Monday, July 28, 2008

Voyuerism as Therapy: The 30 Minute Hour

Why are you watching that shit? You seem like a pleasant, intelligent enough person. And I am not so much of a snob that I don't appreciate the allure of other people's grief. Even Aristotle defined luck as the arrow going into the guy next to you. But Christ, how many bewildered, celebrity-craving, human disasters (their eyes made small and hard through genetic bankruptcy) have to endure a public breakdown before you are satiated? It's as though television has become the genuinely ugly girl that the moderately ugly girl hangs around with, in the hope that she will appear less ugly by comparison. And you are that moderately ugly girl.

Or, I guess, WE are that moderately ugly girl. I watch a lot of this stuff on that show "The Soup." It's a funny, low budget, video anthology of deformity and mayhem, and it goes well with a Sierra Nevada and a shot of Maker's Mark. The thirty minutes fly by. And, like sex or whippets, afterwards I briefly feel pretty good. Actually, in contrast with the show's unfortunate participants, I tend to feel like a cross between Baruch de Spinoza and Michael Jordan.

But, the feeling passes. And I begin to sense an itch deep within my reptilian brain. The logic is precise; it felt good once, this exercise in palliative schadenfreude, and it should feel good again. And why not? Other people spend thousands of therapeutic dollars just so they can tell perfect strangers about that dream they had where they set their boss on fire and then skull-fucked her smoldering remains. Watching an alcoholic transvestite regurgitate a plate of silkworms on tv seems positively benign by comparison. And less expensive.

The danger in this form of therapy is that it is so easy to build up an implacable tolerance. Suddenly, it is no longer enough that some tweeked out Nebraskan caught Chlamydia from her autistic brother. Ever greater feats of weirdness and depravity must be sought out. The Random Public Execution Hour with Jim Lehrer might fill the gap; or is it simply too late? I'm sure TV execs are doing their best to help, but even those gifted minds must be approaching the end of their collective tether.

So, at the risk of oversimplifying, turn the damned thing off. Eat an apple. Pick a daisy and duct tape it to a pony. You may feel a little better; and, hell, we are not designed to feel all that great anyway. This is why I limit myself to that half hour of The Soup. It frees up the rest of my day and allows me to deal with the complicated nonsense that I managed to make of my own life.

Your 30 minutes are up.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

By Request: We Happy Few

For A.G.

And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here
-Henry V

Not since the Mamelukes seized control of Egypt in the early 870's has there been such a public outcry as the one I am now experiencing. It involves two British women who drunkenly tried to down a plane full of people after they were denied additional alcohol and after they created your typical "I can't handle my booze" scene; a scene replete with the waving of vodka bottles, extensive groping and harassing of flight attendants, and the slapping of someone's Mum. Suffice it to say that this behavior, formerly de rigueur on any legitimate college campus, is no longer tolerated on our once proud airlines.

This terrible, terrible news. What am I to make of it? Do I just go about my daily business as though nothing has changed? Will I forever be averting my gaze at cocktail parties in a vain attempt to manufacture appropriate topics of conversation, fully aware of the ghastly trouble that plagues every guest's beleaguered mind? How am I to answer all of the difficult questions that the students at Blackford Elementary School will surely have for me when studies resume in September?

Well, it only gets worse. One British newspaper (the Telegraph) distressingly assures us that the ladies in question "were thought to be from Merseyside." Armed with this astonishing piece of information, I feel even less prepared to make sense of this horrible nonsense. I mean, Merseyside? For God's sake, not Merseyside. Will they ever be able to live down the shame? Perhaps they can take solace in the fact that the girls were only THOUGHT to be from Merseyside. Perhaps there is hope yet.

As you undoubtedly know, Merseyside was designated as a "Special Review" area in the Local Government Act of 1958. Of course I have never been there, or even heard of it, but I am confident that this quiet, sylvan hamlet is comprised of well read, smiling children who attend to the needs of the elderly and who are free from the horrors of methamphetamine addiction. And it is those helpless waifs who will suffer the most.

Suffer at the hands of countless drunken bimbos. Suffer at the hands of airline personnel that are apparently unaware of the delicate persuasiveness of the taser-gun. Suffer at the hands of a permissive society grown fat on socialism and non-procreative sex. And suffer at the hands of you, the reader. Because, while you were reading this blog, someone, somewhere, did something stupid. And you did nothing to stop it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hope is a Thing

The sky in San Jose this morning is a canopy of poisonous browns and yellows. Smoke pours in over the mountains from any number of recalcitrant wildfires that portend the end of days. Elderly Asian women ambling through the streets in masks, once a happy source of derision, are being openly worshipped by those with enough leg strength to keep up. Cormac McCarthy described such things and they never turned out well.

Still, amidst the ash and living debris that makes up my back yard, a small cache of tomato plants are finally coming into their own. This year has been hard on them. They are surrounded on all sides by impossibly shaped purple-green weeds; weeds grown bold and nihilistic after generations of heavy metal leeching, acid rain, and American Godlessness. The insects that dare to feed on these weeds become the size of kittens and develop a slathering hunger that can only be subdued by tomatoes and occasional human flesh. The shadows are long, the days are short, and Angels have abandoned weeping.


Like Dickinson's feathered thing. Right there in my garden. Little green orbs of... what? Hope!? No, probably not. Just little green orbs growing on weary vines in a kind of reflexive animal shudder. But they are something that pushes against entropy, if just for a second; and I'll take it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Editorial: Logic and Bureaucracy

October 21, 1921. All is imaginary– family , office, friends, the street, all imaginary, far away or close at hand, the woman; the truth that lies closest, however, is only this, that you are beating your head against the wall of a windowless and doorless cell.

It was such a good idea. In the middle of the 19th century, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis was worrying about the infant mortality rate in his hospital. Long story short, he linked the problem to medical students coming from their autopsy lessons straight to the maternity ward. He suggested that they wash their hands before delivering the babies. He was ridiculed, endured arduous personal grief, was finally vindicated, the world is a better place as a result, etc. It would make a fine TV movie starring Adrian Zmed and Emmys would be duly awarded.

It really WAS a good idea, and I can confidently state that the difference between the washed and unwashed hands was significant. Later, as stronger disinfectant, better gloves, and universal precautions became the norm, even the most skeptical hypochondriac could rest easy. The logic is sound; in this instance.

Of course people still die of infection during childbirth; it's just that there are fewer of them. But, using the same logic of refinement as before, couldn't we do better? Maybe doctors should wear full body clean suits during deliveries. Or, better yet, they could wear them at all times while in the hospital. Perhaps some of the more dedicated doctors should wear them at all times, period. They could become an elite class of viral priests, consulted only for the most heinous threats. We would store them in pristine glass cathedrals, and feed them vaporized nutrients through long silk tubes that have never felt the degrading touch of human skin. And, still, people would die of infection during childbirth. Fewer of them, to be sure, but not by many.

It is this type of thinking that leads well intentioned idiots to put a stop sign on every street corner where some unfortunate child was run over by a Jeep. If only we had a stop sign HERE. If only there was a law against THAT. If only every contingency had been taken into consideration, then Chad would still have the use of his left arm; Dakota would be able to see the candles on her birthday cake as her nurse blows them out.

"Somebody is to blame," exclaims the deranged talk show host as she wrings her hands pleadingly before the camera. "Somebody must pay." And the helplessly uninformed nod their heads in solemn resignation. Because, if even one bad thing happens to even one person, anywhere for any reason, then we must do something about it. Right?

No. It simply isn't the case. Having doctors wash their hands prior to surgery makes sense and works. Still, the logic can obviously be taken too far. We cannot take every variable into consideration, nor should we. That type of thinking has an inevitable deforming effect. It is the reason we have ten million abstruse, self-contradictory laws. It is the reason you need eleven kinds of identification just for the privilege of filling out eleven thousand forms in order to get anything done in any government building. It is the reason that decent people are duckwalked through crowded airports, strip searched and probed on the off chance that they packed three lighters rather than two.

Face it. Crazy shit happens. All the time. And it is due to the fact that existence is almost perfectly indifferent to human desire. Even that randy old philistine, Ben Franklin, was in the know: The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. Sure, he could have used a couple of commas, but Goddamn, buy that man a drink. And go ahead, wash your hands before delivering a baby, just don't cut them off. You'll probably need them.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Celebrity Profile: Darren Woodson

Against the dark blue blur you can barely make out the number 28 as it frantically grows larger and larger until, with a blast of sweat and malice, you are staring up at the hole God looks through and wondering why your teeth feel swollen. Darren Woodson disappears back into the defensive huddle and you get no high-fives. Your children will probably see you on ESPN tonight.

At 6-1, 219, this five time pro-bowler lead a talented Dallas defense that controlled the National Football League in the early nineties and deprived Steve Young of more jewelry than any self-respecting Mormon could ever justify wearing in the first place. He was one of the new, archetypal, hybrid players; good in coverage and strong against the run. Easily placed anywhere on the field by savvy, experience laden coaches, he was a sniper's scope, honed in upon the subtle gaps found in any offense's Kevlar vest. But, this is understatement. Or, maybe, it isn't. I really liked this guy though.

In an interview that never took place in the wondrous Cowboy's facilities at Valley Ranch, I asked Darren some questions about those Halcyon days and what effect they had on his love of painting.

PP: How would you describe your early years in Dallas? Did they exceed your expectations?

DW: I had a lot of very good, talented, driven people surrounding me. Haley (Charles) was a mentor to me and the coaches really helped me grow. Who are you with again?

PP: Sports (inaudible).

DW: Huh?

PP: Yes, and three Super Bowls in four years; that must have given you a sense of super-human invincibility, as though you were a God placed upon this earth to help shine light on the lives of quiet desperation that most men lead.

DW: I wouldn't go that far. Who are you with again?

PP: Right, and how did this commitment to football excellence effect you as a painter?

DW: Oh, I don't paint. I can't even draw a cat.

PP: I see.

DW: Troy (Aikmen) could draw caricatures though. He could draw you in a dune buggy. You like dune buggies, don't you?

And who doesn't? Yes, these were heady times for the Cowboys and for human society in general. What man cannot look back at the toe-headed waif he was in 1992 and not shed a tear of joy at that simpler, happier era?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

An Open Letter: To Natalie Portman

Dear Natalie,
I had a dream about you the other night.
Yours, Pirate

An Open Letter: To Nicole Kidman

Dear Nicole,
I had a dream about Natalie Portman the other night.
Yours, Pirate

Saturday, July 19, 2008

First Thing: Dental Hygiene is More Important Than Love

Good dental hygiene is quite a bit more important than love. Not merely from the practical perspective, but also from the moral, spiritual, and aesthetic perspectives. Kurt Vonnegut wrote, in his great novel Galapagos, that although the human animal will still exist in 1,000,000 years, his teeth will continue to be the same shabby constructions that they are today. Heed this warning; for the love of God.

Practically speaking: You are on your bed, dangling your head over the edge and rotating it counter-clockwise in ever decreasing concentric circles as you jut your right leg up and out at a 28 degree angle ( always a 28 degree angle) and then back down, alternating legs in amateur balletic fashion. Vaguely squirrel-like noises punctuate a simultaneous humming and grunting as thick, hot tears stream down your freakishly swollen face. Stray fragments of hair and blood cling to your numb fingers; testament to the necessary hours of preparatory pulling and scratching. And why? Why are you doing this? Because your teeth are in such terrific pain that you've come to embrace the idea of an immediate and all encompassing apocalyptic cataclysm; and THIS is all that seems to help. You have no thoughts of love.

Morally speaking: It is a well known and established fact that deviant behavior is directly related to poor dental hygiene ( cf "Bad Teeth, Bad People" - New England Journal of Medicine, June 1994.) Anecdotal evidence abounds, and to those in the know it should go without saying that there is an unwritten, unspoken code in the prison systems of the world that allows for the segregation of prisoners based on their various oral contingencies. There is also archaeological evidence in some deleted sections from Sir James George Frazer's magnificent work "The Golden Bough" ( graciously shown to your humble author, by the Frazer estate, on condition that they not be quoted at length.) The sections were deleted as a result of the controversial nature of their subject matter; all things oral being very much taboo at the time of its printing. Suffice it to say that through his study of primitive tribes ( the Yacutl, Wargamo, and the hideous and malingering Pygmy Nation) Sir James documents no less than 43 instances of ritual orthodontic deification; not to mention the unfortunate practice of gingimuertification. Dental Hygiene has always been a useful tool for weeding out undesirables, while love is simply an inferior gauge for such delicate work.

Spiritually speaking: God has lovely teeth. Jesus, Aquinas, Augustine, Luther, could all chew through barbed wire. Saul had awful teeth before he became Paul, and now they are a vision. Spinoza's shone like the sun. Pol Pot's teeth exploded into fragments upon eating oatmeal. Hitler had an abscess. Mussolini could only chew on one side of his mouth. It is even said that Stalin had no teeth at all, but rather a series of official dentures made from the teeth of better men. Res ipsa loquitur.

Aesthetically speaking: Chicks dig nice teeth. So, perhaps, love does have something to do with it. Still, I can't help but feel that my dentist is thinking of the inscription above the gates to hell when she opens my mouth for yet another six hour ordeal: Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here.