Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Nerdy enough to save America's economy?

You decide...(and you will decide).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

After all that...

It's been a long haul through the desert of adolescent musical interest, 21st century style. Dry rivers of Creed. Endless unpaved stretches of Linkin Park. Wet mashed potato mountains of Limp Bizkit.

Then an oasis of 80s relief -- Buzzcocks, Cure, Clash, even my beloved Gang of Four. But still, who would have known that so many absolutely indistinguishable bootleg versions of Sid Vicious' "My Way" would exist?

I should have never doubted that after all these rocky miles his musical tastes would turn in the end (where else?)...to Lennon & McCartney

It sure 'nuf makes a father proud.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

It's Just This Little Chromium Switch, Here: Channelling The Firesign Theatre

Cross-posted at newcritics

Zion, oh mighty Zion, your bison now are dust
As your cornflakes rise ‘gainst the rust-red skies,
then our blood requires we go…
Marching, marching to Shibboleth

On a recent car trip with my high-school-age son, just for fun, I popped into the CD player, Firesign Theatre’s Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers.

“What is this, something from the seventies?” he offered, after a while.

“Yeah. What do you think?”


“Well, sure. But don’t you think it’s pretty funny?”

He gave me, in lieu of an answer, that pity-the-old-guy look he wears when I’m singing along with a Bruce Springsteen CD or trying to explain why The Exorcist is supposed to be a scary movie.

“I guess,” he damned with faint praise.

At just his age, I found Firesign Theatre to be wildly, chaotically, subversively funny. I still do. So why doesn’t he – this man-child nourished from the very breast of modern satire, reader of The Onion, viewer of The Colbert Report – get the joke?

I attribute his reaction to three possible causes:

1) When listening to Dwarf at 16, I was likely to be – how shall I say this? – thoroughly and utterly baked to the gills. And for my son, much to his mother’s relief, that’s apparently not the case.

2) He’s not my son, but rather a student at Commie Martyrs High, diabolically disguising himself as a God-fearing American adolescent.

3) None of this truly exists.

Tempted though I am by the latter two options, I think it’s the first that begs the question. Could it be that Firesign Theatre – not unlike that dreaded 2-hour Grateful Dead space jam – is to be appreciated only, as they say, under the influence?

I’m high all right…but not on false drugs. I’m high on the real thing – powerful gasoline, a clean windshield and a shoeshine.

It’s possible, I suppose. There is a kind of low-level paranoia that hums behind the whole disc. And paranoia, strangely enough, is funny.

First, you notice that the cop is staring at you. Then, you laugh at yourself for thinking such a thing. Then, you realize the cop really is staring at you.

Don’t Crush That Dwarf works in that way quite a lot. It’s the art of non sequitor moving at a breakneck pace. At first, you laugh at it for being off-the-wall, but when you think about it, you see it’s not so off-the-wall after all. Is it going to be…all right?

Friends, it’s going to be all right tonight at the Powerhouse Church of the Presumptuous Assumption…

I don’t want to put myself in a confrontatory position, either with the United Snakes or with…them. And you can believe me, because I never lie. And I’m always right.

In Firesign Theatre world, the only thing crazier than you is…them. The real world. The world of people who tell you and sell you and teach you things that don’t quite make any sense.

Shoes for industry, shoes for the dead! What chance does a returning deceased war veteran have for that good paying job, more sugar and that free mule you’re dreaming of? Well, think it over. Then take off your shoes. Now you can see how increased spending opportunities mean harder work for everyone…and more of it, too!

It’s been a mighty long month of Sundays since I was a dope fiend. And now, I suppose, them is me. And being them, I now know what’s best for me. What’s been best for me all along…

Hot Dog, Mom, groat-cakes again!

On second thought…maybe I’ll just put that CD away now.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Whole Lotta Halloweens

How swiftly the ghouls go by!

1995: Peabod

1996: Bumblebee

1997: Tinkerbell

1998: Princess

1999: Jack O'Lantern

2000: Princess

2001: Hershey Bar

2002: Witch

2003: Hippie

2004: Hermione

2005: Grim Reaper

2006: Jelly Bean Bag

2007: Masked Avenger

Very scary indeed!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Island, Part 2

Turns out…you can go home again. In fact, you can return with the speed and regularity of a ping pong ball in a Chinese rec room…but it ain’t gonna do you a whit of good.

That’s because – no matter how many times you go home – you’ll find that the houses, places and things look spookily the same, but somehow…cleaner, and utterly opaque. Stupidly unaware, in fact, of the significance they hold in my memory. How dare they!

There’s the beach, for instance, on which Liz M. and I fumbled so meaningfully in the dark, now less trash-strewn, but also drained of significance, just another stretch of empty sand.

There’s the “dirtbag” bar where I knew everyone, once upon a time. Now it’s a shiny bed & breakfast, frequented by middle-aged (my-aged!) attorneys, now grey, but once, like me, wild-haired and bleary-eyed.

No, I don’t mean to go down this road. It’s not about the passing of time (a dull fact…get used to it!) It’s about meaning and where to find it.

I’ve got to think more on this…

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Island, Part I

Where do you call home?

Is it the place where you pay your mortgage? Spend your weekends? Raise your kids? Or is it the place where you were born…grew up…or grew out of?

A couple of weeks ago, I paid a visit to the place I still call home, even though I haven’t lived there for decades, and barely a soul known to me abides there still.

Shelter Island, it’s accurately called, hidden as it is between the higher-profile North and South Forks of eastern Long Island, and accessible only by ferry. There, I spent fourteen summers (and one winter) immersed in an idyllic cocktail mixed of 1 part natural splendor, 3 parts alcohol and drugs, and not-nearly-enough-parts teenage sex.

Even as a matter of history, Shelter Island was a place apart from the trendy Hamptons and the horsy North Fork.

As far back as the 1830’s – at a time when the Hamptons’ glitterati were mostly growing potatoes – Shelter Island was home to one of the nation’s first planned resort communities. Just a few decades later, in the 1870’s, early developers were transporting eager Manhattanites to the island via luxury steamer to participate in auctions for waterfront lots.

With the advent of the Gilded Age, however, abstemious Shelter Island lost much of its appeal to New York’s taste-makers. Better known for the waves of Methodists who summered at its revival campground, the island was largely overlooked by the wealthy elites who now flocked to trendier neighboring communities.

And so it remained…as late as 1973, my first summer on the island. No record mogul or investment banker worth his gourmet sea salt would be caught dead on Shelter Island, and so left it alone. As a result, it was – and to some extent still remains – a real community. A place where the leading politician had his office in a trailer at the town dump, and the names you’d find listed in the phone book pretty well matched the names listed on a 1870’s property-map.

It was a place where you could quite easily know everyone, and everyone could easily know you. A place with four policeman, 8 bars and endless potential for an eager – oh, so eager – young man with trouble on his mind.

And that’s where my story begins…

Friday, August 10, 2007

If websites were people...

...whom would this one be?

The large sweaty man who catches your eye from across the room. Oh, and you're sorry when he does, because you can already tell that he assumes an appalling familiarity. See? Already, he's making his way across the crowded room -- nylon belly overhanging his khaki lap, bright blazer buttons that will never again meet their long-separated mates.

And when he talks, he talks close, whispering onion-scented atrocities hot on your ear.

Now, for a change of pace, tell me whom this site would be...