Archive for the ‘Jesting, Infinitely’ Category

Who Said It: Meat Loaf or Lao Tzu?

July 13, 2017

And wherever you are and wherever you go

there’s always going to be some light

 

If you don’t worry about the future, sooner or later it’s the past

 

The further you go, the less you know

 

Heaven can wait

And all I’ve got is time until the end of time

 

The nameless is the origin of heaven and earth

 

Some days it don’t come easy

Some days it don’t come hard

 

Sometimes you lead

Sometimes you follow

 

What about your gods?
They’re defective! They forgot the warranty

 

The beat is yours forever
The beat is always true

 

She cries all day without getting hoarse.

She is the ultimate in harmony.

 

Does it come with the darkness? Does it bring out the light?

 

How deep! How dark! In it there is an essence.

 

You were only killing time and it will kill you right back

 

Though you lose the body, you do not die.

 

And if life is just a highway, then the soul is just a car

 

Assignment

July 10, 2017

The following is an essay prompt given out to students of the Enfield Tennis Academy class “The Personal Is the Political Is the Psychopathological: the Politics of Contemporary Psychopathological Double-Binds.”  I would like each of my readers––yes, all four of you––to please submit your responses by 2359 GMT today.

KEEP YOUR ANSWERS BRIEF AND GENDER NEUTRAL

ITEM 1

(1a) You are an individual who, is pathologically kleptomaniac.  As a kleptomaniac, you are pathologically driven to steal, steal, steal.  You must steal.

(1b) But, you are also an individual who, is pathologically agoraphobic.  As an agoraphobic, you cannot so much as step off your front step of the porch of your home, without undergoing palpitations, drenching sweats, and feelings of impending doom.  As an agoraphobic, you are driven to pathologically stay home and not leave.  You cannot leave home.

(1c) But, from (1a) you are pathologically driven to go out and steal, steal, steal.  But, from (1b) you are pathologically driven to not ever leave home.  You live alone.  Meaning, there is no one else in your home to steal from.  Meaning, you must go out, into the marketplace to satisfy your overwhelming compulsion to steal, steal, steal.  But, such is your fear of the marketplace that you cannot under any circumstances, leave home.  Whether your problem is true personal psychopathology, or merely marginalization by a political definition of “psychopathology,” nevertheless, it is a Double-Bind.

(1d) Thus, respond to the question of, what do you do?

(No cheating off Schacht and writing “mail fraud,” please.)

Xanadu!

March 28, 2017

As some of you may remember, many moons ago, I wrote an essay that I suspect is probably  my best work of all time, about the Broadway show Xanadu!   Looking back now, I can see it’s a bit of a flawed piece, but ultimately, the heart of it is still genius.  As many of you also know, I happen to have become, in the aftermath of the election, obsessed with a website called 366 Weird Movies, which is, as you might have guessed, a list of weird movies, and supplementary materials.  Well, today, my loves collided, because 366 Weird Movies did a post on Xanadu!  Let’s just say they weren’t too enthused…

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Xanadu is campy, kitschy and appalling, but it’s not weird. It’s just one of the last death rattles of the disco era.

COMMENTS: La La Land may have revived the movie musical, which has been on life support for decades because of flops like Xanadu. This film spawned a soundtrack album (deliriously overproduced by the Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynne) that was a monster hit in 1980, spawning five top 20 singles. The movie itself, however, bombed, and rightfully so. It’s inoffensive, embarrassing piffle. Made on a big budget, Xanadu still looks cheap, and director Robert Greenwald , who later made The Burning Bed and several progressive-minded documentaries, doesn’t really seem to know how to stage musical numbers, despite choreography from Kenny Ortega (High School Musical). Michael Beck, fresh off the macho action classic The Warriors, looks embarrassed (he never starred in a movie again), and poor 68-year-old Gene Kelly makes his unfortunate farewell to musicals in this dud. Olivia Newton-John is beautiful but cannot act—although she was much better in Grease—-while director Don Bluth (An American Tail) contributes a weak animated segment.

Practically all memory of the film vanishes right after you’ve seen it. Xanadu is sort of a remake of the indifferently received 1947 Rita Hayworth musical Down to Earth, while Kelly also played a character named Danny McGuire in the 1944’s Cover Girl opposite Hayworth. Either of those films has to better than Xanadu, which only Newton-John may still remember fondly: the young Danny McGuire is played in flashback by dancer-actor Matt Lattanzi, who later became her husband. No amount of fake glitter and flash can salvage this Lattanzi-Newton John family album, however: the climactic musical number involves a series of revolving stages that reminded me of the old Disneyland show “America Sings”. I’d rather sit through “America Sings” again. In fact, those who want to experience Xanadu should listen to the soundtrack album (featuring Newton John, ELO, Cliff Richard, and the Tubes)  instead of slumbering through this decidedly non-weird musical relic of the Studio 54 era.

Someone apparently had pleasant, perhaps drug-induced memories of the picture, because in 2007 Xanadu was adapted into a modestly produced Broadway musical (starring “30 Rock”‘s Cheyenne Jackson) that was nominated  for a few Tony awards. In the end, Xanadu may be recalled chiefly as being part of the “great”—or awful—disco musical trend of 1980, which also gave us the infamous Village People vehicle Can’t Stop the Music. Anecdotally, unfortunate moviegoer John J.B. Wilson saw both films at a 99-cent double feature and came up with the idea of the Razzie awards, “honoring” the year’s worst films, which are still held today. At least Xanadu has better songs than Can’t Stop the Music.

YouTube Knows Me So Well

March 9, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 1.03.47 PM

Sorry for another Tweet-like Message

March 7, 2017

But this one was just too good to pass up…

KM:  I wish auto-fill-in would get on the same page as I am.  It’s always trying to fill in my sentences with “great” or “positive” when I am typing “gross” or “pointless.”

Hair of the Dog, Part II

February 13, 2017

Two years later, lining up for Big Gulp-sized Buds at a Madison Square Garden kiosk, I was experiencing that same nausea, though my head was only pounding slightly, thanks to the seven coffees and three Advils I had consumed over the course of the day. The culprit: the first night of the WKC, during which we had slugged Maker’s Mark in a slightly better section, closer to a proper bar. Night two, we had been exiled to the nosebleed section, away from the ball-gown-wearing pure-breed owners in the double-digit chairs who drank white wine and soft-clapped for their chattel; up here, where the plebeians sat, there was only beer for the masses, like we were peasants at the theater in Elizabethan England.

“Do you get a lot of big drinkers at this event?” D asked the server.

She scrunched up her face and thought a minute. “Last week we had the Clintons speaking here,” she said. “Nobody had any beer then.”

This year, we had decided that to finalize the rules, we should probably attend the show itself. You know, drink in the milieu, and drink in the drinks, and hope that the environment inspired us to be the best drinking game artistes we could possibly be. We were missing out on the witty banter of USA Network’s panelists, truthfully, but other than that, it was going splendidly. The spirits––of the “sporting gentlemen” who founded the Westminster Kennel Club in 1877, and of T. William Samuels Senior––were filling us, which meant that our goals were both being met and also being quickly forgotten. No matter––it’s all part of the process. The first night, we had confirmed two rules, but then found one of them so thought provoking that, as we drank more, we just couldn’t get ourselves off the topic. Here’s the prompt: would you fuck the handler? If so you, took a drink. (Later on, we developed a twist: if you actually had fucked the handler, you had to finish whatever it was you were drinking, no matter how much was left in the mug/glass/chalice.) On the surface, a pretty basic question, but one that begs all sorts of other ones: what if, for example, you thought the handler pretty tasty, but you thought maybe, possibly, they weren’t into your genitalia? Two drinks later, we found ourselves mulling over D’s penchant for falling in love with women who turn out to be lesbians, all while watching a fluffy Chow Chow, fit for a royal court in ancient China, stride in front of a pensive, tuxedo-clad judge.

So now here we were: one last night, during which we had to overcome the shakes to harness all our drinking game writing powers. Five rules in place, including the “would you fuck the handler,” and pages of scattered notes from which to work. Two large Buds––working people can’t be choosy––at our feet. In the section to our right, a group of ten or so who appear to be our age peers, practically tumbling over the bleachers to talk to one another, even though they were yelling already. In the rows in front of us, a handful of middle-aged women dressed to accentuate their muffin tops, each clutching an official Westminster Kennel Club Program (the hardcover kind, the kind they had to purchase), pencil at the ready. And way down beneath us, the glorious, Astroturf-carpeted arena, no less grand, surely, than the Coliseum during Rome’s heyday, in which shortly, one dog would be crowned top dog.

“Hey, that’s good!” D says. “Maybe one rule should be if the announcers call the winner ‘top dog’?”

“Funny, but you know what’s funnier? Irony.”
“Right. What about if they say the word ‘underdog’?”

“Jackpot.”

The crowd of youngsters next to us was getting rowdier, each member whooping in excitement as his or her favorite breed took to the tiny podium. The terrier group, the last group before the climax, began. The pressure was on; I could feel my heart rate rising, and I kind of liked it.

Out strutted the little rat-hunters, their tiny wiry beards highlighted on the Jumbo-Tron. Interspersed were a few dogs that looked suspiciously like toys: a little too groomed, a little too dainty.   We snarled at these terrier-imposters.

“Patty Hearst owns that one,” D slurred, pointing out the Skye Terrier, with its butterfly-shaped head and long, silky hair, probably brushed a hundred times as the Skye stared at itself lovingly in the mirror like a Disney princess.[i] There was another reason to hate it aside from its obvious toy-ness: D and I had gone to middle school with the daughter of Patty Hearst, now a socialite-cum-model. They were both heinous bitches. Like, we assumed, the dog.

“Ew!”
“That dog does not belong here,” he seethed. “Also, you can’t see its eyes.” This was one solidified rule, so we took a big gulp of our Big Gulps.

As the judging began, I surveyed the notes. Five rules did not a game make, particularly over upwards of four hours of broadcasting. I began highlighting frontrunners and slashing through stupid ideas. D kept drinking and watching the stage. Frei’s sweet voice narrated it all. “Often described as having the look of the lamb and the heart of a lion… ”
“It DOES look like a lamb! Hey, do you think there’s subtext when the announcer says a dog can be a good family companion ‘with proper training or socialization’?”

“That definitely means the breed is full of assholes.”

Rule: formed.

I made a beeline for the bathroom before the inevitable commercial break, when they’d play the dog shampoo commercial and an ad for Purina Puppy Chow yet again, wobbling as I walked up the stairs to reach the hallway. The rows of toilets were empty, people obviously too rapt to leave their chairs. I briefly considered puking, but then thought if I just ate more generic popcorn, I might survive. When I returned to the chair, the hair care Adonis that is Chaz Dean was posing on the Jumbro-tron bookended by a quadruple of Labrador retrievers with shiny, beautiful coats.[ii] D had gotten us new beers. My stomach lurched, and the Manchester Terrier took to the stage. Around and around they went, like a dystopian zoological Small World ride, the russets and grays and the long snouts and the smooth coats and broken coats and the various Shires of England where they originated blending together until I could no longer tell a Norfolk Terrier from a Russell. “The Miniature Schnauzer is at home both in the city and in the country!” Despite being pretty sure I was at a point where I could possibly pass out on a gutter on West 33rd Street, I kept taking seal-like swallows of my beer. I barely remember the judges picking out the finalists, but I do remember what happened when he pointed to the sleek-haired Skye to indicate he was top dog. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw D cup his hands around his mouth, and bellow out––did I mention that D’s a professional voiceover artist? Yep, the powerful lungs behind the Army and Nascar––“THAT’S NOT A REAL TERRIER!”

To me, it felt like his roar flooded the entire arena; that’s probably a drunken exaggeration, but it would be accurate to say all of section 232 heard and reacted. The tribe of rowdy contemporaries nearby stopped whooping and looked at us. The middle-aged women in mom jeans stopped taking notes in their official handbooks and turned around to stare, utterly aghast. Unsure as to whether I should be embarrassed or greatly amused, I opted for the latter and burst out laughing. D took another sip.

“Well, it’s not,” he said, this time at a normal volume.

Thankfully the Skye wasn’t crowned top dog that evening, otherwise there would have been real hell to pay. Instead, an adorable little beagle named Miss P (we decided it wasn’t a truly human name) enjoyed a steak at Sardi’s and visited the top of the Empire State Building the next day, during her media tour. As for us, we got a big bar tab, one of the tallest plumes to stick in our drinking game caps, a selfie with Chaz Dean, and two walloping hangovers. And we’ve never looked back.

 

 

Full rules can be found here. This year, in addition to new breeds, WKC will also feature cats (though during one of the ancillary events). Oh, and also: there’s Trump hook for this essay, don’t you worry.

[i] It came to my attention afterward that in fact Patty Hearst owned the Shih Tzu, not the Skye Terrier. Immaterial for the sake of telling this story, but I felt it should be acknowledged. The Shih Tzu also made it to the final round of judging, but it would have been even worse if that breed––known to wear little bows––triumphed.

[ii] In the time since this event, Chaz Dean’s brand Wen has been sued by 200 women who claim products from the line have caused “severe hair loss.” I sincerely hope the canine line hasn’t had similar problems, otherwise there will be lots of angry show dog breeder/owner/handlers out there.

Hair of the Dog, Part I

February 10, 2017

This essay is based on a true story, although I cannot guarantee that the details are accurate or in chronological order. I was very drunk while it was happening, and while writing it, and I’m also wasted right now. WKDC rules and an update on this year’s show will be found at the end of the piece.

In mid-February of 2013, I was a week late handing in an article about online dating––me, who had never even had a Facebook profile––and so naturally when my old friend from high school texted me to ask what I was up to that evening, I responded with, “Probably nothing.”

“Wanna come over for Westminster Dog Show drinking game?”

“When should I be there?”

As I walked down a blustery Union Avenue towards D’s apartment, I thought with no small degree of pride of the wonderful achievements in drinking games he and I had managed over the years. From Lifetime movies to the Academy Awards, while people watching at airports, attending garish weddings, or imbibing at hipster bars, we’d managed to find a way to compete our way to brown out through nearly every situation a twenty-something might encounter. Some of our more notable experiences included an ill-fated attempt to drink every time a contestant on The Bachelor cried (we were incapacitated eleven minutes into the show) and an ambitious scheme to create a set of rules that could be applied to any television show. ever. made. And of course, our piece de resistance: Intervention drinking game. After watching probably twenty episodes of A&E’s classic addiction horror show, we decided that the structure was so cathartically formulaic, the horrors so neatly and relentlessly recurring, that it begged for ritualized, boozy accompaniment. We purchased a domain name––it’s practically a miracle interventiondrinkinggame.com was still available––and crafted a list of the rules: one drink for an obligatory family gathering, for every overdose, for a parent who looks weepily into the camera and says that the addict was once “such a happy baby” (life lesson: pray for mediocre children––the adorable prodigies always get kidnapped or hooked on heroin.) We bumped up the ante to two shots for when an addict is allowed to get a fix before heading off to New Beginning Sunrises Center or wherever they’re going to dry out. Finally, to make things a little more interesting, we added a stipulation in which each individual “contestant” could make all the other players drink one time for anything he or she deemed absurd enough to be worthy. We dubbed this rule “Calvinball,” after the anarchic game played by Calvin and Hobbes. Addicts do some pretty bonkers stuff, so there was ample opportunity to take advantage of this rule. Constructing drinking games, after all, is a true art form, one that requires a sense of delicate balance: on the one hand, you must choose things to drink to that occur frequently enough that you can actually get drunk, but not things that happen so often that it isn’t a challenge trying to spot them.

When I arrived at D’s apartment, he was drinking cheap whisky from a fancy crystal tumbler; he poured me three-fingers’ worth as the broadcast came back from a commercial for WEN by Chaz Dean dog shampoo. We were midway through the Toy Group, the mostly-loathed category that encompasses canines that usually look like rodents or footstools (see: the Pekingese). With a few exceptions, these are the types of dogs you consider kicking on the street, or the ones that shiver constantly without teeny sweaters. D started outlining what he had accomplished the previous year with his roommate Kevin, whose boyfriend was also named Kevin.

“We thought, like, if the owner’s body is floppier than the dog’s… ”

I almost snorted my drink through my nose.

“… and one drink for anyone who’s actually well dressed.”
“How often does that actually happen?”

“Like twice in two nights. When the judge is overly interested in the dog’s anus.”

“That’s gotta be a technical thing.”

We both took a slug of our whiskies.

“Every time someone’s wearing orthotics?” I suggested.

“That’s way too intense.”

I’ll admit that during the brainstorming session, we weren’t exactly drinking according to our proposed rules. But that’s the nature of the drinking game, one played by serious imbibers, in any case: yes, you drink when a designated thing happens––like when the dog and the owner resemble one another, we decided––but really, you’re drinking for keeps, so you sip even when nothing of note is happening. Thus, by the time the surprisingly adorable Banana Joe, an Affenpinscher (also known as a “monkey terrier”) won the Toy group, which couldn’t have been more than fifteen minutes after I arrived, my whisky was already depleted and I had moved on to a tall Narragansett. My sense of the “delicate” art of rule finding began to waver––were “smushed faces,” like the one little Banana Joe had, or powder puff tails too common, I wondered aloud? By the time the Non-Sporting Group–-a kind of catch-all category that includes everything from wee Boston Terriers to cinematically-beloved Dalmatians––was halfway through, I was halfway through my third Narragansett, and I had written a number of barely intelligible reminders for us on a piece of paper splattered with rapidly drying drops of beer:

How many sequins is too many sequins?

when the dog has more Facebook friends than you

Fifi the Doberman

CANKLES????

As the first night of competition wrapped up, we had twenty potential rules, with four that seemed so good they would almost certainly make the final cut (file “handler tattoos” here.) The panel of commentators, as unintentionally hilarious as Christopher Guest’s trio in Best in Show were intentionally so, began to talk about the usual post-game ritual for the show’s overall winner. “Best in Show always goes out for a nice steak after the big win,” one said.

“Oh. My. God. How cool it would be to go eat steak with that dog? Like, does someone cut it up with a fork and knife?”

“You should totally go.”

Through one blurry eye, I rapidly typed an email to one David Frei, who was listed as the press contact on the website (I later realized this guy was also the announcer, whose voice had become, according to the New York Times, “as familiar as a woof.”) “Thanks so much, and I hope you’re enjoying this likely stressful but exciting few days!!!” (I always got a little loose with the punctuation when drunk.) D and I both agreed I should just show up at the Garden the following evening and talk my way into the press room, but I was far too hung over to make it to midtown when the time came.

Contract for Potential Correspondent

November 6, 2016

I, ____, heretofore referred to as CORRESPONDENT, have agreed to enter into a written correspondent with Itinerant Daughter, heretofore known as ID.  Upon signing this contract, CORRESPONDENT agrees to the following stipulations:

  1. CORRESPONDENT will feel emotionally invested in the quality of the prose
  2. CORRESPONDENT will feel at least a twinge of guilt when not responding to a note (email or letter) in a timely manner
  3. Despite point number two, CORRESPONDENT will not be under any obligation to respond to any piece of communication in a timely manner, provided that:

3A. CORRESPONDENT agrees not to communicate displeasure with ID via silence or     refusal to engage to written correspondence.  CORRESPONDENT can only opt out of relationship and written engagement via a clear message (medium is the choice of CORRESPONDENT) indicating such.

In turn, ID agrees:

  1. To never assume that CORRESPONDENT’s delay in response is indicative of anything other than CORRESPONDENT’s very busy life.
  2. To never guilt CORRESPONDENT into sending response
  3. To also only communicate termination of correspondence via clear written message (although knowing ID, this will not happen, as she has never met an epistolary relationship she couldn’t carry on.)

Signed and dated:

_______________                   _________________

CORRESPONDENT                        ID

Comment Gems

November 1, 2016

A little while ago, I actually started to read The Comments.  Never for anything I write, ever, and admittedly sometimes I do it even if I know it will be an exercise in nurturing and then suppressing irritation, but a few times, the practice has yielded pretty awesome results.  Once, I found a nun who lives in a cemetery, once, a secret Shaker community, and now, an international conspiracy mastermind!

This genius commented on a New York Times article, which is about a mixologist who basically made up a provenance for a cocktail.  He claims to have… oh well, you’ll see:

Bill In The Desert La Quinta 16 hours ago

Dummy. You never reveal such a thing.

I created a myth and have seen it spread around the world. Sorry, but I will not reveal enough to identify it. However, it involved naming something. And, I tied it into the Latin version of an ancient myth. In the years since 1979, I have succeeded in getting it in print in academic publications as well as special interest magazines, newspapers and club newsletters. It is now buried in the archives of the Vatican library. Only six people are in on the whole hoax and I will never reveal the truth. I love it when it comes up in conversation and especially when a stranger has used the name and even cites the sources I planted.

Please tell me this is somehow related to the Jesus’s wife papyrus!

Cheeky!

October 29, 2016

One of the funniest things I saw in one of the many museums we visited in our time away: this cheeky butt-grabbing angel in Lucas van Leyden’s triptych “The Last Judgment.”

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Lower left hand corner (your left)

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Close-up!