Monday, November 30, 2009


Try this scenario on: you drive your car into a fire hydrant in the wee hours of the morning, hit a tree, get taken to the hospital for "facial lacerations", then avoid talking to the police, explaining that your crash is "a private matter". That would totally happen for you, right? Except that it wouldn't. Thus, the cloud of curiosity surrounding Tiger Woods's recent vehicular mishap. (Full disclosure: I despise golf; I couldn't give less than a rat's ass about what happened. He's never once asked me about my life and I'm fine with our dynamic, but he still seems like a nice enough chap.) The fact that he's treating what was probably a minor domestic dispute like he's Gene Hackman in No Way Out, makes me curious as to what America's Most Overachieving Cablanasian is trying to keep under wraps. Granted, he's not required by law to discuss the matter with the police- only to produce license and insurance, which he did. But, the wide berth he's giving the cops, while not surprising, is still a little puzzling. When you're pulling in $100 million a year in endorsements, bad PR can cost you a hell of a lot more than a few minutes of embarrassment with the Florida Highway Patrol. Dude, you married a model (a great idea until you actually do it) then knocked her up twice; of course, we're all going to understand when she goes apeshit on you for some undoubtedly minor infraction. And if it's determined that you've been playing through some other chick's fairway, you'll just have to cough up some dough (maybe for bail money). Then again, maybe not- his alleged paramour is denying anything inappropriate and 100 mil can buy a lot of silence. Or forgiveness. Either way, I'd consult Kobe. He's played this course before.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


I'm often asked why I'm so relentlessly critical of religion. On the air and on this page, it's a theme to which I return (not least because of the continuous fodder it provides). Like most Catholic school survivors, I've earned the right to scrutinize the dogma of my youth (as well as the purveyors of it) and my thoughts on the subject have become more critical and secular as I've gotten older. I have no problem with faith- it's a just and valuable element to anyone's life- but faith is an idea and when ideas become institutionalized, they become a business. Every business has its rules, the primary of which essentially being: do whatever is necessary to keep bringing in new business. I draw a parallel to the investment houses and mortgage brokers who bequeathed us this new great recession. Organized religion will leverage its very system of values to protect the institution, creating whatever reality it sees fit to circumvent culpability. Now comes a marketing push by dioceses around the country in the form of television commercials for "Catholics Come Home", an appeal to lapsed sheep to rejoin the flock. (The Holy See would have been wise to subtitle the campaign, "Let's Forget About All The Boy-Fingering", since the exodus of the faithful over the last decade has been due in no small part to that diabolical footnote). Initial response to the commercials has reportedly been positive, though any PR advances the church makes might be nullified by stories like this. Overall, it remains a zero-sum game; as institutions of all kinds falter, faith becomes a more powerful device, while our ancient forms of organizing it become increasingly irrelevant.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Too Much (Bullet) Time On Your Hands

I just watched The Matrix again for the first time in a long time. I forgot what a fantastic piece of cinema it is. This is pretty badass, too.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Post-Racial Friday

While the day after Thanksgiving is considered the most lucrative of the holiday season, it's also one of the deadliest, with people around the country invariably getting trampled to death in reckless pursuit of holiday savings. It's hard to imagine a more undignified way to shuffle off this mortal coil than drawing one's last breath in a Wal-Mart, trying to grab a ten dollar DVD player at 5am. And, while the odds were even further stacked against the sane this year (Old Navy opened at 3am) most accounts show a relatively stampede-free first day of shopping. While economic pundits pore over arcane indicators in search of signs that things are getting better, the lack of death at the mall today implies smaller crowds- a clear sign that the economy remains in trouble.

Nevertheless, for any of you harboring suicidal thoughts- I'm a medium.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Put A Fork In Me

Goddamn. There are some days- my solemn wish for you is that they are few and far between- that test the very fabric of your soul. But when you have them, rather than allow your psyche to be drawn and quartered, I'd recommend you strapping The Daysleepers into your headphones and drifting off into your happy place. These crazy kids are truly doing the Lord's work. And from Buffalo, no less. Goddamn.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Captain Trips

The CDC is reporting that 22 million people have been sickened by the H1N1 virus, leading to 4,000 deaths. Compared to the fact that about 9,000 people a year die from food poisoning, I'd say a "pandemic" with a .0002% mortality rate isn't quite the Black Death redux. In related news, the Dept. of Health & Human Services estimates that by 2018, 43% of American adults will be obese. Granted, that's six years after the Mayan calendar kills all of us, so who cares? But, could there be a connection between increasingly compromised immune systems and being grossly overweight? Nah. The next step in human evolution won't be anything as dramatic as Terence McKenna or Timothy Leary had envisioned; there will be no super-race. The concept of survival of the fittest will be reduced to people who can see their feet.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Black & Blues

Tracy Morgan was hit or miss on SNL (and drew a mixed reaction at Carnegie Hall) but he's the most consistently funny part of 30 Rock. This interview from NPR is a painfully candid discussion about his new book and is a direct contrast to the raw craziness of his on-camera persona.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Max Headroom

Consumer Reports is testing condoms now. Would it have killed them to get a hotter model? Something tells me the girl narrating this video isn't currently having any latex tested on her.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Bravery

Attending Sunday mass with my parents this past weekend, I was pleased that the service didn't end without a nod to Veteran's Day. The priest asked all of the men and women of service to stand and be recognized for their sacrifice (and if you know a veteran, you know how allergic they are to accolades). The majority of those standing were WWII and Korean War vets, my father represented the Vietnam era, and I was seated next to two guys just back from Iraq- the absence of women among them was unfortunate. As military combat implies a patriarchal sensibility, so Veteran's Day often reflects that. But the story of Sgt. Kimberly Munley, a civilian officer who took down the man responsible for 13 deaths at Ft. Hood this week, reinforces the vital role of women in national security and should foster some changes in current military policy. The ban on women in combat is an outdated dictum, on par with "don't ask, don't tell". Both are illogical in theory and even more so in practice. As I looked with respect and admiration at the veterans standing on Sunday, it occurred to me that, even in a conservative parish like ours, not one of them would be afforded any less respect for their duty if they revealed that they were gay. They still sacrificed in ways that the rest of us have not.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Paper Chase

For the avid reader, a trip to a bookstore is an embarrassment of riches. With endless titles on esoteric subjects (everything from Black Entrepreneur magazine to the 45th installment in the Twilight series) glassy-eyed bookworms pin ball between displays like a Roomba that needs its batteries replaced. However, as more people turn to digitalia for their visual stimulus, a horrifying new trend has emerged in publishing: books based on websites. Arguably, the first of the bunch made sense. PostSecret began as a pretty inventive indie art project, and though its popularity seems to have transformed it from a vehicle for genuine confession to one of competitive voyeurism, it was still compelling in book form. Now, publishers are simply pilfering web content for its cut-and-paste production costs, with mind-numbing results. Among them: Fuck You Penguin (a book of animal pictures with snarky commentary), Would You Rather? (for anyone still agonizing over the landmark "Cleveland Steamer v. Dog Snot" decision), and LOLCat. (By the way- enough with the goddamn LOLCats. It's a desperate attempt to make cat ownership seem less sad and it jumped the LOLShark a LOL time ago. Which reminds me- we need a new phrase to replace "jump the shark".) The blogs-to-books equation is such a transparently slimy boardroom decision, that it takes the quirky randomness out of the source material and makes the authors complicit in an old media/new media swindle. "Let's charge $14.95 for a book filled with pictures that are online for free!" Ugh. Hard copy publishing is supposed to be about gate keeping and I still cling to the faded notion that books are kinda sacred. Blogging is egalitarian because those of us who do it would never expect to get any of our junk published any other way. No one's bookcase is going to be improved with a copy of "NippleBlog" on the shelf.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Diversion 2.0

A British official was removed for Estimating Drug Harms, a "controversial" (read: inconveniently accurate) study on the top 20 most harmful substances. I have a strong hunch that our most prescribed/profitable FDA-approved drugs would show up left-of-center on this graph.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Rearview Mirror

I hated studying history in high school. It was too tedious and too time-consuming, relative to the number of hours I felt I needed to teach myself the King Diamond discography on the drums. (Damn you and your infernal triplet fills, Mikkey Dee!) In college, taking a number of constitutional law classes forced me to warm up a bit to history class, though full disclosure dictates that I mention it was actually my instructor who was the unrequited target of my warmth. No small task, that. Try working Neville Chamberlain into your game and see how well it goes. After my formal education years had been wasted, I found I rather liked history on a purely recreational level. In fact, The History Channel is easily one of my top three go-to channels when I just want to plop on the couch, eat a bag of Swiss cheese slices, and paint my third eye black. I'm currently reading Paris 1919, Margaret MacMillan's dense blueprint of how the leaders of the "Big Three" (U.S., France, Britain) met in Paris in hopes of ending World War I. Sexy stuff, I know. But comparing the glacial pace of travel and communication in the early 20th century to that of today, it's strange to realize: there will come a time in the next century when this current period of digital largesse will be regarded as being similarly slow. As Paris 1919 details a time when automobiles were in their infancy, dirigibles were still viable transportation, and steamships carried world leaders across the ocean, so future generations will regard our Twitter, Facebook, TiVo, and YouTube obsessions as quaint technologies of a bygone era. Of course, by then, we'll all be enslaved to The Matrix anyway. Swiss cheese for everyone!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

That Explains "Bangkok Dangerous"

No wonder Nicolas Cage has been doing every piece of crap to come across his agent's desk: he's broke. Cage went on Anderson Cooper 360 (because, why not?) to talk about his financial troubles- to the tune of $6.7M in back taxes- which he chalked up to his scheming and untrustworthy business manager. He's putting homes in Vegas and New Orleans on the auction block, even going so far as to sell his Bavarian castle! If that last part raised a red flag for you, join the club. Contradicting his fiduciary victim story is an article that says Cage is more in Michael Jackson/ Elton John territory due to his outrageous spending habits. None of this comes as any surprise, once you remember that Cage married a 21-year-old waitress, now turned "fashion designer" (which is always easier when Big Daddy is footing the bill for bolts of Italian linen) so he knows from the jump that he's gotta keep little mama happy. But, reportedly blowing through $40M on houses, motorcycles, a jet, yachts, and vintage cars is insanity, even by Hollywood standards. When you have so much money that you're buying meteorites and dinosaur skulls, it's strange that he seemingly only spent $20 on whatever mongoose yarmulke is on his head these days. Cage should have used a chunk of that dough to reimburse his fans. All they got for their money was tripe like Next and The Wicker Man.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Devil You Know

You gotta feel sorry for organized religion. Having to continually foist centuries-old screeds onto modern audiences, tirelessly attempting to convince them that a belief system developed to keep primitives in line could still have any relevance in contemporary culture. As I come from generations of Irish Catholics, my frequent tirades on religion are filtered through that particular prism, but feel free to insert any other ancient system of deification; you'll see the same writing on the wall. To clarify, I always make the distinction between the indispensable lessons writ large of the Bible (cast not the first stone, love thy neighbor as thyself, etc.) and the anachronistic minutiae used as an excuse to avoid putting those lessons into practice. It's beyond incomprehensible to me that, almost one decade into a new millennium, we are still hung up on gay marriage. If you investigate yesterday's election results in states which had a gay rights referendum on the ballot, you'll notice that the Catholic Church spent a great deal of time and money upending efforts to pass such a referendum. Of course, that's their job. But, in doing so, they charge themselves with a burden of proof that can never be realized. If it's really their position that gay marriage is harmful to the traditional notion of "the family", then why not wield that considerable voting power to outlaw divorce? Does it still bear repeating that pedophilia (not long ago the scourge of the Church) is infinitely more harmful to the family than having loving parents of the same sex? For a power structure like the Church to be so rife with self-loathing gay men, it has to be a fresh hell for them to work against any kind of equality. Especially when the protagonist of our book was so big on the concept.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Check Steve Buscemi's House

Watching Young Frankenstein for the umpteenth time over the Halloween weekend, I was reminded of the forgotten genius that was the late Marty Feldman. When I was 12, I remember seeing the brilliantly adolescent and largely overlooked In God We Trust. The movie (which cast Feldman as a rogue monk opposite the perpetually overrated Andy Kaufman) included lines as mediocre as "haul thy ass aboard", but it was Feldman's rubber mug and fourth-wall asides that sent me into paroxysms of laughter at every turn. Feldman's "magnificent hideousness" is the centerpiece of an article asking where has all the ugly gone?