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February 28, 2005

On The Gates of Manhattan ...

Now that it's started coming down, why were so many people so pissed off at Cristo’s Gates? I’m not talking about people who just didn’t care for it – them’s the breaks in the art racket. I’m talking about all those people who said he should have done something else with the money. Fuck you; it’s his money. Municipal art projects are always controversial, and those who don’t like an exhibit always bitch about the cost. But Cristo absorbed the entire bill. It was a boost to tourism, and that in turn generated significant bucks to merchants on all four sides of Manhattan’s Central Park – including the north side, up by Spanish Harlem.

I think there’s a large group of people who can’t deal with the fact that when they look at or participate in a work of art, sometimes they just don’t get it. Fine. “Art” isn’t a generic mass communications medium. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it. That doesn’t make you stupid or the other person smart, even if that other person is a pompous ass. It’s okay not to get it. It’s like Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In: just move on to the next bit of business.

Yeah, you're right. I just wanted to compare Cristo to Rowan and Martin.

Posted by Mike Gold at 11:46 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

February 24, 2005

On Drugs …

I knew, once and for all, that we lost the war on drugs about two decades ago when I was at a restaurant in Lincolnwood, Illinois.

After a sumptuous meal, I went to the washroom to relieve myself. As my gaze inevitably wandered downward into the urinal, I noticed the red strainer was emblazoned with the legend “Just Say No To Drugs.”

Ahh. That’s where people will be most likely to reach understanding and awareness. I thought it wouldn’t work, but heck, it would be a great test. If, after a while, we saw a significant reduction in drug use by men and not women (who, after all, rarely use urinals), I would know my instincts were wrong, that “Just Say No” was a good idea, and that urinals were a good place to preach the word.

I’ve been doing communications, education, lobbying, and political work in the social services field since 1971. I was director of communications and education for Chicago’s Alternatives, Inc. drug abuse prevention program and a co-founder of the National Runaway Switchboard, where I held a similar position. And I know exactly why we lost the war on drugs – and trust me, I’ll have some good news for you at the end of all this.

It’s simple. We lost the war on drugs because “they” wouldn’t let “us” tell the truth.

The truth was, and continues to be, the A#1 reason why people use drugs – illegal and otherwise – is because it’s fun.

Heaven forbid we should admit that using drugs could be fun. “They” tell parents that drugs are forced down their susceptible but otherwise perfect little angel’s throat is because of pushers and peer-group pressure – those evil brats who want to drag your kids to the nearest coven. “They” say using drugs is a sign of depression or some other psychological problem. “They” perpetuate the myth of the pusher – as if any drug dealer would ever have to work that hard. If drugs could be sold on eBay, the bidding would melt down their servers.

“They” have been terrorizing the masses with lists of ways to tell your kids are using drugs. Is your teenager moody? Has your teen changed his or her habits and interests? Found new friends? Stay up late? Has your teenager been more secretive? Not doing as well in school as you think he or she should? Is your kid getting kind of belligerent or disrespectful? Use bad language? Damn, it sounds like The Music Man, doesn’t it?

This isn’t a list of symptoms denoting your teenager is using drugs. This is a list of symptoms denoting your teenager is a teenager. “They” are fools, and they have been for a long, long time. For more than a century, “they” have used these same arguments against adolescent sex – with equal success.

To paraphrase Thomas Newman and Cyndi Lauper, kids just want to have fun.

Instead of being honest about drugs, “they” push lies and crap. And who are “they”? Many of them are people who make an enormous amount of money pushing this line. They are the PTAs, the churches, the self-help industry, the psychological help industry, the pharmaceutical houses, the clinics that want to cure your kids, and, yes, “they” are all too many of the drug abuse programs that are forced to toe the line in order to receive continued funding. Sure, there are a lot of really good people out there trying their best. Most of them will leave in frustration and take jobs where they can actually pay the rent.

Okay. Here’s the good news.

For generations now, most kids haven’t been buying it, and, at long last, parents aren’t buying it either. There’s a big to-do right now about how today’s parents are “tolerant” of their children’s drug use. Looking past the lead paragraphs, what it boils down to is that these parents are honest with their children about their own drug use, and are more understanding of their children’s behavior.

Here are four absolute facts.

One: the overwhelming majority of people who used drugs in the 1970s and 1980s are just fine today.

Two: kids know this.

Three: kids have always been extremely sensitive to their parents’ hypocrisy.

Four: many of today’s parents know this.

You want to know how parents can curb their kids’ destructive behaviors? Be a family, and be honest. Have your meals together, talk with your kids, listen to them, respect their feelings, remember how you felt when you were that age, don’t hand your kids the pre-fabricated line, and most of all, never, ever lie to them about your experiences – or about anything else. Don’t be afraid to tell your kids why you used drugs and/or drank alcohol, and why you’ve stopped. If you haven’t stopped, tell them why you haven’t. If you don’t want them to do what you do or what you did, say so – and explain why. Tell your kids you’d like them to be better than you, to learn from your faults as well as your good points.

Just think it over in advance, and remember, be completely truthful.

Posted by Mike Gold at 09:41 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

February 21, 2005

On Patty and Rupert ...

So The Simpsons outed Patty Bouvier, one of Marge Simpson’s sisters. And, predictably, the Religious Right went batty, cowardly using “the children” to hide their bigotry as usual.

But I’ve got to give Fox credit. The Fox television networks owned by the Rupert Murdoch, the Republican party’s very own La Chiffre (a James Bond reference; if you don’t get it and don’t want to read the book, track down a tape or DVD of Peter Lorre playing the part in the 1950’s televised version of Casino Royale) are relentlessly right wing. Fox News is so far to the right they make G. Gordon Liddy sound like H. Rap Brown. But The Simpsons is almost as far to the left as Murdoch is to the right.

Rupert not only broadcasts the program, he actually endorses it by appearing on the show, a distinction he shares with the likes of Thomas Pynchon, Dustin Hoffman, and Michael Jackson. In so doing, Mr. Murdoch honors a Republican party tradition that goes back to its log cabin days. He doesn’t let his politics interfere with his ability to make a buck.

Good for you, Rupert. You’ve got The Simpsons, you’ve got The O’Reilly Factor. And that’s fair and balanced. It’s the American Way.

Posted by Mike Gold at 05:40 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

February 17, 2005

On Americana and Mirrors …

Ah, our beloved dogs. You know, the ones who play poker. You know, the classic Coolidge painting that auctioned off for over a half million dollars this week. Part of a series of 16 doggie paintings.

What you may not know – or, more likely, remember – is that if you look closely through the series paying particular attention to the poker playing prints, you’ll see that them pups are cheating.

Posted by Mike Gold at 11:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 16, 2005

On Shameless Self-Promotion (first of a likely series) …

Our web ünterfuehrer has asked me – repeatedly – to bring to your attention our month-old GRIMJACK website. It’s fantastic, it’s marvelous, it’s stupefying … actually, it’s quite good. And entertaining. And educational.

Catch the latest news’n’views at (you’ll never guess it) www.grimjack.com. Tell ‘em Groucho sent you. Then buy a DeSoto.

Posted by Mike Gold at 01:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 11, 2005

On The War On …

The War On Terror and The War On Drugs have a lot in common. Both are wars against concepts, reducing important issues to dopey clichés. You can’t have a war on a concept, you’ve got to change people’s minds. The recent elections in Iraq may have been a victory for some of the Iraqi people, but it did not affect Al Qaeda in the least; a democratically elected government won’t have any negative impact on the organization – and that’s assuming a democratically elected government free of U.S. control (and you can’t have one without the other) would be unfriendly to their interests.

So how do you “win” the War On Terror? You go to Saint Ronnie – actually, Saint Ronnie’s wife – and you use the exact same tactic we used to win the War On Drugs.

Just say no to terrorism.

Or, in the words of Dr. Timothy Leary, “just say ‘no thank you.’”

Or, as Bobcat Goldthwait said, "Oh, now you tell me."

Posted by Mike Gold at 02:39 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

On Reality TeeVee

I asked a friend who used to work on The Daily Show about the alleged interest on the part of CBS News to get Jon Stewart to do occasional commentaries on the post-Rather CBS Evening News. “It’s not going to happen,” he said. “They’re afraid it’ll undermine The Daily Show’s credibility.

“That’s already an old joke,” I replied. “Nope. It’s completely true. They don’t want to blur the line between phony news and real news.”

That’s great. In the 21st century, phony news has greater credibility.

Screw that. I’m subscribing to The Weekly World News.

Posted by Mike Gold at 01:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 07, 2005

On A Hell Of A Hoot ...

Riddle me this: What’s the difference between Lt. General James Mattis and your average, run-of-the-mill serial killer?

Answer: Mattis is paid with our tax dollars, and roams freely. Serial killers are incarcerated, paid for with our tax dollars.

In case you didn’t know, this homicidal manic said at a press conference: “Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. ... It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.”

From his comment one might infer Happy Boy here actually slaughtered Iraqis in hand-to-hand combat. And that’s true, if you define hand-to-hand combat as pressing buttons and squeezing triggers from a distance well beyond that of the whites of the combatant’s eyes.

“Well, that’s what war is about,” I’m told. Fine. Go right ahead. Turn me into a pacifist. I believe people have the right to defend themselves; unfortunately, yielding control of this right to our government is madness. There’s a difference between war and invasion. In Iraq, we are the enemy and giddy General Shoot-Em-Up is the new poster boy for terrorist recruiting.

Worse still is the response to Happy Boy’s sophomoric prattle. He has been soundly defended by his superiors and by much of the media as a hero.

“It’s fun to shoot some people.”
Yep, that’s exactly what the New York City firemen were shouting as they stormed into the World Trade Center.

The defense of this deranged murderer has been praised as a victory against “political correctness.” As a rabid First Amendment fighter, my life has been in opposition to mindless knee-jerk language restrictions – after all, I’ve written for The Realist. But this isn’t a victory against political correctness. It is an endorsement for mindless murder. We have no more right to be shooting Iraqis than Charles Whitman did to shoot students from the University of Texas Tower.

By the way. You might not be aware of General Happy Boy’s actual job. He’s in charge of developing ways to better train and equip Marines.

Posted by Mike Gold at 10:53 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack