In which your narrator fails at exercise ...

 Dateline: Miami. I write to you from a breezy terrace overlooking the Biscayne Bay. In my left hand, a Virgin Pina Colada. In my right, a key of prime, uncut Dama Blanca, which makes the alcohol free Pina Colada seem pretty silly in retrospect. Well, best not to mix, I guess. And, yes, I know what you’re wondering, and yes, I am typing with my tongue.

Actually I’m at the Coral Gables public library because the Wi-Fi is better here than in my hotel. I’ve been down here a little over a week shooting an episode of a popular cable TV show with a great group of people. 

On my first day off in the beach oriented community I thought it might be fun to go snorkeling. I am not much of an athlete, but I do like to snorkel and look at reefs and brightly colored fish, so I found a place close by and signed up to be the snorkeling wing of a diving trip off the marina, leaving Saturday afternoon.

On the dock, a young man named Ed and his friend Rod (Rob? Ron?) introduce themselves. Lovely guys, fans of the Big Bang Theory and if they hate Kripke, they kept it to themselves over the next few hours. Super nice guys, super supportive diving aficionados down from Mississippi for the weekend. They’re on my boat! 

We zoom off into the open water – beautiful but very choppy. At the first stop, I jump off the boat, swim over to the reef, but I’m used to snorkeling pretty close to shore. The reef is thirty feet down and while the scuba divers twenty five feet below me seem to be enjoying themselves, we snorkelers up on the surface are … nonplussed. Well, fuck it, I’m kinda tired, I’ll just go up and chill on the deck.

I go up onto the anchored boat, we’re maybe a mile from shore, I’m slathered in spf50 because Daddy has to take care of his skin and also I’ve already shot a couple scenes, and showing up burnt to a crisp is gonna fuck up continuity. It’s a little thing called professionalism, folks. The boat is rocking. A lot. I burp. I burp again. It becomes very clear that the burping is but an awful overture to the nightmare musical that is to come, so I dash over to the side of the boat.

Ed and Ron(b? d?) couldn’t be nicer and they have a couple good suggestions to help me deal with my nausea, but there is nothing to be done. I am cleaning house. Mightily. The thing is I don’t usually get seasick, but this was some choppy traveling. And I’m used to puking from food poisoning or the demon liquor, but that’s different. That’s getting rid of a toxin. This is a fundamental structural problem.  It's not the contents, the whole container is not right. So when I tell you I spent two hours puking off the side of a boat, I mean I spent one hour puking and another hour dry heaving. (Sorry, ladies, he’s taken.) As I staggered back on to the dock after a three hour tour (A three hour tour, yes, I know) I realized my vision was a little off – my depth perception not quite right. Completely empty, vision distorted, and a sickly shade of green, I consented to a photograph with Ron (I’m going with Ron, I’m 90% sure it was Ron). When I got back to the hotel, I checked the mirror and figured out why my vision was acting up. In the course of my violent dry heaving, I had burst a blood vessel in my eye (okay, ladies, fine, one at a time, there’s plenty of Bowie to go around).

I have been pretty landlocked since. I went swimming at South Beach the other day, which is fascinating. Ladies take their tops off! In public! One woman stood up next to me and took off her top, revealing the most ridiculous set of pneumatically fake boobs, I’d ever seen, which she proceeded to just SOAK in suntan lotion. And that might sound wildly awesome, but trust me it was about as erotic as watching someone change their brake fluid. I kept my head down and walked past. It’s a little thing called professionalism.

In Which Our Narrator Supposes His Toeses Are Roses

I read Jewish.

I don’t mean I read Hebrew – I don’t - but in casting director terms, I ‘read’ Jewish. People look at me and read – sometimes out loud – “that guy’s Jewish.” And if I ask them why, they hem and haw and don’t make eye contact, except for my friend Ethan who said, bluntly, “Your schnozz.” A candor which I appreciated. I’m actually not, but I often play one on TV – the greatest example being when I booked a role named Bob Chen, and then just before shooting they changed it to Bob Lipshitz. My wife (Blonde, from Boston) IS Jewish, and therefore my kids are, but long time readers of this blog (Hi, mom!) will know that I’m of Scots-Irish descent and a lapsed Episcopalian. Which should not stop me from playing Moses, right?

The offer came in months ago – would I like to play Moses for my daughter’s preschools Matzah Factory, a kind of pre-Passover fest where the kids make unleavened bread. One of the parents asked me as I dropped my little one off, and I hemmed and hawed. “You guys know my dirty little secret, right?” They didn’t. I explained. After much consideration, they said “Well, Charlton Heston was a gentile.” Point taken. I was in.

So Wednesday, I dropped off the eldest and pulled together my costume. A beard from a Hollywood Costume Shop, and an old robe type thing from a costume of … well, let’s call him another Biblical figure, starts with a J, oh, fine, if you must pry, I played “Jesus as an American Idol judge” in a sketch show about 8 years ago and still had that costume. Yay hoarding!

There are 4 classes at the preschool. One by one, I took them through a papier-mache Red Sea and into the Matzah Factory, where they got all sticky and messy rolling around with dough. Some kids laughed, other kids cried (“I HATE THAT BEARD!”) and, of course, plenty of kids screamed “YOU’RE NOT REALLY MOSES!” My daughter thought it was awesome and hysterically funny, and everybody in her class was telling her “YOUR DADDY IS MOSES.”

But as we were standing on the shore of the Red Sea, a couple of the kids were being kids and surged ahead, and the teachers said – almost in a chorus – “Get behind Moses. Moses is the leader of the Jewish People!”

Jesus. Wow. Now, I wasn’t struck by the religiosity of that statement, as that’s just too much to deal with. It’s a very weird time to be Jewish in the world right now, and I’m not gonna discuss the merits of a two state solution with a 3 year old. But that leader thing got under my skin, in a good way. It didn’t make me drunk with power, it was far simpler than that. It just put me in the grand progression of parents doing stuff at their kids school. As my father was a chaperone on my school’s Philadelphia trip – as my mother accompanied me to look at colleges in Upstate New York – so shall I lead the little Israelites across a sea of paper, wheat paste and bright scarlet poster paint.

And, of course, I created a great story for my in-laws. Who have been nothing but cool about their daughter marrying a goy, but you know what? A picture of me as Moses couldn’t hurt.

Rejected by the New Yorker

Here's something I thought was really funny, and maybe the good folks at Shouts & Murmurs did, too, but they're not printing it. I am honestly - hand to G_d - not looking for pity, (seriously, no peptalks) but I thought this piece should see the light of day. If you've lived in New York you'll probably enjoy it, but really any dense megalopolis inhabitant will see a ring of truth. Maybe. The fuck do I know, I thought it was a straight, down the middle flyball for the New Yorker. Ugh, John, shut up, just post the fucking thing already.

Thanks so much for looking after our place (and Cosette and Eponine!). As we said, we can’t pay you, but the place is yours. Like all New York apartments, it has a couple quirks, but we think they’re charming!

First: the apartment. Please don’t go in our bedroom; it’s a disaster area and we don’t like people going through our stuff. But don’t worry, that still gives you the run of the remaining 180 square feet! Please do stay overnight, everynight, as we’ve had a rash of push-in rapings and we’d love knowing someone was there to watch the cats. The couch doesn’t fold out, but you should be fine since you’re under 5 feet (you are, aren’t you? Totally forgot to ask!) We’ve had a pretty bad bed-bug problem (exterminator called it ‘unprecedented’) so you might want to wash the cushions (there’s a Laundromat just 3 stops away on the J line!)

The TV: we get channel 2 and most of channel 4. The rabbit ears work fine, especially if you happen to be using silverware while watching TV. You’re welcome to use the DVD player, but there’s a Lars Von Trier movie stuck in there that Will. Not. Come out. If the weather’s clear, you might get a little free wi-fi from the curry place on the ground floor.

The Toilet: to flush, reach into the tank and grab the thickest of the three chains. Pull sharply towards yourself several times and that should do the trick (Number Ones, Only, Please!)

There’s no hot water.

The light switch to your right as you come in controls the overhead lights on the left, and the switch on the left also controls the lights on the left. The overhead lights on the right don’t work at all, which is why its so dark on that side of the room. Try not to trip over the knee-high Buddha statue. If you hurt yourself, there’s a hospital just 3 stops away on the J line. And definitely take the J line – cabbies can NEVER find the hospital.

Tread lightly on the wood floors, there’s a family (the Wallaces) with 4 kids under 5 downstairs. They’re doing that thing where they toilet train by letting the children just be naked, so watch your steps going down the stairs and try not to step in Wallace mess. Thankfully, there’s no one above us – the perks of being 7 flights up!

Our super, Koof, is always around, usually down in the basement with his chickens. When he’s awake (and sober – LOL!) he can answer any questions in Serbian.

Cosette and Eponine are both diabetic and require two shots each, daily, in their rear hind-quarters. Cosette also has an irriated prostate gland which requires regular maintenance (see attached booklet). Both cats are vegan.

And that’s everything! Have a great time in the apartment! Call us with any questions, although we usually can’t get reception in the Maldives!


 When people talk about LA punk, they don’t really mean punk within the confines of the city of Los Angeles. Sure, there was the Germs, and they did go to high school right in West LA, but a lot of the “LA Scene” lived outside the city limits, and some of them weren’t even in LA County. Social Distortion hailed from the meaner streets of Orange County, the Dickies were from Ventura, and Black Flag, arguably the most famous and influential, were from a tiny town just south of the airport called Hermosa Beach. And that’s where my band Egghead. played on Friday night.

Our drummer lives in New York, and was out here on business. Whenever we’re all in the same city, we try to play a gig. Somewhere near the city we’re all in. Our best offer for this last Friday night came in the form of a bill at Suzy’s in Hermosa Beach, put together by local heroes the Perverts and our friends Regal Beagle, who are my favorite band named for a Three’s Company reference (sorry, Saskatchewans’ The Furleys). Egghead. rehearsed once and headed south.

Let me say this: Hermosa Beach, the home of Gregg Ginn, the Descendents and The Circle Jerks is keeping the dream alive in a big way. I arrived to see the first Mohawk I’ve seen in years. AND IT WAS GREEN. OLD SCHOOL! FUCK REAGAN!!! When the Perverts took the stage (with a rollicking, spiky cover of Walk Don’t Run) an early 80s whirligig circular mosh pit started up, and everyone was having a grand time. Regal Beagle played a drum-tight set of fist pumping Ramones core, real fun ONE-TWO-TREE-FAW style. And then it was our turn.

The scene was leather jackets and torn t-shirts. Egghead. has always worn matching uniforms on stage, and tonight we wore our fake NASA flight suits. Trust me, sometimes we’re so loose that the uniforms are the only way people can tell we’re in the same band. We took the stage to our pre-recorded piano overture from our album Egghead. Would Like A Few Words With You. We dedicated our second song to the ‘punk rock parents.’ In short, we couldn’t have alienated the audience more had we brought out a swastika and a flute. We played a looseygoosey half hour set, one woman came up and took some bemused cellphone photos and we were out. I don’t think we gained any new fans. But it was still fun. Even though the bar kept Fox News on during the set. Closed captioning, but still.

Changed out of my sweaty flight suit in my car. Tap, tap, tap as my car filled with light. There was a Hermosa Beach cop at my window. “I am stone cold sober, I am in here by myself, the car is mine,” I thought to myself. “My only issue is that I am not currently wearing pants. Oh, well, he asked for it.” I opened the drivers side door.

“Good evening, officer,” I said, because I really try to be polite to cops, at least initially. It’s the least punk rock thing about me.
“Whatcha doing?”
“Changing. Brrr, it’s cold,” I replied, and it was, it was 50 degrees and windy.
“Changing? In your car?”
“Yes. Is there a problem?”
“We’re just making sure that nobody’s doing anything illegal in their cars.”
Well, Inspector Lestrade, where were you when all the pot in the South Bay was being smoked in the parking lot less than an hour ago? “Nope. Nothing illegal. Just changing in here, because if I went outside I’d indecently expose myself.”
“That would be illegal,” said the cop, deadly earnest. I bet, under different circumstances, he and I could be besties.
TAP, TAP, TAP. Another police officer! At my Passenger side window! And there goes my initial politesse with the cops.
“Wow. Slow night in Hermosa Beach, huh, fellas?”
“We treat everybody the same.”
What the fuck is that supposed to mean? And furthermore, it is getting very cold in my car and have I mentioned I don’t have any fucking pants on because I don’t and my balls have found their way up into my chest cavity so what’s next guys.
“It’s pretty cold, officer,” I try. “You guys wanna come in?”
That did it. With a curt laugh, the first cop backed away from the car. I was told to go about my business and drive safe, and I did just that, getting home around 1 am and relieving the sitter.
In short, your humble narrator played the home of Black Flag, tanked in front of an audience and then was needlessly harassed by the cops. Which IS the most punk rock thing about me.

Thoughts on Patton Oswalt's Piece

 Patton Oswalt, one of the few comedians who has made me laugh until I hurt (the bit in question is his extended meditation on steak houses) has recently posted a WIRED piece on the death of Geek Culture. If you're even peripherally familiar with Patton Oswalt, you know that this is an odd meme to come out of him. This is the man who has been known to create year-end top ten lists of sci-fi books THAT DO NOT ACTUALLY EXIST. Et tu, Patton?

Now, his point is well-taken: that geek culture died the second you didn't have to be a geek to get into such things -- the internet has made minutiae so accessible that it no longer means THAT MUCH to be the kid into Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy -- the lacrosse player in your homeroom might be into Garth Marenghi's Dark Place, and as such has roundly out-geeked you. And that irks me, sure, no one likes their territory encroached upon. But what Patton fails to recognize -- and I am loathe to question him on matters geek, but I must, I must -- is that the accessibility of culture has not actually changed everyone's passion about it. There will always be people who are casual fans of science fiction, and can name all the Trek Captains, but they're not going to teach themselves Klingon ... and they're not going to read Dhalgren (neither am I, frankly, the thing weighs a ton) ... and they're not going to write Dr. Who Slash Fiction. There will always be dilletantes. There will always be a starlet who buys a Ramones shirt at Urban Outfitters ... that does not take away from the fact that I almost lost my glasses trying to get close to DeeDee at a Ritz show (you heard me, motherfucker, I saw them when DeeDee was still in the band). Casual users don't cheapen the geek experience, the same way people who only get drunk on New Years don't trivialize the endeavors of real alcoholics. And it must be pointed out that not everyone -- and certainly not these nameless toe-dipping Johnny Come Latelys -- is gonna find a piece in Wired ... on geek culture. Right? Now if you'll excuse, I'm stuck in London and there's a two hour documentary on BlackAdder on BBC somethingorother. Happy New Year!

That wingnut who shot his television

My late father, a long-term, dyed in the wool, Eisenhower Republican, had a very funny habit about politics. If a Democrat did something stupid, he'd snort "Typical." If a Republican did something stupid, he'd sigh and say "Embarrassing." 

It's interesting how some people - not many -- are trying to make a larger political point about Bristol Palin on Dancing With The Stars. I don't watch the show, but I'm not dead, and I do hear that Bristol, despite her tenacity is ... how shall we say it ... less a 'dancer' and more a 'person who moves.'

There will be people who will point to the guy who shot his television because Bristol Palin was on it and say "Typical." They'll say "See how crazy and dangerous the left wing is! They pose a real threat!" And there are people who will say "This is all about the tea party mobbing the phone lines! She's terrible, and unqualified, and they still love her!" I don't think this has anything to do with politics, actually. Just so you don't think I'm a snob, I used to watch a lot of American Idol, and I remember the Sanjaya conspiracy pretty well. I'm pretty sure Bristol is the butt of a pretty mean joke.

But none of that matters, not in the grand "We're still in Afghanistan and we're still unemployed" sense. I don't think you have to be conservative or liberal to dislike Sarah Palin. Some people will say "Look! A bunch of lefties hating on a single mother! Typical!" Me? I say "Wow. Someone connected to the Palin family who will do anything embarrassing to stay famous. Frontal nudity, televised glacier climbing, terrible dancing. Typical."

He'll Save Every One Of Us!!!

 When was the first time you watched something -- a movie, or a TV show -- and realized "This is so bad it's good" or, ideally, "this is supposed to be bad, and that is what makes it good?" In short, when did you discover camp?

I might be misusing 'camp' here -- Susan Sontag's Notes on Camp defines it as a way of seeing the world "not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylization." Of over-the-topness. So if something has more style than substance, but is still good, still watchable, still fun -- that's camp, I guess. And it has its merits. And we run a terrible risk of living our lives in quotation marks, and I would cringe when people would say they listen to something 'ironically.' But there's a still a place for camp, even in our fragile, post-9/11 world.

But I discovered it in a movie theater on the Upper East Side in 1980 when, on a weekend with my dad, I saw Dino DeLaurentiis' Flash Gordon on its first Saturday. I was 9 (no point keeping that a secret, thank you, iMDB) and engaged in everything the way you are at that age. I was not here looking for kitsch, I was looking for more Star Wars. And Star Wars was devoid of camp at the time -- it was innovative, and pretentious, and mythic. But this movie, this Flash Gordon, this was something different. It was just a few years since Flesh Gordon, after all, so a reboot was going to be cast in that shadow anyway. And for the first minutes or so -- Max Von Sydow's sinister Voiceover ("Klytus, I'm booooored."), Topol's grandstanding, the deliberately funny football game -- i was in it. To win it. Give me more,  my eyes begged, as I chewed on Milk Duds with my pre-orthodontic teeth. And then something happened.

Flash is being escorted down a hallway by Princess Aura (I think, it's been a few years -- well, only a couple) who demands the escape to a nearby moon. Flash throws his shoulders back and announces "I don't want to go to any moon! I have to rescue my friends and save the earth!" and everybody in the theater -- including me -- started laughing. A lot of dialogue from the era doesn't age well, but at the time, when Luke first whined "But Uncle Owen, I was going to go into Tosche Station to get some power converters!" it rang true. This "I have to save the earth" shit seemed reductive, silly and ... deliberately bad. My mind was blown. I saw the movie three times in its initial release, and was struck by the name of the writer - Lorenzo Semple Jr. Shortly thereafter, in our simpler pre-iMDB days, I was watching the 1966 Batman movie, and there was that name again. And I finally realized that the 1960s Batman was supposed to be FUNNY. The world opened up -- a world where there was more than one way to enjoy something. And I owe it all to the aesthetic of the films producer, who had won two Oscars working with a man who mixed artifice with pretense. A producer who fostered a young David Lynch. Who produced 166 films in a long and storied career, and just died today at 91. Rest in peace, Dino De Laurentiis. I learned a whole new way to laugh.

Smiling Faces

 Glee's episode last night has me thinking a lot about Rocky Horror, natch. Much has been written about the episode already (suffice it to say, I'm glad my kids were in bed. But GODDAM YOU NAYA RIVERA DRESSED AS MAGENTA. GODDAM YOU TO HELL) and obviously much has been written about the source material -- how it was the first midnight movie (not really true), how it was 20th Century Fox's last big risk before Star Wars (probably pretty true) and how it's given a home to misfits, nerds and GLBTQ kids all over the world (totally true, jesus, drive by the Nuart some saturday night). So that's all fine.

What I want to talk about, briefly, is Shock Treatment. The vastly underrated sequel to RHPS' that went almost straight to midnight showings (as opposed to RHPS initial wide release) and never shows up on VH1, and hardly ever gets screened anywhere. I saw it on a double bill with Phantom of the Paradise at the Hollywood Twin Cinema on 8th Avenue sometime in, let's say, 1983. After plans to make an honest to goodness continuation of Rocky Horror were scrapped (budgetary concerns, a SAG strike, Tim Curry's hesi...

tation to don the corset again), Richard O'Brien took pre-written songs and strung them along a plot that could be very easily shot on one soundstage. Following Brad and Janet a few years into the future, the film posits a world where people work out their marital strife on TV shows like Marriage Maze, and seek therapy the same way they seek fast food. And it pictured this whole world way back  in NINETEEN EIGHTY ONE. It's a pretty bleak satire of consumer culture and media saturation, which is probably why it never quite caught on. Rocky Horror is about sex and horror movies. Infinitely more fun than an indictment of who we are as a culture.

But what Shock Treatment has going for it is a fucking EERILY prescient view of what TV would look like in the very near future. It looked stupid and over the top when it came out, and now it looks ... not tame, but right on the money. People hash their personal shit out on TV. The American Public Votes On People's Careers. 

And -- oh -- it has really fun songs. The opening number, Denton, Denton is about to get stuck in your head for the next week, provided you click on the below link:

Shock Treatment came out on DVD in 2006, finally, and your better video stores will carry it. As long as you don't expect Rocky Horror 2, I think you're in for a treat.