category: Misc

A Place to Call Home

One thing I enjoy most about visiting my parents’ house is the silence at night, a silence that’s punctuated only by the sounds of crickets chirping. Crickets are weird beasts… they can be incredibly annoying, chirping away in your basement while you just search for the damn thing, but when there are dozens of them outside in the woods at night, reminding you that they’re there, they make sleeping a little bit easier.

I moved to Virginia four years ago after college and I looked for that feeling I get when I visit my parents’ house, laying in bed with the window open. I continued to look for that contented feeling two years ago when Huyen and I bought our house. But that peace eluded me… like I couldn’t find that quiet, meditative nature at night without being in the woods, back in New Jersey. But, a few weeks ago, I noticed something.

There are crickets here, too.

It was one of the first cool nights after a long summer of obnoxiously hot ones. The window was open, I was laying in bed, and Huyen was checking her e-mail. I paused for a moment, and felt the tightness in my shoulders relax a bit. My mind stopped racing, thinking about work, all the things that I owed people, all the coming weekends that were booked.

And I listened to the crickets.

They’re out there. Not in full force like at my parents’ house, but there’s still an army out there, chirping away, somewhere in the distance. And when I took notice that they had followed me to Virginia, I really felt like I was home. Like this is where I’m meant to be right now, and that that peaceful feeling is within reach, wherever I may be, physically. Maybe even when the crickets aren’t there.

It’s like when you first move out of your parents’ house and when you’re going back to visit them, you tell people, “I’m going home,” even though you don’t live there anymore. It takes a while to realize that home isn’t a place you used to live or are going to live someday… it’s where you are when you come to that realization.

When I make trips to New Jersey for movies or to visit family, I doubt I’ll slip at the lip anymore. I won’t accidentally answer, “I’m headed home” when someone asks what I’m doing this weekend. Instead, I’ll say, “I’m headed to New Jersey.”

“I’ll be back home on Sunday.”

My Dream Job

There are a few dreams I have in life… one is to live in a log cabin with a big front porch and huge kitchen, on a lake in the woods somewhere in southern New England (in other words, the perfect 1980s slasher movie setting). My other dream is to own the kind of business that I would love to visit on a daily basis: a record shop/diner/tea room/movie theatre.

Picture it… you walk in the front door and to your right there’s a small, diner-type area set up. At the counter there are seven or eight stools, and in the remainder of the space there are three or four booths. The smells from the diner are overwhelming, but not from the odors of steak or chicken, but from the aromas of falafel, curried chickpeas, and veggie burgers. This diner serves up strictly vegetarian fare, and the menu specifies which dishes are vegan. All the ingredients are organic and purchased from local growers. There’s a variety of ethnic fare, including ital Jamaican dishes and traditional Southeast Asian dishes. And yeah, that’s me you see behind the counter, cooking.

In addition, the drink menu offers a wide variety of loose teas for the connoisseurs, served in one of many authentic Yixing teapots. Gong fu brewing is available on request. There are green teas, white teas (all available varieties), Assams, oolongs, and Jasmines in addition to some of the more common black teas. The tea will be decaffienated by request.

An artist's rendering of my business.

An artist’s rendering of my business.

The diner’s hopping with music, but it’s not the typical rotation of country & western and oldies. A little further back in the shop is a live DJ, spinning classic jazz in the morning, downtempo breakbeats and electronica during the day, and hip-hop and reggae during the evenings. Think Fat Beats. Local DJs are given a chance to do their thing and monthly DJ competitions are held for turntablists that come up from New York City to battle in this unique environment. At the end of each workweek is “Old School Friday” where pre-1990 hip-hop is spun, exclusively. If someone in the group didn’t have a high-top fade, an African pendant, a fat gold chain, or a four-finger ring, chances are it won’t be played.

Beginning where the DJ is set up and stretching to the visible end of the shop are records and CDs, mainly of the underground, independent variety, but also offering up some of the more palatable mainstream selections. There is a large section for mixtapes by local DJs and DJs from around the country spinning music of regional interest. Of course, there is a long table set up with three sets of turntables and mixers so vinyl shoppers can test out a pair of vinyl before buying it. There are also two CD and cassette listening stations available to preview anything in the store. There is no security system in place. We trust our customers.

The counter of the record shop has fliers advertising local cultural events as well as activist meetings and rallies. The walls of this part of the shop are decorated by young grafitti artists.

As you get to the further back of the store, where all the obscure, out-of-print spoken word records are (DJs come from far and wide to see what’s in stock each week), is a door that says, “NOW SHOWING…” Behind the door is a small movie theatre. The screen’s not huge, but it’s more than big enough to project films on for the 15 seats. There is a quality Dolby 6.1 surround system installed, even though most of the movies shown will never make use of all the channels. The movies in rotation are all cult and horror films dating back to the silent era and running through the current times. Today there’s a Alexander Jodorwosky festival, running Holy Mountain, El Topo, and Santa Sangre back-to-back-to-back. Fulci’s Zombie runs every night at 10pm. And there’s an automated hot-air popper providing free popcorn to anyone that sits down to watch a movie.

The clientele varies wildly. Some nights, Rastas will come in while there’s roots reggae is spinning. They’ll order some ital food, burn a little incense, and reason. Other nights, hip-hop heads show up and impromptu freestyle ciphers break out at the counter. Families come in on the weekends for breakfast and horror movie freaks swing by occasionally to see the “coming soon” marquee outside the mini-theatre. Lots of DJs show up to pick up new vinyl before their Friday night gig and old Asian women stop by on their lunch hour to have the finest Silver Needle White Tea and an order of fresh spring rolls.

Of course, the store has a strong web presence. In addition to streaming audio from the live DJs, the listening stations are also be connected to the Net, so web site visitors can listen to what the customers are previewing. A full menu is available (delivery is not, though—come to the store for the full experience) and real-time inventory (including all the mix tapes) makes online ordering easy and accurate.

Store hours? 7am (for those early breakfasts) until midnight, every day. All night on New Year’s.

Jobs available? Diner waitresses (must call people “hon” yet be able to learn the ways of Yixing and Gong fu tea preparation), record shop attendants (can never have worked at Best Buy and must “know their shit,” as deemed by me), projectionist (must actually like the movies being shown), and custodial staff (who will be paid more than any other custodial staff in town… No English? No problem.). And if you think you have a talent I could use, talk to me and we’ll see what we can do.

So… who’s coming? And who’ll fund me?

The Proper September 11th Commemoration

A year ago, most Americans couldn’t tell you where Afghanistan was.

A year ago, most of us felt pretty secure.

Since a year ago, things have happened that we’d like to forget, but we haven’t been given a minute to… as if we could.

We’ll be commemorating that terrible event of one year ago tomorrow. There will be quiet memorials, large gatherings with music and prayers, and an all-out assault by the media on television… it’s this media assault that I’m bothered by. Surprise.

I’ve already made the decision that I’m not going to watch any tributes tomorrow evening. I doubt that I’ll be attending any either. I don’t want to find myself getting angry at how a tribute is done, rather than focusing on what it’s actually about. I won’t deny that televised tributes have their place, clearly there will be millions watching. And local gatherings will be absolutely essential to those that feel as alone this September 11th as they did last September 11th. But a commemoration of this magnitude so soon after the event is easy to do the wrong way and nearly impossible to do the right way. Especially on television.

What I Don’t Want in a September 11th Commemoration

  • A “Rah-rah America!” tone. I’m not exactly feeling patriotic these days thanks to the Republibush form of government. And, please, spare me the “be thankful for what you have!” speech. I am. Very. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be angered and upset at the way our country handles itself in foreign affairs. Blinding chanting “Go America!” without realizing that our country’s policies encourage disdain of our country’s ideals is bordering on jingoism. And don’t get me started on the limiting of our liberties… folks, security and personal freedoms are not mutually exclusive. I don’t want to be reminded of how angry and cynical I’ve gotten about world affairs in the last year, and I’m afraid lots of flag waving and “God Bless America” will do just that.
  • A focus on the Taliban, the terrorists, or anything else that makes Islam look like some inherently “evil” religion.
  • Endless footage of the attacks. We had enough a year ago. Are the images of suffering what we need to commemorate?
  • Famous people talking about the attacks. Or politicians talking about the attacks. Or newscasters talking about the attacks.
  • Musical tributes.

What I Do Want in a September 11th Commemoration, If I Were to Watch

  • A commemoration that doesn’t dwell on the attack or any of the politics surrounding it: just a focus on the victims, allowing family and friends to openly share memories of people they lost. NPR’s Sonic Memorial does this extremely well.
  • An advertisement-free zone. From what I’ve heard, this is going to happen in a lot of cases.
  • A quiet, reflective—but not overdramatic—tone.
  • A single well-sung, heartfelt version of the “Star Spangled Banner.” Apparently Kelly Clarkson will be taking care of this. Good for her.

Tomorrow night, I’m not going to be in front of the TV with the rest of the country. But mind you, it’s not an act of defiance. Instead, I’ll be outside, eating dinner on the porch and going for a walk with my wife. I’ll be enjoying the final days of summer and being mindful of the lives that were lost and the lives that were changed. I’ll be giving thanks, saying silent prayers, and looking more deeply at my surroundings and the people near me. I don’t want to be riled up, I don’t want to be angry, and I don’t want to be told how to remember what happened. I have my own way, and I’m quite happy doing it that way.

Peace.

“But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be conductive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings—that doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your guide.” -the Buddha

Stop Screwing Apatow!

A few years ago, Judd Apatow created what I consider to be the best television show in the last decade: Freaks and Geeks (episode guide). It told the real story of high school, for those of us that weren’t Dawson’s Creek-type kids. There were no laugh tracks, but it was funny. The music wasn’t overly dramatic, but there was drama. Turns out, a show focused around nerds, dorks, freaks, and—yes—geeks, was by far more “real” than the carefully orchestrated reality that came from the worthless “reality show” trend. They didn’t need to do “issue” shows to make a point. “[W]hen we did Freaks And Geeks, there was drug use, and a lot of pot being smoked, but we certainly took a position that it was screwing up all of these kids’ lives, without saying it explicitly in a way that would make you feel like you were watching a very special Diff’rent Strokes,” Apatow said in an interview with The Onion last year.

Bill Haverchuck

The actors and actresses were cast perfectly in their roles, especially Martin Starr, who played the role of quintessential geek Bill Haverchuck. In one episode, Haverchuck decided to get back at his gym teacher, who constantly picks on him during class. He decides to crank call Coach Fredricks, barely disgusing his voice: “Fredricks, you’re a turd… a stinky f-fat turd, go sniff a jock strap, you poop head. You love patting boys butts… butt… you butt patter. You’re a perv and a loser and a stinky t-turd!” With Freaks and Geeks, Apatow managed to create a world so much like the high school we all remember, it was nearly impossible not to latch onto a character and empathize.

Freaks and Geeks, unfortunately, was doomed from the start by the programming wizards at NBC. It originally aired on Saturday night prime time, otherwise known as “instant death,” no matter how good the show. After only five episodes, NBC pulled the show for nearly two months before bringing it back, this time on Monday nights. While the time slot was a bit better, and the show’s ratings improved slightly, NBC pulled it after five more episodes, waiting another month before bringing it back again. At this point, the show was simply doomed—viewers weren’t sure when and if it was going to be on. Two more episodes aired in March, then Freaks and Geeks disappeared from TV until its three-episode series finale nearly four months later. Three completed episodes went unaired.

In a move that pleased fans, FOX Family picked up the show and aired reruns after the show’s demise, including the three episodes that NBC never bothered showing. While the shows were censored a bit (for simple words like “ass”), they aired each episode a number of times, giving people ample opportunity to see the full series in all its glory. It also gave me a chance to put every episode on video, to hold me over until someone with some sense declares it time to put the series’ sole season on DVD.

The Undeclared crew

In 2001, FOX announced a new Apatow series, Undeclared (episode guide), which featured a number of Freaks and Geeks alumni in regular roles and others in guest spots or recurring roles. Critics loved it, fans loved it, but yet again, it seems the network had it in for Undeclared from the start. With almost no promotion after the original show aired, the series did respectibly in the ratings and ran almost uninterrupted for 16 episodes (the show’s contract was cut from 22 episodes to 17 episodes by FOX). Then, in March, FOX aired mid-season replacement Andy Richter Controls the Universe in the Undelcared time slot. Once again, it seems that Judd Apatow was screwed, despite having one of the best new shows of the fall lineup. FOX didn’t renew Undeclared for Fall 2002 (but they decided to keep the Godawful Grounded for Life) and never bothered to air the final episode, titled “God Visits.”

Undeclared fans should visit the official “Behind the Scenes” site of the finale episode before it’s removed. The site has deleted scenes, photos, and behind the scenes video.

Television has a history of airing crappy shows for too many years (Will & Grace anyone? Surivivor? Freaking Becker?) and crushing creative, entertaining, mold-breaking shows. Why this is, I’m not quite sure. These shows always have loyal followers that petition, rarely successfully, to keep their favorite show on the air. Maybe it’s like Apatow himself says, “If people wanted to watch Nova more than The Chair, we’d have Nova five times a week. Unfortunately at this time in our great nation’s history the citizens of our land will gladly watch people eating a pig’s anus on Fear Factor.”

According to Zap2It, FOX hasn’t given up on Apatow (or is it that he hasn’t given up on them?). This fall, there are talks for a new Apatow creation titled “Life on Parole” about a parole officer whose best friend is one of his parolees. Let’s cross our fingers for Judd. Every success he has is another vote for television that doesn’t suck.

An Interview with Phyllis Wilcox About Henry Lee Lucas

In July of 2000, I posted a Daily Ping about serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. That particular Ping has attracted some of the most interesting visitors the site has seen. Victims’ families have chimed in as did students doing reports. But the most interesting visitor contacted me via e-mail. She was Phyllis Wilcox, a friend of Henry Lee Lucas’ that made headlines when she posed as Lucas’ cousin/wife/victim Becky Powell to try and help him beat a murder rap. One person even wrote a song about her (third song). I interviewed her over e-mail for several months about her relationship with one of this nation’s most notorious serial killers.

This particular interview was pretty difficult for me. On one hand, I had been interested in Henry Lee Lucas’ case for a decade, ever since I did a report on him in high school. On the other hand, was it morbid or disrespectful of the victims to interview someone that was close with Lucas? Would putting an interview like this on my web site somehow promote the horrendous murders that Lucas committed?

After a lot of thought and after a few months of putting the interview with Ms. Wilcox on pause, I decided it would be best to go ahead and post it. I don’t condone Lucas’ horrific crimes, nor do I raise him to the level of someone to be admired. I do, however, find his case interesting from a true crime perspective and think that this interview with Ms. Wilcox will give a unique perspective on Lucas’ life and his influence on others.

Below is a transcription of the e-mail interview conducted with Ms. Wilcox in 2001. No content has been altered and the only changes made were for readability. Be forewarned: some of the descriptions of murder are graphic and disturbing.

I had many more questions for Ms. Wilcox, but unfortunately, her e-mail address stopped working not long after this section of the interview was completed. I hope to resume it at some time if I can get back in touch with her.

Ms. Wilcox’s e-mail became invalid after a few questions had been answered. Despite the fact the interview below is incomplete, I decided to post it anyway with hopes that Ms. Wilcox would get back in touch with me. Well, she has, and I am currently conducting the remainder of the interview, which will be posted when it is finished.

 

Give me a little background on yourself.

I am 48 years old, married, moved to Perry, Florida in February, 1996 after living all my life in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. I have two grown daughers and three grandkids. I work in Tallahassee, Florida at a convenience store.

How did you come to know Henry Lee Lucas?

I came to know Henry in September 1991 after reading a book about him. I wrote a letter to him and he responded. He had me put on his visiting list and I went to Huntsville, Texas in January 1992 and met with Henry for the first time. We had a wonderful visit and I went several more times that year and the next year. We came to know each other quite well and became very close through our many letters to each other and our many visits.

Henry Lee Lucas

Henry Lee Lucas

What was your first visit like? What did you talk about?

I was extremely nervous because I had never been to a prison before and especially talking face to face with such a dangerous man. He was brought out in handcuffs surrounded by guards. I couldn’t help but to stare. It wasn’t a contact visit. There was thick screen in between us. Well, Henry sat down and smiled at me and then told me that I can ask him anything that I want to. I asked him about Becky Powell and he told me that she left him at a truck stop in Denton, Texas. That he had gone to look for a trucker to take them back to Jacksonville, Florida and when he returned to where he had left Becky waiting for him, he saw her getting into a truck with a man and leaving with him. That was the last time Henry saw Becky. He said that he told the authorities that he killed her so they wouldn’t go looking for her to tie her in on the murders that he is accused of. Then I asked him about Kate Rich. He told me that woman was nuts and that he had no idea what happened to her. He said they claim that he killed her and cut her body up into little bitty pieces and burned her up in an old stove behind the House of Prayer. Henry said that Kate Rich was a big fat woman and it would take more than just him to cut her body up and that the bones they claim they found in that stove were just chicken bones. He said that old stove didn’t get hot enough to burn up a human body. Then I asked him about Orange Socks and he told me that the hand prints around her neck where she had been strangled were much bigger than his hands and the tire tracks that were found by her body was from a dairy truck traced back to a dairy out of Houston, Texas. Well, we visited for four hours straight and it only seemed like ten minutes to me. I enjoyed it so much and Henry was the most wonderful man that I ever met.

I thought that it would be interesting to get letters from him just to see what he had to say. Well, his letters were so friendly and the only murder that he said that he committed was the one where he killed his mother. I got to the point to where Henry was all that was on my mind 24 hours. I even dreamed about him when I slept. He was all I talked about at work. It got so bad that my boss at work told me to find another job on the count of it. I wrote and told Henry that I think that I am falling in love with him and told him about him being on my mind 24 hours. He wrote back telling me that he was having the same feelings towards me. I knew that I had to meet this man and see if my feelings were real. Well, after our first meeting, my feelings for Henry were stronger than ever before. I had really fallen in love with him and I had to fight to keep Texas from taking him away from me.

Were you married/did you have kids when you started writing to Henry?

Yes I was married and had my daughters when I started writing to Henry. Actually it was my husband’s idea that I write to him. My husband went with me on one of my visits with Henry and my youngest daughter went with me on another one of my visits. My oldest daughter would not go. She disapproved of mine and Henry’s relationship and tried to stay out of it even though she was in on the hoax when I tried to get Henry off of death row. My husband knew that I had fallen in love with Henry but he said that he knew Henry would never get out of prison so he didn’t feel threatened.

Henry Lee Lucas

Henry Lee Lucas

At the time of his death Lucas was convicted of nine murders. Do you believe what Henry said about his mother being his only victim?

In all honesty, I now believe that Henry has killed before but there is no way that he killed all the people that he confessed to. There was a time when I did believe that Henry was totally innocent. I know for a fact that Henry did not kill Orange Socks, but I do think that he killed Kate Rich. Henry knew that it was Ottis Toole who killed Adam Walsh because Henry told me that Ottis bragged about killing a little boy and Ottis took Henry and showed Henry the body but Henry said that the head and the genitals were cut off and gone. Even though Henry said that he killed his mother, I dont believe that he did. Henry and his mother was staying with his siser. Henry came in drunk one night and he passed out on the bed. Henry told me that his mother started beating him in the head with a broom handle and Henry jumped up off the bed and punched her in the face and she fell backwards on the floor and Henry got scared and ran. He was later arrested because when they found his mother on the floor she was dead. I later learned that Viola, his mother, had been stabbed several times and that is what caused her death. Henry said he never had a knife. What I think is that the sister had come home and she is the one who killed her.

Did Henry talk much about his childhood?

Henry talked much about his childhood. Henry said no matter what, he still loved his mother and has forgiven her for all the things that she has done. He told me that she used to dress him like a girl and send him to school that way and the other kids would laugh and make fun. He told me that she shot and killed his pet mule that he loved dearly. She was a prostitute and would bring in men and have sex with them in front of Henry and his dad. Henry told me that he never has gotten over the death of his dad. Him and his dad were real close. It is so sad to think that any child should have to go through what Henry went through.

 

For more on Henry Lee Lucas:

This article is copyright ©2002 by Ryan A. MacMichael and may not be reproduced in any means without permission. Please direct all inquiries to [email protected].

The Best Blog There Never Was

Screw what anyone says about blogs becoming old news. In my opinion they’re at their very best right now, thanks to sites that follow Paul’s theory. But there’s one major problem with even the best blogs.

They’re all written by young people.

By young people, I mean those between 15 and 30. Maybe one of the reasons that I love reading these blogs is because I can relate to them. But the best blog is one that I don’t believe currently exists: a blog written by a senior citizen.

Grandpa at the computer

Let’s get him on Blogger.

I was always enthralled by my grandfather’s stories of how he ran away from home during the Great Depression and rode the rails as a hobo. How one time he had strapped himself onto the side of a train’s ladder with his belt, holding a loaf of bread and waking up to find the belt hanging from a thread and the bread in his hand gone as the train sped down the tracks. How he was an extra as a Native American (despite the fact he was Polish and nowhere near Native American) in the Cary Grant/Claude Rains film The Last Outpost. I would love to read a daily blog written by someone in their mid-80s. Not one talking about how they played Bridge that day, but recounting stories of their past, preserving their family history on the Web.

By the time one reaches 80, there are enough experiences to blog every day for years, discussing how major events like wars or political movements affected them and their families or how perceptions of people of different races or religions have changed over the years. There’s so much interesting content out there that’s not being passed on.

What about those eldery people that have no families, or that are sitting in a rest home and don’t have people to listen to their stories? A new family could be waiting for them online, eager to hear their tales and perspectives. Life in a nursing home has got to be so tedious—what better way to remind the elderly that they are important to us and that they do have something important to say than to let them tell the whole world? There’s so much potential.

As I was listening to Mena’s excellent audio blog entry and reflecting on this particular entry of my own, I was reminded of a project I did with my grandfather when I was in fourth or fifth grade. It was a biography of my grandfather that I wrote called My Grandfather the Hobo. For it, I interviewed him on tape and just having him tell stories that I could use in my project. I know that that tape still exists somewhere (being a packrat helps sometimes). I’d love to get some of my grandfather’s stories posted to help his memory live on.

So the next time you talk to your grandmother or great uncle, ask them about a story you remember being told as a kid. Ask them about your parents. And then ask them what they’d think about sharing their stories with the world.

Faux Activism

Through a link on Poofle, I was checking out WeCanDoThis.com, a “central headquarters for unique activist projects aimed at making the world a better place.” It’s a moderately interesting idea, but check out the very first sentence describing one of their first projects:

To protest the outrageously high price of movie tickets and concession snacks, DON’T see a movie this Friday July 13th. Just wait until Saturday.

So, let me get this straight. The message they want to send is, “We don’t like expensive movie prices but our convictions are only strong enough to protest for one night. And then we’ll come the next day and give you the money we would have given you anyway.” Activist, my ass.

F Hollywood

She has the right idea. Take note, Hollywood.

Activism isn’t passive. Activism isn’t a temporary shift in thought. One day of lost profits won’t make a bit of difference, especially when the profits won’t really be lost at all, just delayed until the next day. It’s a weak attempt to send a message… a way for people who like to complain, but don’t have any real drive to make change, to feel like they’ve done something good. Remember the National Gas Out?

Real activism would be “They don’t deserve your money today. And they don’t deserve it tomorrow or the next day, either.” My advice: screw Hollywood and their consistantly awful movies. Screw Stephen Spielberg and his self-serving attempts to make social statements. And screw each and every person that succumbs to the mentality of “summer blockbusters.” Go to a theatre that shows true independent films. Buy or rent an international film on DVD. And if you simply must see Gone in 60 Seconds II—oops, I mean The Fast and the Furious—or the new Julia Roberts movie, go to a matinee and don’t buy a thing at the snack counter.

I do give these guys credit for trying (and for presenting opposing viewpoints on their web site), but I feel they’re going about “activism” the wrong way. These limited boycotts aren’t going to send a message, no matter how big. The only way to get changes made is to cause a fundamental shift in the thinking of the American public. It won’t matter if Johnny Q. Public avoids a movie on Friday only to pay to see it on Saturday. It will matter if Johnny decides to take his money elsewhere because the movie, the food, and the atmosphere is awful, and instead supports local business ventures that more directly support the artists. And no, I don’t consider Julia Roberts an artist.

Go, see a movie. But ask yourself this: Am I supporting an industry that consistently churns out cookie cutter “entertainment” or am I supporting actual art, actual talent, and actual people rather than giant Hollywood corporations?

Foley *is* Good

I got my copy of Mick Foley’s Foley is Good in the mail last Wednesday (via PA, thanks to UPS) and in five days, I finished the 450+ page hardback.

The thing is, I am “in the process of reading” five or six books at any given time. And when I sit down to read, it’s usually before bed (or in the “reading room”—you know, the one with the porcelain seat) and I just knock off a few pages (a chapter, at most) and then go to sleep (or flush). But in less than 24 hours, I tore through the first ten chapters of the book, much like I did with his first, Have a Nice Day.

Foley’s a damned good writer. He tells a story like that uncle everyone has: when he starts, you’re mesmerized until he’s done. And then you ask for more.

Mick and Funk

Mick Foley and Terry Funk

One theme running through the book is how real life is faker than wrestling. I’m still amazed when people say, “Oh, you watch wrestling? It’s so fake.” But at this point, it’s well documented just how hurt these guys can get. Sure, the endings are choreographed, but the way a match is put together can be a work of art. The fact is, that compared to many things in “real life,” wrestling so much more real.

Mick mentions a 20/20 interview he did a little over two years ago. I remember seeing it. It was a story about the phenomenon of backyard wrestling, where bored, untrained kids are beating the hell out of each other with light bulbs, cheese graters, barbed wire, just like Mick has done for years in Japan. In the “investigative report,” the interviewer shows Mick a video of these trailer park kids seriously risking their lives. Mick responds, “Looks like a bunch of friends having a lot of fun together.”

I was surprised that Mick would answer this way. He was normally very intelligent, and surely he wouldn’t condone untrained kids trying stunts like that.

Turns out, he didn’t condone it. 20/20 just made it look like he did.

What actually happened was that the interviewer showed Mick a video of backyard wrestling that mainly involved basic stuff like leg drops, flying elbows, and fake punches. To that video Mick responded, “Looks like a bunch of friends having a lot of fun together.” When Mick was shown the video with the cheese grater and other dangerous weapons, he said it was rediculous behavior and “even made a plea for the kids to stop.”

The moral is: investigative reporting is nothing more than creative editting to draw viewers in.

Mick also discusses his shock at finding out that nearly all sports “autobiographies” are ghostwritten. One such book about a baseball player was written after only a 30-minute interview with the subject.

Writers or lyricists that rely on ghostwriters are fakes. Period.

Mick also attacks our legal system as being particularly “fake” as well as many journalists (like one who repeatedly said that the Rock was a bald-headed racist who was anti-women, anti-black, etc.—not realizing that the Rock is black and has a full head of hair). One particularly poignant moment comes when Mick is talking with fellow wrestler Al Snow while they’re at a typical Hollywood party and Al declares that “And they call what we do ‘fake’?”

Though generally a collection of wrestling anecdotes and stories about Mick’s family, Foley is Good ends with a seething attack on so-called “watchdog” groups that like the PTC, who point to the WWF as the reason our society is going down the tubes. An interesting connection that Foley makes is that the current head of the PTC, L. Brent Bozell III is the son of a former speechwriter for Joseph McCarthy. Yes, that Joseph McCarthy—the staunchly anti-communist senator that made baseless claims in order to ruin other lives and advance his own popularity. Now people like Bozell are taking in six-figure incomes heading up a supposed non-profit organization that vows to get “filth” off your television. Can’t get much faker than that.

I enjoyed Foley’s second effort quite a bit. Though it wasn’t quite as engaging as his debut, it was extremely well-written with a good sense of humor. He has a knack for storytelling and the anti-PTC chapter showed that Mick can do some research as well (the cited sources/bibliography is significant). Foley is good… really good.

Bloggers on Vacation in the Real World

Sunset in Dulles

It seems like everybody’s “taking a break” from their blog and “getting back to the real world.” It’s funny, but I think that this trend (and that’s what it is) is being driven by a couple of the “big guys.” Kind of strange how emotion, depression, dissatisfaction, can become a trend on the Web.

I think it’s only natural, though. The people who really birthed the whole blogging phenomenon are obsessive personalities. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing, and God knows my personality is entirely too obsessive. Obsessive personalities are what drive innovation and creation more than anything else. It’s thanks to those obsessive personalities that blogs and personal web publishing came back into vogue over the last two years.

But just because the bigwigs and their followers are taking a break from things doesn’t mean that blogs, online journals, etc. are any less important or less relevant. It just means that everyone’s starting to find a balance in their life. I feel kind of lucky in that respect—I have a buttload of web sites and something gets updated almost daily on any of them, but I feel like I have a pretty good balance. I’m not blogging every damn thing that happens to me every day and I’m not living my life on the web rather than live and in person. Rather, I’m enjoying living and my web sites are just a part of it… not a replacement for anything, not some extension of my life that I don’t tell people in the “real world” about… it’s just part of me. As much of the “real world” as going to the supermarket. Period.

I blog pretty much daily, but if I feel like taking ten days off, I do so without announcement and without guilt. I know my site will be there when I “get back” from whatever I’m doing… it’s not going anywhere.

And either am I.