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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.