Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Robert Byrd 1917 - 2010

Monday's death of senator Robert Byrd sparked an odd mystery. The man was the longest serving senator in American history and third in line for the U.S. presidency. Dude served under twelve commanders-in-chief. So where was the coverage? Where was the NY Times banner headline? Why did his death notice compete with Sandra Bullock's divorce on

Byrd underwent one of the most interesting political conversions in modern American politics, easily besting the late-inning redemptions of Goldwater, The Grinch, George Wallace, or Darth Vader. He joined the KKK in 1942. For years, Byrd was a vigorous defender of white supremacy. That he was able to abandon, and then atone for, this persona was a testament to the tensile strength of American democracy. And that he was able to whittle this liability into a mere biographical footnote highlighted how absurdly far this country has come in just a hundred years. In 1925, 40,000 Klansmen joyfully marched on DC. Today's Tea Partiers have to distance themselves from even the occasional racist yahoo. When Dennis Miller joked about Byrd's Klan days at an '03 Bush fundraiser, the crowd booed; poking fun at a heartfelt conversion was too distasteful even for political comedy. Byrd's change of heart gave context to this young century's political landscape.

You know what was sweet about Robert Byrd? He made it easy to run for office. Up until last week, anyone in America could have run a political campaign with a clean conscience. Did questionable things? Freebased stuff? Frequented titty bars? Said awful things onstage in your punk band? Hey, at least you weren't in the Klan. Byrd was, and Byrd recovered. In the Obama age, it was the kind of effortless reconciliation other countries strive for and never achieve. This neat note is now gone. There will almost certainly never be another ex-Klansman in national politics.

Byrd's death also makes senator Daniel Inouye the president pro tempore of the United States. This means that the father of a Dischord Records artist (Kenny Inouye, Marginal Man) is now third in line to the presidency. So consider this an official heads up; don't come whimpering to me when the guy from Iron Cross is in charge of your oat rations.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tues Misc

Joe Preston's one-man Bradley Fighting Vehicle - Thrones - will be in town today and performing on KSPC at 7PM PST. You can listen by clicking here. On that last word.

Also, there are all these cigarette butts behind the fence behind my house. They look fresh. If you're the person smoking and watching me from a distance, please stop because you are creeping me out.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Squandered Opportunities

REGRETS DEPT., June 7 - Undone projects time. I have more of these in my past.

MEAT ARM (1994)

This was planned as one in a series of altruistic pranks. The idea was pretty airtight. Me and my pal Neil would find or purchase a mannequin arm. We would fill the mannequin arm with raw meat purchased from the butcher shop. I would shave my head bald, buy a flight jacket, and make myself some sort of swastika armband. Neil would drive my van with me in the passenger seat, posing as a Nazi skinhead. We would find a crowded bus stop and drive past it slowly while I leaned out the window, yelling the worst possible things I could think of and sieg heiling with the fake, meat-filled arm protruding from my flight jacket. As we passed, Neil would then suddenly "lose control" of the steering wheel, sending me crashing into a nearby telephone pole or lamppost. The mannequin arm would explode in a terrific spray of blood and gore, I'd scream in agony, and, for one glorious day, everyone at the bus stop could think that there was something like cosmic justice in the world. They would each continue on their own daily routine with an extra spring in their step.

Although this was never seriously considered as anything but an elaborate joke, so much time was spent discussing the logistics of the Meat Arm - costs, locations, executions - that it kind of still feels like something that almost happened.


I frequently attempt pieces for this blog that never make it past 70% completion. My review of our 2006 Toyota Prius was one of those pieces. It was really only funny if you happened to be reading in mid-March 2010, that long-ago time when every Toyota car seemed capable of lethal accelerations. In no particular order, my review was to have explored 1) the newfound dread of me and my fellow Prius drivers, 2) the newfound loss of smugness for this same group, 3) the Prius's cultural acceleration from 21st century wonder car to the Ford Pinto of the twenty teens, 4) my own planning for the driving state known as Gnarls In Charge, which included keeping a constant eye on larger vehicles I might use as moving crash barriers, and stocking up on box cutters to free myself from my airbag after I'd plowed into the back of one of these larger moving vehicles. I also got halfway through a nice collage of crashed Priuses;

The moment passed. No one cares about the lowly Prius these days. From a PR standpoint, Toyota emerged the clear winner of BP's current oil spill disaster. It's a little suspicious. I'm not saying that a $30 billion car company would sabotage a $230 billion oil company just to get themselves off the front pages. But, hey: crazier crap has happened.

What insane megastunt would BP have to orchestrate to get themselves off the front pages? Trick North Korea into invading Iran? Blow up Antarctica?


This was another late March 2010 concept. After passage of health care reform on the 23rd, I spent a few days driving around listening to AM radio. It was the most overwrought spectacle of public anguish I've ever experienced. If I hadn't known better, I would've assumed the United States had just lost a huge war.

It occurred to me that my household actually owns an adult baby costume. It's a full-body cloth harlequin thing, complete with oversized bonnet. We bought it at a Chaffey College Drama Department costume sale a few years back. All it lacks is a man-sized rattle and pacifier, and I know a party supply store in Montclair that sells both.

The math wasn't too hard on this one. I spent a good day planning a protest at the local headquarters for the Republican Party. My picket sign was going to read "WAAAAAAAH! HEALTH CARE!!!!!" The whole thing was going to be videotaped, and if it seemed successful - although I had no idea what that would mean - there were plans to branch out to other GOP HQ's.

The internet tells me this is the kind of thing that the internet likes, so the ramifications of wild viral victory had to be carefully weighed. What if I became known as the Big Baby Man guy? Would rednecks and hooligans balk at savagely beating a defenseless baby? Then there was mission creep. Why stop with Republicans? Why not picket banks and gas stations and movie theaters? Why not stand around in front of Albertson's with a sign reading WAAAAHHH! FOOD COSTS TOO MUCH!!!!

This moment passed as well. The GOP moved on to easier targets, like the 17th amendment. I'll probably wear the costume to a Halloween party someday, but I need to put on a few more pounds and lose some hair for this to really work as a nonpartisan gag.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010