Archive for May, 2015

When Penguins Rule The Earth


Disqualified Death’s-Head Makes Memorial Day Campaign Appearance

vot fer mee

Mississippi Burping

Abraham Lincoln was a son of a bitch,
his ass ran over with a seven-year itch
his fist beat his dick like a blacksmith’s hammer
while his asshole whistled the Star-Spangled Banner

racist “historian” Shelby Foote, reciting a popular Mississippi ditty of his youth

Ten years ago, on Memorial Day 2005, George II stood atop 260,000 dead men and told us the day was sent to commemorate American lives ended in Iraq, to “honor them by completing the mission for which they gave their yeehawlives; by defeating the terrorists.”

Over on the radio, talk-show host Rick Roberts opined that Memorial Day represented a full-throated rejection of his bete noire: immigration.

Neither man deemed it worthy to note that Memorial Day was intended to honor the dead of the Civil War. George II, in his remarks, mentioned not once that war—though the site of his speech, Arlington National Cemetery, consists of land owned prior to the Civil War by Robert E. Lee. Land that, once Lee turned traitor, was confiscated by the US government. Then purposefully sown with corpses, so as to render it uninhabitable by Lee or his descendants. Roberts didn’t manage to mention the Civil War, either—perhaps because more than 500,000 immigrants served in the Civil War, constituting some 25% of the Union Army.

In contrast to George II and Mr. Rick, white folk living in the southern states understand the nature and meaning of Memorial Day. Which is why they don’t much like to celebrate it.

In his distressing tome Confederates in the Attic, journalist Tony Horwitz finds himself in Vicksburg, Mississippi on a Memorial Day in the mid-1990s. In that town, Horwitz found, there were two American Legion posts: one white, one black.

The white Legionnaires refused to involve themselves in Memorial Day. “‘You do Memorial Day,’” they informed the black post, “‘and we’ll do Veteran’s Day.’” Every year the black post would invite the white Legionnaires to attend a Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony; every year the rong negroeswhite Legionnaires declined to attend. The black post had to pay for black marching bands to come in from out of state; there were always “reasons” why the local school band could not participate.

“They said, ‘School got out a few days ago and the uniforms have been washed and put away,’” Horwitz was told. “Well, we can wash them again. The cleaners aren’t leaving town. But that’s their excuse. There’s a Miss Mississippi pageant in July. I bet you the school band comes out for that.”

May 28, 1996 saw a massive community turnout in Vicksburg for the passing of the Olympics Torch, on its way to the games in Atlanta. Bands from all the local schools and military installations participated. But for the Vicksburg Memorial Day ceremony two days later, these bands were unavailable. Just as the local Army Engineers for two years refused to fire the traditional twenty-one gun salute at the Memorial Day ceremony, claiming it could not afford the ammunition.

White folk in Vicksburg remain so wedded to the Lost Cause that many don’t even acknowledge the Fourth of July. Shelby Foote recalls that in the 1930s “there was a family from Ohio in town, God knows why, and on July Fourth they drove their car up on the levee and spread a blanket and had a picnic. They didn’t set the brakes on the car and it ran down into the Mississippi River and everyone said, ‘It served them right for celebrating the Fourth of July.’”

So renowned was Vicksburg’s resistance to celebrating July 4 that Dwight Eisenhower was dispatched to the community in 1947, charged with convincing the town’s white citizens to rejoin the Union. His visit had little effect. At the end of the 20th Century, there were still no July 4th fireworks in Vicksburg. To the white Vicksburger, July 4 remains a day of mourning: the anniversary of the 1863 day the city capitulated to the Union.

In Vicksburg, as elsewhere in the south, the preferred holiday is Confederate Memorial Day, a day in which the celebrant wallows in remembrance of the righteousness of the Cause. Reflecting the fact that it is utterly hopeless to expect in this country any sort of accurate collective memory of the true “reasons” for anything, pout lipAlabama Governor Bob Riley was in 2005 convinced by Lost Causists to excise from his annual Confederate Memorial Day proclamation a paragraph “that said slavery was a cause of the [Civil] War.”

The ongoing southernization of America further requires that rebs, though they deeply despise the day, actually be credited with the founding of Memorial Day. A tale is spun in which two Mississippi war widows decide in 1866 to place flowers upon the graves of fallen soldiers, American and secessionist alike. But the notion that this mythical act marked the flowering of Memorial Day is, in truth, a lie.

A word about Shelby Foote. Amid the fawning coverage of Foote following Ken Burns’ The Civil War, it was little noted that this shameless yeehaw admired as “a fine man” the slave trader and terrorist Nathan Bedford Forrest, described the Ku Klux Klan as “very akin” to the French Resistance, considered emancipation “a sin,” and damned modern blacks for behaving “somewhere between ape and man.”

Yeehaw. March on a road of johnny-reb bones. Same as it ever was.

Hitler’s Holiday Weekend

At Home

at home

In Which We View Proof That Reincarnation Is Real

Fats Domino, back as a cat, still at the piano.

fat cat

Another Glorious Battle For The Kingdom

The first thing that needs to happen is the town of Waco needs to change its name.

I realize that the name derives from the Waco subset of the native Wichita people, who once occupied the area.

But the white people killed and/or drove off all the native Waco. Many moons ago.

And, in English, monikering your town “Waco”—let’s face it—is kingdom komeequivalent to dubbing the place “Batshit Insane.”

Look: so long as the place is infested with white people, dominant language English, the Law of Naming will provide that in “Waco” black teenagers will be hauled out of the jail to be tortured, mutilated, and burned, before an appreciative—yea, orgasmic—audience of some 15,000 Caucasians; wild and crazed clusters of tornadoes will suddenly sweep down upon Waco and kill many people for No Reason At All; epileptic foam-flecked guitar-screechers without discernible brain activity will set up there in Waco their camp, down the road from the press center of the dumbest chief executive in the history of the US nation; crazed-preacher compounds, there in Waco, shall be besieged, assaulted, burned, and melted, and on live TV; and, finally, this latest—dumbkopf gangs of de-evolved knuckledraggers, both inside and outside the law, shall go utterly wild, inside and outside a craven sadsack would-be titty bar, said knuckledraggers employing all and every weapon of the 21st Century larval American, leaving nine dead people on the ground; 18 humans, more or less, wounded, to various degrees, in the hospital; 170-some arrestees clapped in the hoosegow on $1 million bail each; and more than 100 motorcycles seized and shoved into the guv’mint grinder so they may be transformed and purified into death-dealing cannons that may be shipped overseas to—quite rightly—kill brown people.

Do you want this to stop? Then, first, change the town’s name. Ditch the “Waco.” Try something like, oh, say, “Tranquility.” Or “Peace Corners.”

Motorcycle gangs are deeply stupid expressions of the lizard brain. Fight or flight. That’s all. That’s all they are. And, like wolverines, they never do the flight. Just the fight.

They were born, these motorcycle people, in the years after WWII. When returning American veterans, their souls utterly destroyed in Europe and the South Pacific, discovered their beings screaming at the prospect of settling peaceably down into some sort of Leave It To Beaver.

My father was one of these people. He returned home to Iowa, all of him over there in the South Pacific utterly lost. He waved goodbye to his wife, who at home there in Iowa had breezily fucked his brother, while all of her husband was dissolving on Guadalcanal. He bought himself a motorcycle, called Indian. He climbed aboard, and drove as west as west gets—to California. He’d seen, over there, overseas, in what it issome malarial mud-ditch, a soaring “Why We Fight” propaganda short, that set forth as Shangri-La, a burg, in California, called Modesto. Over-arched with a sign that did do read: “Water. Wealth. Contentment. Health.” My father drove cross-country, determined to reach this Xanadu. It would be there. It would be there. It had to be there. It would be there. It would be there. And found it. He did. And found it, eventually, the same old shit. And proceeded, then, to drink himself to death. Though he spread it out over thirty-some-odd years. Which is why I’m here.

Other dead-souled WWII vets who climbed aboard bikes never even tried to reach a Xanadu, or sink to a Beaver life. They instead mimicked, stateside, their overseas military life: always on the road, in platoon clusters—now called “gangs”—loyal to no one but each other . . . and anyone who was not each other, could, and should, whenever it seemed Right, be, just like back in the day in the uniform, fighting for the good ol’ USA, be beaten, stomped, knifed, shot, raped, killed. Left to lie where they lay. Or, at best, be buried, with most often pure contempt, in a shallow grave.

Such people—yea, verily—they were not exactly employable, in any traditional sense. And so they inevitably, eventually, drifted into criminal enterprises. And, indeed, methamphetamine, said death-dust is in America attributable to the industry of the Hell’s Angels, the ur of such motorcycle gangs, who filled the void of the US government’s senseless suppression of the cocaine trade, with busy-bee manufacture and distribution of the fave stimulant of the crazed genocidal murderers of the Third Reich. And so, those who wanted to be shot from a cannon higher, drifted from a drug that encourages one to fuck, and to dream big, to a drug that encourages one to senselessly tinker with the bowels of many cars at 3 a.m., and shoot many rounds at fearsome hallucinations menacingly creeping across the lawn.

I have had a number of glancing acquaintances with the Angels over the years, and in my experience these are “serious people,” as is said of the Sicilian Mafia, or, more precisely, the Chinese triads. They really will kill you, if you are not of them, and they are beered up, and you look wrong at something they think you should look morrison_lambright at.

The Angels, though, these days, are considered by many next-generation biker gangs as “wussies,” who should all be put to sleep.

This is a common and dispiriting penis-pattern upon this planet. Akin to the “punks” of the ’70s-’80s, who decided that planet-transgressive artists like the Stones, the Kinks, David Bowie, the Who, etc., since they seemed to be engaged in the effrontery of getting old, should instead die. And at once.

Ancient, imbecilic story. Expressed by the Lizard King, succinctly, this way:


“Yes, son.”

“I want to kill you.”

And so, one of the stories emerging from the Waco slaughterhouse, is that bikers affiliated with “The Bandidos,” experienced a frenzy, because a rival gang, “The Cossacks,” were affiliating with the Angels.

This apparently caused seminal fluid to poisonously back up into many lizard biker brains, until many dozens of de-evolved nimrods—beginning, banally, in a bathroom—were wailing on each other with fists, chains, knives, guns.

They then spilled out of the petersconfines of Twin Peaks, the would-be sadsack titty-bar that allegedly willingly and even avidly invited these biker geeks to revel there weekly, and rolled out onto the street . . . where they were joyfully gunned down by badged and thereby protected gangs of state-sanctioned killers—as of this writing, it is surmised that at least four of the dead were laid into their graves by agents of law-enforcement.

That is really the cush place, these days, if you want to kill. Behind the badge. There’s a serial killer in Scottsdale, Arizona, for instance, one James Peters, who’s killed seven people, behind a badge. And is out there, stone killer, Officer Peters, even now: he be, gunning, as we speak, for more.

the killer awoke before dawn
he put his boots on
he took a face from the ancient gallery
and he walked on down the hall

Like, if you’re supposed to be a rebel, and thereby all righteous and shit, then why the hill-sam are you wasting all your wanking, wailing on other revved-up bike rebels, who are just like you?

Because you’re a fucking moron.

These “turf” wars, indulged in by these backward-penis pinheads, are beyond de-evolved. If, like, you’re so wild and free and against “the Man,” why the fuck would you not then be united with the one and the all and the many, just like you: and thereby, united, whip your chains and knives and guns, all united, at “the Man”?

Because you’re dumber than dirt, that’s why. And—probably, maybe—a chickenshit. Because, for sure, you’re a nimrod, par excellanace. Because, in the end, you’re rebelling against nothing but being a decent human being. For, in your willingness to inflict pain, you are a creature of Thanatos. Your brain is swollen with seminal fluid flowed backward. Backed up, stinking now, foul as pus.

This Twin Peaks. Where all you limp-dick motorcycle cripples did gather.

Apparently this Twin Peaks chain came to be because it was determined Hooter’s was “too tame.”

At the beginning of each shift, Twin Peaks women are lined up and graded like pieces of meat:

Before each shift at Twin Peaks, a Hooters-like restaurant with 57 locations across the U.S., managers line up waitresses and grade them on their looks. The women get points for hair, makeup, slenderness, and the cleanliness of their uniforms: fur-lined boots, khaki hot pants, and skimpy plaid tops that accentuate their cleavage. Their job, between serving sports-bar fare with names twin killssuch as “well-built sandwiches” and “smokin’ hot dishes,” is to beguile the mostly male customers, flirting to get them to empty their wallets. They may also have to fend off patrons who’ve washed down too many of the house beers, including the Dirty Blonde or the Knotty Brunette.

Twin Peaks is the most successful example of a new generation of restaurants, what people in the industry euphemistically refer to as “the attentive service sector” or, as they’re more casually known, “breastaurants.” Twin Peaks Chief Executive Officer Randy DeWitt doesn’t care much for the word, not that he’s complaining. Last year, Twin Peaks was the fastest-growing chain in the U.S., with $165 million in sales.

Ersatz sex uber alles. Obscenity. This is not a true manifestation of Eros. If it were, the biker boys would not have spilled out killing each other, into the parking lot. Tthat’s Thanatos. If Twin Peaks truly were of Eros, they would have spilled out, fucking.

None of this matters, really, because all of these people are over.

The bikers, the cops, the Twin Peaks people. They are uncountable light years in the past. It’s just a strange period we’re in now. It’s like all the time has come today. So at the same time we’ve got people like these bikers and their mirror-mirrors the cops, shebeating the bejeesus out of each other like apes at a water hole, we’ve also got other people preparing to shed the shell and proceed as energy beings into the great wide open.

Strange days.

S.E. Hinton wrote the best motorcycle novel when she was 16 and drunk. Francis Coppola brought her on set and together they transformed her book into my favorite of his films. Rumblefish.

They hired Michael Smuin, then the king of choreographers, to stage the fight scene (shown below), so he could show it without purpose, without meaning, perverse, death-mouth, ode to Thanatos.

But “another glorious battle for the kingdom.”

As Motorcycle Boy says, coming in at the last.

They think they are all emulating him, Motorcycle Boy, these combatants, reflecting in stories they’ve told, faslely, of his glory; but he is no longer anywhere near their world. And he never was.

Any real motorcycle boy knows, like this Motorcycle Boy, that the motorcycle is precisely the opposite of fighting. It is about solitude. It is about aloneness. It is about understanding the need for room. It is about knowing that “rumble fish: they try to kill themselves, fighting their own reflection. They belong in the river. I don’t think that they would fight, if they were in the river. If they had room, to live. Somebody ought to put the fish in the river.”

Nobody in Waco was trying to put the fish in the river.

All the live-long day, every day, we are besieged by news of people actively working not to put the fish in the river.

I am increasingly shutting them out.

I just don’t care anymore.

About anything but putting the fish in the river.

My father knew this. As a motorcycle boy. On his Indian. Riding as West as West gets. He knew the rumble fish kill themselves, fighting their own reflection. He knew they belonged in the river. That they would not fight, if they were in the river. If they had room. In the river. He knew somebody ought to put the fish in the river. But he just couldn’t get there. Because they killed him. In the war. But he hung on, long enough, to make me. And, so, now, I am in the river. I am of sweet thing. Yeeaaaahhhhyeayeayeayeamymymymy. Sweet thing. And I shall drive my chariot down your streets, and cry . . . . sugar baby . . . sugar baby . . .  sugar baby . . . .


They saw wild pigs running near the lake, and a soaring osprey. The mountains drew closer. Papyrus grew beside the water. Pelicans made their geometric, card-trick pterodactyl dives.

They had reached thelet's go edge of the Paz petrol roadmap Lucas had been using to navigate. Its corner sections were worn away and missing.

“Do we have a decent map?” Lucas asked.

“Just this,” said Sonia.

She handed him the rental car company’s map. It was not very detailed.

“This is the kind of map that killed Bishop Pike,” Lucas said.

“The one for us,” said Sonia.

—Robert Stone, Damascus Gate

Aslant His Gaze

Even in comfortable circumstances, [Robert Stone] lived hard; his disregard for his body probably shortened his life somewhat; and in art he took tremendous risks. He had an extraordinary ability to throw his whole being into theblood of eden writing of a novel. I once heard him say, responding to a slight to Outerbridge Reach, “I wrote that book with my blood.”

—Madison Bell

[H]is attention was distracted by the sight of a young penguin besieged by skuas. The penguin was alone within a circle of disaster ten feet in diameter. No other bird came nearer. It was eyeless although it stretched its neck and strained to face the sky. One leathery flipper was raised in comic rage at things. The other hung bloody and truncated at its side. Overhead, skua gulls were wheeling. Every minute or so, a skua would descend screaming from the wheel to tear flesh from the dying bird. Browne stopped for a while to watch, then turned away and put the back of his arm across his eyes to protect them from the glare. I want a missionary woman now, Browne thought, to make a story out of this. Mother Carey tending her chickens, God’s sparrows falling aslant his gaze. Creatures for sacred inscrutable reasons denied flight are brought piecemeal into the sky as meat.

—Robert Stone, Outerbridge Reach

Any Chance Of Understanding Anything At All

It starts in the middle, as if you’ve switched stations halfway through some other song without realizing it. It’s moving so fast you feel as if you’ll never catch up. The band—guitar, drums, bass, an organ hovering in the background—can’t catch up with the harmonica that’s leading the charge; suddenly, they do, and then they take a step ahead. You realize yesthat the last thing you want is for the harmonica—high, implacable, uncaring, a body without a mind, it seems to be its own force, not some mere instrument played by some particular person who has to get up in the morning and go to sleep at night—to lose this race. It doesn’t; it cuts in front of the stampeding combo, playing a swirling pattern that focuses the band. There’s a call and response, a joining of forces, no longer one against the others, but a whole against a part, and the part is whoever’s listening.

When lyrics appear in the song, you notice for the first time that there haven’t been any. Suddenly what was chaos, unformed, threatening, thrilling, is now a story. There’s a singer and he’s going to tell you about something, something about walking down by the old graveyard. But then that breaks up, too. “Eyes,” he says again, and again, the word fraying with each repetition, slipping the “mystic” that stands at its head, except when it doesn’t. Morrison seems to turn away from the word, from words altogether, as if only fools actually believe that phonemes can signify, that a word is what it names, that there’s any chance of understanding anything at all.

—Greil Marcus

Here’s Looking At You, Kid

And here man undergoes a transformation as important as when he became a tool-user. He becomes a natural being again, lookinghaving used his tools for hundreds of thousands of years to pull himself up by the bootstraps. Now, he no longer needs them. He has transcended his own nature, as that original ape did, and now he is no longer a “man.”

Instead, having grown old and died, he is reborn as a child of the universe. As a solemn, wide-eyed infant who slowly looks over the stars and the Earth, and then turns his eyes on the audience.

These last 20 seconds, as the child of man looks down on his ancestral parents, are the most important in the film. We in the audience are men, and here is the liberated, natural being, Kubrick believes we will someday become.

But when Kubrick’s space infant looked at the audience the other night, half of the audience was already on its feet, in a hurry to get out. A good third of the audience, must not have seen the space infant at all.

—Roger Ebert

Timing As All

When I worked with him, in the forties and fifties, was I aware he was someone with talent who could make it there in Hollywood? No. Later I found that out—when I went to a screening of M*A*S*H*. That was the biggest revolutionary as anyoneexperience I ever had. I went into the theater expecting nothing and I came out expecting everything. What that did was prove to me a theory that I had had for a long time. The reason most people can’t compete successfully is they are born at the wrong time or the wrong century or the wrong moment for what they’re doing. If you get lucky, you are born into a period where you get the most opportunity to do the work you want to do. In the movie business, Bob Altman was born at the exact right time.

—George W. George

Suicide Not Painless

When they started to make M*A*S*H*, I thought, “Good. Bob got a little break there. He’ll deliver this film, put a few bucks in his pocket, and get out of debt.”

I go out to the set, it was like the third day, and there he is with this mash-last-supperpicture of the Last Supper in his hand, and he’s laughing at it.

I’m thinking, “Jesus, now it’s going to be blasphemy, and they won’t want to release it.”

—Michael Murphy

So my character, Painless, is some dentist from the Midwest who is physically endowed and has trouble on a sexual level. The interesting thing about that scene at the Last Supper, when he’s decided to commit suicide, is the doctors and all the others could have been mean-spirited how they handled Painless, you know? But it wasn’t. Bob made sure there was an understanding that we are all failing on some human level and would like to get out of it, just go to sleep and not wake up.

—John Shuck

When I got there, the first thing he was going to shoot was the suicide thing. We’re sitting around one night and he says, “This is the first thing I have to do. It’s just dead air with everyone walking around putting Scotch and Playboy in the casket. We need a song. It’s got in the boxto be the stupidest song that was ever written.”

I said, “Well, we can do stupid.”

He starts thinking and says five minutes later—we were a bit ripped at the time—he says, “The Painless Pole is going to commit suicide. The name of the song is ‘Suicide Is Painless.’ I used to write songs. I’m going to go home and see if I can come up with something.”

The next day, he tells me, “There’s too much stuff in this forty-five-year-old brain of mine. I can’t get anything nearly as stupid as I need. But all is not lost. I have this kid who is a total idiot. He’ll run through this thing like a dose of salts.”

—Johnny Mandel

I was writing a lot of poetry at the time. I came into the living room one night and my father was sitting there with [producer Ingo] Preminger and they were having their Scotch and smoking dope and talking about their thing. And I said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you.” And he goes, “We were just sitting here talking about this scene for the movie, and we need a song. Why don’t you write it?” And he goes, “We got the name of it, its called ‘Suicide Is Painless’ and blah, blah, blah.” He says, “You go write it. If it works we’ll use it.”

The next day I left and went to my grandmother’s. I was staying with her ’cause nobody else would have me. And I wrote like a hundred and twelve verses. Just the most atrocious crap you’ve ever heard in your life. It was just awful, I mean, “I hear the sound of gunfire from over the hill. Come on, boys, let’s kill, kill, kill.” got itYou know, just terrible shit. I tore it all up and threw it away and called him up and said, “I can’t do it. Forget this, I tried, there’s nothing that I’m willing to give you.”

So the following week I went back to Bob’s and I’m in the backyard and I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote the whole thing in about ten minutes. Just boom, wrote it out like that and I walked in and handed it to him. I go, “This’ll work.” He goes, “Oh, okay. Put some music to it.” So I grabbed my guitar and I do this C-F-G, you know, Bob Dylan chords. I did a little A-minor. Maybe C. Just real basic crap. So they got one of those crappy little cassette recorders, you know, where you hold both the buttons down, and I recorded the thing. They took the tape and shipped it to Johnny Mandel. And he threw some sevenths on it and put a bridge on it and there it is.

—Michael Altman

It’s the only song I ever wrote dead drunk. I only write sober, but this particular song I couldn’t get together. I had to get loose enough to come up with that. Finally, out of desperation, I got bombed and wrote it. I don’t recommend that.

I didn’t have to make many changes—verse, chorus, verse, chorus construction. Threw in a couple of odd bars to make it sound home-made. He wrote a very good lyric for what it was. When we were done, they liked it so much they started putting it in over the main titles. With the helicopters. I said, “That doesn’t belong.” They said they liked it. I said, “That’s the stupidest answer I ever heard.” They said, “Well, we like it.” I said, “I’m not going to be part of this stupid conversation.” I’m glad they didn’t listen. It became my biggest copyright.

—Johnny Mandel

They paid me five hundred bucks and gave me fifty percent of the song. I went and took that five-hundred-dollar check and bought myself a big, beautiful twelve-string guitar. Fucking gorgeous, man; it was amazing. That was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life. And then a couple of years later, after the TV show came out, it went into killsyndication. You know Bob hated the TV series, right?”

—Michael Altman

M*A*S*H*, this movie, was about foreign wars. And then, every fucking week on a Sunday night, to have a drama about that, in which they had these platitudes about liberalism and whatever the current issue is. It’s still bringing a foreign war into your home every week for twelve years. And even though the bad guys in the script were from your own military hierarchy, you’re really presenting the bad guys as the brown people with the slanted eyes who’re you’re fighting. I don’t get the joke, and I don’t like the joke.

—Robert Altman

Anyway, after the series came out, I got another check for, like, twenty-six bucks. And then the second check was like a hundred thirty dollars. And I’m going, “Oh, this is nice.” And the next check was like twenty-six thousand dollars. And then it started, the whole thing started with the royalties. I think I ended up making close to two million dollars. And Bob had gotten paid seventy-five thousand dollars to direct the movie and no points, right? And it made Fox Studios what it is, right? It was their biggest hit ever, you know? Then the TV show and stuff like that. And Bob’s just been livid about that for years.

—Michael Altman

The amusing thing is that Michael Altman made more money out of this picture than his father.

—Ingo Preminger

Oh, by a what bob gotlong shot. I’m cool about it all, though, because what I got out of it was better than money.

—Robert Altman

I squandered the money away. All of it.

Here’s what happened. After I got out of school and got this paper signed saying that I was responsible for myself, they released the money to me and I bought a big camper thing, a big hippie van. You know, like the Magic Bus. Just painted it all up and hopped in the thing and traveled for several years and just caravanned around the country. And every three months we’d get a check for about twenty-five grand, thirty grand a pop, which was a lot of money back then. I had never paid taxes; they just used to send me checks. They did for years. And then like ten years later I was up in Washington state and I went down to a car lot and I decided that I was going to buy a car. I go, “I’ll pay cash.” And the guy goes, “just bring in your income-tax returns and we’ll use that to give you a loan.” And I go, “I don’t have any income-tax returns.” I started thinking, “Hmm, I wonder who’s been doing that all this time for me.” So I call up the IRS and they go, “Well, all right, with the penalties and interest you owe a quarter-million dollars.” And so I disappeared for another ten years and didn’t bring it up again. And then I tried to get it straightened out and by that time it was like close to half a million dollars.

It took years to straighten it out. I went to Bob for help. He got some of his lawyers and his army of guys on it. And they made this deal. So I did a bankruptcy. Bobtoday bought the song from the trust-deed guy for thirty thousand dollars. He bought the rights to it, or bought the royalties off. So he finally ended up getting the royalties, and he still has them or his estate does, I guess.

I was irresponsible and unbalanced to begin with. The money certainly flavored it and shaded it, but it wasn’t the cause. I take responsiblity for who I was. I don’t blame it on Bob or on my mom or on the business or on anything. That’s bullshit. I might have done that a few years ago, had I not tried to get involved in a program where you take responsiblity for your own actions and become accountable. But I don’t believe any of that anymore.

Have I published any other songs? No, nothing that’s gone out. I’ve put together quite a few. I’ve got a ton of stuff. I’ve worked with a few other songwriters and put some stuff together. And quite honestly, by my personal standards, I never liked the suicide song. I wasn’t that impressed with it at all.

—Michael Altman

Altered State

The Best Of Meryl Streep: “There’s Nothing Like That; That’s It”

Somebody Ought To Put The Fish In The River

Baseball Players Are Cats Writ Large

puig mouse throw

Writer’s Block

Only The Top

Early in our relationship, I told a joke and it became the metaphor for everything in our lives.

These two musicians decided they were going to the jazz festival in Montreux, but they always flew. One says, “We should take one of these cruises, man, the topand just get out there and have four days and just lay out and see what that side of life is like.” So they were out in the middle of the Atlantic. And the water was calm and glassy. The moon hung high in the sky. The musicians broke out a spliff, and they lit up and took a hit, gazing quietly out at the magic of the moon and the water.

The first musician said, “Man, look at all that water.”

And the second musician said, “Yeah, and that’s only the top.”

Bob [Altman] went crazy. He went out. So anytime we were someplace and somebody said something, Bob would look at me and say, “That’s only the top.” And when somebody would come and aggravate him, and she ran her mouth or something, as she took a breath, Bob goes, “That’s only the top.”

—Harry Belafonte

When The Goats Begin Going Quietly Insane


Bad Statue Prepares To Pound Pigeon


And Then The Humans Began Transforming Into Gnomes . . . .

gnome chomsky

kill gnome

Imagine Our Surprise

way it goes

When I Worked

May 2015