Nina in the Bright Light of Day

See! This is what we're talking about! Jammies, that semi-retarded star, good stuff!

Oh, no, Nina, say it ain’t so! After climbing into bed last night with the relaxing nocturnal Nina from Sprout’s Goodnight Show, the soft purring nighttime assurances, the quiet smiles, the come-hither seduction exuding from her every evening pore, I woke this morning to a veritable horse’s head in my sodden bed. Nina! On the Sprout Morning Show!

Not unlike waking drunk next to a barely remembered one-night stand yanked from a bar stool at 2 AM and drug home in a fit of whatever happens happens, stinking of booze and soda pop, make-up smeared over the pillow and in some sort of creepy jackson pollockian face, there was Nina, filled with grating morning glee! Her voice an octave higher and 25 decibels louder. No! Get out of my house! Get out of our shared imaginary bed, you shape-shifter! You siren whose rocky shores come to light only as the sun rises, but, oh, oh, oh, much too late my trusting soul!

Ugh! There she is feigning to duck from the fake raindrops and hamming and hugging her shoulders for the cold ear-muffed phony sun; soon she’ll be high-fiving Chica and spewing inanities like “You go, girl!”

In the evening, she’d have smiled at the drops of rain and simply and elegantly wrapped herself in a warm subdued shawl and assured us all that it would be all right as we drifted off to sleep together to the rhythm of the raindrops on the sturdy rooftop.

But alas, the veil has been lifted, the make-up scraped off, and this lady of the evening walks unsteadily in the bright light of day. The decent people turn their heads; others gawk. Who is she? Why is she here? For shame she is here! For shame!

Hey! I wonder what’s going on over at Nick, Jr.!

Scoping the Horoscope

My birthday is today and thanks to Holiday Mathis, the Horoscoper (?) in the Star Tribune, I have some idea of how this next year will play out. See, I figure that anyone with a name as celebratory as Holiday must have something special going on and the ability to see into my future is certainly plausible. So here she goes:

Your birthday today: What has been trying in the past will now be much easier for you to accomplish. [Sounds good so far!] Next month, you’ll be shown favor by those who are difficult to impress. January brings important financial transactions. Lifestyle upgrades come in May. [Hoo, boy!] Gemini and Virgo people contribute generously to your life. Your lucky numbers are: 20, 1, 4, 44 and 18.

Good stuff! However, “important financial transactions” is all well and good but Holiday isn’t saying if those are in my favor (win the lottery!) or against me (foreclosure!). So then that whole “Lifestyle upgrades” could be following a foreclosure so that could mean a one-bedroom in Blaine after a few months of homelessness. She’s crafty, that Holiday, always leaves me guessing!

But I am going to note those months in Outlook with Holiday’s predictions to see just how accurate she is. I’m thinking that the Star Tribune wouldn’t hire her if she wasn’t a well-vetted, stand-up, card carrying, bonded and insured horoscoper. Here we go!

Shame and Punishment

I came across this in a recent Harper’s “Findings”: “Easily embarrassed humans, though not the morbidly ashamed, are seen as more trustworthy and are more often monogamous.” This should come as no surprise to anyone, for shame is a beautiful thing.

I am of the firm belief that we have relegated shame to something, well, shameful and instead should be embracing it fully not only as the great motivator that it is, but also the best friend to ethics and morals, and in fact, the great enemy to all moral failings. We simply don’t have enough shame in the world today and the proof is in the people.

Crime, although serious crime has been trending down in the U.S., is still rampant. Theft, assault, swindling, destruction of property, child molestation, and all the rest are so commonplace they don’t register anywhere but the direct victim’s radar. In most cities, a murder a few blocks away may as well be in another country all-together. And the murderers themselves, whereas one would think would suffer the consequences, rarely do. Most are never caught, young ones are given atrociously little punishment and are soon back out on the street, and even many others through plea bargains and the like, rarely suffer much in any manner whatsoever. 5, 10, 20 years in the pen; three squares, television and lots and lots of weightlifting. We put pot dealers in prison for as long as we do people who beat others to within an inch of their life with baseball bats.

The discussion of capital punishment is often centered around whether or not it is a deterrent to heinous crime.* Does the notion that I may be put to death if I kill an innocent fellow human being give me enough pause (or fear) to deter me from the crime if I really want to do it? The answer, of course, is no. Crime rates – and particular murder rates – are no lower in countries (or states) where there is a threat of capital punishment, and in fact, the numbers tend to lean the other way. Countries and states that feature capital punishment have higher rates of murder when compared to similar countries or states. Maybe stupid, angry, physical punishment of another human being is simply catching.

Murderers are not all that afraid to die, it appears to show, and in fact, and especially when you look at murderers of multiple people, most take their own life before the state has the chance to. It’s the ultimate form of cowardice. Cause hurt to others then run and hide before you have to suffer the consequences. It is a truly shameful act, but they check out right before the deserved public shame would kick in, if it did, and it rarely does anyhow.

But let’s put murder aside, and focus on all of the other crime. Most of those criminals do have some sort of conscience still at work, even if very feeble. They have pride certainly. And what might be a deterrent to them? What of, I ask you, the stockades? What about some modern version of the stockades employing online and multimedia techniques? Large screens in city centers, cameras in prisons? [See note on Speedos and ice skates below.] Shine a light on these guys and let’s get to know them. Because criminals are like history, and the more we ignore them, the more apt we are to repeat their crimes.

And what of next of kin? Where does the shame end? Is a young man’s murder of another really just his doing or is his father somehow culpable as well? Certainly not to the same degree, but on average, how many well reared young men grow up to kill? What about rounding up those fathers for filmed interviews on their method of raising their sons? Get some simple questions answered by them. Were they completely absent? Were they drunk or stoned the whole time? Were they abusive? Did they love them, lead them, go to their school, help them with homework, teach them to respect teachers and education, in a word “raise” them? These interviews would not only teach us all about what it means to be a good father, but warn other young men and young fathers as to the consequences of bad-parenting and not-fathering, and also introduce a nice bit of shame into the mix.

Note: The Texas judge who took a belt to his daughter in a brutal 6-minute beating is finally getting his comeuppance for that crime thanks to her webcam and the wonders of YouTube. By far, the best punishment he could have: A good dose of good old-fashioned shame! Lap it up, you sick bastard!

This is the way it has been for most of our history in tribes, villages, small towns and so on. Only with the advent of the city are we able to hide from the public shame of being a criminal or the shitty parent of one. Now, I know that there are instances where “really good parents” just happen to have a “bad seed” who makes them look bad despite their excellent child-rearing, but I think that the interviews themselves would be enough to quell any discussion to the contrary. And we could give them unique URLs to brandish when accused: “Hey, Dick, I hear your son beat the shit out of an old man at the bus stop.” “Yes, but I’m a great parent. Check me out at”

And really, there is no privacy issue for a crime is inherently public. By entering into an illegal situation of any sort, your rights to privacy evaporate. That goes for mom and dad, too. Might give pause to those who are a bit early in their own moral, ethical, educational, intellectual and familial growth and who desire to knock up/be knocked up.**

Popular culture doesn’t even recognize shame. When was the last Scarlet Letter written into literature, song, theater, movies or television? In fact, the absolute opposite tends to be true. Killers are generally fascinating and defiant, thugs are filled with bravado, philanderers leave with the younger “philanderee”. Note the latter is not necessarily a crime, but my argument is about shame and its effects on our moral and ethical character. Crime is just the most obvious outcome to our moral and ethical failing. Shame, as I said in the beginning, is the best buddy to morality and ethical living.

Strangely, the perps who suffer the worst shame tend to be the pervs, who are caught masturbating at the movie theater and the like. That, people love to look down upon with great moral indignation; the newspapers are filled with it, the web lights up; but the ho-hum local murder goes relatively unnoticed, and that perp relatively ignored. While people may think the act is shameful, there is very little moral indignation over killing. A bit of anger pops up at the end of the online news story, then it is gone. The vilification of Pee Wee Herman, however, went on forever.

I understand that we would have issues that need to be discussed around the rights of criminals, double jeopardy, guilt by association, punishment fitting the crime and so on. I also understand and fear that as with the millions of crimes perpetrated every day on television, in movies, songs, and so on, that maybe this will only add to our callousness. “Look! Another sick murderer on the prison-vision screen. Ho-hum. Let’s go to Arby’s for potato cakes!” But how will we know if we don’t try?

So we already have some shame in the public realm, but we are misusing it, or under-using it. We need to apply it evenly or fairly and in fact with more fervor to those who steal, assault, rape, swindle and so on, than to those whose “crimes” have no other victim than themselves. The former are the real criminals and should suffer great public shame for it. A thousand men masturbating in a theater have no discernible effect on society; one single murder rips its fabric in an un-mendable manner. Shame on them!

Author’s Note:

While I stand by the belief that we don’t have enough shame in our society, and that more of it would be a boon to our moral and ethical health, I wrote this over a cup of coffee and so really haven’t considered the consequences of overhauling our system of punishment in any great length. I immediately wonder just how much more “reformed” an already angry and crazed criminal might reintegrate into society after prison knowing his hour-long video in a pink Speedo and ice skates on an ice rink that leans 45 degrees one way and then is able to lift and lower to lean the other way as well – while he slides up and down and has lots of time to consider his crime and its victims – has been shown to millions of fellow Americans (another idea I just had related more the the old tar-and-feather routine but less sticky and more chilly). That, of course, and the whole making really good parents who are already suffering greatly go through the excruciating interview and public shame process… But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water here!

*Beyond, of course, whether or not a government should put anyone to death, which I would argue, no way (I simply don’t trust any government to have that kind of power) but they do have the right to embarrass the shit out of them).

**Jeez, or not! Might even inspire them! Look at what incredible embarrassment and peering public scrutiny people are already willing to commit themselves to through reality television, homemade porn, and the like. Might backfire in some Warholian frenzied desire for 15-minutes of fame (sad, fleeting, empty fame…, but now with child!).

This is Your Brain on Information

A few years ago I remember hearing that the average New York Times paper had more information in it than the average person in the Middle Ages came across in their lifetime. I had no idea exactly how true that was, but was rather taken aback. I was consuming that amount every day, if not more, what did that mean for who I was as compared to them – my ancestors from not-that-long-ago, relatively well recorded history? Now, I found this in The Week magazine:

“In any two days, human beings create as much information online as it took our species to create in the 30,000 years between the dawn of cave painting and the year 2003. In another 10 years, that same amount of information will be generated in less than one hour.”

That is hard to even respond to. We talk about an information revolution, but I’m not sure that even gets to it. What’s bigger and more impactful than a revolution? An information tsunami? An information blizzard? An information supernova? You’d think with all the information at my disposal, I could come up with something better. Flood?

Now, I will be quick to say (so you don’t have to) that a very, very large percentage of the information we are creating online is useless in any real sense (see this blog). Pretty near 100% of what is posted on Facebook is certainly useless at least beyond the person who posted it. I do not care one tiny iota what an old friend had at The Modern Cafe last night let alone what a perfect stranger had at a restaurant hear them. And there’s plenty of that information being created.

But still it is information and it is being created and if some super highly evolved race is monitoring all of this to learn about our world, we are doing a kickass job of providing for them! They may have dropped in during the Middle Ages and picked up a little gossip, some recipes, how-to information, some religion and left. But now they have some stuff to chew on. The most obscure information is online, the most mundane information is online, some extremely helpful and useful information is online, and much of that useless information. But you’ve got to figure that those astral-planing cats or whatever they are from another world (they may be both) are rather pleased with us. At least, we’re finally giving them something worth planing back for.

So we are here now, surrounded by information, mired in information, overwhelmed by information, informed by information, taught by information, annoyed by information, enraged by information, enraptured by information and so on and so on. It really is a drug. I guess the question now we have to figure out is how we will each consume it, and whether or not we will be consumed by it. Some will be overwhelmed and inspired to the negative (really, think about the school shootings and whether or not all of those kids would every have come to that idea on their own) some will use it enhanced creativity and expanded thought and idea generation. Others will just sit there drunk and vacillate between that rage and rapture.

That’s probably enough information to be added to it all for today by me. Although I would like to add that Facebook is alcohol and Twitter’s a pinch hitter. That one’s for the astral-planing cats to mull over.

Roary’s Marsha: A Trojan by Any Other Name

Okay, so what on earth is happening to this country? We fought hard and valiantly to rid ourselves of the British menace, sure we had help from the Frenchies, but they were tougher then, less, you know, ‘fey’, and we even had the Boston Tea Party, not to be confused with this chubby, cheap, self-righteous Tea Party that has spread across this country like some sick unstoppable cold sore! Masterminded, mind you, by Rupert Murdoch, a freaking Englishman! But really! Now we have those untrustworthy Brits, known for what? Crap food! That’s right! They’ve always been known for crap food! These two very well-known British “chefs” (rich, that bit) – Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver (Jamie is a girl’s name, by the way) – telling us how to cook! What on God’s Great Green Earth is going on here?

Look out, Roary, she's right behind you!!

I can tell you. They’re a Trojan horse! That’s what they are! Add in Simon Cowell and that dude who was a judge on America’s Got Talent – Whoa! What? Who’s got talent? “America’s” got Talent! And who’s judging it? – not one (the pudding-faced dude with his own talk show), but two (the Yoko Ono of Black Sabbath herself, the minder of the muddling, mumbling Iron Man, Sharon Osborne)! Oh, no, that ain’t right.

And beyond all of this, mind you, we have another: Marsha from Roary the Racing Car! Roary the Racing Car is an American Original! (Produced in the UK.) And populated with good Americans who love America and race-cars! And they live in America! You can tell because everyone else seems to be American – Big Chris certainly is (look at his gut and he loves Elvis!), so’s that Rabbit, and that farmer dude who lives nearby, and of course, Roary! Roary is definitely American! Roary? That’s a truly American name (like Steve or Marsha! No! Not Marsha! Jan! Or Cindy!) – but that boss might be Italian! Well, he acts Italian! He’s got a gold tooth! What’s more Italian than that!? So what’s this Marsha doing there? Huh? She’s no American and she’s no race car mechanic! No, sir, she’s something else entirely. She’s English! British! And in cahoots with Gordon, Jamie, pudding-face and Yoko Osborne, that’s what she is!

Yeah! That fat dude with the gin blossom nose and spiked coffee is the real deal Americano!

And together they are wreaking havoc on America! Judging us! Telling us how to cook! Telling us how to run our restaurants! Telling us how to get chocolate milk out of our schools and save our kids from growing up diabetic fatties! What if we want fat kids? Oh, no, my friend. We didn’t steal this country from the Native Americans to give it up to those Brits without a fight! We know the Brits! I know the Brits. I’ve studied them. I’ve seen both Benny Hill and Monty Python (lots!) and have a pretty damn good idea how they work! Not to be trusted!

We’ve got to stand up to this! This is crazy! Pretty soon, they will be stealing our shows and bringing them over there – shows like The X-Factor! And The Office! American originals! America for Americans! Just say “no” to Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!

Thank you.

Is this the End of the Fresh Beat Band?

Yes, Exactly, The Real Deal, As it should be!!

If you care even remotely about the future of rock and roll (and our children), you should be sharpening your swords and loading your rifles for a complete assault on whoever at Nick Jr (aka The Evil Empire) replaced the lovely and talented Shayna Rose as Marina with Tyler Perry’s albino niece, Tara Perry in the Fresh Beat Band.

First of all, it all seems so manufactured in relation to a band that has worked its way up the hard way from their inception playing Rush covers in the romper room of Jon Beavers, also known as Twist, one of the foremost American DJ’s whose name is often mentioned with the likes of DJ Ice, DJ Cube, and Fatboy Slim, and whose reputation was solidified in ecstasy-drenched after-hours clubs in cities throughout the U.S. His arrest in 05 for selling 5o tabs to Gary Busey in a trailer in Moline had nothing but positive effects on his storied career.

Tript, as the band was originally called, before changing the name to The Fresh Beat Band, toured the states in a Chevy conversion van, playing smoke-filled, dive bars from Boston to Santa Barbara 6 nights a week, 50 weeks out of the year, sleeping in the van or flopping down on just about anyone who would take them’s couch or carpet. The Fresh Beat Band paid their dues, they were the real thing, authentic, I believe is the word. And now this? This top-down, management, screw with perfection crap? Unceremoniously tossing out Ms. Rose due to the heavy hand of Ms. Perry’s immensely powerful Hollywood uncle? Fail.

Nope. Carpet-bagger! Band-wrecker! Yoko Ono!

It’s wrong, I tell you. But nothing like the political shenanigans of the Sprout Morning Show producers.

Damned Kids

That damn kid. There he was again. 4:30 am and whining from his room down the hall wanting to come into our bed. We had been holding the line. He’s four, for the love of Van Winkle. He can sleep in his own damn bed. I went in and scolded him. He said he was afraid, he couldn’t sleep. “You have nothing to be afraid of!” I told him. “Go to sleep!” I walked back down the hall, pissed off with him for waking me from my own deep slumber and climbed back into bed. But there it was…

That damn video. That “father” beating his daughter with a belt over and over and over. The day before I had come across it on the internet. It had become quite the sensation. The girl, a regular victim of her big, tough “dad’s” beatings, had set up a video camera and captured it in all its gory. Some six years ago, it turns out. I had been on the phone listening to a nice-guy vendor drone on and on about that which I didn’t care much and had clicked on the “Yes, I’m 18” link and then on “Play” and didn’t hear much else the nice guy said. I watched for a while, my blood going from 98.6 to boiling point in no time flat. This “man”, this “father”, was whipping his daughter with a belt – did I mention over and over and over?

Apparently he is a Texas FAMILY LAW judge (the flaccid “Don’t Mess with Texas” tough-guy slogan manifest in this sad peon).  I wanted to reach in and rip that twisted pathetic scrap of garbage’s throat out and shove it down his, well, throat. I quickly turned it off feeling as if I’d been smacked around for about an hour. The nice guy finished his spiel, I think, and it was over. But it wasn’t. That damn video’s been stuck in my head ever since.

It’s all so complicated. His violence inspires my deep wish for his incarceration in the Texas prison system and many, many tortuous years as both bitch and punching bag to the biggest, meanest men there. As a Texan and judge, you can bet he claims to be a deeply religious Christian man, which can be a) appalling to enlightened Christians, b) explained away as “Hey, none of us are perfect and he just needs to repent, and receive the full-on forgiveness of the Lord”, or c) “Well, the Bible does tell us that we’ll spoil the kids if we spare ‘em the rod” (or belt, I suppose).

Then there’s the technology/shame aspect. This kid absolutely schooled the old tool with a video cam and YouTube. I would encourage every child who receives these sorts of physical or emotional beatings to do the same. Drag the cowards (who, of course, perpetrate in the privacy of their own homes mostly) right out into the open. Let the neighbors, the friends and family, the clergy, the teachers, and everyone else with internet access see exactly who they are but are too afraid to show. The WikiLeaks of child abuse.

Then there’s the sad fact that probably won’t help much either. There are 7 billion people on the Earth as of Monday (or so they say), and if we take an incredibly conservative estimate and assume that 10% of these 7B people would do the same to their children for whatever personal, cultural, or religious reasons, we’ve got 700 million people who belong in stockades in the town square covered in loogies and hurled feces by my reckoning. That’s a lot of stockades.

So what can a guy do?

There was nothing I could do about the tiny Texas coward – or any others like him, I don’t think. They have their rods and fists and belts and terribly low self-esteem and tiny penises and whatever, and they have their privacy and they even have their supporters. They will never go away. They will beget and subsequently beat another who will very often do the same to those they beget. These things tend to pass on through generations like crippling disease, until someone is strong enough, smart enough and kind enough (and fed up enough) to stop the cycle and raise their own children with the sort of power not of violence but of intelligence and compassion (and a fair amount of parental trickery, to be honest).

I couldn’t sleep now. I just laid in bed thinking about all this when there he was again. My four-year-old whining. I got up and walked down into his room. “You can’t come in our bed,” I said, firm with breaking this bad habit his mom and I had created for ourselves, and climbed into his bed. I could see in the half light his surprise as he laid his head down on my shoulder and threw his arm over my chest. His breathing slowed, then turned to tiny snores.