Saturday, June 28, 2014


With two sports-related limericks for the price of one!

A baseball fan hopped in his car
And sped to the nearest sports bar
This might appear lame
(Since there wasn't a game)
But the place served the best caviar

A golfing fan wracked with remorse
Tried to talk his wife out of divorce
But as much as he pleaded
His words went unheeded
Which frankly, was par for the course.

I’ve been enjoying watching some of the World Cup games this year, which pretty much proves me a hypocrite and negates the entire post below. Ah, well. As usual: just thinkin’ out loud here, Peeps.

There's no "ME" in "TEAM!" Wait --

In October of 1986 my then-girlfriend and my 27-year-old-self decided to watch the World Series. No, we weren’t into sports even a teensy-weensy bit, but we lived in Manhattan and there was such a fury about the Mets being in the series that year we thought – what the hell – let’s give it a shot. Go Mets.

I’d been raised in a family that had no interest in watching any sports (my father, I think, would rather’ve suffered through a Novocain-free root canal than a sporting event) and, with the occasional exception of catching a televised tennis match or some non-team event in the Olympics, I’d happily maintained that proud Emshwiller tradition right up to that point in my life.

But there I was, watching the World Series. And I could not have picked a better introduction to baseball in particular… and team sports in general. It was a thrilling, nail biting, breathtaking, neck-and-neck seven games – ending in the Mets squeaking by to glorious, well-earned victory. My girlfriend and I were captivated. During those seven amazing games over those seven amazing days, we sat on our couch, yelled at the TV, and fell in love with our team. We learned the names of all our favorite players (she particularly liked the cute, curly-haired catcher, Gary Carter), and started to figure out each guy’s strong suits, weaknesses, quirks, and personality traits. (Who was a spitter, a cusser, a brooder, a wack-job, a nut scratcher? And what the hell was a “breaking ball?”) I still can remember many of the names: Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Rick Aguilera, Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson, Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez, Howard Johnson, and on and on. They became like family in seven short days. We happily rooted for them. They were our guys. Our Mets. 

We were sold. During the long winter that followed we could barely wait until the next season started. When it finally did, we eagerly turned on the very first game our Mets competed in. And were crestfallen. Half the players on the team had been traded and now played for other teams. Our Mets weren’t our Mets any more. They were different people.

Suddenly we didn’t care.

This, I think, is why I’ll always have trouble with team sports. I don’t really know how to root for an abstraction. I’m a person-rooter, not a concept-rooter. I can get excited about particular, specific homo sapiens, but I can’t get all that excited about a flag or a city name or a logo or team moniker.

If, in the end, it doesn’t really matter if all the players get traded to Podunk, the coach leaves to open a vegan steakhouse, and the manager retires to paint gerbil portraits, then who exactly am I rooting for? My uncles used to joke about “Granddad’s Hatchet.” This was an old family hatchet which, over the years, had gotten its handle replaced multiple times and even its head swapped out more than once. So there was actually nothing of the original left to it. But it was still “Granddad’s Hatchet,” just because reasons.

This is how I feel about team sports. I’m supposed to care about one team over another (even if all the human “parts” involved have been swapped around) because reasons.

But I do kinda understand. I do. Sociologists often spout off about how team sports are a way for fans to channel their natural aggression and release all their innate warlike tendencies in a (hopefully) non-violent way. Us against them. Our tribe against those assholes on the other side of the hill. Maybe so. Evolution and whatnot. Cool. I don’t begrudge anyone this cathartic experience if they need it. And, no joke, I support all my friends and family who love team sports. (Heck, my ‘86 Mets experience was matched by a very similar Lakers one not too long ago. ‘Nother story.)

Extra team members are a good thing, right?
The thing is: It just isn’t for me. Probably never will be.

Maybe some of my lack of “team sports love” comes from being a loner most of my life. I don’t seem to feel that same sense of “My Tribe” that some do. When there’s a disaster overseas and hundreds of lives are lost but the U.S. news reporters focus on the fact that “three of those killed were Americans,” I can’t help but think, “Why should I care more about those three strangers than I do about those hundreds of other tragically dead strangers who don’t happen to be American?”

I occasionally even, and I know a few of you will consider this despicable, feel that way about issues like our jobs being outsourced. When someone rails, for example, about losing American jobs to India, I know I’m supposed to be super upset. Yet (exploitation and salary abuses aside), if I’m really honest with myself, I’d be delighted if some person in Calcutta who’s a huge Star Trek fan and who loves reading fiction, eating Italian food, listening to Broadway musicals, and blogging about nothing-in-particular snagged a decent job so he/she can now feed the family… whereas I wouldn’t necessarily feel all that horrible if, because of that particular Calcuttian’s new job, some tea-partyin’, Ted-Nugent-loving, Duck-Dynasty-watchin’, Chick-fil-A-lover from Duluth (who runs a dog-fighting ring on the weekends) lost his gig answering phones for Time Warner Cable.

I guess my “tribe” is more about personality, common interests, and common loves than about common borders, common language, flags, and arbitrary labels.

But, as usual, I digress.

Okay. Back to sports to finish this mess up. I mentioned the Olympics earlier in this post. I love watching them, but, as you’ve probably guessed by now, I watch them a little differently than most. I don’t find myself automatically rooting for the USA as a rule. I instead tend to root for any cool athletes who’s skills and talent I admire, or who seem to be interesting people, or who are fun long-shot underdogs, or whose life-stories and personal struggles touch me in some compelling way. And those kinda folks hail from all over the freakin’ globe.

Truth is the only team sport I currently watch now is professional cycling (yes, it's a team sport – look it up!), yet, true to form, after following it for a dozen years I no longer actually cheer for any particular team. I instead cheer for my favorite specific athletes, who are, at this point, spread out in all over the damn board on many, many different teams and from many, many different countries. It’s actually a pretty fun way to watch. Any game, I think. Give it a shot, sports fans.

That said, if you can gather the 1986 Mets team together again, I’m in. Go Mets.

Saturday, June 21, 2014



A talented actress named Anne
Snagged the lead in the new Peter Pan
But in tights and a tunic
She looked like a eunuch
Disproving that “clothes make the man.”

Not that eunuchs aren’t men, but it fit so well in the limerick I went for it. Apologies to any eunuchs out there. As for what follows below? To paraphrase someone-or-other: “I would’ve written a shorter blog post, but I didn’t have the time.” 

Because fezzes are cool!

I’ve wanted to be an actor for as far back as I can remember. And part of that passion was a fascination with transformation. With being a different person. It naturally followed that at a very early age I began experimenting with, you guessed it, hallucinogens. 

Nah, I’m kidding. I experimented with theatrical makeup. I particularly enjoyed “special effects” makeup. I loved creating putty noses, wax chins, fake mustaches, and convincing scars. Anything from subtle tweaks (slightly thicker eyebrows) to the dramatic and monstrous. I was barely out of kindergarten when I freaked out half my neighborhood by trick-or-treating in pretty darned realistic burn-victim makeup. (Even our pet cat was terrified.)

But my absolute favorite thing back then was to age myself. I’d happily spend hours lovingly spraying in streaks of gray hair, stippling on age spots, faking a receding hair line, and either carefully painting trompe l'oeil “stage-worthy” wrinkles one careful brush stroke at a time, or creating “film-worthy” 3-D sagging flesh using liquid latex. I loved making myself old.

Ironically, I now have all those issues for real. Mostly this fact kinda upsets me. Yet sometimes I find myself looking in the mirror and, channeling my inner eight-year-old self, thinking: “How cool! Crows feet! Grey hairs! Lumpy parts!” (Though I never exclaim happily about the encroaching nose and ear hairs. Those just plain suck.)

That interest in character via appearance never left me. As I grew older, it didn’t take long to realize that we all wear “costumes” and “makeup” every day. That we create our own character.

When I moved to LA and signed with my very first commercial agent, I had an eye-opening experience. I actually wish everyone could go through it. The thing is, commercials are mostly about your appearance, so when you go on an audition, you’re going with a bunch of other folks who look just like you. Your exact “type.” It’s sobering. And illuminating. No matter what you think you actually look like, unless you’re a supermodel, it’ll be a shock. 

11-year-old Stoney ages himself.
I vividly remember my first Los Angeles commercial audition, some 18-odd years ago. I walked into the crowded waiting area. It was like entering the Twilight Zone. Everyone sitting there, every single one, was a tall, slightly paunchy, sweet faced, thick-nosed, non-threatening white guy with a warm smile, a bald spot, and a slightly receding hairline. Perfect casting for the gay best friend, kindly next-door neighbor, beleaguered dad, “henpecked” husband, trusted pharmacist, or, maybe in a stretch, the slightly cranky mid-management boss.

Blew me away.

But the thing is, it’s not written in stone. Your “type” can be changed. Played with. That's what I learned as a kid and still remember today.

No, you can’t change your basic features and body type (unless you have an awesome plastic surgeon -- text me!) but you can change everything else. You can change all the trappings.

Everyone wears a costume. And I get that there’s tons of peer pressure to keep wearing the same one.  You might even get fired if you stray too far from the “uniform” of your particular job’s culture. I grock. But how about changing it up now and then?  It isn’t who you are.  It’s just the role you present to the world. Switch it out, just for fun. 

Any question why this kid doesn't have a girlfriend yet?
When my first science fiction novel was published years ago, I was invited to a convention to speak on some panels. I remember tearing my closet apart, desperately looking for clothes that a “writer” would wear. I needed an “author costume!” But I didn’t really have anything appropriate (nothing tweed with elbow patches or the like). I wound up in my one-and-only dressy outfit: a tuxedo. Yup. And in the end I had a blast at the convention, looking, completely inappropriately, like a high-priced hit man instead of a writer. I even heartily enjoyed when Harlan Ellison gave me some good-natured sh*t about my outfit. Loved it.

Switch it out. If you usually dress like a hippy horticulturist, try the Hillary Clinton corporate look for a day. If all your buddies dress in polo shirts, loafers, and dockers, show up for their BBQ in skinny jeans, a porkpie hat, and an ironic t-shirt.  Goth chick? Go for southern belle one day. College professor? Try dressing like your students instead. Bearded biker dude? Give the off-duty cop look a shot. Straight-laced exec? Go for the Big Lebowski thing one weekend. Change who the world sees you as.  And who you see yourself as.

Seriously creepy corner of my childhood bedroom
The amazing thing is people will treat you differently. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always interesting. (I gotta say this fact actually doesn’t speak well for our culture, but I suppose that’s a whole ‘nother post.) When my wife and I travel, even if the place we’re headed involves cargo shorts and flip-flops, we’ve learned to “fancy it up” for the flight. With her in a nice “conservative” dress and me in a sports jacket and tie, we always get better service on the plane and occasionally even snag an upgrade. We play the game.

Sadly, people of color and the like have a lot less leeway in this “reinvention” area. Having dark skin, Asian features, a thick accent, etc. is, in our culture, already considered a very specific “costume” with all kinds of baggage and preconceptions attached to it. The same goes for women. And the physically challenged. And, of course, those too poor to spring for fun thrift store outfits. Being a (relatively) able-bodied white male with some spare cash I definitely have the advantage as far as character reinvention goes.

But whatever societal or financial limitations you have, shake things up a little anyway. Be a different you this weekend.

Playing dress-up was fun as a kid, right? Why stop? Mess with the world. Mess with your own self image. Scare your cat.

Thursday, June 19, 2014



A baby just recently born
Was promptly the subject of scorn
He’d no skills and no job
And just sat like a blob
And his English? You’d think he was foreign!

Below is, I’m embarrassed to admit, kind of a “rerun” post. It’s actually an essay I wrote a few years back for Asinine Poetry, my friend’s awesome site. (Check it out!) I reprint it here partly because I still stand by these words 100%… and partly because there’s something on TV I want to watch.

Give me your swaddled masses

Okay. Those concerned about illegal aliens often cite the huge strain put on our social infrastructure by undocumented immigrants. They talk of schools, hospitals, welfare, etc. But they ignore the gargantuan elephant squatting dead-center in their parlor. The biggest strain put on the system is caused by our very own people making babies.

Here's my point: Why should the offspring of Americans automatically be U.S. citizens? Why is that a basic ''given?'' I don't get it. What have these children done to earn this right? Some newborn Kyrgyzstanian, Belizean, or Upper-Voltan kid has done no less nor more to deserve being (or not being) an American.

Look, we're supposed to be a meritocracy here, yes? Why should one get to be a citizen just because one's parents were? If you really think about it, the concept is downright un-American. In fact, it smacks of the same kind of unjust birthright notion inherent to a monarchy, for goodness sake. And, lest we forget, our nation was created by wriggling free of just that kind of institutionalized nepotism.

You wanna talk merit? Some Mexican hiding in a sweltering Toyota Corolla's wheel-well has arguable proven his grit -- and his genuine desire to be part of our country -- way more than some proto-RugRat who arbitrarily popped out of an American womb on NY's Upper West Side. Truth is, being born of an American pudenda is a matter of sheer luck -- no skill, talent, or basic worthiness is involved.

So here's the deal. I say we ship every single newborn out of the USA immediately upon delivery. I know it sounds crazy, but please hear me out. Let's use all the cash we regularly spend on education, childcare and, uh, playground-repair or whatnot, to immediately banish these infants to the far corners. Every newborn is henceforth instantly classified an illegal alien and deported to Siberia, Maruitania, or some-such-foreign-land. France, even. (We'll pay off assorted random countries to take 'em.) And don't worry, parents can travel off with their child if they so desire -- but on their own dime. (I suspect many folks will choose this option.) We might even make a tidy profit if we play that part right.

Anyway, years later when the kid hits eighteen, he/she will have a right to go through the usual process of applying to become American, just like everyone else. Background/loyalty checks, U.S. history tests, health screenings, temporary provisional work visas -- whatever hoops we typically make potential immigrants jump through.

And I suppose we could occasionally make exceptions about the age requirement. Sure. If a kid is a genuine prodigy -- great at math or baking or karaoke -- we might consider letting them apply sooner.

But the bottom line is we make everyone go through the same basic process, whether they were lucky enough to be the product of an all-American, red-white-and-blue egg/sperm combo, or happen to be from some Norwegian, Peruvian, or Ugandan set of, ahem, primary ingredients.

What could be fairer? Seriously. This way, within a few generations, we'll be absolutely certain each U.S. citizen truly deserves to be part of this great land of ours.

And, hey, here's an awesome bonus to my plan: Very soon there'll be nobody younger than eighteen living in our country! Things will be a lot quieter, and a lot less smelly (especially on airplanes).

There'll be no Barney the Dinosaur. No gummy worms. No Chuck-E-Cheese.

And we won't have to watch our language in public.

Or wear pants.

Please write your congressmen.

Saturday, June 14, 2014



The slightest of smells can provoke
Mem’ries both mild and baroque
But if what you recall
Ain’t familiar at all
Was the stench an olfactical joke?

The Nose Knows

I remember when I was a kid my parent’s book-cluttered, ever messy bedroom always had a very specific smell. Not necessarily a bad smell, just very specific. It was almost like burnt milk, but not quite. A sweetish/sourish/slightly-funky smell. An umami-ish old-sock odor? Nah. That’s too harsh. More pleasant than that. Maybe it was simply the natural smell of an adult couple’s bedroom when the sheets aren’t changed all that frequently. Dunno.

My folks were both artists, and, like many artists, maintaining a tidy lifestyle wasn’t at the top of their list of priorities. Clothes were for keeping the oil paint or typewriter ribbon stains off you while you did your art (certainly not for looking hip or dressy), cars were simply to transport you to-and-from selling and doing your art (certainly not for showing off or driving in style), houses were for protecting you from the weather while you worked on your art (certainly not comfy showplaces or entertaining party centers), and bedrooms were made for sleeping (and, um, assorted other stuff) in those rare moments you weren’t creating art (and certainly not for keeping kempt and fresh smelling.)

Dad Painting
I don’t know exactly what the cause of that “my parent’s bedroom” smell was, but there was no mistaking it. Mild Jarlsberg mixed with gently decaying paperbacks? Close, but not quite.  

Whatever it was, I recently noticed the very same smell as I walked into my own bedroom. What? Yeah. Wow.

I found this both disturbing and yet somehow strangely comforting. The circle-of-life reek. Or the circle of dirty sheets. Either way, smelling it prompted me to reach for the Febreze and promise myself to wash a load of linens ASAP. But it also made me stop and remember my childhood. Maybe, in the end, it’s the smell of a middle-aged person’s bedroom. A mum and da smell. An odor indicating where comparatively oldish people sleep (oldish people who are both bohemian artists and therefore aren’t super fantastic at housekeeping). I can’t hate that. It is, like it or not, pretty much my life now. My artsy wife and my artsy self.

I am now around that very age my folks were back when I was that kid first noticing their bedroom stank. Older, even. Way older in fact. Truth is, now that I think about it, I’m only nine years younger than my dad was when he died at 64.  Jeeze.  This astounds me. And upsets me. He accomplished so much in his short life and I, so far, so very little.

Dad Editing
Living smack-dab in mass suburbia Levittown, he supported a family of five while consecutively, successfully, traversing four separate super risky, super artsy careers. First he was a prize-winning painter & illustrator of science fiction magazines and pulp paperbacks known as “EMSH.” (Yeah, that Emsh.) He also experimented in abstract impressionism painting during that period.  Then, even though he was one of the top artists in his field, he turned his back on all that to chase his bliss and become an award-winning experimental filmmaker (creating, among other things, Relativity, a movie the New York Times referred to as the “best short film ever made”). After that he followed (and led) video innovations and made tons of highly acclaimed avant-garde videos for PBS and elsewhere, launching him onto a global stage and winning him numerous international awards. Finally, excited by even more changes in technology, he transitioned yet again, collaborating with code-writing experts to pioneer developments in computer graphics and create groundbreaking computer art. In fact the stuff he helped invent spawned lots of the modern CGI we see in movies and TV today. Super cool sh*t.

Dad Computering
I won’t even go into (at least not too much) how before any of this above crap happened he fought the bad guys during WWII in Italy… or how in his last decades he balanced his personal projects with teaching the next generation as Dean of Film & Video at The California Institute of the Arts (even becoming Provost of the whole damn school for a while). There’s actually, no joke, a book written about my dad and mom that came out a few years back called Infiniti x Two. I know, right? Crazy.

It sounds like I’m bragging. And I guess I am, kinda. Sorry. Hard not to. But the bragging about accomplishments isn’t really my point. He did lotsa amazing stuff, sure. But even if he hadn’t garnered any awards or fame or kudos, I think I’d still be super proud.

What society calls “success” is not the point. It sure wasn’t his. The point is my dad did what he wanted. He focused on his bliss. He didn’t chase money, he didn’t chase status, he didn’t chase “stuff,” he didn’t even chase his own previous triumphs. And he didn’t, I guarantee you, reach for the Febreze when his bedroom smelled a little funky. That was, I think, the farthest thing from his mind.

So, if you’ll forgive a truly awkward aphorism, I offer: Forgo the Febreze. Bag Your Bliss.

Miss you, Dad. (You crazy-assed, tormented genius guy, you.)

Just Dad

Wednesday, June 11, 2014



A fellow went out on a bender
And woke up with his briefs in the blender
He turned off the lights
Pulled on his wife’s tights
And now feels more fluid in gender

These shoes are not being sensible.

What follows is probably gonna make a few folks pissed. I hereby apologize in advance to those who experience any panty bunching while reading this particular post. I’m just thinkin’ out loud, Peeps.

So here’s the thing. There’s a long history of humorous cross-dressing and “drag” as comedy. Classic stuff. From ancient times, through all of vaudeville, to Bugs Bunny and good ol’ Uncle Miltie, to Bosom Buddies, to Klinger in M*A*S*H and well beyond. In fact my wife attended an Ivy League school that has a long tradition of ending every variety show with a Can-can style kick-line composed entirely of beskirted males. I’ve seen it at reunions and it’s a blast. Always hilarious. The point is I’ve laughed at this kinda stuff repeatedly over the years and have many friends in show biz (and out) who partook and still partake.

Hell, I’m even capitalizing on it with this post’s illustration.

All in good fun, and so forth.

But here’s what I think, when I think. There’s something deeply wrong underlying it. Why exactly do we find it hilarious when a guy dresses up as a woman?

Why isn’t it funny the other way around? When Marlene Dietrich wore top hat and tails it wasn’t silly, it was erotic. When Janelle Monáe performs in a suit & tie, it’s way hot. Face it, even “Mary Poppins” (Julie Andrews) in Victor Victoria was rockin’ the dude-wear. If some woman in a perfume ad wakes up and slips into nothing but her man’s dress shirt? Super sexy. Some man in a cologne ad shrugs on his lady’s frilly blouse? Not so much.

And, frankly, it often feels like there’s something deeply demeaning toward women when a male performer gets laughs simply by dressing himself up as a female.

Brace yourself because I’m about to make a really disturbing analogy. But I think it’s at least semi-valid. Here goes. Minstrel shows. We don’t allow them any more, thank God. Yet for years white male performers regularly dressed up as African Americans – a brutally oppressed, beaten-down group. They’d doll themselves up in the clichéd trappings of that group and prance about pretending to be a part of that “jolly” exploited underclass for our entertainment. They exaggerated every supposed characteristic folks of the time believed about people of color: shuffling walks, wacky patterns of speech, banjoes, watermelons, wild hair, massive lips, and blacker-than-blackface. “Look how silly and goofy them folks are! Ain’t it funny when I, a white male, pretend to be one?”

We all, hopefully, get how obscene and wrong that is now. But somehow it’s still okay nowadays for random gents to entertain the crowd by adopting exaggerated versions of all the stuff our society currently thinks of as “female.” These men pretend to be women (which – ahem – also happens to be an oppressed group, not coincidentally) by wearing gaudy dresses, overstuffed bras, huge wigs, fishnet stockings, gigundo eyelashes, and tons of ladled-on lipstick, all while teetering about on high heels, clutching handbags, and squealing in high-pitched voices. “Look how silly and goofy them women are! Ain’t it funny when I, a male, pretend to be one?”

Really creepy, when you think about it.

Dietrich Does Drag. Because Damn.
Okay, so maybe I went off a bit on a tangent there with my minstrel show analogy. Harsh, but I feel it’s legit, at least on some level. I do, however, realize that some modern drag shows, particularly non-comedic ones performed by yet another oppressed group (gay men), can sometimes be more of a respectful celebration of “classic old-Hollywood feminine glamour” than an attempt to belittle and demean women.  Understood.

Oh, and speaking of non-comedic drag that works, last summer I saw an amazing production of Richard III at the New Globe in London where, just as it was originally done, men played every role, male and female. It was subtle, beautiful, and brilliant.


Looks like I not only lost my train of thought there, but then missed the following train and was forced to take a cab home.


Okay. I’m back. My real point is: the clothing we as a society dress our daughters in is stuff we find hilarious when our sons wear, but not the other way around. And that’s fundamentally wrong.

I think it’s all tied in with how it’s still considered an insult to call a boy a “girl,” how a slang word for female genitals is still used in the locker room to call a dude “weak & cowardly,” and how it continues to be cruel to suggest a guy “runs like a girl,” etc.  Girl-ness is still thought of as intrinsically inferior. Frivolous. And silly.

And therefore, when a guy pretends to be one, it’s funny. Ha ha ha.

Bottom line time. As a life-long feminist, I have to say that I feel like we will not have achieved true equality until the day comes when either women have largely stopped wearing the kinds of clothing that we find “hilarious” when men put on, or the day our attitudes toward so-called “girly” clothing has changed enough so it’s no longer funny for either sex to wear it. (The latter would be preferable because it’d suggest we’d’ve become a more accepting society in all gender directions.)

And with that (clumsily) expressed, this particular fellow who is (in spite of a last name that implies otherwise) of mostly Scottish descent, will straighten the pleats in his kilt, adjust his undersized sporran, and sashay off into the daughterset.

Saturday, June 7, 2014



A food-loving bald man named Tate
Slapped some slaw on his head whilst he ate
The ruse might’ve fooled
But his “slaw toupee” pooled
And he had way too much on his pate

A bald-faced lie.

Here’s the thing: Toupees, nasty “hair-club weaves,” comb-overs, plugs, spray-on hair, and ugly wigs on men work. They work. No matter how ridiculous and silly they appear, they do the job. Seriously. No matter how badly made or improperly fitted or horribly color mismatched.   

I sense some of you don’t believe me. But as a balding man who doesn’t hide the fact, I’m permitted to speak out on this subject. Hear me.

Years ago (back in the 80s, when I lived in NYC) a Manhattan street artist put up a series of posters around town. They were simply enlarged headshots of William Shatner and Burt Reynolds which the artist had realistically, painstakingly retouched (this was in the days before Photoshop, so we’re talking serious airbrush chops). The images had been expertly altered so that both actors looked exactly like they probably really did without their hairpieces. (Even back then both these guys were famous for their crappy toupees.)   

So there they were in all their glory, Bill and Burt, smiling toothily at the camera and displaying realistic, late-stage, male-pattern baldness. Seeing these posters was a shock to me, and probably not for the reason the artist intended. (Maybe he or she had created the piece as a statement about the artificiality of Hollywood or deceptiveness of white men or rampant misuse of yak hair or something. Dunno.) I vividly remember stopping at a street-corner and staring, hypnotized by these twin photos which had been taped to a lamppost.

Balding James T. Kirk and balding J.J. McClure.

Both stars looked a good deal older, less virile, less sexy, and, frankly, quite a bit less handsome.  It was then I realized (and I had a lush mop of 20-something hair back then) that toupees, no matter how badly made, really work. They do! Meaning, you can look across the room and spy a handsome, virile, sexy, youngish-looking guy with a toupee and think, “If only he’d take off that silly, ugly, dead-squirrel thingy squatting on his head! Why would a cute guy wear such a hideous rug?? Why not just go natural??” But in most cases if that very same fellow actually did take off that unrealistic, ridiculous hairpiece, he’d look like a slightly less handsome, not-quite-so-virile, not-quite-as-sexy, and – yes – much older dude.  Sure he also might appear way more natural, genuine, and authentic, and far less vain and affected… but still, in truth, he’d look a bit less attractive, too.

It’s like some kind of bizarre magic trick.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are supermodel and/or super-charasmatic guys like Sean Connery, LL Cool J, and Patrick Stewart who’d look gorgeous with or without a Chia pet stapled to their forehead. But they’re the exceptions. (And, incidentally, there’s definitely something to be said for a totally shaven head vs. a partially balding one.)

My point is: even though I’m slowly balding myself and have never gone the toupee/wig/hair-plug route (and probably never will)… I get it.  

I totally get it.

I'll have heck toupee
I recently donned a cheap Halloween-store wig for a comedy skit and was shocked when I looked in the mirror. I looked silly as hell. A total goofball. A dork with jet-black, plastic-looking, wacky Ken-doll-hair balanced awkwardly on my head. But I also looked, somehow, just a bit more handsome, more virile, and younger.  (Sigh.)

Maybe I should get myself a toupee, but one I’d only wear on special occasions. You know, kinda like that nice suit you only put on for weddings and funerals.

Nah. I’ll probably never go the artificial hair route (partly just out of laziness), but, on a side note, I do notice that the balder I get… the more I find myself fascinated by hats.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014



An atheist hailing from Sweden
Was reviled in our land as a heathen
When aside, he’d confide,
He could never decide
Exactly whom not to believe in

The post below is a bit lazy. It’s actually a guest post I wrote on DANGERdanger’s blog a while ago.  I’d write something brand new, but I really need to floss. Hey – at least it’s semi controversial, subject-wise!

I've been stuffed but until now never mounted
Funny, He Doesn't Look Elkish

So there’s this Elks lodge all my young buddies are joining. Partly because the beer is cheap and the steak dinners are apparently yummy, partly to have a funky, centrally-located gathering place to talk business and hang out, and partly, well, “ironically.”

The Elks Club is great. No joke. From the outside it could be a tool-and-die factory, but inside it’s an episode of Cheers as directed by David Lynch. There’s a meeting hall, a high-school-cafeteria-esque dining room, a cement courtyard for outdoor BBQs, and, of course: a bar. Ah, the bar. The bar rocks. The not-unpleasant, ever-so-slight smell of old beer & mildew lingers in the air. And under that wafts the familiar sweet/sour faint odor of Clorox-mixed-with-stale-sweat I’ll forever associate with 1980’s Time Square porn palaces (um, not that I ever frequented such places….). The lighting is dim and the décor is early Holiday Inn meets late Sizzler.

The TV behind the dingy bar is permanently set on Fox News, there’s a whiteboard tracking the progress of some on-going Elky golf tournament, and I think I caught a glimpse of a dusty pool table and maybe a dartboard somewhere along the boxcar-like rows of small back rooms.

The bartender has just enough of an "Overlook Hotel" creepiness to make ordering a three-buck Bud Lite interesting. All the male patrons look like white-haired Barney Rubbles, and most have that old-school, macho friendliness peculiar to veterans. A sturdy Semper Fi warmth. The few women bellying up to the bar mighta been beauty queens back in the day before their features & figures got weathered by hard knocks and even harder drinking.

In other words: the perfect place for a bunch of young (ish) dudes to hang out. “Ironically” or not. And, to add to the charm, in order to join up one must be interviewed, approved, voted on, and initiated. There’s even some kind of endless (and unintentionally humorous) old introductory film you have to sit through. Awesome.

Come on. How cool is all that? Two of my buddies have already passed though the process, a third is halfway there, and a forth will probably start the procedure when he’s back in town.

So here’s the rub. They tell me there are two “deal breaker” questions they ask during the interview. The first is: “Are you a communist?” No problem there. I can easily say “no” to that one (though, as a Democrat, some Fox News aficionados might think me almost there). Then there’s the “Do you believe in God” question. Uh-oh. Apparently you’ve got to answer “yes” to be considered for induction into the wonderful world of Elk-dom.


I’m one of those “don’t ask/don’t tell” life-long atheists. (Though I suppose, technically I’m what they nowadays call a “Tooth-Fairy Agnostic,” but that’s another story.) The point is when people wax all spiritual or religious around me I tend to just smile and nod and try to politely change the subject. Since I realize my non-theistic position is unusual – even controversial (especially here in America) – I mostly keep my lack of belief to myself. But if asked directly, point-blank across a wobbly metal desk in some dark back office by some scrotal-skinned, white-haired Barney Rubble? I’d kinda have to tell the truth. No getting ‘round it.

So I guess I’m out of the game. No secret handshake, no initiation ceremony, no decoder ring for me.

And here’s the thing that just occurred to me today, and it’s why I’m writing this (perhaps too serious – sorry) blog. If, hypothetically, all my friends joined some social club but then subsequently discovered I couldn’t join along with them because I was black, or gay, for female, or Jewish, or Muslim, or some such – I think we’d all feel very different about the situation. Frankly, I think we’d be up in arms. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if my friends didn’t instantly quit that fictitious club in angry, disgusted protest. Or maybe they’d stage a raucous, Norma-Rae-style poster-waving demonstration.

Horns of a dilemma
And, I – that hypothetical black/gay/female/Jewish/Muslim me – would probably be equally outraged and alert the media in squinty-eyed righteous indignation, bellowing war cries of “bigotry!” and “unfair!” and yadda yadda. But in this particular case, both myself and my buddies shrugged it off, joked about how quaint and goofy and sweet them-there old Elk rules are, and let it slide.

So I just won’t join and they will. Maybe I’ll attend occasional events there as a “guest.” No biggie.

But it’s an interesting issue, no? It’s as though “non-belief” is the last thing left on the list it’s still okay to be openly exclusionary about here in America. Recently I read an article about how -- though we now have a black president and will one day soon probably have a female one, and though we have assorted Jewish, Hispanic, and “out” gay members of congress, etc, etc. -- the way things are going it’ll probably be at least a hundred years before we in the U.S. are comfortable with openly non-religious politicians. It’s the final frontier of American, er, closet-leaving.

Ah well. If you need me I’ll be nestled back in the walk-in between my wrinkled Dockers and my pit-stained polo shirts.

With Godlessness,

A Closet-Dwelling Heathen