Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Laughter in the dark

In the coming days, many stories will be told.  Here is one.

In the 1970s a friend was working as a taxi driver in New York City.  One evening he picked up Robin Williams at Lincoln Center and drove him to a midtown hotel.  All the way down Broadway Williams kept up a monologue, riffing on the traffic, the pedestrians, the shop signs, the music on the radio.  The driver nearly had several accidents because he was laughing so hard.  When they arrived, Williams handed him a fifty-dollar bill.

"Mr. Williams, I can't take your money," the driver said.  "You just did a show for me."

But his passenger insisted.  "I know how hard you guys work," he said.

Then he was gone. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Read this first

To all Time-Warner subscribers:  Welcome to Comcast, The World's Shittiest Cable Company, and may the FCC have mercy on your souls.  Your bill will probably increase, but on the other hand, you can save money as your daily newspaper ceases to publish and your local movie theatre becomes a Gap.  You should choose a time to re-boot your cable box each day in order to read the program guide, unless you enjoy the thrill of clicking on TO BE ANNOUNCED (most likely an episode of "Law and Order" with guest star Denis O'Hare).  Also, if you cannot get online, re-boot your router.  DO NOT call Sanjay, a/k/a Larry, at Customer Service,  who will only tell you the same thing I have.  When your picture freezes or pixilates or a whole channel disappears without warning, count to a hundred and tell yourself, "It's only television.  I can probably find this on YouTube some day."  Do not be disoriented if picture and sound seem to be out of sync.  The Warner Brothers solved this problem in movies in 1927, and one day Comcast will, too. 

Remember the Comcast motto...We didn't get rich enough to buy a network (and Time-Warner!) by wasting money on training, service and equipment.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Over the river to sell the goods...

I did a search at Amazon, I dipped my toe in the brackish sludge of right wing media, and I found no one, no one, protesting corporate America's War On Thanksgiving.  It's not as venerable as Christmas, but it is wholly American and, in fact, marking its sesquicentennial.  Unlike Christmas, which was pasted over the old Roman Saturnalia, Thanksgiving is specifically religious in origin:  On October 3, 1863, in a Proclamation written by William Seward and signed by Abraham Lincoln, Americans were enjoined to give thanks for "the gracious gifts of the Most High God."

But to hell with that.  Retailers apparently need one more day to unload the merchandise they import from Asian sweatshops, so Thanksgiving has been cancelled for thousands of salesclerks, cashiers, stock people, security guards, custodians and others.  Just another workday.  But maybe it's not all bad.  For instance, many Walmart employees -- sorry, associates -- have lost their food stamps because of the zombies who have eaten the brain of Lincoln's old party, so it wasn't going to be much of a Thanksgiving for them anyway.  Perhaps they would rather work than eat crackers and peanut butter in front of the television, or line up at the neighborhood soup kitchen.  Turkey and fixings on a Styrofoam plate send the unmistakable message that you, too, are disposable.

I count on the Supreme Court to turn the absurd into the completely surreal, and I am seldom disappointed.  Yesterday they agreed to decide whether corporations have a right to religious freedom, i.e., not paying for insurance policies that cover contraception and abortion.  As for individuals who want to observe a religious holiday, well, what do you think? Back to work, you minimum-wage moochers.  If you don't like it, go start a hedge fund.

Monday, November 25, 2013


I admit it.  I put on MSNBC in the afternoon if there's nothing better, like a medley of Charles Butterworth films on TCM.  Chris Matthews is a giant pain in the ass and Al Sharpton needs to develop an inside voice, but I'm often directed to something diverting or informative.  Sadly, the last, shaky bastion of liberalism only makes headlines when it screws up.  I mean, really.  Martin Bashir, of all people.  We've all thought about taking a dump on Sarah Palin's head, but you're not supposed to say so out loud, even on low-rated cable.  That being the case, I can't believe the Real Housewife of Wasilla was so distressed that she had to cancel an appearance on The Today Show to hawk her latest McBook.  This is a woman who likes to shoot animals from a helicopter so she can admire the red blood on the white snow.  She's not joining Lindsey Graham on the fainting couch any time soon, and I'll bet he's relieved.

Oh, sorry, was that Hate Speech?  It's hard to tell these days.  Alec "Oops, I did it again" Baldwin was abruptly yanked off MSNBC when he called some reporter a "queen" last week.  Like Bashir, he apologized.  Unlike Bashir, he was only responsible for one hour a week and it was hardly a must-see.  Like most actors, Baldwin is too self-involved to be a good interviewer.  I enjoyed his talk with the too-little-seen Debra Winger, but the hour he spent with Bill DeBlasio felt like three.  When it finally ended I was convinced that the new mayor of New York is Bloomberg without the charisma.

If Baldwin is gone for good, no doubt the Rightzis will crow that it's all right to insult Palin but not teh gays.  I don't believe he's a bigot, just someone with imperfect impulse control.  And who of us is without sin when it comes to life's daily irritants?  A female driver cuts you off in traffic, a black person grabs the last cart in the supermarket, and all the years of good will and conscientious striving fall away, and out from the reptilian part of your brain comes that unforgivable word, or several.  It's shameful enough when you're alone in the car.  Celebrities are never alone.  Baldwin will be doing benefits for GLAAD until he retires, because Oscar Hammerstein was right -- we're carefully taught all that garbage in early life and we never throw it all away.  (I actually hate that song, it's so damn preachy, and Richard Rodgers didn't knock himself out coming up with an attractive melody.  But damn it, he was right.)

But what of MSNBC?  Are there so few articulate lefties that they need to repeat everything twice and fill up the weekend with those unspeakable prison documentaries?  Why Joe Scarborough when the Stephanie Miller radio show is looking for a TV outlet?  Can we limit guest commentators to one appearance per day, to cut down on the queasy feeling of deja vu?  (Did I see her an hour ago?  Does she have her own show?  Is her name really Crystal Ball?  Should I get out of the house for a while?)  Does every freaking member of Congress have to be interviewed in the same spot in the Capitol?  Just for the comedy, could they pick up the cable show Rob and Doug Ford are doing?  I can't get enough of those loveable hosers. 




Friday, November 08, 2013

Oy, Canada

Rob Ford and Ted Cruz have certainly changed the way Americans think about Canada.  Never again will we be able to see it as the innocuous, friendly place that gave the world curling, Paul Anka and the Mounties' Musical Ride.  We probably should have seen this coming when Justin Bieber began to exhibit signs of Michael Jacksonianism.  There is some dark shit in America's Attic.

The best news for bruised and weary Americans is, we don't own this.  (Ford, I mean -- I'll get to Cruz later.)  It's not as if we elected Rush Limbaugh mayor of New York -- just the opposite.  It was Canadians who handed their largest city to an obese, right-wing, racist, homophobic drug abuser.  And not a clever one.  On a scale of one to ten, with one being "I got hooked in the service" and ten being "Bitch set me up," "I was in one of my drunken stupors" is the worst excuse ever for smoking crack.  He might have pointed out that no public money was spent on the rock, or that it's a fairly victimless crime compared with, say, Bob Filner's attempt to stop-and-frisk every woman in San Diego, but no.  Ford hasn't even organized a photo-op with a clergyman, or asked Torontonians to pray for him.  Canadian politicians are weird.

They have to come south to be vicious.  For a senator who has zero legislative accomplishments and a deep hatred of the United States government, Ted Cruz has succeeded in lodging himself in our  consciousness like asbestos in the lungs of a building renovator.  His irritating nasal voice and odd appearance, like something you'd get if Bill Murray screwed a panda, have been catnip for the media, eager to personalize the Tea Party's latest assault on Americans who had the gall to re-elect Barack Obama.  For what it's worth, even the Houston Chronicle reversed its endorsement of him.
He has been so toxic for the Republicans that a conspiracy theory made the rounds that he was a Democratic mole.  Comparisons with Joseph McCarthy are unfair to McCarthy.  Even Rand Paul can't stand him.  He is my favorite mole since Mole.  You know, The Wind In the Willows, a book he may want to read in his next filibuster.  Every dollar he collects from the Republican base is a dollar they won't have to spend on bullets, beer and crystal meth.  Go, Teddy, go!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lou Reed

There's the Born Again Losers and the Lavender Boozers
And some crack team from Washington Heights,
The boys from Avenue B and the girls from Avenue D
A Tinkerbell in tights
This celebration somehow gets me down
Especially when I see you're not around

"Halloween Parade (AIDS)"

Saturday, August 17, 2013

All-in Late Summer Wrapup

1. Shocking

Rodeo is supposed to be about abusing and torturing animals.  When did it become entertainment for ignorant yahoos?

2.  Sleazy

Maybe I'm being simplistic, but why did no one take the phone away from Anthony Weiner?  There are plenty of people who can pass him messages and order pizza for him.  Giving this man a phone is like giving a loaded gun to a four-year-old (which happens about once a week in this country, but that's another conversation).  Thanks to my garbage-can mind, I keep flashing back to the Beyond the Fringe sketch where Alan Bennett portrayed a starchy Brit trying to send a saucy telegram to his girlfriend, which required an excruciating conversation with the post office:  "Bless your little bottie-boos...bottie-boos...well, I've never been called upon to spell it before..."  Thanks to technology, it's so much easier to make an idiot of yourself now.

Politicians and their libidos have a long, absurd history.  I guess believing you should lead others is mashed up with believing you are infinitely shaggable, even if you look like Bob Filner (if Jerry Orbach had played the Joker...).  By coincidence, I just read a book about the Teapot Dome scandal.  Connection ?  Warren Harding used the US mails as recklessly as Weiner uses the Internet.  After he was nominated to run for president in 1920, the Republican National Committee spent thousands of dollars buying up his love letters and paying off his former lovers, and in some cases their husbands (one Ohio couple was sent on a world cruise to get them out of the country).  Private detectives were hired to watch over his current gal, Nan Britton, who moved to Washington with their daughter and visited him in the White House; she had to be kept away from the press and the Duchess (the formidable Florence Harding).  By the time the election was over, the RNC was over a million dollars in debt, serious money in 1920.  They began to solicit contributions and "loans" from rich businessmen, mostly oilmen who had their eyes on oil reserves in the West set aside for the Navy.  One of Harding's first acts was to transfer control of these
"domes" to the Department of the Interior, where the spectacularly corrupt Secretary Albert Fall leased them out for private exploitation.  Many a president has had a riveting love life, but as far as I can tell, only Harding's led to the swindling of the nation.

3.  Trayvon Martin/Emmett Till

What is left to say about this terrible story?  Two murders decades apart, two young boys who didn't understand the circumstances of their lives.  Emmett Till was born and raised in Chicago; no doubt he experienced racism, but he couldn't know that when he stepped off the train in Mississippi, he had no rights which a white man was obligated to recognize, as some Chief Justice (John Roberts?  Roger Taney?) phrased it.  Sixty years later, with a black family occupying the White House, Trayvon Martin apparently thought he had the right to walk on a public street at any time of day, dressed as he pleased.  Maybe some day.

4.  Workers of the world

Alex Rodriguez gets to play baseball while his union, the Players Association, appeals his lengthy suspension.  He gets to collect his Sultan of Brunei-scale salary so he can continue to make generous contributions to anti-union causes.  Meanwhile, thousands of fast-food workers walked off the job this summer to demand a raise in their poverty-level wages.  They don't aspire to buy a ticket to Yankee Stadium, they just want to be able to pay rent and buy groceries.  The lickspittles of capitalism have responded to this demand with the kind of affronted outrage usually found in novels by Dickens.  ("They want turtle soup...with a gold spoon!" exclaimed Josiah Bounderby on Fox News.)  They even have a elaborate theory to explain why people who work fourteen hours a day don't deserve a living wage:  the system is designed to make them get out, wash the grease from their hair and seek better-paid jobs, say, whoring for Rupert Murdoch.  And quit applying for food stamps, you lazy, fat moochers.

5.  Doghouse Riley

This legendary blogger died on July 31, and all of Blogenheim should have dimmed its lights.  His official name was Douglas Case, and he was a dedicated daily writer who left nearly all of us in the shade and wore himself out at age 59.  Go back and read his rolling Augustan sentences and remember a mind that was never too outraged to bring the wit.  Condolences to the woman he always identified as his Poor Wife.