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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.