long road ghost - part 1 of 9

A while ago, my friend Michelle J. threw out a writing challenge - take Washington Irving's classic story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and give it the ol' modern makeover. Long Road Ghost is my take, motorcycles and all, on the tale of a headless horseman. Since it's just for fun and I'm not planning on getting this published, I'm making it available here for your amusement. Hope you enjoy!

Long Road Ghost - Part 1

It’s a long road to Vegas, particularly if ya’re startin’ out in LA. First ya leave the thick city for thinner, blander suburbs. Go through San Berdou and use Cajon Junction to bypass’ jagged, snow-capped Mount San Antonio. Maybe ya even enjoy a detour on historic route 66. Then go through some desert nothin’ to hit Victorville, a big town with everythin’ ya need, assumin’ ya’re not one of the LA hipsters who need style and flash. Then it’s more desert, broken up by those damn retail outlets, ‘til ya hit Baker for a last chance to grab a bite before hittin’ the Nevada border. But forget all that map stuff; drivin’ to Vegas means dealin’ with the Mojave desert; flat, dry, no color. Some deserts feel alive beneath all that desolation, and parts of the Mojave are like that, but on the way to Vegas it feels like it’ll suck the will to live right out of ya. Sure, ya’ll sometime see that creosote shrub with its little yellow flowers and undead grasses. But for the most part, there’s nothin’ to look at. If ya’re not careful, boredom will crawl into ya’re skull and drive ya crazy.

But that 15 can be fun to ride, if ya made ya peace with the desert…and there’s no damn construction or traffic. I assume cagers with real cars, not those sissy luxury things, get a thrill from the road. But I tell ya, the real fun comes from a loud and fast hawg. I’ve been ridin’ around these parts since I was a kid, and there’s nothin’ quite like me and my bike ridin’ alone with the desert, rushin’ wind and splattered bugs.

The only thing that means anything on the drive is Sleepy Hollow, a bar on the way to Baker that I inherited from my Dutch granddaddy; a shabby, grimy, gritty place perfect for bikers to hang out. Sleepy Hollow, which granddad named after that famous place from Washington Irvin’s story, ain’t big on the Dutch obsession with cleanliness and order. I s’pose with a name like Hans Van Ripper – Rip, really – I should live up to my ancestry, but if my clientele ain’t bothered (and they ain’t) well, that’s fine by me. I got bikes to fix and rides to ride when I’m not pourin’ unwatered beers or whiskeys straight-up, no ice.

Now, Baker itself is filled with decent, church-goin’ folk. It’s a quiet place. Riff-raff from Baker and as far as Victorville hang out at Sleepy Hollow, provided they follow my rules: no brawlin’ at the bar and my word is law. Most are bikers; my old ridin’ buddies, the few still alive, from back in the days when the Fire Kings ruled the road; young toughs from the next generation of biker gangs, Brom Bones’ Bone Riders; odd drifters takin’ a break from the raw speed and dust of the long road. Some are just ordinary tourists, nice folk who rarely get comfortable enough among the leather and grease of my usual patrons. They have a drink, maybe one of my cook Mojo’s hot dogs and fries, then leave with the fear of the devil in them, despite my efforts to make ‘em feel welcome. Sure, in my younger days I was one of them young toughs, quite happy to scare the shit out of nervous-nelly milquetoasts. Ya bet. But those days are long gone and I feel bad enough for the past as mean-stupid biker punk that I don’t need to aggravate my conscience. That’s just like poking a stick in a beehive.

Tune in next Wednesday for part 2...


TFPO column: plan b and the (hidden) nature of pop-conservatives

In a piece over at Alternet, Tom Jacobs discusses the work of psychologist Johnathan Haidt, who posits that liberals and conservatives have different moral priorities. In a banal sense, this is true. However - and I'm saying this based on Jacob's description of Haidt's work - the whole distinction is a bit, well, contrived. Neither liberalism nor conservatism are fixed, defined ideologies, nor are there really liberal or conservative personality types beyond the silly pop-psychology distinctions made by media pundits. (For example, liberals' affirmative action goes counter to Haidt's characterization of liberals as anti-authoritarian, and conservative support of the military-industrial complex also goes against the perceived "small government" fixation of conservatives.) And beyond all of this, despite differences in value-priorities, how those values translate into actionable policy does follow logical or illogical reasoning. This week, news regarding the morning-after pill dubbed Plan B illustrates the self-contradiction that haunts the pop-conservatism as presented by a cartoon media.

Plan B and the (Hidden) Nature of Pop-Conservatives


announcing the Fashionoclast!

I've launched a new blog. Topic: fashion, from an independent and iconoclastic point of view. Check it out at fashionoclast.com.

theatre review: doomsday kiss

Although I'd recommend the play to anyone - the prices are a little steep, though - I have to offer a warning: you might get Freud stuck in your head. And there are few things worse than having ol' Siggy Fraud stuck in your head. Other than that, Doomsday has rarely been so eccentric.

Doomsday Kiss: The Party at the End of the World


a question of torture

Even if we grant that interrogators who employed "enhanced techniques" (that's one of the worse euphemisms ever) should not be prosecuted on account of their actions within a legal framing authorizing said techniques, what does it say about these interrogators that they were willing to use these techniques? Answer: click here. At the very least, these people shouldn't be put near a new-born puppy let alone a person in an interrogation room. There must be consequences for everyone who participated in the torture, especially in light of revelations such as:
Senate Report: Torture Planning Preceded Prisoners’ Capture, Legal Approval

An explosive congressional report has revealed new details about the Bush administration’s torture program on foreign prisoners. According to the Senate Intelligence Committee, military and intelligence officials began developing the torture program in December 2001, well before any high-level al-Qaeda suspects had been caught. Bush administration officials have long maintained the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” were authorized only after standard questioning failed to yield intelligence. The report also shows the torture program was developed well before it received legal approval in the 2002 Justice Department memos declassified last week. The report singles out top Bush administration officials for the torture of US prisoners, saying they “solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques” and “redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality.”
Military Psychologist Proposed “Exploitation Facility”

The report also documents the role of the military psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen in developing the torture program. A memo written by Jessen in 2002 proposes creating what he calls an “exploitation facility” where prisoners would be subjected to a number of prescribed abuses, including physical violence, sleep deprivation and waterboarding. Some of the techniques were based on torture used on American captives during the Korean War. Jessen proposed making the facility off-limits to outside observers, including the Red Cross. Soon after the memo, the suspected al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah was sent to a CIA prison, where he was subjected to intense torture. Zubaydah’s attorneys have long contended the Justice Department memos were written in part to retroactively authorize the techniques used against him.

Both quotes are headline news from Democracy Now!


TFPO column: what puppy mills and waterboarding say about us

Two brief comments about this week's column. First, I am aware that Obama didn't exactly follow through on his promise to get a shelter dog - his Portuguese water dog was a gift from Ted Kennedy (the American aristocracy, as Jessica G. put it). I didn't discuss it, not because I want to exempt the President from criticism, but because I'm keeping this sort of factoid for a future "State of the Presidency" column.

Second, the argument I set forth is not a new one. However, in light of recent news stories,it's well worth making the point again. It may even be worth repeating the point in the hopes that someday, somehow, it will actually sink in. Naturally, the larger point is that nothing is really changing from a cultural standpoint - and it has nothing to do with Obama. One can point to the failure of religion to foster progressive good in the world. One can also point to the failure of government and corporation. Whatever it is, the failure ultimately lies in us.

What Puppy Mills and Waterboarding Say About Us


buzzing with b-movies: to to get rid of the blahs

Getting out to the movies has been a bit of a challenge as of late, but instead of letting a week go by without some sort of film-related commentary, I thought I'd do a little write-up of a few B-movies I like. Read all about it at TFPO by clicking right...here.

And I'd love to hear what B-movies chase away your blahs...comments directly below...


no teabagging zone

Well, today is Tax Day, which means two things: lots of sweaty people, and an extra dose of right-wing frothing at the mouth. You see, there are tax protests going on. Apparently, it's all a manufactured stunt by Republicans and conservativs, a fake grassroots efforts hilariously referred to as AstroTurf by the folks who exposed the Goliath behind the seeming David. The kicker, though, is that these "Tea Parties" have been referred to by another name, mostly, I gather, by those of us who think the anti-tax protests are hopeless and paranoid pop-conservative caricatures of tax policy who were conspicuously silent when Bush held the US of A Unlimited Express Credit Card. They've been referred to as teabagging.

Of course, I'd love few things more than a reformed tax code and sensible fiscal policy, and I'm not sure Obama and Geithner are going to accomplish it. I still think the protests, cheered on by the likes of Glenn Beck, are poorly conceived, poorly motived affairs. In their honour, I offer the following film clip:


TFPO column: is family overated?

I don't really have anything to say by way of preamble, so on to this week's question at TFPO...

Is Family Overated?


film review: duplicity

At last, the intertubes are unclogged and information is free, free to flow. Hence, back to more regular posting.

This week, a review of Duplicity. (Also at inkandashes.net)

On a side note, there may be weeks without film reviews as I try to get on more press screening lists and, hopefully, rely less on my own dime.


film review: monsters vs aliens

I'm out of a town, using a computer kindly lent to me, but here's a link to this week's review of Monsters vs Aliens. See you again next week! Incindentally, I don't always title my pieces on account of how hard it is to come up with good titles. Just FYI.


newt gingrich and how to wipe to sin-slate clean

Alternet has an interesting piece on Newt Gingrich's apparent 2012 presidential bid, complete with a Catholic washing of the slate. Now remember, kids, this is the scary Republican guy who divorced twice. His signature move, as described by Max Blumenthal:

He announced his intention to divorce her just as he had done with his first wife, Jackie Battley—while she was lying in a hospital bed, immobilized after a major medical procedure. (Battley was recovering from cancer surgery; Ginther’s appendix had ruptured.) He never bothered to tell his wife in person that he was leaving her for another woman. He called her on the phone, delivered the news, and hung up.

Now there's a classy motherfucker, a prince among men.

But, for all of us worried about his political career, well, there's no need to fret because Catholicism has come to rescue. Apparently, Big G has converted, much to the delight of all those Catholics he once pissed off with morals looser than Bill Clinton with a cigar. Blumenthal again:
...on Sunday, March 29, Gingrich converted to Catholicism, the faith of his third wife, Calista Bisek. Though the ceremony was announced without fanfare, leading Catholic conservatives like Deal Hudson are brimming with excitement. Hudson was the most important Catholic political adviser to President Bush and Karl Rove, founder of the seminal Catholic journal, Crisis magazine, and self-described “theocon.” He contends that Gingrich’s conversion represents more than a concession to his wife; it signals a dramatic break from the past, both personally and politically.

“From a Catholic point of view,” Hudson told me, “Newt’s sins no longer exist—they’ve been absolved. He’s made a fresh start in life. So Newt will continue to sin and confess but there aren’t going to be a lot of Catholics who will hold that against him. They understand why being a Catholic makes a difference.”

Blumenthal is pretty straightforward in pointing out the hypocrisy of it all. But what I want to know is what this says about Catholicism in particular and religion in general. As my wife points out, it looks like Catholics use the confessional as a means to keep on sinnin'. And why not? If you can just step in the magic laundry box with sin-stained clothes and come out smelling of myrrh, might as wallow in the mud, right? The most ludicrous thing about all of this is the following question: where is God in all of this? Doesn't God get to have a say as to whether someone is forgiven or not, and what penance is needed? But that's the genius of the Church: persuade the masses that God doesn't speak directly to the ordinary folk, but through intermediaries whose authority is derived from God. And how do we know this spiritual authority derives from God? Easy: the Church is a master of spiritual circular reasoning. They represent God because well, they represent God.

There's something seriously wrong with one might call laissez-faire spiritualism, especially when it comes served with a dose of political expediency. Through the simple act of conversion - saying that he longer believes X, but now believes Y - Gingrich is now ready for a political rebirth. My gosh, aren't we past this nonsense yet? Wait. Don't answer that.