Archive | media RSS feed for this section

Mainstream Media Accountability Survey

18 Feb


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?


Other Audiobooks for Samuel L. Jackson to Read

17 Jun

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, 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
“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”

7 Apr

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.


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…”

Rebecca Black Puckers Up to Kiss the Zeitgeist

20 Mar

The ’Net’s aflame with scabrous analysis of Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” but is any of it warranted? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Whatever the case, this deceptively imbecilic single has attracted streams of snark, scorn, and praise from detractors and supporters alike, all propelling the 13-year-old into the dimming limelight of viral fame and sending whores like myself scrambling for hits.

Like it or not, folks, Ms. Black is the Chosen One, the bridge between old and new media, the transition between structured celebrity and immediate global exposure. As Dr. J.F. Kincaid argues most persuasively in his essay “Liking Teen Pop Doesn’t Mean I Belong in Prison,” her computer-enhanced emphasis of “Friday’s” first vowel represents a new spoken language, one that knows not nuance and compensates for nonverbal communication’s over-reliance on the consonant. The calculated rise of stars like Justin Bieber has fast become a relic of packaging; what Ms. Black portends is a more accurate harbinger of the future. Her willingness to be this bellwether is nothing short of heroic.

However, we must first give credit to the Svengalis at ARK Music Factory for teaming Rebecca Black with tune-purveyors Clarence Jey and Patrice Wilson in the first place. The potential for “Black”/“Friday” wordplay must have been irresistible: a reference to competitive commerce as well as, let’s face it, homage to Steely Dan, an obvious lyrical influence. In fact, “Friday” could well be considered an organic epilogue to “Black Friday.” (Messrs. Fagen and Becker could not be reached for comment.)

Clarence Jey’s catalog is lousy. with layers of musical tribute. His “Hello My Love,” written for California troubadour Cindy “The Great” Santini, is also, not coincidentally, the opening line of Shuggie Otis’ “Strawberry Letter 23.” But here there’s no correspondence, just the immediate contact of gentle voice upon stirring companion. “Hello, my love,” Santini burbles with a helium vivacity compared to Sheryl Crow by writers prone to blackouts. “Been sleeping once again / Rise up, sunshine / It’s time to wake up / Stop your thinking” — valuable advice in a strife-laden universe or an editorial comment on George W. Bush’s governing philosophy. “Following you, following me,” she continues, invoking post-prog pop strategists Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, and Phil Collins. Santini’s own recorded genesis, Making Sound (2010), is aptly titled, for that is exactly what she does.

“Friday” is similarly structured: chronologically, with morning spilling into another meteorological dazzler over Anaheim Hills, California. It’s the same sun that peeks through the windows of baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew and NFL legend Deacon Jones, no stranger to the pull of music-loaded Fridays himself. Perhaps he chanced to hear the song on local radio and thought about his reign with the L.A. Rams, when he sweated on the side through clubs with the band that would one day become WAR. But Carew and Jones are anomalies in this planned community; their equally prosperous neighbors are predominantly white. Ms. Black, despite her name, is no exception. She’s as wholesome as a teenaged Caucasian can be.

Yet “Friday” has more in common with Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day” than it does Santini’s “Hello My Love.” Both are street-savvy narratives, albeit with minor, insignificant alterations.


Just wakin’ up in the morning, gotta thank God
I don’t know, but today seems kinda odd
No barkin’ from the dog, no smog
And momma cooked a breakfast with no hog
I got my grub on but didn’t pig out
Finally got a call from a girl I wanna dig out
Hooked it up for later as I hit the door,
Thinkin’, ‘Will I live another 24?’
I gotta go ’cause I got me a drop-top
And if I hit the switch, I can make the ass drop


7 a.m.*, waking up in the morning
Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs
Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal
Seein’ everything, the time is goin’
Tickin’ on and on, everybody’s rushin’
Gotta get down to the bus stop
Gotta catch my bus, I see my friends

(* Precisely one hour after law enforcement officials descended upon Ice-T’s home)

The only discernible differences between the songs are diet- and transportation-related (although the “Friday” video depicts Black rejecting the bus for a convertible — a “drop-top,” if you will — piloted by a tousle-mopped 13-year-old. Anaheim Hills residents are so wealthy that driver’s licenses are apparently optional.). Both awaken into peculiarly favorable scenarios. Cube’s involves a lack of harassment from authorities and peers, and is sweetened by carnal and corporate attention. For the younger Ms. Black, freedom from schools and parental supervision is enough. Both are also troubled by a sense of mortality; “Thinkin’, ‘Will I live another 24?’” Cube wonders, while Black noshes her Froot Loops and observes the hustle and flow. “Makes tick tock, tick tock, wanna scream,” she later laments.

Time is a recurring theme, its aggravation abutting an effervescent chorus as release: “It’s Friday, Friday / Gotta get down on Friday / Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend.” In her very first song, this promising young chanteuse has sonically bottled the spirit of Johnny Kemp’s “Just Got Paid.” Although not of working-class origins, she’s successfully married the struggle of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business,” minus the rock-star neener-neener, to the unshackled jubilation of Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend” in ways not even Mike Reno in his finest headband could imagine. “Friday, Friday,” “weekend, weekend” — she says them twice to impart their weight, as if she can’t believe they’ve arrived. Or, perhaps as Dr. Devin Rexall has suggested in “Rebecca Black Can Count to Eight Days a Week” (Brain Matter Quarterly, Summer 2011), she’s countering the misery of “Monday, Monday,” by The Mamas & the Papas.

But even in her bubbly ebullience, she recognizes how quickly reality re-surfaces. “Tomorrow is Saturday,” she reports, glumly and correctly, “and Sunday comes afterwards.” All we can do is live in the moment, our friends on either side, embracing the Friday-ness within, as the best pop music has for decades. Because we all know what Mondays can bring.

List of Words I Plan to Use in NBA-Related Tavern Arguments

13 Jan

Imperialists of the Paint
Evanescent (to provoke LeBron fans)
Guards like a hunk of Gruyere

Review: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “The Social Network”

30 Sep

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
The Social Network

(The Null Corporation)
Sept. 28, 2010

A while back, to my extended-postadolescent horror, I awakened a long-stilled jones for video games. Luckily, I brained it comatose before it ran amok, but I was nonetheless unnerved by this momentary slip of composure.

The object of my obsession was The Sims, purchased in an impetuous fit. I was fused to my living room floor for 27 hours straight. Life did not, would not intervene.

When I finally stirred from my stupor, I was surrounded by corpses of breakfasts and snacks ravaged in delirium and only vaguely recalled. My cell phone bled increasingly frantic missives from the outside world. Weariness stung my eyes, tattooed ’em in throbbing gray. My limbs were numb; I rose only with agonized determination. Somehow I’d leapt from afternoon to afternoon with no clear memory of the trip. And I’d done all this, this nothing, while clothing, feeding, and maintaining a nonexistent doppelganger at the expense of my own social gratification. I stumbled bed-ward in a muddled buzz, where my dreams were pounded by godless chaos.

These visions returned with clarity as I listened to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score for The Social Network, a calculated excoriation or clear-eyed appraisal — whatever your hot-blooded bias — of wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg and the rise of the almighty Facebook. As I’ve yet to see the film, I’ll reserve my judgment on that front. But, sneak peek, motherfuckers: I’m a fan of both David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin (I’m saint enough to admire Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip as an interesting if bewilderingly inconsistent fumble), so I might refrain from accusing them of purposely undermining our Tech Utopia of Milk & Cookies on Hollywood’s wheezy behalf.

The Social Network’s a tough listen; at over an hour, it could be difficult to endure in one sitting. But considering its subject — the hurricane angst of a man-child uncomfortable in situations that can’t be controlled by programmable code — that’s to its credit. It’s a frigid enterprise, hypnotic and distant, with belligerent bursts of sustained magnificence.

The compositions hum with what seems like the entire history of electronics, from crude burps to effervescent burbles (“Intriguing Possibilities,” “Complication with Optimistic Outcome”). They tangle ruthlessly with more conventional instruments — the ongoing struggle between digital and analog — in a bid for sonic prominence. Pianos tremble cold and lonely, their trepidation pursued by an ever-present synthesized dread. Guitars squall and lurch from horizon beds of clinging tar. Beats are stripped to their motherboards or devoured in aggressive data streams (“3:14 Every Night”). Tracks like “Painted Sun in Abstract” are constructed as if to observe civilization from a comfortable distance: the passage of time, the changing of seasons, the living of lives. The only acknowledgment of humanity arrives in “Eventually We Find Our Way” as faint transmissions from another room — or maybe another realm, a vanished fantasy of the Used to Be. A treatment of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” (alas, online or off, there’s no escape from trolls) winks at Wendy Carlos’ wired-in classical reinterpretations for A Clockwork Orange (1971), but this electronic calliope, its structure held unsteadily by strings, eventually spins loose from its axis into manic, breathless hysteria.

The Social Network stands as a natural progression from Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-IV (2008) — a few of its tracks are even careful reworkings or good-humored links (“A Familiar Taste”) — while serving to augment a completely different vision. And if the music’s this spellbinding without the visual stimuli, imagine how devastatingly revelatory it is against the palette of a shared epic darkness.

Life’s Soundtrack: Depeche Mode, “Enjoy the Silence”

29 May

Friday morning, mid-March, 1990. Most of the West Albany High Whirlwind staff is slumped outside the school at an hour so ungodly even daytime can’t be bothered. The lights along Queen sigh a lonely white as early commuters zip past en route to lives unknown. They are passing shadows. We are the future standing still, waiting on a bus. Soon the squat vessel shudders up the drive and we mutter aboard. Despite our longtime schedules, we are not morning people.

We’re Seattle-bound for a national high-school journalism conference or convention or symposium or summit or whatever the fuck, who cares. We are leaving town. For the bulk of a weekend. Splitting the suburban yawn for the metropolitan scream. The destination’s just an excuse to escape. We don’t plan to stick around our hotel like well-heeled ladies and gents, enduring torturous seminars and painful keynotes. What sadist would travel some 300 miles to sit through the equivalent of school with room service? Besides, we were 16, 17, 18 years old — what could these dusty bozos tell us that we didn’t already know? We wanted the City, the intoxicating Promise of Night. Once we were off this bus and into Seattle’s grip, we were gone as gone could get.

I leaned against a window to feel the hum of travel, Walkman phones pinned in place, mind a-rattle with the new Depeche Mode. Violator. It was brand-new. Still had that smell where you crack the jewel case open and hospital mint back-drafts up your nose.

I’d fallen for DM that spring, though I didn’t dare say. I’d imagined my school-wide reputation was that of a stalwart musicologist, learned in the ways of riffs and solos, a trusted expert in ancient catalogs. (My true reputation, I suspect, was that of an avuncular zilch, slightly askew.) Man, I could gab your sponge dry on the purity of the original Bad Company and foam against the synthesized twaddle that threatened to destroy the holy howl of rock ’n’ roll.

But I’d quietly come around to the “fag shit” when I chanced to hear “A Question of Lust” as performed on Depeche Mode 101. My busboy buddy Tony hipped me one night. “Fuck that ‘People Are People’ shit,” I snorted. “I only hear the REAL.” But Martin Gore’s lament was real enough. “Lust” spoke my language, made me shiver, verbalized my yearnings in a rhythm that longed and soothed. I raced to the record store to pour me some of that goosebump ’til it was part of me forever.

That March morning, though, I was on to a new anthem. “Enjoy the Silence.” Dave Gahan. Yeah. I knew their names now. I watched through the glass as our flat motherland vanished into a mush of eyes and lips and a long-imagined clinch. I was 17 years old, and this was all I aspired to know.

Like any music hound, I packed only the necessary basics for a weekend trip. To my left sat a duffel lump stuffed haphazardly with fistfuls of clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, and shampoo. Clenched in my left fist was the more vital luggage: a Roth’s grocery sack failing under the weight of jagged cassettes. After all, who knew when my mood would suddenly change, and I’d find myself jonesing for Rush? Or Led Zeppelin? Or Slayer? Or Queen? Or David Bowie’s live version of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” off Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture? Or Mott the Hoople’s “Saturday Gigs”? Or Lou Reed’s “Coney Island Baby”? You just couldn’t tell. So you had to come prepared.

Two decades on, I can still see us all on that bus. Bleary-eyed, expectant. Brian Lindley and Danielle Budlong were tucked in the back, mostly out of sight. Jason Macpherson leaned over Mike Durrant’s seat as they yammered about something, probably Oregon State’s chances that fall. Katina Rothleutner was fast asleep, lost in dreams of kindness. Peggy Shih caught the passing scenery from across the aisle. Dena Minato, our teacher and advisor, rode up front with a student instructor, perhaps bracing herself for impending youthful hellionism. We were kids, y’know, about to be loosed in a city with a transit system that could lug us far out of reach.

The Red Lion Hotel straddled the buzz of Seattle and Tacoma in a compromise called SeaTac. To us it was a paradise of glass and steel, swallowed on all sides by life aimed everywhere. The hotel was a teenage hotbed (or one could hormonally hope), miles of peers from all over the country. They spilled into the streets and surrounding eateries, filled the city buses, and milled about the fringes, looking for action. We joined a swarm into the hotel, then zipped up the glass elevators (exciting!) to our sex-segregated rooms. The fellas scored a double-bed bachelor pad with table, television, plenty of heterosexual sleeping space on the floor, and a balcony. The girls were across the hall, although they ended up hanging with us most of the time. We Bulldogs knew strength in numbers.

Upon entering our borrowed hole, Lindley and I espied a pair of bronzed twigs dangling over our balcony from the room upstairs. He looked at me. I looked at him. We smiled in malicious synchronicity. Teenage Icebreaker! As one, we barreled across the room, each seized a limb, and began pulling them slowly toward Earth (a three-story drop, if I recall) until a surprised voice yelped from above. “Heyyyy!” it screamed. Introductions made, we released and looked up. A bleached-blonde head peered over. “Who are you guys?” it asked through a smile. “The greatest damn high-school newspaper in the Pacific Northwest,” Lindley replied through six layers of professional charm. The head smirked and vanished. Seconds later, the room phone rang. “Yeah,” Brian cooed into the receiver. “We should totally hang out.”

I recall very little about the conference itself, but that’s because we avoided it as much as possible. It was bad enough we had to abandon our Lothario to experience true agony in the form of a Harry Smith keynote. He welcomed us to an informative weekend of learning, and weren’t we lucky to be young at such an amazing time, and yank, yank, crank ’n’ spank. At one point he even hailed us as the future newsroom. While his lips flapped like the great wings of an ugly bird, I sat in an uncomfortable metal folding chair, thinking, When will this old, bald motherfucker shut up so we can get the hell out of here? Somewhere beyond this Aqua Net holding pen was my beloved, and she wouldn’t wait forever. Danielle was slumped beside me, her program open to a Klan-white sheet of paper. She wasn’t even motivated enough to fake note-taking. Our eyes met and she scrawled in large, insistent ballpoint: “YAWN.”Meanwhile, Harry spewed blithely, obliviously, prolonging our torment and ruining our lives. Speeches, programs, schedules — what kind of sick journalism conference was this?

After Harry exhausted his gasbag, the Whirlwind staff, along with half the hotel, exploded toward the doors. We must have all had the same thought, because when we reached the Pizza Hut across the street, every table was taken and the wait was a half-hour, minimum. So we ordered a couple of pies to go, kicked back in the prom-tight lobby with the other Johnny Come Latelys, and when our boxes finally arrived, we split to a nearby convenience store that carried a zillion varieties of soda and an equally impressive selection of trucker porn. Right out in the brazen open, too. Back to our rooms, foolish me stupidly carrying a hot pepperoni like an Algebra book. During transportation, all the cheese and toppings had sighed south. Our weekend was sure to follow.

Friday turned out to be our only night of freedom. Most of us slipped out following dinner to board a cramped bus into Seattle, barely believing our luck. Back home our poor friends were pulling pud and driving nowhere. We, on the other hand, were in the heart of a major city, temporary urbanites with sophistication on loan. Katina and I sat behind some girl from some high school somewhere, observing as she deflected a pair of locals’ fumbling sugar-talk. Where you from? Wyoming? Shit, me and Harman were just talking about Wyoming. How old are you?

Elsewhere a man laid out the modern world’s ills. It’s all politics, see. Everything comes down from the top, right. Don’t let anybody tell you the President don’t know what’s up. He throws a switch, we’re all slaves. Never forget that.

Well, lemme just say Wyoming must be a damn fine state, I ain’t bullshittin’.

Man, even your Congressman knows it’s happening, but as long as he gets his, he don’t care.

What kinda stuff you got in Wyoming that’s fun? Can we look you up? How old are you?

Post-dinner snack at a Popeyes in some dingy-ass mall. Danielle had gone to a record store and picked up the new Digital Underground on a teenage whim. Me being the staff music critic and all, she asked my opinion, waving Sex Packets in my face. All I knew then was “The Humpty Dance,” so I couldn’t speak for the album as a whole, though I will now: Classic. Enduring. Doowutchyulike.

I hauled my cargo of pizza and processed chicken parts to Seattle Fun Center, where I hadn’t been since the summer of ’83. Still looked exactly the same. Same paint, same layout, same dirt, same grit, same squeals and peals of metal and lungs. Flight to Mars squatted at the far end, loaded with the kind of sci-fi hoodoo that gripped America in the days before space exploration. Aliens lurched on tired springs. Doors creaked like cranky bubbes. It was a hoot.

When we came to the roller coaster, my stomach seized in fright. I fuckin’ hate roller coasters, man. Hate the speed, loathe the dips, despise the falls. I’ve only ridden three in my entire life, and although they’ve never followed through with their threats of nausea, they’ve teased me to the brink. I regard them with a fear-baked contempt. I tried explaining this to Katina with the kind eyes and gentle disposition. She had hair like Judy Collins, for Christ’s sake: she radiated benevolence. Naturally, she’d sympathize and lend a brother an out, maybe even join me for ice cream with the others bellered their guts loose. “Roller coasters and I don’t mix,” I quietly confided. Her eyes lit up. “Oh!” she said. “Then I’m sitting next to you!”

Fuckin’ marvy. I implored my insides to hold fast. Katina sensed my trepidation as we climbed into our death car. “Throw up that way,” she advised, pointing helpfully toward the ground.

The shaky mother clattered to life, as it had every shift since its installation in 1603. The tracks pulled us nearer to God, slurping us up an incline at a reasonable speed we would not know again. I couldn’t bear to look at Katina. I couldn’t look, period. My eyes were rattling somewhere in my shoes. But I knew she was watching me. I wore her amusement like a lovingly knit shawl. My teeth were clenched behind lips too tight to move. Every muscle in my being clung to gravity. My knuckles lay opaque over the protective bar. This was the slowest doomed ascent of all time. Tomorrow the papers would announce: SHIT-KNICKERED GIMP MEETS MAKER LIKE A PUSSY. Subhead: Victim known to like Depeche Mode. Pull quote: That’s the key to understanding why this avuncular zilch died.

Suddenly we were suspended, teetering at the peak, allowed a moment to admire the shrouded cityscape and contemplate the moon and WHOOSH a rush seized us by the eyeteeth and yanked us to terra firma, only to smack us sideways, then kick us back to the stars. By then I existed on a plane between consciousness and a fluttery fuck-this. Where was that goddamn zen I’d read so much about? But there was no zen. Instead, I was prodded, shaken, thrust, parried, knocked, slammed, and twirled dizzy by the cruel hiss of whiplash, accompanied by an ear-piercing delight emanating from my left. Katina was having the time of her life, practically swallowing my head with her gaping, shrieking maw. “Woo!” she whooped as we hit another coldcock and hurtled toward oblivion. Oh, to know that wild, breathless, exuberant youth again. The heart-in-throat twists. The excitement of life unchained.

Twenty years later, it’s my fondest memory of journalism.

It was also the pinnacle of our weekend. On Saturday we woke up prepared for another date with freedom, but it was not meant to be. That morning Lindley and the others were collared coming out of the elevator on the first floor. I stayed behind, hoping to catch up with them later. With the room to myself, I kicked back, turned on the television, and called down for some breakfast. This was how the other half lived: stylin’. I was feeling so damn good and relaxed that when my omelet arrived, I slipped the dude a fiver. Shortly after he left, there was another knock, this one too insistent to be mistaken for the maid. I froze mid-bite, disheveled my hair as best as I could, creased my eyes to slits, and summoned a sleepy mumble.

“Mrmpgh?” I hummed through the door.


Yup. Minato.


“Hullo!” I replied all surprised and friendly-like. “I wuzjist — hoof! What time is it?”

“WHERE ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BE RIGHT NOW.” (Usually, that’s a question.)

“Oh! Heh-heh, wowgeez, uh,” I gasped, “whoa, I must have overslept.”

The door froze under weight of silence.


“Well, I gotta shower, see, I just woke up, and my hair — ”


Four hours later we were all in Minato’s room, lining her bed like delinquent children as she lit into us. This was how we represented our town, our school? She thought we could act like responsible professionals, but she was wrong. Therefore, there would be no excursions into the city that night, but a lockdown and curfew, and if she had to come after us, there would be hell to pay. We were not to leave the hotel; we were lucky we could leave our rooms. “I brought you all here to learn something as well as have fun,” she finished. “This was an opportunity — a gift, almost. Someday you’ll realize how rare such opportunities are, and all they require in return is a few hours of your time.”

There’s not much to say about Saturday night. To stave cabin fever, Macpherson and I took to the elevators and toured every floor up to the penthouse level, hooting down its zebra-striped hall. Later I wandered into the journalism conference dance (ha ha) and quaffed a Dr Pepper while observing the gitdown. Warren Miller ski footage flickered silently under an endless soundtrack. As M.C. Hammer implored the assembled to “Turn This Mutha Out,” four dudes unveiled their Running Man moves — to each other, oblivious to the fairer sex. There was no trace of my beloved, or of any beloved, and it turned out Bronze Twigs had a thing for Mike Durrant, even though it wasn’t Mike who tugged her leg like a dark and dangerous would-be lover. All Mike did was walk and talk under a ballcap. Sadly, I retreated upstairs, where Lindley had broken out his poker sock and emptied a deck of cards onto the room table. We all sat around, spat bullshit, and tried to con the girls into strip poker (they didn’t bite). “This game could really use some beer,” Brian sighed. “Yeah,” we agreed. Teenage lockdown was a serious bitch. Dave Gahan and Martin Gore would understand.