Category: Uncategorized

Interview with a Juggalo

Wiggle it.

Roger Ebert has inspired me.

An excerpt from his book “Life Itself: A Memoir,” which I did not read, but I did read this excerpt. And now I share with you. Written a few years ago before his death last week:

I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.

I don’t expect to die anytime soon. But it could happen this moment, while I am writing. I was talking the other day with Jim Toback, a friend of 35 years, and the conversation turned to our deaths, as it always does. “Ask someone how they feel about death,” he said, “and they’ll tell you everyone’s gonna die. Ask them, In the next 30 seconds? No, no, no, that’s not gonna happen. How about this afternoon? No. What you’re really asking them to admit is, Oh my God, I don’t really exist. I might be gone at any given second.”

Me too, but I hope not. I have plans. Still, illness led me resolutely toward the contemplation of death. That led me to the subject of evolution, that most consoling of all the sciences, and I became engulfed on my blog in unforeseen discussions about God, the afterlife, religion, theory of evolution, intelligent design, reincarnation, the nature of reality, what came before the big bang, what waits after the end, the nature of intelligence, the reality of the self, death, death, death.

Many readers have informed me that it is a tragic and dreary business to go into death without faith. I don’t feel that way. “Faith” is neutral. All depends on what is believed in. I have no desire to live forever. The concept frightens me. I am 69, have had cancer, will die sooner than most of those reading this. That is in the nature of things. In my plans for life after death, I say, again with Whitman:

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

And with Will, the brother in Saul Bellow’s “Herzog,” I say, “Look for me in the weather reports.”

Raised as a Roman Catholic, I internalized the social values of that faith and still hold most of them, even though its theology no longer persuades me. I have no quarrel with what anyone else subscribes to; everyone deals with these things in his own way, and I have no truths to impart. All I require of a religion is that it be tolerant of those who do not agree with it. I know a priest whose eyes twinkle when he says, “You go about God’s work in your way, and I’ll go about it in His.”

What I expect to happen is that my body will fail, my mind will cease to function and that will be that. My genes will not live on, because I have had no children. I am comforted by Richard Dawkins’ theory of memes. Those are mental units: thoughts, ideas, gestures, notions, songs, beliefs, rhymes, ideals, teachings, sayings, phrases, clichés that move from mind to mind as genes move from body to body. After a lifetime of writing, teaching, broadcasting and telling too many jokes, I will leave behind more memes than many. They will all also eventually die, but so it goes.

O’Rourke’s had a photograph of Brendan Behan on the wall, and under it this quotation, which I memorized:

I respect kindness in human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don’t respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.

That does a pretty good job of summing it up. “Kindness” covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

One of these days I will encounter what Henry James called on his deathbed “the distinguished thing.” I will not be conscious of the moment of passing. In this life I have already been declared dead. It wasn’t so bad. After the first ruptured artery, the doctors thought I was finished. My wife, Chaz, said she sensed that I was still alive and was communicating to her that I wasn’t finished yet. She said our hearts were beating in unison, although my heartbeat couldn’t be discovered. She told the doctors I was alive, they did what doctors do, and here I am, alive.

Do I believe her? Absolutely. I believe her literally — not symbolically, figuratively or spiritually. I believe she was actually aware of my call and that she sensed my heartbeat. I believe she did it in the real, physical world I have described, the one that I share with my wristwatch. I see no reason why such communication could not take place. I’m not talking about telepathy, psychic phenomenon or a miracle. The only miracle is that she was there when it happened, as she was for many long days and nights. I’m talking about her standing there and knowing something. Haven’t many of us experienced that? Come on, haven’t you? What goes on happens at a level not accessible to scientists, theologians, mystics, physicists, philosophers or psychiatrists. It’s a human kind of a thing.

Someday I will no longer call out, and there will be no heartbeat. I will be dead. What happens then? From my point of view, nothing. Absolutely nothing. All the same, as I wrote to Monica Eng, whom I have known since she was six, “You’d better cry at my memorial service.” I correspond with a dear friend, the wise and gentle Australian director Paul Cox. Our subject sometimes turns to death. In 2010 he came very close to dying before receiving a liver transplant. In 1988 he made a documentary named “Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent van Gogh.” Paul wrote me that in his Arles days, van Gogh called himself “a simple worshiper of the external Buddha.” Paul told me that in those days, Vincent wrote:

Looking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map.

Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France?

Just as we take a train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star. We cannot get to a star while we are alive any more than we can take the train when we are dead. So to me it seems possible that cholera, tuberculosis and cancer are the celestial means of locomotion. Just as steamboats, buses and railways are the terrestrial means.

To die quietly of old age would be to go there on foot.

That is a lovely thing to read, and a relief to find I will probably take the celestial locomotive. Or, as his little dog, Milou, says whenever Tintin proposes a journey, “Not by foot, I hope!”

Say NO! to crack, say YES! to Roller Skating

Child Of Rage

Last week, a few days before the attack on the children in Connecticut I had seen this documentary from 1990 called Child of Rage which showed me a world I wish didn’t exist. Beth, the young girl in the documentary, was sexually abused by her biological father and since then has lost the ability to feel compassion, remorse for her actions or understand right from wrong. The anger and hatred she feels towards others and herself is so saddening when you hear her describe her feelings in such a matter-of-fact fashion that only a child can give. This short documentary consisting of mainly video footage from interviews with her adopted parents and interviews between Beth and her therapist cut deep, and show how some scars, though they will never completely go away, can sometimes heal over if treated properly*.

I don’t know what type of mental health issues the shooter in Connecticut who killed his mother and all those tiny children had, but I wish some how we could have helped him, and in the process have saved those innocent children. Some mental health issues a person is born with, others are caused by outside influences. So please, nurture your babies.

After watching the whole thing, and only AFTER you’ve watched it, should you click THIS LINK to see what Beth looks like today, if you’re curious.

*Beth was treated by using Attachment Therapy. Though it seems to have worked for her it is a controversial category of alternative child mental health interventions intended to treat attachment disorders. Attachment Therapy itself is considered by many as potentially abusive and has been linked to at least six fatalities. If you have further interest: Attachment Therapy

I watched this and was fascinated. It’s a bit long at 15 minutes for us accustomed to instant internet gratification, but I would recommend finding a little time to squeeze it in. A few of things that touched me were watching the kids, and not only seeing their transformation at first into little entitled bastards, but when the roles are switched, seeing how those who were originally discriminated against then did not discriminate when one would expect them to. They had learned it was wrong because they had been on the other end and then chose not to do so. Also, watching the social dynamic between the teacher and children back in 1970 was mesmerizing as well as someone who is enamored with history and anthropology. One last thing this exposed for me was how easily it is to influence a child into thinking one way or another by (intentionally or not) planting a seed in their head. When that seed grows, blossoms and rains it’s pedals around your child’s thought patterns for the rest of their lives you have yourself to thank for their actions and behavior, good or bad. So plant carefully.

The opening of King Tut’s tomb in 1924

Virgin Boy Eggs


A shout out to Adriana Calderon

Who is Adriana Calderon? I have no idea. I discovered her name stamped on the underside of a white paper bag while searching my refrigerator for leftover cookie dough to bake. There was a slice of take-out pizza in the bag. Above Adriana’s name a date was stamped: Feb 17 12.

I assume that Ms. Calderon had something to do with the manufacture of this lunch-sized paper bag. I thought I’d just give a shout out to her.

What up Adriana Calderon! Thanks for the the bags!

Of course, someone already had this idea. And Adriana is mentioned. But I took the time to write down the name and type this so I’m posting it.

I tried to take a photo of the bag just now, but my girlfriend had already transfered the pizza slice to foil and shoved Adriana’s bag into the garbage. Never mind that my love forgot to recycle the purely paper bag, it was soaked with grease and coated in coffee grinds. Sorry Ms. Calderon.


Obama Gets Choked Up Addressing his Staff