Sunday, May 30, 2010


Yep, it's time to review the week that was, to bring you, my blissfully ignorant readers, up to date on the happenings that made us laugh, cry and stare blankly into space over the last seven days.

The "Top Kill" didn't work. No big surprise there- I'm not in favour of solutions to environmental disasters sounding like bad reality shows on Spike. This thing is going to go on and on and none of the talking heads who represent BP or the Administration seem to care all that much. Yes, the President is saying all the right things and presumably doing everything he can short of strapping on a snorkel (is that what they use for deep dives? I think so) and getting down there himself, but nowhere do I see the urgency and outrage witnessed in the aftermath of Katrina. Have we all become so myopic and short-sighted that we cannot see disaster until it has arrived, had its moment and left us helpless in its wake? Must we see flooded cities and people stranded on rooftops in order to be sufficiently galvanised to act? Just as we wanted to know, in the wake of Katrina, why levees that were known to be inadequate in the face of a massive storm were not improved to meet the needs of the city they were designed to protect, we also must discover how it came to pass that a company like BP could be allowed to conduct a deep water drilling process while having no proven way of safely halting the process if something went awry. A parent doesn't toss a child into the water before that child has learnt to swim; there should have been regulation and testing in place that guaranteed nothing like this unstoppable leak could occur. If that guarantee was impossible to make, then sorry, BP, you don't get to endanger the natural world as a way of making your billions.

Gary Coleman is dead. Lindsay Lohan is in court, flashing her boobs and a horribly puffy face due, I'm sure, to one or several kinds of substance abuse. Money doesn't make you happy, folks, and clearly neither does fame. But money and fame do allow for easier access to pills, hooch and lawyers. Mr. Coleman died a seemingly troubled person- he must have been, for pete's sake: he lived and died in Utah. Utah reminds me of Ms.Lohan in her better moments: nice place to look at, but you wouldn't want to live there. She now has to wear a band on her lower leg that can detect alcohol use. Sounds like a handy invention; I could use one for any of my vices: watching UFC, eating vast swathes of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey (the best), watching UFC... it's a vicious cycle, as you can see.

The salient thought that leaps to my mind when watching these sad soapies unfold is what a waste. These people may not have possessed the most profound talent in the world but I speak not of that; it is the throwing away of the opportunities and resources available to them that is the great shame, opportunities that many people would be ecstatic to obtain. Mr. Coleman and Ms.Lohan had a platform from which to contribute, in whatever form a contribution to one's community, society and world might take. The latter still has ample time and, amazingly, occasion in which to do it.

I must admit I watched my share of the NBA Conference Finals this week. Exciting stuff, wholly unlike the soporific effects that most sane people feel from the stupefying monotony of the endless regular season, with the accent heavily on 'regular', as in stone dead boring. I've always said that a basketball game should be five minutes in length- as long as it's the last five. These last few playoffs, however, have been played with a skill and, more importantly, an intensity that has been magnetic. Kobe Bryant may be an errant jerk or worse, but his passion and talent are pretty special to behold when on show in the games that matter. 

Nicole Scherzinger, AKA Satan, AKA Evil Incarnate, won Dancing With The Stars this week. My outrage has not dimmed. Who's on next year, Mikhail Baryshnikov? While I'm certainly not comparing Ms. Scherzinger to any of the great dancers who have graced us with their presence, the fact remains that this chick is a professional singer and stage performer who trained as a dancer.  This was an absolute sham. The show must be renamed A Bunch of Dancers Who Dance A Lot. Now, don't get me wrong. Am I saying Buzz Aldrin, Kate Gosselin and that himbo from The Bachelor got a raw deal? Um... no. As dancers, they all have a tremendous future in industrial plumbing. But isn't the whole point of the show to bring on celebrities who aren't dancers? I'm furious, as you surely can tell. Please show up to all future Pussycat Dolls gigs armed with plastic bags stuffed with human feces.

Last, but in no possible way least...

Fergie. Wow. And I thought I was broke. She's since apologised for trying to sell Andrew's secrets, citing an "error in judgement". Oh, I see. Kind of like taking a left one street too early on your way to the mall. Or putting a little too much cayenne in your jambalaya. Right. Got it. I'm glad she's taking full responsibility and is feeling the requisite amount of remorse over this whole production. It's always funny how these celebrities, be it Fergie, or A-Rod, or Kobe, or Eliot Spitzer always talk about "mistakes" and "screwing up" and "errors in judgement". I guess that's what otherwise perfect people are really doing when we all think they're lying, cheating, stealing and hurting. Just making tiny little boo- boos. Whoops. Sorry, folks. Won't happen again. Hey honey, would you mind sitting next to me at the press conference? It'll make me look a tad more human while I'm swimming in all that denial.

I know. My tone's a little harsh this week. Any chance of plugging that leak with the producers of Dancing With The Stars? Nicole, be a darling and give them a hand, won't you?

Pictures, from top: The Leak, Lohan getting lit, Kobe, 
                               Buzz in his prime and poor Fergie. 

Monday, May 24, 2010


As the asinine immigration debate continues to swirl around us here in the US, my thoughts turned to Mexicans of a far older epoque upon venturing to the Getty Villa recently to view The Aztec Pantheon and the Art of Empire, the Villa's Aztec exhibit designed to coincide with the bicentennial of Mexican independence. 

I have been fortunate enough to witness the generosity, humour and work ethic of Mexican immigrants up close through many years of working in restaurants. These are who Noam Chomsky  terms, empathetically, the "insignificants", the people whose existence many Americans would prefer to deny or at the very least denigrate. We, as a society, have little patience for these people who in general are shorter, poorer, less articulate (in our language) and, yes, browner than us. We joke about them crossing rivers, sneaking through holes in fences and huddling in the back of minivans, packed together like cheap produce. We choose to ignore them as they clean our tables, toilets, floors and every other surface or space we manage to sully. As a waiter coming from a nation with much greater regulatory respect for labour, I was initially shocked to discover the paucity of their earnings combined with the scope of their vulnerability. Nobody was, or is, looking out for these people as they attempt to earn a living wage and play by the rules. Worse, there are millions of them being discounted and disrespected every day of their lives that they spend as an illegal immigrant here in the United States.

How do I know? Because I experienced it every time I would put on my apron and work with them. When a manager said to Carlos, a married man in his mid-40s with three children, "now you be a good boy while I'm gone." When we decide that all these people are our personal butlers and treat them accordingly. When they're told in so many unspoken yet direct ways that they're better seen and not heard and when managers, owners and even the waiters who are supposed to be in the trenches with them rip them off by paying slave wages for an honest, grinding day's work, knowing they have very little recourse.

As I walked through the exhibit, I was once again struck by and reminded of the powerful culture that thrived for centuries in these parts and the rest of the area we now know as Mexico. How much are our children educated in the history of the Aztec people, for example? How much would the average Arizona resident be able to tell you about how the land that is now labelled Arizona came to end up in American hands? The same could be said of California or New Mexico. Or Texas. Would they be able to tell you (or their friends who rage against the "threat" posed by Mexicans crossing our borders) about the incredible architecture, mythology, religion and way of life that was established by the ancestors of these same people who we now adorn with a sombrero and a ridiculous accent and ridicule or worse, persecute?

It is easy to forget, in the words of the wonderful evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, "how hard it is to become an ancestor." That we are not the only ones to come from 'grand traditions' and that, upon closer inspection, maybe some of those traditions may not shine so radiantly after all. Exactly what 'culture' are the bigots who wish to keep everyone out trying to protect? Flag waving and tail-gating? It seems possible to me that many American whites, in a fashion similar to anti-brown-or-black-immigrant Australian whites, may secretly harbour an inferiority complex; is all of their vitriol and violent rhetoric about the erosion of their 'culture' and 'values' a reaction to a gnawing inner anxiety over their own lack of true cultural tradition? Bill O'Reilly on Fox rails against the 'war on Christmas' yet what has Christmas  become for many of us, beyond some kind of mandated consumeristic frenzy? Maybe in what seems like the darkest hour for those who wish to preserve the traditional 'American' (read white) heritage, there is a growing awareness that as white Americans move further away from their own heritage as the sons and daughters of mostly European immigrants, they are feeling the effects of trading in the beauty, magic and psychic fulfillment that comes with ancient ritual and true ethnic culture for the more immediate thrills of non stop acquisition and consumption and, sadly, the same can also be said for many citizens of other nations around the world today.

 The Mexicans who arrive here daily, with little skill for English and no formal education that we would recognize, nonetheless come from an ancestry no less noble, proud or beautiful than any other line of peoples. They may not even be cognizant of their own histories but it resides in them, in their spirit: their foremothers and fathers' quest for survival and expansion, their wars, their love for eachother, their wanderings and wonderings, their hard lessons and majestic discoveries. Most of these people, with their grand ancestry, wish to play by the rules, give and gain respect and prosper.

We all have a chance to begin a magnificent new heritage by embracing them.

Pictures, from top: An Aztec pyramid and Coyolxhauqui, an Aztec moon Goddess.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Ladies and germs, I've been keeping a big, dark secret from you these past few weeks.

I abandoned my PC in favour of a Mac.

And I'm not worthy. I'll admit it. Victoria is furious, and justifiably so. She is someone with the knowledge, savvy and patience to actually take advantage of the technology on offer inside that elegant little machine that sits obediently in my lap as I write this essay today. I, on the other hand, am a talentless buffoon when it comes to computers.

Damn it. The 'return' key won't work when I use my pinky! How dumb is that ?!?

Did I just write that out loud? Apologies. But there, in that one inane statement, if you read between the lines (or line), lie the problematic psychological underpinnings of my battle with computers- all computers, everywhere. I'm not picky, folks. If there's a computer out there that thinks it has the stuff to make me happy, I'm prepared to try it. Guaranteed I'll be ready to take to it with a director's chair within half an hour. I don't discriminate in my tech-rage. My incompetence will not be defeated.

Yet my overwhelming lack of talent is not really the issue here. I have to be honest with myself, never an easy thing for my pathetically fragile ego.

The big obstacle to overcome is my infantile lack of patience and my desperate, salivating need to make it the machine's fault.

This spiritual transformation that must occur in order to prevent annihilation at the hands of my girlfiend (the frigging 'r' button doesn't work properly) or my firebombing of the nearest Apple store (Glendale Galleria- easy access, multiple exits) will be challenging. Probably impossible. But I must try.

The first step in this painful growth process will be to open my mind to new, shocking ideas. Could it be true that the folks who design these machines actually know what they're doing? Does that mean that, by extension, the cause of any given problem may stem from me??

Highly doubtful.  People, you're reading an essay written by a man who used to set up his VCR to tape his favourite TV shows when he wasn't even home. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Apple.

Wait. I just used the word 'tape'. Way to undo all my good work. Just lucky for me you people don't know what's on those gorgeous VHS cannisters clogging up three quarters of my storage space. Alright, I'll tell you. 34 episodes of The Greatest American Hero and 4 seasons of Family Ties - The Early Years. What? Yes, I know that's not the name of the show. I used to have all 8 seasons and I liked to differentiate between them. The last 4 seasons were called Family Ties - The Kids Are Starting To Look Super Fug Years. They were swept away in a flood.

There I go again, in complete denial, trying to convince myself that I know best. Yes, I was close to genius level with that VCR but I have to accept that I'm living in different times. For god's sake, my girlfriend can track the orbit of the planets and the age of a star with her phone. Is that really necessary? My thinking is, if on the off chance Victoria finds herself in a space suit, way out in deep space, cut off from Sigourney Weaver and the rest of her crew, just kinda floatin along (this post was ghost-written by Sarah Palin), will the Star Walk app really help that much? I'd be more inclined to play World Championship Table Tennis. Now there's an app I'd want to asphyxiate to.

There's no way around it- I must move with the times. I used to rail at my father for not having a cell phone, but I'm not that different. I sit here, blaming this inanimate piece of electrical circuitry for not anticipating my every thought and whim while steadfastly refusing to actually educate myself. This behaviour has to stop. What will I do when Victoria isn't around to save me? Unless I change my ways, I'll continue to do what I've always done: sob until my brain hurts and then binge-eat while watching reruns of Judge Judy. Granted, I'm now a small claims court legal juggernaut, but my computer skills and home life are a mess.

It's time to grow up. Victoria's going to be astonished. One more flaw I can cross off the list. Pretty soon she's not going to be able to complain about anything.

I'm getting ahead of myself. She tells me I've started to snore. Screw the Star Walk. People of Apple, create an app that solves snoring and I'm sold.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


In case you missed it, Pennsylvania Democratic senatorial candidate Richard E. Blumenthal, currently that great state's attorney general, is taking "full responsiblity" for stating that he had "served in Vietnam" when it turns out he actually never went there to fight for his country against the rising tide of the Yellow Peril. Mr.Blumenthal received deferments between 1965 and 1970, worked in the Nixon White House and 'served' in the Marine Corps Reserve.

I love the way that word is used: 'served'. You can get away with almost anything by saying you 'served'. John McCain likes to say he's 'served' as the senator for Arizona all these years. I suspect the more gratifying part of the job for people like him is that they get served- expensive, juicy filet mignons at top flight hotels all across this fine land. Is being in service to others really the reason for these politicans' constant battle for re-election? Call me crazy, but... might there be a little thirst for power and status thrown in there too? Another group that 'serves' a lot is the police force. Really?? I had no idea. While helping people does make most of us feel good, I'm thinking that gun and the shiny badge might be an attraction for people too. After all, if all these guys are so desperate to serve the rest of us, they could easily have become soup kitchen workers. Or volunteer garbage men. Or.. waiters! Yes, waiters! After all, by jove, they really do serve! For a living, as well!

Which brings me back to our friendly Pennsylvania attorney general. If he had been a little lighter on his feet, he would have sent out a press release stating something close to this:

"People of Pennsylvania. It has come to my attention that some people think I lied about serving in Vietnam. I must correct the record: I did say I served in Nam. I just didn't say when or how. I actually answered an ad in the newspaper one spring day in 1982. They were looking for fit, handsome American waiters for a new fast food restaurant opening up in downtown Ho Chi Minh by the name of Gi Ruk Du, which means Cheap, Shitty, Western Imperialist Cardboard That Makes You Fat And Sad in Vietnamese. It was a wonderful experience- we opened up a whole new vista for the Vietnamese, turning many of the little critters bald and flabby with a vast selection of chemically processed cow manure we called Hamburgers. I did a tour of eight months there before returning home a hero. I hope this settles the matter."

If only Blumey had called me. I could have ended this thing. Now it's likely he's finished. You can talk a lot of baloney to the American electorate but one area that is absolutely untouchable is the subject of military service. John McCain could be photographed with his pants down in an elementary school toilet wacking off to an Archie comic but don't you dare call him a bad man... the man is a war hero, dammit! So he likes graphic novels and the innocent, pristine feel of a children's bathroom. Big deal.

This story reminds me of the many times in my life that I've fabricated, embellished, hyperbolised, prevaricated, fudged, misrepresented....

okay. Lied.

We've all been guilty of it, at least those of us with an ego, which I think is anyone over the age of 2 (Ted Koppel excluded- no one with an ego would ever leave the house with that hair). How many times have I knowingly added little nuggets to my stories to make myself look funnier, more successful, better in bed, sexier? Every goddamn day, people.  Don't believe a thing I say- or, more accurately, believe what I say and then reduce it by about half. Alright, maybe I'm being a little harsh, but you get the gist. I'm certain you do, because you do it too. This blog comes out of Los Angeles, so you won't be surprised when I tell you that I meet a lot of famous actors who I've never heard of that end up being the guy that does my dry cleaning. Wait a sec- that was me. After all, although we all have pumped a little extra juice into our stories from time to time in order to impress, there is a spectrum here, and some of us poor souls just run right off the edge.

They're easy to spot. And even easier to rob. Why? Well, just ask them to meet for coffee to "catch up". Those two words are the first sign for them that they're going to have the opportunity to talk about themselves and just possibly walk away from the rendez vous feeling just a smidge better about themselves and twice as important. A dictionary definition of the word conversation that I found is: "an oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions or ideas."

 There's the rub. This brand of person missed the "exchange" part of it. Their definition would probably be something closer to:

"I talk without breathing for ninety minutes, setting a new world record, checking my IPhone once every three minutes. At the end of said time period, I say I have to get to 'a meeting' and leave by way of a bro-hug."

Ladies, insert whatever fake, physically frigid farewell you might indulge in. I haven't done the requisite research. But to the point: if you're especially masochistic, you can stretch that ninety minutes into three hours, without any mention from your 'friend' about a meeting at all. How? Just continue to ask them questions about their lives. Yes, I know, for most of us, an endless stream of questions would make us begin to feel that the conversation was getting a little one-sided. Most of us regular folks actually take an interest in the lives of others. But you won't have to worry about that with our hero- just keep him talking about himself and you can very calmly gimmy open his door with your favorite Amex card and just clean the joint out. Leave him his headshots and demo reels. He won't even notice anything else is missing.

Why is it so easy to fall back into the trap of self-aggrandisement? In what grade do we learn all about that at school? How is it that we so sneakily tranform from naked toddlers who are perfectly happy to play in a warm, urine-filled portable swimming pool to slick shysters who aren't content unless we're peddling our cheap wares at cocktail parties? Since when was it a crime to just be ourselves, with no attributes, achievements or associations anywhere in sight?

Luckily, for all of us, freedom awaits. The pain and humiliation of having our pants pulled down can only occur when we've lied about what's in those pants to begin with. In the act of selling ourselves we are actually setting ourselves up for suffering. Better to just let who we are and what we do speak for itself. Some of us spend many anxious years being terrified that the rest of the world will discover that we're an 'impostor'. When you want people to think you're a war hero when the most dangerous weapon you've used in your life is a squirt gun, and then you go ahead and lie about it, you're probably headed for trouble.

I'm going back to basics. Tell the truth. And get back in the pool. 

Picture: Richard Blumenthal... toast.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


We’re in the middle of moving out of my girlfriend Victoria’s apartment and into mine; we live in the same building but it’s time to save some money so we’re in the process of  abandoning what we affectionately call the West Wing of the building to move into the East.

Victoria’s currently scraping the purple paint off the wall in the kitchen so that we can repaint it off white to satisfy management. Trying to get one’s security back when one is leaving an apartment is like trying to leave the Mob. I bear the emotional scars to prove it. I still bear rage toward the first landlord who ever laid down a test for me to pass in order to retrieve my ‘bond’, as they call it in Australia. ‘Bond’ seems to me to be a more accurate term, for one often feels like the guilty party as the landlord or building manager does their inspection. This is what immigrants must have felt like at Ellis Island: filled with terror that they wouldn’t get their brass ring. In both cases that ring means the same thing: freedom. Just give me my goddamn money and let me go! I scream to self in silence as said prick slowly, agonizingly peruses his apartment that he so generously allowed me to inhabit for a little time.

But back to my first experience in these matters. I had shared a beachside apartment in Sydney with two friends. We were all in our early twenties; young, dumb and full of… yeah. When the day arrived for the inspection, my two buddies were strangely nowhere to be seen. I was left there, alone, with a balding man sporting a large, red nose and fluffy, receding hair, similar to Doc Brown in the Back To The Future movies. Unlike Christopher Lloyd, this man didn’t seem happy with the hand of genes he’d been dealt. He was out for blood. The trouble is, I didn’t know it because he was also studied in the art of softening a potential victim up. He walked in and began peppering me with friendly questions about myself, my life and the reasons for my existence in this beautiful world. My shoulders relaxed and my breathing deepened as I realized that hang on, this man was absolutely lovely! A real swell! I did what I still do best: I discussed me, all the sparkly facets of me, in sensual detail and my sense of wellbeing continued to swell as I saw that he was slowly falling in love with me. Or maybe not so slowly. I saw him handing over my money, all of it, with a beatific smile spread across his unfortunate face. I saw us leaving the apartment hand in hand, eloping, lying under frescoed umbrellas on a Mediterranean beach. Romance was imminent.

We continued to chat for a couple of minutes and then very casually he segued into the subject of the apartment. How did I like it? Had it served my friends and I well? As he started to move through the place I told him that we’d all had a swimmingly good time.  In retrospect, I should have seen the first danger sign: he had asked the questions but was no longer listening to the answers.

I could go through the litany of problems he found with his beloved apartment that day, but it would only result in you sending cards and flowers. I don’t need sympathy- I only need to do something with all this rage I still feel toward that evil tyrant (as opposed to the wonderful, altruistic tyrants that are out there). This post today isn’t exorcising the demons; if anything it’s only serving to re-animate them.

I paid that day. Dearly. For the curtains that he said we’d taken, only to later find out from my mates that his wife had picked them up days earlier. For the carpet that we’d steam cleaned that was spotless yet filthy in his eyes. For the fact that he hadn’t been able to get into the place to paint while we were still living there (illegal). For my Judaism (okay, nothing to prove this one but come on, all ye Goyim who read this: look into your hearts- you hate us). I watched in horror as the money I and my two friends had invested in the bond went down the drain- or, more accurately, into this monster’s fat pocket.  To this day I curse myself for not standing my ground and storming out of there without signing off on the pittance he agreed to return us. I often think about this low-level scrooge; I wonder to what fate he has succumbed. We actually  knew where he and his lecherous family lived- sometimes we would drop the rent check off at their house. Many times I fantasized about breaking into their home and dropping a large coiler in the middle of their living room. But when it comes down to it, people, I am craven, so I assume his crimes have gone unpunished. Having said that, many people have assured me that ‘what goes around comes around’…..

Does karma truly exist? Has he really gotten his in the ensuing years? If so, what form did the universal retribution take? The immediate hope is that he was killed violently: hit by a bus, eaten by a shark, forced to watch back-to-back seasons of Two and A Half Men in one sitting… that kind of thing. But a little more reflection tells me it might be better if it were death by a thousand cuts: the DVD from the video store doesn’t work, the dental floss keeps breaking, his beers are poorly poured (no head)… I’m confident that a couple of years of this kind of stuff on a regular basis would land him in the loony bin.

Alas… I don’t buy it. I think this character has led a wonderful existence. He sleeps like a tranquilised baby. His family loves him dearly and has gone on to even greater wealth and success. Worst of all, he has expanded his real estate empire, allowing the fleecing of hapless young punks like myself on an almost daily basis. His heart warms as he sees them crumble before his eyes, watching their cash dissolve like so many tattered dreams. He returns home to count his money, perfecting his James Bond villainesque chuckle as he goes.

And on the rare occasions that he finds himself in a sombre mood, he cheers himself up by immersing himself in the memory of a naïve young redhead with knocking knees, moist eyes and empty pockets.

Friday, May 7, 2010


I had intended to include a quote here today from Swann's Way, the first installment of Marcel Proust's master work, A Remembrance of Things Past but alas, I now cannot find it. No matter. I will relate it to you in much more urbane language. The excerpt comes from a section of the book in which he speaks of the character Charles Swann and his obsession with a woman, an obsession that takes over his life and the love that he felt for this person soon turns to utter hate and contempt as he sinks further and further into mental and emotional chaos, his thoughts entirely consumed by her. Proust talks about how it is that we can love someone so passionately and affectionately and then in turn can resent the same person so completely and in reading this passage I was once again reminded of how important it is to simply accept all of the parts of the people we love for, to be sure, we cannot pick and choose their many facets; in loving someone and embracing them as meaningful parts of our own lives, we will almost certainly be inviting in the parts of that person that trigger uncomfortable sensations as well as the obvious things about them that stir our warmer feelings. The problem for myself and I suspect many others is that in judging, disliking and attempting to reject those aspects in the ones we love, we harden ourselves. Why is it that we can be in the presence of someone that we know we love deeply and yet can feel so little? Why do some of us habitually seek to find fault in our loved ones? We sometimes look for any excuse to push them away.

I have experienced strange anger at being touched by the ones closest to me; there are moments when I want to shout and scream and push them away and it is only the awareness that they surely must have touched something sensitive inside me that allows me to stay with the discomfort and accept their love, which is indeed precious. We must never forget that love for one another is truly the most valuable exchange that can take place in our world. There are so many of us that only know loneliness and are not surrounded by loving friends and family who regularly seek to connect with us, support us and remind us that we are not alone. We must be vigilant in our awareness of that part of us that would prefer to shut down, to disconnect, to find any distraction that will enable us to avoid our deeper feelings. While   enjoying one's space and time alone is vital, connecting with others in a meaningful way on a regular basis is the touchstone to which most of us wish to return, if we are in contact with our more primal needs. We live in a world that teaches us to compete with others, to find our emotional nourishment in material items and manifold forms of 'entertainment' which turn out to be so much noise and artificial light. We cannot be fooled by these placeba; they will never replace our connection with nature, ourselves and the people we love.

For all of us, at some point, have loved deeply. Even the orphaned child knows what it is to love; the pain and loss of emotional and psychic footing that often resides in children of this sort is testament to their unconscious knowledge of what has been taken from them. I have known many people who have assured me that they 'don't need anybody' and barge their way through their life, building a seemingly impenetrable emotional fort. For most, that castle eventually falls and when it does these people often find themselves out of practice in being comfortable with reaching out and accepting what comes in return.

It is always healthy to affirm our love and those to whom we give it, or wish to give it. My partner Victoria will often say of someone, "they are just love". We seem happy so much of the time to ascribe this quality to our pets yet find it challenging to see other people that way but, make no mistake, underneath all of the issues and harmful conditioning that most of us carry around, we also are indeed love.

So why can that love and good intention so often be hidden from the world? It is amazing to think that all of us have good intentions, even if that positive intent is narrowed down to simple self preservation. Behind every monstrous action is a need which had the potential at some point to be met in a positive, life-affirming way. Letting go of our judgement of others not only requires us to see past the outer manifestations of someone's fear, anger or pain, it also requires that we do not allow our own commensurate feelings to be triggered in those moments. This is extremely challenging but the rewards can be handsome. The sad fact is that intent often does not equal impact. Sometimes a person's belief that they need to protect themselves and the resultant action that springs from that impulse will be received by others in massively alienating ways. Our work with each other must include an exploration of the deeper emotional causes and effects that lie behind our actions toward one another. This is not taught much in schools; it needs to be. We seem to produce a lot of clever people who could use a lot more education in the understanding, acceptance and loving of other people.

I have been someone who has been contemptuous of others' love for their pets; I have complained about the anthropomorphising of animals, of people's obsession with their dogs and cats. Yet it is this need to love, this need to express affection for the living beings closest to us that brings fulfillment and well-being. Every effort must be made to remove the resistances and emotional walling that many of us have built up over the longest time that prevents us from reaching out to those who are so close to us in distance and yet can be so far removed from our good graces, through no fault of their own.

The time is now. Those things about that person that bug us, annoy us, cause our egos to spin are a trifle; the irony is that they usually find reflection in us. We will only ever love a very few that deeply... for most of us, protecting ourselves from that love is the most foolish action we can ever take.

*Image courtesy of

Sunday, May 2, 2010


With most of you snorting your prozac off the kitchen counter in anticipation of a return to work tomorrow, a quick recap of the week's events, in no particular order.

The oil spill off the coast of Louisiana, while awful for the wildlife, ecology and people of that state, may be the best thing to happen to the clean-energy movement in years. It's time everyone realized something when thinking about issues of energy production as we head further into the twenty first century: just as one can't be half-pregnant, one also can never be half-clean. The coal industry has long been in love with "clean" coal and "sequestering" carbon omissions. Does this make sense? Oh, quick guys, let's grab that carbon dioxide before it escapes and shove it underground! What do they put all that gas in? Ziplock bags? To quote Biff Tannin, that sounds like a screen door on a submarine to me. The other energy source that I heard described as clean just this morning by Florida Governor Charlie Crist is nuclear energy. Hmm... yeah, I guess I see what he means. Once you lug all of that radioactive waste and used up plutonium out the back of the plant and then fill ten thousand rusty barrels full of the gunk and then dump those barrels into the deepest part of the ocean (or maybe fling it into outer space the way Superman did in Superman IV- The Quest For Peace... yep, I saw it) I guess nuclear energy actually is pretty clean, especially since that kind of stuff never leaks or... spills. It's time to only vote for politicians who are ready to raise their clean-energy IQ and get serious about this stuff. Of course there will be a transition period where we're using multiple sources to generate energy but I have no doubt that if all of our scientific and technological acumen were to be concentrated on this issue, we could solve it. Let's not let our political leaders (or the environmental holocaust deniers that we run into every day) get away with pathetic excuses and half measures. Spill, baby, spill.

Arizona is the gift that keeps on giving. While people all over the country continue to be outraged about the new anti-immigrant legislation, I can't help thinking that the right is making the same mistake it's always made: overshooting. Despite what many on the right often say, America is actually a center-left country with deep socialistic roots (think unions, social security, freedom of speech, women's rights, an advance in gay rights, protection of public lands etc), as much as corporations continue to try to dig them up. People may talk a big game, but ultimately most of the citizens in the US feel much more comfortable when the fascistic, fanatical right wing of this country stays where it is: on the margin and the fringe. That was the genius of Karl Rove's 'compassionate conservative' strategy in 2000- make the voters believe your guy actually cares about something other than the continued enrichment of the super-enriched. Just as Barack Obama needed eight years of Cheney/Bush to further his cause, the fair treatment of immigrants in this country, illegal or not, may now actually become a live issue that will be tabled thanks to a policy right out of Nazi Germany. 

Conan O'Brien speaks on 60 Minutes tonight. I have to admit I'm a sucker for late night drama. I've taken an interest in the machinations of this stuff since Letterman was overlooked for The Tonight Show. It's a grand  soap opera that never dies. Conan has always been my favorite. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses: Letterman can be brilliant but a little cold for my taste; Leno's likable and unthreatening but can also be too likable and unthreatening; Conan strikes the right balance for me of wackiness, likability and a real curiosity about his guests. What's more, the man is actually funny. It'll be interesting to see if he brings in any innovation on his new show.

Interesting article on the Huffington Post  this week about dairy consumption, written by Dr Mark Hyman. I've long suspected this stuff can't be very good for us. Ninety-five percent of the human population loses the necessary enzymes to effectively process milk after the age of eight. We're conditioned to believe that we must get calcium from this animal product that our bodies dislike, when we could have those same needs met by eating many green plant foods and receive many other kinds of nutrition (fibrous carbohydrates and vitamins to name two) in the process. Definitely worth a look.

Lastly, by now you've probably all heard about the car bomb that malfunctioned, sparing the lives of possibly hundreds of people in the Times Square district of New York city. It's obviously a relief that the thing did not go off but it begs the question: just how many people are actually trying to detonate bombs in major US cities? Is it that hard to build a car bomb and if it isn't, what does that tell us about the actual danger that is clear and present to the citizens of this country? If so many people out there hate us, why aren't bombs going off all the time? If so many of these supposed fanatics are willing to give up their lives in order to kill us, why aren't we seeing people blowing themselves up in cafes and public gathering places the way they do in other parts of the world? Is it a case of our borders being so impenetrable that they leave thousands of would-be attackers pushing at the gates, clamoring to get in and hurt us? Or is it that our 'enemy' isn't as organized, well-funded and determined as we thought? I don't have an answer to these questions but there does seem to be an incongruity existent in the amount of blood and treasure spent on fighting terrorism and the actual threat posed to us as Westerners.The perpetrators of this attempted attack have yet to be identified but we can be sure the 'threat levels' will be elevated to the appropriate splashy colour as a result. It's an unfortunate event that will further undermine other civic issues in dire need of attention. 

So there are all the talking points you'll need for your local water cooler. Go forth and provoke.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Lindsay Lohan's going to jail.

Or 'gaol', depending on which country you're in. I guess someone changed the spelling to simplify things. I think I'm going to start spelling everything in olde (I've started) English. Example: I gotte in my carr the otther dday and... wait a sec, that's not olde English, I'm just randomly adding consonants. Screweth it.

But back to gaol. The whole phenomenon of prisons/forced confinement has always fascinated me. My father has a saying: "there's no such thing as a bad prison movie." He also uses it for Westerns. Has there ever been a Western set in a prison? He'd be in heaven.

We've come up with a lot of funky expressions for the Big House (there's one right there). The Clink. The Stoney Lonesome. Con College. Joint. Mainline Joint. Skinner Joint (new Joints opening all the time- I'll keep you posted). Hoosegow. The Brig. The Gladiator Academy.

You get the picture. What's more, there's a whole lexicon in use behind those grey walls. The most obvious one that comes to mind is a 'shiv'. Why does a handmade knife mystically turn into a shiv once you get inside? You hear ex-cons give themselves away all the time in regular conversation on the outside:

"She was sleeping with another man. When I found out it was like a shiv in my back."
"Excuse me, waiter, my shiv is dirty. May I have another?"
"I can't wait for karaoke tonight. My favorite song to sing is Mac The Shiv."
"She's pretty but not the sharpest shiv in the drawer."

And so on. There are also an incredible amount of unspoken rules to follow. We all know of a couple: number one, never ask a "greenass"* (term for a new inmate) what they did to land them inside. Big mistake. It's the outside equivalent of asking a woman her age. The result will be the same: a slap in the face. The only difference is what extremity you get slapped with. Number two, another wellknown edict: never drop the soap. Do they still use those mouldy, festering bars of soap in prison showers? Probably not- I'm sure they go for the mass-produced dispensaries that you find in gym showers now. How would soap possibly drop if that were the case? This could be a problem for all those who like to drop the soap intentionally. Kind of ruins the romance and flirtatiousness of the gesture if you have to spend five minutes ripping the thing off the wall. I'm sure they've figured out some other way to send signals of romantic interest.

I just realized this post today is very male-centric. Of course there are women's prisons too. My first contact with prison life was through a women's prison. It was the Australian soap opera Prisoner. The show ran for eight years and was a cult hit in Britain, where it was called the more seductive Cell Block H. I learned my first bit of big house parlance back then: Top Dog. Usually played by an actress who stood around six feet and who had what may euphemestically be called a 'charactery' face- or as my mother used to say about certain people when I was growing up, an 'unfortunate' face. Prisoner was the best; looking back now it appears horribly dated of course- back then the worst word they could use was 'bitch', so of course it was flung about like rice at a wedding. The laundry room was the most favoured location because the show's producers couldn't afford to shoot outdoors. But that only increased the claustrophobia for the viewers. I positively felt transported when I watched that show. The actresses were almost lifelike. The cardboard brick walls would just close in on you.

But back to my area of expertise: men's prisons. I've educated myself by watching countless prison films. All of these movies are, I'm certain, completely accurate; I mean, after all, they hire consultants, right? So here's a few more survival tips if you ever find yourself in 'general population' in maximum security:

  • If you find yourself threatened by a large man wanting to give you flowers, always seek out the older actor who has made a career playing nice supporting roles. He'll be doing life and revelling in playing his first tough guy.
  • Never bench press. You'll be pushing on the bar and suddenly there'll be three guys standing above you asking you to "take a walk".
  • Never take a walk. I love walks- usually a chance to take in the scenery, clear your head, maybe see a bird or two, pluck a wild flower. Not so much in this context. It's going to end badly. I never understand why the guy always does agree to take the walk. First thing I tell everyone when I first arrive in prison is how much I hate walking. Despise the walk. Detest the walk. Don't even bother asking me.
  • Always take sunglasses to The Hole. Don't these guys ever learn? Ever notice how pitiful these guys are when that door swings open to let them out and the sun streams in? They cover their eyes and shrink back like little girls. Let's get one thing straight: if I'm winning brownie points (another menacing prison term) by sitting in The Hole for two months, I'm cruising out of there like Arthur Fonzerelli when it's over, not stumbling around like a blind idiot for an hour. You gotta be organized.
  • If you're going to try to escape, never invite the skinny Jewish actor on his first film set. Too jittery. Always complaining about the food. Usually has a mouse. The guy's annoying in the trailer and hopeless going over the wall. 
  • Get sick. A lot. They've got this model working in the infirmary. Why are the infirmaries always so luxurious? They look better than most US hospitals. And the woman there is usually very obliging- she's trying to forge a career as an actress after years of travelling Europe as a model. While you're recovering from the forced sodomy with the ex-NFL star moonlighting as an action hero wannabe, just tell her you're exec producing a big movie next summer and she'll give you sponge baths till the cows come home.
  • Always work in the library. You get to go around and meet all the day players- they're very entertaining and make you feel a little more confident that you'll make it. In Hollywood. You'll also get to meet the scary but quiet older black gentleman that the white guys fear. He'll look frightening but have a turn of the century aristocratic name: Marvin, maybe, or Howard, maybe Thurston. He'll end up helping you out in manifold ways, all the while complaining about that asshole Poitier who took all of his work.

So there you are. A few tips to assist you in a bind. But the best advice I can give you is to not go to the slammer in the first place: stay clean, play by the rules, pay your taxes and you won't have a problem. Unless you're in Arizona. As for Lindsay, I hope she's reading this today. There are plenty of mediocre, washed up actors in prison movies. Now some actual prison out there is getting a real live one all for itself.

*Actually, Victoria made up 'greenass' but it sounded authentic.