Friday, October 29, 2004

Al CaCa

Acid reflux, schmacid reflux.
Teapot tempest collectors, take heart! Here’s a new one to put in a box in the attic and then forget about it. That would be Ashlee Simpson’s meltdown on Saturday Night Live last week. The winsome teen sensation was caught, live, lip-syncing! Her humiliation was only equalled by America’s shame in witnessing the debacle.

Her father takes the blame, however, saying that she always sings live, but on this occasion her vocal cords had been swollen by acid reflux disease, and he FORCED her to lip sync, for her own good and the good of the nation.

Now, until the dotcom boom I’d never even heard of acid reflux disease. Then came the ubiquitous ads for the Purple Pill in the nineties. It was one of many medications which began popping up on television ads, ads throwing bone-chilling lists of side effects at us (“Some rectal leakage may occur”), while being pretty coy about what the medication itself was for: “Ask your doctor if the Purple Pill is right for you.”

It turns out that the Purple Pill (Nexium) in fact a treatment for acid reflux disease, and like other drugs that treat this disease is now considered to open their takers to a greater risk of pneumonia, because it kills bacteria in stomach acid.

Well, I say acid reflux disease is heartburn, and I say the hell with it. Take heart, Ashlee! A little bicarbonate of soda and you’ll be belting your hits again in no time.

How about “Oops I Did It Again?”
The guy who co-wrote “You’re Still the One” has issued a cease-and-desist order against the Bush campaign for its continued use. The song has also been used in ad campaigns by Appleby's, Burger King and ABC.

Who said THAT?
"I am willing to stake my scientific reputation to the statement that Bush was wearing something under his jacket during the debate. This is not about a bad suit. And there's no way the bulge can be described as a wrinkled shirt."

Having examined the video myself, or rather 16 frames imaged digitally, converted to a 16-bit TIF, and averaged to increase the signal-to-noise, I am forced to conclude that the bulge is President Bush’s jacket is an alien, specifically the “face-hugger” type alien, which apparently missed the President’s face (he must have turned suddenly or something), and landed between his shoulder blades instead. There is no other explanation.

I am contributing five drawings for the viewer’s enjoyment should he or she choose to listen to the audio nuggets included in the DVD. I have drawn four, but the last is causing me some trouble, because I need to draw a steering wheel, which seems to be beyond my area of competence. I take heart from the fact that Van Gogh had the same problem, only with roses. They always came out looking like sunflowers.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Street Moment
Walking past the Civic Center yesterday afternoon, I passed by a young black couple. He was sitting on the sidewalk, legs spread out, his head resting on her breast. His eyes were closed and he was singing along to music on his head phones, some kind of “ooh girl you so fine” ballad apparently, because he was singing “oooh” in falsetto. As he was singing, his girlfriend was combing his hair and gazing into space.

My wife got tickets (through her job) to the Tom Stoppard play, THE REAL THING, at the lovely ACT here in San Francisco. I wasn’t that keen to go (I’d just seen the play two years ago, and didn’t like it that much), but what the hell, it was free.

There was an old couple in front of us, with a young woman on their left, on the aisle. About halfway through the act, the old woman (seated on the old man’s right) got up, and said, across her companion to the young woman, in a normal conversational tone, “His leg hurts. Can we switch places with you?”

The young woman whispered agreement, and a very long process of place-switching commenced, phase one ending with the young woman taking the seat formerly occupied by the old woman, the old man occupying the seat on the aisle just vacated by the young woman, and the old woman sitting on the aisle steps, where she proceeded to crinkle her program (I think) loudly for two minutes or so. Then she slowly got to her feet and asked the old man, again in a normal conversational tone, if she could get by him.

“What?” he asked.

“Can I get by you!”

By now, everybody in our section of the balcony was paying more attention to her than to the play.

A muted chorus of hushes went up, as she slowly made her way past him to her seat. She did not sit down immediately, however. Instead, she very slowly began to remove her coat. (Why she did not do this when she was in the aisle crinkling paper I don’t know.) But her purse had become entangled with her sleeve. The old man helped to disentangle her. She finally sat down, turned to the old man, and said, “How’s your leg?


“How’s your leg!”


An usher emerged from a side door, and sidled over to them.

“Please speak in a whisper,” she whispered.

“I can’t hear you,” the old woman said.

“Whisper,” she whispered.

“I can’t hear you!”


Street Moment Bookend.
We left after the first act, and strolled to the underground. There was a young couple at the entrance, a young black man sitting on a slab, and a young whitish woman with a back pack standing in front of him, haranguing him. There was an edge of hysteria in her voice, as though she were on the verge of tears.

“I’m not going to take you all the way to the Civic Center,” she was saying, “and then all the way back to the Jack in the Box. I’ll miss the BART! It’s not fair, Sean!”

Scientists have discovered a new humanoid species in Indonesia, a dwarf species. The locals on the island apparently have legends about these creatures, calling them “Ebu Gogo,” which means “zombie hobbit.”

Who Said What?
Who is suspected of having said this on a recent videotape?
"The streets will run with blood," and "America will mourn in silence."

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

What about the be-bop states?

Ring out the old….
BILL BOARD now publishes best-selling ring tones, debuting in the Nov. 6 issue, alongside best-selling album. This reflects the "growth, innovation and success of the rapidly growing mobile music market," Billboard said. It’s called the "Hot Ringtones" chart, and surely the final days are at hand.

E-mail of the day.
This was the subject header: Tooons will be tooons.

This was the e-mail itself:

St those krom physical causes both in you and in me those of one beloved We will be home on saturday if scoutmaster webb gets the car fixed. Too.

One perswn. I We think it's a neat car.

St those from physical causes both in you and in me from you our love is based upon virtue and will last as long as our lives.Scoutmasttr webb got mad at chad for going on a hike alone without telling anyone. It frem my very soul. Asking me a network administrator to explain every little nuance oe everything The world.

One of the search and rescue jeeps. Scoutmaster webb got mad at chad for going on a hike alone without telling anyone. After all have done so very much had not providence as if intent to try us throws upon the heaviest external pressure.No yamily be my chief good and portion and bitter as the lesson has been He can't write because of the cast.

All your strength and presenle of mind to your aid do not let your mother notice anything try to have your pictures and be assured that the menace of the greatest tortures will not prevent me to serve you. It was during the fire so he probably didn't hear him.

I dont want to be on this list.

Adieu there is nothing that In such disastrous terms as you write you must live and be cautious beware of madame your mother as of your worst enemy. I The street--your long white veil and tight little bodice--the reception at aunt harriet's--uncle ed--your mother with one of her extraordinary hats that stood straight up.

I dont want to be on this list.
Ashlee Simpson’s father blames her lapse into lip-synching (on Saturday Night Live) on acid reflux. Formerly, I believe, this was called “heartburn,” but now suddenly it’s not only life-threatening, it requires pre-recording.
In related news, Dutch researchers now believe that heartburn and ulcer drugs like Nexium, Pepcid and Prilosec make people more susceptible to pneumonia, because they reduce germ-killing stomach acid. And once again, unintended consequences strike, giving us upset stomaches, and no recourse to a cure. Fod god's sake, somebody do something!

We have a winner!
Will J. of San Jose correctly identified yesterday’s quote, and wins a BRAND NEW CAR! Well no, he doesn’t win anything. But thanks for playing the game.

Name That Quote!
Who called what this: burdensome, unnecessary and unconstitutional?"

More? "Rather than promote and protect genuine disclosures of matters of real public concern, it would provide a legal shield for unsatisfactory employees."

The Air Force at work:

No Blog
There will be no blog tomorrow. (Sorry Will J.) I have a haircut in the morning, an audition at noon (for a feature film! My line? "Excuse me? Where's the UFO section."), a recording session at three (a PSA for a "we got out the vote now what?" rally I will be part of next week, with David Harris and others), then meet the wife for dinner and theatre (Tom Stoppard's THE REAL THING, which pops up every two years here in the Bay Area; you can set your clock by it), and I'm sure this little man will be exhausted by the busy day, and go directly to sleep thereafter. Notice that nothing in this busy day makes me any money.

Monday, October 25, 2004

One state two state red state blue state

He meant SHIRLEY Booth, Oswald the Rabbit, and …um….
LONDON (AP) - A British newspaper apologized Monday for a weekend article in which a writer appeared to call for the assassination of President Bush.

In a regular column in The Guardian newspaper's Saturday TV listings magazine, Charlie Brooker described Bush in scathing terms, and concluded: ``John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr., where are you now that we need you?''

Find that quote!
"All of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!"

Cat Woman Told Me

E-mail from Leon!
Taking time out from the election countdown to smell the roses, drink the coffee, and read my e-mail.

Leon has written to inform me (and others) that Julie (“Cat Woman”) Newmar came to see his play in Los Angeles, and was so taken with it that she asked to meet him afterwards. Smitten, Leon informed us that she was very tall and had large hands. Awestruck Mr. Martell reports: “Her face is like really tight!”

She told him that there were too many “F words” in his play, but blamed the actors for not adhering strictly to his (no doubt) pristine text. She further told him that the “F word” was not used until the 90’s. Which was news to Leon. “I could have sworn I’ve been watching you clowns F Word up a storm for at least thirty years. But it has to be true. Cat Woman told me!”

But enough about Leon. What about me?
KALW is the feisty underdog in the public radio market here in San Francisco. Run by the feisty Nicole Salawa, it takes chances that the staid powerhouse KQED never would, including the airing of PHILOSOPHY TALK, a new (and still developing) show, with Ken Taylor and John Perry, philosophy professors at Stanford University. Among other things, it tackles current affairs from a philosophical perspective. What do we mean when we say “terrorism,” for instance, or: what is democracy? It is refreshing to have a semblance of discourse on the airwaves, but then, I’m prejudiced. I am involved with the show, providing two- minute essays from time to time.

Public radio, as you know, asks for money from its listeners. As a reward for pledging to KALW, the station (and PHILOSOPHY TALK) offered listeners a chance to attend a salon with Ken, John, (me), and the staff of the program (including Amy Standen, who does a pre-produced piece on the topic of the day).

This salon occurred today, and it was a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon. A couple had offered their lavish flat, on a hill in Noe Valley, with a fabulous view overlooking the East Bay. The special guest was Geoff Numberg, linguist and frequent guest on FRESH AIR, contributor to the New York Times, etc. He is an acquaintance, and a man whose writing I admire enormously.

So I got to hobnob with rich folks whose hearts are in the right place, drink some righteous red wine, nibble little crabby things, accept praise from strangers, and listen to some intelligent conversation about language and politics. I could pretend for a moment that I belonged to the fabled elite the right wing are always railing against, and which in fact exists. Only they’re not really elite. They’re just people. Some of them were even offended (or at least wondered if they should be offended) by Kerry’s remarks about Mary Cheney. Beats me.

DVD News
Bill has harangued me into contributing some drawing for the audio portion of the DVD. (We are including a half dozen or so radio bits we have done over the years.) Since Bill cited me as the John Lennon of the group (though Dan has done much more of this sort of thing than I), I am overly flattered, and will illustrate each of the bits in a style that owes nothing to Thurber, and more to years of bored doodling in margins of notebooks. However, I will do my best to thrill and astound.

At one point I thought I might pursue art. In high school, I had this epic vision for a painting. I wanted to paint a bathtub, with the water going down the drain between a guy’s feet. It was symbolic, see? Life and that.

But since I had no idea how to do perspective, the finished product, when shown to my mother, prompted her to ask if it depicted two ants trying to escape from a rug.

I gave up my art career then and there, though I wish I still had the painting. In the retrospect of maturity, that's a a lot more interesting than what I was attempting in the first place. It has everything! Drama! Conflict! Insects! Carpets!

Saturday, October 23, 2004


I hate it when people don’t say what they mean.
This is worth reading in its entirety. There will always be an England.

Dumb show

Charlie Brooker
Saturday October 23, 2004
The Guardian

Heady times. The US election draws ever nearer, and while the rest of the world bangs its head against the floorboards screaming "Please God, not Bush!", the candidates clash head to head in a series of live televised debates. It's a bit like American Idol, but with terrifying global ramifications. You've got to laugh.

Or have you? Have you seen the debates? I urge you to do so. The exemplary BBC News website ( hosts unexpurgated streaming footage of all the recent debates, plus clips from previous encounters, through Reagan and Carter, all the way back to Nixon versus JFK.

Watching Bush v Kerry, two things immediately strike you. First, the opening explanation of the rules makes the whole thing feel like a Radio 4 parlour game. And second, George W Bush is... well, he's... Jesus, where do you start?

The internet's a-buzz with speculation that Bush has been wearing a wire, receiving help from some off-stage lackey. Screen grabs appearing to show a mysterious bulge in the centre of his back are being traded like Top Trumps. Prior to seeing the debate footage, I regarded this with healthy scepticism: the whole "wire" scandal was just wishful thinking on behalf of some amateur Michael Moores, I figured. And then I watched the footage.

Quite frankly, the man's either wired or mad. If it's the former, he should be flung out of office: tarred, feathered and kicked in the nuts. And if it's the latter, his behaviour goes beyond strange, and heads toward terrifying. He looks like he's listening to something we can't hear. He blinks, he mumbles, he lets a sentence trail off, starts a new one, then reverts back to whatever he was saying in the first place. Each time he recalls a statistic (either from memory or the voice in his head), he flashes us a dumb little smile, like a toddler proudly showing off its first bowel movement. Forgive me for employing the language of the playground, but the man's a tool.

So I sit there and I watch this and I start scratching my head, because I'm trying to work out why Bush is afforded any kind of credence or respect whatsoever in his native country. His performance is so transparently bizarre, so feeble and stumbling, it's a miracle he wasn't laughed off the stage. And then I start hunting around the internet, looking to see what the US media made of the whole "wire" debate. And they just let it die. They mentioned it in passing, called it a wacko conspiracy theory and moved on.

Yet whether it turns out to be true or not, right now it's certainly plausible - even if you discount the bulge photos and simply watch the president's ridiculous smirking face. Perhaps he isn't wired. Perhaps he's just gone gaga. If you don't ask the questions, you'll never know the truth.

The silence is all the more troubling since in the past the US news media has had no problem at all covering other wacko conspiracy theories, ones with far less evidence to support them. (For infuriating confirmation of this, watch the second part of the must-see documentary series The Power Of Nightmares (Wed, 9pm, BBC2) and witness the absurd hounding of Bill Clinton over the Whitewater and Vince Foster non-scandals.)

Throughout the debate, John Kerry, for his part, looks and sounds a bit like a haunted tree. But at least he's not a lying, sniggering, drink-driving, selfish, reckless, ignorant, dangerous, backward, drooling, twitching, blinking, mouse-faced little cheat. And besides, in a fight between a tree and a bush, I know who I'd favour.

On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod's law dictates he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?

Also not assassinated in a godfree universe….
Ann Coulter was pied (custard) at a recent talk at the University of Arizona by two men who claimed to be members of Al Pieda.

If you're going to vote for the haunted tree, you must show your i.d.
Republicans are going to be lying in wait for voters in Ohio, to check their “qualifications.”

James P. Trakas, Republican co-chairman in Cuyahoga County, told the New York Times, "The organized left's efforts to, quote unquote, register voters - I call them ringers - have created these problems."

If there are problems, why are they Republican problems? Doesn’t Ohio have “election officials” to look out for this sort of thing? Do Republicans even have any kind of authority to check “qualifications?” I don’t know about the folks in Ohio, but if a Republican (OR Democrat OR Green OR Libertarian…) tries to stop me from voting, I have my reply ready. It starts with “F” and ends with “You.”

Thank goodness the Duck’s Breath DVD does not require registration to purchase and enjoy! All you need is your good credit, and you are well on your way to hours of politics-free chuckles!

Friday, October 22, 2004


Train I Ride
So I was waiting for the N Judah today, when I heard this guy say, “Hey Merle, I’m getting on the train right now.”

I turned around and shouted, “ I can see that, you moron!” He was talking on a cell phone to some other Merle.
I did shout at him. Really.

Fantasy Bedtime Hour
So these friends of ours have this cable access show called Fantasy Bedtime Hour, in which they (two women) lie on their bed in pajamas and talk about a fantasy novel trilogy called LORD FOUL’S BANE (some of you may know it). A third woman (their roommate) tapes them. I found it one night by accident, when I had the teevee on while I was working late, woke my wife, and both became instant fans. Then, a few weeks later, my wife recognized one of the women on the train as they were both going to work, got to talking, and we wound up being freinds.

They get through about three pages per episode, bringing in “experts,” like me (yes, I’ve read it) to discuss the book. They also re-enact a sequence du jour with their friends. The show is very funny, and, um, unique.
Anyway, my wife noticed that Stephen R. Donaldson, the author of the trilogy (and the sequel, also a trilogy, which I have also read, want to make something of it?), was appearing at our local Borders this week for a signing of his new book. We had made plans to all go see him together, but my wife had to work late, and she and I wound up bagging the excursion.

Tonight Jen (the cameraman) called us to inform us that not only had Mr. Donaldson heard of their show, he was somewhat flattered by the attention. He offered to link to their website from his, and even said yes to an appearance on the show sometime. She gave him a DVD containing all 21 episodes of their show.

All of this is good news for comedy on the fringes of things. Unless, of course, after viewing the DVD, he decides to sue them.

Kerry That Weight.
So Presidential hopeful John Kerry shot a couple geese, apparently, in Ohio or someplace, gaining a couple votes from NRA stalwarts perhaps, but losing that precious Vegan vote forever, I fear.

What he really needs to do in Ohio or someplace is find Bin Laden. I know he’s there….. He's GOT to be.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Every Blog Has Its Day

The blogosphere is all a twitter following Jon Stewart’s appearance on Crossfire last Friday. I don’t watch those kind of shows, unless somebody pays me, but I did find the transcript online. As some have said, Mr. Stewart seems a bit strident, but he does tear the handsome insufferable Tucker Carlson a new one. Well worth the trade-off, I think.

I especially enjoyed Stewart’s frequent entreaties for Crossfire to stop hurting America with its buffonish “debate” dog and pony show. When asked by Tucker Carlson to quit lecturing, and be funny, Stewart responded, “I’m not going to be your monkey.” He also called Mr. Carlson a dick. All in all, quality television!

Bloggers’ responses have been largely in favor of Mr. Stewart, though (this being the Internet) many took the opportunity to slag Jon Stewart, and the Daily Show. “His ratings have dropped 7% since he endorsed John Kerry!” So there!

It made me wistful reading about it, not only for the golden days when I, and Duck’s Breath, were courted by the media, or at least had our calls returned, but for the squandered sarcasm-worthy moments engendered by the media. How many times did I bite my tongue, instead of blurting out what I yearned to say, “That’s the most fatuous question I’ve ever heard,,” or “I should be grateful that you took three minutes out of your busy day so you could interview me, even though you haven’t seen my work, obviously, and didn’t even take the time to read the press release, but I’m not.”

Of course, in the annals of the Ducks there are many names on the grudge list. Not just media folks, but a certain metal band, now defunct, a certain video producer (you know who you are!), a director (no, wait, that was just me), a manager at this temp job Bill and I had once, and many many more.

If I could gather them all in one room, boy, would I give them a piece of my mind. And then they’d beat me up.

Monday, October 18, 2004

What will NOT be on the DVD.

A writer’s assistant in Los Angeles, who had been fired from the writing staff of FRIENDS, has sued its producers and writers for sexual harassment, because (according to the New York Times), she was subjected to “crude language, naughty doodles, [and] sexual fantasies” of the writing staff.

The defense, and it makes sense to me, is basically, what did you expect? We’re comedy writers!

Comedy writers, when the juices are flowing, will say or try anything for a laugh. And when the juices aren’t flowing, well, keep Grandma out of the room, that's all. Her ears might explode.

The assistant deposed “conceded that none of the remarks were directed at her but said that the constant banter was both an offense and an imposition.” She deposed, "'I can recall sitting around waiting to go home while writers were sitting around pretending to masturbate,' and continually talking about their penises."

Well now, having been in a comedy group, an all-male comedy group, I can certainly testify on behalf of comedy writers everywhere that we are indeed a scurvy foul-mouthed lot, male and female, who love nothing better than to go to that place called “Don’t go there.”

I would like to tell you that the Ducks would get all tongue-tied and shy should womenfolk come into the room, like soldiers in a John Ford movie, limiting our banter to “knock-knock” jokes, but without exception, I would say that all the women who came into the room would either match us individually and collectively in the gross-out department, or they'd just roll their eyes and go back to reading Jane Austen and packing their bags, knowing full well that our emotional age had stopped around the age of 13, and understanding that. Giving us our space.

This leads me to wonder about the writer’s assistant herself. Perhaps she was a Mormon, or a Baptist. Such people do not belong in a show business environment outside of Branson, Missouri. Even there, I suspect, the air turns blue from time to time.

(If you are a Mormon, or a Baptist, by the way, please do not be offended. There are many career opportunities available to you that do not involve being trapped in windowless rooms with egocentric needy neurotics with foul mouths and self-esteem issues. Avail yourself of them.)

Duck’s Breath’s humor onstage, by the way, does not reflect our taste lapses among ourselves. We are, at most, at worst, PG-13.

However, I remember once, on tour, after hours of driving in the van, Jim Turner came up with a riff that was so ridiculous, foul, and offensive, that we had to pull over to the side of the road, get out and walk it off, laughing helplessly, and groaning, until the image he had planted in our brains was replaced by puppy dogs, kitty cats, and world peace visualizations.

I would like to share with you what Jim said, but frankly, it’s bad enough that we’re all going to hell for hearing him in the first place. We’re just trying to save your soul really. It’s too late for us.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Hey! Here's an idea!

Tonight, viewers (and non-viewers as well, I suppose) of LAW AND ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT will get to vote on whether arch-villain Nicole Wallace will live or die.

(Of course, even if she is put to death, it might not mean anything. Sherlock Holmes was killed off once, you may recall, only to live again. And Ernst Stavro Blofeld died in a bunch of James Bond movies, only to bounce back.)

With the success of reality television, scripted shows are feeling pressure. Soon non-actors may be asked to perform autopsies on CSI: WHATEVER, in competition for valuable prizes. Presidential candidates may be asked to forego debates, and instead wrestle naked in Jell-o. We will have LAW AND ORDER spin-offs in which viewers vote on what crime will be committed, and which LAW AND ORDER team will be dispatched to solve it.

Duck’s Breath too must fit into the new reality.

That is why we are toying with the idea of you, or someone like you, choosing which one of us to kick out of the group, perhaps even be killed; we haven’t quite worked out the liability angles on that yet. It’s too late for one of us to die on the DVD (it’s almost finished, and should be available to you mid-November by the way), but we are hoping to do a live performance or two after its release. One of us could be killed then, as an encore. The publicity value, if nothing else, would be priceless. And there would be fewer people to share the profits!

Friday, October 15, 2004

Pork Storm!

America’s Favorite Lesbian, Poor Kid.

I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly got the Cheneys so bent out of shape about Kerry’s reference to their daughter during the last debate. Lynne said that Kerry was "not a good man," and called the reference a "cheap and tawdry political trick.” Daddy Dick called himself “an angry father.”

What Kerry said was, responding to a question about whether homosexuality was a “choice,” or not: "I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody, it's not choice…”

Was it that Kerry was presuming to speak for her? Was it the “choice” part? The Cheneys prefer to think of homosexuality as a disease?

When John Edwards made a similar reference during his debate with Dick Cheney, Cheney thanked him.

Edwards said, “…let me say first that I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy.”

Cheney responded later: “Well, Gwen, let me simply thank the senator for the kind words he said about my family and our daughter. I appreciate that very much.”

No objection there. Was it because it was all about how loving he and Lynne are? He probably cherishes any mention that he might have human feelings. He’s not exactly Mr. Warmth.

Earlier this year, Republican Senate nominee Alan Keyes told an interviewer, "The essence of ... family life remains procreation. If we embrace homosexuality as a proper basis for marriage, we are saying that it's possible to have a marriage state that in principal excludes procreation and is based simply on the premise of selfish hedonism."

He was then asked if Mary Cheney was "a selfish hedonist."

"That goes by definition. Of course she is," he replied. And yet Dick Cheney did not punch him in the nose. Nor did Lynne or Mary Cheney. America asks, “Why?”

Well, no it doesn’t.

And that’s how you pay down the federal deficit, kids.

From the New York Times:
“The story began nearly three years ago, with an initial impetus simply to replace a $5 billion annual tax break for American exporters that the World Trade Organization had ruled was illegal. It ended this week with a 633-page behemoth that offers new tax giveaways to everyone from corporate titans like Boeing and Hewlett-Packard to an array of oil and gas producers, shopping mall developers, wine distributors, even restaurants. Many companies, like General Electric and Dell, are likely to end up with far more tax relief under the new bill than they had ever received from the old tax break. Some, like Exxon Mobil, never qualified for the old tax break at all but will enjoy tax savings now.”

“After nearly two years of feuding among rival interest groups, the House and Senate both passed bills this year that would essentially replace the old tax break with rate cuts on profits from domestic manufacturing.

But under heavy pressure from big multinational corporations, both chambers also included about $42 billion worth of tax reductions on the foreign earnings of companies based in the United States.”

And: “Among the items that made it into the final bill were a $9 million tax reduction on bows and arrows; $27 million in tax breaks on gambling income of foreigners at American horse-racing and dog-racing tracks; and $11 million in reduced excise taxes on fishing tackle boxes, a longtime pet project of J. Dennis Hastert, the House speaker, whose district includes a big producer of tackle boxes.”

The Most Important Thing.

Oh Life
I got this phone call the other day from a producer of WEEKEND AMERICA, a new public radio show, wondering if I’d be interested in condensing the 9/11 Commission Report into a 3 minute radio bit. “Sure,” I said.

Somebody on the staff there used to work at KCRW and had recommended me. This girl had no idea who I was, and requested that I not talk too fast, and not be sarcastic. “Sure,” I said.

It will air Saturday. If you get the show, give it a listen. See how I did.

My efforts were hampered by reading, at first, the WRONG 9/11 study. This is why I have not succeeded as a pundit, I guess. I was looking at the 500 plus page Senate sub-committee report (much more interesting by the way), rather than the official 9/11 Commission study, which is more Tom Clancy than substantive, not that that’s a bad thing.


“Tuesday, September 11, 2001, dawned temperate and nearly cloudless in the eastern United States.” I dunno, maybe it’s just me, but that kind of prose just does not belong in a government-sponsored document. Or anywhere, really.

Further complicating my efforts, my wife called mid-day to complain of a personal ailment, which shall remain nameless, but it seemed serious enough to warrant a trip to the hospital, even though the insurance from her job does not kick in until November.

Fortunately, she seemed to be covered already (this was at Kaiser, her previous provider from her previous job, an outfit for whom I have nothing but praise, so far), and equally fortunately, it appears that her condition is… okay. Knock on wood.

Still, immersed as I was in the details of global terrorism, and remembrances of 9/11, the situation was bizarre. I had first met my wife on-line, after she wrote to me as a fan. She was working in New York when 9/11 occurred, at NYU, and watched with her co-workers as the towers went down.

I remember those days well myself, and how the heady combination of anguish for others, pity for myself, horror, rage, and despair about the state of the world made it nearly impossible for me to, well, focus. I was having similar difficulty in the emergency room. Was this a crisis? How emotionally involved should I be, in the absence of actual information?

You can see, perhaps, what kind of asshole I am here. I make no apologies. It takes many assholes to make the world turn. I am a minor asshole, but I do my part. I did, however, hold my wife’s hand (briefly) as we waited for the doctor to return. Though later, of course, I went out for coffee. And brought back cab fare, and bottled water!

I was struck by the cheerfulness of the emergency room: the chipper orderlies moving the shocked arrivals down the corridors on their gurneys. Even in the face of everyday disasters (the day before there had been a patient DOA in the very room my wife and I inhabited), the nurses chatted, drank sodas, talked about their diet plans….

As we waited (we were there for four hours) for the doctor to return, a nurse and a doctor walked by. The doctor was saying to her, by way of advice, I reckon, “The most important thing is to sleep….. No, the most important thing is to eat, then sleep.”

The only important thing, to me, aside from the specific moments at which President Bush giggled inappropriately, and began a rant against the media which he broke off abruptly, was how he constantly referred to Kerry as a liberal, and how consistent Kerry was with his voting record. In the last debates wasn’t Kerry a flip-flopper? How can you be a consistent liberal, and flip flop at the same time? Is President Bush flip-flopping? Oh, never mind. It’s late. I’m tired.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Blog Rolling

News From All Over
Scientists from flavorings company Quest International and Wageningen University in the Netherlands have developed an artificial throat. Why? Because they can.

Also in the Netherlands, state-sponsored marijuana is not moving off the shelves as fast as the pot sold in the coffee houses, probably because the coffee house pot costs half as much. The government is reviewing its marijuana-selling program.

The peeved famous.
Michael Jackson is ticked at Eminem, because he makes fun of the Gloved One in a new song and video.

At, novelist Anne Rice dropped a 1200 word diatribe on the reviewers of her latest book, many of whom had very negative responses to it, many of whom suggesting that she may wish to obtain the services of an editor for future novels.

She wrote, in part, “I have no intention of allowing any editor ever to distort, cut, or otherwise mutilate sentences that I have edited and re-edited, and organized and polished myself. I fought a great battle to achieve a status where I did not have to put up with editors making demands on me, and I will never relinquish that status.”

A status where? Shouldn’t that be a status from which? Doesn’t where refer to a place? Is status a place?

Duck DVD
Bill Allard came by to shoot our admittedly cluttered little hovel, in the hope of finding a background for his Mr. Nifty intro to the DVD. With his digital camera, he snapped awful painting of cats (my wife and I collect them), saints (my wife is obsessed with them), and various Leg-o and Pez configurations.

The DVD nears completion, fingers crossed, in the hope that it might be made available for Christmas.

If you're looking to buy pallet racks then keep in mind that pallet prices can be mitigated by buying used pallet racks rather than new.

Monday, October 11, 2004


Candidates Bush and Kerry are on the stump, accusing each other of various actions done and un, allegedly, as the undecideds doodle despairingly in the margins of their voters’ manuals, awaiting the moment, the inevitable moment, when the candidates find them at last, one by one, in their lairs, and devour them.

A reason to like cell phones?
There is no way for pollsters to poll cell phone users, so they don’t.

Blogs agog
I’ve been following these little trails much closer than is healthy. There are blogs that expose CBS documents as frauds, blogs that show Cheney did too meet Edwards before, blogs that wonder if Bush was wearing a wire in the first debate…. I just read that over two million Americans have blogs now. I don’t know if I’m frightened or proud to be part of them. I guess I will consider my blog a diary, with eavesdroppers.

It’s alive!
I just read in WIRED NEWS that scientists at Imperial College London have published a paper in Nature Biotechnology, describing how microbes interact with the human body. “More than 500 different species of bacteria exist in our bodies, making up more than 100 trillion cells.” We are, in effect, super-organisms, more than human.

Sez WIRED NEWS: “The Imperial College research demonstrates what many -- from X Files stalwarts to UFO fanatics -- have long claimed: We are not alone. Specifically, the human genome does not carry enough information on its own to determine key elements of our own biology.”

Warning: obligatory Botox joke.
From the Associated Press: “Jurors on Friday rejected the claims of a Hollywood producer's wife who said Botox treatments caused breathing problems, fever, fatigue and severe muscle pain.”

The woman acknowledged the verdict expressionlessly.

Get it?

Espressionlessly! Because she was on the Botox!

Something I’m Working On...

Television Shows That Only I Know About

Sylvia Plath Living

This first aired in September, sometime, a Saturday afternoon anyway, 1954, as an eerie precursor to the modern cooking show. Ms. Plath had just finished or was about to begin her stint as an intern at Mademoiselle, and I guess producers saw that a young woman of charm and poise might just have something to offer the housewives of America. I don’t know why I was watching it. Nothing else on, I suppose. We only got one channel back then.

She made a casserole of some kind, and then some kind of green Jell-o with something suspended in it.

Then she got this fixed smile on her face, and got down on her hands and knees and began scrubbing the floor. And she wouldn’t stop! She just kept scrubbing and scrubbing. I went into the kitchen to see if my mother thought it was as weird as I did, but she was out in the back yard hanging up the laundry. When I got back to the television, there was nothing on but a test pattern.

Meet the Mansons!
I could sort of see the logic behind this - recapture THE MONKEES magic with a bunch of crazy hippies in the desert. It may have been the first “reality” show.

But when the crew showed up at the ranch, the Manson gang was nowhere to be seen. Then suddenly, they emerged from their places of hiding and approached the camera slowly, fixed smiles on their faces, until…
again, test pattern.

I may have been stoned at the time, but I swear it was a replacement series in the summer of 1969.

Starsky and Hulk
The famous buddy cop show in the 70’s originally had an entirely different premise. Starsky was still the streetwise cop, but his first partner was a green humanoid with anger issues. I don’t remember much of the pilot episode, but there was a moment when Hulk and Starsky are getting to know each other over a cold one, and Hulk asks him if he can go undercover as a hooker, because “Hulk love that.”

Later, as he is trying to fit into Starsky’s Gran Torino, Starsky quips, “Careful with the striped tomato,” and Hulk eats the car. It takes him an entire segment. “Hulk love tomatoes!’

Well, that was the end of that. Somebody call David Soul, pronto! Those cars are expensive!

I was really strung out on coke in those days, but I remember that episode vividly.

Clark Kent, Embedded Reporter
In the pilot episode, which I saw last week, Clark is stripped of his powers when he stumbles across some red kryptonite in a bunker. He spends the rest of the episode avoiding sniper fire, car bombs, and commercials for LexCorp, which has been charged with the task of rebuilding the fictitious country in which Clark has been embedded. It was easily the most depressing thing I have ever seen, and am glad I no longer own a television.

In Other News...
Bill Allard is coming over tomorrow sometime to shoot something for the DVD, which nears completion. We've got clearance for a bunch of great archival footage, including some from Dean Jones, who made a short film with us early in our careers.

And I rented three DVDs, from wonderful Le Video, here in San Francisco's lovely Sunset District.

Alex (REPO MAN) Cox directs THE REVENGERS TRAGEDY, the great Jacobean chestnut, with Eddie Izzard, Christopher Eccleston, and Derek Jacobi. I have never heard of it. Sounds wonderful.

MR. SHOW, FOURTH SEASON. Because one can never get enough of MR. SHOW.

Amd Damon Packwood's REFLECTIONS OF EVIL, which I have read about. It led to Mr. Packwood being banned from the premises of Universal City Theme Park. That alone makes it rentable.

I have a story, by the way, about Leon Martell having his face squeezed by a guy in a Frankenstein suit at Universal City. Did I just tell it? I dunno. I'm on the Botox.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Did Johnny Ramone's solo on "Questioningly" make the list?

Down in the basement with Tommy Franks
There’s another debate under our belts. I wish they’d have debates every night. It’s great to see the candidates in more than five second sound bites, floundering, recovering, dancing around questions, and sometimes even answering them. It was also great to see citizens asking them questions rather than the same old teevee suits.

President Bush certainly did better in this debate than the first. And his willingness to go it alone, relatively, in Iraq became clearer to me. The guy hates Europe! Several times he went after Kerry for even wanting to sit down with Europeans, that somehow Kerry liked Europe better than America. “It’s harder to be popular in the halls of Europe,” he sneered. Talking about his deciding not to talk with Arafat, he said, “People in Europe didn’t like that decision.”

I don’t know what he has against Europe. Maybe it’s because they talk funny over there.

President Bush also enthused, “I love our values!” At one point, in responding to a question about appointing judges, he made reference to the Dred Scott decision, and looked very pleased with himself about it, as hs is wont to do, though he seemed unclear as to what the Dred Scott decision actually was, or whether the people in Europe liked it or not.

Portrait of a voter.
As President Bush was making his final remarks, a woman in the back row was revealed behind him. She had her legs crossed, and was leaning her head on her hand. She looked irritated and bored. She rubbed her nose. She removed something from her teeth, I think. She closed her eyes.

Proposal for future debates.
David Letterman suggested the other night that, in order to ensure absolute equality between the candidates, they will do the next debate prone.

I think this is a good idea. Much has been made about the candidates’ demeanor – if they smile, smirk, scowl, or twitch too much it has a negative effect on voters.

I suggest that for future debates the candidates should be removed altogether, replacing them with ventriloquists’ dummies in their likeness. The candidates would manipulate these dummies, off-camera, and speak for them.

This would not only eliminate the problem of seeing the candidates as human beings, it would give a shot in the arm to the troubled ventriloquism industry. Today, as you know, most ventriloquists are outsourced.

In other news….
The latest issue of Guitar World features the top 100 worst guitar solos of all time.

These include C.C. Deville’s, of Poison, on “Cherry Pie.” He is the number one offender.

The others in the top ten are:

--"Summertime Blues," Blue Cheer.
--"The Game of Love," Carlos Santana.
--Falstaff beer 1967 radio spot, Cream.
--"All You Need is Love," The Beatles.
--"Thirsty and Miserable," Black Flag.
--"Wango Tango," Ted Nugent.
--"Ain't Too Proud to Beg," Rolling Stones.
--"Sting of the Bumblebee," Manowar.
--"American Woman," Lenny Kravitz.

Myself, I would have included Neil Young’s solo on “Down by the River.” If you recall, it consists of one note repeated over and over. Kind of like a debate, only cranked up to ten.

When you are in a studio full of clay, you sneer at dictionaries.
An artist, Maria Alquilar, was paid $40,000 by the city of Livermore to create a mura,l at the entrance of its main library, that would represent many historical figures, including Michelangelo, Albert Einstein, and Vincent Van Gogh. Her spell-checking program was turned off apparently; eleven of the names were misspelled.

The scandal, if this is a scandal, made national news. She has been swamped with phone calls and e-mails. After first saying she would correct the spelling (for an extra six grand), but she is now unwilling to do so, she told the San Francisco Chronicle, because of “nasty messages from people who don’t understand art.”

She did consent to pay if the city wants to remove the mural.

She admitted that, while the names were spelled correctly on her sketches, she got them wrong in the transfer to the mural itself. She decided to go forward anyway: “I just wasn’t that concerned. None of us are particularly good spellers anymore because of computers. When you are in a studio full of clay, you don’t give it much thought.”

In a stunning non sequitur, Ms. Alquilar went further: “When you look at Michelangelo’s David, do you point out that one (testicle) is lower than the other?”

She has closed her gallery and will cancel an upcoming show because of the “furor.” “My career in public art is over,” she whined. My wife suggests that a suitable punishment would be to send her back to first grade.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

And a great chastisement shall befall them....

Satan regrets the error.
Dick Cheney, contrary to his claim in the debate that he was meeting him for the first time, had met John Edwards several times before, including once at a prayer breakfast. Also, as he was not answering Mr. Edward’s questions about Halliburton, Mr. Cheney inadvertently sent viewers to, not The latter is a nonpartisan factchecking site set up by the Annenberg Public Policy Center. The former is a commercial domain, whose whimsical owners sent the politically curious viewers to a site run by George Soros, a man not beloved by the White House.

Delay admonishment phase two.
Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, was rebuked by the House ethics committee on Wednesday night, for appearing to link legislative action to donations and for sending federal officials to search for missing Texas legislators during the vote over redistricting. Next up: shunning, disfellowshipping, and disenfranchising.

Iraq: then and now.
Then: Shock and awe.
Now: Car bombs
Then: Saving Jessica Lynch.
Now: Court-martialling Lynndie England.
Then: Mission Accomplished!
Now: Look out!
Then: They had weapons of mass destruction!
Now: Saddam was abusing a U.N. oil-for-food program. We HAD to go in!

Big dog phase-out.
St. Bernards have not actually rescued anybody in the Swiss Alps for fifty years. Nowadays, rescue in the mountains is done with helicopters and heat sensors. Though the formerly lifesaving dogs are still an international symbol of Switzerland, the monks who care for them no longer feel up to the task, and are giving the dogs to new owners, who have promised to bring them back to mountains once a year. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano!

Warning: contains scenes of marionette nudity.
TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE, the new puppet movie from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, averted an NC-17 rating by trimming a scene showing puppet-to-puppet sex. Did I make that up? Nope. True. Just checked.

Got votes?
Michael Moore has been dreaming up stunts in Michigan to get college kids to vote, including offering them clean underwear, Ramen noodles, and potato chips.

Well, the Michigan Republican Party has asked county prosecutors to filed charges against Moore.

Greg McNeilly, executive director of the state Republican Party told the Associated Press, "We want everyone to participate in this year's election, but not because they were bribed or coerced by the likes of Michael Moore."

The Blog Strikes!
An associate professor of technical communications at Utah State University posted a report (available here:, claiming that the infamous CBS memos, in his opinion, in light of further evidence, are authentic, or at least were produced by a typewriter or daisy wheel.

Well! He not only got criticized, but was called a “liar, fraud, and charlatan,” by a blogger at (who later retracted his intemperate remarks, or had them retracted for him), but according to Wired News, officials where he worked “received numerous e-mails demanding his dismissal and calling him a liar or a fraud.”

Though supported by his colleagues, the ass prof confessed that he felt “stained.”

I’m glad to see that civility is coming back into vogue, aren’t you, you worthless piece of crap? And hey, I don’t mean anything PERSONAL by that.

Union News.
I got this e-mail from SAG, of which I am a member:

STOP Increased Indecency Fines Against Actors, Announcers and Broadcast Journalists

The push for FCC fines against individual performers for material deemed indecent continues - spearheaded by a very small group of House members who are trying to insert the fines into the Department of Defense Authorization Bill. The proposal is to replace the current system - $11,000 fines and a requirement to issue an initial warning - with a $500,000 fine for the first offense!

CALL Senator John Warner (R-VA) at 202-224-2023

CALL Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) at 202-224-6221

Tell the senators you do NOT support the inclusion of increased fines against individual performers, announcers and broadcast journalists in the Department of Defense Authorization Bill. Tell them you want them to stand up for free speech and corporate responsibility - not for election year grandstanding. Tell them you do not understand why the fines for individuals would be increased so dramatically when the FCC has never even assessed the existing performer fines, and why the warning requirement would be eliminated. If you are a constituent of either Senator Warner or Senator Levin, please let them know that as well.

Time is of the essence. SO, CALL NOW!

I can’t speak to the truth of the above, but actors/performers have been scapegoated before.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Respect them! now!
Rodney Dangerfield passed away, at the age of 82.

Earlier this week Janet Leigh passed as well. When the news paid the obligatory ten second tribute to her on the news the other night, the producers in their wisdom showed the clip from PSYCHO in which she is stabbed to death in the shower, as the newscaster solemnly intoned: “Janet Leigh, dead at 77.” Yes, they even included the violins going “scree scree scree.” One can only conclude: now that’s tasteful!

Mt. St. Helens
Also on the news, a seismologist referred to what was going on there as a “steam and ash event.” An “event?” Like a “sales event,” or the school prom? I’m not up on my science lingo, but is there something wrong with calling it a volcano?

Annoying technology breakthroughs, x in a series.
The Nokia 3220 camera phone lets you select a message or image (or create one of your own). When you wave the camera from side to side, 12 orange LEDS flash your message in the air. Like, um, “Fuck you?”

Debate Lite
So John Edwards and Dick Cheney went at it tonight.

I am of mixed feelings. I thought Edwards won the debate, mainly because Cheney didn’t really play.

But before I get to that, what is the deal with the New Pointing? Didn’t people used to jab a finger in the air to emphasize a point? Now, politicians make a little fist with their fingers and rest the thumb on top of that and stab at the air when they’re trying to emphasize something. I guess somewhere along the line, handlers and spin doctors decided that pointing was too aggressive. I remember Clinton would put his index finger and middle finger together, press them against the thumb, and fold the other two fingers back. Then he would jerk them up and down in the air when he wanted to drive home a point. This is one of the many reasons I did not care for Clinton.

Still, all things considered, he was a pretty good president. George W. Bush is not.

Debate Lite2
There was also Edwards’ relentless branding of himself and “John Kerry,” which I found irritating.

With his endless gesticulating, pointless enthusiasm, and constant “staying on message,” I found Edwards annoying. My wife remarked that he looked like Frank Sinatra. Hmmm. A little bit. If Frank Sinatra was a Mormon.

Debate Lite2
But Cheney….

He was ten times as annoying, with his implicit assumption that he is God, or someone like Him. He seldom even bothered to address the question posed by the moderator, (whom he always politely if condescendingly called “Gwen.”). I have read that Dick Cheney is supposed to have “gravitas,” but as I have written before, you can’t be “Dick” and still have gravitas. You just can’t have it both ways, people.

The turning point for me (well, there was no turning point for me really – I always thought the guy was a jerk) was when he suddenly (for no apparent reason) went after Edwards for his attendance record in Congress. Attendance record? What is this, junior high?

Remarking on Edwards’ career, he said, “Frankly, it’s not very distinguished.” Meaning: I am distinguished. I am the benchmark by which distinction is measured. Now, please quit your uncivilized yapping and vote for me.
My wife remarked that Cheney seems like a Human Resources Director from hell. That's about right. He also seemed incredibly bored and smug, as if the entire experience was beneath him. As irritating as I found Edwards, at least he was paying attention. And making notes! Like a good boy! Cheney, apparently, has nothing left to learn.

Watching television, I saw a promo for something or other urging to watch because it was going to feature "an exclusive Clay Aiken recording of a deleted song."

These are truly the end times.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

It's Ducktober!

"That wasn't irritated. I know irritated," said Bush senior adviser Karl Rove. He described the president as "pensive" and "focused."

George W. Bush needs to get rid of the grimaces and smirks, John Kerry is still struggling to put on a natural smile, experts said after the first presidential debate between the two rivals.

Tom Delay was “admonished” last week by the House ethics committee. If he doesn’t change his ways, he will next be scolded, berated, upbraided, rebuked, and forewarned.

Loveparade, an annual event in Berlin until it was cancelled this year because of money woes, showed up in San Francisco this weekend. Apparently it features a bunch of floats holding people hippie-dancing to techno music. Matthias Roeingh, a founder of the parade, told the readers of the San Francisco Chronicle, “Listen (not) with your ears but your whole body. It can shake up your energy system and your molecules, and your body is communicating with the rhythm…. This has happened on Earth for a very long time.”

If anybody can find anything in that statement that even remotely makes sense, please let me know.

My wife and I, loath to have our molecules shaken, instead went to the annual San Francisco Library book sale, where we purchased two bags full of books, none of which we needed.

The satisfying excursion was marred somewhat by a barbershop quartet, which had inexplicably stationed itself outside the entrance to the book sale. The quartet was surrounded by acolytes in matching tee-shirts, handing out fliers for some kind of barbershop quartet advocacy group. Lord knows barbershop quartets could use a cult following.

In other book news, I received for my birthday VICTORIAN PARLOUR GAMES, SWINDLER; SPY, REBEL: THE CONFIDENCE WOMAN IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY AMERICA; and MR. SHOW: WHAT HAPPENED?!, an episode guide and oral history of the wonderful and much-missed sketch comedy show.


The trial in Yemen of the terrorists who blew up the U.S. destroyer Cole in 2000 ended in death sentences for two, and prison terms for four. One of those four, Fahd al-Qasa, was supposed to videotape the bombing, but he overslept and missed it.

It’s heartening to know that even our most implacable enemies are subject to the same human frailties as the rest of us. How many terrorist acts have been averted because a zealot can’t find his glasses, or misplaces his car keys, or simply gets lost on the way to the bombing?

Friday, October 01, 2004

My name is Merle Kessler, and I support this message.

Master Debaters?
I was afraid I was going to miss the debate last night. It is my birthday, you see, and my wife purchased celebratory tickets for Nick Lowe a couple months ago, not knowing that we would therefore miss the rhetorical battle of the century.

Fortunately, when we got home, the debate was being re-run, and I caught most of it, as well as highlights on NIGHTLINE.

Nick Lowe, by the way, was fabulous. He did a “crawl through the back catalog,” as he put it, ranging from “Cruel to be Kind” to the “Beast in Me,” from “I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll” to “[What’s so Funny ‘Bout] Peace Love and Understanding.” It was just him and his acoustic guitar, with his opening act, a wonderful Welsh boogie woogie-piano player and singer (also slide guitar player, and apparently accordionist as well, though that particular instrument was not in evidence), Geraint Watkins, joining him on a couple tunes, including “Half a Boy and Half a Man.” If you are a Nick Lowe fan, you are probably drooling, if not, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about.

“Lover Don’t Go.” “You Inspire Me.” “Peace Love and Understanding.”
During this last song (and his last before the encore), a pop classic if that means anything, the audience – a mixed bunch of roots rock weirdos (to use Robbie Fulks’ phrase), middle-aged hipsters (like me!), formerly hip corporate types, hippies, and youngish music fans – sang along gently, and harmonized. It was almost a Woodstock moment, marred somewhat by the people who were lifting their cell phone cameras aloft as they swayed back and forth.

The guy behind us who kept shouting responses whenever Mr. Lowe said something from the stage.

NICK: Geraint’s new CD is available…

GUY BEHIND US: I just bought one!

NICK: …in the foyer.

GUY BEHIND US: (Brandishing CD) It’s right here!

My wife wanted to break a beer bottle and tear his throat out.

I had to tell her, as George Sanders said to Anne Baxter in ALL ABOUT EVE, "You're too short for that gesture."

If it hadn't been my birthday celebration, and if there'd been a pre-broken beer bottle, I fear MY throat would have been in jeopardy.

Mysterious Concert Moment
I haven’t been to a concert in a while, so I’ve forgotten this phenomenon. Before the headliner is due to appear, people start flooding the dance floor, and stand there with their hands in their pockets, or holding drinks, all facing the stage directly – even though there’s nobody there!

I was glad I caught most of the debate, even though – as commentators subsequently commented – my mind was made up before I watched it. I wanted to see if President Bush would stumble, and Senator Kerry would not. I was not disappointed.

Bush looked weary and nervous and seemed a mite too insistent on his message. Kerry as well stuck to his message, but seemed more relaxed about it. He also pretty much demolished (to my satisfaction anyway) the weird “flip-flop” thing with which he’s been saddled.

He also, to my satisfaction, made President Bush look like a deluded madman, under the undue influence of a deranged and mutated Christian ideology, and also certain neo-conservative ideas, which I assume did not originate with him, because he’s a moron.

But hey, that’s just me. I’m not looking to change minds here, folks! If you can’t see for yourselves that President Bush has ruined the economy, screwed up a war that shouldn’t even have been waged in the first place, is destroying the environment, squandered the good will of our allies, and created a nation that lives in fear, without jobs, in a state of curtailed personal liberties, well, go ahead and vote for the guy. I bear you no animus. Idiot.

Before the Show
My wife and I, with a little time to kill between dinner and showtime, walked through the Tenderloin a bit, going to THE MAGAZINE, a wonderful San Francisco resource on Larkin near Geary. The proprietors are curators of old magazines, and have a fabulous collection of ephemera, and an encyclopedic memory, should you be searching for a particular issue or image. The shop itself is largely devoted to porn, of course, this being San Francisco (a shop’s gotta earn a living).

My wife and I were looking at their collection of pornographic novels, ranging from the mid-20th Century to the present. Our favorite titles were A GIRL AT LAST and JOHNNY GOES BOTH WAYS, which appeared to have been photocopied from a typescript, then stapled together, with strangely compelling if poorly drawn cover art, depicting sex acts in which I’m pretty sure our parents never participated.

We settled on PATIO FUN for our purchase, however. Despite the title, it’s not pornographic. It’s a Sunset Booklet from 1961 (compliments of Security Savings and Loan Association), with tips on how to make your patio barbecue party perfect: “Flame offers an easy, cheerful, and highly decorative basis for party lighting.” It was well worth a buck and a half, and I’m sure it will make our next orgy, er, barbecue “bigger, better, brighter, bolder!”

A Friend Writes
As I was sitting down to write this blog, I found this e-mail from my pen pal Oliver:

Dear Merle, re the recent "September 10th" item on your blog, in this evening's debate President Bush called relying on UN inspectors to disarm Saddam Hussein "kind of a pre-September 10th mentality." In other words, voting for Kerry isn't just September 10th -- it's September NINTH. Remember how naive we were back then, on the day antepenultimate to the day everything changed?

President Bush may have started, in his charmingly semiliterate way, a worrisome trend. Suppose Kerry comes back in the next debate and says Bush's policies are September 8th, and Bush counters that Kerry's just offering more of the September 7th thinking we've come to expect from the Democratic Party -- well sir, I'm no Bertrand Russell, but I believe they call that an infinite regress, or if not infinite, at least one that might lead us back into the Julian calendar. But few would dispute, and none would deny, that George W Bush is an infinite fuckhead.

I’m No Bertrand Russell Either!
But I hope someday to be half as irritating as Socrates was. And he PREDATES the Julian Calendar!

In Other News.
I learned that the Janet Jackson Super Bowl nipple exposure is STILL the most TiVo-ed television event. That’s scary. But what’s scarier: how does TiVo know this?

Words That Probably Should Not Be Verbs.

Debate Word Salad! Mix ‘n Eat!
Mixed message.
Right message.
Nucular proliferation.
Nuclear proliferation.
Weapons of mass destruction.
Core values.
Wilt under pressure.
North Korea.