Friday, April 20, 2007

Sexy Toddlers!

I READ A DISTURBING THING while casually skimming from blog to blog on these Internets. Only, it wasn't really treated as if it was disturbing. In the context of the article, the following information was contextualized in sort of a "isn't that cool?" or "she's so fascinating!" way. Here it is:

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie has confessed to being "very sexual" in kindergarten, even creating a game where she would corner the boys and strip off their clothes.

Now, here's the game I like to play with stuff of this nature -- and by stuff of this nature, I mean, instances where sexualizing children is treated capriciously -- just switch the genders (and remove the celebrity, if necessary) and see how comfortable that statement makes you feel. It's fun! It's what I did during the Michael Jackson trial. You know, if you imagine it was a middle-aged woman who invited a bunch of 11- and 12-year-old boys to her house for a sleepover where she would serve them wine, then it still seems TOTALLY innocent, right?

Or if you imagine that a middle-aged male celebrity (your choice! Howie Mandel, Brian Williams, Yao Ming, anyone!) was having little sleepovers with 12-year-old girls, it would also seem TOTALLY innocent. In both cases, the problem would still be with the media wanting to tear that famous person down. See? It totally clears up any confusion.

When I was working at a video store in the '90s, we would have movies playing in the store at all times. And since they had to be safe for all audiences, one day we once put on this seemingly harmless Disney film called Blank Check, about this 12-year-old kid who finds a blank check (thus the title), fills it out for one million dollars and starts living high on the hog. Naturally, the check belongs to the mob, so they come after the kid. And naturally, since the mob's involved, the FBI comes a-calling too: specifically, and agent played by Karen Duffy, at the time 32-years-old.

Naturally, the kid has a crush on Duffy's character, and hits on her. And even though she does not agree to go on a date with him, she does agree to kiss him in the end. Cute, right? Unless you imagine the movie re-made with, let's say, Dakota Fanning as the kid and, oh let's say, any male actor in his 30s. It's sort of a little creepy then. With a 30-year-old man flirting, as Duffy's character does in the film, with a pre-teen of the opposite sex.

Which takes me back to the Angelina Jolie quote. And how it sorta sounds like she's proud of being so sexually aware as a 5-year-old. And how the "journalist" writing about it seems to think that's pretty fucking cool. Like, wow, that's so awesome that you were a sexy toddler! It's sooooo you! Why wasn't I in your kindergarten? We could have totally gotten busy during nap time! Is it really cool to brag about being "sexual in kindergarten"? It's not that I don't believe that kids sometimes do just what she's talking about -- chasing members of the opposite sex and either kissing them or wanting to see their junk -- it's just that I think it's not exactly normal to want to retrofit "sexuality" onto it. In fact, looking at that behavior as sexual behavior seems a bit fucked up to me.

The weird thing about this story is the ad that breaks up the copy. It's a little Flash animation ad with pictures of young children accompanied by phrases such as: "Do you care if I need help? Do you care who I am? Do you care if I'm left behind?" And when you click on it, it sends you to an Irish children's charity site called Barnardos, where "no child gets left behind."

Which is either the world's darkest joke or the most awesome bit of irony ever.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Goodbye Blue Monday!

THAT'S THE SUBTITLE of Breakfast of Champions, the first Kurt Vonnegut book I ever read. I don't recall who tipped me off that I should read it. It was in high school, or maybe junior high, so it might have been my good friend Skap. He seems a likely suspect. Either he told me to read it, or I told him to read it, one way or the other. After that point, we both consumed Vonnegut's books as if they were candy.

Other than Harlan Ellison, I don't think there's another author who influenced my early years of writing as much. It's funny to look back and to re-read Vonnegut and Ellison, their styles almost antithetical to one another, and to try to see what it was that put those two writers at the top of my list. I mean, they couldn't write enough books to satisfy my appetite. But where Ellison's prose is more ornate or florid, Vonnegut is spare, unadorned. Both can be hilarious -- I'm sure that appealed to me -- and both can be heartbreaking. But it was Vonnegut's prose I first emulated. It was Vonnegut I most wanted to be.

I read nearly everything he wrote, my enthusiasm only waning about a decade ago when I read Timequake, his self-proclaimed "final novel", when it was obvious that his colossal talent as a novelist had faded. It made me sad, of course. You never want to see your heroes become human, I think. It's also, in a way, unsurprising. (Far less surprising, in fact, than a life-long smoker like Kurt to have made it to 84.) Vonnegut admits in the prologue to Timequake that the novel as it exists is cobbled together from the first stab at the novel, comparing it the marlin in Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea: "My great big fish, which stunk so, was entitled Timequake. Let us think of it as Timequake One. And let us think of this one, a stew made from its best parts mixed with thoughts and experiences during the past seven months or so, as Timequake Two."

He mentions that he spent a decade on the book before finally realizing it didn't work. Timequake, such as it is, isn't bad. It's just not the fitting finale for a career that includes Slaughterhouse-Five, Sirens of Titan, Cat's Cradle and, of course, Breakfast of Champions. But the great thing is this: Those books still exist, and re-reading them is no less amazing than reading them the first time.

So that's what I'm doing.

I pulled my Vonnegut books off the shelf and started re-reading them. Hadn't really read him, I think, since Timequake. For whatever reason, I started with Galapagos (1985). And I'll continue to read them in whatever order strikes me, not because I've become unstuck in time, but because it seems fitting somehow. Or maybe I just think it'll be fun to read whichever novel next appeals to me. Who knows, I may read Timequake next.

So, Kurt Vonnegut has, in his own way, come unstuck in time, passing away on the same day as the great black actor Roscoe Lee Browne. Don't know if that means anything. I also don't know if there's any significance to the fact that it is the same day in history when Napoleon was exiled to Elba (1814), when the ill-fated Apollo 13 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral heading for the moon (1970) and when Harry Truman relieved General Douglas MacArthur of his duties in Korea (1951). It's also the day Scott Joplin died (1917).

There's a great quote that someone else pulled apparently from Timequake (although I have no recollection of it, but I'll find out sooner or later if that's where it's really from). And instead of signing off with "So it goes," I will sign off with this:

I spoke at a Humanist Association memorial service for Dr. Asimov a few years back. I said, "Isaac is up in Heaven now." That was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of Humanists. I rolled them in the aisles...When I myself am dead, God forbid, I hope some wag will say about me, "He's up in Heaven now."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Another Reason to Love 30 Rock

THE TWO BEST 30 ROCK LINES from last night's show. Both of which were spoken by Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin).

1) Sometimes I wish I was a horse. Strong. Free. My chestnut haunches glistening in the sun.

2) Lemon, I want to kiss your boyfriend on the mouth.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Beards for the World!

BEARD TEAM USA IS GETTING READY. That's the electricity you can feel in the air. If you were wondering why you've felt so anxious lately, that might explain it. What with the World Beard and Moustache Championships coming up in September. Dude, everybody's getting ready! It's like the Super Bowl of hair growth, only it's world-fucking-wide, bitch. And if you don't have your beard in halfway decent shape now, it's probably too late. That shit doesn't just happen overnight you know. Not a world champion beard and mustache. Fuck no. Those take time and effort. So, don't try to start now and think you'll be all ready to face the London Handlebar Club on their home turf. (That's right, the WBAMC is being held in Brighton, England this year.) I'd just wait for the home field advantage in Anchorage 2009. Because, like the Olympics, the Beard Championships don't come around every year.

And this year Beard Team USA is totally fucking serious, man. In previous years, the team has simply stressed individuality and self-expression, but this year, the team is gunning for victory! And guess what, bitches: Their formula for victory just might include YOU! Do you have a kick-ass moustache? And do you also love America? Well, what are you waiting for, Jack? Don't keep that lip-warmer to yourself. Go trans-Atlantic with your moustache rides T-shirt, and maybe also help BTUSA bring home the gold...or whatever the hell the awards are. Because they really need moustaches this year. They really want to beat the Handlebar Club, but even more so, they want to beat the Germans (stand in line, right?), who started this whole World Beard and Moustache Championship.

What's that? You're not familiar with the history of this awesome event? Let me quote the WBAMC website:

In 1990, the First Höfener Beard Club (1. Höfener Bartclub) organized and hosted the first World Beard and Moustache Championships in its hometown Höfen/Enz, Germany, a small village in the Black Forest. In 1995, the same club hosted the second World Beard and Moustache Championships in the nearby city of Pforzheim.

In 1997, the championships moved to Trondheim, Norway, where they were organized by the Norwegian Moustache Club (Den Norske Mustaschklubben), headquartered in Trondheim.

The Swedish Moustache Club (Svenska Mustaschklubben) followed in 1999, organizing the championships in Ystad, at the extreme southern end of Sweden.

In March, 2001, the Swabian Beard and Moustache Club (Schwäbische Bart- und Schnauzerclub) celebrated its tenth anniversary by hosting the championships in its hometown of Schömberg, Germany.

After that, I think we all know what went down. The WBAMC came to America in 2003 for the first time ever, as part of the annual Nevada Day celebration in Carson City, Nevada. Then back to Germany (Berlin to be exact) in '05. I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. And it's going to be another two years before we get those international beards on our own turf. To Alaska, where everyone has beards. It's a law there! Grow a beard or get the fuck out. It even says that on the license plates. It's like their version of "Live Free or Die." So, if we're really serious, as Americans, about winning some serious recognition in London, we need to show everyone -- Brits, Germans, Poles, Czechs, Russians, all the famous beard people -- that we can grow it with the best of them.

And if we need any inspiration, all we need to do is visit Beard Team USA's blog, or even the all-encompassing beard-cyclopedia known as All About Beards. How serious are they? They're a dot-org, man. That's almost a dot-edu and wayyyyy better than a dot-com.

Fuck yeah, dawg! Get yer beard on!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007