Tuesday, November 3, 2020

This Election Won't Save Us

So, is anything going on today? Oh right, that long, slow, product roll-out The US Presidential Election is today, and yes, I've already gone and done my mainstream approved duty and selected the Lesser Evil on my ballot. It took all of five minutes for me but I went at 11:30AM and voted with the other unemployed, the retired, the sick and the old. Everyone there was masked and thankfully no one brought their AR-15s. It was later this afternoon at Walmart, that bastion of politeness, courtesy and human kindness where I saw the greeter confronting a bearded, obese, elderly white gentleman who refused to cover his hairy face-hole. Even his family was trying to talk him off his stubbornness ledge. "Dad, I'll get it, it's in the car." "No!"

So, today we've got a narcissist carnival barker trying to win a second term against a lifelong politician who’s never heard of a military action he didn't support. Yes, one seems worse than the other, there's little doubt about that when it comes to COVID-19, but there's not the gulf of difference the mainstream media, and most of our friends, yours and mine, are making it seem. If Biden beats Trump today as I certainly hope he does, although I have sincere doubts, it will NOT be a vote that halts the spread of fascism in the US. Oh no, it will take much more than that. Believing a vote against Trump is a vote against fascism, is only true if you’ve swallowed all the many hours and hours of "Trump is evil" "this is unprecedented" and "Russia, Russia, Russia" two of the 3 largely pernicious 24 hour corporate news stations have spent the last 4 years telling us. And remember, much of that Russia stuff quietly went away just as we were going into plague lockdown. That’s when the vote-by-mail & absentee voting discussion* really took off because again, corporate media wants you to believe the only meaningful democratic power you have is when you pick one of the two carefully groomed Wall Street backed & anointed candidates. And whatever would happen if this day they’ve been preparing for was spoiled by some incurable virus that will make us sick if we stand in lines together.

But voting, especially in a Presidential Election has become the corporate approved form of activism for a distracted, blaming, binary nation. 

Consider this: How many national votes have we had since the killing of George Floyd? Not one. Have you noticed any changes? Not necessarily policy changes, but has the narrative shifted? Are people you've never expected to be discussing the issue suddenly talking about it? 

Yes. That didn't come from voting, that came from people in the streets. Lots of people. Everywhere. 

I'm afraid we're way past the point where voting will save us, especially when one of the 2 major parties did everything they could to sabotage the campaign of the most liberal voice among them. Biden, a centrist in the first place, has worked harder to court Trump votes than he has to satiate the Left. Although that’s not what you’ll hear on Fox News because fear is what they peddle and the most terrifying thing they’ve heard of in years is The Green New Deal. They’ve successfully made their viewers think Biden supports it when he and Senator Harris have bent over backwards to reassure PA voters especially, that toxic fracking will continue should they win election. So much for a Green New Deal.

Biden’s been touting an addition he’ll add to ACA should he win election, it’s called the Public Option. And yes, it may sound familiar because it was not so far down the American Memory Hole that Rep Dennis Kucinich went up against Obama in defense of it. He caved, and chose Party over principle despite serious reservations that ACA was a giveaway to insurance companies. 

As to Black Lives Matter and demilitarizing law enforcement, it was under Biden’s term as VP with an African-American President and an African-American Attorney General that the whole movement began. George Floyd wasn’t killed by Trump, he was killed by the racist system our leaders did nothing about under Obama. Remember during the Democratic Primary in twenty-sixteen when the candidates were asked who supported BLM, only one said yes, unequivocally. Guess who.

There is no anti-war Left in this country. Obama loved his drone strikes and created a Kill-List. When Trump was elected he inherited those things and from the Sunday after his inauguration he stepped up the extrajudicial killing done by our lethal sky-robots. Trump loves our drones so much he considered attacking Iraq to avenge one’s silicon-soul when they shot the innocent spy-machine down

No, Trump is not the malignancy. He's an infectious, dripping pustule, yes, but the cancer was already there, deep, deep in the American core. It was us, not Putin, that allowed Trump to seize a wave of bigotry and blaming and selfishness that was already there and very, very strong. As Morris Berman has written, we are a nation of hustlers, and Trump has taken hustling to an art form. His show The Celebrity Apprentice represented much of what is despicable about America. Each episode was a stunning exploration of back-biting and double-crossing and in the final ten minutes the contestants would come before Trump, where he, like Satan, would usually reward the most diabolically successful. And it was all justified in the name of charity. Humiliation, mocking, blaming, all of these things were championed, never discouraged. This man and his “you’re fired” mantra ascended to the highest political office in the land. Putin didn’t do that with some Facebook groups, it was us. There has not been anywhere near enough honest self-reflection to see how we got here. But we never do that, do we? That’s America. We export and buy into fantasies. 

In a perverse way, if you've been paying attention to US foreign policy, especially, we owe Trump a debt of gratitude for his, er, well, honesty. Right now at least, the President of the United States is looked at as despicable. That's a refreshing change. Manners and decorum can and are used to cover up despicable behavior. Now at least the American President talks and acts despicably to match his deeds as Commander-In-Chief. Only Americans would disagree with that statement. The rest of the world sees us as the most belligerent & dangerous nation, and they are of course correct. No one’s military budget is larger, no one has more bases. America’s Empire has no edge. Presidents have always done despicable things and yet, for some reason, perhaps without a monarchy to adore, we've decided to turn them into demigods. 

Even the horrible ones. 

If you smiled about Dubya's paintings or at him enjoying a game with Ellen Degeneres then yes, I'm talking to you. 

Presidents are just men, so far exclusively men. And they sit on the toilet to shit just like me and you. Perhaps you can imagine some in that position more easily than others but they have all done cruel, disgusting things, in the name of freedom and the American people. Some we think are so cool because they fill out NCAA brackets or play the saxophone on Arsenio Hall but all Presidents make decisions and approve covert actions that take the lives of innocent people and sew the seeds of blowback everyday. For all the posturing and bold talk from the likes of Schumer and Pelosi they did absolutely zilch on overseeing or reducing executive powers of war-making and surveillance. Why? Because whenever a Democrat is back in office they want those powers too.

I'm sorry to be a downer but I think it's long past time more Americans started realizing we've been in a proto-fascist state for quite a while now. Most certainly since after 9/11/01. Trump didn't start it and Biden sure as fuck isn't going to take it away.  

Recently journalist Pete Hamill passed-away. I remembered an article he wrote back in 1994, the year i graduated college, and I wanted to re-read it because I remembered he was onto something in that piece. It's called End Game, the link is below, check it out and you tell me if you don't think much, if not all of it, has come to pass. 

* = I’m using the word discussion in this context to describe any topic mainstream media obsess about and pretend to present nuanced examination of while very little happens. i.e. a discussion on poverty, race, gun-control, mental illness, obesity, etc 

End Game by Pete Hamill

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Talking Tattoos on the Zoom Machine

 Last week I had the privilege of sharing the stories behind some of my tattoos with Barb Nangle of Known Co-Working, and panel guests Alesia Galati and Renee Nolan. It was a lot of fun connecting over one of the most fascinating and permanent forms of art--tattoos. Listen now and you can hear me plagiarize, er, i mean, paraphrase Joseph Campbell.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The In Search Of... episode that changed my life

 Well, ok, maybe there was more than one In Search Of episode that had massive influence on me but this one is in the driver's seat of my more nightmarish obsessions. The opening ape-attack on the guys in the log cabin is one of those sightings that must have caused PTSD for the witnesses. Whether Sasquatch is a hoax, a hallucination brought up from the collective unconscious, a bipedal ape-ancestor like gigantopithecus or some sort of an inter-dimensional traveler, if what happened to the dudes in this opening scene happened to me, I'd believe. 

Yesterday was the 53rd anniversary of the Patterson-Gimlin Film


Shot in Bluff Creek, CA on October 20, 1967, the Patterson-Gimlin film is the most recognizable and most discussed & dissected piece of Sasquatch "evidence" there is. The 59 second film is less than 24 feet long and has spawned millions upon millions of raised eyebrows and rolled eyes. Is it just a guy in a suit? And yes, those are breasts you're seeing, so Sasquatch, this one at least, is female. Nicknamed "Patty" her wide-armed glance back at the camera, frame 352, is well-known and synonymous with Bigfoot lore, cryptozoology and the unexplained.  

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Another reboot nightmare or a nightmare of a reboot?

Halloween gets a revamp with Carpenter's blessing

It's here! The first trailer of the latest re-incarnation of the best slasher/horror franchise of them all, Halloween! OK, maybe that's just my opinion but I'm certainly not the only one to look at John Carpenter's Halloween as canonical in American horror cinema. Sure, much of it is inspired, ahem, swiped, from Dario Argento's Deep Red but Carpenter and Debra Hill have often said as much. Halloween is the babysitter movie about so much more than babysitters and despite numerous sequels and a previous re-boot by Rob Zombie, Michael Myers has never scared anyone as much as he did in the original movie.
Maybe that changes on October 19th, twenty-eighteen.
This new re-vamp picks up after the original and exists outside of the timeline created by all the sequels. In this trailer they establish that the big reveal from later Halloween night, in 1981's Halloween 2, when Dr Loomis discovers Laurie Strode is Michael's younger sister, never happened. In this first trailer Laurie Strode's grand daughter debunks it while walking with 2 friends on Halloween morning, very much like Laurie did with Annie and Linda in the original.
There seem to be quite a few nods to the original film and to part 4 which came out in 1988 after Michael Myers had been on the shelf for 7 years. During those years Jason Voorhees had starred in 4 movies since Friday the 13th part 2 in 1981 and owned the slasher market. In Part 4 Michael returned in a much more Jason-esque role. But I digress...

check it out and then see my comments below...

Some thoughts on this 1st trailer:

*The British investigators mention Michael Myers killing three people before his doctor shot him. Wasn't it more than that? How many people died in the Smith's Grove escape? we never know. But we know he killed the guy in the Phelps Garage truck because he took his coveralls.
*By far my favorite part is the asylum scene where a shackled Myers has his back on the investigators while they hold up his mask and all the other inmates out for fresh air start to lose it. The dog starts barking. All the inmates are chained to cement block anchors on a field painted like a red and white checkerboard. It's in broad daylight and very creepy.
*We know Myers has a thing with dogs. Michael kills 2 dogs in the original, one because "he got hungry" and the other, Lester, the Wallace's German Shepherd, because it just wouldn't stop barking.
*The headlights on the car hit the escaped & wandering inmates who have come out of the bus in a similar way to how we see the escaped inmates of Smith's Grove Sanitarium on October 30, 1978 in the original.
*It looks like Michael has found coveralls from another mechanic, as he did in the original and in part 4.
*The rest room stall scene is reminiscent of two other Halloween sequel moments, one from part 5 I think where Michael steals the keys from a mom who is using a grimy rest stop rest room with her whiny daughter, and of course the big burrito shit,truck-stop bathroom death of Big Joe Grizzly in Zombie's Halloween.
*Yes, those are teeth.
*It looks like Michael is actually using the head of the video investigator as a battering ram on that urinal door. Look closely.
*The instant Michael walks into the Trick-or-Treaters is a call back to when the same thing happens during the day in 1978 at Haddonfield Elementary when one of Tommy Doyle's tormentors runs into him.
*The moment Laurie Strode shoots Myers' reflection in the upstairs bedroom mirror is reminiscent of a similar shot Dr Loomis takes at Michael in a truck-stop diner in Part 4 and the bullets hit nothing but a mirror.
*Laurie Strode's arm scar was caused in 1978 when Michael stabbed her at the top of the stairs in the Wallace house and she fell over the railing.
*Laurie Strode has become completely obsessed with Myers while he's been incarcerated. She has made her home into a fortress. In one flash where she is saying how she's waited for him you can see jars of food and bottled water like she's a doomsday prepper.
*There is a moment in a child's room where a person-shaped ghost sits in a chair beside a fish tank. Something went down in this room because if you notice the chair is tipped over and there is a pumpkin inside the fish tank which seems slightly amiss. The cop is scanning the room. Is that Michael under the sheet? 
*Laurie is speaking to the British video investigator, no doubt at some point BEFORE his head is used as a door-knocker. She points out how he should believe in the Bogeyman. She obviously does and her home has some serious metal gates BUT we do see Michael standing just inside her front door. 
*Looks like we will get a literal hand-to-hand, face-to-Capt. Kirk mask fight scene between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers in this flick, unless it's a dream sequence. With all the gun-play it seems unlikely she intends to get too close to him so maybe it is from a dream. He is Mr. Sandman. Or is he The Dream? Hmmm.
*The closet! wow! Michael has always had a thing for them.

Friday, June 8, 2018

RIP Aunt Lydia

Hilda massages Aunt Lydia's temples
Lydia Manocchi Bellard 
January 7, 1924 - June 2, 2018

The funeral for my Aunt Lydia was this morning and I wrote a few words for her last night. I went to bed and had a hard time falling asleep because the ending of this was just not right. This morning I added the stuff about Saint Augustine and rearranged the order slightly, Now I think it works as a fitting tribute.

RIP Aunt Lydia. I'll miss you.


I first knew Lydia Manocchi Bellard as Aunt Lee-Lee, my Great Aunt. She was the older sister of my grandmother, Hilda. As a child, although I knew they both loved me, there was something realer about Lydia. She was more down-to-earth than Hilda, maybe a little smarter too. Funnier, no doubt about that.

Lydia was fun. From the picture window at the Grannis Road house in Orange you could see her walk across the lawn from Andrew Lane, cross the road and head around to the back door. It was a thrill when Aunt Lee-Lee was coming to visit. She got excited about what excited you.

In third grade I paged through a book on Dracula and the Universal Monsters with her at our kitchen table at Treat Lane and she enjoyed every page just as much as I did.

When she gave you socks or gloves for Christmas or your birthday she'd wonder aloud if they'd fit and urge you to try them on. You'd reach in and find a rolled up five dollar bill she crammed in there as a surprise. She enjoyed a genuine crack-up.

She really adored my brother, Brendon's sense of humor. He was always very good at roasting his grandmother, Hilda and Aunt Lee-Lee took great pleasure in the mocking of her younger sister. She highly valued humor. She played practical jokes. She cracked wise.

My sister saw her bust-up a funeral director. Turned the man an embarassed beet red. They were leaving my father's wake and Danielle was helping Lydia down the stairs when the funeral director collided with them, almost knocking both all the way down to the concrete sidewalk. He apologized immediately but without a pause Lydia quizzed him Hey, what are you trying to drum up new business?

Joy in the moment.

She loved Elvis Presley. Her birthday was January the seventh and the King's is the eighth. We got her an Elvis Presley calendar one year for Christmas. She put it up at her desk at work and I can remember her crafting a shirt for the bare-chested, bathing-suit clad King in a photo from Blue Hawaii. She had to clean it up a little, make it more work-friendly.

She worked for years at Helicopter Support. There she answered the phone and when you called from college and her voice greeted you it was like passing through a gateway to home. Like Nonnie did, for me, she fused the experience of work with home and with family. I think she did that for a lot of people she wasn't even related to. Truckers loved her. Bikers loved her.

She made a cake every Friday at Helicopter Support and would make sure people sang happy birthday to whoever in the office had theirs that week. She helped connect people to celebration and to each other.

She was a patriot but not really too far to the left or to the right, her favorite presidents were Ronald Reagan, Barrack Obama and FDR. Oh, how she loved FDR. She spoke of him with reverence. She described reaching out and touching him once when he visited New Haven. It was like touching the Pope.

She loved the flag. She loved fireworks and the Fourth of July. I always felt like I had this special connection with her because I was a July baby. I actually share a birthday with her mom. July 1st.


Boy, she loved numbers. She kept an appointment calendar on her desk that was specifically for recording the lotto and the daily numbers that came up. She did the scratch-offs and she never met a slot machine she didn't love.   

Growing up, it felt like there were two schools of homemade Italian cooking. There was Ya and Nonnie, my grandmother and great grandmother, and there was Lydia. Ya and Nonnie were traditionalists and very proud of their cooking. Maybe a little snobby. But Lydia was the artist. She knew the rules, she followed the rules and then she broke the rules. That's what artists do.

Artists know their art might not be for everyone and Lydia knew that about her food. It didn't stop her. She tried new things. She dared. She was the Salvador Dali of Andrew Lane. Ice cream cake with the popsicle sticks still in it? Filet of fish sandwiches minus the buns that became an intriguing fried fish dinner?

Lydia was connected to the Green World of plants all around us. She could breathe life into a struggling spider plant, rescue an African violet from dry brown leaves, or grow an entire plant from some sad looking cuttings.

She seemed to relish life’s silver linings even though she really didn't actively cultivate them. She could be dark, fatalistic. She did not have an upbeat outlook but she was joyous in the moment. Always. There’s a lesson in that I think. All we really have is the moment. An outlook doesn’t do much in the now.

The Buddha teaches that Life is suffering. That's the lesson of The Cross. Lydia suffered some of the most horrific things a person could possibly experience. They didn't break her. You don't have to dwell in life's suffering.

Joseph Campbell, the mythology scholar, talked about how we are all free-falling into the future. And with any fall, fear and anxiety comes up all around you along the way down.  But all you have to do to transform your Hell into a Paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act. It’s a very interesting shift in perspective and that’s all it is. Joyful participation in the sorrows and everything changes.

Saint Augustine wrote about Jesus going to The Cross like a bridegroom to his marriage bed. He wrapped His arms around His suffering, His destiny.

Joyful participation in the sorrows.

the warden said hey buddy don't you be no square
if you can't find a partner use a wooden chair

Joy in the moment.

That's what Lydia Bellard taught us.

I carry that with me.

I hope you can too.