Thursday, December 29, 2005

Suggested Reading List 1.0

I just finished reading, though the novel is not yet finished with me, Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane. The story follows a family in Northern Ireland from 1945 to 1971, though most of the drama, muted yet roiling, occurs in the 50s. The narrator is the third child, the second son, and unnamed throughout the pages. Delivered in brief chapters, and recalled like a dozen fragments of dreams the night before, the novel is thick with a suspense so persistent that even the lighter moments do not betray the ever-present haunting of the family's history. The narrator becomes almost an apprentice of the secrets, an archaelogist or even a curator of an invisible museum whose permanent exhibit is his mother and what she knows, may know, and may have told. Of what she keeps.

The secret involves the IRA, a former lover, an informer, an execution in error. And how the secret mutates in the son's understanding, as he ages in the novel.

The sentences are poetic in construction; the words themselves of a precise poetry, a simple poetry. And then a perfectly articulated description strikes from the page, thunderous, and like white lightning.

A factory opens down the road called Birmingham Sound Reproducers, employing many locals, and supplying many neighbors with cheap phonographs. The narrator's father plays three albums over and over, a collection of arias. One is described thusly:

It wound out from the black disc in long sorceries of sound.

I am a poor book reviewer, and typically can never coherently describe a story I've just read. I'm much better at song reviews, where emotion is at the forefront.

Reading in the Dark is unquestionably one of my top five favorite books, affecting me so strongly that rather than promoting it, I am more inclined to keep it to myself.

Like a secret.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Let There Be Slack!

What better time than the Past, which is a lot like Now and even more like Later for the teachings of J.R. "Bob" Dobbs to save you from your Conspiracy-soaked life? What else but the Church of the Subgenius can restore all that was not what it is now?

It's too late for Them, not You! Read about the High Weirdness Project, a modern re-telling of the "High Weirdness By Mail" Revolution begun by Rev. Ivan Stang in the 80's. Touted as "an interactive encyclopedia of the Differently-Saned," this site may be for you. I know most of you and I always assumed you were "INsane" but now I see that this is not the case.

Recall the slogan of the Subgenii: "Fuck 'Em If They Can't Take A Joke."

You KNOW who They are. You understand the Conspiracy. The Pinks and the Glorps are at the gate!


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

War and War

In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful. -Leo Tolstoy, author

Sunday, December 18, 2005

12/11/04 4:15pm Notebook Entry

we don't have free speech
our speech is moderated
by the goons in white rooms
who'll have us incarcerated

Saturday, December 17, 2005

We Have a Match!

Bush and Stalin -- What's the fucking difference? Can you imagine the gall of this alleged war criminal (not Stalin) being angry that America is up in arms about his secret National Security Agency spying on...Americans?

Aw, we're sorry, Mr. President. Please don't be upset. Keep surveiling us. We now know it's for our own good. You can forgive us though -- we're not used to you doing anything for the good of this nation.

"The American people expect me to do everything in my power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties," Bush said.

Except what he did is not in his power under our laws and Constitution. And just because he thinks it is doesn't mean it is.

"Today, what Bush said is he went around the law, which is a violation of the law -- which is illegal," said James Bamford, who has written two books on the NSA.

Remind me again what the Cold War was about? Explain to me the difference between Communism and Bush's understanding of Democracy? Can the Taliban sue this Administration for copyright infringement?

Maybe the president thinks KGB stands for "Komrade George Bush."

Unbelievable, this guy. He should take that puss off his fucking face and remember where he lives -- in America. Land of the Free (we're not) and Home of the Brave (he isn't).

In the immortal words of Barney Gumble, "Go back to Russia!"

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The King is Dead! Long Live the King!

Tomorrow, Friday 12/16, is Howard's final show on terrestrial radio! Oh YEAH! On to Sirius!

I started listening to Howard back in '82 (maybe '83) on WNBC when he was doing the Gay Lone Ranger bits. (Haw haw!) He was funny then and he's funny now. Undoubtedly, much of my humor was shaped by 23 years of Stern, and my daily talk is peppered with quotes from the show (everybody loves when Psaur and I do our Jackie impressions!)

These last few weeks of shows have been tremendous, especially this morning's when Jackie Martling came in. As great as Artie is, the Jackie presence is the funniest of all. Not that Jackie himself was the best part of the show, but the Jackie laugh, and the Jackie puppet, and all the Jackie impressions (especially that kid who says, "I'm Jackie the drunk man...") are perpetually hilarious!

All Hail the King of All Media. In the immortal words of Grampa Al, "Fuck the FCC...fuck 'em!"

Oh, and f-jackie! See you on the other side!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Repeating Offender

Alleged traitor, war criminal, and all-around knucklehead, George Bush ONCE AGAIN gave the same incorrect speech at a Republican fundraiser for Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., today.

Same old bullshit about "staying the course" and how pulling out of Iraq would be a "victory for the terrorists."

Apparently, his approval rating has gone up recently -- with whites, men, and Catholics.

Oh, brother!

Well, if white christian men think he's doing better, then let me be the first to apologize to him for saying he's fucking this country back to King Arthur's Court.

Those approving of Bush as of late cite his accomplishments in Iraq and with the American economy.

From the Associated Press: A recent report noted that the nation added 215,000 jobs in November, and Bush declared on Monday that "the best days are yet to come for the American economy."

Well, yeah. No shit the best days are yet to come. These are the worst days -- what other fucking direction are we going to go?

Said Charl-Deane Almond, a Republican from Bishop, Calif, "I think he's doing what he has to do. I appreciate him standing strong with all the pressure he's under."

You know, if I was fucking shit up at work every day and driving my business in the ground, I wonder who would stand by me and admire my steadfastness.

I'll tell you who -- no one! I'd be out on my ass.

It's only fair.

So it's the least we can do for George Bush, America's most famous employee.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Return to Groton Street

After reading Qner's recollections of Groton Street 1993, I remembered a poem he'd written for Report to Hell No. 4. I present it herewith:


Hanging out a window at 4 a.m.
knowing I can't do it
pouring a sweet-smelling all-purpose
cleaner into plastic cups and
proposing a toast -
swirling green
grinning contemplation
"One more shot of Mezcal!"
"One More Cup of Coffee!"
and soon Dylan's drawl fills
the room.
Hurling ourselves around
shirts untucked
brains unbuttoned
out spill spools of
broken poetry
futile plans
impotent threats
We're just blunt enough
to be brilliant
just a screwturn away
from genius.

From the Archives of The Reporters 1.0

From: Qner
To: psaur, threeball, newpagan
Date: 7/12/98
Subject: Re: The proof of my unquenchable faith

Borges and Bukowski had a baby, and they named it Psaur. Ginsberg was the surrogate, his limber oriface barely allowing the passage of Paul's large head.

Our group is small but strange. I think we know the king.

I challenge all the distilleries in Russia and Sweden to make a vodka that could sodden the prose of Psaur.

We are the babbling monkies in the head of today. Paul wears the crown.

Hail king monkey!


(I dug up a bunch of old emails of our small but strange gang pre-blogging with each other in the late 90s. Post-Golden Age of Report to Hell, though our prose and poetry have undoubtedly improved since then. Ours was an output to be appreciated, or exploited, more by the New Yorker or Paris Review types, as opposed to say, the City Lights crowd. I am, of course, talking, uh, bullshit.)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Do You Listen To What I Listen To?

(Shaking up suburban weeklies' status quo...)

It’s that time of year when we must once again contemplate the age-old question: Who would win in a fight – Mannheim Steamroller or the Trans-Siberian Orchestra?

I’ve never imagined it to be much of a fight, just a lot of dancing around the ring. The crowd grows impatient, shouting “throw a punch” and “knock ‘em out.” But to no avail. Just when the match is about to go down the tubes, a wise and wavering voice pierces through the grumbling. The Ghost of Burl Ives rushes to the ring, pushing his way through the throng of sweaty, frustrated spectators. Flipping over the ropes, he throws down the gauntlet and says, “C’mon, ya bubble-blowing Casio twits, I’ll pound the whole lot of ya!”

What follows is a brutal beating, absent any good will, charity or peace typically associated with the holiday season.

And with that joke, let me re-introduce myself to my remaining audience: the 40 and over crowd.

Since we’re on the topic…I mean, since I’M on the topic (I’ve got to stop speaking for others), here are my Top Five Favorite Christmas Songs.

She’s Right on Time (1982) – Billy Joel: It’s mostly the video, which I saw a hundred times in ’82 on HBO’s Video Jukebox (this was the dawning of MTV), that made me realize this was a Christmas song. The opening line “Turn on all the Christmas lights/Baby’s coming home tonight…” is also a hint. Although, I wondered “What’s a Jewish kid writing about Christmas for?” Joel, like me, is from Long Island. Although Jewish, he wasn’t raised in a Jewish household, and even went to Catholic mass with his friends. Me, I was Catholic, and so automatically (at least in New York in the 80s-90s), went to Catholic mass.

Everyone on Long Island is a Billy Joel fan, even if you don’t like him. In the pop pantheon, his is the voice of Long Island, much like Springsteen is the heart of New Jersey. You’re born on Long Island, you’re issued a thick guttural accent, and an 8-track of The Stranger.

One day in 1983, I was in Sears, in Hicksville (an actual town, with a name whose literal meaning did not occur to me until I was in my teens). Innocent Man (the follow-up the The Nylon Curtain, which contains the aforementioned song) had just been released, so I was there to buy the LP. An older woman approached me and remarked on the album in my hands. “Do you like Billy Joel?” I probably said, “Yeah,” or something. To which she offered, “I’m his mother.” I don’t know what I said, maybe “Oh!” I don’t remember the rest. She probably was. Billy Joel was raised in Hicksville, and I can’t fathom any street cred an older woman would have garnered fibbing to a 14 year old lame enough to be buying his albums in a Sears. (Sears was my local record store at the time – I’ve certainly come a long way. Thank you, Portland!)

Anyway, I’ve gotten away from the Christmas theme, but I’ve always wanted to document that experience for the two or three people who would even care.

Fairytale of New York (1988) – The Pogues: Two Oirish knackers sail to Amerikay. He promises “cars big as bars,” but ends up in the drunk tank on Christmas Eve.

The boys of the NYPD choirWere singing "Galway bay"And the bells were ringing outFor Christmas day

The best lines (issued by the fairer of the duet) aren’t fit for a family newspaper, but here they are anyway:

You *******, you ******,
You cheap lousy ******,
Happy Christmas your ****,
I pray God it’s our last

Ah, who but the Irish can distill the dark stuff from the joy?

Christmas in Hollis (1989) – Run DMC: My brothers and I repeat this verse every Christmas (and sometimes in, say, April):

It's Christmas time in Hollis Queens
Mom's cooking chicken and collard greens
Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese
And Santa put gifts under Christmas trees

Later, a refrain begins:
Rhymes so loud and proud you hear it
It's Christmas time and we got the spirit

We do indeed have the spirit. “Christmas in Hollis” was the standout track on 1989’s A Very Special Christmas, a benefit album recorded to raise money for the Special Olympics. Overall, not the best album, but there are a few delightful songs on this collection, most notably Run DMC’s classic. I suppose my birth in Queens influences my appreciation of the song. Although where I spent the first five years of my life, southwest of Hollis (on the border of Brooklyn) was different from that neighborhood. Provincial as all the sections of Queens was, we all loved Christmas! Especially its top PR honcho, Santa Claus!

St. Stephen’s Day Murders (1991) – The Chieftains with Elvis Costello: A tongue-in-cheek fantasy of poisoning the turkey to rid yourself of family come St. Stephen’s Day. St. Stephen’s Day, as it’s known in Ireland (Boxing Day in England), occurs on December 26th, and brings with it many traditions (none of which typically include the offing of relatives). Costello and the Chieftains add a morbid twist to the misery of family at Christmas. It’s a grand song, with such illustrious lyrics as:

There'll be laughter and tears over Tia Marias,
Mixed up with that drink made from girders.
’Cause it's all we've got left
as they draw their last breath,
Ah, it's nice for the kids,
as you finally get rid of them,
In the St Stephen's Day Murders.

From a gorgeous album by The Chieftains, The Bells of Christmas.

P.S. – The “drink made from girders” refers to Irn Bru, a caffeinated Scottish soft drink. I recall on my visit to Glasgow that I cherished its thirst-quenching properties. Of course, I was staving off a massive hangover from being treated by the locals to an overwhelming amount of Teacher’s whisky, which celebrates its 175th anniversary this year.

Father Christmas (1978) – The Kinks: A buncha Brit punks bust the gob of a storefront Santa, and empty his kettle of pounds and pence. The protagonist is the said Santa. The song is not an indictment of local bullies, but a suggestion to remember those of lesser means who might find themselves to forced to steal for provisions come the holidays,

Have yourself a merry, merry Christmas
Have yourself a good time
But remember the kids who got nothin'
While you're drinkin' down your wine

This typed while I’m drinking down my wine! Let us remember that “Merry Christmas to all” means just that.

And so, Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays to you all! And may the music of this season (and all seasons) bring you joy and insight now and always!