Experiments in Writing (#1)

I am reading a book about writing, and the author wants me to sit in front of my computer for hours even if I have no ideas. I get the gist, but it is so not me. But she’s very cool so I want to give it a try. I figure I’ll try half an hour and see what happens. I thought I might document the experience.

10:41 PM– Here we go. I am resisting turning on music. I am thinking about writing. And documenting that thought. Hatbox Louie successfully queried a magazine for a freelance piece. It’s really good. She is a great writer. Hmm. Writing. I’d love a grapefruit.

10:45 PM– So far so good. No panic. Precious little existential angst. I live in a mostly refinished 80’s era house in an Ohio suburb with a For Sale sign on the lawn. Surprising. I think I am better at being given a topic and writing about it. How do you decide what to write about from the infinite possibilities. I guess you give yourself a topic.

10:50 PM– Let’s see. The world is in a shambles. In my darkest moments, I am flooded with very apocalyptic visions. It is as if the producers of made-for-TV movies are writing the world’s script: Islamic hordes running rampant, floods and tsunamis, near-fascists eroding our already shaky democracy, catastrophic climate change. I’m not saying the end is near, but one must admit it’s feeling a bit apocalyptish.

10:56 PM– Has anyone noticed that mostly when people mention Him, they talk about Jesus Christ, but then when people want to get real hardcore the say Christ Jesus? Like how can we put a bit more intensity into it? Switch it around. It works though. It does seem more fiery. Christ Jesus.

11:01 PM– The internet is full of litter. Whenever you search something in Google, there are all these crappy pages with sparse info all filled with ads. It’s garbage. It’s interesting how even in a virtual world, humans tend to create litter and garbage.

11:06 PM– Why is it that no one I know my age can afford his or her childhood home? Isn’t that contrary to the American dream? I guess it’s that I’m from Washington, DC, and most of the people I know are from similarly overpriced cities, but really. It’s a bit strange. Something is awry. I know not what.

11:11 PM– Whew. That wasn’t too bad. But I haven’t exactly set the literary world aflame. I took the Andy Rooney approach. Is that guy an ass? He’s got the country’s ear on a serious news show and he’s rooting around in his desk drawer: “I’ve been going through my desk drawer here and it’s really quite remarkable. I’ve counted nearly seven hundred paper clips. And look here. This pencil has been sharpened so many times it’s unusable.” Dude, it’s time to pack it in. He’s like the original boring teenage blogger—what I had for lunch, who’s like sooo weird. I don’t know.

Experimental results. Actually I think it was quite helpful. Maybe tomorrow I’ll try an hour. Don’t worry, this was a once off experiment. I’m not Andy Rooney. Christ Jesus!


Ohioan Separatist Extremists Hijack Suburban Fixer-Upper! Please Help!

We received an email with this grainy image, and thought it was a joke.


Time revealed that we had indeed been the target of an extremist cell, and our fixer-upper had been hijacked. These Buckeye freaks want to secede from The Union and set up a new nation state right here between Indiana and Pennsylvania. They want to call it Ohighough. They are angry and dangerous, and they hold the misperception that we hold some sway with the federal government. We received a second email shortly after the first, with this disturbing image and a list of demands.


Do-it-yourself fools! You will use your considerable influence with the Ohio legislature, Condawhatever Rice, Stone Phillips, and Jared the Subway-used-to-be-fat-and-is-now-just-slack-skinned-and-un-charismatic dude to enact this list of demands. You have 2 days or we will sand this money sink into powder!

1. We can’t take the green! We need to pave over the last 20% of Ohio with strip after strip of glorious parking and shopping. We are tired of these Mom-and-Pop stores hanging on in the downtowns amid the closed up shops. Wal-Mart. More Wal-mart. Kills the annoying family businesses, 40 acres of parking helping to eradicate the blinding Devil’s green of unpaved earth, and just for good measure, you stand a good chance of being sexually assaulted in the parking lot. We are unsympathetic–you dressed provacatively.

2. Enough with the family farms. Call ConAgra and run the remaining few out. We hate that folksy, get-up-at-5, hayseed crap.

3. Our recon team has reported a disturbing increase in hybrid cars here. I believe 6 was the number. We demand a Hummer in every garage. We will succeed.

4. Unacceptable! Only 142 Ohioans have become casualties in Iraq. Unacceptable. We will not rest until every young person in this state has been fed into that meatgrinder of cleansing violence.

And so you see, we need your help. Anyone who can help meet these demands in any way should act. If only to hold together our Nation Under God. We need you. For the love of money, help us!

Happy President’s Day. It’s Soo….Oh who cares?


Published in: on February 19, 2007 at 4:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fourth Meal–The Ad Campaign Between Irresponsible and Pure Evil

Taco Bell. It is hard to even work up the energy to comment on this fat-lubed corporate death purveying denizen of the strip mall. It is such crap. OK. But this new ad campaign: Fourth Meal–The meal between dinner and breakfast–is so heinous and wrong, I just can’t stand it.

I don’t know the exact statistics but isn’t our country fat as hell? I think the percentage of obese Americans approaches about 99.999% in the red states. Trying to manufacture from thin air the idea that force feeding yourself a couple of lard wraps at midnight is OK–that in fact you need four square meals a day, is just the absolute height of irresponsibility.

Now I have no false illusions. Corporations only recognize responsibility to their shareholders and do the right thing or at least the not egregiously wrong thing exclusively for PR or legal reasons. But this is particularly unsubtle, and a public health affront to a country with a childhood obesity crisis.

And of course the children are the real targets. The fourthmeal.com website is all video gamey and adolescent boyish if you press male gender and girlish if you choose that portal. It is that demographic whose long-term habits these wicked chilito slingers would hope to change.

For shame! Shame on Taco Bell. And shame on all of us for allowing our society to be hijacked by immoral corporate fiends who not only would sacrifice the health and welfare of our young people to maximize short-term profit, but don’t even seem to feel the need to be subtle about it.

Fouth meal? How about Dante’s fourth circle of Hell? Feh!

Published in: on February 15, 2007 at 4:55 pm  Comments (19)  

Don’t Let The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good

I really would love to post every day. The problem is that I always want to have something funny or clever or astute to say. So I delay until the pressure is so great that I’m forced to come up with something.

It’s sort of a microcosm of my life. I seem to be waiting around until something comes to me to do. Something meaningful, satisfying, creative. I have launched in so many directions and then had to dig out, that I refuse to budge unless it seems to be the right and perfect thing. So I’m left in limbo. Not good. Perhaps this act of sitting down to write without really having anything to say will spark a new direction.

Maybe I need an extreme makeunder. Lower the bar. Cultivate the unexceptional. Champion the OK. Air Supply not Aerosmith. Cheap Trick not Chick Corea. Gerald Ford not Jimmy Carter. PB&J. Applebee’s. Jug wine. Keanu Reeves…Whoa Nelly! That’s too far. How about Leo DiCaprio? That’s more like it.

Well, I’ll give it a shot. It’s only life after all.

Published in: on February 13, 2007 at 2:49 pm  Comments (5)  

Hidden Agenda In Cub Scout Manual?

In a previous post, I detailed a bizarre showdown among suburban Dads at a Cub Scout event. It was odd, and I probably should have been tipped off by the grown men in short sleeve Cub Scout shirts, and the inexplicable dirty looks I got when I failed to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance.

At the time, it just seemed goofy, not sinister. But in the manner of an investigative reporter, I got my hands on the Cub Scout manual, and found some shocking material. A cursory examination leaves you warm and fuzzy–young boys doing stuff with their Dads, earning pins and patches for mastering such valuable skills as bundling newspapers and jogging in place for 5 minutes. There are even lots of pictures of African Americans to provide a veneer of rectitude.

But a sensitive reading of this estimable tome reveals a seedy subtext–morally corrupt and seditious. I really want you to make up your own mind, but I just want to suggest a theory. The Cub Scouts have been infiltrated by Zionists or Communists or both.

Item 1- A clear directive for naval sabotage. A veritable how-to of ship scuttling. Very subversive.


Item 2- Corruption of minors. This might as well be entitled, Billy’s First Beer. First they make the little Scout do the grilling, and then Dude swoops down with a Busch Lite to inaugurate a life of debauchery and decadence. Please note the look of approval on the face of the older “confirmed bachelor” at the table.


Item 3- This one really speaks for itself. As those young lithe Scouts glide by, their youthful muscles undulating through the luke-warm water, where is Dude’s right hand?


I don’t go in much for conspiracy theories, but my god, the Cub Scouts must be stopped. Our future could depend on it.

Published in: on February 4, 2007 at 4:08 pm  Comments (2)  

We Just Can’t Seem To Get Along

I listened to an interesting piece on NPR today about stereotyping. It was from a show about the barriers to human cooperation, and argued that the propensity of humans to categorize and stereotype each other hinders progress towards common human goals, but is basic to human nature, and has been shown to begin in infancy.

This to me is a self-evident truth, but is in fact a very controversial idea. The nature-nurture debate is alive and well. Reinvigorated in the 70’s with the publication of E.O. Wilson’s, Sociobiology, it remains highly contentious. Those who believe that there is a basic human nature that conditions our behavior and our relationships with each other are often considered genetic determinists, and champions of the status quo. These ideas are anathema to the political left, and have been attacked systematically for years–famously by Stephan Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin. The countervailing view being that we are born as blank slates and that society’s ills and our inability to get along as a species result from faulty human institutions.

Today, there is a growing and vibrant set of academic fields which are generally lumped together as Evolutionary Psychology. The idea is that our brains evolved into recognizably human form in the Stone Age, and we are thus compelled to meet the cognitive demands of our current situation with the same tools used by our forebears. Evolutionary Psychology seeks to assign meaning for our current behavior, and our current social ills as maladaptive relics of formerly adaptive responses to the environment. They argue that our problems stem from our use of Stone Age brains in a Space Age world.

Many consider Evolutionary Psychology a pseudo-science, and a dangerous reformulation of the same ideas that led to eugenics and Nazis and the rest. There is no question that it is a slippery slope, and it is true that the ranks of those who consider themselves Evolutionary Psychologists are liberally peppered with some very weak-minded, even onerous, individuals.

But to dismiss the entire framework out of hand is a mistake, and threatens our ability to make substantive progress as much as those who would say, we are what we are, there is no point trying to change the world.

There is no doubt that our brains are structured in the shape of our evolutionary past. Without acting strictly in self-interest, one could not survive. Our brains seek out patterns, make generalizations, and find contrasts and distinguishing characteristics wherever possible. That’s just the way it is. Of course we stereotype. Of course we act in our self-interest. To think otherwise, is to misconceive the human condition and human relations. To deny it, for political or any reasons, is to stand firmly in the way of change.

The key is not to deny human nature, but to understand it. That is what some Evolutionary Psychologists are trying to do. The work of Steven Pinker, for example, could hardly be more cogently or eloquently presented.

To survive as a species, we must overcome the dictates of our evolutionary past. We must acknowledge our propensity to act in a way that serves our own over others’ needs. Then we must expand what we believe our needs to be. It can happen: a parent brings a child into their circle of self-interest, and acts on their behalf. We will help friends and even neighbors. But outside a very small circle, it breaks down. We must somehow convince ourselves that we all share the same future.

We want a peaceful, clean, just world. This will never happen until, by some miracle, we realize that we all must have a fair stake for there ever to be peace and prosperity. Sewing misery around the world so we can buy cheap sneakers is already coming back to haunt us. Presumably the CEO of Mcdonald’s has children and grandchildren. Yet the ruination of the planet is somehow for others to worry about.

It seems impossible that humans can truly get along, will ever lose the shortness of sight. But we’ve got to do something. If only to show the schmucks they’re not getting away clean.

Published in: on January 31, 2007 at 3:47 pm  Comments (4)  

The North Beach Diet– “Have your carbs and eat them too”

We all want to look like the models of physical beauty we see splashed everywhere: rail-thin or super-buff—reclining languorously in panty ads or twittering around in a skimpy bathing suit on reality TV drinking yet another maggot-smoothie.

Yet most of us do not want to spend our lives in a gym or restrict our diets to so-called “nutritious” foods.

The low-carb craze seemed like the answer to our prayers: Shed the pounds while gorging on cheese, butter, bacon, steak…it’s a new slice of the American dream. But that slice ignores one big, delicious list of ingredients: crusty French bread, biscuits, pie crust, muffins, cookies, hearty rye, pizza crust etc, etc.

On the North Beach diet, we will show you how to lose weight, continue the fatfest, and enjoy all your favorite carbs. That’s right, you keep the carbs the same but up the fat and protein.

Carbs are not bad. Carbohydrates make up some of our most delicious foods. Let me explain. Here in our non-Christian mid-America think tank, The Havital Institute, our team of nutritionists, biologists, culinary historians, and life-coaches, have blown the lid off human obesity.

The following program will show you how to maximize weight loss while chowing down like an Italian tenor using tools already available all around you. Without reducing your carbohydrate intake by a single crumb. Our program only requires that you strike five major elements from your life. Don’t panic. We guarantee you will not miss them.

First, the science. With the help of our evolutionary biologist, we have come to realize that the human body is a finely tuned survival machine. In our evolutionary history our metabolism developed the ability to finely adjust itself according to variable prevailing conditions. Our ancestors evolved in a roller coaster snack-landscape of alternating feast and famine. Any cue that scarcity might be looming was sensed by our bodies as a time to hold on to spare calories and to start storing fat. In times of plenty, our metabolisms took a “chill-pill” and allowed the fat to melt off, leaving our progenitors looking like lean, mean Western governors.

Our North Beach Diet will show you how striking five major elements from your life will inform your pesky metabolism of something your brain already knows: Life is good! No need to store up fat. There is plenty more where that came from. Now let’s talk turkey.

1. Naked Carbs

Carbs are not bad, naked carbs are bad. We call this the “dry menace”. As you take a bite of dry bread, or eat a low-fat pretzel, or even take a bite of pizza crust sans cheese, your metabolism panics. It believes it is winter out on the steppe or the dry season in sub-Saharan Africa. It will panic and it will store fat. When, however, that cracker has a piece of cheddar on it, when that pretzel is soaked in life-giving fat, the popcorn covered in golden topping, the pizza baked with cheese in the crust, your metabolism senses plenty and lets the fat slide out and off like a taffeta dress on prom night. This one is easy. Nothing dry. Or as we like to say around the Institute, “get a pig in that blanket!”

2. Inconvenience

Life’s inconveniences send a clear message that all is not well. Your metabolism can pick up on even subtle annoyances of the daily grind. Don’t let your metabolism get panicky. When your brain gets frustrated, your body senses want.

-Never leave the table or even lower your voice to answer your cell phone. Your metabolism will get suspicious.

-Never prepare meals from raw ingredients. If God had wanted us making tuna salad, He would not have invented Lunchables. No foods with fewer than fifteen ingredients listed on the package. Seek especially multisyllabic ingredients. Remember: abundance not scarcity.

-Never walk when there is an alternate means of transport available. All that walking, walking, walking is bad, bad, bad. Escalators, up and down! Elevators, moving sidewalks. Going around the corner? Get in the car! Think those electric shopping vehicles in grocery stores are for the handicapped or people with their own private oxygen supply? Think again.

3. Stressors

Stress is the ultimate weight gain signal. Look around. Our society is fully loaded with de-stressing products. Use them.

-When you are forced to reflect on your inner pain, that existential angst, that nagging feeling of emptiness and lack of fulfillment in work and family life, you might as well pick out a pair of nice Sumo wrestling pants. Get real and get on Mommy and Daddy’s and Grandma and Grampa’s and little Billy and Sissy’s little helper: late-model antidepressants. Actually a misnomer. You do not have to be depressed to benefit. It is a vitamin supplement for life. Smooth it out. ASAP.

-Your kids are fidgety at school. They test boundaries. They cry and want stuff. Dear metabolism, please blow me up like a balloon! Trust your pharmaceutical giants and their physician lackeys, and get your kids on speed! They will focus, they will behave, they will lose pounds, and guess what—your stress level will drop with your dress size.

-What could be more stressful than current world events: terrorists, a foreign quagmire of a conflict, unrest throughout the southern hemisphere, tens of millions of unnecessary, inequity-related deaths throughout the undeveloped world? Find yourself wondering what our role is in all of this? Find yourself wondering if your leaders are competent? Find yourself a mu-mu, sister. This ain’t the Sixties! Get your head in the sand or get out your sweat pants, because all this worry about “we did this” or “we’re doing that” is a one-way ticket to fattown: population-you. Out: any alternative media sources, any European media sources, and above all, no marginalized MIT linguists. In: cable TV, any major American newspaper.

4. Confinement

Throughout nature, confinement sends a strong growth signal. You’ve seen that little sapling splitting through a boulder. When restricted to small spaces, your brain tells your body, “I need to grow.” Do not confine yourself. Give yourself room to shrink. Honda Civic? Little car, enormous person. Hummer? The weight will come off. Bungalow? Orson Welles. McMansion? Mick Jagger. Make the right choices.

5. Novelty

Unfamiliar equals stressful equals fatful. Confronted with novelty, how does your brain/metabolism know what to expect? Will there be enough? Will there be any? Panic, weight gain. Again the tools are out there. As you cruise the strip of a new city, you will see the same restaurants, the same bookstores, record stores, discount stores, even pet stores as those on the strip of your hometown.

Use these resources to send powerful signals to your metabolism—“don’t panic, they’ve got the same Bloomin’ onion out here as back home.” “Chill, there’s cheese sticks comin’ with that 3 cheese cheese-lovers pizza.” Do not visit local businesses. It’s all about choices.

The North Beach diet is about living well, losing the pounds and sacrificing nothing. We want it all, we want it now, and we want to Biggie size it for a quarter. The choice is yours. We will show you how.

Published in: on January 12, 2007 at 4:46 pm  Comments (9)  

Mel Gibson and Michael Richards–A Limber Take on Reality

It’s the sundried tomatoes. The goddamn filthy, worthless sundried tomatoes. They are evil. They stink of sulfur from cavorting with Satan. They cause AIDS. The ills of this tired world trace their roots to this lowly, egregious, wrinkled demonfruit.

If they weren’t so damaging they might almost be laughable. Osama bin Laden is hunkered down in a cave somewhere at this moment stuffing his face with sundried tomatoes. He doesn’t even bother to rehydrate them. Every time you bite into a sundried tomato, the terrorists win. Sundried tomatoes eat puppies.

They are bad and evil and rotten. They cause cancer and drove Kurt Cobain to suicide. I wouldn’t eat a stinking miserable sundried tomato if I were starving to death.


I would just like to say that I have nothing personal against sundried tomatoes. I apologize if any of my remarks gave the false impression that I have anything but the highest regard for this estimable vegetable. I was feeling a bit edgy and what came out, came out, but it really had nothing to do with sundried tomatoes themselves.

Some of my closest friends have sundried tomatoes in their pantries. My agent and my lawyer eat them. I’m very sorry. I am going to offer a formal apology next week in Palermo at the Liga Italiano di Sundrato Tomati. I just want to sum up by saying again how sorry I am that my words have been misconstrued. I love sundried tomatoes.

But pesto. That frikkin’ green paste of Lucifer………

Published in: on December 2, 2006 at 1:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Motorist? Rodney King

I have held my tongue long enough. In the early 90’s as Los Angeles was plunged into chaos, it struck me as odd that the media always referred to the victim of the police brutality that ultimately led to the LA riots, as motorist Rodney King. Ok. So the incident with the LAPD occurred after a car chase. So highlight that as the story breaks to orient the reader or listener to the incident in question. Fine.

But months later as one of the countries biggest cities is ablaze in racial discord and titanic civil disorder, is it still a salient point that Rodney King was a motorist? For wasn’t our Rodney so much more? Would anyone then or now be confused by mention of simply, the beating of Rodney King? Who? Oh, you mean motorist Rodney King. Why didn’t you say so?

You may say to me, “But let it go, it is done.” Is it?

“More than 15 years after the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King…”

15 years later? So he drove a car. So what? Must he forever be Motorist Rodney King? Why not popcorn-enthusiast Rodney King? Microwave-oven-user Rodney King? Nike-wearer? Petter-of-dogs Rodney King?

There is something so mindless and dippy about journalists just thoughtlessly repeating the same meaningless moniker. Over and over:

“LOS ANGELES — Rodney King, the black motorist…”
“African-American motorist who while videotape…”
“…the beating of black motorist Rodney King caused outrage…”
“…notorious beating of black motorist Rodney King…”
“Motorist Rodney King Implores: Can We All Get Along?”
“…falsified reports to cover up the beating of motorist Rodney G. King.”

I think it cuts to the heart of what is wrong with much of the media in this country: they repeat what they hear or are told without reflection.

Rodney King was unlucky. Not so much for being beaten to a pulp by our heroes in blue, but for being immortalized as a unidimensional icon: a motorist. Like an insect in amber, the world’s view of him is fixed forever.

What if other famous victims of violence shared the same fate? Being forever associated with the activity in which they happened to be engaged when attacked. Why not Catholic-Irish-American-Motorist John F. Kennedy? Could we have Black-Balcony-Visitor Martin Luther King, Jr? Or Theater-Goer Abraham Lincoln? How about Former-Penis-Owner John Wayne Bobbitt?

I think it’s time to release Rodney King from his typecast persona. Like the actors ruined forever by their signature roles–Gary Burghoff, Ron Palillo–he deserves another chance.

Just some thoughts from erstwhile-womb-dweller Dr. Nostrum

Published in: on December 1, 2006 at 3:37 pm  Comments (3)