Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Too Classic

Not to distract from the imminent loss of a major American city, but check out what Dick Cheney had to say about the possibility of involvement in Iraq back when Poppy was president:

"The notion that we oughta now go into Baghdad and somehow take control of the country strikes me as an extremely serious one in terms of what we would have to do once we got there. You'd probably have to put some new government in place, it's not clear what kind of government what would be, how long you'd have to stay. For the US to get involved militarily in determining the outcome of the struggle over who's going to govern in Iraq strike me as a classic definition of a quagmire."
(listen to the whole quote)

You fucking tosser.

PS: But wait, there's more...

"I think that the proposition of going to Baghdad is also fallacious. I think if we were going to remove Saddam Hussein we would have had to go all the way to Baghdad, we would have to commit a lot of force because I do not believe he would wait in the Presidential Palace for us to arrive. I think we'd have had to hunt him down. And once we'd done that and we'd gotten rid of Saddam Hussein and his government, then we'd have had to put another government in its place. What kind of government? Should it be a Sunni government or Shi'i government or a Kurdish government or Ba'athist regime? Or maybe we want to bring in some of the Islamic fundamentalists? How long would we have had to stay in Baghdad to keep that government in place? What would happen to the government once U.S. forces withdrew? How many casualties should the United States accept in that effort to try to create clarity and stability in a situation that is inherently unstable? I think it is vitally important for a President to know when to use military force. I think it is also very important for him to know when not to commit U.S. military force. And it's my view that the President got it right both times, that it would have been a mistake for us to get bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq." 4-29-91

"And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is not very damned many." 8-92


You fucking, fucking tosser.
7:05 PM ::
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Alas, New Orleans

I'm trying to keep up to date on the unfolding catastrophe in New Orleans, but it's a bit difficult since not even people in the city itself seem to know exactly what's going on. Hurricane Katrina itself was purportedly not as bad as it might have been, but now the levees that keep the city above water are breaking and things are deteriorating rapidly.

From the Mayor's statement:

"We have 80 percent of our city underwater. In some parts of the city, the water is as deep as twenty feet.

"We have people still trapped on their roofs.

"We have an incredible amount of water in the city. Both airports are underwater."

"The twin spans in New Orleans East are destroyed. They're gone.

"We have three huge boats that have run aground. We have an oil tanker that is also run aground. And leaking oil.

"We have a serious levee break at 17th Canal. It's causing waters to continue to rise in certain sections of the city.

"We have houses that have literally been picked up off of their foundations and moved.

"The yacht club on the lake has burned and is destroyed.

"I must tell people who are driving around that if you drive on the highrise, we're not sure about the structural soundness of the high-rise, because it appears that a barge has hit one of the main structures of the high-rise.

"This is a briefing that I got from FEMA.

"All of Slidell is under water.

"We have gas leaks that have sprout out, and even when they are under water, you will see a flame shooting out of the water. It's not a pretty picture."

(source)

Nobody knows when New Orleans residents can come back. It might be days, it'll probably be at least weeks, it could easily be months -- for a lot of people, it'll be never. Some reports say that bodies -- both new ones and floaters from the city's cemeteries -- are being seen drifting through neighborhood streets; poisonous snakes and alligators are moving into the city; there's at least one major oil spill being reported, and likely a great deal of other contamination from the city's flooded industrial areas -- and don't forget the immense amount of sewage.

Martial law has been declared in New Orleans; the general tone is one of every man for himself. The water level is expected to continue to rise for the next several days, so evacuations of those remaining people are continuing -- they're abandoning the city to the water.

And of course Biloxi and Gulfport have practically been wiped off the map.

Anyway, one local TV station is running an ongoing blog on the situation -- go read.

PS: Things may be on the verge of getting really bad inside the Superdome. The place is full of sick and wounded evacuees from the hospital, people are starting to panic, there's already been one suicide, and with the building completely surrounded by water, there's nowhere for anyone inside to go. Warning: callous statement coming: I hope someone in there brought a video camera, because this would make an incredibly compelling film.

PPS: More information -- much less reliable yet also far more informative (and incredibly poignant) -- can be found on the WWL forums, specifically the one devoted to Katrina.
10:57 AM ::
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Monday, August 29, 2005
My Blue Heaven

You'll see a smilin' face, a fireplace, a cozy room
Little nest that nestles where the roses bloom

Just Molly and me and baby makes three
In my blue heaven.

~Frank Sinatra, "My Blue Heaven"

This must be the place, and still
Somehow it don't seem right
That something in the moon
Could change these endless days
To lonely nights

~ The Pogues, "Blue Heaven"


No, I'm not as angst-ridden as all that -- in fact, at the moment, I'm quite comfortable. I'm two-thirds of the way to unpacked and set-up in my new room; it's not actually new to me since I lived here for a semester (or was it a whole year?) during my last difficult days at Marlboro the first time around. I spent some of the most hellish days of my life in this room, avoiding life and everyone who loved me, contemplating oblivion. I thought it would be weird to be back in here, but apart from a degree of familiarity, it's not bad at all. I did make a point of putting all the furniture in as completely-different an arrangement as I could find, though... sometimes just seeing a room from a new angle makes it seem like almost a different place.

There are still a few items missing, a few things left to drag up from basement storage, and a some minor rearrangements to make. This room has both advantages and disadvantages over the room I was in last term -- more windows (with better, leafier views), a neighbor on only one side, some actual bookshelves, and it's a comfortable size for one person. On the other hand, I've also got fewer drawers and less closet space; I can fit everything in, but not in quite as orderly a fashion as I'd like. And I miss my converted half-bunkbed which let me sleep gratifyingly high above the floor. But it's pleasant enough, and I'll find a way to make everything work. Coming back here has given me a strong appreciation for a minimalist life; I have with me only those things I use on a regular basis, plus a few things just for enjoyment, provided I keep using them regularly. Otherwise, out they go. Since I loathe housework, the only way I can keep things in order is to have as few things as possible. With the exception of my actual food, I have an entire functional house's worth of stuff in this one small room, with no obvious clutter; it means I don't own silverware for eight, but I can feed one guest, and that's enough for me.

I was talking to someone (who reads this blog) not long ago, and they mentioned that I probably wasn't very inclined to a domestic life, and at the time I agreed that that was probably true. I actually feel quite strongly about having my own space -- I feel much more secure in the world when I've got a piece of it that I can control -- and I do like to be comfortable surroundings. So I suppose in that sense I've got a domestic side -- and I've certainly gone through nesting phases, and doubtless will again. But I've also gotten accustomed to a stripped-down lifestyle and could live this way quite contentedly for as long as necessary. So generally speaking, my lack of domesticity is solidly established.

But there's a whole other side to that question that complicates the answer, not to mention every other aspect of my life. I feel no strong desire to own property or a house or any of the stuff that goes in one, but I do desperately want a home. And maybe a family someday as well. It doesn't have to be anything traditional -- strange is good, and I'm not picky about what shape it takes as long as it's really and truly mine -- but I've never really had one, y'see, and sometimes I positively yearn for it. No place I've ever been has ever felt like "home"... admittedly, I'm not really sure what it feels like, but I'm pretty sure I haven't felt it yet. Whether that's a function of location or situation, though, I don't know.

This all connects to my current position -- this term I have to decide what I'm going to do next. Work (as in a real, regular job) is unquestionably part of it, but what, and where? Do I stay here, where I'm sorta-kinda comfortable? Do I go back to where I've just come from, where I have friends and associates and the beginnings of a professional reputation but, to my current thinking, no real possibility of making the kind of life I really want for myself? Do I forget all of that and start fresh somewhere else? And if so -- jesus, where would I go? Circumstance may (hopefully will) point the way forward -- I have a kind of zen belief that following the flow, even if it seems to be going in the wrong direction, will get you where you need to be eventually. But I'm not even really sure where it is I'd like to be headed.

Or more accurately, I know where I'd like to go, but it seems like a completely unfeasible, unrealistic destination -- my ideal future is as unlikely as Atlantis. I'm full of contradictory desires -- I want stability in my relationships, but I also want a very large degree of freedom. I want a home, but I want to be able to leave frequently and possibly for extended periods. I want a family, but I also want flexibility; I want the reliability of one good, solid relationship, but I also want it to be as free of ties and bonds and formalities as possible. Basically, I want all the benefits with as little obligation as I can get away with. The obvious answer would be to compromise on either or both side of the equation, or alternately to simply sacrifice one for the other -- and that's basically what I've been doing, giving up the solidity in favor of the freedom. And I suspect, if made to continue to choose one or the other, that's what I'd still do. But it's definitely the kind of choice you feel the weight of in your half-fulfilled life.

I don't have to decide anything right now, of course -- I've got a few months, in which time some things may have changed. Even now some things are present, others are absent, and that will ultimately have a strong influence on whatever I decide to do. Some temporary stability -- even with somewhat less freedom -- wouldn't be an unwelcome thing, provided it came with some other benefits; some quiet time to write and prepare and bring various changes to fruition could be extremely useful right now. And time sorts out every question eventually. But when you're not at all sure where you're headed, or if there's even a "there" there, it's pretty hard to stride confidently towards your future.
9:31 PM ::
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Back

... is what I am. A perfectly decent drive -- you always get a little crazy on that second afternoon alone in the car, and since my cruise control left me sometime during the summer, my knee's aching from keeping my foot on the gas pedal for ten hours a day -- but no horrific weather for once; apparently it was two million other people's turn this weekend. And thank fuck for that.

More later.

PS: Interestingly, as soon as I got out into middle Tennessee, the price of a gallon of regular unleaded dropped by about 15-20 cents, and then stayed that way for the duration of the trip. Even through Pennsylvania and New York state, the prices were significantly lower than what I'd been paying in Memphis. Perhaps the price of fuel dropped considerably during the five hours I spent driving from Memphis to Knoxville... or maybe Memphians are being gouged?

Anyway, up here in Vermont, the price seems to average about $2.50/gallon... still a hell of a lot more than it cost when I left in May, and doubtless it's going to go up over the next week, but less than it cost when I filled my tank initially at the Exxon in Horn Lake, MS. What's it running there now?
10:46 AM ::
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Friday, August 26, 2005
Time's Up

I'm leaving for Vermont tomorrow.

I'm really not sure how this happened... a few days ago (seems like a few days, anyway) the summer was spread out before me, sagging with the weight of its potential; now I find myself with a single day to run a dozen errands and get myself packed, as well as say goodbye to those local friends who are still accessible. And it's not as difficult as it sounds -- the errands are relatively easy ones, and I don't have all that much to pack, but I'll still have to keep moving if I'm going to fit it all in. I've got my first loads of laundry going now; that'll actually be the single biggest time consideration. Why does a load of laundry have to take so damn long?

But I think I accomplished everything I needed to over the last few months -- not exactly everything I wanted to, but then, we all know how the song goes. I managed the single most difficult thing, the thing that's been frustrating me for the last couple of years -- I have, contained on two precious miniDV tapes, almost all of the raw footage for a film of my own. I actually owe a great deal of credit to someone else for that; without the benefit of one particular collaboration, I'd still have gotten it done, but not anywhere near as happily, I think. Of course, I should be saying that to them directly, not sidelong through a blog -- and I will. Once I figure out exactly how.

Then, tomorrow and Sunday, it'll be just me and my long-suffering car crossing half the country and paying way too much/not nearly enough (delete as appropriate) for 1000 miles' worth of fuel; then me getting settled into my new cloister in Vermont and resuming my van driving duties; then me settling down to log takes and cut roughly.

But more on that as I get there.
10:15 AM ::
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Still Support The War?

Then you should read this. (Yes, there are ads. You watch ads on FOX News all the time, so I can't imagine it would bother you.)

And Momster, I'll load it up ad-free for you at home tonight.
9:37 AM ::
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Friday, August 19, 2005
Hoes Like Me

Okay, look... Craig Brewer is a really nice guy: he's approachable, friendly, all the things that you'd hope the local Hot Shit Director would be. I still haven't seen Hustle and Flow in its entirety, although what I have seen was beautifully shot. And I very much admired that he chose a woman as his DOP on H&F; life in the camera department can be rough for women.

But I've just read the early synopsis of his intended second feature, and so far, I'm not loving it:

The plot involves a white nymphomaniac who must be "cured" of her disorder by an older black bluesman.

Craig, seriously... what the fuck?

Why are women always strippers and prostitutes in your films? Why always with the manipulative bitch thing? A nymphomaniac who needs to be "cured"? Are you fucking kidding me?

Anyone have any theories?
3:10 PM ::
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Monday, August 15, 2005
For Fuck's Sake

I've gotten nearly 250 hits today -- yes, that's a pleasant thing. Sadly, it's not for my scintillating wit or my insightful bloggery, it's just Archie again.

The thing that saddens me, though, is that while I'm happily sitting atop the Googlepile where massive infants are concerned, it's not as if I don't tell people who might browse by that I have nothing to offer on the subject. I mean, look:


I know you can't see it; click the image for a full-size version.


PS: For extra fun, be sure to read the comments at that first mention of everyone's favorite chubby cherub: I'm a heartless bitch! Yay! Yay on me!
11:28 PM ::
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From The Management

This blog will likely be mostly -- perhaps entirely -- dormant for a while, maybe as long as two weeks. My attention is currently being wholly dominated by film-related programs activities; even sleep and sustenance are falling away. Those who see me around during this time will find me to be perhaps a bit flustered and distracted -- if you knew how much flusteration (is that a word?) it takes to break the surface of my ninely calm, you might get the sense that my ego is currently sitting in a darkened room in my psyche, holding itself and rocking back and forth. And that wouldn't be far off the mark.

To those of you who are owed non-filmish emails, I promise that your patience will be rewarded -- just not quite yet.
1:55 PM ::
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Friday, August 12, 2005
Hero


Cindy Sheehan


Cindy Sheehan's son Casey, an Army specialist, was killed in Sadr City, Iraq only five days after his arrival; he was 24 when he died. Two months later, Sheehan and members of other grieving military families met with George W. Bush at Fort Lewis in Washington; accounts of that meeting vary. What we can say with confidence is that Cindy Sheehan left that first meeting unsatisfied -- which can hardly be surprising given that the meeting was actually about good PR for Bush, not giving satisfactory answers to a grieving mother. Ms. Sheehan is not, however, that easily shaken off.

The silver lining to Bush's decision to remove him self to Crawford for thirty-three days is that now we all know exactly where he'll be during the coming weeks, and while his ranchless "ranch" is a secure location, it remains much more accessible to the public, ironically, than the big white house that the taxpayers actually own and furnish for the President's use. Sheehan hasn't been able to get to Bush while he was in Washington, so instead she's trying to get to him in Texas. She -- and as of this writing, some 700 other people -- are encamped on the periphery of Bush's cowboy-less ranch, asking for one simple thing: that Bush might come out and talk to them, and perhaps answer a few questions that have been nagging at these families of dead soldiers.

These aren't rowdy anarchists or anti-WTO subversives; these are largely military families and their supporters. They pose no threat to the Bush administration, or at least not necessarily -- had Bush simply come out and invited Ms. Sheehan in for a glass of iced tea and a talk, this would all be over now. Instead, it has become probably the first truly effective and important protest against this war. (All the previous protests, while noble and important, clearly didn't have much of an effect. This one, on the other hand, definitely might.)

But stalling always makes things worse. Bush is in a difficult situation now: if he acquiesces and talks to Sheehan -- even if he does so with a nobility of spirit of which I can hardly imagine he's capable -- he not only makes himself vulnerable to extremely difficult questions (and we all know how Bush hates and avoids difficult questions), but now, thanks to his battalions of flying monkeys (more on them in a minute), will in right-wingnut eyes appear to be buckling to a Godless liberal terrorist-hugger. Not so good for the ol' image. On the other hand, if he continues to refuse to talk to her, he risks alienating the rest of the American people in their entirety. Because the only thing more sacred to a red-stater than Beloved Leader is a grieving gold-star mother.

The self-righteous droning heads of the right have already gotten about the business of putting Ms. Sheehan back in her place ("shut up and behave, you silly bitch") in the way that they would any other political rival. The problem, of course, is that Americans do still understand the difference between an actual political rival (John Kerry, say) and the average, everyday mother of a dead soldier. We do not apply the same rules to grieving mothers, regardless of whether or not they agree with our philosophies; it just isn't done. Because when you do it, you end up with something that sounds like this:

Cindy Sheehan returns entering stage right -- this time a left wing media whore in the form of a grieving mother.

. . . But, other mothers have gone through what Mrs. Sheehan has gone through and many are offended by her actions, thinking her deed cheapens the memory of Casey and other fallen soldiers. . . . One must stand back in amazement at how victimhood can turn a grieving mother into a statesman.

(...)

The remarkably humorous bit of all of this is that while Mrs. Sheehan is using the body of a dead solider to get her fifteen minutes of fame, Mrs. Sheehan is letting that body be used by Michael Moore, Code Pink, the DNC, and the media to extend their fifteen minutes of fame. The only one in this orgy of anti-war sentiment who has not spoken is Casey Sheehan, who gave his life that Iraq might be free. Whether he believed in the cause or was just doing his job, we will never know. But he did not die in vain. Iraq will be free. And in September we will all go back to forgetting who Cindy Sheehan is, not that we ever cared to begin with, and we will remain in Iraq.

(bleh)

Gold star mother = media whore, and a winger blogger who never met the guy can more ably speak for Casey Sheehan than the woman who devoted her life to him. See how that works? The current "argument" (if such inane drivel can be graced with that merit-implying label) is that Cindy Sheehan is (how they do wear this one into the ground) a "flip-flopper." She voted for her son's death in Iraq before she voted against it, I guess.

Ms. Sheehan says:

First of all, I did meet with George, and that is not a secret. I have written about it and been interviewed about it. I will stand by my recounting of the meeting. His behavior was rude and inappropriate. My behavior in June of 2004 and is irrelevant to what is going on in 2005. I was in deep shock and deep grief. The grief is still there, but the shock has worn off and the deep anger has set in. And to remind everybody, a few things have happened since June of 2004: The 9/11 commission report; the Senate Intelligence report; the Duelfer WMD report; and most damaging and criminal: the Downing Street Memos. The VERY LAST THING I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THIS IS: Why do the right wing media so assiduously scrutinize the words of a grief filled mother and ignore the words of a lying president?

(source)

Yeah, why do they do that?

They're right in that Ms. Sheehan's response to the tragic loss of her child over the last fifteen months has at times hit different notes; not every comment she's made since Casey's death has fit neatly into a unified, coherent philosophical framework; there has been some emotional mess involved.

Funny how that might happen to a woman whose child came home to her in pieces.

The right is attacking Cindy as though she were just another challenger. In doing so, they demonstrate their fatal flaw: they simply don't know how to cope with reality. The nuance of life as it actually exists is beyond their grasp -- they see what they want the world to be; they expound at length on the ideas that, in theory, should work, but when they don't -- when the elaborate world they've arranged in their collective mind fails to match that which they see around them -- they simply stamp their feet until the world falls into line with their will. They refuse to see the disaster of their war; they refuse to see the insanity of their foreign policy; they refuse to look at the corpses of troops or brown-skinned civilians or even acknowledge that they exist; they refuse to talk to the mourning families of those who sacrificed everything for their war whether they wanted to or not.

It'll come back to them sooner or later. And maybe Cindy Sheehan is the pebble that starts an avalanche.



PS: Ms. Sheehan has been blogging her experiences in Crawford continually in her Kos diary.
11:49 AM ::
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Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Up From The Comments

Because Dave makes a good point:

Dear Amy's Mom,

Does the pizza ad give you any indication of how your president is perceived in other parts of the world?

Remember New Zealand is a civilised western country (the first country to introduce full democracy by giving women the right to vote) which has fought on the same side as the US in several wars (but rightly declined to send combat troops to Iraq).

Even ignoring the mismanagement of the American economy and the war on terror (a smokescreen to distract from the real issues and dismantle the democratic ideals it claims to be fighting for), the Bush administration's disregard for the environment has a strong negative impact in the South Pacific with nothing being done about global warming and the hole in the ozone layer overhead. Global warming will create far more genuine problems for the planet than terrorism as the new millenium unfolds.

The ad is not an especially political statement, merely a joke which is able to work because it reflects a widely held opinion. It has often been observed that if the rest of the world could have voted in the last US election, Bush would have been out by a landslide.




This is one of those points on which the American left and right most deeply disagree. The right believes that the US is not merely sovereign, but wholly and utterly independent of the rest of the world; what people in other nations might think does not matter; we do what we want, when we want, for our own reasons. The left believes that nations are like individuals -- they each have their own rights, but as part of a larger society they also have responsibilities to each other.

I can tell you exactly what Momster thinks of the prevailing opinion among New Zealanders of George W. Bush: she doesn't care. You see, most Americans see the rest of the world as falling into one of three categories: 1) places you'd like to go on vacation; 2) places you'd never want to go ever (usually populated by sick and/or starving brown people); and 3) places to fight. New Zealand falls in the first category; for all intents and purposes you fulfill the same function in the American mind as Disney World. To suggest that your opinions should matter is sliding dangerously close to being annoyingly uppity -- why doesn't the rest of the world just learn its place, ie subordinate to the US? We're in charge, you don't get a say.

The problem, of course, is that the rest of the world outnumbers the US by a rather large factor. And given that we're all sitting inside this same thin atmospheric bubble, eventually our problems become your problems, and vice versa. At present the American mainstream still follows a standard Keynesian model of economics: our needs are our needs and your blind sheep and melanoma epidemic are "externalities." We wish to not have to deal with them, so we don't; the same is true whether we're speaking of your ozone hole or the violent rage of poor brown people. We're not responsible for everything, obviously, but in our collective mind we're not actually responsible for anything.

Momster probably wouldn't put it quite that way, but that's basically what it amounts too; approximately half the nation feels the same way. The point I keep trying to make to my international friends is that there are roughly as many people who feel repelled by that perspective, and recognize it as the collective sociopathy that it is. Half the American mind is trying to bring the other half back to rationality. But the schizoid little voice of George W. Bush keeps telling America to kill kill kill, and that makes things harder.

Liberal America to earth: send lithium.
5:05 PM ::
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Mixed Bag

Bob Saget is a sick fuck.

Yeah, I mean that Bob Saget -- Danny Tanner, wholesome TV dad, host of America's Funniest Home Videos. The darling of the Family Channel has a brain that would make a German porn director squirm with embarrassment.

What, you don't believe me?

In comedy circles, there's a famous Saget story about the night his first daughter was born. After a very difficult birth, during which Sherri Saget and her baby almost died, a friend showed up to find Mr. Saget looking utterly destroyed, unshaven, unrecognizable, but holding his newborn.

"Oh my God, Bob, she's beautiful," the friend said.

"For a dollar, you can finger her," Mr. Saget replied.

(link, because the original New York Observer article requires payment)

That's just about the nastiest joke I've ever heard, and yet it's one of the most painfully funny ad libs ever. I don't understand what it is that makes it funny and not reprehensible -- I think it has something to do with the agony and relief of what he'd just been through expressing itself in the form that would most quickly defuse the tension; whatever, somehow it has meaning beyond being merely nasty. That's not a gag, it's a Statement. Shocking, yes, but significant in its insignificant little way.

Compare that to the current work of a kid I know -- an obviously brilliant, creative, driven kid who wants to be a filmmaker -- who's just in that shocking-for-shock's-sake stage of his adolescence. He's been advertising for actors, looking for someone familiar with "vore" fetish. Now, I happen to be something of an amateur scholar of polymorphous perversity -- please don't infer anything about my personal life from that -- but I'd never heard of a "vore" fetish. So I looked it up. Turns out that this is "vore" in the sense of "carni-vore" or "herbi-vore" -- it purportedly has something to do with the physical consumption of one living thing by another. It's all very Freudian; look here if you must. Regardless of what this fetish means to those who possess it, in terms of this kid's work I put it down to that typical teenage boy desire to appear to be depraved, ideally to the point that societal rejection follows. The thing most of us learn by the age of eighteen, though, is that nobody buys it for a minute because in someone that young it has no meaning; one's depravity must be earned through distasteful experience.

So what does all this have to do with anything?

Mostly I'm thinking about it because I desperately want to see The Aristocrats. This is the epicenter of this entire question, the point at which meaning and meaninglessness in a nasty joke intersect. It's meaningless in that the joke is a rather poor joke, not very funny, and the point of the joke actually has nothing to do with the punchline. But it's incredibly meaningful in that it represents a pinnacle of comedy art, the greatest skill to which a comedian can aspire, and a measuring stick by which they may be judged. It's a joke that only comedians really understand, and as such is pretty goddamn zen. And at its best, it's absolutely stomach-turningly disgusting. Bob Saget apparently shreds it.

People who know me well know that comedians -- not the hacks that populate Premium Blend, but the Prophets who inhabit a higher plane of existence -- are my heroes. I prefer them to rock stars, I consider them on a level equal to that of Jesus or Gandhi or the Gautama Buddha. And the ones I love best are the ones who deal in black humor and sick jokes -- it's not about shocking anyone, it's about catharsis and purging one's soul of the pain of living. The best of them tend to falter at a young age -- Lenny, Bill, Richard, poor old Andy -- but perhaps that's the price of living your life as a filter for all of society's anguish.

Anyway, on a similar note, much of Bill Hicks' standup has finally been released on DVD. There's still a lot missing -- you won't find his Rush Limbaugh bit on here, or his wtf?-inspiring riff on Dick Clark (or any other part of Sane Man, which is a shame) but at least it means that I can get rid of my PAL VHS copies.

And I was all excited that the entire run of The League of Gentlemen has also finally been released on DVD here, until Dave pointed out to me that the fuckers somehow made a feature film without my ever knowing about it. I admit I was faintly offended -- I felt like they'd been hiding something from me. But that won't stop me from desperately needing to see it right now.

Dave also pointed out to me this deeply gratifying ad campaign by a pizza chain in New Zealand:





Sweet.
1:44 PM ::
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Friday, August 05, 2005
Because It's Hard Work!

The George W. Bush Paid Vacation Act. Dig it.
6:24 PM ::
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My Fucked-Up Dad

My father is a complete bastard.

Note I said "is," present tense, not "was," past tense. Not only has he survived a second heart attack, open-heart surgery, and a stroke in the past week, he's even back home to complete his recovery. That side of my family, I'm telling you -- they're some resilient fuckers. My paternal grandfather had a major stroke, and still lived for a dozen years in a near-vegetative state (suffering a dozen more strokes during that time), before finally giving up his few remaining biological functions a good decade after he was first declared near death. My paternal grandmother has held on through heart disease, a brain tumor and subsequent surgery, and encroaching senility. I suppose, if nothing else, that I can now assume that if I can avoid debilitating illness or traumatic injury, I can expect to live to be quite old.

Some days ago I wrote a long letter to my father's wife explaining why I was not going to come to see my father on his deathbed and/or during his recuperation. As it happened, her mother had just died, so she was understandably a while in replying, but she said briefly that there were "things I must know." I finally got her real reply last night, but couldn't bring myself to read it right away -- I had expectations of a defense of my father, a rationalization of her place in everything, and more bullshit assurances of how much he "loves" me and how "proud" he is of me. (The quotation marks are very intentional.) Today I finally opened her message and read -- and learned that things are both not what I thought they were, but also exactly in keeping with everything I knew. It wasn't so much a paradigm shift as a confirmation that my current beliefs about the situation have been entirely correct.

My father's wife is still legally my father's wife, although apparently she hasn't lived with him for nearly two years now. In her words, he treated her horribly, and was "cruel" to her children (I could've warned her about that.)She said she regretted marrying him within a month, wished she'd never met him. That's how it is with my dad, that's how it always goes: his life is a long string of broken relationships -- not merely broken, but seemingly maliciously dismembered. The revelation was, on the one hand, a relief -- thank god, it's not just me -- but also saddening. My father has made a hermit of himself, living on a "ranch" (whatever that means, I assume not really "ranch") in Texas, split and stitched from throat to navel, and going through all of this alone, completely alone. It's just pathetic. And yet it's very much the bed he made for himself.

His technically-still-wife picked up his prescriptions, brought him some groceries, and will do the same again next week, but will not stay to play nurse to him. And frankly, it's more compassion than he deserves... but I guess that's the point about compassion, it's not really about deserving it. In thinking about all this, I've realized that the thing that's been hanging me up is that I wished -- in that way I can't help but wish when a person is dying -- that someone would show him some compassion, but that that person wouldn't have to be me. Let a stranger do that job, someone who can look at him unemotionally. I'll do it for someone else in return, but I can't do it for him... I just can't.

His disease is apropos of his life: his heart is mostly dead, and has completely blocked itself off from every source of nourishment and everything that might help sustain its life. That's true on more than one level. But while it might be the heart disease that ultimately kills him, that's not what destroyed him; he was taken down young by some emotional, psychological cancer that ate him alive from the inside. Often in my life I've wanted to shake him, ask, "what the fuck is wrong with you? What happened to you to make you this way? What are you so afraid of?" That's the question I'll never get an answer to -- I don't think he knows himself (although he has a million and one masks to cover whatever truth lies behind it), and he doesn't let anyone get so close that they might discover the answer for themselves. You'd never know from the outside -- he's brilliant and witty and charming, and most people like him very much when they first meet him -- but he's gone all rotten on the inside.

I was expecting to feel worse after that message from my father's wife; instead, I feel considerably better. The problem with these people who abuse through thought and feeling is that it's incredibly hard to explain to others what it is that they do -- people outside see a funny, intelligent man and can't imagine or believe the horrible things he says to his family at home; even less apparent is that chilling, inexpressable way in which he says them. I grew up around people who admired my father -- that was completely intentional on his part and a carefully constructed illusion -- and even now I often doubt my own understanding of what happened between us. So to have a relatively objective outsider come along and say that it's all true, and recount experiences that match perfectly with my own, is a huge relief. A few more pieces fall into place and the larger picture becomes just a little bit clearer. The larger picture is an unbearably sad one, but seeing it is crucial to finding a way to leave it behind. I'm certain that I won't be able to finish that process until he's finally gone, but I might be able to make a little more progress now that I can see a little more. So my father's wife did me a service.
2:12 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Monday, August 01, 2005
America to UN: Just Ignore Him And He'll Go Away

Yes, Bush's middle finger -- both real and figurative -- is getting a workout lately. He has just appointed Wilfred Brimley -- sorry, Michael Bolton -- sorry, John Bolton, to the UN; the left is supposed to be pissed off, but most of us are just rolling our eyes. Fine, have him; he can dick around in the UN for a year or so, make America's situation in the world a wee bit harder (though it's already pretty bad, so there's not much further to fall in that sense), and then in 2007 the new Democrat-controlled congress will replace him with somebody not-insane. The way is clear.

But we leave the world with this message: just ignore him.

Seriously. He has the support of nobody but Bush, and we all know how little that's worth on the world stage. Sure, he'll bluster around and assault your administrative assistants and challenge the ambassador from Belgium to a fistfight in the parking lot, and make the place smell faintly of fish -- but really, try to pretend he's not there. He's got nothing, certainly not the backing of the American people. He'll be gone soon... ignore him.

The funny thing about all this is, the Republicans and Bush in particular are so enchanted with this "middle finger" diplomatic style they've just discovered, they fail to realize that Bush's middle finger is ultimately being jammed up his own ass. Does John Bolton's appointment take any pressure of the troops in Iraq? No. Does he offer any hope of reaching aggreements with North Korea or Iran? No. Does he add to America's image abroad? Hell no.

But okay, Dubya, do what you want... when you wake up with a sore asshole, you'll have nobody but yourself to blame.

PS: Alternately, you could use him against us. Middle finger, meet puckered anus.

PPS: Looks like Bolton is Mr. Popularity at the UN. What a great fuckin' day for America!
1:41 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Vigil

I think this whole "dying dad" thing is getting to me more than I thought it was. Death continues to peck at him, biting off little bits of his life without ever quite doing him in. Day before yesterday he had a stroke; that same day, apparently, his heart had to be shocked five, maybe six times to keep it beating. Whether that mean shocks from the pacemaker they put in last year or the full-on wrested-back-from-the-abyss ER-drama thing I'm not sure. I guess in essence there's not much difference.

The idea of his death doesn't bother me; this agonizing process of his dying does. It's almost as if he's in a prolonged labor, struggling across the threshold between nonexistence and existence, except in reverse. Dying can be a lot of work, I guess. And I have to wonder, even if he manages to pull through this seemingly indefeatable combination of worsening problems -- the stroke, the diabetes, the renal failure, the dying heart, the huge wound in his chest -- what will be left of him? What's the purpose of all this struggling?

An easy question for me, granted.

My task tonight is to compose a letter to his wife explaining that I won't be coming to see him, and also, as a courtesy, attempting to explain why. I've also spent the last two days trying to get my paternal aunt on the phone to tell her what's going on -- his mother, at least, must know about her son's condition, but she's mentally fragile herself and this kind of news should never be conveyed by telephone, so I'm depending on my aunt to let her know. But there's no answer there and no machine on which to leave a message. I remember when my first stepfather died, I got the job of calling his mother to tell her, too... I was about sixteen at the time.

And I'm very tired -- not physically or even mentally tired, just very emotionally tired. It occurs to me that, even though I'm not rushing to his bedside, I'm still keeping vigil in a sense, waiting for the passing not only of his life but of my relationship with him as well. Something subtly new will begin once he's gone -- namely, my final coming-to-terms with him and myself and everything between us -- so a major phase of my life is ending and another approaching. But obviously it isn't going to come painlessly.
12:27 AM ::
Amy :: permalink
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