Mainstream Media Accountability Survey

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1. Would you say the mainstream media has not been not sort of mostly unfair to the party opposite the party not currently not entirely but perhaps inarguably in power?

2. Has the liberal press manipulated you from birth and forced perspectives upon you that made you so uncomfortable you’ve contemplated or even successfully committed suicide?

3. Between 1 and 63, how many of your relatives has Anderson Cooper killed?

4. Name three women in your immediate family “turned” by Rachel Maddow.

5. Please give us their phone numbers.

6. Would kissing a Slovenian giantess freak them out?

7. Are they easily distracted by strangely human grunts coming from a broom closet?

8. I’m sorry, what were we talking about?

9. On a scale of 1 to 10, would you classify the mainstream media as incompetent, unreliable and irresponsible?

10. How would you prefer to receive updates on issues of concern: my Twitter account, my personal Facebook account, or shoved up your ass?

11. Is the White House’s proposed travel ban perfect or a collective work of genius?

12. Were you aware of a poll released just yesterday that completely contradicts the one we didn’t like?

19. Whatever happened to “journalistic integrity,” huh?

20. HUH?!

13. Is fact-checking a thing of the past or were we naïve to believe it ever existed?

14. Did you see “Spotlight”?

15. Did it deserve that Best Movie Oscar or should its producers have been deported?

16. Do you think all reporters are as ugly and badly groomed as Mark Ruffalo?

17. Doesn’t he seem like someone who fancies himself a tough guy because he’s also the Incredible Hulk but doesn’t realize those are movies, not real life?

18. If the president ever fought him in a bare-knuckle brawl, how many minutes would pass before Mark Ruffalo became a subservient peon? Should the leader of the free world then in unquestioned triumph drink his blood while they both screamed like lady-boys, one in terror, the other in near-primal ecstasy?

19. According to the most recent data, Rachel McAdams is totally not sexy in that movie. What’s with the shapeless slacks and baggy tops?

20. Speaking of “Saturday Night Live,” please list the show’s worst 42-season stretches.

21. Given the choice, would you prefer Alec Baldwin go fuck himself or one or all of his worthless brothers, except for Stephen, and then himself and maybe Stephen, who I just stopped liking?

22. If you trust network and cable news, how long were you in a coma after getting hit by that train?

23. How often would you say you’ve shouted “Fake news!” at the television and awakened the dog, the only other creature in your apartment that loves you, unless you also count larvae and herpes?

24. When you and your buddies shout, “Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!” before stomping some Killary-loving apologist in a swagger-bar parking lot, do you ever catch a glimpse of Chuck’s buttocks in his moonlit corduroys and imagine how they’d feel between your anxious fingers while grinding to “Tennessee Whiskey” and whispering, “Oh, my God, this is so crazy; I just wanted a hunting partner” into each other’s necks?

25. How dead would you be by your lunch break if you participated in a drinking game requiring you to take a shot every time you argued with strangers online by telling them to educate themselves, do their own research or learn the facts?

26. In descending order, which news source do you trust the least: CNN, Fox, MSNBC, CNN, MSNBC, Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, CNN, BBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, AP, Reuters, or CNN?

26. Would you agree there are 22 questions in this survey?

27. Do YOU trust Trump?

24. What would you do to prove it?

28. Is your husband home?

29. Have you ever been on a private plane? It’s something else. All the amenities of home as you impulsively fly around the world.

30. How big is your husband’s private jet?

31. Does he treat you right?

32. Does he truly know you after all these years?

33. Isn’t it possible that he takes you for granted?

34. Could he buy you this?

35. Please, try it on.

36. What possesses you to think there’s a camera in the room?

37. Don’t you realize how pretty you are in this light?

38. Can you put this in your mouth?

37. Would you like the president inside of you?

36. Survey?

22. What survey?

 

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Weather Rapport (or, Whichever Way the Wild Wind Blows)

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LIZA: … and that’s how little Penny Lattimer got her DUCKS … in a row.

(Fellow newscasters chuckle over residual quacking.)

DERRYL: Adorable, Liza. Speaking of ducks, I hear we’re getting some wild weather this weekend. Meteorologist Tom Lumbago has the latest in StormProbe Alley. Tom?

TOM: Thanks, Derryl. And yes, while our duck friends may enjoy the ride, especially if they love being torn apart by a vengeful God and plummeting earthward to their own shrieks of terror, we hairless apes might find it problematic. Our latest reports suggest a not-so-scrumptious gumbo of doom from a super-aggro typhoon rerouting its hissy to the Northwest and Northern California sometime Saturday afternoon, because why should Florida have all the fun.

This means potentially high, vicious winds, rain and showers sharp as nails, and scalping gusts from the point of landfall through the valley, followed by soapbox squalls across social media from people who either find predictions of the storm’s severity exaggerated — like, “Hey, MAAAAN, if it’s so NASTY, why haven’t y’all NAMED it yet?” — or who chastise such individuals for their trivialization of disasters in the making. Distracted from their bickering over the election, they’ll come to the online equivalent of blows, inflicting minor damage with copy-paste links and toppled-lawnchair-STORMAGEDDON-WE-WILL-REBUILD memes that stopped being clever nine years ago but generate LOLs anyway.

Some 200 Oregonians are scheduled to record themselves wandering outside on Facebook Live. Sources confirm that 76 will be teenaged boys removing their shirts at various locations and screaming, “WOOOOOOO! WORLDSTARRRRRR!” while their girlfriends roll their eyes and sip from rum-laced Wild Cherry Pepsi Big Gulps. We’ve been told that three are named Tami with two “e”s, but only one is stuck-up about it. At least six videos will go viral, but the only one to appear on “Ellen” will have been produced by a 62-year-old divorcee who set an emotional montage of sepia-toned aftermath photos to Phil Collins’ 1990 hit, “I Wish It Would Rain Down,” complete with lyrics in a light purple Helvetica.

Additionally, there’s a 70 percent chance that my profession will be maligned by viewers who assume meteorology is not a field of study but blind voodoo guesswork, that I’m sensationalizing for viewership to appease the Illuminati and not actually performing a public service, saying, “Hey, things might get funky here, so please be careful.” Meanwhile, they’ll fecklessly post hoax forecasts written by nobodies just because they sound awesome — 700-mph cyclones spitting cow blood and Datsuns!

The furor is expected to subside Sunday morning, when everyone returns to their usual gibberish about the best places in town to Martinize doughnuts, having conveniently forgotten their bile and posturing amidst genuine expressions of concern the day before, once again proving that Mother Nature may be unpredictable, but human nature is not. For KOAN News, I’m Tom Lumbago. Hashtag peaceoutaight.

Sophisticated Whoppers

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Last month my neighborhood Burger King underwent a cosmopolitan rhytidectomy, in accordance with mandates to transform such troughs into elegant gastronomy. McDonald’s has emerged in recent years from an extended postpsychedelic adolescence to embrace the Library of Alexandria aesthetic, while Jack in the Box, under direct orders from draconian CEO “Jack,” has jettisoned its staple blues and reds for a soothing Humidor Autumn. The desired effect, according to corporate literature, is contemplative chi, as opposed to “Holy God, this Applewood Bacon Cheese Fist is wrapping itself around my heart.”

Having never patronized a chic Burger King, I decided this morning to have it my way. On foot I passed the phantom of its children’s playset — the industry no longer caters to plebes. In its place stood a scale replica of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon complete with tanzanite wall, over which flowed a talkative Chianti stream. Occupying its drive-thru lane were sleek fleets of Google cars activated by smartphone apps. Four impeccably attired valets monitored the parking lot, sending any vehicle older than 2008 to a “VIP lane” seven blocks away.

The building’s exterior could best be described as futuristic neoclassical. Its sanctum, inspired by the parlor in Don and Betty Draper’s Ossining home, wallows resplendent in oaks and comfortable beiges. Posted advertisements no longer boast of “flame-broiled” or “flame-grilled” meats; they’re now “artisan-crowdsourced.” Six overhead flatscreens broadcast “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia,” with a corner space nearby to discuss the film with the shift manager, a former Harper’s editor-at-large. Wafting through the restaurant: Herb Alpert’s “Fandango,” on 180-gram vinyl.

I immediately recognized my counter garcon’s uniform as Yves St. Laurent. “Yes,” she confirmed. “They outfit us all.” “But what about grease stains?” I asked. “Those,” she said, “are flown in from Vienna.” She then apologized for the store’s wine steward, whose flight was delayed in Milan. “That’s fine,” I replied, and ordered the venison curly fries with a 32-ounce growler to go.

Because of the restaurant’s new decibel regulation, I saw only one other “broseph,” as BK calls us nonemployees: an older gentleman pecking at a laptop while seducing a mimosa. Sans prompt, he told me, “It’s a Dogme-esque novel about a man who’s smarter than everyone else but is too humble to share his rare gift, so he hangs out at Burger King, tormented in self-imposed silence, until a beautiful cashier who recognizes his shyness as intellectual superiority offers him her soul. I liken its tone to a Ferrari 458 speeding recklessly past the intersection of Huxley and Terry Southern, and crashing into an abandoned storefront that once sold steampunk fetish wear.”

Alas, I left before the BK book club convened in the alcove, but I’ll be back for the Appalachian dulcimer jam this evening. If you’re not too busy with the Taco Bell barrel tour, feel free to bro by. Bring your Konghou — and plenty of antacids.

Friday night, 99/Hill

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Friday night, 99/Hill, tearing the void, hit the lights at 40, spin left hot, passenger on a drive to zero, straddling the window, pounding the rooftop, leg to the door like you’re breaking a wild mustang but this here’s a ’95 Honda Civic; it needs persuasion to bust, so kiss the accelerator, make it groan, because the car’s gotta know what a car is for: trapping memories, building soundtracks, and here you are at 38, savage as always, impervious to age, your cologne a chem trail in the dark, streetlight fingers in thinning hair, and between the wind outside and muttering motor, your homie J.D., down since diapers, cranks “Mr. Brownstone,” Guns N Roses, aw yeah, from a joint deliverin’ sinew in a bottle, Appetite for Destruction, but this is a mix, a driving mix, and you know what’s next: “Black and Blue,” baby, Van Halen, SAMMY, and oh, yeah, your jam since ’88, when you were 10 and not 38, and if you ran into your 10-year-old self now, man, he’d couldn’t wait to fit your skin, think your thoughts, spin left hot on a Friday night, sparked-Owl casual, eyes shut, imagining open eyes on you, mouths agape in disbelief, holy cheet, zat Andy Louris, West Albany High School Class of ’95, man, he hasn’t changed at all, man, dude damn rattles with life, and mid-envy it hits ’em: you’re 38 and they’re 38, but they’re not 38 like you, they gave it up to settle, man, they thought they were smart but they were stupid, yo, too stupid to grasp that life is life is life and sometimes you holler to gas the heart, and it’s not like you didn’t try, anyway, but after two kids, seven old ladies, four waitresses and a Sears customer service rep who liked the way your stubble twinkled in neon, you were done, baby, through with even a half-hearted stab at normal, and besides, too many flavors in the fountain, right, like that Burger King kid — oh, God, 19, maybe 22, but oooh, those lips, those eyes and a smock so lucky, and one of these days your banter will meet just so, and damn, you’ll be over the counter, showing her new math, 38 to the nth power, because you’re a 38 that’s never been, and isn’t that funny how it works out, because you remember when your mom was 38, how she greeted it with hippie disbelief, that such a cataclysm should befall her, and all her friends and relatives threw a party with black balloons and condolence cards and it was all very ha-ha until they realized 38 wasn’t a stopping point, oh, no, no, noooo, you kept going: 50, 60 and then, like your mom, you run out of ages to be and that’s that, you know, 38 from the distance of your deathbed is a pleasant diversion while tubes feed your body and machines pump your blood and no one brings black balloons and you struggle to even speak lest your own elocution kill you, but, hey, stop it, no such memories while you’re hanging out a window at 40 mph, the envy of all, because you’re here now, 38 here now, and ain’t nobody ever been 38 like you, not even Old Ken, who you met when you were 19 with disposable income and a persistent thirst, and Ken had only one of those things but was enough of a humanitarian to swing Brother a taste for proper recompense: a half-hour of wasted time as he poured you every story he’d accumulated, about how he smoked dope with Bill Walton, hitch-hiked with Marcus Dupree, went camping with Randy Travis and roadied for Mark Slaughter (or was it the other way around, who cares), and back then you listened to Old Ken, wanting to believe him, wanting to believe you could stuff that much into your tiny pouch, but that was old you, young you, and once-future you knows better as a 38 never beheld by mankind, and oh, oh — this is the part of the movie, because your life is a movie, that everyone will talk about on Monday because they’ll recognize it as the most pivotal of points in a movie choked widdem: you’re hanging out the window and the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” tumbles from the stereo then gobbles the Dolby, Kim Deal’s howls pressing your spine as you offer bliss to the moon in virgin sacrifice and the audience is like, damn, this is the moment that encapsulates everything I love about this protagonist; look at that freedom, his trials but pebbles against armor, bring it, sky, bring it, God, bring it, fates, bring it, Donna, bring it, throw it, hit me with failure and your false expectations then watch me stand, defiant, alone, a 38 like none other who can still hold his drink and smoke, and come to think of it, they’re right: the law can’t whup you, the town can’t whup you, life can’t touch you, and it’s all just left turns into sad-eyed restaurants, anyway, the usual table, the usual waitress, the usual order, the usual sodden charm crawling up your throat, the usual desperate lunch break sounds and promises to call as you consult the bathroom mirror to straighten hair you keep long for strategy’s sake and ignore the hurt confusion staring hopelessly back, then you hit the road, 99/Hill on a Friday night, more 38 than ever before, tearing the void as the void grows close, passenger on a drive to zero.

Other Audiobooks for Samuel L. Jackson to Read

As the motherfucker has proven time and again, Samuel L. Jackson is the finest orator to ever tread the goddamn boards. Drop a monologue in his million-dollar mouth and he’ll ace that shit, smooth that ass with the fires of hell, and make every unforgettable syllable pulverize its intended target.

It’s this quality that made him a natural to read Adam Mansbach’s bonzo-dicked best-seller, Go the F**k to Sleep, now fusing tyke eyes closed and raising curtains on some bad-ass nightmares. You can download that shit for free here, send your own little bitches to slumber-land.

Which begs the question: Why doesn’t Samuel L. Jackson read more audiobooks? According to Audible.com, motherfucker’s tones adorn only Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales and The Bible Experience. Ain’t that some shit? Seems like a money move to bump the sales of flagging titles. Pair him with tomes that flow with his rhythms. Enliven the driest text to transform even the deadliest snooze into an inferno of crackling prose.

Here are but 11 page-turners that need a little goddamn Sam.

Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders
EXCERPT: “My blood was now fired to the utmost, and nothing could appear more provoked. I told him, for his fair means and his foul, they were equally condemned by me; that for my going to England, I was resolved to it, come what would; and that as to treating him not like a husband and not showing myself a mother to my children, there might be something more in it than he understood at present; but I thought fit to tell him this much: that he neither was my lawful husband nor they lawful children, and that I had reason to regard neither of them more than I did.”

Iceberg Slim, Airtight Willie & Me
EXCERPT: “‘Look, baby, you could be the most adorable bitch there ever was. You could be so motherfucking sweet you shit Chanel Number Five turds. But, wouldn’t no broad or stud young or old flash two hundred grand in stolen penitentiary bread and tip you to the rest of that private scam on no two month foundation. She could be as uptight as a saint in hell for a pal and she wouldn’t tip to you. You gotta be full of shit!'”

Ty Cobb, My Life in Baseball
EXCERPT: “But a fellow by the name of Hub Leonard would aim bullets at your head, left-handed, to boot. Leonard did it once too often. So I dragged a bunt down the chalkline, which the first baseman was forced to field. Leonard sprinted for first to take the throw, and saw that I was after him. He didn’t stop at the bag. Leonard kept right on going, into the coaching box, which looked like safe territory to him. He wouldn’t have been safe that day if he’d scrambled into the bleachers.”

Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves
EXCERPT: “This is why grown men have knock-down fights over the comma in editorial offices: because these two rules of punctuation collide head-on — indeed, where the comma is concerned, they do it all the time. … When Ross and Thurber were threatening each other with ashtrays over the correct way to render the star-spangled banner, they were reflecting a deep dichotomy in punctuation that had been around and niggling people for four hundred years.”

Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
EXCERPT: “What sloochatted then, of course, was that my cellmates woke up and started joining in, tolchocking a bit wild in the near-dark, and the shoom seemed to wake up the whole tier, so that you could slooshy a lot of creeching and banging about with tin mugs on the wall, as though all the plennies in all the cells thought a big break was about to commence, O my brothers.”

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
EXCERPT: “And long evenings by the fire or, in summertime, on the roof of the little house, when she told him those stories about the Other Place, outside the Reservation: that beautiful, beautiful Other Place, whose memory, as of a heaven, a paradise of goodness and loveliness, he still kept whole and intact, undefiled by contact with the reality of this real London, these actual civilized men and women.”

Charles Mingus, Beneath the Underdog
EXCERPT: “Was this the way a pimp felt, turning out his first girl and finding out he loved her? It couldn’t be. Pimps are usually pretty calm people, cool but lively, full of laughs and jokes and some are even intellectuals. … To be a pimp, one would have to lose all feelings, all sensitivity, all love. One would have to die! Kill himself! Kill all feelings for others in order to live with himself. … Mingus couldn’t be this … a pimp.”

Author Unknown, 2010 1040 Instructions
EXCERPT: “In most cases, you must report crop insurance proceeds in the year you receive them. Federal crop disaster payments are treated as crop insurance proceeds. However, if 2010 was a year of damage, you can elect to include certain proceeds in income for 2011. To make this election, check this box on line 8c and attach a statement to your return.”

Jean Paul-Sartre, Being and Nothingness
EXCERPT:
“Strictly speaking, no fact of consciousness is this consciousness. Even if like Husserl we should quite artificially endow this consciousness with intra-structural pretentions, these would have in them no way of surpassing the consciousness whose structure they are and hence would pitifully pull back on themselves — like flies bumping their noses on the window without being able to clear the glass.”

Chuck Klosterman, Fargo Rock City
EXCERPT: “For the next two days, I loudly insisted that I wanted to sleep with Lita Ford. And I suppose I did. Why wouldn’t I? Lita was the rock chick I had always heard about in other bands’ songs. The fact that I couldn’t play this cassette didn’t matter; in fact, the music might have made me less interested, because most of Lita turned out to be shit. But at the moment of purchase, I had to assume that every song on the LP was going to be as cool as ‘Kiss Me Deadly.'”

Rachael Ray, 30-Minute Get Real Meals: Eat Healthy Without Going to Extremes
EXCERPT: “Honey Mustard Chicken Wings: Unreal! Forget Buffalo wings — not only are these healthier than deep-fried wings and way lower in fat, they simply are the best chicken wings you’ll ever have! They are super, uber-snacks that can be a simple supper, with salad or veggies on the side. The only carbs come from natural juice and honey. … Allow three or four for a full dinner portion per person, though my sweetie and I can eat all twelve if we’re watching a double feature that night!”

Selected Excerpts from Ken Burns’ 7-Part “KISS Army”

MICHAEL GAMBON (VO): “If I should fall in the heat of war, bury me not in the cold, grey earth. Let me go, rock and roll.” — Lieut. Francis L. Scurvy, KISS Army, 1979

KISS (1975 recording): “Baby gets tired, everybody knows / Your mother has to tell you, baby has to show / Yeah, yeah / Let me go…”

MARK STRONG (narrator): The Wabash River covers 490 square miles, carving a vein from Fort Recovery, Ohio, to Shawneetown, Illinois. Nestled between those points is Terre Haute — or “Higher Ground” — Indiana, so christened by 18th century French explorers for the way the land crested above yet simultaneously embraced the tributary. Their geological synchronicity was once both legendary and picturesque; authors and composers have quaffed of its inspiration. Gripped by the memory of a childhood along its flow, 40-year-old songwriter Paul Dresser, in October of 1897, published a paean, “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away,” from the more bustling climes of New York’s Tin Pan Alley.

JOSH GROBAN (singing): “Oh, the moonlight’s fair tonight along the Wabash / From the fields there comes the breadth of new-mown hay / Through the sycamores the candle lights are gleaming / On the banks of the Wabash, far away…”

MARK STRONG (narrator): In January of 1975, music and culture would clash anew, just as water once caressed soil then joined the rush toward history. It was here in Terre Haute, long after Paul Dresser’s beloved sycamores were razed for empires of industry and suburbia, where young William Starkey and Jay Evans launched a tiny voice that would one day speak for many.

BILL MOYERS (journalist): It’s difficult to comprehend now, but in 1975, nobody who mattered knew KISS. Radio stations didn’t play them — wouldn’t play them, in fact — and only a small but dedicated fan base bought their albums. They’d had only two up to that point, anyway: KISS and Hotter Than Hell, which had come out the previous October and made barely an ripple on what Billboard calls the “Hot 100.” One can imagine the frustration these boys felt that their heroes were being ignored.

SHIA LaBEOUF (VO): “Gentlemen: It has come to our attention that your station, WVTS-FM, has yet to feature KISS in its rotation. We ask that you address this oversight at your earliest convenience.” — William Starkey, Jay Evans, 1975

FRANK LANGELLA (VO): “Kind sirs: Thank you for your recent letter. I hope that my reply finds you both in good health. However, we have no plans to add KISS at this time, for it is felt among our staff that these ‘musicians,’ such as they are, fail to meet our exacting standards as regards rock and roll.” — Rich Dickerson, program director, WVTS-FM

SHIA LaBEOUF (VO): “Gentlemen: We are disheartened by your refusal to honor our request, for we do not ask much. Admittedly, we are young, still clutched in idealism’s thrall, and perhaps men of your experience find our passions trivial and banal. However, we assure you that our dedication to this cause wavers not, and our ranks number far more than ourselves. We are, in fact, an army — a KISS Army, if you like — and through sheer stubborn strength and will, we shall prevail.” — William Starkey, Jay Evans

JACK BLACK (VO): “The first shot is fired. The first blood is drawn. A brainchild is sired: a new dawn is born. This summer is bound to be hotter than hell.” — Henry Oliphant, Poet Laureate, KISS Army, 1975

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN (historian; reading from her diary): “On denim-bound binder, in fine ball-point, Doris etches the names of giants. Her devotion is such that she even knows their birth names. Chaim Witz. Stanley Eisen. Paul Daniel Frehley. George Peter John Criscuola. Their phantoms invade her chamber at night, a hot swarm of tongues, glitter, and tangles of hair. She imagines her Jiminy Cricket flashlight is the blinding supernova of a Polaroid Instamatic. ‘Take me, Space Ace,’ she gasps. ‘Enter my feminine galaxy. Baby wants it fast, baby wants a blast. She wants a rocket ride. She wants a rocket ride.’ ” Oh, my land and the infant Jesus, stop the camera…OHHHH

MARK STRONG (narrator): The tale of KISS is widely known, from Kabuki rise to Kabuki fall to Kabuki rebirth and triumph. To relay it even in passing is unnecessary. What of those legions in the dark, their numbers vast, their faith steadfast? This is the story of the not-so-silent millions, who would follow four men across four decades over all four corners of the earth.

(FADE IN, OPENING CREDITS)

KISS (1976 recording): “You’ve got something aboutcha / You got something I need / Daughter of Aphrodite / Hear my words and take heed / I was born on Olympus / To my father a son / I was raised by the demons / Trained to reign as the one / God of thunder / and rock ’n’ roll / The spell you’re under / will slowly rob you of your virgin soul…”

STEPHEN AMBROSE (historian): You’ve got to understand: 1975 was a very fraught period in American history. Vietnam was just ending. Patty Hearst was on the loose. At least two people tried to kill Gerald Ford, and they couldn’t do it. Gas and oil were sky high. Looming over all of this is the specter of the ’60s. Woodstock. Altamont. Cynicism. Then Nixon. Watergate. Darkness. The hippie dream had failed, and its carcass was beginning to smell. America was months from her Bicentennial, the celebration of a garish, tarnished lie. It was time to medicate. It was time for KISS.

KISS (1976 recording): “I feel uptight on a Saturday night / Nine o’clock, the radio’s the only light / I hear my song and it pulls me through / Comes on strong, tells me what I got to do / I got to / Get up / Everybody’s gonna move their feet / Get down / Everybody’s gonna leave their seat / You gotta lose your mind in Detroit Rock City…”


JACK WHITE (narrator): It was in the city of Cadillac, Michigan, that KISS’ propensity for publicity reached full flourish. For one week in October of 1975, this quiet community of 10,000, located 179 miles from the cacophonous nerve center of Detroit, became the universe’s envied pulse, besieged by press, overwhelmed by madness, drowned in rock ’n’ roll.

JON HAMM (VO): “Dear Sir: As you know, we here at Cadillac High School have been big fans of KISS for a long time. Last year our football team’s defensive unit was nicknamed the ‘KISS Defense,’ and we went on to finish with a seven and two record. Since that time KISS has been the rock group in Cadillac. … I can assure you that we will do everything in our power to make a KISS visit a worthwhile experience for you. … Hopefully, we can work together and make these plans a reality. Our Homecoming will be ‘super’ just because of the KISS theme. KISS in person would make it an extravaganza.” — Jim Neff, teacher-coach, Cadillac High School, 1975

PERRY SUSKIND (Cadillac High School historian): The Vikings carried the KISS defense into the 1975-76 season and ended with a 6-3 record. The highlight that year, of course, was when KISS came to visit. They completely took over the whole city from Oct. 8-10, 1975, beginning with an Oct. 7 telephone interview for WATT-AM and ending that Friday with a helicopter departure from the football field. It was nothing short of spectacular: kids in KISS makeup, city officials in KISS makeup — I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t a cat or two dressed to look like Peter Criss. The fellows received a silver key to the city and showered it in fliers: “Cadillac High — KISS Loves You!” Historic, just historic.

ED HARRIS (VO): “For years we have been trying to unite the student body and the faculty … KISS accomplished this in one night.” — John Laurent, principal, Cadillac High School, 1975

JACK WHITE (narrator): The growing KISS Army was on the march.

KISS (1977 recording): “I remember the day that we met / I needed someone, you needed someone too, yeah / Spent time takin’ all you could get / Givin’ yourself was one thing you never could do / You played with my heart, played with my head / I’ve got to laugh when I think of the things you said / ’Cause I stole your love / stole your love / Ain’t never gonna let you go…”

CASEY AFFLECK (VO): “Dearest Helena: My will to live is gone, my darling. The winter has been most brutal upon my body and conscience. I cannot bear its savagery much longer. The others are freezing, huddled against its cruelty. Morale has evaporated, along with what remains of our hopes. The size of our desires, I fear, shall not bear fruit when the time has come. I was plagued last night by visions of the inevitable, that this godforsaken line is for naught: that Cobo Hall has, indeed, sold out.” — Pvt. Steven Guernin, KISS Army, July 7, 1977

NATALIE PORTMAN (VO): “Dearest: I discovered your letter this morning. Although your woe pains me to my soul, I am confident that you will return to me, tickets in hand to a kick-ass show. And even if it’s not meant to be, we can take comfort, you and I, in life’s little pleasures: your Mustang, my lucky hat, our records, and a sofa built for two. Bear up, my love. This too shall pass. Remember to buy cigarettes and bubblegum on your way home.” — Nancy LaRose, July 7, 1977

KISS (1976 recording): “Beth, I know you’re lonely / And I hope you’ll be all right / ’Cause me and the boys will be playin’ / all night…”

Ask a Shredder, Vol. 1

EDITOR’S NOTE: Most metal fans remember Foäm — if they remember the group at all — as one of the genre’s cruelest tragedies. Their 1986 debut, Soaked to the Elbowz (Atlantic), was roundly hailed as a landmark achievement, even by the persnickety Rolling Stone (“In a toothless season of Ozzy’s blank ‘Shot in the Dark,’” declared Frederic Braunstein, “Soaked stands tall, a refreshingly edgy clamor.”) The majority of praise, however, was reserved for Foäm’s lead guitarist , 24-year-old Angus Blastt (real name: Brandon Corr), a fleet-fingered virtuoso favorably compared to Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani, and Tommy Bolin — “schooled in blues, fluent in showman shriek,” as one critic put it.

To promote the album, Atlantic arranged for Blastt to contribute a monthly column to Circus magazine, in which he responded to reader mail and reflected on his growing fame as his band embarked on its first major American tour. “Ask a Shredder” soon became the periodical’s most popular feature.

It all came to an unfortunate end in May 1987, when, during sessions for Foäm’s much-ballyhooed Soaked follow-up, Blastt was involved in a severe automobile accident. Contrary to popular rumor, no illicit substances were involved. Not that Blastt could have denied such spurious allegations: by the time paramedics arrived, he’d slipped into a coma. Eyewitnesses claimed that his final conscious words in the 20th century were “Rage, rage, against the dying of the light,” which was not only a Dylan Thomas passage, but also the chorus to “Gnaw’n Bonez (Hollywood),” Foäm’s newest single.

Blastt’s family prayed daily for his eventual return. His parents, Mitchell and Gretchen, kept vigil at his bedside for two decades and change, despite Mitchell’s failing health. In 2001 he was diagnosed with cancer. Six painful years later, he quietly slipped away, leaving Gretchen to watch over their only son alone. Meanwhile, the world turned and changed as Angus soundly slept.

Then, on April 19, 2009, he stirred. Opened his eyes. Felt a rampage of memories and emotions. The last conscious seconds of his near-fatal crash returned with violent clarity. His first impulse was to brush glass fragments from his hair. But he couldn’t move his arms, and, as he later discovered, the baldness so prevalent on his mother’s side had finally claimed him as well. At some point someone had shaved it all off, anyway, saving him the trouble.

He was alarmed to awaken in a hospital bed, and outright despondent to learn that he’d missed 23 years of his life. Yet he was determined to persevere. After 16 months of intensive therapy, he regained limited use of his arms, although he was never to walk again.

Returning to his mother’s house, he discovered, in the entry closet, an unopened mailbag of “Ask a Shredder” correspondence. Although Circus was no more, and Foäm were largely forgotten, Angus Blastt resolved to respond to every single letter.

This is the first in an ongoing series.

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January 9, 1987

Hey Angus!!!! I’m 16 and when I was younger I thought WASP was awesome—but then I heard you guys and saw what rock and roll really is!!!! Dood you guys make WASP look like you know whats…it starts with p and ends with y and you eat it in the middle!!!! Anyway…I was wondering how you guys got your ideas for guitar solos and all that…esp. the 1 on “Shondi’s Revenge”…that one BURNS!!!! Anyways…thanks man!!!!

Eric Swan
Ann Arbor, MI

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September 8, 2010

Eric:

First, I’d be remiss if I didn’t apologize for the unconscionable delay. Unfortunately — and perhaps you’ll recall or have at least read about it — I was comatose from May 5, 1987, until April of last year. My parents fretted over my deterioration, fearing I’d be a vegetable if I ever regained consciousness. But through the grace of God, I survived, with most of my faculties intact. It hurts to type for extended periods, but I’ll manage.

Miss my father, though. He passed on a few years back and I never got the chance to tell him how much I loved him. I hope both your parents are still around. Do you believe in an afterlife, Eric? I find that the concept brings me much-needed comfort and peace.

You’ll likely be surprised to hear from me. I’m not sure if this is even the right address, or if it can be forwarded. I haven’t kept abreast of developments in post-office technology (by the way: computers — who knew?). Mail service was abysmal in my day. But I figured, “What the hell?”

Do you even remember Foäm? It feels like a zillion years ago, even to me. It’s a shame we were reduced to heavy metal’s novelty campfire booga-booga. I was just listening to our first album today; I’d forgotten just how good it was. Aside from the keyboards, it doesn’t sound dated at all. Maybe someone’ll put it back in print, add some of the demos we’d worked up for the second album, which — trivia bonus! — we’d planned to call Pass the Torture. Silly pun, I know, but those were the times.

Anyway, I already feel like I’m rambling, but this is the first opportunity I’ve had to express my thoughts on paper in quite a while. I’m still getting used to the world outside. Like, redboxes. I mean, wow. Talk about a mind-blower. You drive up, feed it your credit card, and out pops a movie on a little disc. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, but I remember when VCRs were all the rage — and expensive! And if you wanted to watch movies at home, you had to go to video stores and hope they had what you wanted. Now everything’s out there and there’s plenty of it. Don’t even get me started on this Internet. To think of all the money I blew on pornography in magazine form…just kidding! You’ve got to have a sense of humor in my condition, Eric. It’s the only thing that keeps you from breaking down in huge pools of doom. Hmmm. Huge Pools of Doom. How’s that for an album title?

How old are you now, Eric? About 39-40? It’s funny, but I have this vision of you on your 40th birthday, engulfed in a loving brood: a dedicated wife, maybe someone you met in college while studying Philosophy. You have two daughters and a son. The oldest girl is 13. Her eyes dance in sync with the candles on your cake. She watches expectantly as you welcome another year in your own stoic way. What must she be thinking as she observes this ritual, which by now has become commonplace to you. Or do you still find joy in this annual fete? Tell me: have you retained that sense of wonder? Do you still even listen to music? Do you follow the latest sounds, or do you cling to your generation’s heroes as the last gasp of authenticity? Do you punch past your daughter’s Katy Perry while driving your hybrid to the mall? Do you chide your son for calling Papa Roach metal, when the metal you knew was so pure and true it had yet to be butt-fucked in a dirty train yard? Do you ever exhume your copy of Soaked to the Elbowz, cue up “Shondi’s Revenge,” and announce, “Yeah, now this is music” over your children’s embarrassed protests? I hope you still listen to all that your ears can take. It’s a healthy sign, I think.

Speaking of “Shondi’s Revenge,” you ask in your letter how I came up with the solo. But before I answer, let me just say that the guys in W.A.S.P. were cool to Foäm. Blackie was older than most of us, so we couldn’t help but respect him. Chris Holmes — he may have been a fuck-up in other respects, but I never doubted his chops. So while I’m honored that you dug what we did, pitting us against each other is unfair. They’d fallen out of favor by that time; we were just the next lucky suckers in line. It’s a precarious achievement, the top, and you never cling to it for long.

As weird as it sounds, I’m sorry Foäm couldn’t succeed without me. I wish they could have rebounded from what happened and continued making music. I’m proud of what we accomplished — no matter how insignificant it may be in the overall culture — but those guys had so much more to say. Even if they were wheezing along on their umpteenth lineup through a sorry string of sunken state fairs and sad-wracked taverns into comic oblivion, I would have much rather seen a slow downward drift than an anticlimactic hairpin plummet, although the latter is admittedly more metal.

But, yes, “Shondi’s Revenge.” It’s embarrassing to admit this, but Shondi was the actual name of a Minnesota transplant that turned tricks on Fountain and Vine circa 1982. Another time, a wilder life. As the father of a 26-year-old (!) daughter (born “Rikki,” though I understand she goes by “Theresa” now — which is cool with me, since many of those metal names rusted with age) myself, I certainly don’t condone that lifestyle today.

Anyway, Shondi had this john with the unlikely name of Patrick. He was an abusive putz, always knocking the ladies around. Real tough guy. Well, one night he stung her painted cheek one time too many and she loosed a universe of unholy shit on his sorry ass. Slashed him up bad, covered him in street smiles, put the prick in the hospital. You remember the line “With every swipe of the knife / I regain what I lost so hard and long ago”? That was Shondi to a “t” — or an “s,” if you like. She was like a sister to Foäm. We thanked her on the record, ’cause she helped finance the demos that got us the Atlantic deal. I wonder if she’s still around. Damn. So many people in my past tense, vanished to the blackest sea.

As for the solo, well, that was the sound of gratitude. Pure and simple. Relief that she was part of our lives, that she watched over us, slipped us a burger now and then when we got tired of spackling Wonder bread with Crisco. It’s also the sound of a summer night in ’76, fireworks punching potholes in the sky. It’s the hands of Mary Louise Hewitt combing undying love through your hair as you listened to Aerosmith’s “You See Me Crying” and hoped the orchestra never stopped, because Aerosmith liked to end albums with ballads and you couldn’t handle silence; you wanted the moment, the feeling, in perpetuity. Those walls, that bedroom, the frilly lace at a bedspread’s tip. You throw everything in, Eric, and you pray it comes out in a voice that’s distinctly yours.

Well, as much as I’ve enjoyed answering your letter, I suppose I should wrap it up. No encore for the wicked, ha ha, just a final bow after the song you came to hear. I hope you’re happy and successful, and that you’ve never forgotten to hear the music.

May all your days be later
May your nights be even better
And may your life be blessed with zest
Sincerely,
Ask a Shredder