Tuesday, August 30, 2005

HWY: American Pastoral - a film starring Jim Morrison (circa 1969)

Even before the biography No One Here Gets Out Alive was published, I was a fan of Jim Morrison and the music of The Doors. I still recall a time when articles, books and photos of Jim Morrison were difficult for rock fans to come by. Long before the Internet. Recently, I came into possession of a 1969 film titled HWY: An American Pastoral starring Jim Morrison. It's a grainy, fascinating, disappointing, surprising look at Morrison and his environment. The film is not a documentary, but an "experimental" work directed by Paul Ferrara and written by Paul Ferrara and Jim Morrison's ignoble friend, Babe Hill.

The film opens with Morrison, a drifter, swimming near a boulder-enclosed waterfall somewhere in the American desert. Oddly, as he steps out of the water, the audience sees that he wears his black leather trousers as he swam. As he makes his way up the rocky incline to the rest of his clothes, the camera zooms onto a "ban the bomb" symbol carved into the slender trunk of a slanted tree nearby.

Near the 8-minute mark of the film (while the drifter stands by the road trying to hitch a ride), Jim Morrison offers narration, speaking about an incident that occurred when he was a child travelling a car with his parents and grandparents, and witnessed the aftermath of a truck accident that left a group of Native Americans injured and dead, sprawled across the highway. The incident is mentioned briefly in the Morrison Hotel track "Peace Frog," but is spoken of here in greater detail. Far from sounding like the droning of some peyote-saturated desert hippie, Morrison's recollection is poignant and compelling, particularly when he speculates about the soul or souls of those Native Americans leaping into his body.

The music accompanying Morrison's hitchhiking is moody electric guitar.

Coming up on the 14-minute mark, the camera shoots Morrison from the side of the highway with the road behind him. As cars zoom past, Morrison flicks his jacket in their wake like a matador. It's a cool image, except it's repeated about six times.

Just after the 16-minute mark, the audience sees the drifter climbing out of an abandoned crashed car that has clearly been sitting off to the side of the road for a long time -- it's half-buried in the sand. It's a very arresting image. I couldn't help wondering how a car would be left for so long by the side of the road. Or what had happened to its original occupants. Morrison climbs out of it, then tosses a huge rock onto it. Then he jumps on the hood, and onto the roof of the car, before leaping back onto the sand, and continusing his trek up the road.

Around the 17-minute mark a car pulls over to give Morrison's character a ride. The camera perspectives shifts from filming Morrison from about 100 yards away up the highway, to inside the car from the driver's seat. For whatever reason, there is no dialogue. Morrison's character says nothing when he comes to the passenger-side window. Neither does the driver have anything to say. Morrison jumps into the car, it shoots back onto the highway, and the music shifts into folk-acoustic mode with a singer I can't identify singing. It quickly wears out its welcome.

At the 19-minute mark, the audience glimpses the drifter in the driver's seat of the car. The storyline of the movie is that the drifter murdered the driver because the driver was giving him unspecified "trouble" or "hassle." This evokes the line from the 1971 Door's album L.A. Woman in the song "Riders on the Storm": There's a killer on the road...

After the 20-minute mark, the audience finds the drifter in a roadside store that sells adult magazines, booze, and paperback novels. Morrison's character twirls the paperback book rack around and around for the camera. It's ultimately a time-waster of a scene, but it's interesting to catch a glimpse of the desert roadside from 1969. It would have been cool if the camera had caught more than a fleeting glimpse at the book covers, so the audience could catch some titles and names of authors.

Following the 22-minute mark the audience finds the drifter standing at the scene of some sort of accident. There is a dog lying injured on the highway (having been presumably hit by a car? If that was actually the case, the dog would not only be dead, its body would not be intact) howling in pain. If someone else was the focus of this accident, the audience never knows, but the drifter stands around observing the scene.

Just before the 24-minute mark the audience finds the drifter speeding down the highway drinking from an aluminum can. Presumably a beer. Which evokes the lyric from Morrison Hotel's "Roadhouse Blues": Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel... and I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer... The drifter downs his beer and tosses the can out the open window. Then he lets out a scream.

Around the 26-minute mark the drifter is dancing with some Native American children by the side of the highway.

The 28-minute mark finds the drifter in darkness, standing before the headlights of the car he stole from the man he killed. The camera focuses on Morrison's legs as staggers around what appears to be a roadmap lying on the ground.

Soon after the 30-minute mark, the drifter pulls into a service station during the day to get gas. It's great watching Morrison smoking a cigarette only a few feet away from the gas pumps. No one around him seems bothered. None of the dialogue between the drifter and the service station attendant is audible. The drifter appears to pay for the gas using a credit card, possibly stolen from the car's dead owner.

Coming up to the 34-minute mark, the camera leads the audience through an exhaustive array of urban Los Angeles scenes. Less is always more; just a few of these shots would have been very effective, but these last a full six minutes. At which point the camera films a Los Angeles street (in something like stop-motion) from a stationary position in a building nearby.

Night falls and the lights of the bars and dives in the area come on.

At the 42-minute mark, backed by road sounds, the drifter is on a payphone with some unidentified person (whose voice we don't even hear), and the drifter mutters "I just got back into town... L.A.", evoking the line from the song "L.A. Woman": I just back into town about an hour ago...

The drifter says that he was in the desert for a while, out in the middle of it. Nothing comes of this conversation except for the drifter's understated confession about killing the owner of the car that brought him into town.

At the 45-minute mark, the drifter goes into a room in a cheap hotel, heads into the bathroom and takes a piss. Then leaves.

The only other noteworthy shot in this 51-minute film occurs out front of a seedy bar that has a mural of some actor looking over his shoulder on it. The drifter speaks to people hanging-out in front of this bar, but the dialogue in inaudible.

As a fan, I'm thrilled to have seen this film. I have no idea what sort of actor Jim Morrison might have made if he had been given more lines and more to do. Given the fact that he was a veteran hitchhiker in his real life, I wish the filmmaker would have drawn more on Morrison's experiences with weird or frightening drivers, to fill in the story. Also, the audience never knows why the drifter was in the desert, what caused him to leave, and why he goes to L.A., where he seems to be known. Answering these questions would have made for a longer film, and one that I think would have made greater use of Morrison's charisma, if nothing else.


Supplemental reading on Jim Morrison: the bizarro article by Thomas Lyttle Rumors, Myths and Urban Legends Surrounding the "Death" of Jim Morrison

FurniturePorn.com

It’s hot, it’s weird, it’s inhuman—it’s furnitureporn.com. As the old expression goes: “When the cat is away, the mice do play.” What, exactly, is your furniture doing while you’re out working hard to earn a living, providing them with a good home and stable environment? The answer will curl your toes and gnarl your sensibilities.

Captured on hidden camera, and at times with consenting models, furnitureporn.com shows the secret sexual lives of our furniture. See what two slick, randy chaise lounge chairs are capable of doing beneath a tree on a sunny day. Or check out the “Office Party” pages in which you’ll see the rollicking frolics of “Mr. Brown” and “Miss White” (obviously not their real names). And for the truly twisted among the human population, there is the “Amateur Page” in which you’ll find grandma’s old satiny pink sitting chair being ravished by a frumpy brown velour reading chair. It’s not even a recliner, and it’s getting this kind of sick action!

The people behind furnitureporn.com understand just how disturbing and unmanning their content is, and for this reason a visitor must navigate through a series of pages with “Enter” and “Exit” buttons, allowing for immediate escape for those whose courage fails them. Going through these pages, one has the sense of entering the outer chamber of Hell, itself, and that total damnation is but one mouse click away.

After viewing these pages, one cannot help but feel a deep and abiding sense of betrayal—and nausea—thinking, “Cripes, my family and I sit on these chairs!” The unpleasant truth is that your furniture doesn’t care. I guess when you’re made of wood, cushion and springs, there’s always a chance of going unsprung, and the nearest beast to the breach escapes. Usually it’s the sexual genie. And by the looks of the furniture letting it all hang out—and more—on furnitureporn.com, there’s no getting that genie back into the bottle.

So, what’s the answer? How can you co-exist with your furniture’s insatiable sexual appetites?

First, don’t condemn or judge, that will only drive your furniture away from you. You may not agree with the lifestyle and erotic acrobatics that fill your furniture’s lives, but you must remember—their yours.

Second, give the furniture space. Go out on a weekday evening with a clear understanding as to what time you’ll be returning so that you don’t catch your furniture in any shocking entanglements.

Third, talk to your furniture. Communication is key. Take the lead with this; after all, you are the sentient being in the relationship. You live together under the same roof and you should try to be as accepting of your furniture’s needs as possible.

It’s all about understanding and acceptance. Now that you know what your furniture is doing when you’re not at home, embrace your furniture’s need to express its eroticism. And the next time you’re making out on your loveseat, you should know that if it could, that loveseat would be giving you two thumbs up.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Guilty Pleasure

A longtime guilty pleasure of mine has been B science fiction movies from the 1970's and '80's: Soylent Green, Omega Man, Planet of the Apes, Westworld, The Incredible Hulk (pilot), Looker, and now what I consider the Holy Grail of such cinema: Clonus.

Pay no attention to the poor review this film recieved on the IMDB. I guess Clonus is better known for having been roundly thrashed on an episode of Mystery Science Theatre, but I found it to be a really enjoyable film on its face.

You've got Tim Donnelly starring in this movie. He looks like "Larry", Jack's friend on Three's Company with his white-man's-afro. Tim played "Chet" on Emergency, and I'm proud to say that I recognized him as such immediately, though his hair is darker in Clonus and he didn't have his trademark mustachio. And luscious Paulette Breen plays his fellow clone and love-interest, Lena. Peter Graves and Keenan Wynn are also in Clonus, both lending the film terrific nuance with their performances.

What is Clonus about? Well, you know the new film out right now called The Island? It's that. How interesting that a story about clones has, itself, been cloned -- and with no credit to the original creators, from what I understand.

Clonus is a compound where clones are raised like crops so that their organs can be harvested to save the lives of the rich and powerful. When clones have been selected to be killed for their organs, they are told that they're "going to America." They have no idea what awaits them, however. "Richard" is a high functioning clone who is beginning to question his surroundings. One night he makes his way to the "forbidden building" and learns just what "going to America" is all about, as well as his being a clone. He escapes to the outside world seeking his "father", or, the man from whom he was cloned.

It's an interesting premise that I think was executed quite well. It's a low budget movie; one I never heard of before. It raises many thought-provoking questions about mortality and the morality of cloning people for the express purpose of harvesting their organs. The DVD of Clonus has a great commentary by the director of the film.

Well worth watching -- if you're deciding to stay home and forego ths usual Hollywood horseshit.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

NY Times: "After so many summer blockbusters flopped, H-wood exec wonder if many of their movies are just not good enough"

By SHARON WAXMAN (Published: August 24, 2005) LOS ANGELES, Aug. 23 - With the last of the summer blockbusters fading from the multiplex, Hollywood's box office slump has hardened into a reality that is setting the movie industry on edge. The drop in ticket sales from last summer to this summer, the most important moviegoing season, is projected to be 9 percent by Labor Day, and the drop in attendance is expected to be even deeper, 11.5 percent, according to Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the box office.
Not only am I a writer, but I am an avid watcher of films. Far from being a cinema purist or snobby slighter of "popular" films, my only criteria for enjoying a film is that it be "good." Could my criteria be any more amorphous, subjective or vague? Probably not.

For a film to be "good", first, the makers must respect their audience on some level. For instance, the movie Independence Day starring Will Smith and Bill Pullman respected no one but the beancounters in the accounting department. The Scream films are another example of a filmmaker having no respect for his audience. I'm not only willing to suspend my disbelief, I enjoy doing so; that's why I watch at least two films per day. However, this does not give a filmmaker carte blanche with me. The filmmaker (writer, director, producers) must present me with a world in which some semblance of logic exists. I don't care if their world's logic conflicts with the real world's; if it does, all the better. But the filmmaker must adhere to the logic of their world, whatever it is.

Hollywood movies, on the whole, fail miserably on this point.

For me to enjoy a film, it has to look good, as well. Cinematography is an artform. Too few directors realize this. More often than not, films seem to be made by people who are used to making Kmart commercials or filming sitcoms. Hollywood's general idea of cinematography seems to be "Has the lense cap been removed from the camera? OK, that's cinematography." Uh, no, that's not.

Have you seen the film Hero, or Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch? That's cinematography. Have you seen the latenight classic Alice, Sweet Alice? That's cinematography. Or Rob Zombie's films, House of 1,000 Corpses or The Devil's Rejects? Both films look absolutely wonderful. Their stories are quite "iffy", but I gladly hung in there for both because they looked so damn good.

Also, scrap remakes. All of them. Particularly of old TV shows. Fire and ostracize anyone who suggests anything along this line. I have yet to see one of these that didn't make me vomit in the first ten minutes.

More films based on graphic novels, like Sin City.

Bring the audience more talented unknowns. I think Tom Cruise's recent, ongoing publicity debacle is proof that big name stars just aren't enough to get people out to see films. Personally, I'm sick of watching a bunch of millionaires running around in some abortion of a film that basically serves as celebrity welfare to support their billionaire lifestyles.

Star Wars Episode IV in 1977 succeeded because the film brought the audience a cast, largely, of talented unknowns. Mark Hamil was probably the weakest actor of the bunch, but even he comes off well as the neophyte Luke Skywalker. My guess is because the casting was based on partially on his looks.

What films have I seen recently that I hold up as examples of wonderful filmmaking?

  • Fritz Lang's M starring Peter Lorre. This is a haunting film with a gripping plotline in which a child killer is loose on the streets of a German city. His crimes have brought a general crackdown onto even the more "respectable" criminals to the point where members of the city's organized crime syndicate move to capture the monster themselves in order to get back to business as quickly as possible. The acting is impeccable, the storyline is entirely engrossing, and the film raises many thought-provoking issues about vigilante justice and how much are people responsible for their actions, even if they are mental unstable.

  • The Eye, a Mandarin film by Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang. It's the story of a blind woman who receives a cornea transplant, and soon after sees ghosts all around her. It turns out, the donor of her eyes had been an eccentric girl with psychic abilities who died a horrible death in some far-flung village. This film's plot and storyline are exceptional. The film also looks great. It's a first rate horror film. The thing I enjoy best about horror movies coming out of the Orient is that they aren't into the shocking or startling the audience like American movies. You know, how Hollywood films are always pulling those "zingers" on the audience, startling the shit out of you with some loud noise and giving you only a glimpse of the monster? This is bullshit filmmaking. It's cheap and hackneyed. When you're in charge of the camera, it takes absolutely no skill to startle your audience.

  • Also: Ju On was masterful, Battle Royale was a spectacular dystopian adventure film, Skikoku was a very moody, wonderfully filmed horror, and Ringu which wasn't totally destroyed in the American remake, was as terrifying a film as I've ever seen.

  • Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run. This is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Also hilarious films are Catch-22, Dr. Strangelove, Animal House, The Blues Brothers, American Movie.

  • George A. Romero's Land of the Dead was also quite good. Not only did I enjoy the story, this horror movie made almost no use of my steadily-increasing pet peeve: Computer Generated Images (CGI). Romero is a great writer and filmmaker, and he completely maximized the plot effects he sought in this film.
CGI is the bane of contemporary filmmaking. Directors are shoe-horning digitally crafted effects into every conceivable scene in every film. Worse, directors are going back to older works -- George Lucas adding this obscenity to THX1138 and Steven Spielberg to E.T. -- which I think is a complete abomination.

It's no secret why Hollywood films are doing so badly. The Hollywood system is designed to churn out shit. You have the moneymen making creative decisions, you have creatives making money decisions, you've got a coven of MBAs in there who would just as soon sell drinking straws as films -- whatever turns a buck -- all thrown together in this hideous orgy that is finally choking on its own vomit.

Yes, I realize that films need to make money. Yes, I know that accounting departments need to be involved with filmmaking, funding and keeping things on budget. Yes, I'm aware of the realworld aspects of investing money in a film and hoping to earn back more than was invested.

My point: Good films earn money, too. Look at the Indiana Jones films. Look at the first Austin Powers film. Look at American Beauty and Napolean Dynamite.

Hollywood is foundering right now because it's lazy.

Conjecture: The Price of Rants

For more than a year I've been looking for an IT technical writing job. It's not my preferred mode of existence, but it is work I can do well and not lose my mind. As any jobseeker will tell you, it doesn't take long -- especially with online resume submissions -- before you're pumping out a few dozen applications per week (depending on the number of job openings, that is). In the past 13 months, I've had exactly one interview. And I have to wonder if having a link to this blog from my Web site, and my Web address on my resume, isn't costing me calls.

For any prospective employer to read my blog and consider me an unfit employee would be a mistake. My rants on this blog are motivated by several reasons, chief among them an abiding disgust and intolerance for dishonesty. I criticize corporate executives because in my experience they work not for a company's benefit, but their own -- and always to the detriment of the ordinary front line workers whose tenacity, dedication, and fear of losing their paychecks keeps them busy at the business of actually making companies function. I remember reading, a while ago, about some examples of how it's more lucrative to be a bad CEO, than a good one -- there were three or four examples from companies such as Kodak and Coke, in which CEOs had to be bought out of their contracts because their performances were so horrible. The cost of buying out these thieves? It ranged from $60 million to $460 million.

When I was laid off from EDS in October 2001, two days before my wedding, it was the beginning of my awakening to what the corporate world is all about. Not surprisingly, the CEO, Dick Brown, who oversaw this massive layoff at EDS left the company not long after with a golden parachute worth $35 million. There's a basic fairness and sense of rightness that is ignored, harmed, murdered by such turns of events.
Brown's salary for 2001 was $1.5 million, and he received a bonus worth $7 million. In 2001, Brown also was given restricted stock valued at $27.7 million. Brown's compensation information for 2002 has not yet been made public.
So, this jackal received from EDS during my time there approximately $71.2 million. How many people in my position would have been sustained by Brown's sums? About 1780 of us. After that layoff, it took me nine months and more than 800 resumes to find my next tech writing position. No "poor me," I'm just throwing out a few stats.

My opinions about the Iraq war also cost me my relationship with my first publisher. He and I were going great-guns by March of 2003, looking forward to releasing a novel I had written. My collection of short stories, As My Sparks Fly Upward & Other Stories had been a solid, though humble seller -- among the bestselling titles he had. My publisher ran a small press and our numbers were modest. But they were rising. Then the United States invaded Iraq. Knowing that my publisher had two grandsons heading over there, and that he had been a military man himself decades before, I simply didn't comment on the growing outrage the U.S. was creating in the middle east. But then my publisher began sending a steady stream of email jokes about the French and pro-war shit from such political luminaries as Gene Simmons of KISS. It was then that I gently and respectfully indicated that I didn't feel as he did about the war in Iraq. Our correspondence was cordial, civil, friendly, but very soon after he ceased all talk of publishing my novel, and at the same time dropped Sparks from his roster of titles.

As I do, I made the best of the situation, locating another publisher for Sparks and continuing with my writing career such as it was, such as it is.

But there is little doubt in my mind that had I heartily agreed with that publisher about the Iraq war, he would have published my novel and Sparks would still be among his company's titles. I hear from him every once in a while, and it's a pleasure. He's a damned good guy, fascinating, and quite affable. I've never talked to him about why my novel was dropped or why Sparks suddenly wasn't among his roster of titles. There seemed no point.

I am no martyr, simply a person who values honesty and integrity -- doubtless these are what is preventing my re-entry into corporate life. I don't apologize for my opinions, I won't back away from controversial subjects, and though some around me have questioned my interest in anything occurring beyond the perimeter of my backyard, I will continue to take a global interest in our world.

In the documentary Hearts of Darkness, about the making of the film Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola was asked if he ever considered quitting the project as its production appeared to break down on every side. I'll never forget how Coppola suddenly looked at the interviewer like the interviewer was quite insane, and said, "What? Quit from myself?" He was bewildered by the question.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

There Should Be a Wing in Guantanamo Bay for C.E.O.s

It's the disease/psychosis that just won't go away: corporate corruption.

Corporate Gangsters aren't worth a glib posting, so I'll slap this one down like I'm writing a grocery list.

Always remember: C.E.O. stands for "Cheat Every One."

Corporate executives are economic terrorists and should be treated as such. I don't agree with the conditions under which the captives in Guantanamo Bay are doing their indefinite time, but as long as that is how the United States of America treats "terrorists" I think a dragnet should be unleashed for Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, Nortel, Kmart, et at executives (current and past); that they be loaded onto a barge (their days of traveling by jet are over), and sent to Cuba to suffer the same fate as the current captives there.

At least by sending corporate executives to Guantanamo Bay, we'll know that someone there is guilty.

Hackers who unleash damaging viruses are techno-terrorists. Assholes who set oil fields on fire are eco-terrorists. Lunatics who would smash a vial of bubonic plague in a subway are bio-terrorists.

Those jackals among us who murder the livelihoods, savings, and retirement funds of citizens are economic terrorists.

They should be treated accordingly: Send them to Guantanamo Bay.

Assassination: As Christ Would Have Us Do - Jesse Christ, That Is; Pat Robertson is a Communist but is Too Chickenshit to Wear the Moniker

Heartwarming headline of the day: Televangelist Calls for Chavez' Death.
"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said Monday on the Christian Broadcast Network's "The 700 Club."
I despise communism and communists, make no mistake. It's a diabolical system operated by diabolically stupid, wrongheaded people. Like Pat Robertson. Robertson's credo goes by another name, but aside from seeming to worship a "god" -- who loves blood and sacrifice, and good oldfashioned warring -- how is it different from communism? There is no room in Robertson's worldview for alternate beliefs or philosophies. Justice in Robertson's universe is swift, unthinking, painful, and bloody. Pat Robertson defines himself by what and who he hates, and most of us fall into at least one of his categories -- gays, liberals, non-Christians.

Pat Robertson's reason for having Chavez assassinated is so typically Conservative Christian -- it's the cheapest way to go. Jesse Christ would admire this. Do you think God, Himself, built the world in six days without a budget? You may want to believe there was no cost-cutting, no lay-offs, no union disputes in the making of our world, but there probably was. I can just see the Archangel Michael trying to sell God $500 screw drivers and $1,000 toilet seats. Making a world is not cheap, and unmaking the world isn't either. That's why Robertson's thinking with his theological beancounter's hat on. It's brass-tacks, unpoetic work, but it must be done.

Assassinate a human being because "[i]t's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

Oh yeah, and oil... Can't forget about the oil.

Yeah, I hate communists. Fidel Castro, for instance, is an evil man. Whenever I see some nose-picking, disaffected youth wearing a Che Guivera shirt, I want to spit. Little does the youth realize that ole Che would have given his right testicle to restrict that youth's freedom to wear whatever he/she wanted on the front of their shirt. And then to read that Castro is worth more than $200 million. Shit, he and Pat Robertson, and Christian conservatives have more in common than anyone is willing to admit. I think it's a disgrace that Castro has any net worth while his country is in such fixable disarray. But, then again, look at Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld or Rush Limbaugh, or any corporate executive indicted or waiting to be indicted. These guys are literally "filthy" rich, and couldn't give a shit about their country exploding around them. As long as their ill-gotten gains are safe and reproducing like satanic spawn.

I admit, I don't know much about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, but I do know something about General Augusto Pinochet, a man the United States and Britain thought was a wonderful human being. I know, also, about Saddam Hussein, whom the United States thought, once upon a time, was a solid guy. And Manuel Noriega. Yeah, and the Shah of Iran. And that spiffy guy in the Philipines, Marcos.

Let me get this straight -- America hates communists because communists don't respect freedom, so America goes into sovereign nations, ousts sometimes-legitimately-elected leaders and installs leaders they like better. Shit, man, that sounds like communist methods to me; foisting your ideas, your ways onto others while using the "persuasion" of a pointed gun.

Regarding assassination, I think Pat Robertson should practice what he preaches. He should lead by example. He should silence the nearest communist/Taliban voice to him. His own.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Jesse of Nazareth

Have you ever wondered to which Christ these PreCambrian Christian Conservative cretins like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Rick Santorum, et al adhere to, who hate poor people, hate the sick, love the rich, and love war? I have wondered about this. And the mystery has finally been solved by a find that rivals the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in biblical significance:

Jesse of Nazareth

A pimpled, club-footed teenaged boy with hair the color of rat’s fur picked up a stone and lobbed it over the line of people standing before him, striking a feeble, bent old man square on the head. An unsatisfying “Uh” squeezed through the old man’s clenched teeth as he crumpled to the ground. The people standing in line to draw water from the well looked around for the assailant. Two women nearest the old man tended to him.

“Stupid old fucker,” Jesse of Nazareth, thrower of the stone, muttered to his buddy, Bill O’Scariot. “He was holding up the goddamned line.”

“Old stupid fucker,” Bill O’Scariot chuckled.

The line moved along, someone drew water for the old man, and soon Jesse and Bill filled their buckets. As they turned to leave, Jesse ogled one of the women aiding the unconscious old man, and said, “Man, chicks like that put the ‘gal’ in Galilee.”

* * *

Jesse hated Nazareth. The place was boring ole Squaresville. Jesse’s older brother, Jesus, left home two years ago and traveled the land with his homo bum-buddies—Jesus called them “Apostles;” Bill O’Scariot called them “rear admirals”—while Jesse was stuck at home helping his mother. Jesse dreamed of leaving Nazareth for Tiberius, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He’d heard the fishing and surfing there were kickass, and that any man with two arms and two legs could be a muff-magnet among the ladies. Everybody knew that Tiberius babes were the easiest lays in the land.

Even worse about Nazareth, Jesse was only known there as “Jesus’ younger brother.” Do-gooder Jesus, whose expression perpetually hovered between smirk and grimace, and who spoke in maddening non-sequiturs. After some tricks with lepers and blind people and loaves and fishes, Jesus was a local celebrity, casting a long, narrow shadow over Jesse’s life.

* * *

On his way home with the well water, Jesse Christ saw a group of pregnant women standing around talking, and holding baskets of figs. Jesse elbowed Bill. “What the fuck do these idiot skanks think they’re doing?”

“Idiot skanks,” Bill chuckled.

Jesse ran up behind one of the women and knocked the basket out of her hands. “A woman’s place is in the kitchen!” Jesse sneered as the others protested.

“Whaddya smuggling watermelons under your house dresses?” Bill said as he ran after Jesse. “Cows!”

* * *

The last time Jesus Christ preached in Nazareth Jesse and Bill stood at the rear of his crowd of listeners. As Jesus droned some bullshit about the meek and the righteous and the poor of spirit, Bill bowed his head, cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, “Shuddup!”

People gasped and looked around for the culprit.

Jesse had to leave the crowd he was laughing so hard.

Later on, in an olive grove, Jesse said to Bill, “Man, that was hilarious what you did to Jesus!”

Bill grinned. “That’s what my Dad says whenever my Mom talks—‘Shuddup!’”

* * *

When people on the street recognized Jesse as the brother of Jesus, they asked him to do tricks, too. Jesse said to each and every one of them: “Go fuck yourself!”

* * *

Jesse Christ didn’t like his mother, whom he thought of as a sullen nag; “a real wet blanket,” Bill would say. He had even less respect for his father who sat around all day drinking White Russians made with goat’s milk and mead, as he muttered shit about having been made a cuckold by the Holy Ghost. Jesse didn’t believe in ghosts, holy or otherwise, and generally thought his old man was a fucking idiot.

* * *

After months of saving his shekels, Jesse went to Mary Magdalene. She was a whore who had seen more cockends than weekends, but still had a great bod. One evening, high on peyote, Bill had said, “Magdalene put the ‘lilee’ in Galilee.” Jesse actually pissed his robe he laughed so hard.

Jesse took his shekels to Magdalene. Although he’d told Bill he’d been laid countless times, Jesse was a virgin. There was a long line of men waiting in Magdalene’s courtyard. Jesse thought about coming back another time when inspiration struck.

“Hey,” he shouted in the courtyard, “a catering wagon lost a wheel and a shitload of bagels and candy bars and sodas fell off. Everybody’s grabbing something for free!”

The courtyard emptied immediately. Even the man riding Magdalene dismounted and ran out. Leaning on an elbow, Magdalene peered through the gauzy curtain enclosing her fornication area. “Who said that? Who drove the men away?”

Jesse approached.

“Hey, you’re Jesus’ little brother,” Magdalene said.

“Yeah,” Jesse said, his mouth suddenly dry.

“You wanna save my soul like your brother?”

“No,” Jesse said. He held out his shekels. “I want you to pinch my penis with a hair clip and take a shit on my face.”

* * *

The day Jesse’s older brother rode into town on the back of an ass—every lame-o in Nazareth seemed to be out, laying palm leaves in his path—Jesse said to Bill, “Who gave Jesus the gold key to the shitter?”

Bill laughed and said, “Hey, which one’s the ass?”

They collapsed into one another, toppled by laughter.

* * *

With Jesus back in town, it wasn’t long before Jesse was absolutely sick of people stopping him in the street, saying, “Hey, your brother’s back in town.”

“That fucker does everything to make my life miserable,” Jesse said to Bill as they sat in an olive tree. Jesse had brought a few stones with him. He tossed one into the nearby roadway and struck a young child in the side of the face.

“Maybe if we put a scare into him, he’d leave.”

Jesse threw another rock into the roadway, striking a woman helping the crying child in the left breast. “That dizzy fucker? He’d just turn it all around and perform another miracle, or some shit.”

“Not if Pilate hauled him in.”

Jesse looked at Bill, hopeful for a moment, then skeptical. “Yeah, sure, why would Pilate care about some dip with goat shit on his sandals?”

“Maybe if we made up some shit and told the Pharisees. Those crusty old homos are always looking to kick the shit out of somebody new.”

“I guess you’re right,” Jesse said, and hurled his final stone. He struck a blind man in the face, breaking his nose, sending him to the ground in front of a horse drawn cart, which mangled him under a crush of hooves and wheels.

* * *

Bill had a cousin in the civil service. After telling him a bunch of shit about Jesus, that he and his disciples wanted to overthrow Rome—Bill could hardly keep a straight face; Jesus, that dippy fucker, hardly knew which way was north, much less how to lead a rebellion. His cousin, Rush Lymphoma of Nain—a thick-lipped, mouth-breather with heavy-lidded eyes and a perpetual whistling sound issuing from his nose—scratched his groin and said, “I’ll see what I can do.”

* * *

Soon it was Passover and Jesse and Bill hung-out below the window of the room where Jesus and his group of rear admirals were having dinner.

“Smell my bum!” Jesse stage-whispered at the window.

“Tiberius babes rock,” Bill rasped, “Jesus sucks!”

They ran away laughing.

* * *

Sure enough, Rush Lymphoma came through. He didn’t care about Bill, and really didn’t care about Jesus, either, but thought it would look good on his record if he had turned in someone for sedition before his thirtieth birthday. Jesus was rounded up by some Roman guards and brought before Pilate. Ever the glib bastard, Jesus had little to say for himself. Jesse was embarrassed feeling some sympathy for Jesus when Pilate had him flogged, but Bill elbowed Jesse as they stood amid the crowd of spectators, and said, “Shit happens.”

* * *

That weekend, everyone who knew the Christ family was aflutter with the name of Jesus on their lips. They felt so bad for Mary who did little more than shake her head and stare at the ground. It seemed Jesse’s plan was backfiring: everyone was still talking about his older brother. Then came the afternoon when Pilate stood Jesus before a crowd of onlookers, asking them what he should do with Jesus. Without thinking about what he was saying, Jesse shouted, “Crucify him!”

Bill looked at Jesse, stunned. Then grinned. “Crucify him!” Bill shouted.

Soon the whole crowd was chanting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Later on, Jesse remarked to Bill, “Bunch of fucking cattle. If I knew these inbred imbecile villagers were so easy to control, I would’ve run for office by now.”

“Fucking cattle,” Bill chuckled.

* * *

The day Jesus was crucified, Jesse and Bill watched from amid a crowd of spectators. “Boohoo,” Bill said and laughed.

“Goodbye granola-eater,” Jesse spat.

Jesus died, and that was that. A century or two later, people wrote that he came back from the dead and visited his apostles, and ascended to heaven. None of that really happened.

Not long after Jesus’ death, Jesse became a money changer in the temple. He grew a wispy mustachio and changed his name to George W. Burning Bush. Not only was it a pain in the ass being recognized as Jesus’ brother, but following the crucifixion, it was downright dangerous.

George W. Burning Bush didn’t do so well as a money changer. Trying to keep all of the numbers straight was too difficult. Most of his customers walked away with more money than they should have. Abandoning that career, he went with Bill O’Scariot into the desert where they’d heard men were making fortunes drilling into the ground and locating oil. After a few sweat-filled, oil-less days in the desert, George W. Burning Bush wiped his sunburned brow and proclaimed, “This is the Middle Fucking East. There’s no oil out here, just sand.”

He left his friend Bill, and went to Tiberius where he was the only man with two arms and two legs who was not a muff-magnet among the babes. He didn’t do well at fishing, and he was too frightened of the water to try surfing. So, he took up drinking full time, ordering those enigmatic White Russians his father used to drink, made with goat’s milk and mead.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The 53-Minute Crucifixion of Bill Hicks

As a complete comedy aficionado, having been a hardcore fan of Lenny Bruce since I was twelve years old, buying Lenny Bruce and George Carlin cassettes and albums instead of those released by Corey Hart, Duran Duran, and all the other tripe my generation considered to be the coitus of the moment, it's a testament to the obscurity in which Bill Hicks languished that I never heard about him until a few years after he was dead. He was exactly the kind of comedian I would have sought out, but luckily network television blacked him out completely, and thus spared North American society a wave of panic that might have matched or surpassed that which Orson Welles achieved with his War of the Worlds radio spectacular in the 1930's.

To say that Bill Hicks was funny is like saying that Mount Everest is tall.

In the documentary Totally Bill Hicks comedians like Jay Leno and Richard Jeni and Brett Butler speak of Hicks reverently, as though they were loved and admired by Hicks, as though they dwelled among his inner circle, which is absolutely not true. Bill Hicks despised Jay Leno. In one of his final shows, Hicks did a masterfully funny routine in which he and his buddies have a pool regarding which guest will prompt Jay Leno to finally commit suicide onair. One friend bet it would be Patrick Duffy. Bill Hicks was sure it would be Joey Lawrence. Then he fantasized about the night both Patrick Duffy and Joey Lawrence were guests, and Jay took out a gun and blew his brains out, blood and cranial matter forming an NBC peacock on the wall behind him.

Watching those tepid comedians talk about Bill Hicks was like watching Pharisees eulogize Jesus Christ.

Richard Jeni was particularly pathetic. I've seen his act numerous times on television and the man is the very definition of mediocrity; the kind of banal shit Bill Hicks loathed and ranted against. Jeni explained how seeing Bill Hicks' act, comedians stood back and thought, "Jeez, I really should be doing more of this sort of thing -- telling the truth." Yeah, Richard Jeni, deciding to tell the truth is just such a whimsical, easy decision, like making the choice between buying a pack of Certs or Mentos. And ultimately as relevant to the likes of you.

This morning I watched a most painful and poignant performance by Bill Hicks. The audio recording of this Chicago performance goes by the title I'm Sorry Folks and the bootleg video is referred to as "The Infamous Chicago Show." During this particular performance, Bill was having a bad night. Having endured a legion of bad days at work, my sympathies immediately went out to Hicks. He's on the stage, things are clearly not gelling, and to make matters worse members of the audience are heckling him. It's not that Bill Hicks couldn't handle hecklers, but these people hit him from a point of view that was like cryptonite for Bill -- the lame, moronic mewlings of peons drunk and on the town, 9-to-5-ers on a Saturday night hurling verbal bile balloons that wouldn't pass muster in any schoolyard of note.

"You suck," one drunk bitch belches. To this Bill Hicks laid on her a rant, a smoking, sulfur-stenched condemnation that I'm sure few human beings could have survived. He pronounced her a "drunk cunt," and proceeded to encourage her to leave, to go see someone good like Madonna, to go out and find a soul. He proclaimed this heckler to be everything about America that should be flushed down the toilet. It was relentless, and to my mind, completely justified on the part of Hicks.

But the heckles continued from the drunk bitch woman, from some necktied yuppie, and from some wastoid in the back of the room who incessantly and inexplicably shouted "Free bird." Hicks responded with another rant in which he screamed, "Hitler had the right idea, he was just an underachiever!"

To Bill's credit, he didn't let the goatherd of peons beat him. He threatened to leave the stage, but didn't. He was going to out-wait his audience, drive them out of the place. In the midst of this bad night, this painful performance, Bill rallies more than a few times and runs through material that's as hilarious as anything found in performances where things were going well.

This footage is so illustrative of how authentic creatives are harassed and kicked by assholic cretins. I mean, there was Bill Hicks, the most cutting edge, incisive, creative, intelligent satirists of his time, and there before him is a goatherd of stiffs who would have been just as happy if Gallagher or Carrot Top had taken the stage. Bill Hicks, genius, throttled into anguish by a horde of faceless "consumers"; the sort to whom marketers pander, and for whom albums by Michael Bolton, Wham, Britney Spears, Billy Ray Cyrus are released and sell millions of copies.

It's literally footage of Philistines flogging a prophet.

I dug this performance out of my archives because I suffered a dance with mediocrity and ignorance in the past week. It was painful, ugly, and left me stinging like a man-of-war had tried mating with my leg. A friend of mine and I attempted to collaborate on a screenplay. We've spent the last five years doing a weekly Movie Night, and two months ago joined a film club whose goal is to write and produce a feature length film in the next three to four months. My friend is not a writer, but I looked forward to collaborating with him because he's got killer funny ideas. After the most recent movie club meeting I went home and wrote twenty pages of a screenplay, using as much of the horrible, pedestrian ideas the group made out of all the creative, quirky ideas first presented. I arrived two days later at my friend's house looking forward to collaborating, hearing what he thought of what I'd done so far, ready to discuss and revise and get down to work.

All of which came to a screeching derailment when my friend informed me that not only had he not read what I'd written, he refused to. Just what a writer lives to hear, especially from people he thinks he knows. The point my buddy could not budge from was "What if I don't agree with what you've written?"

A very easy problem to approach: Read what I've written and see if you agree or disagree with it.

But he steadfastly refused to read it, reiterating, "What if I don't agree with what you've written?"

To which I said, "Well, then we revise it, we make changes."

Whatever evolutionary point I thought this guy had come to by the year 2005, he set it back about 3,000 years with his fractured logic: He would rather not take the chance of disagreeing with what I'd written, preferring to dive headlong into the certainty of not only offending me, but coming off as a narrow-minded caveman by refusing to read it.

During our escalating discussion I made the point, "Creativity cannot be turned off and on like a switch." To which he shot back, "That's bullshit!" When I asked what experience he based that knowledge on; you know, during the writing of which of his screenplays, novels, short stories, articles, movie reviews, had he found that, yes, he could switch creativity off and on like a switch, he became one of those argument Nostradamuses: "I knew you'd throw that in my face!"

And it happened to be my infernal luck that this guy was a textbook example of the "grappling-hook anger-whore" arguer. After witnessing him demonstrate an entire floorshow of narrow-minded, caveman argument techniques, I removed myself not only from his residence, but from the project. Since 95% of the writing I do is unpaid, what the fuck do I need that shit for?

So, I took solace indulging in Bill Hicks this weekend. Hicks was a genius, I am not. I am creative. I am comforted taking refuge beneath Hicks' huge bat wings, and revisiting those times when he eviscerated Philistines. The loss of another narrow-minded anger-whore from my life is not a tragedy, it's a victory. I'm sick of Trojan Horse people infiltrating my life.

Near the end of Totally Bill Hicks there is discussion of the final slam his career and act took: being cut at the last minute from an airing of the David Letterman show.

"On October 1, [Bill Hicks] was to appear on the David Letterman show for the twelfth time, but his appearance was cancelled somewhat controversially. At the time, Hicks was doing a routine about pro-life organizations, where he encouraged them to lock arms and block cemeteries instead of medical clinics, but his routine was cut from the show. Both the show's producers and CBS denied responsibility for the cut, but the reason appeared obvious to many during the following week's Letterman show when a commercial for a pro-life organization was aired. For many fans, this reinforced one of Bill's recurring themes, that America was being sanitized and manipulated in the name of corporate sponsorship." You know, earning only $20 million per year, poor, edgy David Letterman's hands were tied. He doesn't make the rules for his show, he only abides by them. As one of Johnny Carson's ex-wives once asid, "A million dollars doesn't buy what it used to." And Letterman surely must have had this in his shrewd, businessman's mind. Much as he might have wanted to step out on a limb for Hicks, stand up for someone worth standing up for, Letterman burrowed into a cocoon of Cuban cigar smoke (traitorous bastard! He buys them in my city) and mimicked all three monkeys of See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil.

Bill Hicks' final public statement, read by his brother at the memorial following Hicks' death: "I left in love, in laughter, and in truth, and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit."

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Don't You Ever Wish You Could Talk Back to the News?

Colombia Rebels Sorry for Priest Killings - Boys, shit happens. Since the Roman Catholic Church is by its very nature a terrorist organization with centuries of blood on its hands, and the innocence of millions of molested children on its non-existent conscience, I'm willing to sell you an indulgence to get you off the hook on this one.

Hunter Thompson Ashes Set to Blast Off - Godspeed, you crazy fucker! I admire only a bit of your writing, and even less of your life, but hell, you were as authentic as they come, and you sure made a lot of straights nervous. I hope you're slamming them back in the Great Beyond with Arthur Guinness and Jimi Hendrix and Copernicus.

Israel moves to clear remaining Gaza settlements - "Israel" must be Hebrew for "can't win for losing." When I was admitted to hospital a few years ago for lifestyle related injuries, I made the mistake of listing my religion as Catholic, and paid the price by being visited by a "lay minister" as banal and transparent as a shower curtain. Next time I go to the Cutting House, I'm asking for a rabbi. You may not know how to run a country, but goddamn, your rabbis are intellectuals.

Original Einstein Manuscript Discovered - Being a biblio-fiend, I would give up a kidney and both feet to get a hold of this manuscript. It would go on my book shelf between Umberto Eco and T.S. Eliot.

Police who tailed shot Brazilian didn't think he was a threat: report - After seeing In the Name of the Father, my dad -- who is the most peaceful, Zenful person I know -- said to me, "Every British person should be made to watch that film, and then be hit in the mouth." England has yet to sufficiently investigate the Bloody Sunday atrocity of 1972. No wonder their pigeon-toed police aren't allowed to carry guns. They have a ways to go before they're riddling a man's body with 41 bullets while he reaches for his wallet, but this is definitely a step in that direction.

Pope Urges More Muslims to Fight Terror - The comedian Bill Hicks once said, while commenting on the FBI's bogus reasoning for massacring the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in 1993: "The government's reason? 'Because children were being molested there.' Well, if that's your criteria, why don't I see any Bradlee fighting vehicles knocking down the front doors of Catholic churches?" And he was right. Pope Ratzenburger urges more muslims to fight terror. They should start with him.

Thousands may seek Vioxx damages - Take the fuckers down. I once heard a pharmaceutical company CEO on the radio "explaining" why drugs cost so much. He used as an example a drug his researchers worked on for a few years that was intended to stop the aging process. After years of research and $70 million invested in the project, it just didn't pan out. Uh, what kind of fucking idiot is spending that kind of money on such an assinine idea? That CEO shouldn't have been on the radio rationalizing why he would receive $100 million dollars a year in compensation and bonuses, he should either have been quarantined in a psych ward some where, or put on trial by his shareholders. Drug companies these days are doing business like Microsoft, except drug companies don't have FTP sites from which their users can download upgraded products. Both Microsoft and drug companies are releasing their products before they're finished, making their customers unpaid Quality Assurance engineers, finding the bugs. Problem with the drugs companies is they're killing people with this strategy.

Family visits Aziz in Iraq prison - I feel the same way about this crazy moron as I do about Hunter S. Thompson -- this guy's a nut, I'd never want to meet him, but I had more than a few laughs reading transcripts of him mutilating the English language while posturing before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Ultimately, though, much as I was amused by this ass clown, I hope that he and every Baathist up to Sodom Hussein are shown the world from the perspective Benito Mussolini saw it in his final moments on the earth.

London police chief defends handling of shooting - "Yes, the man was brown-skinned and he was running in a public place. The stupid git was asking for it."

Secret film of Zimbabwe 'squalor' - Jesus Christ, himself, said, "The poor will be with you always." So, I guess we should just get used to them.

Memo to Drudge, et al: It's Not About Me, It's About the War - Matt Drudge and his fellow preCambrian Conservative Christians showed what big, patriotic men they are by assailing a grieving mother who lost her son in the Iraq war last year. Could someone please advise me on what version of the Bible these Conservative Cretins refer to? Does it contain a person named Jesus? Does it quote any of the things this person named Jesus is purported to have said? Just curious. I'm beginning to think these Christians are part of some bizarro offshoot of Christianity -- following Jesus' vengeful, acne-ravaged, club-footed younger brother, Jesse Christ. It's an easy mistake to make. Jesse was the one who went around beating up old, poor cripples, pregnant women, and who coined that most whimsical saying, "Shuddup!" whenever someone attempted to speak reasonably and peaceably to him.

Australian soldiers to undergo training to endure torture - Are they planning on being captured by American forces? Aren't the Australians and Americans fighting on the same side? Or, has another war broken out that I haven't yet heard about?

Miller Beer Holds 150th Anniversary Bash - Some of the fun events to be held at the "bash" include Wife Beating, Child Raping, Urinating in One's Trousers, Projectile Vomiting, Driving through the Land Mine Obstacle Course in a Pickup Truck, and Police Officer Wrestling. If shown on TV, this spectacular may pre-emp American Gladiators.

Muslim leaders 'in denial' claim - "Britain's most powerful Islamic body is 'in denial' about the prevalence of extreme views among its members, one of its founders has told the BBC." This is where Britain is scoring points with me -- by kicking these extremist mullahs the hell out of the country. Who the hell do these cave-dwelling sand phantoms think they are? They leave their caves, leave their sand, go to civilization, only to rail against it, preach violence against innocents, and plant the seeds of hate. OK, I realize by going to Britain it was merely a case of "birds of a feather flocking together," but finally someone in England has awakened and is doing what should be done around the world. Return preachers of hate and violence to the outhouse lands from which they first scurried.

Sunnis Complain of Being Cut Out of Talks - To quote Jesse Christ: "Shuddup!"

Mechanics strike but Northwest Air aloft - Airline executives are the untold story of corporate corruption in America. I've flown for business and never will I understand how the assholes who own the planes aren't making money (according to my copy of the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader: 16th Edition, Americans, alone, take 215 million business trips a year. This number, of course, doesn't include leisure trips). Well, actually, I do know -- they're as greedy as the devil himself let loose in a sorority house. All we ever hear in the news is how the working poor who actually make the airlines function being hit by pay cut after pay cut, all the while the boards of directors and the alphabet soup executives are looking after their precious golden parachutes. I think only pilots suffering from near incapacitating depression should be assigned to fly their corporate swine around the country, and demand that these execs sign some fair-minded contracts with the front line employees before the pilots agree to land the plane.
* * *

And that's the way it isn't on this Saturday, August 20th.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

Attention, marketing assholes, who must sully every human invention with your goddamned, reprehensible, intrusive, unwanted, unimaginative, bullshit, bogus, bilious marketing manure, trawling blogs, leaving your lame, transparent posts: "Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!"

In the immortal words of Father Jack Hackett on Father Ted, "Feck off!"

Impasse in Onion Field, Ontario

I'm not only seeking a higher quality of liar in my life these days, but more dexterous, imaginative, and elastic people with whom to argue. Man, there are some lame-ass arguers out there! A recent chain of events has served to remind me just how thoroughly and to what great detriment most human beings live in their own minds. Against the cave walls of their craniums they cast images of themselves as great warriors and benevolent healers and doers of good; as Zenful dispensers of wisdom. Meanwhile, in real life, they eat with their mouths open, wipe their asses with their bare hands, and when engaged in an argument, spew the bile of their spectacularly overblown images of themselves.

But I get ahead of myself. First, this:

Hello, my name is Matt St. Amand, and I'm a deeply flawed person. To show you how stunted and backward I am, it wasn't until my 30th birthday that I took a serious look at the way I conducted myself in my relationships and the world at large, and realized -- Holy shit, life is messy. As a French/Irish Canadian Catholic, I was raised to believe that messiness was the devil's work. Chaos was of satanic origin. Mistakes are humanities' way of poking God in the eye with a sharp stick. Mistakes and errors show people to be imperfect, and imperfect people don't get into heaven.

Long after I knew this to be intellectually bullshit, I finally rid myself of its multifarious unconscious aspects on or around my 30th birthday.

A boss, who later turned out to be insane, once said to me, "If you're not making mistakes, it means you're not trying hard enough." For as shit-in-his-pants nuts as he was, I think about this nugget often, and draw reassurance from it.

In my long and varied, unkempt and old-sock-smelling experience, poor argument partners fall into one of four categories (sometimes mixing and matching in appalling ways). They are in no particular order:
  • Kitchen-sinkers

  • OK-then-everything's-my-faults

  • Grappling-hook-anger-whores

  • Mind readers
I never said these groups weren't complicated or didn't have cool names.

Kitchen-sinkers

Argue with these badboys and you can expect a modest disagreement about the most mundane issue or subject to turn into a complete free-for-all. These people take the opportunity of discussing a single wrong, a single offense, a single incident to completely deconstruct your soul and life -- telling you that they never liked you, listing off things you did twenty-five years ago that they hated but never spoke about before, throwing everything at you including the emotional kitchen sink. These are the folks who treat an argument like a sporting event where you score points with every new charge you make against the other person. Just so you know: If I come to you with a problem, either saying I didn't like something you said or would like you to clarify something that bothered me, and you proceed to pour out 100 things I've previously said that you never before indicated were a problem, you don't win. That's a fallacy in our culture -- no one wins an argument, people solve them -- promulgated by talk shows and talking-head shows.

Even better, kitchen-sinkers will bring up things you confided to them previously and use those confidences against you. This is among their most loathsome traits. You may have sought advice about a delicate matter, you may have confided insecurities, doubts, or some other vulnerability to these people at one time. Because you were seeking a sympathetic ear. You respected their ideas, their opinions. Only to have the kitchen-sinker dump it back on your head during an unrelated disagreement like a wheel barrow filled with manure. This is low, low conduct.

OK-then-everything's-my-faults

These people are life's speed bumps. When I was in high school, I was a reasonably decent basketball player. After riding the bench through eleventh grade, I made numerous improvements in my game, and was aghast when I continued riding the bench in twelfth grade. During practice one day, we paired-up to play one-on-one with each other. I was paired with a starting guard, someone whose abilities I didn't respect in the least. Well, we played one-on-one and I kicked his ass. I wiped the court with him. No one was watching; everyone else was tied up with their one-on-one games. Still, I demolished the guy, and the fact that he knew it was satisfying enough. However, once it was clear I had utterly eviscerated him, my opponent stopped trying. He allowed me to blow past him for layups without making any effort to stop me. He let me run up the score so that he could later tell himself I had won only because he had let me win. Thus giving himself control over the game, albeit in an unconventional manner, but still the outcome (he might reason) was his to control. The fucker!

And this is just the sort of limp dick move an "OK-then-everything's-my-fault" person does when they passive-aggressively roll over and admit that all the evil in the world is their fault.

I first encountered this as a kid, arguing with someone in the schoolyard. At some point the other person said, "OK, I do everything wrong and everything's my fault." I still recall feeling weird about this. The person had admitted, almost word for word, the very point I was trying to make, yet the admission rang hollow, false, somehow. It sufficed to end that childhood disagreement, but when people try this on me in adult life I regard them as though they have shit their pants in the middle of an airport.

Grappling-hook-anger-whores

These people lust after being offended. They live for the moment they are wronged. They sweep and sweep your dialogue with their offense-detectors, looking for the least hint of something, anything that can be interpreted in a negative fashion.

The "grappling-hook-anger-whore" is a two-fold affront to good arguing. This is the person who latches onto every single thing you say, reading negativity into whatever comes out of your mouth: "What do you mean the sky is blue?! Are you questioning my manhood?!" And as they rack up every intended and unintended sting and slam, they grow angrier and angrier.

Trust me on this, I've tried it, I've approached it from a hundred different angles -- anger solves nothing. I'm no Ghandi, I'm no pacifist; the other day when I was arguing with my brother, I went from zero-to-"Fuck you!" in about three seconds. Anger and yelling is proverbial gasonline thrown onto the proverbial fire. The only thing not proverbial about this is the hurt and bad feelings it arouses.

Anger is seeing life, the world through shit-colored glasses. The moment you give into the adrenalin rush of anger, into the exquisite embrace of feeling yourself being martyred, things will go so badly awry that even Ghandi would be tempted to flick your earlobe.

Mind readers

"Yeah, well, you just think you're this..." "Yeah, well, you think you know everything..." "Yeah, well, you think you can do that..." Just writing these generic examples raises my blood pressure.

What person knows another's mind? That's why I stick to discussing a person's actions. Actions speak louder than words. A person may praise you to your face, call you their best friend, but if they skip your birthday party without a phone call, I think that negates the impact of their words.

"Mind readers" not only tell you what you think, what motivates your actions, but they step even further out on a limb by including unseen, unidentified hordes in your argument: "Yeah, well, everyone thinks this about you." So, instead of merely presenting their own position, mind readers inflate their ranks quicker than they could blow up a single inflatable sex partner.
* * *

These are the types of arguers who make arguments so goddamned unpleasant. As poor liars hurt lying, these four categories of argument partners woefully lower the bar on the cathartic power of disagreements. They turn it into mudwrestling, they make you feel like you've stepped in gum, they reveal themselves as shallow, hurtful people and somehow think their poor tactics are a reflection on you.

We must all take responsibility for our own arguing, and for improving this aspect of ourselves.

First, sarcasm is a killer. Warranted as it might seem at times, you'll only dig the shithole deeper with it.

Second, ultimatums -- they are dead ends. Who among us, seriously, can draw a line in the sand? Now, I'm not talking about some poor person who's been physically abused -- of course, they should absolutely say, "This shit ends, or I walk!" But short of that, ultimatums are the snakes of the old Snakes & Ladders game.

Third, the faux calm voice. Come on, I'm an adult, you speak at 33.3 RPMs. The faux calm voice is another gem from the passive-aggressive grab-bag. The person seems calm, cool, and collected, but meanwhile all they're seeking to do is escalate their arguing partner's anger. Speak like a rational human being. The faux calm voice is as poor a tactic as shouting.

Fourth, cutting people off mid-sentence. Hello, my name is Matt St. Amand, and I am absolutely terrible for doing this. How can anyone communicate if the other person keeps cutting them off? They can't. I'm woefully aware of my tendency to do this, and I'm working like hell to change it. Because, logically, if you have a beef with someone, wouldn't you want to hear their entire argument so that you could address it in the fullest manner possible? This is ultimately a self-destructive tactic.

Fifth, although it should go without saying, nothing in this world seems to be able to "go without saying" -- violence; hitting, punching, shooting, stabbing, bludgeoning, kicking, biting, hair pulling, fish-hooking, Figure-Four-Leg-Locking, et al, are only for those who are trapped in primordial slime. H.G. Wells once said, the person who raises their hand first is the person who has run out of ideas first. I realize some guy in a wife-beater shirt, his hair all messed up, and his boxer shorts riding low doesn't much care if he's the first to run out of ideas, but among anyone who has any aspiration or claim to being civilized, violence is an absolute "no fly zone." You go there, you're a fucking cave dweller. If you're defending yourself, physically, that's another story. If you just throw a punch because you ran out of things to say, you're a fucking cave dweller -- the sort who didn't know how to build a fire or paint on a wall, or even mate. The one who stole food from others. You know, a proto-Republican.

Lying and arguing ought to be taught in school. I think I might develop a seminar series.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Future is -- When? & People who drive Hummers lack orgasms in their lives

I attended elementary school in the late '70's and early '80's. More than a few times discussion in our "environmental studies" classes -- the closest thing our cash and imagination strapped school board had to science class -- centered on how the future world (then, the Year 2000 was still the golden, seemingly unreachable science fiction dateline) would consist of solarium houses, jet packs rather than cumbersome cars, moving sidewalks, and no worries about the energy required to run any of this. Because it would all be solar powered, or by sunflower seeds or corn oil, or something.

When I was in the market to purchase my first home a couple of years ago, I researched what it would cost to have a solar powered home. I'm no "tree hugger" or granola-eating self-righteous sneerer at all things mechanical -- hey, I live by my PC, DVD player, electric guitar and cordless phone (I won't yet sully myself with a cell phone). But I want to do my share. I don't believe in "saving the planet." What an arrogant, assholic idea. However, I think there is such a thing as responsible citizenship. My next car will be a hybrid. And when I was buying a home, I wanted it to be solar powered (aside from any environmental considerations, my main idea behind this was not having to pay exorbitant hydro [as we call it in Canada] rates. I thought I'd ultimately be saving cash going solar).

The long story made short is -- solar power vendors talked me out of pursuing solar power. Yes, you read that correctly. Maybe this is just ass-backward Ontario with our Soviet-styled customer service instincts, but people running companies that made solar panels or did whatever they do to make your house solar powered, basically told me not to bother considering that option. I didn't bother saving these emails as I was too shocked and incensed to pursue the issue further. But I do recall one solar power vendor actually seeming to say I could only have a solar powered house with my local utility's permission. Again, you read that correctly. That's like having to ask Chrysler for permission to buy a Ford vehicle. It made no goddamned sense at all.

Yes, I must be an absolute bumpkin. Stupid me, I thought there might actually be tax credits, and, you know, incentives for people to have solar powered homes. No such thing exists in the Great Territory of Ontario, Canada. It may exist elsewhere, but no one here seems to have seen the news recently and caught the story about OUR MOTHERFUCKING FOSSIL FUEL RESOURCES RAPIDLY DEPLETING. I hate using all caps, but it's easier than composing a Flash animation of me thrashing a cartoon representation of a politician/bureaucrat with a baseball bat.

So, I was thrilled and tickled today when I saw a link on the CNN.com home page -- ever-tuned to the pulse and mind of North American society -- to a review of the new Hummer. First, I love the idea of this overpriced, oversized, ego-masturbating monstrocity actually being named after slang for oral sex. Of course it is. I can just see the comb-over, low-carb salesman making his latest sale:

"Yes, Mr. Gobshite, I think you're going to be very happy with your new Hummer."

The eleven year olds in the peanut gallery shit themselves blue.

Honestly, there are well over a hundred thousand troops from the United States alone in the middle east at this very moment being blown up on a daily basis as they carry out the mission of securing America's fossil fuel future. The troops go where they're sent. They don't make policy. God help them, they must trust the policymakers. And maybe if we had a sunflower seed-based fuel economy the U.S. would be at war with the country that leads the world in sunflower seed production. But where the hell is a human being's priorities when fuel prices are galloping upward, the news is filled with stories about the ever-increasing number of war dead and the world's oil resources are peaking out? "Boy howdy! It's HummerTime!"

People who drive Hummers lack orgasms in their lives.

People who drive Hummers are wretches working out their inferiority complexes by driving faux military, faux masculine type vehicles, all the while sucking up fuel like Bangkok whores on PCP. Is it a coincidence that Hummer owners are primarily lawyers, corporate executives, or persons equally devoid of souls? I say not.

Even if a Hummer that ran on sunflower seeds were built, I'd still question the character of anyone who desired such an ugly, oppressive, life-denying, status-groping thing as their mode of transportation.

So, while the number of U.S. dead in Iraq nears 2,000, and the civilian dead number ten fold the lives lost in the 9/11 attacks, CNN.com feels it's a great time to feature a review on the new Hummer.

All drivers of Hummers -- ditch your goddamned vehicles and give a try to real hummers. You'll never go back!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Shits & Giggles in FreelanceVille

As a ruse to speed payment for some articles I wrote for a local magazine -- the only one worth writing for around here -- I sent the following note:

My wife needs an operation. I've been putting on a brave face the last few weeks, but the inevitable must be faced -- her kneecaps have inexplicably slipped around to the backs of her legs, and she now walks like a flamingo. The worst part of this tragedy is its unintended comedic aspect. However, Flamingo Leg, especially in young women, is no laughing matter.

The good news is that we've located a surgeon who is willing to perform the operation for the incredibly low price of $238.80. I couldn't believe it! I told him I had that much coming to me from The Drive, which had graciously published my Bono story recently. Thing is, the surgeon hopes that I'm not prodding you like I once did over payment for the Home Issue a year ago. The surgeon says any word from you on the matter would work. He's a nosey bastard, as you can see, but he's willing to fix Michelle's legs -- what the hell am I supposed to say to him?

So, we only need a word from you. And you get to choose what that word is.

God bless you.
* * *

And the man paid me.

Filmmaking in Onion Field, Ontario - Das Prossess - Too Many Chefs in the ThinkTank

For the past two months I have been a part of a very exciting and interesting group called The Windsor Film Club. We're a gaggle of film buffs, novice filmmakers, interested in writing and producing our own movie within the next three or four months.

As a fiction writer, whose workday involves copious hours alone at the keyboard, silently brainstorming in my thinktank-for-one, you may not be surprised to learn that I'm not much of a "joiner." Creating art by committee conflicts on every level with my inner control freak. Also, experience dictates that it's no easy thing to do under the best of circumstances. And that's exactly the reason I joined this group -- to shake up my inner control freak. However, Jason, the leader of the Film Club has brought together a dynamic group of people. We have our quirks, our disputes, sometimes think one another is crazy, but I have never felt so comfortable among a group of strangers (though they aren't any longer). The first evening we met, Jason had us get up in twos to do some improv exercises before the group. This normally would have had me diving out of the nearest window. Since 9th grade French class, I have been unable to stand before a group of people feeling anything but the most abject, unhinged anxiety. Yet among these folks, I weirdly felt all right. Enjoyed myself, actually.

So, we've spent the last month brainstorming story ideas, and finally narrowed down to one. Protocol prohibits me from talking about the story, but I assure all Gentle Readers of this blog that it's absolutely nothing earthshattering. Actually, it's quite pedestrian. Which is fine. That's one of the central reasons why I do not write science fiction or fantasy -- there is just too much great material to be gleaned from daily life. Nothing thrills me more than reworking the mundane details of daily life into fiction people want to read.

For as much as I've enjoyed the film club, my inner control freak tackled me on the 5-yard line yesterday evening. We've sort of over brainstormed the story for our first movie, and though I had every intention of volunteering to be one of the writers of the screenplay, yesterday's meeting and the disjointed, pedestrian ideas that were bandied about, stopped me cold. It's my problem; it's my thing to wrestle with. Were I a responsible, mature adult I would simply air my feelings, my misgivings about where I think our story is going awry, but I'm at a point where my public diplomacy has grown thin and unreliable. While working in smaller discussion groups I've noticed a trend among my peers to pull any ideas that are quirky or unique back into the middle of the road. To coin an awkward word, a tendency to ordinarify ideas.

You see, in order for me to sit down and write a story, I have to feel passionate about it. I'm sure this is not startling news. But more than that, I have to jam my hands right into the soil of the idea and unearth as much non-pedestrian, extraordinary details as possible. In order to spend any time with an idea, I have to be entertained by it. From my extensive reading on writing and the creative process, this is pretty much the norm for writers, filmmakers, and all other artists. Short of engaging in flat-out arguments over artistic vision in the film group, I have done what I can to steer the movie plot into some interesting areas, but the vocal minority have continually rebuffed this.

To a certain extent, that's cool. I believe that the majority rules. Although the film group opted to go with a premise I thought flawed and not worthwhile, I trusted the group and moved forward, still wanting to work on the screenplay. But after witnessing the hamstringing of any interesting ideas last night, I balked. When we went around the group near the meeting's end, specifying what roles we wanted to play in the making of his film, I said, "Camera, lighting, and sound." No harm intended, but the people pulling for the pedestrian ideas and plot-points have no idea what the task of writing a 100-120 page screenplay entails. The combative control freak in me wanted to challenge them to churn even ten pages of their own with their gauzy ideas. But I made no such challenge. Instead, I remained silent, conflicted, and consumed by the old self-doubt that has me continually questioning my sanity.

You know, I don't to come off as Mr. Gobshite-Thinks-He's-William-Faulkner, but at the same time I've been a professional writer for the past eight years. The home in which I live, the car I drive has all been funded by the words I write. The task at hand seemed as daunting as explaining color to a blind person. Where do you begin?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself, I'm a Man of Wealth & Taste - Xavier Lipshitz





Dr. Strangeshitz


It was a sulky October morning in the Baldoyle Industrial Estate, eleven kilometers north east of Dublin City Centre. The offices of Oldham Hershel Systems seemed to crouch behind its landscaped shrubbery. A four story building seeking to be forty.

As I logged on to my PC, I heard footsteps come to a stop on the other side of my cube. An arm reached over the head-high wall, holding a FedEx package.

“What’s this?” I said, taking the package.

No reply. The footsteps trailed into the silence of the office.

I opened the package, which contained a pager, one thousand euros, and a note: “When the beeper sounds, go to the front doors. Talk to no one, ask no questions, get in the waiting car.”

“What the hell?” I muttered, looking over the FedEx envelope: my name typewritten on front; no return address.

I counted the money again. Although my immediate debts would eat up half of the cash, receiving a lump of money from an unknown source made me uneasy. And when would the pager go off—?

The pager beeped. I suddenly felt like Neo in The Matrix, with the men in black suits filing through the office toward his cube.

Keep the money, I thought. Fuck the pager.

And wait for footsteps to surround my cube? Be accused of stealing?

Stealing what? I thought. The money came to me.

The beeper went silent.

Looking at my Outlook calendar on the PC, my day was filled with meetings and teleconferences; one blackhole after another. What could it hurt to see if there was anyone waiting at the entrance for me. I rose from my chair and shoved the beeper in one pocket, the money in the other. Waiting car, I thought, walking to the elevator. Who the hell will be waiting in the “waiting car”?

I moved to Dublin from Canada last year. As a writer, my hometown couldn’t sustain me. The best I could hope for was writing menus or scavenging along the shore of the Detroit River. Neither would keep me in beer or CDs. However, Dublin was no oasis. My dream of being a novelist dissipated before I finished the first chapter of my book—the reality of living in a dingy bedsit and having no money sapped my inspiration. My plans for being a teacher fell through one month and one hundred resumes later. After two months on the Dole, I landed a job with Oldham Herschel Systems just after its merger with Hechter Information Technologists. Technical writing—the devil’s snare for writers.

~

The elevator doors opened on the lobby.

Not for a moment did I think there would be a car outside—

—a green Mercury sat idling in the drizzle beyond the front doors.

~

I don’t know what tipped me toward getting into the green Merc: boredom, the money, curiosity. I stepped outside—the Merc’s rear door opened. The interior of the car smelled of tobacco and acrid men’s cologne, like rancid soap. An unsmiling mustached man, wearing a tweed overcoat, sat in the backseat. He regarded me with onyx eyes, emotionless as blank TV screens.

“Uh, hi,” I said, wondering if I should introduce myself. “What’s going—?”

“No questions,” he grunted in an accent I couldn’t place.

~

Before long, we were on the freeway passing signs for Dublin Airport. My curiosity and wariness fused into a choking lash of claustrophobia. “Fuck the instructions!” I spluttered. “Where are we going?”

“Someone wishes to meet you.”

“Who?”

No reply.

We turned in to Dublin Airport, sped past the terminal and came to a manned gate. A guard looked over the car, then raised the traffic arm. A moment later, we were cruising along the tarmac where planes taxied.

“I don’t have my passport,” I said. “I’m not flying anywhere.”

The man said nothing.

We continued to the far end corner of the tarmac, where a magenta jet sat.

“On the plane,” the man said, “your questions will be answered.”

~

Stepping out of the car, I wondered how far I would get if I sprinted for the airport terminal. It’s not like I’m under arrest, I thought. Then I felt the wad of cash in my pocket. That complicated matters. The man in tweed came round the car, and led me up to the jet’s entrance. As I stepped in, he remained outside.

My vision slowly adjusted to the jet’s dim interior. First thing I noticed was the damp, dank earthen odor. During college, I knew a few “home horticulturalists”: indoor pot growers. Their house smelled like this.

The jet was lushly decorated: parquet floor, leather easychairs, playpen sofa, big screen TV, expansive mahogany bar; walls filled with art. How does it survive turbulence? I wondered.

My thoughts vanished as a gorgeous, lanky blonde approached, wearing a red Lycra® bodysuit. She smiled. “My name is Contanya,” she said. “Would you like a drink?”

My voice seemed a long time in coming: “Uh, coffee?”

Contanya cocked her head. “How boring,” she pouted. “Won’t you have something... more creative?”

“What do you have?” I stammered.

She pinned me with her lightning rod gaze. “Anything.” My forehead prickled with perspiration. Contanya swept over to the bar. My eyes ransacked her Lycra®-clad form. A moment later, she handed me a silver goblet containing glowing green liquid: smelled like flowers, tasted like licorice.

“Absinthe,” she purred. “You will meet the master now?”

The drink traced a warm trail down my throat. “I guess.”

~

She led me into an area that was part casino/nightclub, part multimedia laboratory, part life-support pod. A large disco ball hung from the ceiling. To the left was a wall of monitors, a desk cluttered with laptop computers, PC towers, keyboards, routers, cables, microphones, and webcams. There was a wide wooden bar, leather easychairs, and casino tables: craps, poker, baccarat. Toward the rear was a startling array of medical equipment. There was the smell of piss and burnt hair in the air.

Amid the medical equipment was a drawn white curtain with three silhouettes cast against it: two long women—voluptuous; doubtless wearing bodysuits like Contanya’s—and a seated, hunched lump of humanity. One woman prepared a hypodermic needle. Leaning forward, her shadow melded with the patient’s. Then came an exhalation—“Aaaahhhhhh”—like the wheeze of a bear, the grunt of a yak, mixed with the nasally wordless antipathy of a New York City taxi driver; the voice of Moses if he still walked the earth—five thousand years amid desert dust, eating locusts and cacti, drinking urine.

The curtain swept back.

Under normal circumstances, my attention would not have wavered from the caramel-skinned lovelies in red Lycra.® I glimpsed them, but my attention fell like an anvil on the figure in an electric wheelchair whirring toward me. The sexless aged figure had an elaborate black coif, and wore mirrored aviator sunglasses. Only by the look of the three stunning women in the room did I guess this figure had once been a man. He wore white coveralls—pristine; accentuating his jaundiced flesh. His hands were claws. An awful pink tongue probed his wet lips.

“Mr. Matthew St. Amand,” the man said, and chuckled: an obscene, phlegmy, stomach-turning sound. “I am Xavier Lipshitz.”

~

Contanya led me like a catatonic to an easychair. She refilled my goblet with absinthe. Felt as though my head was opening like a BMW convertible top.

“You know my name?” Xavier said.

Who didn’t? Xavier Lipshitz, Esq., ├╝ber-executive, captained corporate leviathan ZemhepCo Group, one of the largest entities on the planet. Believed to be over one hundred years old, Lipshitz was a cross between Howard Hughes and Dr. Strangelove, whirring around in a plutonium-powered wheelchair; an urban legend: the wealthy-beyond-imagination eccentric circling the earth in his magenta supersonic jet.

“I’ve followed your exploits,” Xavier said. “You’re a writer, yes?”

I gaped; bewildered.

“William Faulkner once sat where you’re sitting,” he said. “Do you read Faulkner?”

Shook my head.

“Neither did I, but I always enjoyed a good piss-up with him.”

“What do you want with me?” My voice seemed to come from somewhere over my shoulder.

“I’m shopping for a biographer.” He folded his clawed hands. “I could call Salman Rushdie or Katherine Dunn, but that wouldn’t be very Xavierian of me. I want someone unknown.

“I have read your work. It’s not great, but I did enjoy a line from your story ‘Stones Falling Downward’—”

“Actually, it’s ‘As My Sparks Fly Upward.’”

“—where you imagine your hometown saying to you: ‘Gird your loins, and get the fuck out!’”

“How did you—?”

“You submitted it to a magazine owned by ZemhepCo.”

I had been submitting stories to magazines for years—always figured editors simply lit their cigars with my work. Having received an avalanche of form rejection slips, it never dawned on me that my work had ever been read. I found myself thinking aloud: “Is there a chance—?”

“We’ll publish it? No. You won’t even get a rejection letter. We’ve done away with them—cost-saving measure.”
* * *

So much more to be written...

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Etiquette, Protocol and Responsibility of Lying

When William H. Macy's character is accused of lying in the David Mamet comedy, State and Main, he responds, "No, I just have a gift for fiction."

For some, the root of all evil is money; or the love of money. It's my opinion that the root of all human evil stems from our capacity to lie. We cannot look into the hearts and minds of others, and see the truth, so we can rely only on observing other peoples' actions and trusting the veracity of their words.

Sounds like I'm passing myself off as a streetcorner moralist; some smug bastard at the keyboard of his computer pontificating about great Rights and Wrongs. Not at all. I simply want to inspire people to engage in a higher quality of lying.

What makes lying so bad? That it's basically wrong? Should we all strive to be the fictional young George Washington, proclaiming, "I cannot tell a lie..."?

Fuck no. What makes lying bad is bad liars. You see, if you're going to feed someone a line of bullshit, you're taking on more responsibility than you probably realize. I'm not talking about the normal, day to day, bullshit, when our wives ask if a certain skirt makes their butts look big, or if our mother's undercooked meal was all right. Or the crap we say to door-to-door salesmen, telemarketers, census takers, and whatever random strangers we encounter in a given day who are asking something of us. When you lie, you're taking it upon yourself to alter someone's reality. Clearly, if you told the truth about a given situation, the reaction of your audience would be of one stripe, but by telling a lie you are artificially manipulating their response.

For example:

Wife to Husband: "You didn't drink before you drove home last night, did you?"

Husband to Wife: "Of course not!"

Wife's response to this would, in most cases, be markedly different than if the Husband told the truth: "Actually, I was shitfaced. It's a miracle I made it home at all!"

To which she would likely respond: "You prick! I want a divorce!"

I'm referring to the more substantive moments of subterfuge. Here are my personal rules:

(1) I have absolutely no obligation to speak the truth to strangers: Do I have some spare change? No. Am I busy? Yes. Do I have the time? No. Do I have a moment to spare? No. This is not only a rule of lying and self-protection, but of entertainment. I have a great time on the Internet filling out those obligatory surveys we're faced with when trying to access news, say, on the USAToday Web site, or some such thing. Yeah, I'm the female born in 1903 whose zip code is 10001. Fuck you Internet information gatherers!

(2) Know and respect your audience. This, obviously, doesn't include strangers. This includes, spouses, family members, bosses, colleagues, etc.

So, if you're going to take it upon yourself to alter someone's reality, be sure your story can withstand the test of time.

The harm caused by bad liars is multifarious. It's jarring to have your reality altered, and then for it to snap back onto its original track. For instance, a girlfriend/fiancee who broke up with me years ago said her reason was that she was just tired of our relationship. Hardly an ego-boosting reason to hear, but one I had to accept. However, within a few months my altered reality snapped back onto its original track when I inadvertantly learned that she had been cheating on me with some guy she had waiting in the wings. She neither respected her audience, nor did her lie stand the test of time. It was a stop-gap lie, the worst type of subterfuge, though the most popular sort among really bad liars.

I've had recent experience with a bad liar. His fictional name for this example will be "Tony Robbins" (no relation to infomercial Tony Robbins, whom I'm sure has never lied in his life. He's six-foot-ten, why would he ever have to lie?). Last Christmas when my Tony Robbins said he had asked his girlfriend to marry him, my wife offered to make their wedding invitations. My wife is an artist, and did a spectacular job on our wedding invitations years before. Tony Robbins and his new fiancee were delighted and excited and oozing with thanks. However, in the past few days after a number of stop-gap lies burst their rivets, it was learned that my Tony Robbins actually didn't want my wife to make his wedding invitations. Why he didn't just say this in the first place is unknown. As a result, mine and my wife's altered reality snapped back onto its original track this week. Our bad feelings over the situation emanate from the fact that my Tony Robbins didn't respect his audience enough to offer a more weather-proofed lie. He slapped down a .99 cent lie and was satisfied with that.

The interesting experience with my Tony Robbins is that he exposed his own lies, as though to say, "Ha, ha, you believed a .99 cent lie!", communicated in a manner meant to make me feel bad, and make me doubt my own ability to discern fact from fiction. The weird thing is, my Tony Robbins prides himself on being an honest person. So, it's interesting that he would reveal his own poor lying as somehow evidence of fault on my part. Such are the strange ways of bad liars.

So, the moral of good, proficient, long-lasting lying is respect your audience, and don't take lightly the fact that your lie alters someone else's reality, no matter how slightly it might seem.

Look at corporations as examples of horrendously amateurish lying.

General Electric: "We bring good things to light." This quaint tagline is absolutely fermented by the irony of history. General Electric is one of the world's largest weapons makers. The majority of their profits come from things they build and sell that are ultimately used to kill people.

Hewlett-Packard: "Invent." Which is hilariously ironic. I've worked for HP, and was both amused and aghast that the ranks of its decision-making personnel are actually utter techno-phobes. "Out of the box" thinking was always squashed, creative approaches to problem-solving were scorned, and red-tape and bureaucrazy (no spelling mistake there) ruled the day. While the overpaid consultants HP employed were continually "inventing" new ways in which to milk the system and prolong problems they were hired to solve, I don't think that's what HP had in mind with its motto.

Ford: "Quality is Job #1." My family has owned a number of Ford cars over the years, and I have a few friends who work for Fords. Of all the words in the English language that could be applied to Ford, "quality" is not among them. My parents' Ford cars were lemons. I drive a GM simply because it's not a Ford.

ZemhepCo Group: "We love you more than your families do!" This is probably the most reprehensible example of the baldfaced lies that make up corporate advertising. Do you know what ZemhepCo Group's contact email address is? love@zemhepco.com. No shit. I guess it was only a matter of time before corporations just vaulted over that emotional line in the sand, proclaiming their "love" for us. Yeah, love for our money.

There are, of course, numerous other examples.

What's the moral of the story about good and bad lying? Don't be a limp dick like my Tony Robbins and pop off .99 cent lies like their department store bubblegum. Bad liars diminish us all. They suck the nutrients from our souls, and dim our days just that much more.

Remember the rules listed above for solid, proficient lying, and hopefully the next time you want to act like God and alter someone's reality the paint won't peel off it for years and years.

Happy subterfuging!