Thursday, November 18, 2004

Two Channels on the телевизионный and Nothing's On

The only joy of Communism is never having to decide what the hell you are gonna do. You will wake, you will work, you will queue, you will eat, you will drink (intermittently, throughout the day), you will rinse, repeat and then die in your sleep. You will find this comforting and monotonous, and in the end you will forget about the parallels while breathing breath in cold air, avoiding the visiting COPS camera crew and plotting how your mail-order bride business will ever get past the recruitment stage. Like the Sun and the Moon, the circle will come all the way around again and the 80-way intersection called "choice" will always be a state away.

But fear not, young pilgrim, for your boat has been built. Make your own sail from contracts and quilts and never believe that choice is a curse.

Photograph by Thomas Wheatley/"Communist Statue Park" Budapest, Hungary 7/04Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Phillywonk's Forgotten Entry

According to Thaddeus P. Phillywonk's "Maelstrom of the Animal Mindstorm," the only animals who are at ease with the size that God has bestowed upon them are whales and the long-extinct terradactyl. The rest -- giraffes, horses, elephants and panda bears -- are confused and in a perpetual frenzy of Lennie Syndrome, a debilitating disease named after the mouse-crushing numbskull from "Of Mice and Men." These animals know not what to do with their size or strength; they step on orphanages and antique stores by accident and are hostages to their own carnage.

Add Great Danes to the list. Bollagher, the beast in my care here off Prince Ave., is an off-yellow horsedog who is timid and lovable and clumsy and old. He has the gas of a deathbed Cubs fan and the odor of a bus driver's seat. Yet he is alive and wiry, curious and gentle, and romp dances upstairs every night in a bizarre ritual to remind himself he is indeed alive.

This morning, while charting out a story, he sauntered up next to me, his lips dripping with a mix of drool and water. He begged to have his neck stroked, to feel friction on an itch unreachable. Before I could make contact and ease his pain, his mouth opened and unleashed a burp consisting of half-digested dog food and canine innards.

I can't say this is his worst--my first night here he became a walking, barking whoopie cushion influencing me to leave a book of matches in every single room to which he can find access. He sleeps in the downstairs hallway lined with bookshelves, and when his ass starts rumbling, the pathway takes on a morbid smell of old yellow paper and fart. But he's worth keeping around. Not just for the cliche questions I get when I walk him ("How much he weigh?" "How old is he?" "You ride that thing?"), but for the fact that in his most frantic moments, you see the spectrum of animal emotion, and in the most calm, you see a giant with a heart. The see saw of the animal kingdom.

Photograph by Thomas Wheatley/"Bolly & Mabby" 11/04
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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Daddy-Bought Tattoo on a Range Rover's Ass (long and on purpose)

On the way back from Savannah, stomach reeling from oysters and an early morning screening of "Air Force One," I drove the endless two-lane artery between Soperton and Athens, State Route 15. The road is an anthropological study, showcasing the highs and lows of small-town Georgia, from the quaint window-shopping hominess of Greensboro to the fried chicken shacks of Sparta. The main road connects the students of one of the most enlightened institutions of higher learning in Georgia to their southernly roots and homes. Yet it is a bleak landscape; the stores in between are all empty and the windows are all gone, the homes are lean-to's, and the city square of fair Sparta is downtrodden and alone.

15 was a caravan of Athenians en transit, a one-way snake of SUVs sliding up and down the hills, and on many, nestled in the corner of the rear window, was a smarky little square: a black sticker, with a large white "W," and below this an identifier, like the title of a superhero sequel, "THE PRESIDENT." You've seen this--the bumper label has been decorating Bush supporter vehicles for a little over a year. (The stickers and other Bush merchandise are designed and sold by the Spalding Group, a marketing and promotions company in business exclusively for Republican campaigns). The stickers become so commonplace you doubletake when a passing car does not have one.

The sticker -- which looks like a cousin of (see ripoff) of The W Hotel logo -- is more than just a pseudosophisticated (oh-so-sleek, oh-so-modern) sign of affection for a dunce. It adds to the Bush cult and is a step short of erecting a mighty statue of a serving president--something more acceptable in dictatorships and unheard of in modern-day democracies. Man has seen the tragic results of the overly self-inflated rulers of our day; it is for this we wait for our leaders to pass before we turn them into physical icons. Kennedy was loved when alive, celebrated once dead. Hitler and Stalin became sedentary action figures in their lands, their wayward ideals amplified in stone and steel. For a moment, it seemed like the world understood the danger of this practice, of minting coins with your own profile or giant statues of your hands grasping swords. We seat our rulers at desks to combine a figure of authority with a symbol of productivity. Without a desk, their chair would be a throne.

The cult of George W. Bush is something dangerous, however. Half of the nation has proclaimed him a hero in spite of no courageous act, a success when he is a failure, a visionary when he is blind. A president who hoodwinks the United States of America should be treated as a CEO who lied to the board and the stockholders, not as a first-night waiter who dropped an urn of ice water. He answers to no one and his supporters don't question it. He lets us relax at the subdivision shindig; while we are engaged in badminton, we trust him to watch the kids in the pool and the burgers on the grill. But the kids are drowning, and the meat's burned black, and no one seems to care. The grand plan for democracy in the Middle East has become the play-it-by-ear, "if-we-catch-'em-we-beat-'em" version of chase the tail.

Yet the stickers stick and the signs stand. One by one, these cars passed me, rushing past the havenothings and cotton fields and onto Athens. Deep down, how many of those motorists really support him, really stand for what he says, really feel that he deserves to not just finish what he started, but enact new changes at home and abroad. How many are spoonfed, Republican by lineage and not choice?

Today, there will be another election, and from what I feel, another mighty foul up. I've cast my virgin presidential vote and it is oddly unsettling. It is not so much a heartfelt vouch for a candidate I support, but a weapon against a fool, the sole offensive against the second rush of bumblery, croneyism and the barroom rhetoric that has driven an ideological gash in the nation's heart.

A ramble? Yes. A gathering of thoughts muttered and shouted elsewhere? Yes. A blind stab at hoping I'll eat my words? Of course. Posted by Hello