March 30, 2006

it's that little souvenir of a terrible year


Found while cleaning up Eudora email mailboxes this evening - folder entitled "move to inbox sep 01." Out of hundreds of emails, some excerpts below:


Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 01:08:24 -0500
From: "Southwest Airlines"
To: Ian
Subject: Weekly Internet Specials September 11, 2001

Southwest Airlines e-mail update for
September 11, 2001

Baltimore Washington Int'l, MD
$30 one-way, to/from Albany, NY
$30 one-way, to/from Buffalo/Niagara Falls, NY
$30 one-way, to/from Cleveland, OH
$30 one-way, to/from Columbus, OH
$30 one-way, to/from Hartford, CT/Springfield, MA
$30 one-way, to/from Long Island/Islip, NY

Dallas Love Field, TX
$30 one-way, to/from Amarillo, TX
$30 one-way, to/from Austin, TX
$30 one-way, to/from Houston Bush Intercontinental, TX
$30 one-way, to/from Midland/Odessa, TX
$30 one-way, to/from Oklahoma City, OK


From: Steve Williams
To: Ian Williams, Kent Williams,
Linda Williams, Michelle Williams,
Sean Williams, Tessa, Jordana
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 09:15:07 -0700
Subject: Hope everybody's okay

I'd welcome a message from each of the New Yorkers. Looks pretty grim on the TV.


From: R. T.
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 13:27:58 EDT

Forgive me for using this impersonal email address, but it's the only one that I have mass emailing privileges from at the moment.

It seems inconceivable that last night's show ended just hours and a few blocks from the disaster. Yes, thanks to everyone who has emailed. I am safe and fine.


From: "A. W."
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 21:36:58 -0400
To: I.W.
Subject: Re: all ok


Great to hear you and Tessa are OK as well. I'll fill you in on details later, but we were uncomfortably close to WTC when the second tower fell-had to go down to lower Tribeca to check on sick friend. Sound was like deafening jet roar/bomb detonation, felt like earthquake, was screaming at W and Amy to run as massive cloud of debris and smoke moved like a freight train behind us up Hudson Street. We're OK, hanging at friend's place in East Village right now, staying with other friend's in Nolita tonight. Can't go back to Tribeca as police have whole place blocked off. Let me know about Jamie Block.


From: Steve Williams
To: Ian Williams, Kent Williams,
Linda Williams, Michelle Williams
Sean Williams, Tessa, Jordana
Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2001 09:01:51 -0700
Subject: Speculation about Mom's plans

Mom, any updates?

Anyway, I don't think it'd make much sense to try to get back to the U.S. early, as it'll be some time before the airports are back to normal. A week might just be a good amount of time to wait, assuming things remain calm in Ukraine and Austria. There are no new travel warnings for either country yet.

It looks like yesterday's shutdown of all airports (including general aviation) has removed any further immediate threat to us here in the U.S. And when the airports open, the security will be very, very tight. There will be no curbside check-in and most hand luggage will be physically searched, I think. Soon, multiple IDs and multiple ID checks will be required, and despite the civil liberty issues, I think a system of automated background checks on all airlines passengers will soon be in place.


From: Michelle Williams
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 00:03:17 -0400
To: Sean, Ian,
Linda, Steve,
Kent, tessa, jordi

Hello to all-

I'm sending the following email to everyone, mostly to let everyone know that I and mine are okay. Even as the bomb scare hits the Empire State Building. This feels like it may never end...

People all over the streets, just wandering because nothing is open and there is nowhere to go and if we are inside we will just watch it over and over and over. It will never get old. As we are walking to one of two restaurants open in that part of the village, there is a child yelling. Nothing specific, just yelling, and his Dad is sort of pulling him along by the hand and we hear the little boy say, or rather almost scream "I just can't stop yelling"...

Ian and Tessa and another of her friends showed up in the early afternoon yesterday and helped organize a trip to Belleview where there were hundreds waiting in line with pictures of their missing friends and family. Most of them were numb and calm, a few just haunted, and one woman I saw looked as though she had always been crying, and always would. Ian had an enormous box of Wendy's salads and I was carrying a literal bucket of dressing (donated by the deli across the way, with no questions asked) and I heard him say "my sister has the dressing" as he passed out the greens...


From: Tessa
Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2001 03:56:25 EDT
Subject: day 2, 3, 4
To: Sandy, Ian, Sean, Michelle, Linda, Kent, Steve, Jordi, mastro, Jessica, nell

A fierce storm hit last night. I was standing at Ground Zero under a tarp with 26 police, and 7 firefighters as the rain and wind swayed the buildings around us, when one of the policemen said in a funny, kid-like voice, "I don't like this. I want to go home." And he meant it.

And then I saw a firefighter, head bowed, and it seemed like maybe he was crying. I felt almost too reverent to ask if he was okay but then I did, because if I had any real job down there this was as much a part of it as handing out ponchos and making hot coffee. And he said "It's over. The water... the's over." After a day of false hopes, retractions of reported rescues, the rain came and contributed the same weight as the rubble that had been removed, filled up air pockets that may have sustained people and everyone down there knew what that meant. No more hope. No survivors. Nothing to work toward. Just grief.

I want to end this with something, you know, positive. I don't want to seem dour or humorless or without perspective. And I want everyone to know that I am taking comfort in friends and family, in our safety and love for each other. I started to do work again today. We are all beginning to talk about other things. I am not bleak. Weirdly, I am not afraid. I have a faith in all sorts of things -- in our collective strength, in a wisdom broader than my grasp, in the generosity of this city and this country and the world. But for now, I am sad. So deeply sad...


From: Michelle Williams
Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2001 02:22:18 -0400
To: Sean, Ian,
Linda, Steve,
Kent, tessa, jordi

Thankfully I was KBW at the restaurant tonight, which is the "kitchen back-waiter", which meant that all I did was cut bread and run food. I talked to almost no one, which was for the best, considering these were the things people were saying:

"I heard you guys were closed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday! Are you always closed those days? I was afraid we wouldn't get in here to eat!"

"This salad is too bitter!" "can I make you a salad with no raddichio? It will be less bitter" "No. When I get a bitter salad in a restaurant I just throw it away."

and my favorite:

"How come you guys are so slow tonight?"

To which I would have liked to answer, "Well, sir, there's less people alive tonight. Oh, and a few trying to find their bodies."

Good thing I wasn't on the floor.


From: Tessa
Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2001 15:33:09 EDT
Subject: Re: afghan american angle
To: Sandy, Ian, Sean, Michelle, Linda, Kent, Steve, Jordi,

It is hard to hear but easy to imagine all of this being reduced/elevated (?) to cartoon and cinema. It feels like that sometimes here. I tear-up a lot on the street, hearing a story or seeing an image and I am afraid that someone is going to scoff or be perceived by chic uptowners as treacly and earnest. But here, at least downtown, things remain pretty simple and reverent.

We were at out local video store last night and told them that we had a movie out that we rented on Monday and wondered if would it be counted late. But she explained that all the movies out on Tuesday were forgiven in the system and then as we wandered away we realized that all those tapes had been forgiven because hundreds of them would never come back.


Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2001 15:48:59 -0500 (CDT)
From: Kent williams
To: Tessa
cc: Steve, Ian, Michelle, Sean, Jordi, Mom

While it's hard, and especially hard for y'all who have been down in the thick of it, to think beyond the immediate, it's going to become even worse if Bush and Powell go off on a military adventure in Afghanistan, something they've all but said out loud they're going to do. A lot of innocent, good people died tuesday, but it's only going to be compounded, with terrible interest, if we start a war.

What Dubya shares with Herbert Walker Bush is a complete lack of imagination. They live in a Manichean universe where the only tools in a crises that comes to their minds are things that blow up.


Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2001 20:40:06 -0500 (CDT)
From: Kent williams
To: Sean Williams
cc: Tessa, Jason, Sandy,
mom, Ian, Jordana
Michelle, Sean, Steve, Nell
Subject: Re: Recovering

Before you all start buying land in Wyoming and stocking up on automatic weapons, maybe everyone needs to chill out a bit.

Strange as it may sound I'm thinking that there's a slim possibility cooler heads may prevail. I mean I'm no military expert but I'd guess that at least someone in the White House has noticed that we'd be invading a mountainous, barren country, fighting people who did their undergrad work with our finest military minds, and whose PHD dissertation was defeating the entire Soviet Union...

I mean jesus, people thought Somalia was a bitch. This is a bitch with 5 angry boyfriends hopped on meth by comparison. If we put ground troups in Pakistan, they'll have their hands full just keeping from getting blown up by the local non-combatants.

Even though I'm categorically opposed to any military campaign, no matter how slam-dunk, I have to think that the brain trust in DC aren't nearly as dumb as they look.


From: Steve Williams
Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2001 09:31:39 -0700
To: Ian Williams, Kent Williams,
Michelle Williams, Sean Williams, Tessa, Jordi
Subject: Kije

Again, I've left Mom off this list. Sean agreed to talk to her in person when she gets into New York.

Kije lay in a outdoor pen this morning. The staff at the vet's had put down a couple of blankets to cushion him, and then thrown another comfy blanket over him. That's just what I did Friday night when I found him stricken. He was very calm...

But it was time. They brought him on a doggy stretcher into the exam room, and the vet and his helper stood with me, and we all stroked him. After Kije was gone, I stayed a few minutes and burrowed my fingers down through his fur. He was always so warm.

The vet said we can have his ashes. Maybe Mom will want them, I don't know. The vet removed his collar and gave it to me. I have photos for you all.

So many people have lost so much this week.


From: Tessa
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001 02:01:07 EDT
Subject: (no subject)
To: everybody

My father died tonight. It was peaceful and expected. And I feel grateful that he is no longer suffering. But I am, of course, deeply sad. In the face of such endless sadness. Ian and I were walking through the memorial at Union Square Park when I found out and I felt so grateful to be there, swimming in so much sorrow and so much love.

We will drive down to Texas tomorrow. We expect the service to be held on Friday in Houston. If you feel moved to send flowers, I would be so grateful if you made a small donation in his honor to the relief effort instead. Or you could send us your love and support and that would be more than enough.

Thank you all for being such extraordinary friends through what has been a truly difficult year.


From: Ian Williams
Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2001 09:31:39 -0700
To: Ian Williams, Kent Williams,
Michelle Williams, Sean Williams, Tessa, Jordi
Subject: Kije

Since I can no longer afford to eat at Michelle's restaurant, we had a burger around the corner, then walked into Union Square Park to see the makeshift altar that has become the corner of Broadway and 14th Street. It is truly amazing - thousands of candles, pictures of the missing, signs that vary from heartbreaking to creepy, and enough flowers to staunch the horrible smell that still wafts up from downtown. One row of posters were American flags painted by the third grade class at a local elementary. Written in the white stripes part of the flag (who knew our flag doubled as lined paper?) the kids wrote little sayings that were so wonderful: "I am very sad about the Worlds Trades Centers. I think the terrorist should say their sorry. I felt bad but then I felt good. Because I love the firemen and they rilly rilly brave. I love living in New York City."


Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2001 01:05:43 -0500
From: "Southwest Airlines"
To: Ian
Subject: Promotional and Anniversary Specials for September 25, 2001

A message from the Employees of Southwest Airlines:

We salute the American Spirit.
We pledge our allegiance to the flag.
We will stand with our fellow airlines.
We vow to continue.
We will keep America flying.

Southwest Airlines Weekly E-mail Update for
September 25, 2001

Albany, NY
$30 one-way, to/from Baltimore Washington Int'l, MD

Austin, TX
$30 one-way, to/from Dallas Love Field, TX
$30 one-way, to/from Houston Hobby, TX


Posted by Ian Williams at 11:19 PM (Permalink) | Comments (31)

March 29, 2006

don't know what a slide rule is for


This entry is going to be short, and you know why? Because I discovered the "search" function on my online UNC alumni database! Hey, you chick on the ninth floor of Hinton James in 1985 - I CAN SEE YOU!

Why is there always this morbid - or at least insatiable - fascination to find out how (or where) people ended up? The database occasionally only gives out a current address and spouse, and I'm forced to fill in the eighteen years in between, often with some pretty bizarre stories.

Anyway, instead of writing a real blog, I was searching for a bunch of you and "inviting you to be my friend," which I like for its irrepressible creepiness. I couldn't find several of you cats so: UNC grads, go here to register, so that we can be "friends". I never did friendster or myspace or anything, so this is my stab in that direction.

And if you didn't go to Carolina, why not? What led you to your undergrad school? That is today's CODE WORD, so let the stories unfold.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:49 PM (Permalink) | Comments (63)

March 28, 2006

gonna have a party when the bouncers leave


As I am wont to do every once in a while, I'd like to single out one of my old friends who is still doing tremendous things after all these years. You've heard me rattle on about Salem and Ann and Bud, Chip and Jon among others, but it's time to say a few words about my buddy, the Id of New City, Jamie Block.

me and Jamie, 1988

Everyone gets monumentally depressed their junior year of college, which is why most people spend it abroad. I was about to sink into my own post-parental-divorce saturnalia when Block showed up with a giant jug of wine, a guitar, and a cover band that played U2 songs for screaming chicks at Granville Towers. We proceeded to spend every waking moment together, convinced we could bed any woman willing to listen to our heartstring-yanking version of "April, Come She Will."

We participated in some crazy shit: misty, weird parties in the Hamptons; breaking into every hot tub in Chapel Hill; even an aborted trip to California, where he had to fly back to NYC after being in LA for three hours. I was one of the few people who met his mom, a vivacious, wonderful woman who helped up put together flyers for our shows.

She passed away suddenly the summer before our senior year, and it threw Jamie in the kind of tailspin I can only imagine. When we graduated, we both stayed in Chapel Hill, but it was no place for a folksy musician, so he began his Lost Years up in the East Village, headlining the "anti-folk" movement of the early '90s (a genre I still don't quite understand, but was happy to go to the shows). He lived in a room on 5th Street that was six floors up and no bigger than a double bed.

As his songwriting muscle strengthened, he began to write some of the most incredible music: "To Alice in Thunderland" (a tortuously beautiful ballad about his mother) and "Reuben Says" freaked my shit out. It was no surprise that by 1998, he signed with Capitol Records and released Timing is Everything, getting on the soundtrack for "Never Been Kissed" and "Rounders" in the process.

I was living in Los Angeles by then, and we tore the town apart every time the tour came close. It was amazing fun, but of course, the music business is an unbelievably cruel clusterfuck, and for the want of about 20 grand, Capitol wouldn't send him on the MTV Spring Break tour. And that was that.

late 2000 at Arlene's Grocery

In 2000, he started over and created another band, this time with me playing keyboards and violin on select numbers. There was nothing riding on it, just for fun, and the music is a total blast, veering into strong dance, then backing into some beautiful, contemplative solo voice-and-guitar. Loopy, eclectic, sunshiny, dark, surreal pop. It's a little tour de force that he's been working on for five years, and as of today, it's available on Amazon. And you should buy it, not because I'm on the album (although that's a damn good reason) but because it's a run for the home team, and if we can get it jumpstarted, good things will happen.

Here's the thing about Block: in the midst of the Capitol Records debacle, he looked at his family (the amazing Susan, and their two daughters Johanna and Sophie) and had a conversion experience. He quit touring and became an investment banker. His training day occurred on September 11, 2001, a few feet from the World Trade Center in Manhattan. When the planes hit, he had to dodge falling bodies in order to actually jump onto the last ferry pulling away before the second tower came down.

He was one of the only trainees who stayed with the business after that, and in five short years, has become the wunderkind of Morgan Stanley, in charge of more money than he's allowed to say. He's the funds person for ASCAP, and has carved out a niche as every musician's broker, since he knows from experience how to be an "artist" and keep finances flowing.

We're all capable of rebirth, but Jamie has had to do it, dramatically, several times over. I'm beyond proud of him. Shuffling millions by day, and singing by night, he accidentally became the Sustained Artist, the very person we wanted to be when we were still trying to get that chick Lisa into the hot tub by singing "Mozambique."

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:25 PM (Permalink) | Comments (17)

March 27, 2006

wish they all could be california


It's been a while since I had any pictures of The Bug on the website, and since we're in LA, this is the only way most of my family can see the way she's growing up. I will say this: Lucy is a giant handful of the most fun you can have. She talks all the time and, as of 11 months, can say "bye bye" and "hi" and "uh-oh"... and "da-da" and "mama," but her use of our names is still pretty random and arbitrary and we're still trying to get her to understand that "funny-looking redheaded guy" is actually "da-da," but CHRIST it breaks my heart to hear it.

Her first words were uttered not for me or my wife, but for my mother, and they were "bye-bye" to our neighbor Rebecca Lowman, seen here:


We have an orange tree in our front yard, and they are beyond delicious. The look on Lucy's face when she tried her first orange was documented thus:


Another neighbor gave us their kiddie "yard castle" (complete with mailbox), and when she's inside it, she couldn't care less about us; she has shit to do, yo. I finally got her to look up from her projects:


Pretty typical scene here: before her bath, she got into her jar of carrots, smeared them all over her body, stood up on the changing table and plastered food all over the walls. She was in such a frenzy that I could barely capture it:


She can stand on her own for about five seconds before grabbing something for balance, or kneeling gently to the floor. Her primary means of transportation is a very fast yet unbelievably inefficient crawl that makes a lot of noise, especially since she's singing and barking all the way across the house. It's a lot of work being La Luz, and when she sleeps, my little girl has earned it.


Posted by Ian Williams at 11:17 PM (Permalink) | Comments (21)

March 26, 2006

brother's keeper, mother's ruin


Earlier this week, the New York Parole Board denied Winston Moseley his freedom yet again, and thank god: he was the man who brutally stabbed, raped and killed Kitty Genovese in 1964. As most of you know, 38 people in Queens, NY witnessed at least some of the crime and none of them did a single thing about it. I studied the event in college for a psych thesis, but I hadn't known all the details until now.

Read this article about the incident, but be prepared - this crime was methodical, savage and unbelievably grim even by today's standards. Don't say I didn't warn you, and the face of that pretty 28-year-old Italian girl will haunt you for a long time.

Kitty's murder went unnoticed for two weeks, when a Times columnist wrote a disgusted treatise asking how thirty-eight people could possibly have watched it happen. It's so grisly: Moseley stabbed Kitty at her doorstep, then left when he thought he'd been seen. Kitty staggered to the back of her apartment building, and the killer came back, stabbing her again. Spooked by noise, Moseley left and CAME BACK AGAIN to rape and kill her. Three goddamn times he came for her, and the slightest action by any bystander would have saved her life. It's sickening, even now.

I had a sociology teacher who once said that America did not lose its innocence at Pearl Harbor, nor with the JFK assassination. It happened that night with Kitty Genovese. Strong words, and entire schools of thought were developed to explain why we could be so cruel.

Of course, New York City bore the brunt of it, as it just confirmed what the rest of America already thought: NYC was a trove of uncaring, brutal animals. When the so-called "bystander effect" was noticed even in small towns, it wasn't so easy to blame those frickin' New Yorkers anymore.

My social psych prof at UNC, Bibb Latané, was one of the first to give the Genovese Syndrome a real name: the Theory of Social Impact, which states (roughly) that the more people there are in any given situation, the less likely any one of them is going to act.

This theory had so many outlets it was ridiculous. Among them:
- Look at a giant choir singing. Due to the theory of social impact, 10% of them are just mouthing the words. Not only that, but they don't even know they're not singing.
- Basketball has a historic 76% home court advantage; football has only 51%.
- The researchers stuck five McDonald's gift certificates on an elevator wall. When eight people got into the elevator, none of them took the certificates. When ONE person got in, he/she took them ALL.

Add to this the recent book by UNC's own James Surowiecki, which states that well-informed, diverse crowds make better decisions than individual experts (a book I mentioned here). Pretty weird. That means crowds make wonderful decisions in the theoretical, but catastrophic decisions in the particular.

Why does this stuff get me off? I guess because the definition of being an individual, of being alive, of being present, is to avoid being a victim of either theory. First off, do not consider yourself an expert on anything without giving massive credence to the sway of the spiritus mundi. Don't be made complacent by the few things you get right.

Secondly, whether you're in a crowd, or alone: ACT! This is one that has been a nightmare for me, because my first instinct is always to believe that I'M the one who doesn't get it. But if you hear a kid screaming, feel like something's wrong on the subway, or, god forbid, see a woman getting raped and stabbed, assume nothing and call the cops! That, and throw a tire iron at the bad guy. A clean shot at the skull can really mess up his plans.

Don't become a voiceless sheep in the fact of Social Impact! Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe, and sometimes a woman screaming bloody murder is actually bloody well being murdered.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:44 PM (Permalink) | Comments (34)

March 23, 2006

stars and planets realign


Those of you who are sports-repellent may find relief that this may be my last NCAA basketball-related post until autumn, but I can't let the night go by without relishing in the special schadenfreude that is Duke University losing. I absolutely loathe seeing them play, so I've managed to miss every dook game except the ones where they play us - and tonight was no exception.

It wasn't until my curiosity got the best of me when I began downloading the score on my Treo with about five minutes left in the game. Tessa and I were in a Mexican restaurant on Pico, and instead of eating, I was hitting the 'refresh' button over and over while giving her updates. I swear to god, there's no better way to experience a dook loss. All of the ill will without actually having to see their players.

Much will be made of J.J. Redick's horrendous performance in this (and, for that matter every) tournament of his career, and I know a few die-hard Tar Heels who even expressed a tiny bit of pity when he fought back tears on the bench. I'm no alabaster-hearted monster, but fuck that. Those were not tears of tragedy, they were tears of "denied entitlement," the same tears cried by every dook player in their last game (Carrawell, Wojo, etc).

Who feels pity for the mid-major seniors playing for teams like Southwest Missouri State, who foul out of their last game, knowing their job prospects lie barely north of service management? Don't shed a tear for Redick; a couple million in the NBA as a four-year journeyman flameout will put the smile right back on his face.

And hats off to LSU, who obviously brought it, and brought it together. I find it immensely satisfying that a school from Louisiana, a state battered by a hurricane and left for dead by our administration, beat Duke University's squad, helmed by an unmitigated jerk who uses Koach K Kourt to raise money for Republicans.

K himself now goes on to coach the Americans in the Olympics, which, as I've said before, is why I'm pulling for Croatia. Unless Antawn Jamison is on the team, and then I'll be torn. Frankly, I don't see the value in K's two coaching edicts:
1. Win at all costs.
2. Fuck you.
He has been happy to throw his kids and his assistant coaches under the bus in order to solidify his draconian empire (see Randolph, S. and Gaudet, P.); he played Redick and Shelden Williams 39 minutes a game this year while sacrificing the careers of his blue-chip bench. I can't imagine why anyone would want to play for that guy, but the Kool-Aid seems to be strong over there in Derm.

Pity? Whatever. Tessa hates it when she sees the glee I take in dook's misfortune, but you know what? They have always stood for everything I stand against. You can't appreciate the singularity of your convictions unless you have an antithesis. The Carolina Way is my faith, and every religion has its Devil.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:02 PM (Permalink) | Comments (40)

March 22, 2006

here's your hat, what's your hurry


Dearest J Boogie:

You are, in many ways, why the internet doesn't work. Every living organism needs its nasty rotavirus, and it seems as if you are ours. Your mean-spirited, reactionary, crazy-ass wingnut ramblings used to be purely philosophical, but have recently degenerated into calling attention to perceived problems with my appearance, which has turned your comments from merely wrong to lamentably pathetic.

I have given you a long, long leash, especially when I can delete anything you say with the merest click of the mouse. I have allowed you to ramble on in this forum, mostly because I think your argumentative tone - as well as your opinions - are so twisted that they actually lend credence to my side of the spectrum by comparison. In essence, you've always been an unbelievably rude cad, but I've come to enjoy your occasional outbursts of effluvium powered by the blood of the unbelievers.

But you have grown tiresome, drunk with the power of anonymity that I, ironically, keep giving you. First, a word about my face: it has always been fat, even when I'm skinny. I have the hugest head in North America; nary a hat fits me. Badly-cropped pictures make me look like a bloated fool, but in person, my large-headedness has served to keep me looking preternaturally young. Not that it has been all cakes and roses (I still get carded), but something nice to have around as I approach my 40th birthday in a few years.

And, to validate another one of your criticism, I indeed am "pill-popping," that is, if one pill of Celexa thrown into my mouth around midnight each night constitutes "popping." Guilty as charged. I might also tell you that I "pop" an Allopurinol (300 mg) every night, which as Neva can tell you, is because I have gout.

But, in all seriousness, enough about me. I would not normally call you out like this, or even dignify your "comments" with a blog, but quite frankly, you're bumming out my wife. And a lot of my friends, at least the ones that don't think that you're actually Lindsay writing in disguise.

So I'll make a deal with you. I will continue to abide your rancor and allow you to say whatever you want (as long as it doesn't slag other individuals, which has always been the rule here), if you provide a link to a web page with some personal info about - or a picture of - you. As Andy Partridge says, I've "wobbled my pork about" on these pages for years, so I get to say whatever I want. But I'm afraid you must pay for your venality by giving up some of your anonymity.

So provide us some kind of biographical information, and/or post a picture - it can be anything you like. And don't provide a link to the RNC, or aborted fetuses, or someone who isn't you, as it will be as obvious as a fart in a car. Step up to the plate and unveil at least a small part of yourself, and you can have your say on this website as long as it exists.

If not, I'm afraid you'll be asked to leave. I think it only fair.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:25 PM (Permalink) | Comments (65)

March 21, 2006

no, not THAT kind of hummer


I'm afraid I'll have to pull a CODE WORD for today, because it is my 6am shift with The Buglet tomorrow morning, and that is now only a few hours away. Today's topic? Yep, you guessed it: PEAK OIL THEORY!

You can find out for yourself what Peak Oil actually means (like here or here), and I'm sure you conservatives out there will trip all over yourselves to deny it's happening, but my question is simple. What the fuck are you going to do?

If the days of American exurbia and our gluttony for oil is truly about to end, do any of you have an escape plan? Do you have a place to go where you can wait out the worst? My farm is solar-powered, has fresh water, damned fine arable land and is welcome to those who can tell really good stories (and have a decent jump shot) when the Oilpocalypse happens, but what about the rest of you? Any plans at all? I'm serious!

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:18 PM (Permalink) | Comments (30)

March 20, 2006

it gives a lovely light!


While perusing today, I came across one of those life expectancy calculators, this one courtesy of MSN. I'll occasionally indulge myself in these, because generally, I like the results: I drink alcohol maybe once a month now, my BMI is still around 25, and I had half a cigarette in 8th grade before I threw up and never touched one again. This particular test, however, places huge influence on how long your grandparents live and your gender.

As a male, I was supposed to make it to 75, which SUCKS. Dying at 75 is perfectly lame, especially if you want to see how everything turns out. So I made myself a woman, and it gave me until 91! How can there possibly be a sixteen-year discrepancy just by having labia?

I went over to the Death Clock, and they were barely more sanguine. I do have more than 1.2 billion seconds left according to them, so that's something, but I'm still stunned at how much better women are built for life on Planet Earth.

While taking Psych 28 (Personality) with Dr. Richard Lucas - easily one of the greatest classes ever taught in 217 years of UNC's existence - all of us students were asked to make a little line graph of when we were born, when we were to die, and where we thought we were in relation to those two events. Mine, and many of the kids' around me looked like this:


It's incredible how being a teenager truly makes you think you'll live forever, or at least until you're 145. But I have to say that I only gained true sanity in the harrowing months after 9/11, when I fully came to grips with "the rest of my life" not being so impossibly long. When you have some sense of your ending, even if it is far away, it allows you to stop making incredibly stupid decisions and (if you want to) get married and have a child.

Before that conversion experience, I was genetically unable to commit to anything because I feared the word "forever." Now forever doesn't seem that long, and part of that is actually comforting. Liberating, even.

But now, with the unlocking of the human genetic code, the lambent promise of stem cells, and the research on shutting down the sub-cellular proteins that say "it's time to die," living past 100 looks like it might become quite common regardless of what MSN and the Death Clock say. One gerontologist at Cambridge believes that "the first person to live to 1,000 may have already been born." That's the equivalent of a young soldier invading Britain with William the Conqueror still being alive today.

If that's the case, let's just agree on this right now: no nuclear weapons used for any reason EVER, no more fossil fuels for transportation in ten years, and let's think of some truly excellent television pilot ideas AS SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. We got air time to fill, yo!

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:06 PM (Permalink) | Comments (17)

March 19, 2006

zigga zoomba


Usually when I write about basketball, I warn you right off: if you don't enjoy it the way I do, then feel free to skip this particular entry. However, in the lingering sting of today's loss, I'm going to try and put into words exactly why I bother, and use language designed for those readers who only see a leather ball, an iron rim, and a bunch of people running around in culottes.

Nutty fans give college hoops a terrible name. In particular are the Kameron Krazies, a numbnut group of ravenously twee dorks who shoepolish their nipples dark blue, scream classless and deeply unfunny bullshit at opposing teams, and jump up and down with the sort of mindless hegemony last seen by the German army in "Triumph of the Will."

Add to this Madison Avenue's idea of college fandom, which is unfailingly a balding, fat, aging fuckwad busy torturing his family with a minivan painted orange, or freaking out at Applebee's, or woofing at insurance ladies while wearing styrofoam antennae. This kind of shit is fine if you want to sell deep-fried wings or beer, but it gives me Stupid Feeling™ and no doubt makes some people rankle at college sports in general and March Madness in particular.

Understand, then, that this type of obsession is not practiced by everybody. There are those for whom college basketball is a spiritual thing - as serious as medicine, as frivolous as dessert, and as important as religion. For me, Carolina basketball came to represent a way of thinking. It's not just scoring more points than your opponent, it's a method of conducting your affairs. I know that sounds silly, but bear with me.

The progenitor of much of this is Dean Smith, who was UNC's coach from 1961 to 1997. He innovated entire swaths of the sport that affect everything from YMCA pick-up games to the NBA Finals. Apart from being an incredible man who was the first to integrate southern white-only basketball, he also lent his hand to gay rights, peace activism and stopping the death penalty - all under the auspices of his religious faith. He is truly one of the last of a giant, dying breed: the liberal Christians.

He also hated to lose. There are a number of stories about him getting under the skin of other coaches, pushing their buttons, and occasionally being a sneaky little gadfly. He was also a virulent smoker with a failed marriage (who quit smoking and remarried happily) but it is also his slightly-flawed humanity that makes him such a stunning character.

I will cut to the chase. He had several rules about playing basketball, some of which I will list here - first describing what they mean to the game, and then what they mean to me.

1. "You play the first half to get to the second half."
Basketball meaning: Just survive the first twenty minutes of play, because what counts is the end of the game. If you are still competitive at halftime, start over and outscore them.
To me: The first part of any endeavor is almost always a slog, especially when dealing with massive works of art: a script, a musical, a novel, even a long piece of journalism. Think of how great it will be when you give your work the last semicolon; the last period. Don't worry too much in the early going of any relationship. Don't get despondent. The final act hasn't been written yet. You aren't fired. In fact, for all you know, your boss might be fired first.

2. "Take the shots you want, not what the defense gives you."
Basketball meaning: Your game plan is to get the ball to your hot players, and to make set plays for an open shot. Your opponent is big down low? They like to run? Who cares? Make them play YOUR GAME.
To me: Don't ever second-guess your strengths, and don't ever give up on a plan without concrete evidence of failure. Come into an interview with a clear knowledge of the conversation you want to have. If you are a brilliant actor, don't try to write; if you don't want to be bored, bring a book.

3. "When you get blocked, go straight back up with the ball."
Basketball meaning: Usually, a player who makes a block has either exhausted his energy getting to you, or is busy celebrating, so if the ball comes back to you, chances are good for an open lay-up.
To me: A huge failure generally frees you for another project. If someone pulls the rug out from under you, and all your funding is gone, make seven phone calls THAT DAY. When God closes a window, it's usually because the door was always open.

4. "Point out the passer."
Basketball meaning: When you make a basket, immediately point out the person who threw you the ball. This deflects praise to the true creator of the play.
To me: Never forget where you came from. Never foster resentments to those under you. You had help, and don't fucking forget it.

5. "Give the tired signal if you want a rest."
Basketball meaning: The coach doesn't take you out - YOU decide when you need a rest. Put your fist in the air, and you will have relief.
To me: Know your limitations. Don't stay at that party until 3am; she is never going to come.

6. "The Carolina Way."
Basketball meaning: Dean Smith and his successors Bill Guthridge and now Roy Williams never let any of their players go out alone into the world. The Carolina family will always be there with advice, help, and occasionally life-saving gestures. When ex-point guard Phil Ford went into rehab, Dean learned the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and went to meetings with him. When Richard Vinroot went to Vietnam (a war Dean despised), the only postcards he got were from his parents and from Coach Smith. Old players never quite leave. Michael Jordan will show up to give a pep talk. Vince Carter calls for advice. It is a loving fraternity like no other.

To me: You will see commenters on this blog who have been friends for more than twenty years (and we're not that old yet). My life would be so much the lesser without Bud, Chip, Jon, Lindsay, Kendall, Salem, Greggy and everyone of us (Gribster! Lee! Suzanne! Andy! Bill! Greg! Dean! Scruggs! Neva! Etc! SO MANY!) who spent those spring days in Chapel Hill soaking in the dogwoods.

I admit it, I'm an asshole homer. I will instinctively give jobs, hire and promote fellow Cackalackians. And for those of you who didn't go to school with us, we're an open fraternity/sorority, and you've got a bid. Hell, my two favorite roommates ever were dookies, Scotty and Lars (well, tied for third. My Tar Heel wife and my Tar Heel brother get #1 and #2).

I may be a jackass, a pill-popping leftist stooge and fat with a double-chin(?) but I am fiercely loyal. You'd have to murder a lot of puppies to lose me. Carolina taught me that nothing is meaningful without your family, both nuclear and extended.

As for the game today, sure, I'm heartbroken. We had what seemed to be a golden path to the Elite Eight. We made terrible decisions and it's hard to believe this dream season is over. But this has been my favorite UNC team ever - they worked so hard and obviously loved each other. There is also this sense with Roy that if you followed his directions and toiled beyond compare, any one of us could have made the 2005-2006 squad. Even Lindsay.

And I've never said this before, but this time I think it's fitting: Just wait until next year.


Posted by Ian Williams at 11:02 PM (Permalink) | Comments (28)

March 16, 2006

inshallah shalom


I think it's time I did another mea culpa for this week, and this time it has nothing to do with dropping my daughter on a marble floor. It concerns the post from several weeks ago discussing my rumbling anxiousness concerning Islam after witnessing the death and destruction following the publication of the Mohammed cartoons.

I had a small conversion experience - or at least a breath of fresh illumination - after listening to a good deal of the amazing Two Narratives show on NPR a few days ago, where an Israeli Jew and an Palestinian both were given a lot of time to air their various frustrations and dreams. If that sounds dull to you, then the next forty years will probably bore you to tears, as it is these very mindsets that will probably forge the direction of both the U.S. and the whole world. I urge you to listen to at least a few minutes.

When I wrote that blog in February, I was partially mindful that it would hurt one of my oldest friends from Carolina, a sensationally intelligent, sensitive guy who converted to Islam a number of years ago. He and I will write a blog together on this topic soon (I hope) but I need to say, in public, that my ruminations on the subject were said in the heat of fear, and I'm somewhat embarrassed by them now. Li'l bro, please accept my apologies.

It has come to this: when I heard the news about the guy who drove his SUV into the Pit at UNC and tried to kill a bunch of students, the next thing everyone said was "he's Muslim." To which my first reaction was: "no, he's CRAZY." That motherfucker was no more a spokesman for Islam than Wendell Williamson was a spokesman for Presbyterianism.

And it began to dawn on me that we are not engaged in a battle against The East, nor against Islam, nor even against Fundamentalist Islam. We are in a war against CRAZY PEOPLE, and this go round, many of them happen to be of the Islamic faith. Casting this battle in religious tones, as Bush's right-wing minions in print and media have done, has thrown our innocence out with the bathwater.

Does Fundamentalist Islam attract violent people? I don't think so anymore. Being poor, hungry, choiceless, young and gullible does every time, however. The rest of the religion - like the one my friend practices - is full of love, brotherhood and (in the words of Yossi Klein Halevi, a Jew who went into the mosques and prayed with his "enemies") has an enviable "fearlessness" about it.

Now, don't get me wrong. I still think all religions that talk about an actual God that has rules and magical resurrections and Heaven and all that is still mystifyingly stupid, but as I've said before, I'm content to be the lone agnostic thinking everyone else has swallowed a pill I have not. I also have zero respect for religions that place an unholy burden on their children to marry within the faith. And I also invite all of you not to give a flying Rice Krispies Shit Square what I think. I mean, everybody wants a rock to wind a piece of string around.

But the angles are suddenly becoming clear. Those men holding signs in London saying "England, Your 9/11 is Coming" deserve a tire iron to the shins, not because of their religion, but because they're CRAZY. Bin Laden is not Muslim, he's CRAZY. Pat Robertson is not a Christian, he's CRAZY. Ann Coulter is not a conservative, she's CRUEL, ANGRY from some DEEP-SET EMOTIONAL TRAUMA, and thus CRAZY.

Forget religion and take these people at their words and actions. Bush was supposed to "redefine" his foreign policy yesterday and instead said more of the same old bullshit. Instead, if he'd said "The War on Terror is now called The War on Crazy," then I would have signed on in a second. And the first battle would be getting rid of him.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:03 PM (Permalink) | Comments (97)

March 15, 2006

dayton: birthplace of aviation! (sorta)


Alyson asked me about my brackets yesterday, and I have to say, I've never felt so topsy-turvy about March Madness, and I've been obsessing about it since about 1985. I will, however, tell you some of my fears and thoughts:

1. dook is so fucking lucky and got such a joke of a bracket that they'll sleepwalk into the Final Four unless someone actually dares to really play them. I'd love to see LSU beat the ever-livin' shit out of them. There is NO WAY the universe is big enough for the unfairness of Koach K getting a fourth ring.

2. Unfortunately, that leaves UCONN as the "best" team, and that means another championship for them, which seems a bit much.

3. That guy from Villanova who got his eye poked out of the socket? It reminded me of the scene in King Lear when they blind the king with a knife, saying "out, vile jelly." It still gives me chills. Still, the dude is out there practicing two days later (Allen Ray, not King Lear, whose jumpshot was terrible even when he had vision).

4. I don't think a 12 will beat a 5 this year. Something more delicious will happen.

5. I have been doing very well in picking brackets over the last three years (and even won a huge pool in 2004). This year, I have a feeling I will tank like a cardigan made of lead. Memphis is a #1 seed, and I have not seen them play - even on SportsCenter - once. Everyone says Iona has a shot, but whatever. This year's pool is of the "monkeys in space writing Hamlet" variety.

6. What to think of our beloved Tar Heels? The millisecond I saw us paired with Boston College in the ACC tournament, I knew we'd lose that game. And unless we can get some momentum in the Dance - while getting jobbed with the hardest 14 seed in memory, along with playing Michigan State as a virtual home game FOR THEM - it's easy to see us go down early.

But sometimes we forget we have Roy, and that means anything can happen. Even another matchup with UCONN, or even those scabies from Durham. It's really anyone's guess, which is as exciting as it is frustrating.

Any last-minute thoughts you'd like to share so that you'll look brilliant a few days hence?

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:08 PM (Permalink) | Comments (26)

March 14, 2006

end of rope seen, discussed


Every once in a while I get excoriated by someone who used to read the DTH and then "stumbled" upon my blog, wondering why I have lost my joy in life and resort to the pathetic left-wing ramblings that they can find anywhere else on the internet. Fair enough, I guess: I'm not 19, getting drunk three times a week and have the luxury of a whole week gearing up to say something trenchant, witty and joyous.

I like to think that I keep up a good face on this blog - fuck, I dare anyone to pick three random entries from the last four years and not think this wasn't quality, USDA-choice, grade-A syllables being spewed on here.

But every once in a while, I have a day like today, when the news in Iraq, the recent studies on global warming, and the deafening silence by my own party concerning the censure of George W. Bush just make me so frickin' SAD.

I know it's not fair to always invoke your baby children when making your arguments, and god knows that shit used to drive me crazy when other people did it, but when you look at the new projections for sea levels in 2016 - when Lucy will be only ten - how can you not come to the conclusion that we've got the worst people in charge at the worst crossroads in American history?

I have a few questions for the conservatives who read this blog. I'm not interested in debating whether or not global warming exists - personally, I think you have to be severely deluded to believe the rosy horseshit peddled by the G.O.P. - but what I want to know is this: how can you support this President when YOUR OWN KIDS are at stake? I mean, even if there is a 50% chance global warming doesn't exist, WHY TAKE THAT CHANCE?

Bush said he didn't support Kyoto because it would hurt the American economy (a statement that makes me and every other progressive quake with rage), but even a full-scale recession would be a tiny blip on the radar compared to the environmental catastrophe we could be facing in twenty years. How can you support this guy?

How can you still support his way of fighting the Iraq war? IT'S A DISASTER, and EVEN THE TROOPS SAY SO.

How can you stomach his idea of the separation of church and state? How can you stomach Abu Ghraib? How can you stomach outing Valerie Plame? How can you stomach lying about the war?

Seriously, how do you do it? Step back from yourself, quit thinking tribally, stop thinking "well, this is my team and I'm sticking to it" and answer the question. I promise, if ANYONE explains it well, I will GLADLY concede the argument and send you a nice postcard from the left coast.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:42 PM (Permalink) | Comments (36)

March 13, 2006

luck pressed


I'm not one to talk about local news much - the goings-on of your average day in NYC or LA are frequently too gruesome to recount, and the local news in North Carolina usually has the "what you don't know about stucco ceilings may kill you" kind of vibe - but a 6-seater plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean about 200 yards from our little bungalow this morning, and it turned out to be a bigger deal than we expected.

The plane was a "Bonanza"-type aircraft, and it was trying to make its way back to the Santa Monica Airport - a tiny airstrip just on the other side of our hill. Something catastrophic happened with the li'l guy, because it hit the water right in full view of our street at about a 20-degree angle and then sank about fifteen feet.

We went to take a look after the Coast Guard brought it to the surface with airbags and dragged it away from high tide, and I snapped a few pics:


Then we got home, and it was all over the internet (watch the videos) and even on Yahoo's national most-emailed list. Two people had died: game show host Peter Tomarken and his wife. You'll know him as the host of "Press Your Luck," where you'd spin the electronic board and scream "NO WHAMMIES!"

Tessa had never seen an episode of "Press Your Luck," so imagine me trying to explain what the "whammies" were. Like a character that, um, dressed as a woman sometimes, in a cartoon, that like, wiggled across the screen and took all your money. Finally, I found this page with a ton of pics and videos to give her the general idea. I had forgotten how unbelievably '80s that show really was, and how Peter Tomarken kept things funny without dipping to the show's cruel cheesiness.

Anyway, Tomarken and his wife were flying to San Diego on an "angel" mission to pick up someone who needed cancer treatment here in Los Angeles. Two things struck me: his plane was roughly the same size my brother Steve flies all the time, so Steve - please be careful, dammit.

The other is this: hats off and raise a glass to Peter Tomarken, who was obviously one of the good guys. God speed, Mr. And Mrs. Tomarken, and wherever you may be going, may the Whammy never get you.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:30 PM (Permalink) | Comments (38)

March 12, 2006

do re mea culpa


Look, I know everyone on here who is a parent - or even an uncle, aunt or babysitter - has heard of worse, but what I'm about to tell you chilled me to the core. Tessa, Lucy and I visited my dad and stepmother in La Quinta, CA (near Palm Springs) this weekend, and on Friday night, I brought Lucy into the guest house to change her diaper and get her ready for a bath.

You're NEVER supposed to do this, but I set her on the bed for a split second while I turned around to grab her towel, and I swear, it was about .7 seconds before I heard the sound of her head falling from the top of the bed to the marble tile floor below. She wailed in abject pain, and then, when I hurried her back into the main house, she threw up on both of us and generally had a miserable time of it until she finally went to sleep.

After paging our doctor, we did every precaution afterwards: no Tylenol, woke her up in the middle of the night to give her water, and generally sat on the bed next to her, worrying until four in the morning.

Long story short, she was fine. The next day she was as funny and animated as ever, and we can't even find a bump on her head, or a bruise, or anything. It's truly as if this child is made of rubber and titanium. She's been trying to stand up by herself these days, which precipitates a lot of harsh falls, and even when she clocks her face on the side of something, she usually doesn't even register it as pain - just picks herself up and continues her projects.

But me, that night, I can't tell you the depths of shame that rose in my body. After her little bath, and dressing her in jammies, I just held her in my arms all alone and rocked back and forth, I couldn't fathom that I'd let something like that happen to her. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die.

I thought back to the first day she was born, when I was holding her hand under the heat lamp. They kept pricking her heel for glucose levels, and it was pissing her off, so I was there to make sure she spent her first day in the warm glow of a loving parent. Only hours before I'd seen her take her first breath, and the fragility of her being here - god, it was overwhelming. And now I'd let her fall off a bed onto a marble floor.

Parenting is regarded as pass/fail, but you certainly award yourself a daily grade, and I gave myself an F-minus for Friday. My only job is to protect her from harm; it's more important than my "career" or anything else, and I'd done what EVERY childbirth class tells you not to do: don't put your baby on a bed. It's as universal a rule as "no electrical sockets," "no peanuts" and "I'm not paying for Duke."

Since I didn't see her fall, I have to assume we got lucky, and she must have fallen on her butt first, or somehow a blanket cushioned the fall. But I heard the sound of her head, and it haunts me. It replays in my head and makes my stomach churn with pain.

And so, while Tessa was breastfeeding, and nobody was around, I got by the bed, on my knees, in the position of one who was about to pray. Instead, I let go of my hands and whacked my fucking head on the floor as hard as I could. I couldn't see straight for two hours, and the headache was mind-crushing, but man, fair is fair.

after smearing carrots on her face

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:35 PM (Permalink) | Comments (31)

March 9, 2006

just to, y'know, take the edge off


So my wonderful wife Tessa has a great article on the front page of Salon today, about an old boyfriend of hers that use to take Ambien, propose marriage, and then wake up without remembering any of it. Yes, unless you subscribe to Salon like a normal human being, you have to watch a 10-second ad, but take one for the home team, yes?

Her article sprang out of Wednesday's NYT article about people taking Ambien and "sleep-driving," occasionally peeing in the middle of intersections, hitting telephone poles, and not knowing any of it had happened. Of course, the Times article has been in the Top 5 Most Emailed list for two days, so there's obviously a lot of mileage to be gotten from your daffy Ambien-addicted friends.

One thing that Tessa didn't entirely anticipate was the "letters" section that is unmoderated and attached to the end of each article. I was vilified somewhat for my Salon piece on the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping (thankfully, only one letter still survives), but I'm always amazed at the amount of time nad-scratching armchair philosophers in jammies will take to let their invective loose on a writer exposing his or herself (anonymously, of course).

The letters regarding Tessa's article got immediately nasty, because if there's one thing the hoi polloi of the internet can't stand, it's people from Manhattan writing about other people from Manhattan who have money. Never mind that the main point of the article was about the power of the drug, and the secondary point was Tessa's self-effacement - some readers just react to stories mentioning Cosima von Bulow with the sort of holier-than-thou disdain usually reserved for people who sneeze on the subway.

The sheer pretention and Upper East Sidieness of the article was part of the delivery, but whatever, you can't teach people three things: vibrato, a vertical leap, and irony.

Before other letter-writers rallied to her defense, Tessa got that look in her eye, the I-just-pulled-my-pants-down gaze that I know so well, having suffered through it on this very blog. I think back to some of my entries in 2002-2003 before I had comments, where I was savaged for being a yuppie, having my priorities out of whack, having a house in Columbia County, being sexist, being an asshole, and not being cute enough to marry Tessa.

Being disparaged right after my wedding hurt, to be sure, but it wasn't long before those calluses became strong enough to endure pretty much anything on this site. I mean, I know what I look like to most people. I fully GET what Tessa and I might seem like to those who don't know us. If you don't think I (or we) have attained that level of self-awareness, you grossly underestimate your humble servants.

The regular commentary on here is wonderful, to be sure, but you people should see some of the stuff I delete from older entries, people who find this website on a whim, and then post the nastiest character assassinations they can muster. The spam filter blocks most of them, and I trash the rest. There may be a day when I get sick of it and take my toys and go home, but for now, I DON'T GIVE A FUCK. THINK WHATEVER YOU WANT.

I'm so proud of my wife, who just dashed off a great piece of writing in a matter of hours. And I'd like to thank you, the mean-spirited internet at large, for giving me enough shit that I don't care what you think anymore.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:21 PM (Permalink)

March 8, 2006

i'll never have that recipe again


The worst fucking song in the history of pop music is "My Humps" by The Black-Eyed Peas. This may come as no surprise to many of you, as it has been well-documented by other sources, but I am not given to superlatives without a good deal of research, and after letting this song dwindle in my head since last fall, I'm just going to come right out and say it: it's the worst, period. Nothing comes close.

When you're dealing with pop music (and love it like I do) you have to be careful with your love and hate. One thing that always pissed me off about the rock intelligentsia of the early '90s was the casual beatification of musicians whom I thought were okay at best (J Mascis, Pavement, etc). Conversely, you have to avoid the screeching harlots of any given road trip who are quick to dismiss every song as "the worst ever."

I have to remain sanguine about these things, so when I first heard "My Humps" in October 2005 (and subsequently had a figurative brain hemorrhage), I had to relax, count to ten, put down the fork I was about to lodge into my neck, and take the afternoon off.

In a quieter moment, I resolved to revisit the song (or "song," as the case may be) at some point further on, when the horrors of my first impression could be more easily assimilated. To my disgust, the 30th hearing of "My Humps" is more terrifying than the first, and so it is now I've come to the conclusion that it is the worst fucking song in pop history.

Why do I get to say? Thirty or so years of listening to every song from 1955 (decades before I was born) to now, along with an autistic savant recall of the Billboard Top 40 from 1978 to 1993, along with 25 years of violin and piano, majoring in music - well, these things ought to put me in contention. But I've also written about music since those days in the DTH when we were the first to make our Top 10 Worst Lists and even started a Misheard Song Lyric contest a decade before it became a phenomenon. I obsess.

But enough about my credentials. The song speaks for itself. The backing "instrumental" consists of the thinnest, reediest, crappiest synth line this side of porn. In fact, most porn films try harder. Fergie's delivery of her "lines" is so sing-songy chowderheaded that you think she might be trying to teach lemurs to speak. It's just SO, SO AWFUL.

And the "lyrics"? The idea is simple enough: Fergie's woman-parts are so appealing that it inspires would-be suitors to buy her name-brand items of clothing and jewelry. Which would be funny, if the "rap" weren't so tired, cliché, and about as cynical as product placement in movies: Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan and even Seven Jeans are mentioned.

She rhymes "nicely" with "iceies." She rhymes "sexy" with "sex me."

Suppose we look at female sexuality as a list, from top to bottom. At the top is the poetic ideal of romance, at the bottom is the basest, lowest thoughts possible. It would look something like this:

My Humps
My Lovely Lady Lumps

Indeed, the Black-Eyed Peas have debased the mystery of woman into not just tits, not just ass, but the brutal sum-up of human bulbs of flesh meant to invoke the spending of money.

It would be funny, but I don't think they think they're being funny. Yes, "you're meant to dance to it, not think about it," yes yes yes, you blithering anti-intellectual, I get it. But there's nothing in this song, nor the BEP's oeuvre that would suggest they have any sense of humor.

Here's what I think. I think they got together and decided to cobble a song with the worst beat, the worst music, and the worst lyrics they could muster. Using Fergie's made-for-the-sexual-apocalypse body, they released this fucking song with a scowl, then laughed all the way to the bank. The Black-Eyed Peas are shoving three fingers up your ass and then demanding you pay them for it.

Apparently there's a video, but if you need a video for a song to make sense, I'm with Lewis Black: you should fucking kill yourself.

"My Humps." A cultural moment has happened. Forget about your MacArthur Parks, your Blame It On the Rains, your Electric Avenues. The gaping maw has opened up and shown us its bottom.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:26 PM (Permalink) | Comments (37)

March 7, 2006

the salmon mousse


Today's blog canceled due to a violent day's worth of food poisoning. I won't even begin to describe it.

So instead, how about a pic of Lucy for Lee Lee (who gets costume credit)?


Also a shout-out to my girl Quinn, whose awesome product The HipHugger we use every day, and if you look at the cover of In Touch magazine at your local grocery, Angelina Jolie is wearing it at top left.

Oh, and belated congrats to my brother Steve who just got a killer job making internet darling even cooler.

That is all. Off to barf!

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:15 PM (Permalink) | Comments (11)

March 6, 2006

i keep telling her it's a palming violation


I have to keep this short, as we just spent the day moving to a new location in Venice during a torrential rainstorm (but we're right on the sand now, yo!), and I'm sure most of you know that moving anywhere isn't just a physical exhaustion, it's a pretty big emotional upheaval as well. I thought it would completely freak Lucy out, but ever since Saturday night, she's been dunking from the foul line and lining up endorsement deals.


So we have our hands full, and I leave today's discussion up to you. The Oscars? The evil of piggybacking on someone else's unprotected wifi signal? Koach K as Republican fundraiser?

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:20 PM (Permalink) | Comments (39)

March 5, 2006

weight room!


Really, even I have to admit that in its most distilled form, my religion is only ten guys trying to get a piece of spherical leather into a basket. But for those of you who don't love college basketball the way I do, I really hope you have some other irrational interest that gives your life constant metaphors, mythic anticipation, and an opportunity to cry both flavors.

I'm not going to get into what happened with UNC vs. dook on Saturday night, because if you care, you've already read 15-20 breathless articles in print and the internet, and if you don't, no amount of gliding verbiage will make you see these things differently.

Suffice to say my team - the one from Chapel Hill wearing light blue - went to Durham on their "senior night" and, against many odds too numerous to repeat, won. For me, the joy wasn't entirely the final score. It was the laying bare of something we've known for decades.

It was comeuppance for a gifted shooter who nonetheless gave the UNC crowd the "shocker" (a violently anal, sexist hand gesture) after knocking down the game-winners in the first contest. It was Koach K spewing such guttersnipe profanity at one ref that he had to be restrained. It was an entire channel of ESPN showing the "Cameron Crazies" - who once chanted "orphan!" at our own Scott Williams, whose parents had killed each other - struck dumb at the sight of their team disintegrating. It was a Duke player, Sean Dockery, deliberately striking our player Tyler Hansbrough in the mouth after the game was already over.

These things were seen, seen by anyone who happened to glance at any of the ESPN channels last night, and certainly discussed by fans of all schools, regardless of affiliation. The book was laid open, and the pages flew everywhere.

I like to think I was on the front lines of hating Duke, not just because of the DTH article from 1990, but because my adolescence coincided roughly with the ascendance of Koach K in the ACC, meaning I came of age right around the same year his teams did. As I have oft said, I camped out in the mud that was to become Carmichael Dorm during the holiday months of 1985 to see the first game in the Dean Dome.

I have now attended twenty-one straight home UNC-dook games since that evening, and loathed everything they stood for. In the last few weeks, I - along with many other fans of the game - have been joined by pundits from respected TV sports organizations, internet personalities, and about-to-be-bestselling authors in wondering aloud why such an obvious jerk like K, coaching at such a freakishly lame school like dook, has been getting such a pass all these years.

Indeed, the complaints - dook gets all the calls, K is a filthy-mouthed asswipe who rides officials, their players are sore winners and even sorer losers, K's ads for American Express redefine hypocrisy, K throws his players under the bus for the sake of winning at all costs, dook students ruin Durham's neighborhoods, etc. - have risen to such a fever pitch that I'm now anticipating the backlash backlash.

But for now, I feel like all of us who have grinned and beared it for so long are finally given succor. Again, if you don't follow this sport, it may all seem pathetic, picayune and unimportant. In a way, I feel sorry for you, because the unmasking of a villain is always such joy, but only if you're deeply in love with the story.


Posted by Ian Williams at 11:47 PM (Permalink) | Comments (26)

March 2, 2006

il y a vingt-cinq ans


Exactly Twenty-Five Years Ago: March 1981

If you never been to Eastern Iowa at the beginning of March, you've never known wind chills down to 70-below zero, never known holding a Bic lighter to your car's keyhole in order to get it to thaw, never known snow drifts that block your front door closed for two days. As a kid, you think these things are cool, but as a thirteen-year-old like me, you were beginning to truly feel the misery.

To say I was the "class reject" is to do a disservice to losers in grade schools across the country. I was not only ignored and reviled, I was singled out for after-school brutality. These two kids in particular used to ambush me on the way home from school, and thus I'd vary my schedule wildly in the hopes they'd eventually give up.

I had one friend named Brad, and he got me into Amateur ("Ham") Radio, an activity where I could receive Morse Code from someone in Brazil, but never actually meet another human being. I trod to school with my violin and tried to stay as invisible as possible, praying not to be called on in class. Even the orchestra wasn't safe - the lead trombonist "called me out" to the bike rack. I hid in the practice rooms until 6pm.


What made it worse, curiously, is that I knew a better world. We had just lived in England two years before, where I excelled at sports, commiserated with girl, had a best friend in Adam Regis (hey, Ad!) and was actually revered as a cool foreigner. Even a few months before, I'd traveled to Africa, met Richard Leakey and was basically adopted by a Kikuyu tribesman who showed me how to make food and play their version of the violin.

But here I was, wiser and ready to expand, yet thrust back into Iowa a second time, and things had gotten worse, because the bad guys had gotten bigger. I was so demoralized that I sank into a deep, unmitigated depression in January and didn't speak to anybody for a month. The worst part? Nobody noticed or cared. They all had their own fish to fry. My parents' marriage was disintegrating, and my sister and brothers were all in states of vociferous cantankerousness.

Besides, let's be honest. It was 1981. It didn't have the barefoot flavor of the seventies, and none of the cool trappings (or music) of the eighties had filtered to us yet. We were stuck in Reagan's "Morning in America," a limbo cauterized by John Lennon's assassination and hostages in Iran. If I'd had the internet, things might be different, but I didn't, so I sat in my room, and when I ran out of things to read, I stared at the ceiling.

Twenty-five years ago this week, my Dad got us together at the dinner table and asked us what we thought about moving. I knew better than to imagine this was a democracy, so I braced myself for the truth: we were relocating to Norfolk, Virginia, where he would conduct the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. I had talked to someone in Tidewater on the ham radio, so I knew it existed - a warm marshy place? A beach?

And I still can't believe my reaction: I begged him to not take the job, I wanted us all to stay. I was willing to fight for this pathetic life, this turgid, go-nowhere, wretched existence with all my heart. I was in a living hell, but it was a living hell I understood. That's the curious thing about depression; in a way, you don't want to get better, because you believe the only thing holding you together is the predictability of your misery.

Twenty-five years ago tonight, I was staring out the window, the future murky as soup. I had no idea I was about to get a scholarship to the prep school that would introduce me to actual friends, then get me into an amazing university, then on, through the ragged hopscotch of all the blog entries of this week to where I lie right now, at thirty-eight, writing this blog in Venice, California.

That night, everything was about to change for the better, bless me with more providence, love and luck than I could possibly imagine... and I didn't want it, any of it. I wanted to stay right there and let the cold window fog up with my breath. The Lord may punish us by answering our prayers, but maybe he - or she - blesses us by knowing when not to listen.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:41 PM (Permalink) | Comments (14)

March 1, 2006

venti anni fa


Exactly Twenty Years Ago: March, 1986

I had always seen the "makeover" scenes in movies, you know, like the one that had just been in "The Breakfast Club" a year before, but I always figured they were for other people. Twenty years ago, I was eighteen years old, and Christmas 1985 had been one of the worst scenes you could imagine: my parents throwing antiques at each other, culminating in my dad walking out forever, and my mom descending into temporary madness. When I trod out into the snow in Morristown, NY (where we were living for that brief period), I looked at the heavens and decided I needed a makeover.

I was still wearing the worst Coke-bottle glasses with a frame style from 1977, still cut my hair like Shaun Cassidy, had some of the worst clothes on earth, and terrible acne. I didn't figure I had much of a chance getting into Chi Psi, which was an amazing fraternity full of independent minds and mysterious traditions. At one of the rushee functions - well, hell, I'll just show you a picture:


That is with Kendall Crosswell (we're still great friends) before I managed to rescue myself from corduroy sport coats and knit ties for good. The day after that picture was taken, I asked Kendall's roommate to cut my hair. It took her three tries, and the dorm floor was completely covered, but I'd managed to accomplish what several tens of people in my high school had begged me to do since 1980.

That night, I noticed that the Accutane I'd been taking for five months had finally worked: I was free of zits, probably forever. After battling God on this one for so many years, pharmacology won out.

The next day, I went to the UNC Memorial Hospital optometrist and got my first pair of contact lenses - they were weighted for astigmatism, and it took me an hour to get them in, but I could see my own actual eyes for the first time since I was a kid. Then I got a sophomore to drive me and the Budster to University Mall, where I bought a couple of shirts and some awesome leather shoes from that men's shop that is surely gone by now.

And in that weekend - 20 years ago from last weekend - my entire life changed. When I went to class on Monday, nobody recognized me. I had to tell my teacher who I was, it was that drastic. That night, there was a rushee mixer with the Pi Phis (then and now an amazing sorority full of smart, intensely beautiful women), and I noticed that girls were actually looking at me.

One of them came up and smiled and talked to me. TALKED to ME. Three different women openly showed interest in me romantically and I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT. Nobody had ever glanced in my remote direction before this night. I immediately filed it under Why The Fuck Didn't I Do This in Seventh Grade.

From then on, for better or worse, I never believed I was out of anyone's league, never cared if I thought if I was cute enough. I was a quick learner, and since I'd come to the world of women so late, I decided I would go about "dating" and "sex" the way a cultural anthropologist would: trying to learn every last thing about it with my platonic girl-friends as tutors. It put me in good stead for years, even if it did ultimately eat me alive.

Twenty years ago tonight, I sat in my dorm room Hinton James, when Chip came over. This was rare, because he lived in Lewis Dorm, which was 78.4 miles away, and he got lost easily. He was supposed to pull some stunt where he would say that Chi Psi had decided to pass and I wasn't supposed to come around anymore, but he couldn't pull it off, and just told me that I had gotten a bid. And thus I hugged the Chipper.

me (with joke glasses) and the Budster, summer '86

In two weeks, I'd gone from fashionless zork with terrible skin, zero affection, and accoutrements stuck in the mid-1970s... to being a happy, wine-cooler sipping fratboy with a hot date to the pledge formal. I know it sounds like the plot to a bad episode of "The Brady Bunch," but for me, escaping the saturnine gloom and hollow-eyed asexuality of adolescence meant everything. I couldn't take my parents' divorce. I couldn't stomach another fantasy about a girl I'd never talk to. I wasn't going to be watching everything through a rainy window anymore, god dammit. The era of the violin dork who got beat up was OVER.

What dreams and joy all of you experienced at summer camp in ninth grade, I finally understood in 1986. And like the movie we watched over and over, it became My Favorite Year.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:50 PM (Permalink) | Comments (28)