Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Ultimate in Man Bites Dog

Terri Schiavo died this morning, which nobody is happy about. There has been such a frantic media buildup about the case that there must be some sort of commentary aftermath. Salon sums it all up quite succinctly, and you won't see anything about it here for awhile.

Today's post is about shark attacks ...both men attacked by sharks, and sharks attacked by men.

This article come from the Perth Edition of the Sunday Times...
Diver Attacks Great White

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

This Easter, Last Easter

I'm sure that all of your Easters were spent joyfully celebrating Christ's rebirth and ascension to heaven, faces glazed with chocolate or ham as you mouthed grateful prayers. I, too, spent Easter praying to God, but my mouth was smeared with vomit and I was asking the merciful Lord to please take my life. A savage 24-hour bug has been coursing through DC faster than an anthrax scare, and as you might imagine, I am a bit of a wuss about these things.

The morning just started wrong from the get-go. Somebody's car erupted into joyous song at about seven a.m. right outside my apartment window. One of the wires in the horn must have ascended to the realm where wires rest eternally that morning and left its others to blast a raucous one-note bagpipe solo to their fallen comrade.

After half an hour or so, I rolled out of bed, into jeans and right outside armed with a wire coathanger and an airtight plan:

1) jimmy into the car
2) open the hood
3) disconnect the car battery
4) return to bed for a quick nap before
5) awakening and catching a cab to the National Cathedral for an eleven o'clock service.

The car horn at close range combined with the sound of wire scraping glass fully blasted away the sleep-encrusted gossamer wrapped around my brain. I came to my full senses while standing barefoot in the street on a freezing grey morning, with both hands jiggling a wire stuck DEEP into a strangers' car door. This was one of those occasions where the truth sounds like a big fat lie and the cops staring at me would just make me blush and sputter from nervousness and look even more like a liar and a lousy car thief to boot. Mumbling cuss words at an accident-prone world, I ditched the wire in the gutter, headed straight inside and vomited profusely.

Whenever I am about to vomit, I hear this voice speaking to me that I never ever hear unless I am about to vomit.

"Hello again, Jeff," it says. "I'm the Ghost of Vomits past, present, and future. I bet you thought you could forget about me."

Other people always think I am moaning and muttering, but I'm actually having a conversation with the voice. "Uuuuhuhh...,"I inevitably respond.

"Well, I'm back again. And even though you know how much misery I am about to wreak on your body, you're sort of glad to see me, aren't you?" With this, the voice invisibly tangles the cords leading to my testicles, making my stomach ball up in terror.

"Uuuuhhuh," I reply.

"Well, take my hand and we'll have another waltz. I'll lead, as always."

I didn't leave the apartment all day. Easter was a painful grey light washing over a series of naps that followed waltzes with the Ghost of Vomits and his infinitely nastier cousin. I am, of course, wringing this experience for all the drama and sympathy it is worth. That's just my style. In hindsight, the situation was not one-hundred percent terrible.

My girlfriend is patient, kind, and a real expert at making me feel loved and cared for. Netflix paid off the previous day with a load of three movies, and the apartment took on an exceptionally cozy, cocoon-like feel as it gently bobbed and spun around my feverish head.

It was very like being in a small, comfortable spaceship travelling through a bumpy warp in space-time. In between moments of painful clarity in the stark white hold of the ship, I was able to travel back in time to last Easter and an altogether different sort of celerbation of life. Natasha was still there, and I like to imagine that she made the journey with me back to the other side of the world and Easter 2004. Sure, there was some discomfort and space-time illness, but we were going someplace fun together, and that was all that mattered.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Schiavo Affair


As a knee-jerk liberal, I of course think Schiavo should be killed, preferably by pulling a plastic bag with a poisonous spider in it over her face. Her parents should have to do it with their shaking, grief-stricken hands, and the rights to watch this poor woman choke her last breath should be sold on Pay-Per-View, with the money taxed heavily distributed to everyone who hates America to spend on solar panels and tall, obtusely named designer coffee. At least, people could reasonably infer that from my opposition to this week's proceedings.

I am furious at the language that is being used by the conservative machine to describe this and many other issues. When mainstream conservative politicians use the phrase "culture of life" in their televised commentary, it makes me shake with impotent fury. Who wants to oppose a "culture of life?" Its usage paints its enemies as a bunch of scythe-swinging liberal reapers who want nothing more than to hit the highways with a pack of jackals and trim the weak from America's midst. Nobody with half a brain is going to stand up and say that they oppose a "culture of life," just like nobody with any soul is actually "PRO-abortion." I sincerely doubt that choosing to remove a feeding tube or abort a fetus will ever be considered somebody's favorite decision.

Bill Frist and other conservative politicians have stood in front of television cameras all week and said that this emergency vote was "not political." This is patent huck-fuckery in its finest form. When a politician uses the power of his vote to achieve something: it's political. When he holds a press conference about an issue, it's political. Simple as that.

I don't know if Terri Schiavo should be allowed to die or not. I don't know her or her family or her husband. I wasn't there when she talked to her husband about this, and I have no idea how well her fmaily respected her wishes when she had her faculties about her. I know that some conservative members of the blogosphere have commented that "not all husbands are the best husbands in the world." This is true, but who hasn't known parents to treat their adult children as if they don't know what they are doing?

The reason I want Terri to be allowed to die is purely political: I don't want this to be an arrow in the quiver of the religious right. As a court case, this sets an ugly precedent for America. It says that Americans can make their own private choices unless the dominant political party can score serious points off of their involvement. It says that the right to life and death can be overturned by the Federal courts, and that the conversations between a husband and wife are not valid when there's and agenda to push. But that's the politics talking, and politicians have skillfully framed this issue so that if you disagree politically, you hate families and want to kill Terri Schiavo.

It's very important to be clear that I am speaking in the abstract here. I don't know the people at the heart of this thing at all. I have no idea what is right in this situation, at this moment, for this family. I come from relative comfort with a loving family and a pretty huge sense of hope, and I don't honestly judge any spouse or family member in this case one way or the other right now. Love and grief are massive, powerful creatures, and when the stakes get this high, those massive animals naturally stampede.

In the abstract, the decision is clear-cut--this case sets an ugly precedent. When you look at it with the heart, it's pretty muddy. One truth is really clear here, though: this case has gotten political as all hell, and once the politics come in, the real, suffering people get blocked out. People say that liberals are cynical, and that may be true--but when you see politics highjacking suffering for further political gain, it's hard not to be cynical.

I'm going to close with a cartoon from the consistently amazing Get Your War On...


Thursday, March 17, 2005

A Grim Look at the Australian Food Chain

My friend Jamie is an environmental scientist in Perth, who, like all of his countrymen, has a fantastic sense of the macabre combined with a love for wild animals. Check out these photos he sent me of a python eating a large wallaby somewhere out in the Australian bush.

This is the Aussie equivalent of a trip to Golden Corral...

Snake Swallowing Kangaroo 1

Snake Swallowing Kangaroo 2

Snake Swallowing Kangaroo 3

Snake Swallowing Kangaroo 4

Snake Swallowing Kangaroo 5

Snake Swallowing Kangaroo 6

Snake Swallowing Kangaroo 7

Snake Swallowing Kangaroo 8

Snake Swallowing Kangaroo 9

Snake Swallowing Kangaroo 10

Snake Swallowing Kangaroo 11

Snake Swallowing Kangaroo 12

Click here to see another massive python stuck on an electric fence, and here to see a python retrieving a drowned kangaroo somewhere in the Pilbara. Additionally, I wrote and published a lengthy account of a kangaroo shooting trip I went on in Australia a few years ago. You can read that here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Damnedest Thing

Sometimes at work, when I really have to buckle down and get things done, I actully listen to BTO's "Taking Care of Business," really, really loud. I imagine my life as a montage in an eighties movie, with papers flying and occasional costume changes, and you know what? It really helps.

Also, this is the coolest thing on the internet: a video clip of Animal and Buddy Rich playing the drums...

I Was Nobody, From the Future

"Well fuck you, mister," the old man spat. "Fuck you for following me." His bulbous nose quivered, the exploded vessels in it visibly filling as blood rushed to his face and he barked "Â…follow me in the road, all over this city, I'm just minding my own business, fuck you, young man."

As if from above, I could see my hands tighten on the handbrakes, lips pulling back over my teeth while I said, "All I was doing was riding my bike and stopping at this stoplight when you stepped into the street right in front of can just eat a big bowl of my shit, mister."

After alcohol, the fight-or-flight response is responsible for more ridiculous epithets than any influence on earth. Combine alcohol and fight-or-flight and you've got yourself a powerhouse.

I steamed off into the night, so mad I could have served a bowlful up right there. I pedaled until my rusted chain chattered off the gears, wrapping itself around my leg like a hungry snake desperate for someone to hold. I jumped off the bike in a front yard that seemed really, really familiar. I lay in the grass, stroking the starving little bike chain and cooing to it in the international language of abused metal--it's important to be soothing with frustrated machinery. Take your anger out on a furious bike chain and it's likely to gnaw its way down to your bones.

"Jeff? Is that you?" A familiar female voice rang out across the dew-covered lawn. It was Ms. Benson, mother of Frank, one of my best friends in high school. The chain slithered off complacently into the bushes as I leapt to my feet, wiping my pants with my greasy hands.

"How have you been? Frankie was asking about you a week or so ago..I didn't know you were back here."

"Here" was a curious place. I live and bike in Washington, D.C. Ms. Benson lives in Norfolk, Virginia. I was riding like mad earlier, but I sure hadn't ridden my bike up on the interstate for several hours. However, wormholes in space-time are totally invisible, with only a little blurriness at ground level like smudged glass reality, and could have totally been hidden by the thick blanket of fog covering the ground.

Ms. Benson vanished, mumbling something about turning her front yard into a luxury condo that cost $1200 a month to rent. I curled up on the porch, panting and in desperate need of rest. After plugging my cell phone and ATM card into the mail slot to recharge, I slipped into a deep, dreamless sleep.

I could have slept for 48 hours or fifteen much-needed minutes, but either way I woke up to a guy shaking my arm, saying "hurry...we've got to get you out of here before Ms. Benson finishes peeling her mask off...get in the van and I'll drive you to safety."

I didn't need to see the forest of snakes under her fake facial skin again after the stunt with the laundry detergent in eighth grade--I hit the floor of the van at near-escape velocity as the it fishtailed off into the night.

I crept up to the front seat to get a better look at my rescuer. He was a tall guy, maybe 22 years old with a head full of curly, shaggy hair. He looked really, really familiar, too. I thanked him for the rescue and we chatted about books and bands. The weird thing was, he hadn't heard of any of the bands I mentioned...or at least, any of the ones that came into existence after maybe 1988. He was nuts for Bad Brains and the Cramps and dub reggae. I asked him about Fugazi, and this look came over his face like he'd seen a ghost. Shaking, he held up a notebook with the word written in it and circled several times.

"That's what I was going to name my new band," he said. "I got it from this comic book, 'The 'Nam'."

"Hang on a second here," I replied. "What's your name?"

"I'm Ian. Ian MacKaye. Who are you?"

Ian Mackaye, age approximately 22, had pulled me up off of Ms. Benson's porch. He had no idea of the legacy he was about to create or the tremendous changes his band would wreak on independent music.

Then it hit me. I thought that I just thought it, but I said it out loud:

"You're a figure in my dream. You might be real in your reality, but right now I am creating you, or at least summoning you into my world. When I wake up, you're going to vanish along with everything else."

Mackaye replied: "How do you know I'm going to vanish? How do you know I'm not going to stay right here driving this van while you vanish, sir? You think you created my whole world with your sleeping mind, but your brain can't have that much power. I think you've just propelled yourself here."

He had a point.

"Well," I said, "either way, we can't hang out together too much longer. In my world, you are in your early forties. In my reality we have not met yet, even though you grew up right around the corner form my apartment. Your band is one of my favorites and really changed me for the better when I was in high school. That band, Fugazi, is going to be one of the greatest rock band of all time. By 2005 it will all be over, more or less. Nobody will know if you have broken up or not, but one thing is sure: you're going to leave a large mark on a lot of people. Then you'll start a new band, a two-piece called the Evens that is really different from Fugazi, and really critically acclaimed. When you play at this church in D.C. on last Friday, my world's time, I will miss the show."

He sat there for a long time, open-mouthed. It's not every day that a stranger from the future lays out your whole future at the hundred-thousand-foot level, and it's that incredible a future.

He regained some composure after a few minutes, and his face twisted a little bit, looked somewhat annoyed. "Wait. What do you mean coming along here and just telling me my whole life like that? I don't want to go around with some sort of fucked-up sense of entitlement now that you've told me this...I want to work for it! What am I supposed to do now?"

"I don't know, man," I replied. "Try and act surprised."

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Paranoid Android

Since you asked, I have been feeling morose and mopey lately, and finding it difficult to infuse this blog with the energy it takes to really make it sing. I'm having one of those times where everything in the world is dumb, except for the lives of other people, which are scintillating and fulfilling to them, leaving me with a decent, usable life that feels like a shopping cart with a flappy wheel.

This is me, though--I have to just self-indulge in the doldrums and then hey, presto, they're over. If this were not a blog, where this sort of thing is normal, I would apologize. I have been comparing myself to Bears Will Attack lately, and feeling that my morose self-indulgence does not live up to its hilarious prose. So it goes.

Nevertheless, there is something about reports of truly shameful behavior that warms my heart...

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Band I'm Screaming About

The more longtime readers among you may have noticed that I have a certain affinity for a certain DC band known as the Carlsonics. The more perceptive among the tiny slice of And I Am Not Lying, For Real's readership that does not know me personally has probably worked out that my love for the Carlsonics extends beyond mere fandom.

I figured I should out my bias here before the vast journalistic shadow conspiracy that is the "blogosphere" finds me out and posts screaming indictments of my character online.

So it's true: the Carlsonics are friends and friendly acquaintances from college. We're patting each others' backs here--one of them helped get me my job, and if sometimes I like the people playing the Carlsonic's music better than I like the music itself, (everyone has an off night, folks) you readers just might get a glowing fudge-job. Deal with it.

The folks in the C-sonics have provided me with a living wage, free liquor and some top-notch entertainment, and they're a really friendly bunch of people. This makes it really hard to seriously criticize them on this highly trafficked and well-respected blog.

On the other hand, The Heartless Bastards could act like a bunch of premenstrual wolverines and I'd still use every last ounce of my power to get their music to the people.

They opened for the Carlsonics a month or so ago, and I still can't stop screaming about them. They looked like this completely normal, standard boringish band when I walked in the club, and then they finished tunig up and their rhythm section knocked me to the floor like a wave at the beach. I turned around, ready for just about anything but the sound of tiny little five-foot-nothin' Erika Wennerstrom's huge heartbroken voice channeling Axl Rose, Lynrd Skynrd and the massive sadness of rock n'roll heartbreak...I honestly lost my breath. I could feel my chest sort of hitch, and my eyes were all watering, I didn't know if I needed to cry or shout or what.

Half of me wanted to just stand there and get hypnotized by the Bastard's mournful, bluesy rock, and the rest of me wanted to reach over the bar and pour a bottle of whiskey all over my face.

The Heartless Bastards combine the rough beauty of an ugly teenager overflowing with unrequited love, the massive rock of waves hitting the sand and all the small-town warmth of loving waitress at a truck stop calling you "hon" and not charging you for coffee and pie. Every time I hear them I think of all the people that have loved me and how much I love them, and how this time, I'm gonna do a better job of showing it.

Then I need a drink, really, really badly.

They're on Fat Possum Records, the last channel to a dying breed of Delta blues musicians...labelmates include Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside and the Black Keys. Merely existing on Fat Possum is to be among the annals of truly American and truly great musicians. Clicking the link above or this link right here will take you to some free downloads of their music..."Runnin" gives me the chills.

Now that music is about ten years past Nirvana, there's a clot of bands crisscrossing the States in a busted-up van, bringing their modern take on throwback retro-rock to tiny towns everywhere. Since everyone can have a band, everyone does. From a critical perspective, not everyone should, but the Bastards are a shining exception.

Rock music has splintered into subgenres and sub-sub-genres and the stuff on the radio doesn't do a damn thing for your soul. It is my sincerest hope that the Heartless Bastards climb up there past the White Stripes into the shining silvery halls of bands everyone loves and nobody is ashamed to sing along with: Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Hendrix, and every other blues-influenced act that knows how to break your heart and tell you it's gonna be alright with every song.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

This Speaks Poorly For America

A poor grammatically challenged teenager in Clark County, Kentucky is being held on a $5000 bond because of the contents of his journal. He faces second-degree felony charges for making threats and possibly being a terrorist as well.

While it is nice to know that rural Kentucky does not wholeheartedly subscribe to the terrorist=A-rabs equation, there's a troubling reality here.

I'm sure that the boy's grandparents are kind, caring people who want to do what's best for everyone, and agonized over their decision to imprison their own flesh and blood based on a faulty interpretation of his private writings...but this is indicative of a bigger, more frightening picture for the rest of society.

Steven King wrote a telling story called "Rage" under the pseudonym Richard Bachman sometime in the late seventies. It was about a frustrated, misunderstood teenager who took his high school class hostage and shot a few students before being taken down by the cops. King was, himself, a high-school English teacher. I don't think this story was meant as a plan to incite revolution among teen boys at all.

King built his career off of a brilliant ability to tap into the fertile territory of social aggression and manipulation present in all high schools...Carrie, Rage, Christine, and countless other tales work off of the same themes, and they've made King a multi-millionaire. Under today's codes, he may have been imprisoned for life as a virtual serial-killing terrorist.

King's stories have been told and retold by generations of frustrated sub-alpha males who suck at sports and use English and Art class to get their aggressions out. Most of these derivative tales have little literary merit, but serve as incredibly healthy outlets for their authors. I benefited greatly from the freedom to spray some invisible blood and guts through my creative writing, paintings, and embarrassingly wretched heavy-metal lyrics as a teenager.

Teenage boys have long had a penchant for blood-soaked fiction, and it's a normal, natural way of purging aggression without actually harming anyone. While it is important for parents/parental guardians to be involved in their child's life, it's crucial that they understand the difference between unpleasant, possibly tasteless but harmless creative expression and actual malicious intent.

It may seem like a fine line, but if one is willing to go so far as to read a kid's journal, it's worth going the extra mile and learning the difference between the Klebold child's maps of Columbine and entertaining zombie schlock. It is possible to deduce that we are living in a new age of McCarthyism, with "reds" replaced by "terrorists." If there's one thing I learned while growing up and attending college in the South, it's that people who interpret the Bible literally also find it very hard to understand fiction...and these people are running the country.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Something Smells Here...

As much as I love the Fantastic Four and think that comics are a great way to get kids to read, I have to wonder if this is such a great idea. It seems like a marketing ploy, all-too coincided with the release of the FF film this summer. Anyone who reads comics knows that they are advertising streams in and of themselves--which is fine for kids outside of school. But in school? The brain of a child is soft and hungry, and I would hate for this to be another Channel One.

Let It Go

In twenty years, our children will have crafted something completely different and revolting to annoy us. But right now, compelling evidence exists that proves punk is dead.

Thanks to Metafilter and Fark for the links...