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Archive for September, 2012

I don’t know why this struck me. I was skimming a GQ article on the 30th anniversary of the TV show Cheers. The article quotes Kurt Vonnegut saying that he would have rather written that show than his own books. This is twofold funny to me for very personal reasons. One of the main reasons I gave up watching television, at age 17, was that Shelley Long left Cheers, and the other main reason was that I had discovered the book Slaughterhouse-Five, the literary masterpiece of one Kurt Vonnegut, who single-handedly launched a love affair between me and books that my father had fruitlessly tried to force on me at a much younger age.

Why did Shelley Long play such a big role in my intellectual development, forcing me away from Starsky & Hutch and into Thomas Pynchon and James Joyce? Does she really deserve such responsibility? No. It was probably just the right time in my life. My parents, big readers that they were, let me watch far too much television when I was younger … so much that I eventually burned out on it. To this day, watching regular TV for more than an hour at a time makes me a bit nauseous.  Cheers was the last TV show, for many, many years, that I watched religiously, compelled not only by its comedy but by its soap opera. Love is such a fraught topic for teenagers, that I, too, pinned some sort of  ineffable hope on two fictional characters, neither one of whom I’m like. Or perhaps I just thought Shelley Long was pretty. In any case, the show beat that dead horse of Sam and Diane’s on-again, off-again romance for so long, that by the time I was 17 I was starting to see through the pastiche and melodrama not only of television but the way it was somehow mimicked in real life. People get drunk on drama as easily as teenagers sipping cooking sherry. There’s a better life out there, and there’s better art. More timeless literature that makes you think around a subject and find affinities instead of jerking you around every Thursday night for cheap delectation.

I have been wondering recently whether to haunt the Cheers bar again on Netflix, since my impatient and image-thirsty son has sort of forced me into a compromise with TV time again. From what I can tell so far, my feelings were justified. I understand why Cheers was a good idea on paper, but many of the jokes have worn thin over time. I think it might have been an ambitious show at first, but it traded its wit for melodrama too often, traded smart gags for dumb ones and certainly reached mediocrity even before Shelley Long left. I stand behind my oft-repeated claim that if you’re going to look for a truly great sitcom from that era, you must look no further than the Cheers’ crew’s previous show: Taxi. This, in my mind, is a timeless TV show (if there is such a thing) where life’s absurdities and heartbreaks and the collisions between generations and social groups could be examined and laughed at in ways that we realized were important after the fact–and without dime store titillation. I still feel the writing on that show stands up 30 years after its own abbreviated five-year run. I’m not sure why it doesn’t get yanked onto the pages of GQ more often. Maybe another 30 years will offer us more focus. Of course, you’d have to be one of Kurt Vonnegut’s time-traveling heroes to know. In fact, I highly recommend that if you haven’t, you go read Slaughterhouse-Five right now.

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What are we telling ourselves every day to stay positive?

–*If I try very hard, I know the pre-diabetic in me can shine through.

–*Don’t be the person who gives in to liquor and drugs. Be the person who sells liquor and drugs to some other dumb ass.

–*It’s not my business what other people think of me and my suspended driver’s license.

–*I should relax and enjoy the things I already have, namely, this bag of aluminum cans.

–*If you stay straight and fly right, you can get from South 98th Street to North 98th Street with no problem. All you need is a city with a decent grid system.

–*My failures make me who I am. What’s important is that the cops don’t find the fingerprints that make me who I am.

–*If you compare yourself with everybody, you’ll always come up short. Try comparing yourself only to those with terminal diseases, and you’ll definitely shine by comparison.

–*Yes I can think myself out of a wet paper bag, thank you very much!

–*Someday I’ll be back on top and I’ll spit on all you losers. … And I say that with only good feelings in my heart.

–*I can beat this Tourette’s cock sucking monkey fucker.

–*It’s not my fault my hedge fund went under, it’s the god damn mark-to-market accounting rules that did me in.

–*If I’m so dumb, how come my subspecies wiped out the Neanderthals?

–*There’s no manual for how to be a human being. … But there are several critical pamphlets that we could read to watch our enormous sodium intake.

–*We’re all the same in God’s eyes. … Actually, scratch that. That’s a real motivation killer.

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Political pundits took to the airwaves with awestruck reverence Tuesday as Mitt Romney shrewdly drew fire away from incendiary comments he made about the United States’ response to attacks in Libya with a brand new gaffe saying he didn’t care about 47% of Americans.

“This is a game changer,” said journalist Carl Bernstein. “Last week, everybody was talking about Mitt Romney’s heartless, misleading comments about America’s response to the riots in Northern Africa. Today, they are again talking about his waging of class warfare against those who take the earned income credit, including seniors. I’m humbled by his cagey political instincts.”

Romney was caught on tape at a fund-raiser for wealthy donors insisting that 47% of Americans don’t pay income tax, therefore they would likely be in the tank for Barack Obama on election day, and he has no hope of winning their vote. He called them government dependents, falsely suggested they pay no federal taxes and furthermore said they were enfeebled and unwilling to help themselves.

His brilliant tactical move of calling half of America moochers set off a media firestorm, as pundits, bloggers and reporters across the country quickly noted how quickly he had defused the unforgivable Libya gaffe.

“This is a Machiavellian maneuver of such cutting skill that one’s hair turns curly,” said Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

The week before, Romney had suggested that the United States had shamefully apologized to Islamic extremists for attacking U.S. embassies and personnel. He had, however, distorted the timeline of the diplomatic comments. The comments were meant to assuage Egyptian protestors angered about an anti-Islamic film produced in the United States. They were issued before the attacks, not after. Romney’s gaffe led to an outpouring of outrage that he had politicized an attack on American diplomats for short term political gain.

But as of Tuesday, this anger was largely forgotten as Americans had stopped talking about his international inexperience and turned back to his class chauvinism and heartlessness.

“Mitt Romney knows how to change a conversation,” said his running mate, Paul Ryan. “Just when you think you’ve got him pegged as a neophyte on the world stage, he’ll remind you that he’s also out of touch economically.”

Breitbart.com issued a philippic against the mainstream media for not reporting more about Romney’s tactical brilliance, not only his suggestion that half of America has not paid income tax under the Republican-championed earned income tax credit amid recession, but that he was further able to downgrade this cohort into a bunch of lazy welfare mothers in one fastidious rhetorical flourish.

“One day he’s suggesting that Obama, who has been droning Al Qaeda operatives five times as much as George Bush, is somehow appeasing Islamic extremists. The next day, he’s excoriating half of American for being on the dole, including millions who are presumably working. If that’s not politicking worthy of Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Ronald Reagan and Seneca, I’ll show my bare ass in Macy’s window,” wrote Breitbart columnist Ed Lee.

President Obama’s White House chief of staff Jack Lew concurred.

“A lot of us thought that Mitt Romney’s comments about Libya were unforgivable,” said Lew. “But this week, we can barely remember them because all our mouths are open fly-catcher-wise at Mitt’s brazen admission he thinks half of Americans are feeble welfare moms watching TV in a basement all day. All I can say is that it was a master stroke. Well-played!”

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Reincarnal

Reincarnal

By Eric Rasmussen

 

Love like accidental planets that crossed

Thick with mezzotinted atmospheres, moirés of

Opposing dusks

Life in a mere 80 years, like 80 minutes winked shut

For a few chiasmus-soaked cross-hatching lines of verse

To dote and fawn away, to fall in love but only for a day

Each time; mixed with mixolydian verses

That chink with the ice in lemon gin reverses

Seething with thoughts born only in momentary extremes

Then in words poured out with the mildness of cream

Thought (and life) lived only from the black to the white

Life breathed through a dilating glade

Slithering to the thought with the pallor of jade

But to think again, to love again, to live again

In the extremities; how does it like us, these?

If all that is thought is chemistry, if all we do is think

Then this thought will live again on a thin aired gloaming

Until there’s nothing left of it to drink

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It is with great joy I announce that one of my very first screenplays has emerged from its yellowing state in a drawer to make the semi-finals of a film festival. Not just any film festival, but the Austin Film Festival, a major confab with big name producers, some of whom have generously placed my script among the top 20 in the comedy category out of some 2,000 entries.  The screenplay, called “Candy Rocks Doesn’t Grow Up,” depicts the rise and fall of a 10-year-old rock star.

This script has been around for a long time (I originally conceived it when I was 26) and I’m thrilled that I’ll finally get to tell producers about it!

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