Black Belt Patriotism

September 11th, 2008 at 5:41 pm

Chuck Norris is set to release Black Belt Patriotism.  The book is, apparently, the Chuck Norris plan for getting the nation back on track.


At first I was skeptical that there would be a market for such a book, what with the flood of similar books on the market – written by any number of folks who might be better suited to present such lofty ideas.  Upon further reflection, I realized that Chuck Norris is as well experienced as our current president to speak on such matters.  He as acted like he is tough on crime, he has pretended to win wars and has simulated going after terrorists.  With consideration, I think this book will equal anything ghost written under George W. Bush’s name.



I will have to, at least, thumb through this roadmap of reform – if only to be sure there are chapters titled:


Judo Chop National Debt


Side Kick Pork Barrel Spending


Throw a Roundhouse Punch at the Welfare System


Give the National Budget a Total Body Work Out



For me, the rest of the book can be crap.  There had better some good leads, that is all I am hoping for…

The Gonzo Tapes: Hunter S. Thompson Stuff, More

September 4th, 2008 at 6:51 am

However much I pride and shame myself for fixating on HST, news of The Gonzo Tapes came to me via Selena, who must be consuming far more pure mescaline than I.

In the Hunter S. Thompson estate’s never ending quest to rival Peanuts, The Simpsons, and Hillary Duff in product commercialization, there will now be The Gonzo Tapes, digital re-masters of Thompson’s personal recordings. They braved the scorpions and gunpowder in HST’s basement and emerged with what will surely prove to be rare and special commentary from one of America’s finest writers and journalists. We can’t listen to Walt Whitman sculpting Leaves of Grass. We can’t listen to F. Scott Fitzgerald musing on his day-to-day consumption. But we’ve got the Good Doc.

The package will be ready for  slaughter, I mean market, with artwork by Ralph Steadman, an introduction, and notes.

The Gonzo Tapes are scheduled to be available in stores October 28.

The Hunter S. Thompson bobble head will go on sale November 16.

The lunch boxes and backpacks will be released December 1.

The Hunter S. Thompson-endorsed aviator sunglasses and cigarette holders will be available sometime in mid December.

An anniversary Las Vegas visor is set to be released sometime in the Spring.

If you know the right people, the Hunter S. Thompson-approved ether has always been available.

Eventually, Sotheby’s will auction off his guns.

Author Orson Scott Card is a Way Bigger Dumbass Than You’d Expect

August 12th, 2008 at 6:18 pm

Michael Swaim, writing at, has a magnificent rant on the homophobia of Orson Scott Card.

Do enjoy, but some highlights:

“The Mormon guy who wrote all those books about the innocence of a child winning out over war and hatred wants us to raise arms against any queers who feel like expressing their love legally. I mean, I understand a devout Mormon having some issues with gayness, but when your brain tells you that it’s an important enough issue to divide the country in a bloody coup, it’s time to get a new brain.”

“What the hell does it matter to you if two hot lesbians want to settle down and be respectable (which isn’t the way I like my hot lesbians either, believe me)? Until such a time as they bring down your property values with raging lesbian drug orgies, you’ve got nothing legitimate to complain about, and even then, I’ll trade houses with you.”

“You’ve spent your life imagining diverse races and cultures, and doing a hell of a good job. Yet your inability to imagine true love manifesting between two members of the same sex almost classifies you as retarded in my mind. It’s not even a moral issue. You’re just an idiot to me.”

“I know it’s pointless to ask you to change your mind; bigots armed with the intransigence of religion are rarely swayed. But hopefully some of those reading this post will be forewarned that Orson Scott Card has become a poison-spouting lunatic.”


July 28th, 2008 at 6:00 pm

“I never wash my hands after taking a leak. That’s the cleanest part of me.” – H.L. Mencken.

The Skeptic by Terry Teachout

H.L. Mencken was Hunter S. Thompson before Hunter S. Thompson was Hunter S. Thompson.

In fact, I decided to look into this H.L. character upon coming across a passing comment referring to him in Gonzo. HST was a fan. Well, perhaps not a fan, but certainly aware of him, aware of Mencken’s contribution to American letters and therefore an influence and forefather of Thompson’s own potent prose and inimitable personality.

H. L. Mencken paved the road that Hunter S. Thompson came screaming down with his peyote-fueled typewriter of rage and style.

These two men, forefathers of modern journalism, have a lot in common and their similarities illuminate the world they were a part of and criticized so effectively. They were both journalists, columnists, and editors, fierce critics of culture and politics.

As Teachout shares in The Skeptic, “Mencken responded to Prohibition by selling his car and using the proceeds to purchase a large stock of “the best wines and liquors I could find,” stored in a homemade basement vault whose door bore a custom-painted sign emblazoned with a skull and crossbones: “This vault is protected by a device releasing Chlorine Gas under 200 pounds pressure. Enter it at your own Risk.” HST would have been proud.

H.L. Mencken gained widespread popularity and exposure with the infamous Scopes trial and HST gained notoriety while covering the ’72 Presidential Campaign. Both men’s success was intimately tied with magazines.

“I note what you say about your aspiration to edit a magazine,” Mencken wrote to William Saroyan in 1936. “I am sending you by this mail a six-chambered revolver. Load it and fire every one into your head. You will thank me after you get to Hell and learn from other editors how dreadful their job was on earth.”

And as all great men seem to be, both H.L. Mencken and Hunter S. Thompson were flawed. Mencken was an anti-Semite and Thompson a homophobe.

However useful an introduction to H.L. Mencken Teachout’s biography was, I did find it significantly lacking in two particular arenas.

First of all, it failed to share an adequate amount of Mencken’s own prose. Once the myth and drug-fascination with Hunter S. Thompson has waned, his legacy will be his words. And no matter how intriguing of a character Mencken was in his own right, his heritage seems to be the same. So I wanted more of Mencken’s writing.

Second, Mencken was an important American writer who had a significant influence on modern journalism and I wish Teachout had provided more of an analysis and study of Mencken’s lasting presence in our contemporary era. The closest Teachout got was a mere parenthetical aside: “Had they [conservatives] known of the extent to which his [Mencken] work in the twenties helped lay the intellectual groundwork for the America-hating adversary culture of the sixties, they might have repudiated him altogether.” But this second objection is probably more a manifestation of my own bias and interest in the similarities between Mencken and Thompson.

Though each man harbored intense and undeniable prejudices of the first order, they pursued sham and hypocrisy in all arenas of public life with unflagging diligence. But Mencken, faithfully secular, touched on religion too, which I haven’t come across much by HST on the topic. Did he weigh in on religion ever?

At the end of The Skeptic, Teachout sees in Mencken “a skepticism so extreme as to issue in philosophical incoherence.” But Teachout ultimately concludes that Mencken’s relevance and success is not a function of his particular convictions but rather of “the firmly balanced prose rhythms and vigorous diction in which they are couched. It is, in short, a triumph of style.”

The same can be said of HST. Despite HST’s failure to write that great novel, or to extend his initial success any further than the 70s, he lined up words in an order like no one else did. And for that, The Skeptic must be considered a success in that it makes me want to stop reading criticism and biographies of Mencken and instead turn to his books much in the same way that I was wearied by Alex Ross’s The Rest is Noise and instead wanted to listen to the music.

As always, it’s best to shut up and listen.

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson

July 16th, 2008 at 11:30 am

So I’ve seen it: the latest documentary about author Hunter S. Thompson.


Gonzo The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson

Directed by Alex Gibney (Best-Documentary-Oscar-Winning Taxi to the Dark Side and Enron-Smartest Guys in the Room), the HST documentary is called Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson.

Not to be confused with the oral biography, Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson.

Let’s throw the usual fish in a barrel and shoot them: The book is better. It is far more exhaustive and illuminating, contains a larger cast of characters, and provides a more thorough, telling account of this singular man’s life.

Successful in its own right, Gibney’s documentary focuses on HST’s most significant and productive period of the 60s and 70s with plenty of time spent on his Nixon/Vietnam criticism paralleling the current Bush/Iraq fiasco.

Take plenty of Mescaline before viewing the documentary so as to thwart the nauseous effects provoked by the occasional re-enacted dramatizations. Otherwise, the documentary is thoroughly entertaining and provides a colorful glimpse into this beast’s life with unseen/heard home video and audio tapes. Especially enlightening was the footage of Thompson’s memorial service, in which his remains were fired out of a hundred foot tower capped by a double-thumbed fist clutching a peyote button, and his second wife Anita’s self-shot home video was a bizarre rabbit hole into the final day’s of Thompson’s life.

The end of the documentary strikes a somber note with some of those who knew him best wishing HST was still alive. He was a brutal, talented man, someone deeply needed in these queer times of ours.  His writing following September 11th and up to the Iraq War and his suicide is juxtaposed with recent images that reveal how eerily prescient the Good Doc has been. And always was. And could have still been.

How bad we could use him now.

Unseen Kafka Documents Metamorphose into Literary Limelight

July 10th, 2008 at 2:26 pm

So Franz Kafka. We all read The Metamorphosis in high school.

He also wrote The Trial, Amerika, and The Castle.

I’m reading The Castle right now so this caught my eye: the secretary of Kafka’s friend and literary executor, Max Brod, recently died and now experts will be able to examine documents of Kafka’s that the secretary had refused to share with the world.

These papers of Kafka had just been gathering dust as this secretary had “doggedly refused” to share them.

Why did she refuse to share them? And why doggedly? The literary community is on the seat of its chinos. There must be something juicy in them thare parchments!

But wait.

“The authorities have warned that the damp in [the secretary's] flat and the hoards of dogs and cats she kept may have damaged or even destroyed the papers.”



Good luck to whatever graduate student or museum intern charged with this task.

No thanks.

I have been enjoying The Castle very much, thank you, despite the fact that Kafka died with the manuscript ending mid-sentence and Max Brod finishing it. These damp, moldy, urine and shit-soaked documents may provide insight into Kafka’s literary intent, but who’s to say?

The grad student in the haz mat suit with tongs. That’s who.

I told you reading is sexy. When the pages aren’t saturated with cat scat.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

May 20th, 2008 at 7:26 am

Just as I put down a recent New Yorker containing a typically Sedarisian (funny, entertaining, whimsical) essay about smoking, I come to learn that his new collection of essays, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, culminates in an essay about him quitting smoking.

Writers come from a long lineage of destructive behavior, cigarette smoking being the most necessary of props for a tormented life of professional scribbling. So why should Sedaris give up now? It seems to be a bit of a literary betrayal.

John SteinbeckHunter S. ThompsonDavid Sedaris

Was it in the movie The Freshman that a professor forced his creative writing students to smoke as they wrote? Because that’s how writers do it, right?

But beyond David’s title waffling and contradictory quitting, what is most peculiar is that the cover of When You Are Engulfed in Flames appears to be a skeleton smoking a joint:

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Has David Sedaris forgone nicotine and tobacco in favor of the harder stuff?

With smoking being such an integral fixture of a writer’s image, shouldn’t he just have upgraded to a Gamucci?

With cigarette smoking clearly on its way of alchemy, who are some of the most legendary smoking writers? Who looks the coolest?

Author Thomas Friedman Gets Pied

April 24th, 2008 at 6:28 pm

Author of The World is Flat and a New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman was recently viciously attacked by two brutal assailants armed with creamy green pies who disagree with Friedman.

Friedman is only the most recent in a storied history of pie targets. It’s an honorable thing, to a throw a pie at someone you disagree with.

I don’t know if I should shrug, cock my head, smirk, or squint. It’s a silly world. It, the world, would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.


Roald Dahl’s Hot Granddaughter Authors Book

April 22nd, 2008 at 8:37 pm


Sophie Dahl, granddaughter of Roald Dahl, has written a novel called Playing With the Grown-ups.

Sophie used to be a model, is an editor at Men’s Vogue, and is now a novelist.

Plus she’s smoking hot. So watch out Marisha Pessl and Zadie Smith.

Speaking of which, of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, Sophie says, “First novels are not meant to be that good.”

They’re not? Well maybe you should have set your standards just a little bit higher, Ms. Dahl. Zadie sure did, going so far as refusing to award a literary prize for lack of worthy material.


According to its publisher, “Playing with the Grown-ups is an enchanting novel about growing up in a loving, utterly chaotic household; it is also hilarious, heartbreaking, and scandalous. The offbeat and often comic adventures of the free-spirited heroines—Marina and Kitty alike—will remind readers of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. With her magnificent talent for storytelling and creating unconventional characters, Sophie Dahl ably carries on the literary legacy of her grandfather, the beloved children’s book author, Roald Dahl.”

They don’t seem to mention anything about how hot Sophie is. Which is probably why no one reads books and instead sees movies, watches cable news, worships pop stars, and obsesses about celebrities. Give us what we want!

I’m sure her words are pretty too. But they could at least hook us with her looks. Put her on the cover maybe? Everything else is sold that way. Or are we happy with a failing, archaic industry?

I know, I know, I know…literature is the last bastion of dignity and artistic merit with fibbing authors and classy tell-alls.

But isn’t familial heritage just as irrelevant as physical appearance? So out with the grandfather and in with the long, bare legs.

The Lying Planet

April 15th, 2008 at 6:45 pm

An author for Lonely Planet travel guides recently admitted to not having even traveled to the country he was writing about.


In the guilty party, Thomas Kohnstamm’s upcoming book, Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?: A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics and Professional Hedonism, he also admits to selling drugs, accepting perks, and enjoying casual sex in the establishments he was assigned to write about.
But don’t worry. Kohnstamm was only writing the history section for the title in question. So no harm done. Not because being physically present in a particular country is a requirement to be an expert of its history, but no one reads those parts anyway.

Kohnstamm comes, of course, from a long lineage of lying writers. There was of course James Frey, who was publicly disemboweled on Oprah after he admitted to embellishing portions of his bestselling “memoir,” A Million Little Pieces.

More recently, Margaret Seltzer confessed to making up “Love and Consequences,” her memoir about a supposed life as a foster child in gang-infested South-Central Los Angeles. And then there was Misha Defonseca, who admitted to not have been raised by wolves in the forests of Europe during the Holocaust as she claimed in her memoir.

What I don’t get about this most recent brouhaha involving Lonely Planet is that Kohnstamm claims to not have traveled to Colombia to write about said country because Lonely Planet did not pay him enough. He instead opted to do the dirty work in San Francisco.

San Francisco!!!

That’s your budget-conscious city of choice? San Francisco?

No. Something is not write here.