It’s Gettin’ Real In the Whole Foods Parking Lot

July 9, 2012


As a longtime shopper at natural food stores and a veteran of Whole Foods Parking Lots in Oakland, San Francisco, Carmichael, Los Angeles, and Austin, Texas among other places, I was tickled all to hell when my roommate K. shared with this dope jam from DJ Spider. It’s one of my favorite comedic videos of all time, ranking right up there with the Saturday Night Live classic “Comedy Can Be Hazardous to Your Health.”

How can you not love lyrics like this?

This fool’s on his iphone, talking to his friends
Trying to pick up some cayenne pepper for his master cleanse
You the most annoying dude I ever see, bra
Could you please move? You’re right in front of the quinoa…


Now that’s comedy. Word up, bra.


Whole Foods Parking Lot


After the Arab Spring: How Islamists Hijacked the Middle East Revolts

July 8, 2012



Some guy named Kyle commented favorably on my Good Reads review of John R. Bradley’s After the Arab Spring: How Islamists Hijacked the Middle East Revolts, which inspired a response from me, but perhaps more importantly also reminded me how interesting and important a book this is.

I love the hell out of John R. Bradley’s books; I think he’s the best English language writer on the Middle East currently working. The guy is also terrifyingly young, by the way — according to the Wikipedia page about him, he was born in June, 1970.

Anyway, it turns out the commenter, Kyle, aka Kyle Williams, has a bio that says he’s a Harvard-educated counterterrorism analyst, and has his own book about terrorism, available free online, and a blog by the same name that on first glance seems pretty balanced and engaging.

That also reminds me that I haven’t been keeping up with my favorite international affairs blog, The Coming Anarchy, which was inspired by Robert Kaplan‘s book of the same name (about the post-Soviet collapse). The bad news is, apparently the folks at The Coming Anarchy haven’t been keeping up with themselves; their most recent update is from last October.

I’ve never been entirely clear on whether the TCA blog is Robert Kaplan fan service for international relations nerds, or simply a thematic riff on a Kaplan-esque theme; as far as I can tell, there’s no affiliation between Kaplan and The Coming Anarchy Blog. The latter tends to run a little more conservative than my own politics are, but then, I tend to run more conservative when it comes to international affairs than I am in most other matters, so I’d frankly rather enjoy a bout of conversational fisticuffs with some well-informed Tories than a Kumbaya fest with some of my fellow peace-and-love hippies who want to talk about how great Iran and Cuba are.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s my return comment to Kyle on interesting books about other regions that hint at what John R. Bradley does with the Middle East and North Africa. It’s worth saying, though, that as Bradley is probably, currently, my favorite English-language writer on the politics and culture of any international region, no other author comes close to him on such topics. I don’t find anybody as irresistibly readable as Bradley.

Your Nightmares Will Now Be Televised

July 8, 2012




The unbelievably dumb-ass Geico commercial above has been annoying the living holy hell out of my girlfriend Bridgitte and me.

In it, an interviewed couple says “Home security systems are expensive, so we decided to adopt a rescue panther.”

That’s about as hilarious as the ad gets, so don’t bother waiting for the punch line; please just pause now to slap the shit out of your knee till you shatter your kneecap. I mean, is that comedy or what?


Y’see, right out of the gate we’ve got one of the stupidest ads in the history of advertising, even before we get to the “punch line.” It’s is not funny, nor does it make any sense. There is no joke there that we’re missing. It’s just one of those Chewbacca Defense moments; it…does…not…make…sense. Who the hell signs off on this shit?

Anyway, the truly annoying part is that the reason you shouldn’t wait for the “punch line” is because nobody seems to know what it is. The punchline comes when the couple is shown in bed in the middle of the night being watched over by the clearly dangerous panther — and the husband says…something.

Just what he says is the subject of some speculation on the interwebs, by people who apparently have just as much time on their hands as I do. Nobody seems to be able to figure it out, but it appears to involve a phantom “Shhhhhhh!” that potentially comes from lips unknown. It could be the wife. Or could it?

First and foremost, I consider it outrageous that in making this commercial, they inconvenienced a perfectly good panther who, I hope, promptly devoured its agent. But how the hell could they produce this thing and not realize how unbelievably obscure the “humor” is? Not in the manner of Terry Jones’s dada-est compositions like “I Like Traffic Lights” or “Here Comes Another One.” Just in that special way that says “The audience (remember them?) can’t even tell what’s supposed to be funny.”

Now, I’m as enthusiastic about another viewing of the Zapruder Film as the next guy, and believe me, I love NOTHING more than watching lame suburban couples get eaten by big cats. But in the case of this stupid commercial, I admit there’s no there there. There isn’t even a lesson to be had in how to (not) write comedic advertising spots. But sometimes I just get FREAKIN’ PISSED OFF at how stupid advertising is. I’m a pit bull for stupidity, which maybe sounds like something Harlan Ellison would have proudly proclaimed circa 1985 when boasting of yet another lawsuit…but if the Cruel Shoe fits, wear it.

Yes, it’s a little weird watching a goddamn Geico commercial over and over again on You Tube just to freakin’ figure out what the hell the joke is supposed to be when I’m damned sure it’s not going to be funny, but at least other people are similarly annoyed by it.

But if it’s adding self-inflicted injury to insult for something that’s such a waste of space to begin with to drive me to distraction, well, it gets worse, for me at least. It’s been annoying both of us because it’s on heavy rotation on — wait for it — Project Runway. This would be bad enough, if it didn’t follow on a short-lived orgy inspired by my much-beloved Oakland roomate K., who tempted me into the wicked embrace of American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, and yes, even The Tonys.



And in case you’re wondering, yes, the sound of breaking glass you just heard was the infinitesimal remnant of whatever goth cred I had left, making short work of my apartment window. Hell’s bells, the television I put up with for the women in my life. Sons of Anarchy, where are you now? I promise, I won’t even complain this time when you assholes fly to ireland.

Happy Pride, Everyone

June 24, 2012

Pride Sunday



Happy Pride everyone, in San Francisco and points beyond. No, I’m not there (at SF Pride), I’m afraid. I’m at Temple Fine Coffee and Tea, seeking caffeine and kibble. As in, consuming the former and tryna bring home the latter. But rest assured, even from 85 miles away I’ll spend the next 6 days tryina get that unh-chah-unh-chah-unh-chah-unh-chah rhythm outta my head. Somebody play some Tchaikovsky for me?

Erotic Noir “Hell on Wheels” Available for Kindle

June 22, 2012

Hell on Wheels by Thomas S. RocheMy erotic noir story “Hell on Wheels,” which was produced last year by the BBC, will be available for the Kindle within the next 24 hours or so for a “bargain price.” Just thought you might like to know.

White Hunters: The Golden Age of African Safaris

June 14, 2012

Brian Herne’s White Hunters purports to be a history of “white hunters” in Africa — the term “white hunter” meaning a professional hunter, not just a Caucasian one. Sadly, it’s basically a collection of name-droppy anecdotes, with no intelligent synthesis whatsoever.

The book might be a reasonable road map to further studies on the subject, being a catalog of western hunters who worked in Africa. But this isn’t history. This is a series of book reports. It consists entirely of anecdotes culled from the memoirs of hunters, travelers and tourists, and brings nothing new to the table. There is no true synthesis whatsoever. The author occasionally tosses in an “As was typical in the African millieu of the time…” or “At the time, it was uncommon for…” but there is virtually no commentary or evaluation. It’s like he sat down with a bunch of memoirs and typed out the weirdest bits. In fact, it comes across like he didn’t retype, but clipped this stuff from Gutenberg and then paraphrased it. That seems likely, because of how intolerably long some of the anecdotes go on, long after it’s become clear they’re nothing more than anecdotes.

This approach is no more effective here than it was in Victor Ostrovsky’s By Way of Deception, which I detested even more. Herne has done a much better job than Ostrovsky of relying on first-hand, supported accounts, and in qualifying them where they might be less than factual. But then, the events related in Herne’s book are less critical in the details, since they’re presented as “rousing good tales.” I found them both rousing and good in quantities of one or two…as an entire book, they’re neither.

It’s a shame, too, because the topic of white hunters in Africa could be given a very interesting approach that incorporated synthesis of the times. Unfortunately, “the times” would have to be defined, which Herne doesn’t bother to do. The book’s marketing implies we’re talking about Victorian and Edwardian hunters, but then Herne careens all over the 20th century, even into the modern era. Huh? If he was going to do that, he should have written AN ACTUAL HISTORY of white hunting in Africa, instead of a series of anecdotes. Otherwise, he should have stuck with one general era or a couple of them, and drawn parallels that help define the times. Instead, he just blathered on indefinitely, unable to pick out the unifying threads in what he’d written (or perhaps had his research assistants read for him).

In the social sciences, I am fond of saying, the plural of anecdote is not data. And the plural of anecdote is also not “history.” In this case, the plural of anecdote is “mind-bending boredom.” Sorry.

Best Bondage Erotica 2013

June 12, 2012

best bondage erotica 2013

I just found out my story “What Vacations Are For” will be in Rachel Kramer Bussel‘s anthology Best Bondage Erotica 2013, with a foreword by Graydancer.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled, even if I will be appearing alongside the nefarious likes of my far less talented competitor, N.T. Morley. The rest of the company, I’m sure, will more than make up for it.

Some say bondage is the ultimate intimacy. Once you have allowed yourself to fully explore your fantasies of giving in and surrendering to pleasure, you may find you need a firm but gentle hand to guide you. Let Best Bondage Erotica 2013 be your guidebook of everything BDSM. Editrix Rachel Kramer Bussel and her writers put it all out on the page in stories using everything from silk ties rope to shiny cuffs, blindfolds, wires and everything you can imagine and MORE. Best Bondage Erotica 2013 offers erotic insight for newbies and experienced players alike. These stories of forbidden desires and sexual fantasies, penned by the “masters and mistresses” of the genre, will shock, scintillate, and mesmerize.


Release date is December 11, 2012.

“Once” Wins the Tony for Best Musical

June 11, 2012



The great indie film “Once,” starring Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard and his collaborator Czech singer-songwriter Marketa Irglova, was apparently turned into a Broadway musical. I missed the whole thing. Fall asleep for one damn minute in this world and by the time you wake up, there’s some new Facetweet Tumblepress shit munching up the airwaves, Live Journal is owned by the Russians, Friendster is huge in the Philippines and your phone cashes checks.

Anyway, “Once” won the Best Musical Tony this year. Above, the cast performs at the awards ceremony. Keep an eye out for some major cello-fu; seriously, I didn’t even know you could pull shit like that with a cello strapped to your pievault. Way to go, cello dude.

Hansard and Irglova are great and “Once” is well worth checking out if you like melancholy, beautiful, highly atmospheric and melodic folk-pop.

Here are Hansard and Irglova performing what is to me the most beautiful song from the film, “Falling Slowly,” live at Amoeba Records (I think it’s the one on Haight Street, but it could be Berkeley) in 2007:



once broadway poster


Flight of the Conchords: Bowie2Bowie

June 7, 2012



Jemaine Stardust

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the 40th anniversary of the release of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, witness Brett’s “frEAKy dREAm” from the Flight of the Conchords episode “Bowie’s In Space.” That’s some New Zealand comedy so good that it almost killed me when I first saw it.

Do they really like Bowie down under, man?

Where better?

In addition to Bret’s freaky dream, don’t miss the brilliant “Bowie’s in Space/Bowie2Bowie” medley from the same episode.




A few choice lyrics:

Isn’t it cold out in space, Bowie?

Do you want to borrow my jumper, Bowie?

Does the space cold make your nipples go pointy, Bowie?

Do you use your pointy nipples as telescopic antennae to transmit data back to Earth?

Bet you do, you freaky old bastard you

Hey Bowie, do you have one really funky sequined space suit?

Or do you have several ch-changes?

Do you smoke grass out in space, Bowie?

Or do they smoke Astroturf?




Forty Years On, Man: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars

June 7, 2012

My good friend and fellow tawdry-taste glam-spammer Alex S. Johnson alerted me (as did several other sources) that yesterday, June 6, was the 40th anniversary of the release of David Bowie’s classic The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

This was one of my favorite albums when I was in the second half of high school and made a huge mark on my psychological (some would say “psychiatric”) development. Tell me straight, man, does that maybe explain some of those freaky danced-up spikers, man, like the quick fly rule jewels, the sky high rude games, and the heart stain spy game commanders on the wrapper taste folly flies of the monkey train?

Ever since those days, I’ve always subscribed to Bowie’s philosophy that if you can’t think of a phrase, let the streets make it up for you…or better yet, you make it up for them. In his world, it appears to have been the underground clubs of London. In mine, it’s the sewer-street sand castles and dreamy speaks of Squeesville, bubbled-up tight through a jigger of game-taming sting teasers.

Language-fu has always been one of my favorite sports, man, and Bowie did it as well as any freaked-out scribbly wibbler stale-nailed to the jeezy mudgang. I’m pretty sure the drugs really helped. In lasting tribute to Ziggy, I’m also sometimes tempted to lick my guitar.

Today, Ziggy Stardust the album remains eminently listenable, packed with happy earworms that burrow into my brain.

Happy anniversary, Zig, and don’t stay a stranger, man.