July 31, 2008

actually, i AM just happy to see you


One thing I can be thankful for is that we live in the Era of Grown Men Wearing Shorts. Loving shorts – like hating Dook or being an unabashed liberal – was something I was told I'd "grow out of", but like those other examples, my dedication has only increased. Yes, perhaps it's another example of how I'm white, but I don't care: simply put, there are very few places in the world cold enough for me to put on a fucking pair of pants.

Not wishing to be disrespectful, I always wear long pants to every event north of a business meeting, and I never wear sandals because they gross me out, but I just don't understand why any guy in their right mind would wear real pants if they didn't have to. As luck would have it, we live in an era when nobody gives a shit, as opposed to the 1940s, when you would have been captured by some G-men and force-fed red meat and asbestos.

So I was reading Men's Vogue the other day – a magazine that employs some of my friends – and they had an article on men's shorts. Cool, I thought, and flipped to the pictures, and was instantly paralyzed by paroxysms of Stupid Feeling. These guys were all tucking in their shirts, and the shorts were ending mid-thigh. Men's Vogue, in what way is this either vogue or for men?

Then a story comes out in the New York Times yesterday about the same thing – the recent uptick in fashionable men's shorts, complete with a slideshow... of some of THE WORST GODDAMN SHORTS I'VE EVER SEEN ON GUYS IN MY FRICKIN' LIFE. And that's saying something, since I grew up in Eastern Iowa and the Outer Banks.

MensShorts1.JPG     MensShorts2.JPG

Gentlemen, the Word came down from on high, and the Word was "Thou shalt wear short pants past the knee." Hell, I've even experimented with culottes a time or two, shorts that almost came down to the ankle, but I've come to understand the basic rule: there's a sweet spot just below your patella that marks the territory between "junky hipster who's trying too hard" and "total asshole gonad."

I have never touted myself as your go-to guy for high-end men's couture, but apart from my hair, I'm no fashion disaster either. Seems to me this is in the right area for men's shorts:


Super short shorts on guys are so reprehensible that I laugh every time I see Thomas Lennon on "Reno 911". Likewise, I cry every time I see evidence of my own O.P. shorts from the mid-80s. We've been given this era of Guys Wearing Shorts, so let's treat it with respect. I know it's cool for designers to push the envelope, and god knows it's cute to see the New York Times try to fathom what actual Americans are wearing, but the world revolves around one kernel of truth: deep down, nobody wants to see your balls.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:02 PM (Permalink) | Comments (24)

July 30, 2008



My friends, let me present to you Figure 1-a below, The Perfect Earthquake:

Fig. 1-a

Yes, The Perfect Earthquake. How rare is an event like this? Let me put it in stark terms: in all other national emergencies, tragedies, tidal waves, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, floods – and other Acts of God – people end up dying. Homes are destroyed, lives are shattered, flags fly at half-mast.

This earthquake was one of the strongest to hit an urban area in more than a decade. Everyone who lives between San Diego and Las Vegas felt it, and those of us in Los Angeles got knocked around our rooms. It made headlines on international news stations, and it gave everyone in Hollywood two days of awesome story-swapping. Tons of video followed. And yet, for all this, the only casualties were thousands of bottles of crappy liquor.

This, fair readers, is how natural disasters are meant to be done. Forest fires? Mudslides? Avalanches? Military coups? Fuck that. All national emergencies should look to the Chino Hills Earthquake as a way to disaster the correct way: a very high "awesome", "cool", "bizarre" and "exciting" rating, with extremely low "bummer" scores.

As for us, Tessa and I were talking on the couch when the whole house turned to rubber. We live on the beach in an old Craftsman from the '20s, all wood with no right angles (at least not anymore) and the place did the hula for about ten seconds. The house performed with aplomb, never shaking, just swirling around like an egg yolk in a bowl.

We stood in the front doorway watching the porch swing shimmy, and then Tessa (whose nickname on the middle school bus was "Ralph" due to her motion sickness) had to go outside to find her internal horizon so she wouldn't barf. After a minute, the temblor waves came to an end.

Then we called Lucy's gymnastic class about three miles away to see how things were: the lady who answered the phone said everything was fine, even though you could hear a hundred budding gymnasts squealing with excitement behind her.

Again, to reiterate: Tsunamis bad, "Chino Hills Earthquake of 2008" good. Hope that clears things up.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:19 PM (Permalink) | Comments (4)

July 29, 2008

mom, if you were in a german Scheiße video



Since I'm in the mindset of communal theater and all its possible glory, let me offer up My Top 5 Movie Theater Experiences:

1. Pulp Fiction – October 1994, Varsity Theatre, Chapel Hill, NC
Obviously, it's easy to make fun of Tarantino now, but in the mid-'90s, fresh off "Reservoir Dogs", my friends were psyched beyond psyched to see this. The Varsity, then run by Jim Steele, had olive-oil-popped popcorn and real butter, and was one of the few establishments that seemed to harken back to Chapel Hill as it might have been during the first two World Wars.

"Pulp Fiction" captured our dialogue perfectly, even as everyone's brains were blown to bits – and when John Travolta stabs Uma Thurman in the heart with the adrenaline needle, the roof went off the theater. People were splayed out on the rows, unable to believe what they'd seen. We talked about it for weeks. It was a totally awesome event, in a time when such events were scarce indeed.

2. Silence of the Lambs – February 1991, Ram Triple, Chapel Hill, NC
Any of you who still remember the Ram Triple as it was in the late '80s/early '90s are probably still trying to get calcified butter off your shoes – simply put, this was the nastiest theater north of porn. Somehow culling the worst movies in then-current release, the screens were often torn down the middle (and hurriedly stitched up, like sails during a Napoleonic sea battle) and the film reels would unspool halfway through each movie.

NONE of this was true, however, the night "Silence of the Lambs" opened. Half the town crammed into one of the Ram Triple's three theaters, and we sat, every seat taken, hot and still – but we didn't care. This was one of those public experiences when a hundred people thought as one. At the end, when "Buffalo Bill" knocks out the lights, dons infrared goggles and reaches out to touch Clarice Starling, every single human being shrieked.

My future wife? Sitting a few rows ahead of me.

3. Swiss Family Robinson – Summer 1974 – Lindale Plaza, Cedar Rapids IA
This Disney classic had it all: a violent storm that shipwrecks a family, the coolest treehouse ever built, a hot androgynous chick that shows up out of nowhere, and a huge fight with marauding pirates. My favorite? When the ingenious Swiss Family Robinson Daddo makes a trap that unleashes hundreds of tree trunks rolling on top of the pirates.

My brother Steve took me to this, the first movie I ever remember seeing. He remarked how the tree trunks all looked like styrofoam, and I thought, "maybe, but I don't care!"

4. Blade Runner – June 1982 – Military Circle, Norfolk VA
Go and check the fourth row of Theater 2 at Military Circle Mall in Norfolk, and you will find my seat. My nails bent the actual metal dividers as I watched the last fifteen minutes of this film, and decided I might want to tell stories for a living.


5. South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut – June 1999 – Mann's (Grauman's) Chinese Theater, Hollywood CA
It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times. My brother's marriage had disintegrated, my reasons for moving to Los Angeles had evaporated into a haze of humiliation, our house had become a sleaze den where strangers did blow on our coffee table and chicks peed in the trash cans. What could possible save us?

Sean, Michelle, Seth, and a number of friends and I all went to the first weekend of "South Park" at the famed Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd., and for two hours, everything lifted. I started laughing from the first frame and never stopped. By the time Cartman sang the "Kyle's Mom's a Bitch" song, I was actually lying in the aisle, unable to function from laughing so hard. The entire theater was apoplectic.

This movie has given us so much, but nothing quite as important as the introduction of "SUCK MY BALLS" into our everyday lexicon. "South Park", you provided the best movie experience of the last decade, exactly when we needed it the most. And for this, I genuflect and give you a low, humble bow.

How about y'all?

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:06 PM (Permalink) | Comments (41)

July 28, 2008

we like 'em jung


Fascinating bit of news from the weekend: fancy techniques and nuclear-launch-code-type secrecy kept "The Dark Knight" out of the hands of internet pirates for 38 hours after the movie's release, which is considered a huge success for Warner Brothers. Apparently they staggered the release of the film's reels to theaters, so that the entire movie was never in one place for long. They also got infrared goggles for movie theater owners in Australia (where the film opened two days before the US) so camcorders could be spotted.

It all seems like shoveling snow in a blizzard, but it's proof that if you have a big enough shovel, you can do anything temporarily. The first copy of "The Dark Knight" available on a decent file-sharing site didn't appear until two whole days after the premiere.

If you look at the endless credits of a huge blockbuster like this one, you can see every possible weak link in the chain. Hell, if you really wanted to see a film a month or two before schedule, you could find out which movie-trailer house was making the previews, bribe a mid-level PA, and get a rough edit all to yourself. Far simpler, I'd think, is to befriend some manager at a googleplex in Fayetteville NC, have a private screening of "The Dark Knight" at 3am with a camcorder, then split the proceeds on the black market.


Movie studios aren't worried about a bootleg copy robbing them of opening-weekend revenue; they're worried that the small, mean-spirited, froth-mouthed fanboys who download the movie two weeks early will start a negative word-of-mouth campaign. That's the sort of rumor that eventually filters up the food chain to you and me, and translates into millions of lost revenue.

Of course, the unspoken admission here is this: the studios know the movie sucks, they just want to get as much money out of it before YOU know it sucks. Even box office bombs can make 3/4ths of their money back before the audience knows they've been had, and if you factor in overseas sales, notoriously shitty movies turn a tidy profit.

There are a lot of experiences no longer available to most of the American public: drive-in theaters, high diving boards, public hangings and worry-free sun exposure. Lately there's been much grousing that the movie theater itself will be extinct. I could be wrong, certainly, but the reason most American habits disappear is because they can be replicated more conveniently – and there is simply nothing available to the American consumer that can replicate seeing a movie like "The Dark Knight" on a giant screen.

But there's something even more important. Going to a movie with strangers offers a Shared Experience with Unpredictable Company, meaning, simply, that you're opting to share a cultural event with hundreds of other people you've never met. By not knowing who they are, you have placed yourself – subconsciously – into the collective mindset of your culture.

You can't do it at home – you know when your friends or family are going to laugh, how they react, and you possess an innate safety that lessens any possible magic. You're also "timeshifting", or watching your entertainment whenever the hell you want, thus handicapping its emotional importance. At the theater, all of you are experiencing something in real time, it took effort to get there, and the fact that your row is populated with strangers makes a huge difference.

There are times when I can't be fucking bothered, and I really do just want to download a movie like "The Wackness" or "Hancock" and to hell with America's collective entertainment unconscious. And god knows I have friends, two in particular, who are positively allergic to paying for entertainment, choosing instead to game the system at every possible turn. They'd rather spend 18 hours downloading a shitty dub of "Pineapple Express" than 2 hours watching it.

But if there's anything to remember from this era, when strangers still went to the movies together, it's this: transcendence and magic only reveal themselves to those who dared venture out of their comfort zone.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:49 PM (Permalink) | Comments (10)

July 27, 2008

ISBN 978-0345404473



above: Steve's 11th birthday in 1969 (with me as 2-year-old); below: Steve's 50th birthday w/me and Lucy on Thursday


Today's blog will be a shout-out and General Appreciation thread for my brother Steve, who turned 50 over the weekend and decided to spend it with us here in Venice. I should mention that Steve not only told me to start blogging in the year 2000, but he maintains this site despite having an 18-hour-day job as one of the code geniuses at über-hip dot-com Digg.

I'll also mention that he got me those water-pressure rockets for my ninth birthday – the kind you fill with water from the hose, pump it until it hurts, then shoot it into the air. We had all three rockets, and they lasted about twenty minutes until all three landed in the rain gutter on the very top of our neighbor's house. But it was a kick-ass twenty minutes.


And finally, I'll mention that Steve is one of Lucy's favorite people in the world, and every time he visits (or even told that he might visit), she glows with excitement. Yesterday, I walked into her room, and what were they doing? Yep, typing the ISBN number of her books into Google and seeing the book appear on the screen. That's the thing about Steve – we always accused him of having a gruff demeanor and a well-curated pessimism, but as long as I've been alive, he's always known just what a kid wants.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:32 PM (Permalink) | Comments (27)

July 24, 2008

pavlov salivates


They say testosterone peaks twice in both males and females: at age 3 and age 13. Don't we all know it.

As such, we're instituting a Good Behavior Board (a la Kazdin and others) where our li'l Lulubeans will earn her way to organic fruit-sweetened lollipops via these positive behaviors:


From top to bottom, they are: taking a good nap/quiet time, bathing without filling the toilet full of Mommy's conditioner, brushing hair without wailing about life's injustices, brushing teeth without running outside to make sure lemons are still on the trees, sleeping all night without coming into our bedroom telling us "I'm not scared, but the bed is", and finally, Just Being Totally Awesome.

A tall order, sure, but have you ever had those organic lollipops? They're so much better than Tootsie Pops. Why was everyone so eager to fill us full of corn syrup and Polysorbate 60 in the late seventies?

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:50 PM (Permalink) | Comments (18)

July 23, 2008

drop your weapons, you are surrounded by ARMED BASTARDS


Alright, enough grousing. Time for recommendations: Tessa and I are knee-deep in the 2nd season of Life on Mars, the hit BBC drama about a cop who is hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. This show not only hits my sweet spot of kinda-time-travel and philosophical mysteries, but it's SO GODDAMN FUNNY and if you remember the 1970s at all, it's perfectly spot-on.

last season's billboard ad in London, done in 1973 style with old logos

Hollywood (ABC in particular) is remaking the show for an American audience, but they botched the pilot and now they're re-shooting every scene, presumably with replaced actors and a different script. If you were at this year's Jartacular, you'd know why.

But let the Americans take care of themselves. If you can get a "Life on Mars" DVD from Amazon, do it, even though it's expensive. It's a "Region 2" disc, meaning it'll only play on your computer (which you can hook up to your TV in "mirror" mode) but it's worth it.

And now: your suggestions? Know of any awesome mini-series, or other TV on DVD you recommend whole-heartedly?

Posted by Ian Williams at 3:50 AM (Permalink) | Comments (18)

July 22, 2008



Two events happen when you get it, and neither can be accurately described. The first is the excruciating pain combined with overwhelming nausea, as if your guts are collapsing in on themselves like a star system, only to explode and rip you apart. When I was a little, I had a piano teacher who had to suspend lessons for months, because, as my mom said, "his stomach was trying to separate from his intestines."

I imagined it like North and South America, caught in a tectonic plate shift at the Panama Canal, both continents trying to cleave from the other, as angry oceans rushed in. Every time I'm up at 4am with something like this, I think of my piano teacher, and how his Central American isthmus wanted to shred itself, drifting into oblivion.

And that's the other thing: it only happens at the deadest time of night, the quiet still of a world so asleep that nobody could possibly help. Pain is a solitary venture; it can't be shared, and at that hour, it can't earn empathy. This is you, and it might be how you'll go - many years from now, sure sure - but it's a possible snapshot of the last thing you'll ever know. My grandma, beset by a cancer missed by a mammogram she never got... is dying alone optional or mandatory?

I reached a low point last night, a full day after I'd already resigned myself to the ghetto of toast and broth, when I glimpsed "not wanting to do anything anymore." I saw not wanting to do any of my projects, finish a script, write these words, play in a band, plan any more social events, travel. In that moment, I reached a bottom I hadn't seen in five or six years, and even the iridescent glow of my family, sleeping in adjacent rooms, barely penetrated the darkness.

I went to bed and pulled the covers up clear over my head like I used to do as a kid in Iowa, during the most brutal winter nights. I remember daring to look out my window at the sub-zero blackness, my chin on the yellow glossy windowsill, my breath fogging the glass, then instantly freezing. I could write my name in the tiny ice with my fingernail.

And then, under covers, trying not to move because my body had formed the only warmth in the bed. I tried to remember what it was like, pillow over my head, the sound of the vaporizer whirring nearby. Maybe my dad was in another room watching "All in the Family" or maybe the house was silent, the peculiar, haunting quiet of a busy train station closed for the evening.

I close my eyes and think of having the adults take care of everything, of not having a plan, sitting in the back seat. I pull the covers up further. Just for this moment, just until I get to sleep, I think of the only thing I want: not to be responsible.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:09 PM (Permalink) | Comments (13)

July 21, 2008



I am two days into the most violent food poisoning I've ever known – for the love of all that is holy, can someone post a question that will gather tons of lighthearted and fabulous responses guaranteed to ease the suffering of all afflicted?

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:06 PM (Permalink) | Comments (35)

July 17, 2008

barstow, CA 2,554 mi.



Hey doodz! Anybody road-trippin' or leavin' the country this summer?

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:52 PM (Permalink) | Comments (20)

July 16, 2008

tuppence a bag



Mary Poppins pulls out the tape measure to see how Jane and Michael "measure up", and subsequently, they ask her to do it to herself. Apparently she's "practically perfect in every way", but really, I beg to differ. I think Mary Poppins is actually a bit self-involved, judgmental, and definitely a buzzkill.

Don't get me wrong – I adore "Mary Poppins", but contrary to the song Bert sings, every day is not a holiday with Mary. She commandeers the nanny job by physically "blowing away" all the other applicants, wins the merry-go-round horse race by making the other riders demur, and always cuts short the adventure just when it's getting fun.

In my house, there are two things Lucy likes to mess with. I have a convertible Carolina blue VW bug alarm clock with headlights that come on when the radio plays. We also have a heavy-duty box-cutting knife that is festooned with pink flowers. It's hard to take ourselves seriously when I tell her to "put my pink flower knife away" or "stop playing with my baby-blue blinking-light radio car toy".

In the same vein, it's a little hard to take Mary Poppins' admonitions seriously, when they're all occurring in a crazy magical cartoon landscape she created. When she says, "Honestly Bert, you're as bad as the children," maybe Bert should have said, "well, Mary, perhaps you shouldn't have allowed us all to jump into my sidewalk chalk drawing and go on an acid-inspired fox hunt."

And yet, you have to hand it to Mary – when she disappears for the last third of the movie, it gets boring fast. The movie is called "Mary Poppins", not "My Dad's Bank Freakout". Besides, there's some crazy unspoken sexual dynamic between Mary and Bert, and all he gets is a sad wave from about 11,000 feet.

All the best children's movies have a heart of darkness – think the original "Willy Wonka" and even "Escape From Witch Mountain". With the chimney sweeps scampering like brilliant rats upon the rooftops, the rain ruining dream sequences like tears of blue, red and green – and even Mary herself being, at heart, supremely scary with her flying umbrella and bizarre feet position – this isn't so much a movie as a gorgeous hallucination.

But let's be honest. "Practically perfect in every way?" I think we all know it should read "Very Beautiful, Very British and Vaguely Creepy."

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:44 PM (Permalink) | Comments (28)

July 15, 2008

castor and pollux



And here they are! Around midnight last night, Jiffer gave birth to a healthy, wonderful set of twins: a girl, and then 20 minutes later, a boy. Girl presently roolz at 7.5 pounds, and the boy droolz (but is cute) at 6.8 pounds. The girl has curly dark hair like her momma! No names yet, they're still percolating.

And oh yeah... NATURAL CHILDBIRTH. Mom and Dad are tired, but doing great. Jif, you are our hero. Ingo, you're about to be. Huzzah!

[update: more pics and email from Ingo:]

Dear all,
this is just briefly, as I am running a couple of errands between diaper-changes. I don´t want to take it away from Jiff, and I can assure you all that she is dying to put yesterday´s events in writing for you once she gets access to email, so I am only gonna say this: THANK YOU ALL SOOOOO MUCH for the wonderful support, best wishes and good karma sent from all around the world. It helped Jiff enormously mastering a feat which I am still deeply awed by. Attached find the first picture after delivery, everyone still a bit battle-torn but glorious (see the girl´s thick dark hair behind my hand?!). The other after they had their first round of breast-milk!

More to come (especially names!!!) soon,
again thanks so much,
we love you all,




Posted by Ian Williams at 11:10 PM (Permalink) | Comments (24)

July 14, 2008

oh, such zesty persiflage


Contrary to my behavior here, I don't actually like talking about Obvious Current Event Blog Topics®, but until we get news or pictures of some li'l Jif-Jif twins flailing about, the latest cover of the New Yorker is pretty frickin' ripe. For those of you who don't keep their antenna up, the magazine looks like this next week, a cartoon of Obama "terrorist-fist-jabbing" his wife in Muslim dress while a portrait of Bin Laden hangs over a flag-burning fireplace.

What is fascinating about the brouhaha that ensued, as always, is that it missed the point. The cartoon isn't offensive, nor should it be called "satire", nor anything else that simple. This cartoon sucks because it missed the crucial difference between something that is funny in vague theory, and something funny in practice.

If you say "what if the New Yorker had a cover with Obama giving his wife a terrorist fist jab?" you might get a casual laugh among your well-heeled lefty friends (or, in the case of my friends, it would be followed up with "Yeah. Or how about a cartoon of Obama getting penetrated by Catherine the Great's sex horse?") You know, the usual things said in the one-upmanship of Gen X badinage.

It's quite another thing to actually make a New Yorker cover out of the idea – a decision so tone-deaf that it really does lend credence to the idea that Manhattanites are hopelessly solipsistic and have no idea how the rest of the country thinks. What you're seeing here is meta-humor gone wrong; it's what happens when you stand too close to your own sarcasm bomb.

Let's see: it's supposed to be funny, because it's so far from the truth, yet some people still believe these things about Obama, and aren't they stupid? Just kidding! Except we're not! Because we're progressives, and really want to see Obama become president, so the way to do that is show stupid voters how stupid they are through impenetrably thick satire! Even if this cover makes them more likely to think Obama is a Muslim... hey, wait a minute. Now I'm confused by our act of aggressive meta-parody. What were we trying to say again? And WHY DID MY CAR JUST GET TOWED?!?!?

I dunno – if the New Yorker did it to be salacious, then it worked, but that was never their strong suit. They're much, much better at "actually being a good magazine."

If they did it with a progressive agenda, then they flunked out of their psych seminar at Columbia: every behavioral psychologist knows that when you show a movie about the horrors of bulimia, you make more bulimics. Same goes for politics – why give this Obama-terrorist bullshit more airtime than it already gets from your crazy right-wingnut family members?

But if they did it to be actually funny in their own snooty so-obvious-it-simply-HAS-to-be-humorous way, they just made Obama's work that much harder, which, if you're scoring at home, is a meta-meta-funny piece of satire. Which is absolutely hilarious, if you happen to be a Republican.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:20 PM (Permalink) | Comments (37)

July 12, 2008

bulging mattress


I accept that we, here, are a skewed demographic in all kinds of ways, but I'd like to put out this question today: how has the current economy affected you personally, and what things are you doing differently, or cannot do anymore, specifically?

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:10 PM (Permalink) | Comments (29)

July 10, 2008

and your oh-so-nutty chocolate covering


024670 Jelly Belly Assorted Jelly Beans.jpg

FINALLY the Newspaper of Record has printed a story I can get behind: the awesomeness of the Jelly Belly. I have been a connoisseur of these little guys since high school, and it's about time they got the respect they are due. In that light, I'd like to list my favorite tiny little candies, in no particular order:

1. Jelly Bellies – with emphasis on Sizzling Cinnamon, Root Beer and green apple

2. Cherry Coke Sour gummies

3. SweetTarts – the blue ones

4. Jolly Rancher fruit gummies – all flavors, especially grape

5. Peanut M&Ms – the yellow ones

6. "Real Fruit" gummies, berry flavor

7. Haribo gummi bears, all except "clear" ones

8. Sprees – the purple and green ones

9. Starbucks Dark Chocolate-Covered Espresso Beans

10. ¡Los Tamales Calientes!

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:08 PM (Permalink) | Comments (28)

July 9, 2008

most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps


I liked GFWD's list of questions from a few days ago, so I'm going to post my own answers and encourage anyone else to do so.

1. What are the most important qualities you want in the next POTUS?

Three things: someone willing to address the problem of black-market nuclear materials, someone to provide a brave vision of America powered solely on alternative energy, and someone willing to sharply reduce the influence of "corporate personhood".

2. What do you think of the passing of Jesse Helms?

Okay, time for Lefty McLiberalpants. No offense to some commenters (whose opinions I always respect), but frankly, I have zero amount of respect for that fucking asshole and the planet breathes easier without him. He did nothing but create abject misery for people that weren't white and straight, and while we'll always hear the mantra "nobody fought harder for North Carolina", I don't think many Tar Heels can fathom what an embarrassment he was to my adopted home state.

When I'd tell anyone outside of the South that I was going to NC, most of them would shudder and say "you mean, where Jesse Helms is?" He was not deserving of grudging respect. He was not deserving of anyone saying "you gotta hand it to the guy, he got things done." He was a rotten guy that did a lot of rotten things, and it needs to be in writing. I'm reminded of the Public Enemy lyric:

Elvis was a hero to most
But he never meant shit to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was, simple and plain
(Motherfuck him and John Wayne).


3. What song was playing that "first" time?

"The Lark Ascending" by Ralph Vaughn Williams. I'm serious: download it and play it in headphones with your eyes closed. Just do it right now.

4. Favorite Tar Heel basketball player of all time and why?

I'm with Dean (and Chip): Tyler and Sheed. Just magnificent and inspiring.

5. Most famous person you've shaken hands with or met?

In terms of being "famous", I guess it'd have to be Bill Clinton – I met him in Chapel Hill in '92 when he was still running in the Democratic primary and he talked to a bunch of us about baseball and the designated hitter rule.

Best story, however, is probably Michael Jordan. In 1988, I was trying to drop my badminton P.E. class, but they said I needed an advisor to sign my drop/add form (young-timers, ask somebody what those were). That weekend, I took a plane to Los Angeles, and the Chicago Bulls were also on the flight. I wandered up to first class, stuck my drop/add form in Michael's face and asked him to sign as my advisor. He looked at the form, shook his head in that "I remember this crap" sort of way, and signed it with a smile.

I figured if UNC wouldn't count Michael Jordan as my advisor for a P.E. class, they were nuts. Turns out they were nuts. Man, didn't anybody have a sense of humor?

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:13 PM (Permalink) | Comments (44)

July 7, 2008

the october project


I'd like to declare this Jiffer Worldwide Appreciation Week™ as our favorite Wisconsonian transplant is now 39 weeks full of TWINS IN HER BELLY, longer than most twins ever dare to stay. At this very moment, she could either be sitting in Hamburg, staring at her stomach with breath bated, or she's actually giving birth.

with Jiff in late March, Grasse, France

two weeks ago, if you can believe it

Yes, get it out of your system and stare. Everyone in Germany does. They've stopped being clandestine about it, and just shouting when she walks around town. Everyone loves a freak of nature, I guess, but Jiff and Ingo are about to be heroes, taking on twice what mere mortals usually shoulder.

I have to say, at this juncture, that Jiffer is a freak of nature, not from her belly, but because nobody with her laid-back serenity has ever charted such an amazing path in life, and silence anyone who ever thought she wasn't the real deal. When I met her 13 years ago, she was an earthy, beautiful, sarcastic Pi Phi with a cup full of beer; we immediately had a jelly donut fight and then I asked her to live in the Pink House.

She met Ingo on her last night at Carolina, and we all guffawed and secretly gossiped it'd never last. Then she joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Mauritania – known as the worst mission there is – and folks thought she wouldn't hack it. Afterwards, she applied to Columbia for grad school in International Relations and got in, and soon enough, the girl who always came to my room in 1996 moaning about writing papers... was editing Columbia's SIPA Magazine.

She married Ingo nine years after meeting him that night in North Carolina, spent years making the world better in Cambodia and Afghanistan (remember the pictures?) and now that Ingo has become the Anderson Cooper of Germany, they're back in Hamburg awaiting the brood.

I'm hoping she'll tell us, as soon as she can, that the twins are amongst us, so we can stop worrying. Until then, I'll leave off with a couple of things I just found on my computer. This one is an email:

Date: Mon, 25 Sep 1995 13:53:56 -0700 (PDT)
From: Jiffer Bourguignon (jlbourgu@mailserv.isis.unc.edu)
To: Ian Williams (ecstasy@email.unc.edu)
So, ian, what do you do all day? Besides masturbate. Hehehe. I've taken it upon myself to make me laugh since all you could come up with was a Helen Keller joke. I know you can do better. I have play practice tonight til 11 or so. Let's go get a beer afterwards.

And this was a note I wrote on my last day in the Pink House as it was being boarded up:

July 22, 1997
Jiffer honey...
I am the last one here...
Here's all the mail I could find. Remember... stay in touch with me throughout the ages and never let me out of your sight for long. I love you very much and miss you terribly.

Still sums it up.

[UPDATE: another pic:]

Jiff yesterday (week 39)

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:15 PM (Permalink) | Comments (22)

July 6, 2008

liking one's oatmeal lumpy


I have some sort of envy of folks who seem to blog effortlessly from far-flung places, as though the blog itself wafts directly from their brain via USB cord to the internet itself. Of course, that begs the question: is anything worth "liveblogging"? Can anything need commentary so badly that only 5-minute updates will suffice? Maybe surgeries and births, but that's still fairly creepy.

All this to say, I'm on top of a hill without a real internet connection and I'm typing this on my phone and hoping it works. Thus, I will leave it to the first commenters to establish today's debate. Before I go I'd like to add that I love the fireworks that are just the bright white light and the big BOOM!

Posted by Ian Williams at 10:58 PM (Permalink) | Comments (22)

July 1, 2008

eat my fruited plain


You can't deny this isn't an interesting time to be an American. I never use a national holiday to think much about anything other than planning my distractions, but this Friday seems to fall during a particularly charged moment. In 1914, Louis Brandeis said "Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman."

In the same vein, I'd like to publish a few of my worries today – nothing personal, only global. Maybe I can look back on them someday and consider myself either clairvoyant or hysterical. Or vaguely boring; I don't pretend to have a stranglehold on historical drama. Either way, here they are:

- I'm worried Obama isn't who we thought he was. His statements and decisions over the last few weeks (the FISA vote, his views on the death penalty and guns, the decision to have religion playing a role in government) all read like a horror show to any of us who are remotely progressive. He's still the best candidate by a country mile, but these developments have been depressing.

- Given that the stock market and America's financial infrastructure exists largely on a crumbling gentleman's agreement, I'm worried about the Dow/NASDAQ finding a bottom lower than anyone could possibly have predicted. I'm concerned about my extended family being so heavily invested.

- The North Pole has a 50% chance of having open water this summer. Ice reflects heat; black water retains it – this has gone past science fiction and become such bad news that it all feels completely hopeless.

- I'm worried about something happening to Obama, and the Republicans managing to swipe the election. There, I said it.

- I'm concerned that a fairly simple yet audacious attack on petroleum supplies in the Middle East could push gas to just under $7 a gallon. Never mind Germany already pays $11 a gallon; we're not Germany, and this country will fundamentally change. Long-term for the better, yes, but the immediate 5-year period would be horrifying for Americans.

- I'm worried UNC will have chemistry problems with all the players we have next year, and I'm sickened by the possibility that Kobe, Lebron, etc. will actually decide to play well and win the basketball gold in Beijing, and the credit will go to Koach K.

Okay, your worries? Air 'em out here! And see you on Monday!

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