In Populous City Pent

 

Far from our southern border where children torn from their parents languish in cages, the din of a Midtown Manhattan construction project is wreaking genuine havoc.

Think Noah’s Ark:

How for so many bedlam hours his saw

Soured the song of birds with its wheezy gnaw,

And the slam of his hammer all the day beset

The people’s ears.

But here, we’re talking jackhammers, pile drivers.

Dig this from yesterday’s NYT:

Ms. Brown, who has lived on the block since 1969, blames the cacophony in part for her new $5,000 hearing aids.

Her miniature poodle, Dorian Gray, has been even more affected: he’s taking Trazodone, a tranquilizer. (“One tablet orally up to three times daily as needed for calming during construction,” the bottle helpfully directs.)

[snip]

Apart from Dorian Gray’s anxiety, Ms. Kelly’s dog, Lola, now shakes even when the jackhammers are idle. The cat living at No. 66, Titania of the Greil, is “overgrooming” and fighting irritable bowel syndrome, while Meadow at No. 51 is a “nervous wreck.” Birds on the block have stopped singing, one resident complained.

Poor Dorian, no more languid lolling, alas.

Late Empire Un-Fun: Superbowls

If ever an event exists that epitomizes this Late Empire decadence, it is the Super Bowl, the trashy teenage illegitimate daughter of Walt Disney and Joan Rivers.

First, there’s the obscenity of the salaries of these gladiators who essentially entertain us through ritualistic war, a string of overhyped “battles,” each becoming less memorable as the Roman numerals march on to Super Bowl oblivion. Admittedly,  it can be fun to watch these impressive specimens of predatory machismo smash into one another, sidestep tackles, propel perfect spirals, and make acrobatic diving fingertip grabs (though their inability to master the snap count can become tedious), but you can’t help but wonder if the over-compensation for these essentially physical skills is indicative of some sort of skewed cultural atavism that harkens back to Spartacus.  Why, for example, does the secondary coach of the Baltimore Ravens, whoever he is, earn considerably more per annum than Pulitzer winning novelist Richard Ford?  Not to mention Deion Sanders[1] whose career earnings undoubtedly dwarf Cormac McCarthy’s, Toni Morrison’s, and Philip Roth’s combined?

Because our priorities are fucked-up perhaps?

Can you guess which house belongs to Deion Sanders and which to Robert Frost?

Second, there’s the Roman circus of the halftime show, which began innocently enough in the late Sixties with marching bands, but now features antediluvian rockers like Steve Tyler and the Who or commercial hiphoppers like the Black-Eyed Peas.  These performances nearly always end up flat (Prince and Springsteen being exceptions) and occasionally can be painful to watch (Grandpa Jagger frenetically cavorting back and forth across the stage as if it were strewn with red-hot coals).  I’m far too lazy to research the cost of these extravaganzas, but I suspect we could coax the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hahn to meditate on the grass at halftime for free, which would be more entertaining than 90% of the halftime shows I’ve suffered through, including last Sunday’s performance by Maroon 5.

The Eminently Mockable Brittany Spears Passing Gas at the 2008 Spectacle

Third, there are the commercials, the highlight for many who watch.  These advertisements virtually all traffic in irony and celebrate inebriation and sex, which Late Empire denizens crave sitting in their soulless subdivisions on the Sabbath day.

What, may you ask, binds all of these facets of this undeclared national holiday – the verbal jostling of the interminable lead-ins (Terry Bradshaw bickering with Howie and granite-haired Jimmie Johnson) – the game itself, the outsized attempt at halftime entertainment, the pratfalls of the commercials?

Aggression, that’s what.  Aggression is what separates the winners from the losers, those who pay sticker price from those who browbeat the salesperson into surrender, those who claw their way to the top from those who rely on honor to guide their lives, those who smash helmet-to-helmet from those who wanly attempt an arm tackle.

Aggression is what fuels capitalism, and sports is a wonderful training ground for aggression, from the bestial grunting of tennis players returning volleys to the narcissistic celebratory endzone fandangoes of wide receivers.  No wonder these gladiators (who are worshipped in their high schools, wooed by head coaches who banter with mothers they would never actually associate with otherwise, and marshaled through college by cadres of underpaid tutors) possess Caligula-sized egos.  These mannish boys have clawed their way to fame and fortune (the latter thanks in part to their labor unions).  Who can blame them for copping the Conan the Barbarian look?


[1]I had the misfortune to share an elevator with Deion once, who exuded all of the warmth of a Secret Service agent as he avoided eye contact with the children asking for his autograph.

 

Reefer Madness

A member of the SC Medical Association and Attorney General Alan Wilson experimenting on a marijuana user

Alas, I find it necessary yet again to haul down from the attic James Petigru’s way-too-often quoted description of my native state:

South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.

What prompts today’s revival of Petigru’s apt observation is Attorney General Alan Wilson’s idiotic proclamation that marijuana is “the most dangerous drug” in America, edging out, it would appear, crystal meth, cocaine, crack, heroin, and [drum roll] aspirin.

[1]

 

Here are some 2017 numbers from the CDC:

According to the Centers for Disease Control, using data available for analysis on September 5, 2018, there were a reported 70,652 deaths attributed to drug overdose in the US for the year ending December 2017. Some deaths were still under investigation. The CDC projects that the total for 2017 will be 72,222.

Of these:

Opioids were detected in 47,863 reported deaths, and are predicted to be involved in 49,031 deaths.

Synthetic opioids, excluding methadone, were detected in 28,644 reported deaths, and are predicted to be involved in 28,644 deaths.

Heroin was detected in 15,585 reported deaths, and is predicted to be involved in 15,941 deaths.

Natural and semi-synthetic opioids were detected in 14,553 reported deaths, and are predicted to be involved in 14,940 deaths.

Cocaine was detected in 14,065 reported deaths, and is predicted to be involved in 14,612 deaths.

Psychostimulants with abuse potential were detected in 10,420 reported deaths, and are predicted to be involved in 10,703 deaths.

Methadone was detected in 3,209 reported deaths, and is predicted to be involved in 3,286 deaths.

Here’s what the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology has to say about marijuana:

Tetrahydrocannabinol is a very safe drug. Laboratory animals (rats, mice, dogs, monkeys) can tolerate doses of up to 1,000 mg/kg (milligrams per kilogram). This would be equivalent to a 70 kg person swallowing 70 grams of the drug—about 5,000 times more than is required to produce a high. Despite the widespread illicit use of cannabis there are very few if any instances of people dying from an overdose. In Britain, official government statistics listed five deaths from cannabis in the period 1993-1995 but on closer examination these proved to have been deaths due to inhalation of vomit that could not be directly attributed to cannabis (House of Lords Report, 1998). By comparison with other commonly used recreational drugs these statistics are impressive.”

What prompted Wilson’s injudicious misrepresentation of the facts was not a call for the legalization of marijuana in South Carolina but merely the introduction of legislation “that would allow patient’s to obtain it with a doctor’s prescription.”

More from Wilson’s press conference:

[Users employ] words like stoned, high, wasted, baked, fried, cooked, chonged, cheeched, dope-faced, blazed, blitzed, blunted, blasted, danked, stupid, wrecked — and that’s only half the words they use,” Wilson said. “Are these consistent with something that describes a medicine?”

Now that’s what I call scientific!

The truth of the matter is that your chances of croaking, bellying-up, kicking the bucket, cashing in chips, joining the invisible choir, buying the farm, and shuffling off the mortal coil are infinitely greater from a perfectly legal prescription of OxyContin than it would be from medical marijuana.

I’m in no way advocating the use of marijuana but merely pointing out the inanity of our public officials, how the Republican Party ignores science in formulating policies.

Speaking of gateway drugs, I’ll leave you with this:

 

 

On the Slave Ship Lollipop

I used to stuff my face with candy

when I was a little boy,

couldn’t cop enough Mary Janes,

would kill for an Almond Joy.

 

Then I graduated to the Real Thing – Coke.

I was popping five cans a day,

plopping nickels and dimes upon the counter

under caffeine and sugar’s sway.

 

Now I’m hooked on heroin,

am little more than a thug.

Wish I’d known then what I know now –

that sugar is the gateway drug.


[1]According to a recent study, “Taking a daily aspirin is far more dangerous than was thought, causing more than 3,000 deaths a year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Advice, Take It or Leave It

Hendrik Jacobus Schotten, Good Advice

Don’t be in a hurry. Who cares if you’re late? Well, a few might: your employer might, your date might. The judge at your preliminary hearing.

On the other hand, oblivion is fine with it.

Norman Rockwell

Learn how to hold a fork. Note the difference between how Nick and Nora Charles deftly handle silverware as opposed to how prisoners in Russian movies fist wooden spoons as they slurp their swill. You don’t want to be eating like that in a cafeteria. Or maybe you do. Maybe you’re antisocial. If so, at least in the privacy of your lonely kitchen, mind your manners.

Nick and Nora Charles in After the Thin Man.

Don’t leave your Bo Diddley Beach Party LP (recorded live at Myrtle Beach) unsheathed, naked on your dormitory floor. Crunch.[1]

If you’re going to purchase Costa sunglasses, be mindful. Don’t perch them on the top of your head on the roller coaster ride. Buy cheap shades instead. Only the most shallow of consumers, like me, pay attention to the quality of your eyewear.

***

Never wash your hands more than four times a day – and that seems excessive to me. Cultivate immunity. Make friends with Mr. and Mrs. Germ.

Pilate Washing his Hands 1663 by Mattia Preti

When you read, slow down. Pay attention to the sound of of words.

***

Try not to lie unless you’re in dutch deep. Say vague things like you can’t come after all because “something’s come up.” If there’s a follow up question or remark, like, “I hope everything’s all right,” say, “Well, not really, but I’ll be okay.”

***

Floss your teeth before you go to bed. Then brush them again, this time with Listerine. Those receding gums will make you look creepy, predatory, Nosferatu-ish.

Don’t engage in political arguments on social media. Don’t post what you eat on social media. Don’t smugly say not a bad seat when you’re sitting at ringside.

 

***

Avoid advice dispensing know-it-alls.


[1] Thornwell Tenement, University of South Carolina, 1972.

 

My Linguistic Reign of Terror

photoshopped from left to right: Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, Betsy Devos, Mitch McConnell,Paul Ryan, and Donald Trump

Most people my age have cleaned out the attic of their overblown aspirations, have gotten rid of the ridiculous notion that they’ll write the great American novel or sell an original screenplay that wins an Oscar (which, in my case, would include getting shitfaced at the Vanity Fair after party and going home with Myrna Loy).

Not me. I still dream of single-handedly overthrowing the US government, declaring myself a Sun God, and initiating a reign of terror to punish those who have offended my delicate sensibilities.

Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with detailed descriptions of the exquisite tortures I have concocted for the likes of Mitch McConnell (staring into a mirror), Paul Ryan (translating Atlas Shrugged into Finnish), or Donald Trump (taking away TV and Internet privileges until he has memorized word-for-word the 1855 edition of Song of Myself).

Once the heavy-duty guillotining was done and the nation had settled down to the thousand years of bliss I had promised, I would issue several proclamations concerning the use of language.

* * *

It would be unlawful to end a declarative sentence with an interrogative lilt. Like, no more, “I have never had a toe amputated?”

Incorrect pronoun cases would be allowed (e.g., me and Timmy went, between you and I); however, not making the distinction between less and fewer would be punishable by having to sing at one sitting “10,000 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”[1]

Except for vacations to all-inclusive Jamaican resorts, there would be no more laying in the sun.

Tattooed proclamations could no longer be rendered in gothic script.

Adolescent boys would be required to dot i-s with hearts.

* * *

Oh, my God. Lord Acton is right about absolute power! Obviously, it’s past time for me to pack up this fantasy and put in on the side of the road to be transported to the dump of broken dreams.

Hey, I got plenty of more productive things to do with my time, like researching Medicare supplemental insurance policies/walk-in tubs.

Go ahead, brothers and sisters, say what you will. Dig on that First Amendment.

Do it!


[1] I was delighted yet dismayed to hear my grief counselor’s 9-year-old tell me that on a recent fieldtrip they sang “100 Bottles” (delighted) but beer had been replaced with milk (dismayed). Yet another example of political correctness run amok.

myrnaloyhair2Myrna Loy

For That Hard-to-Buy-for Failson

 

failson boy cave

Let’s face it, there’s one in every family. The failson, flunked out, holed up in his childhood bedroom, laundry strewing the floor as if SLED had just stormed in looking for narcotics. Game cartridges with titles like “Postal 2” and “Thrill Kill” scattered around in a dystopian array of cultural decline as if some future museum curator had decided to create an emblematic space screaming Age of Trump!*

If you’re unfortunate to have a failson on a holiday or birthday shopping list, what in the hell are you supposed to do? The easiest copout, of course, is money, but that means you’re probably aiding and abetting the purchase of some illegal substance or enabling the boy’s insatiable addiction to sadistic or pornographic images. This option, especially if you’re a godmother, borders on moral dereliction.

On the other hand, you want to make him happy, which means gifting him with something that’s countercultural; however, for your conscience’s sake, you want your gift to offer some sort of practical positive attribute.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have a suggestion.

Last Saturday, at my favorite anthropological outpost, the bartenders were playing a game of surreptitiously attaching clothespins to each other — to the tail of an untucked t-shirt, to a dreadlock, to the back brim of my signature panama fedora.

I mentioned that although clothespins seem pretty damned obsolescent, I use them in the pantry to help seal opened bags of potato chips, etc. One of the bartenders called them “the poor man’s roach clip.”

I hadn’t seen a roach clip in probably a quarter of a century. Most readers of this blog won’t need a definition, but just in case you’re a graduate of Bob Jones University, a roach clip is a small device designed to hold what might best be described to the uninitiated as “a marijuana cigarette.” The idea is to consume as much of the product as possible without burning your fingers.

I wondered aloud if in the age-of-vaping roach clips had gone the way of Blockbuster, so one of the barkeeps produced for me a piece of clothing, which, as it turns out, would be perfect for that hard to please failson on your shopping list.

Please note the image below.

Check out the cords for securing the hood of the sweatshirt. Attached to each is a roach clip.

So on the rare occasions when the failson leaves his lair to go outdoors on a chilly day to fetch from the mailbox some abomination he’s ordered from Redbubble, he can continue toking away right down to the bitter end.

Also, the sweatshirt provides a secret hiding place in the hood itself for his stash.

can’t figure out why this came out in black-and-white

And, not only that, unzip the pocket in front, and there’s a hard surface for rolling joints.

Now, let me be clear. I don’t condone the use of cannabis, which studies have shown affects the amygdala in a way that reduces your ability to experience pleasure, which means overuse might render you incapable of appreciating a glorious sunrise or a Muddy Waters groan. Why not embrace mediation to naturally enhance your perceptions of the everyday wonders we so often ignore?

However, explaining this possibility to a failson is like trying to convince a Koch brother than the destruction of the planet from global warming is more important than his personal wealth. In other words, doomed to failure.

At least with the Nugg It sweatshirt, you’re providing warmth  in the context of perhaps the most innocuous illegal substance in states where the use of cannabis is outlawed.

Hey Jude


  • Here’s a description of Postal 2 from the blog ask.men: [Postal 2]  is a game in which it is not uncommon to drop-kick grenades and whip scythes at unsuspecting civilians if they refuse to participate in your everyday life story (which is, after all, the plot behind the game). Of course, this includes using cat carcasses as silencers on your gun, hitting people with anthrax-laden cow heads and playing “fetch” with dogs using the severed heads of your dismembered victims. Postal 2 is the epitome of senseless, over-the-top video game violence.

Yet Another Short Treatise on Satire: In Defense of Bad Taste

[Trigger warning: scatology, smugness, over-the-top sacrilege, typos, insensitivity to disabilities, reckless employment of ALL CAPS and gratuitous exclamation points]!!!!

Look, I desitively dig The Onion, I mean BIGLY. They’re BIG LEAUGE for sure, true heirs of the great early 70’s National Lampoon, which itself was the great-great-great-great grandchild of the GREAT Jonathan Swift, who in his poem “The Lady’s Dressing Room” employs an epic simile to describe turds plopping into a chamber pot:

As mutton cutlets, prime of meat,

Which though with art you salt and beat

As laws of cookery require,

And toast them at the clearest fire;

If from adown the hopeful chops

The fat upon a cinder drops,

To stinking smoke it turns the flame

Pois’ning the flesh from whence it came,

And up exhales a greasy stench,

For which you curse the careless wench;

So things, which must not be expressed,

When plumped into the reeking chest,

Send up an excremental smell

To taint the parts from whence they fell.

The petticoats and gown perfume,

Which waft a stink round every room.

Thus finishing his grand survey,

Disgusted Strephon stole away

Repeating in his amorous fits,

Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits![1]

 

[Enter Horatio, Hamlet’s BFF]: There needs no ghost, [Stephron], come from the grave/ To tell us this.

Yeah, Stephron, what’s the big deal? Defecation is a necessary by product of ingestion, and in the great cyclic beauty of being, animal waste products can be used to fertilize plants.

Hey, Jonathan Smith, what’s up with this coprophobic obsession with feces?

I suspect Swift would answer that his point is not that Celia shits but that she’s a vain, frivolous woman who considers herself better than, say, the hired wench who polishes her silver, yet Celia’s upper class feces stinks just as much as her maid’s lower class shit.

Satire is a great leveler, a way for powerless wretches like I-and-I to vent our spleens upon the powerful, the foolish, i.e., politicians. Think of Mitch McConnell when you read the following:

 

Io venni in luogo d’ogni luce muto;

The stench of wet coal, politicians

. . . . . . . . . . e and. . . . . n, their wrists bound to

their ankles,

Standing bare bum,

Faces smeared on their rumps,

wide eye on flat buttock,

Bush hanging for beard,

Addressing crowds through their arse-holes,

Addressing the multitudes in the ooze,

newts, water-slugs, water-maggots [. . .][2]

Some satirists have defended their employment of the grotesque, cruelty, etc. on the need to shock people inured the horrors of the nightly news [punctuated every eight minutes by laxative commercials (and, later, by smiling segues into human interest stories)] into the realization of the true nature of the horror. In other words, to slap some sense into them.

Here’s a paragraph from Tony Hendra’s 1972 editorial from the infamous National Lampoon issue “Is Nothing Sacred?”

To a generation that, when it sees starving babies on the screen, knows it’s almost time for dinner, not much is sacred. All around us, the idols, ikons, and cows of 6,000 of Indo-Aryan culture lie shattered, and daily another paragon goes down to ignominy (Kissenger, Richard Speck) [and] another cherished tradition is lost (see Esquire’s stinging attack on cordovans). And now with Jim Morrison gone, there isn’t really anyone left to look up to [. . .]  it is possible that a society to whom nothing is sacred might just be a better one.

Take, Michael J O’Donoghue’s “Vietnamese Baby Book” from that issue, an affront to good taste that makes Swift’s poem seem like a Barney the Dinosaur picture book.

The Vietnamese baby in question, Ngoc, has her first couple of years, including a list of “firsts,” catalogued in her baby book:

First whimper: Two weeks

First cringe: Two-and-a-half months.

It gets worse. Baby’s first wound, baby’s first word (medic), baby’s first funeral, etc.

Hey, that’s sick, cried the bourgeoisie when the issue came out, the bourgeoisie who reelected Nixon in a landslide and whose tax dollars went to making sure our military had enough napalm to incinerate the requisite number of Cambodian villages (or to update the example, has enough drone missiles to obliterate Syrian encampments).

In this sense, as self-righteous as it sounds, O’Donoghue considered himself a sort of moralist.

The Onion has at times crossed the over from the realm of gentle, good-natured mockery into the shadows of bitter sacrilege. For example, here’s an image with something to offend virtually every one.

 

WASHINGTON—Following the publication of the image above, in which the most cherished figures from multiple religious faiths were depicted engaging in a lascivious sex act of considerable depravity, no one was murdered, beaten, or had their lives threatened, sources reported Thursday. The image of the Hebrew prophet Moses high-fiving Jesus Christ as both are having their erect penises vigorously masturbated by Ganesha, all while the Hindu deity anally penetrates Buddha with his fist, reportedly went online at 6:45 p.m. EDT, after which not a single bomb threat was made against the organization responsible, nor did the person who created the cartoon go home fearing for his life in any way. Though some members of the Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist faiths were reportedly offended by the image, sources confirmed that upon seeing it, they simply shook their heads, rolled their eyes, and continued on with their day.

I admit I included that image hesitantly, knowing some of my readers would find it highly objectionable, but The Onion’s point is well taken. You don’t go off and murder satirists no matter how tasteless, offensive, mean-spirited and/or stupid their product is.  Their target here is not the great religions of the world but religious fanatics who do real, palpable harm.

What worries me more is that in the latest Onion output the satire doesn’t seem all that hyperbolic:

WASHINGTON—Amid concerns that a U.S. attack on a Syrian government air base would only escalate the ongoing conflict in the region, President Trump assured Americans Friday that his decision to order a missile strike came only after carefully considering every one of his passing whims. “I want to make it perfectly clear that the decision to launch a military intervention in Syria was the result of meticulously reviewing each fleeting impulse that I felt over the last 48 hours,” said Trump, adding that after learning of chemical weapons used by Bashar al-Assad’s forces to kill innocent Syrian civilians, he gathered his top military aides to pore over dozens of his sudden knee-jerk reactions to the situation. “I examined many different options that whirled through my mind in the moment, including authorizing drone strikes, deploying U.S. troops to Syria, sending in SEAL Team Six to take out Assad, getting up and grabbing a snack from the kitchen, doing nothing, and dropping all our nuclear bombs on Damascus at once. Ultimately, I concluded that an airstrike was the best option at that particular second.” Trump went on to say that if the Assad regime’s behavior continues, he will not hesitate to order further military action if he hasn’t already completely forgotten about Syria by then.

Except, the quotes from Trump appear in sentences far too well-crafted to have emerged from his mouth, and I doubt seriously “meticulously” isn’t in his working vocabulary.

At any rate, I say rage on Juvenal, rage on Swift, rage, rage against the stupidity of all ages, though, I suspect it does very little good when it is all said and done.


[1] Stephron had been rummaging around his girlfriend’s dressing room when she was out and stumbled upon a cleverly disguised, which he mistook of a cabinet.

[2] Ezra Pound, “Canto XIV”