Sunday, June 10, 2018

48 Years Later, This Zeppelin Fan Hadn't Yet Forgiven Me, Not That I Want to Be Forgiven

I wanted to share with you some comments I just saw on my Soundcloud page, which I rarely visit. Their author is one Cameron Burns, who, 48 years after the fact, remained very displeased with me for having written disparagingly in Rolling Stone of Led Zeppelin’s second album and seems to enjoy my own music rather less than I would hope. He refers to my own group, Christopher Milk. His remarks are unedited.

Thanks for being in touch, Cam! With someone like you on their side, Zeppelin need never worry that their legacy has ceased to be etched in eternity. 

·       on I'll Lay My Dusty Placard Down

give up... your horrible. nobody listens to this shit anyways... old Japanese saying SAVE FACE you moron
Posted 1 year ago1 year
·       on The Hero
hero to nobody. hey hows christpopher and the dick milkers doing??? selling lots of records? didnt think so. Get on Zeppelins level you twat
Posted 1 year ago1 year
·       on Boytoy
You had some strong words to say about pages playing.... and yet you can barely play a fuckin guitar yourself. get some chops you joke
Posted 1 year ago1 year
·       on Departure Day
Wake me up when this shit is over and never play it again
Posted 1 year ago1 year
you suck. this music all sounds the same. get out of the box your trapped in... ITS SHIT
Posted 1 year ago1 year
·       on Cipramil
your voice sounds like old people fucking - a bitter excuse at that
Posted 1 year ago1 year
·       on The Nightmare of Xmas
This isn't even music its just an old fuck with a tape recorder and an internet connection
Posted 1 year ago1 year
this is horrible, unimaginative, lacks creativity and musical premise. Maybe take a page out of that best blues guitarist between 5'4 and 5'8.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

He Doesn't Deserve Her

He doesn’t deserve her. Benign is about the best thing I can think of to call Tim. He gets maybe a third of my jokes, those delivered with a wink to make clear they’re jokes. He drinks Bud Lite. He roots for the home team, and is rarely seen outside the house without his ball cap bearing its logo, though in fairness the first time we met he wore a white shirt and tie and no cap, presumably to convey respect. He’s an assistant produce manager at the big Stop-n-Save over on Highway 23, but Suz tells me it’s harder getting him than their two-year-old, the grandson I finally met five weeks ago, to eat anything green.

When we went out together for a man-to-man bonding session, he chose Round Robin, home of the million-calorie chilli cheeseburger, referred to on the menu as The Mighty CCB. When I took Suz to our local one when she was around 11, she called it their instant obesity special, and I shrieked with laughter, embarrassing her nearly as much as pleasing her. I always tried to instil in her a dry sense of humour based on irony and hyperbole, but it wouldn’t have worked if she hadn’t had the gene for it, which I like to think she got from me. When Tim and I went, and I said, “So, having the instant obesity special?” he didn’t get it. “Oh,” he said, “you mean the CCB.” He doesn’t have the gene. I’d guess there’s a 20-point chasm between his and Suz’s IQs.

I couldn’t get him to talk about himself very much. He kept shrugging, and looking around. “They’ve sure got some cool signs in here,” he marvelled. Round Robins’ decoration style is faux nostalgia, heavy on reproductions of metal soft drink, motor oil, and other signs. I stopped asking him questions after a while to see what effect it would have. Crickets. We wound up talking about — you can guess! — sports.

He asked if I minded his having a Bud Lite with his CCB. He’d driven us over. I was more worried about his having exactly the same taste in beer (or, more accurately, beer-flavoured soda pop) that his ball cap would have suggested. I couldn’t keep from telling him, “Hey, knock yourself out.” I needn’t have worried. He took it at face value. And my little girl’s going to marry him.

He and Suz had been an item during my and Suz’s estrangement, but had broken up because of his apparently prodigious consumption of cannabis. He credited Jesus with having helped him beat it. I asked whose fault his “addiction” had been. He said his own. I wondered aloud why he blamed himself for the problem, but gave Jesus full credit for his having solved it. His face said he wanted to change the subject, fast.

You might have thought he’d ask me something about myself at that point. No such luck. If intellectual curiosity were water, Tim wouldn’t have enough to wash a grape in his little corner of the Shop-n-Save. I felt that my initial impression of him as a hopeless dullard was fully confirmed. But after six years of our not speaking, I don’t dare say so to S. Who was going to marry him.

No dad and his little girl could been closer than Suz and I were the first 13 years of her life. Then she hit adolescence and began comfort-eating herself into obesity at exactly the moment a kid most wants to be seen as hot by the opposite sex. (She wasn’t a lesbian, though I’d always told her I’d love her just the same if she were). I could barely stand to witness the pain she was causing herself, and invited her to start coming with me to the gym. What she heard, apparently, was, “You’re fat and disgusting, and I don’t love you.” She didn’t speak to me for 73 months, one week, and four days. It tore my heart out. And now she’s going to become a Bud Lite-drinking dullard’s wife. This time I’ve got to keep my mouth shut.

The white shirt he wore when we first met was short-sleeved, short-sleeved shirts being to supermarket chain assistant produce managers what corduroy sports coats with fake leather elbow patches are to academics, and hideous tattoos to National Basketball Association stars. He didn’t wear a real tie, but one of those clip-on jobs. He’d put mousse (he’d probably have called it styling gel) in his hair to make it spiky. Every stop, pulled out!

He’s waiting for us at the altar, fidgeting to beat the band. There’s gel in his hair again. I walk my beautiful, hilarious, smart, stylish daughter toward him, and feel myself about to burst into tears. Tim’s very dull parents, off whose block he’s a definite chip, and with whom I have found it nearly impossible to converse, beam at us as we pass, as too does a large contingent of Tim’s…buds, who probably feel naked without their own ball caps. My ex-wife, Suzs mom, is staring a death-ray at me. Do not fuck this up for her, you! I must pretend to be pleased by what’s about to happen.

I must somehow contain my tears.

Friday, June 8, 2018

In Such Ways Are My Days Brightened

My zookeeper girlfriend, the one with whom I lived nine years in the bleakest part of San Francisco, said I was prone to perseveration, “a particular response (such as a word, phrase, or gesture) regardless of the absence or cessation of stimuli.” Maybe I am, and maybe I ain’t. What I definitely am, and always have been, with every life partner I’ve been privileged to love and reside with, is fond of little mini-scenarios that get re-enacted many times per week. When a package is delivered to our tiny home sort of near the Thames, and Dame Zelda answers the door, we have a little ritual. She calls upstairs, “A package! I wonder who it could be for.” When she announces that it’s for me, I pretend to become frenzied with excitement, and hurl myself down the stairs, gasping with excitement. She, in turn, holds the package out of my reach until I’ve Asked For It Nicely. I’ll say, “Please [pronounced pweez, for maximum adorableness], may I have my money?” two or three times, and she’ll say, “But it isn’t money, is it?” I’ll typically get it wrong two or three more times before I finally manage, “Please, may I have my package?”
Yes, it’s a little sickening, but that’s one of the things that makes it hilarious for me.
I find that not only in this, but in most of my and Dame Zelda’s little scenarios, I revert to around three and a half, the age at which it all began going wrong for me. Commonly when she’s hard at work at her little desk in our microscopic dining room, I’ll descend the stairs with my trousers around my ankles (spoiler alert: I wear briefs beneath ‘em). When she sees me, she’ll feign exasperation and say, “Pull them up! You’re very immature!” Whereupon, the 40-month-old version of myself will stagger over to our big front window and begin dancing defiantly while she points out, “Someone’s going to see you!” Her doing so, of course, inevitably inspires me to dance all the more lasciviously.
In such ways are my days brightened!
I’ve made up little song fragments and catchphrases, little theme songs, about all my life partners, and driven them crazy reprising ‘em implacably. (Often the relentless repetition of something that isn’t funny on its own terms strikes me as very funny.) I think Dame Zelda is reasonably fond of hers, a sort of Chubby Checker affair called “Claire and the Bear”. Everybody’s doing the Claire and the Bear. They’re doing it over here and they’re doing it over there.
Here I am at 40 months old,
give or take around 35.
That she has always gotten my jokes — however dry, however born of a pre-childish (that is, unashamedly infantile) sense of humour — almost instantly is one of my favourite things about Dame Zelda. About a month after moving to her country, I mused that maybe I should try to make friends (or, in the locals' colourful patois, become mates) with the Rayners Lane bank teller who’d helped me open my first UK account. I mused it might be fun to present him with a bouquet and chocolates when we met. Dame Zelda, not missing a beat, suggested I say something like, “I love you in that shirt. Is it new?” I must have rolled around on the living room floor shrieking with laughter for 10 minutes.
The same sort of thing happened the first time I went into 40-month-old mode and started stomping around the living room chanting, “We have a parade! We have a big parade! We have a big Thursday afternoon parade!” Many women would have been on the phone to the nearest mental health hotline, but Dame Zelda, again not missing a beat, joined right in. “We have a parade! We have a big parade! We have a big Thursday afternoon parade!”
She doesn’t always get it, of course. Given that I have (and am very proud to have!) the most off-the-wall sense of humour of any of her boyfriends, that’s probably inevitable. (I’m the sort who will laugh himself into near-hyperventilation at something by which no one else in the cinema is even faintly amused.) For the past several months, while watching a television programme about Pompeii, for instance, I’ll might turn to her and ask, “Do you like magma [a mixture of molten or semi-molten rock, volatiles and solids found beneath the surface of the Earth]?” Whatever her answer, my own response will be just to repeat it, as though filing it away in my own brain, and turn back to the TV.  I’ve also asked if she likes renewable energy and Keynesian economics. I don’t think she’s realised that, even with my trousers securely belted round my waist, I’m asking the questions a precocious 40-month-old might ask if he or she could pronounce big grownup words but not formulate more sophisticated enquiries.
No spoiler alert required. She doesn’t read my blog.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Shame On Me

This one isn’t going to be fun. This is about one of the great many memories almost too painful for me to endure. 

At 75, my dad had a stroke. My mother looked out the window of what had once been my bedroom, and saw him lying immobile on the sidewalk in front of their house. When it became clear that he wouldn’t be able to walk again, she checked him into the dreary, piss-reeking Santa Monica convalescent hospital in which my maternal grandmother had died not long before. He’d wanted to come home, but Mom, the queen of catastrophic expectations, was sure that if he did, the house would catch fire, she’d be unable to drag him to safety, and everyone would blame her for his death. He was dead about six months later.

There wasn’t a formal funeral. My parents, loving and thrifty as they were, had arranged for the Neptune Society to cremate them when they departed, sparing me and my sister great expense.

My mother did arrange a little Saturday afternoon farewell ceremony for my dad a couple of weeks after his death. A genial young rabbi came. Neither of my parents had been anywhere near a rabbi or synagogue since my bar mitzvah 32 years before. GYR, who of course had never laid eyes on my dad, intoned a few platitudes. My sister, who’d always been closer to my dad than I, spoke for a moment. I refused to follow suit because of the hopeful, conciliatory look on my mother’s face. She’d made a grand display of her contempt for by dad from the time I first remembered. He adored her, and she hated him for it. I’d never seen her be affectionate with him, I’d seen her recoil from him in disgust a million times. I’d heard her rake him over the coals for nothing at all 10 million. 

in fairness, I recognise in retrospect that my dad was perfectly content with their arrangement. My mother could be insightful, and speculated that any attention – even cruel derision — felt equally pleasurable to him. I didn’t believe it at the time, but have come to recognise that it was probably true. Maybe, I’ve been told by a succession of psychotherapists, I should stop being furious at myself for not protecting him from her when I got old enough to do so. 

No, that’s not telling the whole story. I not only didn’t protect him, but treated him pretty much as I’d always seen her treat him. Shame on me. 

In any event, her not expressing remorse at the little backyard ceremony infuriated me. I wasn’t going to be a party to her little charade. Which is to say that it was more important for me on that pretty Saturday afternoon to defy my mother than to honour my dad. 

Shame on me.

Shame that’s amplified by the little service my sister organised when my mother died. She and I and her third husband, the laconic Texan jock, went to the Kenosha synagogue at which the sister of the progressive former senator Russ Feingold presided. My sister and I were beside ourselves almost from the get-go. When it came time for me to speak, I was barely able to get a word out for crying. Such was my and my sister’s grief that her laconic Texan jock began to sniffle. 

I was livid with myself for having been so effusive for my mother and taciturn for my dad.

I went that night to a Milwaukee Brewers game for which he’d bought tickets some weeks before in hope of the two of us bonding. As if! On one level, letting $80 worth of tickets go to waste would have been anathema to both my parents. But I remember having gone to a ball game the night of my mother’s funeral with the almost overwhelming shame I feel about so many things. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Alec Baldwin's Impersonation Is As Awful as the Trump Presidency Itself

Donald Trump is defiantly ignorant, stupid, amoral, indecent, inhumane, delusional, vainglorious, and incompetent, and, if you ask me, a fecal stain on American history. I must nonetheless confess that I regard anyone’s finding funny Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live nearly as disturbing as anyone regarding him as a viable president. 

I suspect there are few high schools in the country lacking a kid who could eat Baldwin’s lunch as a Trump impersonator. 

I've greatly enjoyed some of Baldwin’s serious work, none more than his spectacular Always-Be-Closing monologue in the movie version of Glengarry Glenn Ross. Given what I know him to be capable of, I sometimes dare hope it isn’t Trump he’s impersonating on SNL, but the least gifted, most obnoxious member of a high school drama club impersonating Trump. 

"Doing" Trump, Baldwin seems to  have forgotten everything he knows as an actor. It isn’t the actor’s job to judge the character he or she is playing, but to bring that character to life and let the audience decide for itself. To bring a character to life, the actor must suspend judgment and do his best to become him — to experience the world as the character does, to try to protect himself as the character does from the pain life can inflict . Baldwin does nothing of the sort, and is content with puerile mockery. His impersonation is all about Trump’s physical tics, but at least one, the endless lips-pursing, strikes me as more something Baldwin thought funny than something Trump actually does. 

As though we wouldn’t be able to figure out on our own that Trump’s The Great American Jerk without Baldwin's relentless mugging. 

Contrast this to Ricky Gervais’s sublime portrayal of the fictional character David Brent he created for The Office. Brent desperately wants to be admired, if not adored, and thought hilarious. But the harder he tries to endear himself to the world, the more disgustedly the world recoils. At the end of the series, in the sublime scene in which he finally removes his mask of breezy self-assurance in the wake of having been fired, Gervais shows us just enough of the poor devil’s terror and insatiable neediness to break our hearts. Finding no trace of humanity in Trump (and I’m not suggesting that’s easy), Baldwin is able only to make the least demanding of us snicker. He should be ashamed of himself. 

The writing on SNL is very much on a par with Baldwin’s acting — that is, almost inconceivably awful. Forget about the high school kids we were invoking a moment ago. I can’t imagine many middle school kids coming up with less funny scripts than SNL’s. That Lorne Michaels, the show’s producer (he who makes the final decision on which writers to employ), is widely viewed as American humour’s great arbiter is as ludicrous as viewing Donald Trump as a viable president. 

A free idea for SNL. Have Baldwin do his Glengarry Glenn Ross monologue as Trump addressing his Cabinet. One suspects it’s not terribly different from what the great man says in real life to his underlings. It’ll need a bit of rewriting, but I’m a phone call away. I envisage a Mike Pence surrogate licking the side of Baldwin-as-Trump’s face during the harangue. 

You’re welcome, Lorne. You'll find some of my own stuff here

Why I'm Not Yet a Rock Star

I have finally figured out why I have not yet become the (pop/)rock god I have long believed I deserve to be. I’m too well adjusted, and just too…nice. Lots of very nice people lacking substance abuse problems — Paul McCartney, the late Otis Redding, Pat Benatar — have managed to ascend to the top of the heap, of course, but in general audiences prefer those who are their own worst enemies, like Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Axl Rose, and Beyonce. That I have never known a day’s unhappiness, and am seen by most of my many, many friends as an exemplar of inner (and outer, thanks to the weight training!) strength, wisdom, patience, and empathy, has undoubtedly held me back. But you know what? I like me. I admire me. I am able to look at myself in the morning and think, “You’re a good egg, dude,” though I customarily scorn the use of words like dude and awesome and amazeballs. I can get away with it in the bathroom because I’m thinking the word, and not actually verbalising it.

Rock audiences want rebels without causes (those with causes are generally seen as tedious, self-important, and even messianic), brats, and scalawags. If one could somehow redeem the person-hours wasted over the years by young people in many lands waiting for Mick Jagger, Axl, or the guy in Jane’s Addiction to get their makeup just right and get themselves the fuck up on stage, he or she could compete with the Chinese in manufacturing. 

There are certainly many things in which I believe strongly — reproductive choice, mutual tolerance, fairness, peace, and what-have-you. But I believe equally that rules exist for the common good, and should be followed to the letter. When I received a parking ticket in Santa Monica, California, at age 18, I was so ashamed that I couldn’t leave the house for 24 hours. That’s the sort of person I am. 

And this sort too. While others of my vintage were feigning homosexuality or bone spurs, or heading for Canada or Costa Rica, I eagerly defended Our Way of Life in the steamy, fetid jungles of southeast Asia. I mention this not because I expect my fellow itinerants at airports to get all dewy-eyed when I walk past in uniform (it still fits, after all these decades, thanks to my rigorous physical fitness regimen), but because it goes a long way toward explaining why my beautiful music hasn’t been embraced to the extent many brazen rule-breakers’ has.

[The foregoing paragraph contains blatant lies intended solely for the reader's amusement. There's nothing about the American war machine I don't despise, and I was declared psychologically unfit for military service — as indeed I was, and remain! — when my number came up.]

I have a hair on my mighty (the weight training!) right arm that is now over five inches long, and am very proud of it. Sometimes, while we stare numbly at the television together, Dame Zelda will notice that I am stroking it proudly, and either hit me over the head with a rolling pin or stab me with a paring knife, but I think she’s jealous. I torment her by claiming to be considering having the hair highlighted, though I appreciate it’s probably impossible. And at some point the hair — which, no, I have not named — will fall out. And then where would I be? 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Mendelssohn's Rock Bible: Lennon's Dream Date With Destiny

Half a century after the fact, the greatest pop vocal performance ever recorded remains Lorraine Ellison’s harrowing, desperate, anguished, heartbreaking Stay With Me. But some of the fellows have done some pretty terrific singing in their own right. 

I’m not so sure that there’s ever been a better rock singer than Little Richard. To listen to the  original version of Tutti Frutti and Elvis’s back to back is to feel embarrassed for Elvis, to realise that Richard was by far the better musician. It isn’t only his exuberance and energy that dwarf Elvis’s, but his musicality. Witness his multiple-note runs, of the sort that would become (entirely too) popular decades later. 

Fifteen years later, Al Green came along and the difference between him and Richard was probably greater than between Richard and Elvis. No pop singer has ever sung more inventively, more nimbly, with greater, well, suppleness. 

Ray Charles’s version of the Eddy Arnold country would break my heart if the schmaltzy arrangement didn’t keep intruding. Bobby Hatfield’s performance of Unchained Melody, credited to the Righteous Bros., is a proper jaw-dropper. Few have ever crooned more gorgeously than Scott Walker does in The Walker Bros.’ The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore. His taking seven notes to get “baby” out before the coda makes one gasp in wonder. I may have loathed Journey. but loved Steve Perry’s glorious, soaring singing. Brad Delp’s vocal on Boston’s More Than a Feeling made the little hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I don’t doubt a syllable Levi Stubbs sings in what I regard as the greatest of all Motown hits, The Four Tops’ Bernadette.  

All that said, I don’t think there’s ever been a vocal quite like Mr. Lennon’s on Twist and Shout.  At the end of the marathon session during which they recorded their first album, The Beatles had at the year-before Isley Bros. hit, which they’d been enjoying performing live the previous several months. George Martin had saved the song for last for fear of its leaving young the Lennon voice in tatters. As it was, he had little left in his vocal tank after having spent the day singing with a sore throat. Through sheer force of will, though, he absolutely sang the hell out of it, evoking the manic energy of Little Richard fully as vividly as young Mr. McCartney’s party-piece version of Long Tall Sally ever would, sounding like a young man on a dream date with destiny, sounding possessed. I fucking want this, his voice seems to say, and I’m fucking having it, son. His vocal eloquently refuted the idea that rock and roll had been a dead genre walking since Elvis’s conscription, Chuck Berry’s incarceration, Richard’s return to Jesus, and the fervent attempts of the likes of Dick Clark to replace it with insipid frankiebobby crooner pop. It ensured that no one listening to that first Beatles album — which the group had every reason to believe might also be their last — wouldn’t be open-mouthed at the end. 

In decades to come, one wouldn’t hear less and less like it. Sure, The Swinging Blue Jeans’ Hippy Hippy Shake, a virtual homage to Lennon, is also pretty thrilling, and a decade later Noddy Holder would sound comparably manic and ferocious on such Slade records as Cum On Feel the Noize, but as recording technology improved, one heard singers leaving it all on the field, to invoke a trope from sport, less and less often. Why retain a phrase in which the singer is clearly straining when it’s possible to “punch in” a more self-assured sounding take?

Of course, The Beatles’ T&S was pretty wonderful live too. Stage left you had the squinting Lennon singing magnificently, while stage right his backing singers were cheek-to-cheek at their microphone, shaking their girlishly long hair at each other while exulting, “Ooh!” fully a decade before David Bowie scandalised the nation by draping his arm collegially around Mick Ronson on Top of the Pops.

I can’t resist the temptation to name and shame three of my least favourite male rock singers. Steven Tyler seems never to have met a song he didn’t want to oversing. In that way he’s sort of the male Mariah Carey, without Carey’s remarkable range and chops. Maybe you recall the movie True Grit? What the unlistenably affected-sounding Jon Bon Jovi’s got is bogus grit. And the piglet-in-agony shrieking of such emulators of the young Robert Plant as Axl Rose and the guy from Motley Crue have always made me yearn for deafness.

Pay me the compliment of listening to my own music, credited to The Freudian Sluts, The Stonking Novels, and Isambard Jones, on Spotify, Amazon, GooglePlay, and elsewhere. And please do have a look at my ezine, For All In Tents and Porposes

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Mike Pence No One Knows

It is painful for me to confess this, but confess I must. My past writings about my sexual relationship with Vice President Mike Pence were fictitious, written at the behest of George Soros and Saul Alinsky. I was paid handsomely for them, but not nearly enough to keep me from feeling tainted. I have always been perceived as an honourable person. Accepting many, many thousands of dollars to lie was well below the standard to which I had throughout my career in public service always held myself.

You deserve the truth. The truth is that Mickey (as his closest friends call him) and I weren’t an item in college. We met several years after in fact, when I realised a boyhood dream by giving up writing and rock and roll in favour of swimming pool maintenance. (I have always adored the smell of chlorine.) At the time, Mickey’s was one of only three swimming pools in the exclusive Sanctimony Hills gated community. (In Indiana, it’s either too cold or too hot for swimming an average of 345 days of the year, and the other 20 one has to live with the ignominy of being in the state that spawned John Mellencamp and REO Speedwagon.) I am Jewish and dark-complected, and was spending a lot of time keeping the other two pools spotless, and so might have looked vaguely Latino when Mickey’s butler phoned to ask if I could do the Pence pool too. 

[Read the rest of the article here.]

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

So You're Coming Over for the Royal Wedding…

In the wake of the disturbing news from Pyongyang about Kim Jong-un’s being iffy about meeting with our acting president, many Americans have cashed in their airplane tickets to Singapore and now intend instead to attend the forthcoming wedding of King Harry to the bisexual German-American actress Meghan Merkel, Angela’s niece, if not ashes, I shall here offer some pointers on getting along with the Brits, among whom I have lived and loved for most of the present century, and this is the longest sentence you will read today. 

The Brits pride themselves on their sense of humour, here spelled (or spelt, as they’d prefer) with an extraneous u, which is very much drier, more cynical, and more hyperbolic than Americans’. If you think a Brit may be mocking you, he or she almost certainly is. The good news is that, in most cases, you may invite your antagonist to fuck off without fear of being headbutted, “fuck off” being  approximately equivalent to the American “get outta here” or “gimme a break!”

Favourite British recreations include moaning — that is, complaining — about everything under the sun, though the sun is only infrequently glimpsed here, queuing, and cottaging. Queuing involves forming a tidy line for such things as buses and ration coupons, whereas cottaging, popularised by the late singer George Michael, involves loitering furtively in public parks at night in hope of meeting a member of the same sex with whom to copulate. 

Not so long ago, the Brits introduced plastic £5 and £10 notes, which are thought to be more durable than the old-fashioned paper kind, but which, to the immense displeasure of animal rights extremists, contain miniscule traces of tallow. One feels sleazy and disreputable handling the strangely slimy-feeling new currency, and is urged instead to pay for everything with a credit or “debit” card — but only after prolonged haggling, which the locals enjoy nearly as much as queuing, cottaging, and moaning. Many shopkeepers will actually feel insulted if one pays the stated price for something without first offering a much lower one, and mischaracterising it as his or her final offer. 

Many British “blokes” (that is, non-females) enjoy talking about sport, without an s, and nearly all “support” a particular “football club”, though said clubs, like American professional sports teams, are made up of arrogant foreign mercenaries who know nothing of the cities they purportedly represent, and whose obscene salaries are paid either by right-wing oligarchs who often don’t even live in the United Kingdom, or multinational corporations principally in the business of manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. Many young British women have ludicrous eyebrows, won’t leave the house without multiple pairs of huge false eyelashes, and enjoy binge-drinking, though the immoderate consumption of alcohol has been shown to involve significant health risks. 

The British own few guns, but on the country’s increasingly indistinguishable high (that is, main) streets, machete, scalpel, sickle, skewer, sword, cutlass, lance, sabre, scimitar, scythe, shank, stiletto, and shiv shops have largely supplanted the tattoo salons of the earlier years of the century. If there’s one thing young British men enjoy even more than queuing, breaking each other’s noses with their foreheads, loudly debating the relative merits of various football clubs, and “pulling” (that is, “picking up”) drunken young women in huge false eyelashes, it’s stabbing each other. For once, President Trump was actually understating the case when he told the NRA recently that surgeons in National Health Service emergency rooms are commonly ankle-deep in blood while they surge. All but the tallest are actually calf-deep. 

Politically, the left and right here are hardly less antagonistic than in the USA. Half the country hates Teresa May and the European Union, while the other half hates Jeremy Corbyn and the idea of leaving the EU, but nearly everyone likes London’s Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan, in large part because the monthly public stonings-to-death he’s introduced in accordance with sharia law provide free diversion to a populace that often can’t afford £15 for a fucking cinema ticket. There is only one television channel in the United Kingdom, and most days it just replays ancient episodes of an acquired-taste sitcom called Only Fools and Horses over and over again. You may wish to buy a John Grisham legal thriller at the airport before flying over, but only if your taste in literature is utter rubbish.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Rock's Greatest Female Star

The greatest female vocal performance ever recorded is of course the late Lorraine Ellison’s "Stay With Me", which would be celebrating its 50th birthday this year if recordings weren’t inanimate objects incapable of celebration. From the first exquisite notes Ellison moans, the listener knows he’s in the presence of genius. As the song progresses, he is sure that he has never heard romantic desperation more vividly expressed by a musician — and isn’t most popular music about exactly that? I have often written that it sounds as though Ellison was receiving open-heart surgery without an anaesthetic. You won’t doubt for a millisecond that she means every syllable.

[Please click here to read the rest of the article.]

Monday, April 16, 2018

Rule 1 of Effective Writing

As I limp ever nearer the finish line, I find that the partners of more and more of my social media friends are becoming larger-breasted. 

I know that it’s wrong of me to spend the latter part of nearly every evening — that preceding my smoking cannabis, removing my contact lenses, and immersing my aching old self in a lovely hot bath — to ogle photographs on Facebook of and fantasise about a former acquaintance’s girlfriend, but I am unable to help myself. She has bewitched me. She has stolen my heart. 

I met Former Acquaintance decades ago while trying to put a little orchestra together in my native Los Angeles. He came over to my home on the Sunset Strip one afternoon, and was reasonably cordial. I offered him a place in my orchestra, but he wound up declining it because someone from a competing orchestra gave him a small bag of gold dust, or some cocaine, or something.

His girlfriend has me wondering if I should revise my strong views on cosmetic surgery. To this point, I have customarily made cruel jokes about it, and at one point even designed a T-shirt that proclaimed, “I want to fondle your implants”. But FA’s wife, who’s probably in her mid-50s, has unmistakably Had a Lot of Work Done — she is smooth-faced, and has the high, huge breasts of a 1966 19-year-old Playmate of the Month. It’s cheating, of course, but do I enjoy Mr. Tambourine Man any less for knowing that only one Byrd played on the backing track, with a bunch of Hollywood session guys in pompadours, cardigan sweaters, and menthol cigarettes? 

One past long-term life partner of mine had had a nose job in early adolescence, after all, and I was fine with it, even after I realised that she’d probably been fibbing about its having been necessary after breaking her nose. Without her cute little sniffer, she’d have resembled her mother, who was unattractive outside as in. Not long after our union dissolved, she became the second of my long-term life partners to rush out and get her breasts enlarged, and a face lift, whereupon her favourite recreation became displaying herself at swinging nitespots, where handsome young studmuffins would commonly guess her age to be very much less than it actually was. I found that hugely distasteful. 

I won’t pretend not to be vain in my own right, and sometimes even to wish I had the dough to get my punim restored to its earlier prettiness. I work out daily to keep myself from getting the belly that’s typical of men my age, but working out seems somehow more, well, noble than getting one’s face cut up. I dress inappropriately, in very tight jeans and black vinyl motorcycle jackets sent to me from China. Former Acquaintance is rather a hipster himself, so maybe his girlfriend will like the cut of my own jib should (a) she and Former Acquaintance split up, (b) I and my own longest-term-to-date life partner split up, and (c) one or both of us moves. We are presently many thousands of miles apart, not figuratively. 

I will confess that I find some small consolation in the 19-year-old Playmates of the Month after whom I lusted in vain beginning at around 14, now being in their mid-70s, if they’re still alive at all, and almost certainly rather less intimidating. 

Rule 1 of Effective Writing: Always start with a difficult, cumbersome, tangled sentence. Noting that the balance of the piece won’t be so demanding, the reader is overcome with gratitude. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Obee City — If Your BMI's High, You're Our Kinda Guy!

It’s well known that President Trump believes that one has only finite energy, and that undue exertion should be avoided at all costs. Last spring, at the G7 conference in Tiramisu, Sicily, he asserted American pre-eminence by riding around in grand style in a gold-plated golf cart while his fellow political leaders trudged and waddled. Now one hears that, in the same spirit, Mr. Trump has introduced new rules for the very rich at his golf courses. Where, during the Obama era, players had to get out of their carts and strike the ball themselves, they now have celebrity caddies do it for them. Tiger Woods is on course (did you see what I did there?) to earn more in 2018 as a celebrity caddy than he did on the PGA tour.

Lot of wonderful ideas have been come up with on golf courses, and we now learn that one of the best and brightest ideas of 2018, one that has put 200,000 Americans to work at sub-subsistence wages, was born at Mr. Trump’s golf club in Sterling, Virginia. I speak, of course, of the idea for Obee City, America’s  most successful new fast food chain since Papusatown. 

J. Bradford Olesker, a former television producer and  friend of Mr. Trump, is said to have recognised his concept as a winner from Moment 1. Putting people to work? Great! Encouraging morbid obesity, thus creating more medical and pharmaceutical consumption? Also great! Nor did he fail to note the burgeoning appetite of the very rich for the flesh of fat Caucasian youngsters since the repeal of Obama-era restrictions on canniabalism. A poor family in the Rust Belt making enough money on the sale of a little fatso to feed and shelter itself for month, and maybe even to put together a money-making meth lab of its own? Entrepreneurship! Super great!

As the vast majority of Obees are in red states, in suburban or even rural areas, there may not be one near you. The restaurant is geared to Trump voters and others sick and tired of being told by so-called experts (in this case, nutritionists with extensive training in human physiology) what to do, think, and, especially, eat, and offers a menu defiantly high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat. On being seated, the Obee customer is immediately presented with a platter of jelly doughnuts and a big bowl of molten lard into which to dip them. The most popular item on the menu as of the spring of 2018 was the Quadroopleburger — which actually contains five beef and beef by-product patties, and comes in a little cardboard clamshell container on which the chain’s freckled young icon, a dead ringer for Bob’s Big Boy, adorably proclaims, “Oops, I guess I don’t count so good, but tough titty!” Many folk's idea of a great meal is a side of Couch Potatoes — french fries in a crust of crushed M&Ms — with a Q-Burger, or two, or three. 

The restaurants in open-carry states provide gun racks in which what Mr. Trump has called “2nd Amendment people” can stow their weapons while dining, though they are welcome to take their AR-15s with them to their tables. Should a jihadist or George Soros enthusiast be so foolish as to come into an Obee shooting or spouting offensive rhetoric, he or she may be assured that a great, great many bullets will be flying back in his or her direction pronto! 

While dining, one may count on hearing the lively, uplifting, quintessentially American music of Kid Rock, Ted Nugent, Three Doors Down, and Reba McIntyre on the dining room sound system, and may watch New England Patriots’ games, some of Mr. Trump’s speeches, Sean Hannity, or Infowars, on any of a number of TV monitors. Analysts have shown that sales of Obee’s Beautiful Chocolate Cake spike when the TVs are showing the interview in which he talks about eating dessert with the president of China while bombing Syria. 

Pass them, Couch Potatoes, Junior! 

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