in staring at a blue screen may just finally be catching up with me. I'm beginning to realize that that time may have been better spent doing something more constructive -- playing Yahtzee with my kids, finally cutting my overgrown lawn, or perhaps studying pornography on the Internet.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween: The Real Pinnacle of Christian Values

October 31, 2009: I'd be remiss in my duties did I not take a few moments to meditate on my favorite day of the year -- Halloween (or, as it's more popularly known, "October 31st").

Contrary to what many of you rabid Bible-wielding fanatics (Shannon & Matt) may think, this is not some unholy celebration of Satan and those surly, disenfranchised minions of the Dark Lord (meaning those chubby people who wear lots of mascara and face jewelry, and listen to Led Zeppelin). No, in fact Halloween is the very essence of Christian community! Halloween is a powerful demonstration of old-fashioned Christian values, and at its best exemplifies the kind of orderly, clear-thinking unity that makes the Right Wing just get all wet down below.

On what other holiday (and I ask rhetorically) do we have such interaction with our neighbors? While 364.25 days of our average year are spent shunning our neighbor -- avoiding looks when we're cutting the lawn, turning our heads when we pass them on the street to avoid having to speak -- (at least this is how I handle it, and I consider myself quite average, despite my dashing good looks) -- on Halloween the excuse comes to walk right up to our neighbor's door and (through our children) demand gifts, (the whole time assessing how good or bad their home furnishing taste may be as judged by their front foyer). If this isn't a perfect opportunity to "love" our neighbor (as Jesus demanded in one of his mad rants), it's certainly a great chance to tolerate their presence because they're giving us candy.

Let's also not forget how good it is to see everyone in costume. Even ugly people can look brilliant in the right ensemble, and nothing brings the joys of youth and exuberance to the elderly or infirmed like a wolfman mask.

I can't say enough about Halloween. To me it was best captured by a certain old photograph taken by the late George Silk. (See the pic below my profile ... On the right, you fool! ... Yes, I know it's too small to see, but I'm a writer, not a computer technician! What do you want from me?!) Also, the movie "Halloween III," with the underrated Tom Atkins, as well as Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" broadcast, bare trees, deranged pumpkins, and wooden xylophones played in minor keys.

Keep a Jack O'Lantern burning tonight, or throw food in the yard to appease the dead. (That's Halloween 101.) Expect the weirdest, for the barriers are down, and don't trust that the people you're interacting with are even them themselves, for this is Halloween, and it's not like other nights or days.

But most importantly, remember that Halloween is the antithesis of evil. It is, in fact, the real answer to the notorious moral cavity gaping in our society, like a sperm whale's blow hole. For all you fearful and fearing zealous Christian crazies (Matt & Shannon), who like to bash the off-beat celebration, ironically Halloween is the answer of which Ronald Reagan so rabidly dreamed -- a chance for folks to commune in the safety of darkness, and fool their neighbors into thinking they're all part of a loving, happy, magical world.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More on Mating (Geese)

October 27, 2009: Many of you found my August 27 essay entitled "Squirrels Mating" both informative and vaguely tantalizing (sick freaks!). I thought I'd take another column and revisit more of the subtle psychosexual phenomena that continue to make the animal kingdom such a sleezy place.

To begin with, just this morning I took note of a rather unusual sample of wild poultry down near the library. Amidst the familiar gaggle of dirty, importunate Canada geese that frequent the parking lot and intimidate passers-by with their surly goose glares -- they're like an outlaw motorcycle gang operating on webbed feet -- I saw one strange, deformed-looking bastard goose waddling amidst the greater gaggle. He almost looked more like a wood duck by shape, except he was patched with a cockroach-colored brown, and shared some of the basic structural elements of the other geese. But he was clearly a weirdo and I took a moment to wonder how he came about to be, strutting along in the middle of the group, obviously accepted, despite being much smaller and funnier looking.

This got me to thinking about his parents, and what a strange couple they must have made during their courtship. I began to wonder how their parents might have viewed the union, and whether talk among their goose neighbors might have ever bordered on the vicious.

But more to the point of our scientific analysis, this seemed to be yet another tangible example of the strange -- stupifying, in fact -- sex habits of wild animals. Clearly on some level the Canada goose's motivation in making it with the wood duck stemmed from bizarre social dynamics relating to goose gangs. It's a well-known fact that people in gangs are four-times more likely to copulate with other species, and three times as likely to sire mutants. Obviously the same rules apply to geese, who are a naturally vicious breed, traveling in V-shaped attack patterns and often using their slippery grey-green fecal matter to injure creatures much larger in size.

Discovery of this hybrid goose prompts the question of whether the purest forms of the breed might one day die out, owing to the deviant sexual appetites of the creature. While more research is required, it does not bode well for the fowl, nor for Canada in general.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Indians Sabotaged My Windscreen

October 20, 2009: The Indians sabotaged my windscreen. It just goes to prove that the historic resentments driving the Red Man are very much alive and continue to pester the White Man (meaning me) on a daily basis.

It began early yesterday morning when I found my auto's windscreen covered in thick frost. (I don't blame the Indians for this, but who really knows?) It was a thick layer, and I didn't have a scraper. (It's October, for God's sake, and I'm still raking my car.)

At a loss to find a cassette tape box to do the job properly, I hurried in and grabbed the first thing I could find -- a ceramic hot plate from New Mexico -- brown earthenware with a Pueblo-style design. Drawn to any straight-edge in a storm, I hurried back out to confront the frost. (Honestly, I would even call it ice, and I'm not one to overreact to crystallized water, though I've been known to be suspicious of some snowfalls, owing to their variable quality.)

To make a long story short, I scraped vehemently and dynamically. (Some people would have just scraped, but I'm not like other people, as I tried to make clear in my last entry.) It wasn't easy, but I got the ice off and found the view I so needed to make my drive an accident-free one. However, this suspicious brown ceramic Indian hot plate, which my silly wife fatuously purchased in Sante Fe (for I would never pay for such a devilish item unless I intended to send it to an enemy) used some sort of weird sweatlodge-type magic and caste a scratch spell upon my windscreen.

I couldn't believe it! It was black shamanism! It's not like I've ever won so much at the casino to warrant their ruining my car! And yet it's perfectly clear that, by virtue of my heritage -- I've long suspected that someone among my stupid ancestors did something stupid to the Indians and now I'm stuck to pay for it -- one tribe or another (probably those characters from the casino, who don't even look like real Indians but more like Italians) have started on the war path.

Well, this is why I have a blog, to let people know that aggressive acts like this won't pass without a calling for accountability -- at least emotionally accountability.

It's time we take an honest look at exactly what's going on. I, for one, will no longer be sitting still where so-called Indian Art is concerned.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Lies of Chap-Stick

October 14, 2009: There's no softer way to put it: It's simply not easy being me!

Sure, you could argue that with my steady brain, uncommon sense, and vaguely debonair, yet boyishly handsome looks, I'm clearly a candidate to hold the world precariously in both hands. Yet outward appearances can be misconstrued. Far be it from me to dissuade anyone's inane compulsion to compare their knotted insides to my questionable outsides, but I want it understood -- once and for all times, on the record -- that it's simply not easy driving this mortal form through the unsteady rhythms and antics of our sordid third dimension.

In particular tonight, I want to highlight my demented baseline perfectionism, which demands a completely unhealthy dissatisfaction with every thought, thing, experience and individual that ever crosses my critical path. You see, I have a zero-tolerance policy, and that's because I can't help but see the cracks in every plan, person, product or piece of plaster put before me.

Mind you, I'm not happy about it. It just is. It's probably not in everyone's best interest -- I'd doubt it could possibly be in mine, because overall I have to spend so much time being annoyed -- and yet it is so.

Now, the reason I'm mentioning any of this is because, for a long time, I've been wanting to write a very cold and critical appraisal of Chap-Stick. You see, when I was a child, it was my habit, on those cold winter mornings when I walked to school -- and no joke, it literally was a mile, and actually uphill one of the ways -- to curiously open my Chap-Stick stick all the way up, so that that little sculpted tube of flesh-colored wax would peek all the way out from the container, almost equaling it in length. (You could even take it out, wave it around, I guess, and insert it back and, gently pressing down upon it, get it again screwed into the tube.)

It was many years later, however, on some random winter day, when I haphazardly decided to once again twist out my Chap-Stick to its full length. Imagine my shock and disappointment when I discovered that, though the tube had stayed the same size, the amount of pink lip balm was nearly cut in half. I was -- I still am -- dumbfounded. (Dare I say, I find myself getting emotional simply recounting the grotesque injustice!) What had happened now?! Was there nothing reliable in modern times? Must every institution pull deceiptful tricks to try and strain more money out of the population? Did every icon fall in gruesome form from its once-reverent pedestal, only to shatter like so many fragile icicles attached to the winter memories of my poor incongruous mind?

But yet ... But yet ... the question became, why did I have to shine such a harsh light of judgment on the Chap-Stick people. Were they not merely a clueless hive of frightened people like me, worried they wouldn't meet each quarter's commitments, and straining their balmy minds to find whatever means they could to stretch each dollar, despite the consequences on the few frustrated fools like myself who had inadvertently found themselves in the know. Was it not still a grand product, with the all the best memories of winter and chapped lips attached (y'know, like the so-many icicles ... Stay with me here ...).

So it comes full circle. And I have to tell myself that Chap-Stick, like all the rest of us, is doing the best it can. I can only struggle to reel in my critical contempt, and find acceptance in the product they produce, for it still smells great and does for my lips what few other waxy substances can.

And yet ... And yet ... sometimes ... I ... just ... can't ... let ... it ... go ...

It's not easy being me! Trust me! It's not!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Jarret's Frank Film Forum (FFF) -- A Review of James Bond Films

October 10, 2009: The letters have been pouring in requesting more film reviews by yours truly (meaning me). A child of alcoholism, I'm always looking for ways to be liked, so I'm happy to accommodate my loyal readers -- the three of you -- and offer another offering of my utterly valueless opinions. (See, now that's the dysfunction talking!)

In an effort to form my own son's opinions and set him straight on the road to manhood -- straight manhood, mind you, not the gay kind -- over the summer I introduced him to every James Bond movie in the official series. We even watched the George Lazenby one ("On Her Majesty's Secret Service") which sucked like Telly Savalas's singing, and every Roger Moore (I think there are 17; he played Bond well into his 80's.). Being something of an authority on Bond -- I've read each Ian Fleming story at least three times and can even play the Monty Norman theme on guitar -- I thought I'd offer a concise appraisal of the catalogue.

To begin, I'd have to name "Thunderball" as the quintessential Bond film, firing on all cylinders, save its awful title track by Tom Jones. Sean Connery is at the top of his game and still has enough hair to dominate the role. It's consummate kitsch in technicolor, and also a very full adventure with lots of glib lines. (Of course, none could beat the last line of "From Russia, With Love," when Bond, after having nearly been booted to death by Klebb's poison shoe, remarks, "She's had her kicks!")

That said, I have to give the nod to Pierce Brosnan as the best Bond. He hit a mixture of suave control and formidable action-film athleticism that can't be matched. I understand that Connery is still the consummate father of the film role (and I'll always love his Bond), but Brosnan really took it to another, higher level. I'm sorry he only made the four films. Moore does an adequate job, but overall he's too self-conscious and continually falls back on a vaguely unsympathetic sarcasm he clearly lifted from Cary Grant (who was never unsympathetic to viewers). Timothy Dalton wasn't as bad as everyone says, but ultimately he had very bad hair, and sometimes that's enough to put someone on the Black List. Daniel Craig's dour brutality is an interesting take, but even by the books' standard, he's much too taciturn. (I love his two movies, but somehow I don't completely consider them Bond films in the pure sense.)

Among other films, "Dr. No" is a personal favorite. I guess I remain something of a closet racist, but it just cracks me up when Quarrel rolls his eyes in primitive fear. I also love "Live and Let Die" (the first film I ever saw, as a 6-year old at a drive-in in Florida; I was mesmerized!) "Diamonds Are Forever" was much better than I remembered, as were several of the Moore films. The heroine in "For Your Eyes Only" is probably my favorite -- a lovely Carole Bouquet who plays a believable strong ally. Olga Kurylenko may be the most gorgeous, even with that mammoth scar on her back in "Quantum of Solace." Halle Berry, of course, remains a goddess, but I found her a bit annoying in "Die Another Day" and kept hoping she'd get an arrow through her back.

Among the villains, nobody was better than the great Geoffrey Holder as "Live and Let Die's" Baron Samedi. Grace Jones is certainly among the worst in "A View to a Kill." The best theme song is undoubtedly "The Man with the Golden Gun" sung by the great Lulu. (Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" is a close second.) Sheena Easton's awful "For Your Eyes Only" is a Bond embarassment, and the producer that sanctioned that shameful ballad should have his groin distended without anaesthesia.

I could go on, but suffice it to say that James Bond movies rock, even the crummy ones (excepting "Secret Service," which would have been 10 times better if it had merely consisted of two straight hours of Lazenby taking a bath in pudding).

One technical note is that Fleming's Bond would have never handed M the disrespect he regularly does in recent movies. The real M would have pierced Bond's testicles with a marrow spoon and left to dine at Blades. I'm not sure what my point is, but it's late and I have to end these reviews somewhere!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Love The Food Network

October 4, 2009: It's no small statement to say that Food Network has changed my life.

It all began in the summer of '08. It was a kinder, gentler time, before the fast-paced ways of modern life sought to squelch the stable serenity of level-minded, short-thinking people like myself. Our family was crossing the country, as people were wont to do in those days, except we were doing it backwards and this confused all of us.

My little girl took sick with the grip in Albuquerque, so while the rest of the family went out foraging for food and entertainment, we stayed in the hotel and watched the Food Network for 12 straight hours. It was a remarkable time. In between fits of vomiting, my seven-year old described her preferences for certain shows, her appreciation of Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri, and her suspicions surrounding the glossy veneers of both Sandra Lee and Paula Dean.

It wasn't long before I was hooked, and by the time we reached Boulder, the kids and I were completely absorbed in that summer's battle for the Next Food Network Star. (Aaron McCargo won, and while my daughter preferred Adam, and I, Lisa (despite her awful mock commercial in Vegas, and that austere Nazi haircut), the race card clearly settled the difference in a close three-way race. (Lisa, incidentally, is conspicuously absent from the Food Network's "Where Are They Now?" web page featuring the Season 4 finalists. Coincidence? I don't think so! I think we all remember her oft-aired remark in the commercial for the final show -- "There's no room for error!" But was she actually saying "error" ... or "Aaron!" The question remains for many of us: Was this attractive, short-tempered, Nazi-coifed cook a racist? I'll leave that for you to decide ...)

But as if all that intrigue and action weren't enough, inspired by the awesome work of Mr. Fieri, we made four sidetrips to different Diners, Drive-ins and Dives he'd reviewed, and while one left my son vomiting in the car through most of New Jersey, it was an exciting and heart-warming chance to touch the earth upon which Guy had tread. I consider him the Chris Toelken of the kitchen.

My personal FN favorite remains Alton Brown, whom I consider a genius of his craft. His pancake recipe is a weekly staple of mine, and I've twice had outstanding results with his chili. My daughter considers him a "nerd," and while he gave me the creeps when I saw his first show on smoking, I've come to love him as a sort of garrulous gay uncle with no patience for anyone who doesn't use kosher salt.

I also admire Bobby Flay, though he dismissed me when I yelled across the room at him at the Mohegan Sun. Despite almost always losing his Throwdowns and Iron Chef battles, he's clearly a wealth of knowledge and dour New York-style sensibility. (And speaking of Iron Chef, how can you not love how the Chairman (whom I'm convinced doesn't even really know anything about food, but is just a fun guy) introduces each ingredient in his Martial Arts-style scream.

Of course, not all is good at FN. Paula Dean is the cooking equivalent of a greasy spoon, and while I loved her observation that cooking is a way of showing love, her recipes are vapid at best. Emil is a sham and a marketing concoction, as are some others whose cooking, knowledge and creativity, when held up to the likes of Brown, Flay, Fieri and other pros, shines an embarassing light on the Network. (I won't even comment on Lee's bizarre contribution.)

But despite the poor-taste offerings often pushed in the daytime, the FN continues to make food, and its preparation, the veritable artistic sporting event I enjoy it to be.

We're already hunkering down for The Next Iron Chef shows, and will be there when both Guy and Alton start their new seasons. I love the Food Network. I only wish I could force my eyes to vomit, in the Roman tradition, so I could keep watching more!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

TravelBlah-ugh! -- Go Stratford, CT

October 1, 2009: It could be any American town, and yet it's probably unique in ways I was too bored to discover. Still, having two hours until my car was ready, I took the time to explore this staid little Connecticut coastal town they call Stratford.

My first disappointment came at the railroad station, where I'd hoped to use the bathroom. You see, there was no bathroom. There was no railroad station, only a muffin shop, with a generous-hearted proprietor (who sadly feels compelled to flood his potentially pleasant place with the obtrusive scream of a wall-mounted television. I ask, Are there no longer any places to go without being bombarded by these fucking things?!) Even stranger, the station house on the eastbound side has been turned into a helicopter museum of all things. I mean, to quote Reggie in the movie "Phantasm," "What the hell is goin' on?!"

Heading out, I realized train travelers are forced to buy their tickets from ugly electronic vending machines, rather than quaint, Yankee-accented older men in blue uniforms, as it should be. Such progress they've made in Stratford. How soon until they install vending urinals and make us pee into timed receptacles that snap shut if we go on too long?

Downtown Stratford is split by the elevated Interstate-95, which rips through the community like fungus on fire. Emerging in the light on the south side, I was disappointed to see the town's center feeling somewhat dried up and lifeless. Needs are getting met at strip malls these days, where people feel safer going to stores they've learned the jingles to, from television. Here, it's sad and hopeless, just like George Bush wanted it!

Choosing a side street, I found a lovely string of Victorian-era homes -- priceless properties that, owing to the ongoing proliferation of new ugly construction, I don't think people generally appreciate. I skulked here and there, trying not to look suspicious, but feeling suspicious nonetheless. I began to discover the pleasant vibration that is Stratford off the beaten trail.

Eventually I emerged close to the water, and was thrilled to remember that Long Island Sound cures everything. A little shack was selling "Fresh Fish & Chips." Is it really fresh? I wondered. Who can we believe when they take away our train stations and replace them with helicopter museums?!

I found a small dock that was, oddly enough for a Thursday morning, busy with visitors -- mostly seedy, bearded motorcycle-type men who smoked and acted suspicious. The view over the water was gorgeous, but there were a lot of bees being frantic on the dock, probably sensing their imminent death with the cold weather, or the smoking men, who could start stomping them at any minute. A surly old fisherman didn't return my wave, perhaps fearing I was competition, poised to usurp his cod or something ... I moved on ...

The political season is underway, and there were many lawn signs for local candidates. I became suspicious at the idea of voting for "Dom Costello for Mayor." The "Dom" part aside, how could I trust a Costello not to do something to infuriate Abbott? "Unaffiliated candidate" indeed!

Turning back inland, I was led to a great, open field, which offered a grand veteran's monument, including wars I didn't even know we'd had. From there I found a funeral, with a flower shop right next door, which I knew did good business. The library was next, and they had a toilet I took the time to enjoy ... Stratford was growing on me!

Heading back toward the center, I passed a man who looked like the Village Fool. We greeted each other warmly. Nearby I spotted an old box of Lorna Doone cookies. There were lots of churches, too, and this all seemed to make the community a better place. I stopped at one church to explore a little thrift shop in the back, but I didn't stay long, as it smelled like a dirty diaper. I did, however, make another bathroom visit in the building, as I just can't seem to say No to a free toilet.

All in all, Stratford was a pleasant place to kill a couple of hours, and isn't that so much of what our lives have become about -- killing time until we die? Don't take my word for it. Take a morning there yourself, explore the toilets, and wonder why we, as a population, feel we need to even leave our houses when we have toilets and televisions of our own.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Jarret's Frank Film Forum (FFF) -- A Review of "Chicago"

September 28, 2009: I've long known I'd make an excellent film reviewer, but since no one has asked me -- and heretofore my voluminous opinions have been squandered on a polite but distracted general public I tend to find cornered in video stores -- I thought it perfect to bring my cinematic wisdom to this Blah-ugh! forum and start setting the record straight about some of mankind's more noteworthy movies.

I thought I'd begin with "Chicago" (2002) -- a saucy but over-produced musical that relies heavily on the ghosts of Bob Fosse (and even Ben Vereen, who may or may not be dead) to carry what often felt like an excuse to get Catherine Zeta-Jones on film in her black stockings before she blew up like a balloon from child-bearing. Don't get me wrong -- I kind of liked it (even though I watched the better part of it on fast-forward). In particular, I found the "They Both Reached for the Gun" number mesmerizing, with Renee Zellwigger (or whatever the hell her name is) proving a perfect dummy, and Richard Gere demonstrating quite impressively that his fine singing is a far better feature to his persona than that gruesome genitalia he's forever displaying on film. (Of course, I could never really bash someone who works so hard on humanitarian causes as he does, and that fact alone makes his genitals that much bigger in my eyes!)

Zellwigger, meanwhile, (or someone close to her) must answer for what has happened to her once-cute face. She looks like she was stung repetitively by bees. It's very disconcerting, and I only hope that whatever she's allergic to, she'll stop eating it immediately.

Still, despite her strangely squished face, she carried herself admirably through this picture. In particular, the last number where she dances with Zeta-Jones, she inadvertently steals the show, making the Welsh beauty's jerky, haphazard efforts seem like she's the senior member of a mother-daughter act. Please understand, I think Zeta-Jones is a particularly great actress, but this vaguely self-serving effort was a slight embarassment, and her time might have been better spent staying in and spoon-feeding her increasingly decrepit senior husband. I was reminded of the awful dance moves put on by Natalie Wood in "West Side Story," and how the hype of Hollywood sews the Emperor's New Clothes and erroneously convinces us who's "good." (Fosse would have slapped his forehead good and hard over her performance.)

Lastly, simply by virtue of her awful name, "Queen Latifah" shouldn't be allowed on a marquee, and while her voice is considerable and strong, her acting is so wooden I had a hard time differentiating between her and a desk in the same scene.

All told, it's okay, but mostly I'm glad I watched it so that I won't have to watch it again.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Nakedness of Nature

September 24, 2009: Another post due, I turn to last week's overnight camping experience with my son's scout troop.

Please understand, much as I might feign the manly guise of the rugged New England boy -- (and I know many of you see me as being the zenith of strapping manhood, and I appreciate that) -- alas, I am in actuality but a frail example of modern man, strung to the numbing comforts of his technological life-support systems like a moldy yard dog tethered to his post. So to send me out into the cold woods of upstate Connecticut, regardless of the related good cause, is somewhat akin to pouring an innocent fresh-water guppy into a sour salt-water tank.

The carryings-on of the more demonic scouts aside -- the distasteful habits of the more military-minded fathers, including the one who went for laughs by passing gas at the dinner table -- it was all ultimately a positive growth experience for my offspring, and therefore for me (since I'm so codependent). It was a unique opportunity to practice patience and tolerance, to find a chance to be of service, and to -- at least for a few moments here and there -- pretend that I was something grander and more savage than the meek, wiley little city slicker I am.

The real test came at night, when it got dark. It got really dark. It was bizarre. I didn't know they still made darkness that dark. I felt constantly for the little flashlight in my pocket like it was my drugs (were I still doing them). I began to wonder what would happen if I dropped my keys, or my chapstick. This was the real wild. It wasn't for me. I'd progressed beyond this. I was too civilized. I'd evolved beyond this, as sensitive men are wont to do.

Late night didn't bring sleep, but there were a terrifying variety of strange sounds bubbling throughout the camp. Our scout leader snored incessantly, and the baritone echo rumbling across the small meadow made me sure at one point that a black bear had entered the area and was foraging about for the remains of our pork-and-bean dinner. Around 2 a.m. I thought I heard a cougar -- that awful hissing snarl so familiar to anyone's whose been chased by one. He crept stealthily into camp and began considering who to eat first. I held my breath, re-experiencing that faux defense mechanism of childhood, wherein you hold your breath and pull your feet close, hoping therefore the enormous mountain lion won't be able to rip your tent open and chomp your skull. Several minutes later, however, I realized it was someone pulling their tent zipper open and shut, so that was a relief. Yet another disaster averted. Still, I kept my feet close, as well as my flashlight and chapstick.

It wasn't all bad, of course. At five a.m., stumbling my way through the site to the latrine -- (I'd had to go all night, but was trying to be rugged) -- I got to see a wealth of clear white stars speckling the sky. I stood observing them for a beautiful breathless minute, until I realized I was literally standing on the corner of someone's tent. I scuttled away like a frightened vole, tripped on a rock, and ultimately hit my head on the metal pole suspended over my tent.

All in all, it was a valuable and cherishable experience, except for a lot of it. I won't say everyone is ready to journey to the wild, as I have done, but for you city-fied gentry, it may be time to start considering the value and opportunities of facing your forestry demons and becoming one with the bitter soil that is nature at her buck-nakedest ...

And until next time, my time is up ...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rant of the (Former) Education Consumer (Part I)

September 17, 2009: Astounded by the ongoing stupidity of the education system in America -- mountains of fatuous fallacies moronically held in place as gospel, and perpetuated through a bureaucratic business-minded approach to teaching that's blindly supported by a moronic public bred fat and stupid on sound-bite thinking -- I thought I might take a turn at spewing some of my more vibrant insights into pedagogical practice and the like.

But then I thought, Why bother?! No one cares. I wrote an excellent syndicated column -- "The Education Consumer" -- for two years, and all that came of it in the end were some pleasant emails from a few impotent fans, and some bitter raised eyebrows from a few disgruntled education hacks hiding behind their administrative masks.

Also, I feel my Blah-ugh! is about making you laugh, or at least smile, so why tire your mind with all that's wrong here in the 3rd Dimension. It's not as much fun, anyway.

So screw the education system and its ongoing insanity. If enough parents feel good about turning their kids into parodies from a Pink Floyd song, that's their business. I'll keep my focus on The Brady Bunch, rodent mating habits, and this new (old) great picture of me I just added ...

Next time (or perhaps not): Why homework, content focus, standardized testing, and superintendents are all stupid wastes of time.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Very Brady Analysis (Part I)

September 14, 2009: As it's touched our lives so vehemently, it's always worth space (unlike Sherlock Holmes, for you dedicated readers) to add a few more insightful words about The Brady Bunch.

Unlike your typical past analyses, which focus on the more obvious elements of the show -- like how hot Marcia was, or Jan's ongoing self-esteem issues -- I thought I'd go a bit more in-depth, and examine the show not only in relation to Robert Reed's homosexuality, but Barry Williams' enjoyable and sometimes candid tome "Growing Up Brady" (where he shamelessly reveals his attraction to Florence Henderson, as well as the flagrant nepotism that tarnished the shaky reign of creator Sherwood Schwartz).

When considering the Brady family, I feel it's important to take an honest look at Mike's almost saintly involvement with each episode's problems (except of course the last, when he was sloppily written out of the script owing to Reed's refusal to participate -- and who can blame him, with such a silly storyline?!). While he generally played golf every Saturday morning -- and we all know his archietecture work kept him busy (and sometimes too busy, as was the case when Bebe Gallini sought his services), Mr. Brady was almost always around to lend an ear, float an epigram, or lovingly slap a bottom. My belief is that part of Mike's motivation to be such a dedicated husband and father lied in some inherent guilt woven into the character by the great Reed, who saw room to inject a modicum of his own gayness into the family dynamic. You see, Mike Brady, while obviously not the active alternative lifestyle individual that Reed was, may have had some very subtle latent tendencies at work. Part of his coping mechanism (and a handy manner of fostering his own denial) was to maintain a very busy lifestyle, coupled with a nagging need to always be available, never show his anger, and often give advances on allowances.

Another aspect of Mike's "condition" can be seen in relation to Alice Nelson. No raving beauty, Mike (who employed Alice long before Carol and her girls entered the picture) understandably holds no particular attraction toward her, and yet the comfort level he demonstrates with her in the household can be seen as another indicator of his latency.

Next time, I hope to examine some of the bedroom dynamics between Mike and Carol, and also discuss just what makes Marcia so hot.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Three Favorite Writers

September 11, 2009: My three favorite writers are Matt Perry, Lindsay Porter, and Shannon Woolfe. This slightly odd group of as-yet unknowns has consistently demonstrated their skill, sensitivity and committment to all that's special about the written word.

Like myself, they forge earnestly onward through the sometimes bitter, sometimes beautiful world of publishing. In process, despite the pulls of professional body English, their focus remains on the quality of each phrase they commit to the page, and each idea they're able, through considerable skill, to raise from the primordial ooze of untethered thought.

I look forward to the day when their individual works are recognized and find the kind of rich admiration they deserve. Until then, I'm only too glad to be among their most dedicated followers.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Sophistry of Studying Sherlock Holmes

It was mere coincidence that I stumbled upon a volume of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" at a used booksale this summer. (I didn't know a new movie was imminent.) Delighted by the story, I bought another book, then secured an enormous annotated volume from the library to continue my enjoyable Sherlock Holmes journey.

While I continue to love the stories -- you can't go wrong with pleasantly written Victorian-era London stuff -- I was shocked to discover the puzzling and comical plethora of footnotes that accompany this big volume. This particular one draws from a wide range of Holmes-philes, most of whom seem delusional in their seeming assumption that Holmes is a real person. And no exaggeration, the amount of copy devoted to footnotes literally exceeds the writing itself.

Never has the pedantic rambling of so-called scholars seemed so ridiculous to me. While the notes sometimes share interesting nuggets -- mainly those that explain the time period in context -- many of them involve conjecture relating to Holmes' real life, and a bizarre analysis of his choices, and related inconsistencies, as if he were real. It's like a collection of nerd notes on Star Trek episodes.

Most humorous is the off-handed manner in which Arthur Conan Doyle probably wrote these stories. It's no secret he found them somewhat beneath him, and had to be paid exorbitant amounts of money to write more and more. (He even killed Holmes off at one point so he could stop having to write the things.)

Reading the enormous number of fatuous footnotes -- I opened to one at random just now that applauds Holmes' ability to determine hair color by moonlight, and challenges readers to do the same -- I find it rather pathetic. As a writer, I know that all those inconsistencies and truth-stretches were simply the result of Doyle wanting to finish his pages so he could get off to his favorite bar, or some Fleet Street floozy he was frequenting. He never gave those stories a fraction of the unwarranted attention these pedantic fools continue to offer it.

That all said, I'm not sure it was even worth this space to point that out ... But it's been a week since my last entry, so ...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Today's My Birthday

September 3, 2009: Yes, today is my birthday, and I'm angry with all of you who've forgotten. At the same time, I want nothing more than to be left alone, so it's just as well you didn't try to contact me. The people I really appreciate are those who are sitting home thinking nonstop about me, but are too scared to intrude.

While I intend to refrain from the self-indulgence common to most "blogs" as I move forward, I thought it appropriate to allow myself one entry as a throwaway gift -- an opportunity to share on some of the things I love and hate about life, humanity and this fetid world around us.

There are so many things I hate, though, I'm not sure where to begin. Men who wear loafers without socks always seems to top the list, as do people who don't signal when driving. Bleu cheese is another thing I can't abide, along with little dogs, advertising and marketing, waking up early, small talk, and obnoxious children.

Meanwhile, there are many things I adore, beginning with Halloween, eggplant parmigian, autumn, massages, roulette, Steven Spielberg, pumpkin patches, pumpkin pie, writing, coyotes and wolves, playing softball/baseball, reading, the moon, drawing, playing music, clouds, rain and snow, taking walks, and of course anything to do with my kids.

I also like Christmas music, stargazing, hamburgers, playing hide-and-seek, incense, anything made before 1975, intimate discussions, trains, egg creams, James Bond, and jigsaw puzzles.

I could go on, but I'll spare you until next year. For now, give yourself a great day and I'll try to do the same!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Finding God In My Toilet

August 30, 2009: Those of you who've read my first novel TEMPORARY INSANITY -- (I know there are at least two of you out there, plus my late mentor, who committed suicide shortly after finishing it) -- know that two of my recurring literary themes are 1) going to the bathroom, and 2) God. What you may not recognize, however, is how often life imitates art, as an experience I had yesterday afternoon clearly demonstrates.

I was on a lovely walk down by Burying Hill Beach in Westport, CT, when I was overcome with a gut-wrenching compulsion to evacuate. Like Archie Bunker -- another fictitious character -- I fight to confine my waste-expulsion practices to my own home, but on rare occasions necessity thwarts custom, and with my car a good mile away and my intestines roiling like I'd swallowed a live ferret, it seemed only practical to take whatever opportunity I could find.

Imagine my delighted disbelief to discover not only a clean single bathroom with a lock on the door, but enough paper supplies for an entire army of incontinent men. I indulged myself with a sort of hearty gusto, took my time and care, and even washed my hands with the lovely machine-dispensed soap foam the Parks & Rec Department provided. In a state of gratitude, I noted to myself that God (Fate, Higher Power, the Universe, whatever the hell you want to call it) had seen to lead me to this literal sanctuary atop the hill, meeting the needs of a traveling pilgrim who viciously had to take a dump.

Before leaving, as a courtesy to the next incontinent man who'd need to sit, I flipped the seat up so it wouldn't be carelessly peed upon in the coming hours ... And printed underneath in soft, blue letters, there was that word again ... as it was reported being under the toilet seat in my novel -- "Church."

An inspired company, no doubt, meeting a great need of mankind with its unique and obviously spiritual brand of porcelain. Once again the lesson was clear, as it was demonstrated for my protagonist in my book -- (to paraphrase) Dogmas and doctrines will shift and pass (if you'll forgive the imagery), but when all is said and done, here is where you can always find peace, contentment and relief -- the trappings of a true spiritual experience!


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Squirrels Mating

August 27, 2009: Already facing considerable demand for another entry, I decided to throw my weekly plan to the wind and give the public what it wants.

At the same time, I wanted to focus on something relevant and somewhat informative. That's when I remembered these two squirrels I saw trying to mate yesterday.

It was quite a spectacle. While they both seemed interested -- of course, who knows what really goes on in a squirrel's mind -- they didn't seem to have the least idea how to begin! (It was like watching a pair of humans.) First the male got behind the female. Then the female turned around and tried to get behind the male. Then they both sort of put their tails against each other's and started backing up, like they were some pair of Kama Sutra squirrels. On top of that, you have to understand that the whole thing was taking place on the side of a tree, so they couldn't have been very relaxed to begin with.

Part of me suspects that the excessive urbanization of Connecticut is to blame. Squirrels want to mate, but they don't even remember how, or they're too frightened to let their guard down. I blame the government for this. (Isn't that what "blogs" are for, after all?!)

I'll try to find out more about this situation, but keep your eyes open. If you see pairs of squirrels acting strangely, at least do your part by averting your eyes. It may help relax them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Email Investment

August 26, 2009: My good friend Matthew Perry and I often correspond by email. We feel it's a fine practice, as we can't stand the sight of each other, but still like to stay in touch.

Many, many words -- and much wit and wisdom -- pass ephemerally through the esoteric airwaves of cyberspace, only to end up deleted and forgotten at some point. (I delete his words promptly, as they often just annoy me.) So much time and attention is invested in our communication, and to what end? As a writer, I've often asked myself what the point was.

So it seemed prudent to finally start this strange process of "blogging," and thanks to the fine people at -- (and you see, here I'm fearful to mention their names, as it might violate their policy or something) -- I'm happy to say that my thoughtful words will no longer be wasted on that cad. (Please understand, I think a great deal of Matt, but I'm still waiting for him to return my lawnmower, which he borrowed in the early 1990's.)

So let the blogging begin. (What an awful word!)