Liebster Award

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The always hilarious mind behind The Blog Broad nominated me for this here thing called the Liebster Award.  I highly recommend checking out her page, because she is consistently smart, funny, entertaining and empathetic.  Since the color scheme I chose for my page doesn’t make links very obvious, here it is again: The Blog Broad.  A few months ago, when I still had my shared page with Maryellen, I was also nominated for this here thing called the Liebster Award, but the questions were different so I don’t have the luxury of completing this one with a lazy copy/paste.  I also have to re-explain why I only half-complete the instructions given for accepting said award, and I will do so via editorial comments embedded within the instructions below:

The instructions for accepting the Liebster are:

  • Create a new post thanking the person who nominated you, link their blog and insert the award graphic. Done, done, and no.  I choose my own graphics.  I have aesthetic standards to maintain.
  • Answer the questions provided to you, share a little bit about yourself. Will do.
  • Develop a new set of questions for your nominations to answer. I begrudgingly acquiesce to this part.
  • Nominate 10 others and share your post with them so they see it.   10 others will almost certainly see itIf they so choose, they can pretend I nominated them and answer the questions I devised.  Anarchist that I am, I’m as bad at giving orders as I am at taking them.  Incidentally, this is also the reason I no longer date.

Here are my questions:

  1. If you could travel through time and live in any era, when would you choose?

Year 1 A.D., Bethlehem, Judea.  While those intrepid wise men were trekking across the desert with their antiquated gifts for the newborn messiah, I’d be hiding in some bushes with an Etch-A-Sketch I picked up at the Walmart Superstore just before the time jump.  Biding my time thusly, I would work my magic on the 2 plastic nobs until I had a faithful rendering of 3 Magi carrying gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Moments before their arrival, I’d jump out from behind the shrubbery and present the holy trio of J, M & J with a prescient magnetic dust drawing of the approaching visitors, cementing my Anno Domini legacy as the prophetic angel who presented Christ with his only fun birthday gift.

  1. What was the last good book you read and why would you recommend it to a friend?

Destructive Emotions by Daniel Goleman, H.H. The Dalai Lama, et al.  Every year, the Dalai Lama hosts a conference at his residence in Dharamsala, India attended by some of the world’s most preeminent scientists, biologists, philosophers, physicists and Buddhist scholars.  The theme changes from year to year and this book is an overview of the 2001 interdisciplinary discussions on the topic of destructive emotions, their sources and corresponding activity in the brain, and experimentally tested methods to lessen or overcome their influence in our lives.  I would recommend it to a friend because it is very readable and extremely interesting.  I would recommend it to an enemy because that person probably needs to read it more than the friend.

  1. If you could change one thing you’ve done in the past year, what would it be and why?

I’m certainly not alleging that I haven’t made a ton of regrettable decisions, but this is a tough question to answer because I don’t regret things.  Cause and effect is the perpetual force driving the forward march of time and circumstance and if I am content with the current moment (which I am), then changing any single past event, no matter how terrible it may have been, will find me in an entirely different present moment, perhaps one with which I’m not at all content.

  1. Tell us one of your guilty pleasures.

iCarly.  I never considered this a “guilty” pleasure until a Family Guy episode parodied a commercial for Nickelodeon featuring a way-too-scantily-clad teenage girl and the tagline: “Nickelodeon.  Casually ask your daughter what that actress’ name is, then take your laptop into the bathroom.”

  1. What is the goal of your blog?

To entertain.

  1. When did you start writing?

I think I was around 15 years old when I started writing short stories and poetry.

  1. If you could fight a celebrity in a boxing ring, knowing you’d win, who would it be?

Tom Cruise.

  1. What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Tom Cruise.

  1. What show can you simply, not miss?

Gotta give a two-fer answer on this one:  Broad City and Bob’s Burgers.

  1. What game (Board, card or video) are you best at?

Galaga, Motherfucker.  To be clear, the name of the game was Galaga.  Not Galaga Motherfucker.  Although that would have been far cooler.

Questions for those who feel like responding to some quintessential pop music queries:

  1. Do you know the way to San Jose?
  2. Who are you?
  3. Have you ever seen the rain?
  4. How deep is your love?
  5. Where is my mind?
  6. Should I stay or should I go?
  7. What’s love got to do – got to do with it?
  8. Do you really want to hurt me?
  9. Are you experienced? Have you ever been experienced?  Not necessarily stoned, but beautiful?

hello

Friday Funhouse 6: Rocket Man

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Willkommen! It’s the Autumnal Equinox and that means I can officially bid the summer of 2017 adieu with a prominently extended middle finger. The sweatiest months of the year laid claim to the Old Guard of pets in the Curmudgeon household, several Caribbean islands, one half of Steely Dan, and America’s last shred of dignity. Vaya con Dios.

At the Fat White Lump’s United Nations debut performance this week, he co-opted the term “Rocket Man” for the second time after having beta-tested it on his Twitter minions, and I fear that if he adopts it as another of his tired mantras, the fact that it was a title to a classic Elton John track will be lost on Millennials forever. In the words of The Dude, this cannot stand.

So to put Rocket Man back into its proper pop cultural perspective, here’s William Shatner’s sublime 1978 Saturn Awards performance of Sir Elton’s seminal work. As you’ll see, this was filmed back in the good old days when people weren’t afraid to admit that the only thing cooler than Captain Kirk is Captain Kirk smoking a cigarette in a tuxedo:

 

Christian

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I unearthed another poem from my deep archives that I wrote for a creative writing class I took in high school.  In other words, I wrote this over 30 years ago.  The assignment was to write a sestina, which dictionary.com defines as “a poem with six stanzas of six lines and a final triplet, all stanzas having the same six words at the line-ends in six different sequences that follow a fixed pattern, and with all six words appearing in the closing three-line envoi”.  Annoying, right?  Yeah, it really was.  But I did the best I could with this ludicrously complicated poetry format.  Here’s what my 17-year-old self came up with.

Julie first saw the sorrow of Jesus
in bloody marble on tarnished wood.
Stained glass windows poured forth crimson
and beautified the hand-molded pain
that twisted the face of the fallen man-god.
Mother told her to pray,  not cry.

But she wondered how Mother did not cry
when she thought of precious Baby Jesus
inflicted with the power of God
cold and writhing in a cradle of wood.
Julie had never felt such pain
as she saw all around her in that temple of crimson.

In line to taste the chaliced crimson
wine whose bitter taste made her cry,
Julie soothed her inner pain
by dreaming that a noble Jesus
had given blood as a donor would
at a blood drive run by God.

All the while, Mother knelt in fear of God
whose grotesque world made Julie’s face flush crimson
as she fidgeted on splintered wood
of rotting pews and fought an urge to cry
out her belief that poor dead Jesus
had been plagued with unfair pain.

Julie sensed the burning pain
that backed her mother’s praise of God
and prayed herself to Baby Jesus
so hard her once white flesh went crimson.
Reviving, she let out a sudden cry,
“The awful things that God has done, poor Jesus never would!”

Suddenly, Mother’s face went stiff as wood
as if to hide away her inner pain
and Julie knew she wanted to cry
but crying was a sin against her God.
So with tears that flowed from eyes of crimson
Julie wept aloud for Mother and for Jesus.

Together, Julie and Mother cried that night in frightful pain
one for love of Baby Jesus and one in rage the depth of crimson
that her daughter’s love for God had died like so much burning wood.

 

 

DIY Protest Soundtrack

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As a kind of addendum to my last post, I want to compile a very short list of “songs for the resistance” that were written prior to the installation of Orangina the Terrible in the Oval Office but which are nonetheless perfectly applicable to our current state of affairs.  These are songs designed to make you angry – very angry.  While most readers of my page know that I do not condone violence or hatred and in fact, spend much of my time talking about their self-defeating futility, even peaceful resistance is a daunting task and often requires the proper motivation.  As John Lydon once caterwauled, “Anger is an energy!”  So here are links to a few superb bursts of angst to get your blood a-boiling.  If none of these songs do it for you, why not get in the DIY spirit and compile yer own protest playlist?  If you do, I’d love to give it a listen.  Here’s mine:

Stars & Stripes of Corruption – Dead Kennedys

Killing In The Name – Rage Against The Machine

Down Rodeo – Rage Against The Machine

War – Bob Marley & The Wailers

BYOB – System Of A Down

Total Invasion – Killing Joke

Banned In D.C. – Bad Brains

American Skin (41 Shots) – Bruce Springsteen

Fight The Power – Public Enemy

Immigraniada – Gogol Bordello

Bloody Revolutions – Crass

Rio Grande Blood – Ministry

Jesus Entering From the Rear – Feederz

Shut Up, Be Happy – Ice T & Jello Biafra

War Pigs – Black Sabbath

Refuse/Resist – Sepultura

 

Prophets of Rage

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Finally! I had been waiting for some protest music — any protest music, quite frankly — in response to the usurpation of the US government by a bona fide fascist regime ever since Election Day, but at long last we have our first proper soundtrack of outrage to motivate us for the long fight ahead. And who better to serve up rousing tunes of righteous militance than Tom Morello and Chuck D? Prophets of Rage are a sort of counterculture super group, consisting of Morello, Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford of Rage Against the Machine, Chuck D and DJ Lord of Public Enemy, and B Real of Cypress Hill.  Granted, their eponymous debut doesn’t quite pack the same punch as any proper albums released by Rage and Public Enemy in their respective heydays, but considering how necessary an album of unabashed rebellion is for navigating these fucked up times in which we live, this is of little concern to me. Everyone involved is fantastic in his own right, so I’m confident they’ll find their groove in future releases.

When George W. Bush made it clear that he was going to lead us into a war with Iraq under the false pretense of that country being complicit in the 9/11 attacks, for quite some time thereafter, I didn’t hear any musicians aside from the Dixie Chicks even bother to broach the subject. Sure, there were a couple of great underground releases from Killing Joke and Sleater-Kinney that brought the punk rock attitude to bear on the political climate of the time, and Radiohead chimed in with their rather tepid contribution a few months later. But it wasn’t until Green Day released American Idiot that a mainstream band finally dared to give W the radio-friendly middle finger he so deserved.

Never did I think I’d find myself almost nostalgic for the Bush era, but this is America and we suck so much ass that I can’t even anticipate the next mind-bogglingly self-defeating and inhumane shit we may pull for our next trick. I grew up in the 80s when hardcore and punk rock had no mainstream appeal and therefore, hearing bands like the Dead Kennedys, MDC, Reagan Youth, and the Bad Brains eviscerate Ronald Regan on college radio was a sublime experience I never dreamed would become commercialized just one decade later. And, of course, when a genre becomes commercialized, songs of political outrage give way to safer material such as bratty post-breakup temper tantrums a-la Blink 182. An era had ended, never to return.

Protest music, though far less prevalent, is now solely in the hands of intrepid musical elderstatesmen like Tom Morello, Chuck D and Bruce Springsteen. You read that correctly, I said Bruce Springsteen, who has been quietly releasing albums of brutal sociopolitical realism for the past decade, sometimes in collaboration with Mr. Morello. So I tip my hat to Prophets of Rage for this long-awaited and enormously important injection of vital anger into the pop culture zeitgeist. And Trump, you motherfucker, you’d better listen up. Here’s a little taste:

Smoke Screen

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Ningún Santuario Pt. 18

Andrew pulled into the underground parking garage of the John Hancock Center and flashed his parking permit at the attendant. Backing into a space near the elevators, he rested his head on the steering wheel and wondered how he could possibly pull off an ad presentation to the executives from JetBlue Airlines after the string of sleepless nights he’d had. For the past few weeks, he had been haunted by memories of a boy he’d known in grammar school back in his hometown of Cuba, New Mexico. A retarded Mexican boy named Arturo Capella that had attempted to slit his throat the day after Andrew had taunted him in the schoolyard, this long-forgotten figure from his past started appearing to him in visions and dreams — as a young boy brandishing a switchblade knife and as a disheveled adult peering at him through two sunken grey eyes beneath a green corduroy cap.

To Andrew, Arturo had symbolized everything he despised about his upbringing in the rural desert town and the last time he had even thought about him before two weeks ago was when he sped past the Cuba town limits on his way to Chicago with middle finger extended in a symbolic farewell to those he left behind. That was twenty years ago. But now it seemed as though Cuba had tracked him down, and what it seemed to be telling him was that justice had yet to be served for his cruel treatment of a poor disabled child. With a deep sigh, he grabbed his briefcase, exited the vehicle and trudged toward the elevators. A colleague was on his way down and gave Andrew a nod. “Good morning, Mr. Guilden.” Andrew let the doors slide shut without returning the pleasantry.

*********************************

We made it to Santa Fe in less than 45 minutes, Martinez having maintained a clip of nearly 100 mph for the entire trek up I-25. He cut the siren as we rolled onto the Cerrillos Road exit ramp and merged into the mid-afternoon traffic. Neither of us had spoken a word for the entire drive, but now my chauffeur broke the silence.

“I don’t want to hurt you, Andrew. Do you understand?”

I remained silent.

“I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that you’re not a fan of cops. Am I right?”

“Right.”

“Yeah, guys in their forties who still wear their hair in a ponytail usually aren’t. That’s alright. I don’t like guys in their forties who still wear their hair in a ponytail, so I guess we’re even. Hell, you even got a front row seat to a cop killing, so maybe the day hasn’t been all bad, right?”

I knew that this conversation couldn’t be leading anywhere good, so I continued to meet his words with silence while he rambled on.

“Andrew, that detective was asking some dangerous questions — the answers to which could cost me my reputation and my livelihood. I don’t suppose he was a bad guy, but we do what we must to survive. Do you smoke?”

“Yeah.”

Martinez reached under the dash and pulled out a soft pack of Marlboro Blacks, tapping two cigarettes out and handing one back to me. I stuck it between my lips and when we came to a red light at Airport Road, he leaned over and lit it for me. We made a left turn and for a few miles, we rode on smoking in silence.

“We’re going to my place, Andrew. We’re gonna go to my apartment, have a beer and wait.”

This felt like a safer opening, so I asked, “Wait for what?”

“For the Rapture, Andrew…c’mon. Use your head. Who do you think we’re waiting for?”

I again opted to ignore his question.

“For Arturo Capella.”

He paused as if waiting for my reaction but he’d need to give me more information if he expected some sort of recognition.

“The fucking zombie that’s been killing your friends? Stalking you all over Albuquerque? I would have guessed you were familiar with this gentleman.”

“We aren’t on a first name basis.”

Martinez chuckled at that. “Yeah, you kind of are, from what I understand. He didn’t show up at your apartment a couple of weeks ago and call you to the door?”

“Yeah. I guess I forgot to ask him for his business card.”

“He left you that, too. The little menacing paper doll that was left on your door is the Santa Muerte equivalent of a calling card. And Santa Muerte is the reason he’s even above ground right now. Arturo died months ago at the hands of his brother. But his people back in Mexico thought it important to bring him back…to kill you, apparently. I’m not even gonna bother asking you if you knew him when he was alive, because Leyba covered that already. The only thing I can surmise is that it’s a case of mistaken identity and someone similar to you — in appearance or maybe name — should have been the real target. This will probably remain a mystery, nor is it very relevant since he’s already been given his marching orders from south of the border.”

“How do you know all this?”

“Let’s just say I had a crazy grandma and leave it at that.”

We pulled into an apartment complex on Zepol Road and parked. Martinez got out and opened the back door, gesturing for me to follow him up a flight of stairs to the second floor. Walking a few feet behind him as he fumbled for his front door key, I noticed that the screen had been removed from the small kitchen window to the right of the entrance. I took a long drag from my cigarette and scanned the landing for all possible routes of egress while wordlessly letting him pass through the door.

Double Header

flight-of-the-conchords-two-heads

Glimmersofsilver posted this wonderful essay today about the hidden depth in seemingly absurd questions posed by children.  In response, I told her that I would enjoy answering this type of a question with as much genuine thought and seriousness as I could apply to it.  Apparently, she works routinely with kids, and so immediately gave me this one to ponder: What if you had two heads and didn’t like the other head?  Well, let’s see if I can adequately address this query and satisfy a child’s curiosity, shall we?

What if I had two heads and didn’t like the other head?  I’m afraid you’ve taken us into a world of paradox, my young friend!  But that’s okay.  I can work with that.  In fact, you could say it’s a hobby of mine.

Now, if you were here, I would ask for a bit of clarification.  Did I already have my current head and then suddenly found that I had sprouted another one?  Or was I born with the extra noggin?  Since you can’t answer me, I am going to assume that I was born this way: a single-bodied man carrying around two heads on his shoulders, neither of which likes the other one very much.  Or at least one of them doesn’t like the other one very much.   Also, I’m going to guess that the head which feels cranky about its counterpart contains its own brain that gives it its own unique feelings and opinions and memories that aren’t necessarily the same as those of the other head.

This would be a nightmare!  Have you ever watched a dog chase its own tail?  It spins in circles trying to catch something that’s attached to its own body, never thinking about what might happen if it actually caught it one day.  Considering how angry my own dog seems to get when involved in this activity, I’d guess that in the unlikely event he ever caught up with it, he’d end up biting himself very hard on the tuchas and would probably quit playing this game forever after.  So that’s what happens when a dog has a tail and doesn’t like it.  Imagine how much worse life would be for me if I disliked my other head!

My extra head probably disagrees with a lot of things I say.  And it’s quite possible that he considers ME to be the “extra head”.  Now that I think about it, this might be a very common argument between two quarrelsome heads resting on the same body: just who is the main head and who is the extra head?  The answer, of course, would depend on which of the heads you’re asking.

Q:  Who is the main head here?

Head 1:  I am.

Head 2:  Don’t listen to him.  I’m the main head.

Head 1:  I knew you were going to say that.

Head 2:  If you had told the truth in the first place, I wouldn’t have had to say it.

Head 1:  I did tell the truth.  I am the main head.  I’ve always been the main head.

Head 2:  I knew you were going to say that.

Head 1:  If you had told the truth in the first place, I wouldn’t have had to say it.

Q:  I’ll let you guys figure this out while I go grab a burrito.

Now sooner or later, these heads would have to come to a compromise.  All of that bickering is bound to get tiresome, and of course, two heads sharing a body can’t settle their differences by fighting.  The first thing I might do is remind myself that it doesn’t matter which of us is the main head because we can both do everything that heads are supposed to do: see, hear, talk, smell, eat, nod, and whistle a tune.  There isn’t any point in letting my closest neighbor get to me like that.  Since we share a body, me and my other head have probably seen a lot of the same things, met the same people, tasted the same foods, and listened to the same music for as long as we’ve been alive.  Like any two people, this might be a good place to start a conversation that could help us better understand each other.  For instance, “Hey, Other Head, what did you think of that song?”  or “Hey, Other Head, did you see that dog chasing its tail?  What do you think he would do if he caught it?”  Once we got to talking about something other than who is the main head and which head is more annoying than the other, I bet we’d have plenty to discuss.  Think of all the shared experiences we’ve had that we never got to talk about because we were too busy disliking each other!  It might be like meeting a new best friend with whom you instantly hit it off.  And if not, at least it would probably make them much more tolerant of one another going forward.

So with that in mind, I have a question for you.  What if a planet had 7.5 billion heads and none of them liked the others?  The answer might be surprisingly simple.  Just ask the guy whose two heads finally made friends with each other.  If they can do it, I think it’s safe to say that everyone can if they just try to be a little more patient and tolerant and understanding of all the different heads with which it shares a habitat.

But I still can’t stand my other head’s taste in hats.  I mean, really, a pom-pom?