Friday, March 21, 2008


They did the right thing, but I still don't quite understand why it's a lesser charge to commit a murder in the midst of a robbery than if you decided to do it well in advance. It's the same decision, isn't it? Anyway, as one of my fellow citizens commented while the jurors were still out: "They need to do the right thing and put this POS away for good." And they did. One down, one to go.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In Cold Blood in Jersey City

Here's another item for the "We're Doomed" folder. In January 2005 two thugs murdered an entire family in Jersey City during a botched robbery. The first thug, currently on trial, confessed to two of the murders and was photographed using a victim's ATM card at a bank machine. Case closed, right? Not so fast. The jury has been deliberating for nine days now and, as the linked article indicates, it may be because one of the nitwit jurors has watched too many episodes of CSI or Law and Order and fancies himself an amateur investigator or lawyer. Jesus. Hasn't the family of the victims been through enough? Must they also endure the stupidity that passes for justice in this country as well?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The horror, the horror

American Idol is killing music. Here's the proof.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Michael Clayton

While watching Michael Clayton, I had a strange feeling of deja vu. Isn't this just a more sinister version of the The Insider? Every thing was well-executed, but on the whole it felt kind of far-fetched and pointless. Did the producers really think that viewers would believe that high-powered law firms have their own professional hit squads? And couldn't the writer come up with a more plausible excuse for the car bomb bungling than Clooney's weird Equus moment? I don't quite understand the Oscar for Tilda Swinton's performance either. All she did was twitch for two hours. Entertaining, I guess, but also instantly forgettable.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Into the Wild

Two and a half hours is a long way to go to arrive at the most basic truth: "Happiness is only real when shared." And the funny thing is that most people don't have to abandon their families and starve themselves to death to figure this out. Also, Sean Penn turning this misguided young man into some sort of saint in the end was ridiculous. I seriously doubt he croaked in some sort of blissed-out reverie, floating in the clouds, as depicted here.

I'd also like to call a moratorium on Terrence Malick homages. This is the second movie I've seen in as many months that overdoes it (The Assassination of Jesse James being the other). Having said all this, there are many beautiful shots of the American western landscape in this movie. It made me want to see more of it, but with a friend and the occasional stop for a good meal.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

For Mom

Today's her birthday. This would have made her smile.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Bullshit Era

While reading Eye Mind: The Saga of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, The Pioneers of Psychedelic Sound, it occurred to me that the late 60s/early 70s must have been a marvelous time for bullshit artists. Take Tommy Hall, the leader of the 13th Floor Elevators, for example. Not only did he talk his way into a band with no other musical talent than making strange amplified noises into a jug, he also convinced his band mates that they could get audiences high by taking LSD every time they performed and "playing the acid" (their LSD consumption was so prodigious that even the Grateful Dead were intimidated). The book goes into far too much detail for the general reader, but it does give you a good sense of the amount of sheer bullshit the culture was swimming in back then. At what other time could a jug player in a band make the following comments and not get laughed out of the room:

"Once you got a high enough vibration, it would be everything. Because "form" is this higher vibration. You can do this because the extension of the vibration is the extension of the cause. You're able to dial yourself up into that geometric structure. The main thing that song, "Slip Inside This House," talked about was how to utilize the systems of your body to free yourself from a dependence on this level of existence."

"One reason I employed the image of the house is that it stands as a symbol of the mind, a mental construction, like a whole place to live. There was one main message: look, we've got the information, if you want the information, then come here and get it, if you don't you won't come at all. As with all callings, everybody snaps to it at different times. All we had created was our own directory to certain levels of spiritual realization."

"Genetics and information with mind-altering or consciousness-expanding drugs. We were able to objectively and scientifically approach acid, where other groups couldn't do that."

Thus spake the jug player. And, as it turns out, "the information" turned out to be rotten. Roky Erikson, the talented but weak-willed lead singer, ended up in a mental institution for three years and has only recently been deemed mentally fit to perform again. Stacy Sutherland, the lead guitar player and the other major talent in the band, had drug and alcohol problems for years after the band broke up until he was shot dead by his wife in a domestic dispute in 1978. And the genius Tommy Hall? Where did he end up? Marooned in a one-room apartment in a $7-a-night flop house in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco with some other casualties of the 60s. He still claims acid is "a teaching machine" and occasionally takes trips within the galaxies contained in a Mickey Mouse poster on his wall. In the most recent photo of him in the book, he looks like Rip Van Winkle which only seems fitting.

Of course, this is not to say the 13th Floor Elevators didn't create some great music. This one is for the ages.

Barber breakdown

I think I've just entered a new phase with my barber. Nick's been my barber for the past few years. He's an Italian guy in his early 60s. I discovered him in Hoboken after my previous barber disappeared on me (I think she left to pursue a singing career; she eventually came back, but I stuck with Nick mainly because he shaves the back of my neck--he's even got one of those old timey hot shaving cream machines!). Until today, we had an established routine. He cuts my hair and I feign interest in whatever is showing on the Sci-Fi Channel (harder than you would imagine in my case). On occasion I've made a passing remark about some absurd plot point on Battlestar Galactica, but, for the most part, we don't talk. That's one of the things I've always respected about Nick (that and the fact that his magazine rack is abundantly stacked with smut--not just Playboy, but Penthouse, too! Today I saw a porno dvd out in the open! I almost squinted my eyes out of my head trying to read the title! No luck.). Anyway, Nick kept his mouth shut and I kept mouth my shut and everyone was happy. Today, I'm not even in the chair and he starts in about how worked up he is about the current political climate. Is it possible to cry on the inside? Well, that's what I did. Hoping it was a local thing, I tried to steer things in that direction. We yapped about how ridiculously expensive it is to live in this area for a little while and how people love to complain about poor public services at the same time that they're complaining about high taxes and then we moved on to how Corzine wasn't a total jerk because he inherited a lot of the debt that he's been trying to erase by raising tolls and taxes. And then we got into national politics. I figured I'd let Nick take the lead and chime in occasionally to let him know that I was still listening. He started off complaining about how badly Bush had bungled things in Iraq. So far, so good. Then he started complaining about the current crop of presidential candidates. According to Nick, there's no substance to Obama. He's a smooth talker and nothing else (I mentioned that I had seen Obama speak in Hoboken and agreed that he was indeed a smooth talker). After asking me how old I was, Nick compared Obama's rise to Jimmy Carter's rise after the Watergate mess. He also didn't think much of Obama's withdrawal plans and mocked his claims to track down "his brother, Osama" in Afghanistan. After that bombshell, he asked me why Jimmy Carter was elected? "Because Americans wanted a change," I offered. "No," Nick answered, "because his initials were J. C. Get it? They thought he was the return of Jesus Christ." Wow. I'd never heard that one before! Thinking maybe he was a McCain man, I steered him in that direction. He immediately dismissed him as "too old." So, he's a Hillary man. I wasn't expecting that. I expressed my general repugnance to the Clintons, citing the embarrassment that was Bill Clinton's second term (not because he liked blow jobs, but because he didn't know how to get them without turning it into a public spectacle). And, of course, he brought up the booming economy of the 90s which I attributed more to a happy coincidence than anything Clinton actually did (but, hey, all presidents get the credit if it happens on their watch). By this time, he was sweeping the talcum powdered brush across my face (talk about Old School!) and unsnapping the plastic cape. I hope we can go back to how things used to be, but I get a sense we've entered a new era: The Yapping Era. Another little oasis of sanity lost. What's next? Making chitchat with the people who wait for the bus with me? Ugh.

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