Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Always The Smiths

The window was open despite the winter weather.  The heater chugged away near the windowpane.  Snowflakes wafted in and melted on the stained wood.  The Smiths were on the speakers.  The Smiths were always on the speakers.  The room smelled like cigarette smoke, baby powder and stale beer.   “We should get some vodka.  Don’t you think we should get some vodka?”   He looked up from his book for a moment to give her a glance and then returned to the book.  She slapped down on the couch cushions in exaggerated anger.  She didn’t really want vodka.  She was just bored and thought the vodka would make something happen.  Anything.  The gray clouds and Morrissey and the snow and the book. Everything was gloomy.  It made him tired behind his eyes.

She continued to pester him.  “Let’s just go doooo something!”  He would never finish the reading.  He closed the book and put on his jacket.  Reflexively he felt for his keys in his front pocket as the door swung shut.  She chatted in a higher pitch and a faster rate than before, pleased to get her way.  He hunched his shoulders against the wind.  The slush slipped into a small crack in his leather boot.  They walked down the street as the cars hissed by on the damp pavement.  They got to the bar where “everyone” went and pushed the worn wooden door aside to walk down the basement stairs.  It was too early.  No one would be there.  Crude fliers advertised bands, political meetings, and second hand items for sale on the trip down.  A mountain bike had gathered particular interest as only two phone numbers had yet to be ripped from the photo of the “gently used” bike for $125.  A band called “Angry Handjob” had secured a Wednesday night headline slot at the “cool” club.  $5 or a donation to get in.  See you there.

He slumped into the wooden booth positioning himself against the wall in a lean that he thought suggested an offhand cool but really made him look like he was trying too hard to look comfortable.  His hand stuck slightly to the table from spilled beer from God knows when.  The barmaid walked from behind the bar to take their order.  She wiped the table in a symbolic gesture more than an attempt to clean.  “What can I get you?”  The barmaid stood at attention in her casually ripped jeans and skin tight Ramones t-shirt holding the pen at a “ready” angle to her small notepad.  “Vodka tonic…  I’ll have a vodka tonic.”  The barmaid moved her eyes up from the notepad to meet his glance.   “Uh… I’ll just have a Bass.”

The barmaid wrote it down as she walked away.  “Back in a minute.”  They had pretended not to recognize each other.  It was what they did.  It was an agreement they had both made without discussing it after a disastrous night at the barmaid’s apartment about a year ago.  Things had gone quite well at one point.  Then she had breathed “I’m coming Jim” in his ear, which would have been great if his name was Jim.  She dug her nails into his shoulder and flexed her thighs around him as she came and he tried to decide if he had actually heard her say what he thought he heard her say.  They breathed quickly in the dark thinking of their individual strategies until she hopped up to go to the bathroom.  She came out of the bathroom as he was pulling on his jeans muttering something about needing to get up early the next day, so maybe he should just go…   Yeah…  I’ll call you or something…

The barmaid returned with the drinks and left without a word.  The Bass had run over the glass onto the table.  “Do you have any singles?”  He fished in his pocket for two crumpled dollars.  His companion snatched the dollars out of his hand and playfully sipped from the tiny cocktail straw.  “I’m going to go play the jukebox.”  He watched her walk across the hardwood floor to the jukebox in the corner.  She moved her hips slowly back and forth to the music as she sipped her drink trying to decide on her songs.  She carefully began to plug in numbers.  A Tom Petty song began to fade out as she walked back to the table.  “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” came out of the speakers.  “That’s mine!  I picked that one!”

It was The Smiths.  It was always The Smiths. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Hate The War On Media

I had a roommate years ago whose mother would often call him with dire warnings of various unlikely dangers.  We were once told to avoid a certain city as she believed it was commonplace to be drugged and have your kidneys cut out of you and sold to an underground organ market.  We were advised against driving late at night outside of the Greater Columbus area as there had been a number of well documented abductions by UFOs.  When pressed for the source of these wild stories, she would calmly reply “the paper”.  After further digging we found out that she meant the “Weekly World News”, the tabloid farce available at grocery store checkout lines.  To her the Weekly World News and Wall Street Journal were exactly the same.  They were newspapers.

I don’t know why his mother didn’t think it was odd that the only news source that reported “Werewolf Sues Airline Over Flight Delay” was the Weekly World News.  That’s a story that really has something for everyone, no?  If I’m the editor at the Washington Post, I’m sending a reporter out on that one for full coverage.  American Airlines is going to have a lot to answer for when some guy turns into a werewolf and attacks everyone back in coach because he was airborne after nightfall.  Why did my roommate’s mother believe this crazy shit?  I suppose that she liked the idea of being on the inside of all of these alleged conspiracies.  She had a pretty gray life out there in the Ohio hinterlands.  It’s much more exciting to live in a place where Werewolves are bitching about missing their connection to Houston while nursing drinks at a Chili’s by Gate B18 at O’Hare.

It used to be easy to differentiate between real news and “fake news”.  Now it’s a little tricky.  The rise of Fox News and their agenda filled reporting made a lightbulb flick on for people like that toad Steve Bannon.  Bannon and his much more extreme hate agenda now slide into the Fox News crowd’s consciousness in the guise of “news”.  It looks like news.  It must be news.  There are so many items “placed” by people with agendas.  Take this anti-muslim immigration move from the Trump Show.  It’s designed to “keep us safe” as a trade off in losing our liberties.  Unfortunately the idea of bloodthirsty terrorists that have streamed across our borders is as real as Werewolves at the Airport.  Since 9/11, there have been 123 Americans killed by Muslim terrorists in our country.  123 people in 16 years.  There have been approximately 230,000 people killed in the United States by other lethal violence.  According to life insurance actuary tables, you have a 1 in 20 million chance of being killed in a terrorist attack.  Meanwhile Gallup Polls show that the American population hover between 30-50% of being “worried” or “very worried” about being involved in an act of terrorism.   It’s all make believe designed to keep The People afraid. 

The strategy of the Trump Show is to keep the population off balance by having the facts in question all the time.  It is impossible to debate policy when the facts themselves are in debate.  Bannon, a modern day cross of Joseph Goebbels and Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, knows how to play this game.  It is the same propaganda playbook used in every fascist government on the planet.  I tried not to look at the news all weekend, but foolishly watched a few minutes of “Meet The Press”.   When anyone from the Trump Administration is on camera it is more like a pro wrestling skit than democracy.  It goes like this:

Host:  Yesterday you said 2+2=5 at a press conference.

Trump staffer:  No I didn’t.

Host:  We have the footage of you doing it.  We just watched it.

Trump staffer:  No you don’t.  And even if you did, the American People know the facts.

Host:  (unable to process this) …. So you are saying 2+2=5?

Trump staffer:  Even if you think that is what I said, which I didn’t, I can tell you that we are right now launching a major investigation into the lies you have been telling regarding this 2+2=4.  We know that 2+2=5 and are not going to allow the elite media to fool the American People.     

Host:  OK, we are out of time.  When we get back, 2+2=5 or does it equal 4?  Our panel weighs in…  

I have worked in advertising for 20+ years.  It works.  How advertising works is by repeating something over and over again until it becomes fact.  If you are told 2+2=5 long enough, you will not only think 2+2=5, you will be positive about it.  People are looking for leadership.  They want someone to tell them what is going on.  The population is too engaged in their own lives to really do the research and look into which paper towel is actually the best much less the NAFTA trade agreement.  Bounty is the quicker picker upper?  Huh.  Sounds good to me.  OK, toss that in the shopping cart.  It is exactly the same with news.  The facts can become whatever voice gets attention.  While places like the New York Times and Washington Post are playing it by the old rule book digging into the facts of a situation, Bannon is placing news items to discredit anyone that notices literally everything coming out of Trump’s mouth is a lie.  There used to be a social contract that everyone in the game told the basic truth and then administered "spin".  These guys have tossed truth completely out the window.  The game plan is to make you think that independent press has an agenda beyond just reporting fact whereas The Trump Show is looking out for YOU.  This flies in the face of logic as the press just reports on whoever happens to be in office whereas The Trump Show are a bunch of billionaires with business interests that cut across these policy decisions. It's a scam.

Remember that when The Trump Show rails about how they are “at war with the media” what they mean is they are at war with The Truth.  The New York Times last week decided to start calling Trump’s “alternative facts” what they are, lies.  It’s unprecedented.  This is a crossroads for the nation.  Don’t believe a word that comes out of the executive branch.  It’s all lies and misdirection.  I don’t want to look back on this and sheepishly admit I just went along.  I feel heartened by how many people I talk to that feel the same way I do.  Just like Nixon and Joe McCarthy got shoved out, Trump will too.  Then we can get back to what we really need to focus on, making sure Werewolves don’t get flight delays.  

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Hate Trump Week One

I have found it impossible to turn away from the news.  Despite knowing full well that if I see that shitbag Kellyanne Conway and her vacant grin on TV I might well lose my mind, I can’t stop myself.  I need to see her lies.  Whenever Steve Bannon comes on camera I hear that Darth Vadar theme play in my head.  I can’t even turn away from soulless Paul Ryan who would refer to Joseph Stalin as a “rascal” if he could have Stalin shove some oppressive tax legislation through.  Trump himself is must see TV for the entire planet as he stumbles through our planet like drunken bull in a china shop.  What wild ass lie or empty claim will he make as he waddles around with the nuclear codes?  Like a Third World Dictator with a comb over, he repeats lies and lies over and over again until those lies become truth.  In a million years, I never thought this would be the America I lived in.

It hasn’t even been a week.  Holy mother of fuck.  In six days we have a “voter fraud” fallacy, shattered Mexican relations, suggestions we should “take” Iraq’s oil, mass senior level state department resignations, major US cities vowing to oppose anti American immigration "executive orders", and of course building a pointless $14 billion dollar wall that you and I are going to pay for.  It didn't take long for it to become clear.  A crazy person is in charge.  There hasn’t even been a real crisis yet and it feels completely out of control.  The “Doomsday Clock” was moved by the Atomic Scientists to the closest point to midnight since 1953.  There was a fork in the road, and the planet took the wrong road thanks to the input of approximately 70,000 hillbillies that got off the couch and voted in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.  The die has been cast and we all crapped out.  There is no way to white knuckle it through this presidency.

My game plan is to travel as much as possible.  I think it will be important to see parts of the world that might not exist in the future or I might not be welcome to walk in without being tarred and feathered.  I have said “yes” to anything that has come my way this week.  Euro Tour?  Yes.  Wine judge in England?  Yes.  Diving in Mexico?  Yes.  Burgundy and Alsace?  Yes.  San Francisco?  Yes.  When I am sitting in my bunker eating a cold can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew waiting for the radiation sickness to do me in, I don’t want to think “Boy, I wish I would have seen what Romanee Conti looked like…”.  Now is the time.  If I was a gambling man, I’d bet on the “under” for “happy days for the planet”.  Life as you know it is ticking down.

With some luck we will get some good revolutionary opposition going.  I hope there are some good bands.  I regret being born too late to walk around in a headband at a Vietnam War rally.  I think I would be really good yelling out slogans into a 1970s era bullhorn.  It’s a shame that I would look Geddy Lee if I grew my hair out now.  I don’t want to be pointed out as “that creepy guy with the bullhorn” when I am hoping to be The Voice of The Revolution.  Maybe I can find a good hat.  I’d wear one of those Che Guevara berets, but I think I would come off as a failed French artist.  It’s a real situation, almost as dire as The Destruction of America.

It's a suburban revolution.  When the weather improves, we should take to the streets.  Let’s be prepared though.  I'm going to the hat store.  You bring the bullhorn.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Nurse the Hate: The Bird Tattoo

The woman behind the sandwich counter was young, probably early 20s.  She was wearing the knit cap of Hipster Nation over her short cropped masculine hair style.  She had modified her work uniform to push back the starched white sleeves to show the various tattoos placed almost randomly on her petite arms.  The dichotomy of the small pale arms with the old Sailor Jerry styled imagery caught my eye.  There were lots of crude skulls, birds, and nautical themes like she had been in the Navy in 1943.  I wondered if she had tangled with The Japs in Guadalcanal?  On her right bicep was a colorful eye with a long lash that looked almost like plumage.  I recognized the image but couldn’t figure it out.  An old San Francisco hippie show poster from Moby Grape?  Maybe a Robyn Hitchcock album?  Hey, what’s with the eye tattoo?  Where’s that from?  “Oh, it’s from a tattoo shop in San Diego.  I just walked in and said I wanted a tattoo of an eye and they drew that up.”

I was fairly certain she had permanently placed either a hippie band or eccentric English songwriter branding image on her.  It was probably better that she didn’t know.  “You want mustard?”.  I said yes because I did.  She carefully sliced the bread and wrapped the sandwich in deli paper.  On her left arm I saw an old style bluebird flying with a banner etched with a name.  What’s that one?  She held her arm out to display the stereotypical bird with the name “Mel” on the banner.  It was a surprising name to see on a 1943 Navy Man in the guise of a 23-year-old girl.  Who’s Mel?  “Someone I know…”  She frowned.  I had overstepped my bounds by asking. 

Personally I feel like if that much effort was made to display a series of tattoos I should be allowed to ask about them.  If you are going to richly cultivate a WW2 sailor’s vibe on your arms, go to the effort of making sure to display them, I feel like I can inquire.  I am a curious guy.  I want to know dammit.  If I was wearing a necklace with a shrunken head on it, I think I would have to assume people would ask about it.  I mean, I didn’t call her on the fact that the bird sort of looked like a swallow which could only be worn by sailors that had sailed at least 10,000 miles.  If it was a bluebird, that is a nautical symbol of good luck.  She might have lived on Ocean Beach CA for a spell, but I don’t think she spent time on a galley.  You sir are no sailor!  That’s just my guess anyway.  Then again, she had a Robyn Hitchcock LP design on her that she thought was an original piece of art, so why get involved at all?  The kid didn't do her homework.  I walked away without saying anything further.  It was for the best of all parties.  

I sat down in the small dining area.  I looked at the New York Times.  The news was filled with more ominous updates.  Executive orders to re-open “black sites” used for “enhanced interrogations”.  Ban on Muslim immigration begins.  An estimated $14 billion dollar wall to be built along the Mexican border.  Senior officials intone “ultimately Mexico will pay for the wall”.  Hmmm...  Having been to Mexico, I can assure you they don’t have an extra $14 billion inside the couch cushions.  You know who is paying for that wall?  You are, that’s who.  Meanwhile a smokescreen about “voter fraud” in the election meant to turn attention away from everything else in this new Legion of Doom.  The dictator playbook of "multiple outrages so confused citizens can’t mobilize against any particular one".  Welcome to the New Haiti.

I ate my sandwich and thought about The Sailor.   

Monday, January 23, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Hate Alternative Fact Debate

I spent yesterday afternoon wasting my time reading about Italian wine production, drinking Cremant de Loire, and gambling on football.  Then I really started to waste my time.  I got drawn into a social media argument about “alternative facts” with a couple of far right Republicans.  I knew this was a pointless exercise.  There has never been a circumstance in which someone has a political squabble, is presented a factoid and then says “You know, I never considered it from that point of view…  You might be right!”.  No one has ever had a reasonable discussion on social media.  I should only focus on posting pictures of myself in a wrestling mask for the Lucha Libre Wine Appreciation Society and photos of Leo doing poorly thought out stunts.  That’s what the internet is for.

I don’t know what it is about people that identify themselves as “hardcore Republicans” that makes them completely inflexible.  For example, I am more likely to vote Democrat than Republican, but I have voted for both parties and do split the vote on most elections.  I don’t really care for how Obama handled Isis or the Iraq deal.  He seemed to waffle in the Middle East.  I liked him three times as much as George W. though.  I liked George Sr.  I liked Obama, but will openly note that I was not 100% on board with everything.  I didn’t like Hillary very much, but at least she was qualified for the job.  That type of gray area seems absolutely impossible for the Far Right aficionado.  They will not break rank under any circumstances.  They will not betray “their team” no matter how ludicrous the circumstances.

So there I was flailing away at these guys who claimed “alternative facts” don’t matter because Hillary blah blah bah or Obamacare was done in such a way that blah blah blah.  I have no idea why those things were being linked.  “Alternative Facts” stands in a world of horseshit all of its own.  It did not matter.  They were willing to do anything to muddy the waters to avoid saying that it is reasonable for our elected officials at least pretend to tell us the truth.  I don’t understand how anyone that is even remotely functioning in their day to day life can’t look at “alternative facts” and say “Hey, that’s fucking bullshit.”.  Yet, there they were telling me I was the crazy one and it isn’t a big deal.  If it comes wrapped in a Republican wrapper, they are ALL IN.  If Kim Jong-un ran Republican, these guys would defend him.  “Oh, so he ran labor camps!  And maybe he executed some of his relatives?  Allegedly!  It’s all Fake News created by the Leftist Media Conspiracy!  And what about Benghazi?  Hmm?  What about that?  Hillary is worse than Kim Jong-un!”  There is no set of circumstances which will allow them to even entertain the thought that something “their team” did might be questionable. 

It is completely insane.

What bothers me is that denial of the truth appears to be a strategy from these clowns The People elected.  The plan appears to be to eliminate the validity of not just the media reporting the facts but the facts themselves.  If a clearly available fact like attendance of a public event is rejected, how can we possibly think that these goons will provide any truth at any point?  Trumps is not at war with the media.  He is at war with The Truth.  The Trump White House game plan is “We will tell you what the truth is, so shut up.”.  This is exactly what every cheap Third World Dictator moving up the ladder to Putin does to control the public.  It is the exact opposite of what principles this country is built around.  So why do the Republican honks refuse to confront this?  They are always the ones talking about how Patriotic they are and how much they love the Constitution and The Founding Fathers (insert colonial fife and drum corps here with tear streaming down cheek).  There is no one more “American” and yet less likely to be comfortable with allowing the freedoms which they claim to be so dedicated towards.  Instead of respecting the millions of women that marched this weekend, I saw all sorts of talk about how these demonstrating democratic citizens were being “whiny”.  What can you do with that?

I remember as a kid studying the rise of Fascism in the 1930s in Europe.  It seemed impossible that Mussolini would have been given the keys to the kingdom, much less Hitler.  I wondered how people could have let that happen.  I get it now.  It’s not overnight.  It starts and then gains momentum.  What seems impossible becomes possible.  It just slides and slides to a place no one thought possible.  The Far Right was always quick to mention how Mussolini made the trains run on time.  It’s really not so different than people today talking about how Trump will “Drain the Swamp” despite the obvious evidence to the contrary.  Years from now, do you want to answer the questions “How did you let that happen?  Why didn’t you try to stop it?”. 

I don’t.  It’s time to take the gloves off with these people.