"Elias Nebula is practicing Japanese but no one knows."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"They Say The King's Gone Mad."


I confess to the tribunal that I had been disturbed by all the vicious footage of Qadaffi's decline and fall. Not having stayed as close as perhaps I should have to the arab street or the revolutionary underground in Tripoli over the past forty years, I couldn't in good earnest summon enough righteous angst in support of the bloodthirsty masses of crowing tweeters and Youtube snuff posters. I say, I wasn't slavering and honking a klaxxon when I heard of how they had "scourged" the Colonel with a cattle prod &c. I really couldn't seem to get into the democratic moment and share in the joys of the Arab Spring. I felt like a terrible reactionary. That is, until I read the New Yorker piece about Qaddafi's last days and I was illuminated.

I was reading it while my wife overslept. I roused her with excerpts.

“You know what they called Qaddafi towards the end of his reign?" I asked her. "They called him ‘Abu Shafshufa,' which means ‘Old Frizzhead’. His problem hair was the subject of national mirth and satire.”

Nothing daunted I went on, “The truly amazing thing is that when he had fled his compound and the rebels broke in and sacked the place, alongside all the other outrageous luxuries there abounding they found a personal hairdressing salon. Can you believe it? A hair salon for Qaddafi! And still he looked like that. Whoever was doing his hair, he should have fired them.”

Finally my wife drowsily responded, with a woman’s patented insider knowledge of such things: “He was very vain, that’s why he looked that way.”

Only now did the penny drop for me. “What, do you mean you think he intended to look that way? And he thought it looked good? My God... the man was insane.”

Thursday, August 4, 2011

"Storage Wars - Again."

The new season of Storage Wars has been a bit peculiar so far. As Randy Jackson used to say (at every opportunity), it's been a bit "pitchy". This season Dave Hester (who I had expended some energy in rehabilitating) has not endeared himself to the "studio viewing audience at home" with his dull high bids for boring but valuable "white goods". Who fucking cares if you get a dishwasher cheap, Dave? It ain't great TV. One week he bought about thirty vending machines - and was brimming with delight. Strange to report this excitement and delirium did not transfer infectiously and irresistibly to the viewing audience at home.

The problem is that Barry Weiss and Darrell Sheets don't own a consignment store like Dave's, so there is no point in them bidding on the sort of junk that Dave can sell in his would-be dollar-tree warehouse. (In fact at this point it is unclear what Darrell's remit is, or even why he is on the show - except to bitch bitterly about Dave). Meanwhile Jarrod and Brandi do sell similar chintz, jetsam & miscellaneous bushwa to Dave, but they simply don't have as much dough as Dave so they can't compete. Consequently Dave seems to be on a winning streak by default, buying boring merchandise and then toting up how much they are worth himself. Shall we, you and I, my dear reader, "switch off our television sets and go out and do something less boring instead"?

"Sitting at home, watching TV,
Turn it off, it's no good for me.
Why don't you?
Why don't you?"

I have occasionally had to discuss Storage Wars with outside-world (i.e., "non-television character") people when the conversation has reached such a nadir that I am forced to say, just to stave off sleep, "Hey have you seen that show Storage Wars?" When I do lisp these thrice-doomed words out loud to the table, the chattering classes of New York routinely say something that would never occur to me; they say "Oh yeah I've seen that show. It's fixed."

I fail to see what the point would be of fixing a show like Storage Wars. I think that rather this is a case of "post-punk" ennui; that is, "media-savvy" kill-joys being overly, even ostentatiously, jaded. I very tediously respond to their allegations by patiently listing instances where there was nothing valuable in a locker ("When there was nothing to gain from rigs or calumny"), or when the characters ("contestants") ("real people") are hopelessly misguided in the pursuit of riches and rarities ("Fool's gold is ofttimes all they mine, milord"); but only a few sentences into my earnest testimony I notice with some sad surprise (and yet a corollary reflex of horrible familiarity) that I have become the despised bore at the table -- again -- and I pull about me my customary mantle of enigmatic introspection for the rest of the evening.

This season has also had a rush of nondescripts jockeying to become regular, featured characters on the show (which, nota bene, if it were "scripted" and fixed would be an impossibility). Like the fat bloke with the skateboard/skronk goatee. You know, Herne Bay c. 1993. Swallowed squirrel is the look. He bustles like a navvy about the forecourt and painstakingly essays to crane into shot but he is almost invariably edited out every time and his interior existence remains unknown to us the viewing audience.

Because the premise of Storage Wars is simply that in the state of California unpaid lockers are auctioned off, it seems that anybody can turn up at one of those auctions and potentially appear on TV. It is not a "closed set". Obviously this differentiates Storage Wars from Big Brother or American Idol. And lo this season the regulars have been shown, more and more frequently, grumbling about the people who have been coming to the auctions and grandstanding and pratfalling to be on TV, bidding high rubles for rubbish just so they can be seen on TV bidding against Dave or Barry.

Worse case of this was yesterday's episode with this vile, slimy, morally broken-down interloper called "Mark Balelo" who turned up at the Hollywood auction and proceeded to bid astronomic, inordinate amounts for every locker. He pushed the prices up unnecessarily for the lowest specks of dross. (Would he care, I wonder, to bid on a pile of issues of Punisher 2099 comics I have?) He swaggered and pouted and planted himself on the spot squarely, impertinently, arms folded, feet apart and then duly and right brazenly played pocket billiards in front of the womenfolk, with his wad of cash between his teeth (and his cellphone, of course, tucked under his chin). He sucked the pleasure (not to mention the carbon dioxide) out of the whole enterprise. He added nothing more to the show either - he has the personality and the face of a squashed rat-turd. But what he has, it seems in droves, is cash - which abundance he loves to advertise.

I googled this guy, because I grimly observed that he's going to be on next week's episode as well, and I thought "I hope this swaggering schnook isn't going to inveigle himself on to the show as a regular."

He certainly seems to think he is the new "character". An online site (not attached to the show's official site) already trumpets that "Mark Balelo owns and operates a successful wholesale and liquidation company in Simi Valley California. He has two beautiful children, Ashley and Brandon which [sic] are the loves of his life. Currently appearing on the popular reality show Storage Wars, Mark can usually be found at an auction bidding on merchandise and treasures unknown. His charisma and fun personality make him an instant favorite in everyone's heart. Part of Mark's corporate responsibility awareness led him to offer his company as well as personal support to one of his passions, helping children affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder." It is to be noted that this is not the TV company's official site.

Is this "charismatic" and "fun" nouveau rich Tea Party fridge magnet going to bid against all the regular characters every week, pushing everything up and outside the bounds of reason so that nobody even bothers attending the auctions anymore, and the show ends in fizzling piffling disrepute and acrimony? And if they try and bar him from attending the auctions, will he launch a "civil suit" against the television company and Dan Dotson the auctioneer, and take it "all the way to the Supreme Court"?

Where will it all end - the Hague?!

As an amusing addendum, I also found out, while again effortlessly mindlessly googling, that this self-same A-1 pilchard was involved in the recovery of a priceless copy of Action Comics #1 belonging to another poltroon of California extraction, the esteemed actor and adventurer Nicholas Cage, D.D.,F.R.S. One LAPD detective involved in the recovery remarked:"It's just too bad that Balelo with his big mouth thought it was necessary to contact the media."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"O Tempura!" Or, "Hell Hath No Fury."

Gordon Ramsay was on Kitchen Nightmares, this week set at a Japanese restaurant in Southern California. The show seems to be more concerned with family counselling than cooking at this point. Gordon did his usual scathing critique of the kitchen fridges and then moved on - to matters of the boudoir.

This was a family business. Akira, the Japanese father of the family, was now a joyless, remote loner hounded and humiliated by his cold, shrewish wife-and-business-partner. There was no longer any "chemistry" betwixt the twain. This conjugal coupling was a terrible admixture of Eastern reserve and Western audacity. Still, they had a pair of great kids, who were suffering. Akira was accustomed to skulking out into the night to (he said) "do Tai Chi down by the lake".

The wife and mother was severe and doomed with long grey hair and she whispered to Gordon, "You wouldn't take Akira's side if you knew how he was when he goes out after these young painted hussies."
She was plainly quite sick of this modest, reserved man and his shy philandering among the whores of downtown LA.
She seethed at Gordon, "He isn't doing TAI CHI down by the LAKE you silly, green man! He is out pissing away our business on teenage tail you oblivious, naive patsy!"

Gordon, though scolded, is never cowed. He whispered back, "You can castrate your husband, love, and you have, but you shan't catch me!"

One evening Gordon put on his deerstalker cap and night-vision goggles and, come the witching hour, stealthily followed Akira out into the spangled neon night. He brought along a camera crew with him for this rather remarkable scene. He trailed Akira into a seedy part of LA and a strip-mall whorehouse, where Gordon confronted the errant paterfamilias in one of the alloted motel rooms.
Next ensued, confessedly somewhat strangely to the "viewing audience at home," Gordon's scathing critique of the prostitutes on offer.

"What's wrong with you Akira!!" he howled. "You're throwing away the family restaurant on a scrawny skank like this? Big boy, she looks like one of your broccoli tempura!!"
Gordon (still in deerstalker cap and goggles) next had the madam of the brothel line up all her "girls" in order of height and then he launched into a shocking, harrowing review of the girls on offer. "I don't know if I'd fuck any of you, even with Akira's dick!! Quite frankly I happen to prefer my children's blonde nanny!!" He turned to Akira again and said, "Akira, if you're going to throw away your marriage and your restaurant on floozies, and you are, at least make it worth your while!!" Then he nodded at one of the girls and said, "I'll have her. Come on Akira, let me show you how it is done."

I think that Gordon is losing sight of the original purpose of his show.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"Ain't Been Served; Ain't Getting Served."

New York City. 1:30 PM.
Are You Being Served is on Channel 21.
Do you know where your children are?

Watching five minutes of Are You Being Served -- which is, after all, as much as any thinking person can sustain without imploding -- and squinting into the grey-and-brown-and-snot-green screen, I thought: "And who of this nut-brown, motley bestiary is yet counted among the living and the sensate?" These people were old, broke-down, crooked and crabbed in the late Seventies. It is too much to hope that Captain Peacock is still among the living. Ditto Mrs. Slocombe.

The great shock of course, when one views an old episode of Are You Being Served, is how young Wendy Richard ("Wendy Richards") was in it. And yet when she appeared on our screens next, in Eastenders, she was a hoar-headed half-upright revenant. I believe she is now indeed a tenant of the grave. What happened in that mysterious interim? How badly and rawly and close to the flame did she live, that the gods threw her down so low and abused her spirit-self and bade her grub in the filth for dirt and blood and garbage as her daily bread? She was a frisky pixie one minute; the next she was the she-hag of the moors.

Was WENDY stranded on an island like Odysseus, and forced to "couple" with mythological mermen? Was she obliged to do battle with Cyclopses, and Scylla and Charybdis, to scratch and claw her way back to Borehamwood and Albert Square? Did she feast meanly and jealously on human flesh? Did she slake her devalued and voided soul with sweetmeats from the grave for sustenance in her uncalendered years of dark days?

Contrast the fate of the late Ms. "Richards" with that of JOHN INMAN. He's still alive (if being John Inman can ever really be called "living"), [I just checked and actually he's dead - he died four years ago -- but my point remains I think] {perhaps it doesn't} and well and living in Florida [he isn't] {he's dead} .

[I am going to continue to pretend I don't know that John Inman is in fact dead so that I can make my regrettably somewhat compromised point.]

John Inman is Dorian Gray, while Wendy Richards was his portrait; for every crude, coarse, vulgar, Gott-verboten thing that VICIOUS JOHN did (and they have been called legion, for they are many), it was thrice-damned WENDY who saw another lock of hair turn'd hoar overnight, whose back hunched some more, who grew a horn in the centre of her forehead and felt in her craw a snaggletooth inch another inch.

(M.K. P____ I think it was who once declared an undying and vigilant and pathetic love and admiration for Wendy Richard in Are You Being Served. I think he used to extract weird joy from confessing such things to shock his crowd of young and callow friends. Now LA RICHARD is dead and M.K.P. is in love with an aged corpse. Michael, very well is it said: that death shall catch us all, even our one-time true-loves!)


Admittedly John Inman being dead, and Wendy Richard in fact outliving him by two whole years before she too submitted to vile death, reduces somewhat the puissance of my original point (to wit: that John Inman outlived all his cohorts on Are You Being Served and was alive and well in Florida), but the point can be made to a lesser degree with reference to Barbara Windsor.

Barbara Windsor is older than Methuselah, and she is certainly older than the late Wendy Richard, but BABS is still alive and well (perhaps she even lives in Florida--). Could it be that WENDY "took on" the many sins of BABS and it was those abundant manifold sick vile excesses that cruelly "done in" MS. RICHARDS?

This is of course a matter of purest speculation.

(Pause as the author checks to see if Barbara Windsor is still alive or if she died in 2002.)


As the English firmament spins further away from me and as of course our own childhoods become more strange to, and remote from, us, I find myself having to frown and try to clarify neglected memories. Jamie Oliver on TV said that his chicken and potatos and tomatos dish was "fandabidozi" and as a consequence I found myself in the peculiar position of explaining who the Krankies were to my American wife. Found myself doubting the data as I relayed it: "She was... a Scottish midget... who dressed up as a schoolboy and... pretended to be her husband's son? She was his wife, but... [hesitating; faltering...] ...but she pretended to be his son."

(Sheepish afterword. Following further rudimentary research, I have discovered that Captain Peacock is still among the living. "Which is," to quote Emerson, "what old people called - the gods visible again." That great, grand, old man! That cheat of base, grasping Charon!!!

And ---

What a mess I made of this point I had to make.)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Obama Vs. Osama: Trump Trumped

Shall I be that pioneer, with the first of the Obama/Osama conspiracy theories? B'lieve I shall.

Where were you when Osama's death was announced?, asks the boring man who seems to permanently dawdle around the water-cooler, always looking for a "water-cooler moment".

"I was watching Celebrity Apprentice," I answer icily. "Now let me get a cup of water."

Last night Celebrity Apprentice had droned on inconsequentially and without any clear narrative, as it usually does, for the better part of its two-hour duration. It was reaching its "climax" - the boardroom sequence in which the losing team has to fight and bellow among themselves for their "very survival". That game slapper NeNe Leakes had spent the whole episode bawling and growling incoherently at Star Jones. Donald Trump was sitting across the table from them, squinting contentedly like mad Pontius Pilate, as the black folks squabbled for his pleasure.

("Is Donald Trump a racist?" - David Letterman.)

It was all going Trump's way, then, until suddenly the broadcast was interrupted with the announcement that President Obama was about to make an "emergency statement".

"This cannot be an accident," I remarked to my wife. "Trump rides Obama about his birth certificate all week and Obama just happens to make an emergency announcement while The Celebrity Apprentice is on?"

Could it be, I merely ASK, that President Obama has had the opportunity to kill Osama Bin Laden at any time he wanted, and that he only struck yesterday - he only gave the kill-order yesterday - expressly so that he could make the announcement during Donald Trump's weekly two-hour slot on Sunday night?

Could it be, I say, that the death of Osama Bin Laden was merely a stroke of one-upmanship in that bigger battle betwixt Obama and Trump?

Mull on that a while, Mullah Omar. Here's an anecdote. When the news was broken, my wife had retreated to the shower, so when I shouted through the apartment, "Osama is dead!" she - in the shower - thought I was saying "Obama is dead!" For a moment, for her, it was a very different reality from the rest of us.
Actually, when I think about it, it is habitually a "very different reality" for my wife from "the rest of us".

[TYPE AND MOTIF INDEX OF HUMOR J1772: "One object thought to be another." Or K2150: "Innocent made to appear guilty." Subset: "School of jokes based around the amusing confusion between the similarity of the names, Obama and Osama."]


-----Well, Osama is dead and that is that. He shan't be back any time soon. "Ding dong." We shall not see his like again, &c. I am only slightly anxious because I have been putting the blame on him for everything that has gone wrong in my personal life for the last ten years and suddenly I've lost that stand-by - that "wingman" if you like. Who to blame, now my scapegoat is gone?

-----Incidentally, in the name of fairness, I should note that Jenks Whittenberg was the first one with the news of Osama's death. He had claimed that Bin Laden was dead way back in October 2001. Certainly Jenks was slightly premature, but you have to admire his uncanny prescience withal.

-----I was a bit disappointed that Obama didn't pull Osama's decapitated head out from behind his lectern - or even (as my wife suggested) film the announcement while squatting athwart the corpse of Osama.


"Osama Bin Laden is dead," Obama announced gravely on the television.
"That's all well and good," I responded, "but more importantly: who was fired on The Celebrity Apprentice?"