Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No Religious Leader is Safe

“I know it was you, Archbishop Christodoulos. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!”

Right: The Hacienda's state of the art communications center.

Recently, as I sat here in the high-tech communications center at the Hacienda, searching the internet for clues as to which young Hollywood actor would be next to die (judging by these pictures , I’m pretty sure I’m going to go ahead and go with Jared Leto), I realized that though many young Hollywood actors have died of late, greater numbers of an arguably more important group have been dropping like flies: religious leaders. Going by the calculations of the Hacienda's many very expensive supercomputers, at least four prominent religious leaders have met suspicious ends since last summer. To wit:

- Jerry Falwell . Died May 15, 2007, at age 73, of “natural causes.” An evangelical Christian, Falwell founded the Moral Majority, which helped lots of horrible Republicans get elected to all sorts of offices.

- Serigne Saliou Mbacké . Died December 28, 2007, at age 92, of “natural causes.” Mbacké was the leader of Senegal’s Mouride Islamic sect, the most powerful in mighty Senegal. He was played by Get Shorty's Delroy Lindo.

- Archbishop Christodoulos . Died January 27, 2008, at age 69, of “cancer.” Christodoulos was the head of the Greek Orthodox church. Christodoulos was not afraid to savagely thrash sinners with his "Celestial Pimp Stick," pictured here.

- Gordon B. Hinckley . Died January 27, 2008, at age 97, of “old age.” Hinckley was the President and Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, aka the Mormons. Even he didn't buy Mitt Romney's bullshit.

Four important religious leaders, all dead from supposedly natural causes in the space of less than one year. Shouldn’t this raise some eyebrows? Why is the media afraid to ask the hard questions? Is it because they don’t want to know the answer, because they can’t handle the truth? Well, Don Paco can handle the truth, and I’m going to tell you what’s behind these deaths:

Pope Benedict’s Exorcism Squads, that's what.

Yes, that’s right, I said it. Far from fighting “the Devil,” the true purpose of the “exorcism squads” set up by the Pope Formerly Known as Ratzinger is to wipe out the leaders of other religious denominations. These squads are stealth assassination teams sent by Benedict to wipe out his competition. All that talk about fighting the Devil was just code, you see. The Devil is apparently any church that is not the Roman church, and when the Catholic hierarchy complained of the lack of “properly trained exorcist[s],” what they were really bemoaning was a dearth of vicious, stealthy ecclesiastical assassins, a shortage that by all appearances they have remedied.

You have to wonder why Benedict chose these leaders to kick off his Crusade of terror. Did his love of Hustler make him target Jerry Falwell, long the thorn in Larry Flynt's side? Was Mbacké targeted due to a latent hatred of black people stemming from his days in the Hitler Youth? Did he covet Christodoulos's stylish black headgear and understated bling? Did he envy Hinckley's power to reinstitute polygamy at any time, or his ability to get pairs of blond dudes to put on white short-sleeved shirts and black ties and go all over the damn place looking for new recruits? Were the selections made systematically, or were balls with these clerics' names on them simply picked out of some sort of unholy lottery? We may never pierce the veil of evil that shrouds Benedict's Vatican, but we can be sure that there is more Catholic carnage to come.

The question is, who’s next? Farrakhan? Billy Graham? Tom Cruise? Has anyone heard from the Dalai Lama? And is it just established churches that are in trouble? Should, for example, the CEO of Church’s Chicken be afraid? Should Snoop Dogg, the man who coined the word “chuuuuuuch,” be more afraid of Benedict that he is of Suge Knight? Should New York Mets outfielder Ryan Church worry more about about Communion wine-swilling killers than about potentially helping the Mets even less than vaunted five-tool prospect Alex Escobar? Will Benedict smite America for worshipping American Idol? Does Charlotte Church need to go to the mattresses?

Let’s face it, no one is safe from Benedict and his Exorcist Squads of Death. Pat Robertson, famous rabbis, Ayatollah Khameini, you have all been warned.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Oz: The Craziest TV Show Ever

Above: If the reason that you don't watch tv is that white guys don't get raped often enough for your tastes, then boy does Don Paco have a show for you.

Last night I was flipping through all the movie channels we have here at the Hacienda, and I came across an old episode of Oz on HBO. I watched it for a few minutes and found myself thinking about how profoundly fucked up a show Oz was.

Oz ran on HBO from the late 90’s to the early part of this decade we have yet to get around to naming. It was set in an experimental cell block in a maximum security prison in some never-named state. It wasn’t really about anything other than a bunch of dudes raping each other. I used to watch it and think that it was pretty good, but it is now clear in retrospect that the show was simply batshit insane and that it wasn’t so much “good” as it was just so completely out there that there was nothing else like it on tv. Mostly because some dude got raped in every single episode. I’m pretty sure that even a nun got raped at some point. There was a lot of rape on this show. I am fairly sure that in Latin America the show is called “La Penitenciaria de la Violación.”

If you look at any episode of it now, you’ll be surprised at how many familiar faces you’ll see on the show. The warden was played by Ernie Hudson (or, as Bill Clinton would call him, the black Ghostbuster), the leader of the neo-Nazis was by the guy who plays the Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson in the Spiderman movies, Mr. Eko from Lost played African immigrant and rapist junkie Adebisi, Dylan from 90210 played a preacher that gets Amontillado’d into a wall, Tony Soprano’s wife played a prison guard, and half the cast of The Wire was on the show at one point or another (Daniels played an undercover cop that got pushed down an elevator shaft, Bodie played a kid that got raped a lot, Carver played an angry prison guard, and I think Carcetti’s advisor Dirty D was warden for a while). Rita Moreno was a regular, the Lakers’ Rick Fox had a stint on the show, and even that guy who fathered Madonna’s first baby was on there for a while. I’m fairly certain that it was Rita Moreno who played the nun that got raped, whose name was inexplicably Sister Peter. And yes, that will fuck up your future viewings of West Side Story.

Aside from the excellent cast, the show has not aged well. It is so completely over the top that it is impossible to take seriously. That being the case, Don Paco hopes that you do not spend an undue amount of time watching this series. But just in case you want to know what happened, I have composed for you this helpful guide to Oz, so here it is, All of Oz in One Blog Post.

All of Oz in One Blog Post

Season 1:
Beecher: Hey I’m new here in Oz. I’m white. I killed a little girl through negligence. I feel guilt.
Guy from a Law and Order Spinoff: Oh really? Nice to meet you. Wanna be cellmates?
Beecher:Sure! Hey, what the…?! NOOO, stop raping me! Aaaah!

Later that day:

Beecher: Man, the food here is bad. Hey older white guy, want to be my friend?
Schillinger: Sure. Hey, wanna see my cell?
Beecher: Sure. You’re not gonna rape me, are you?
Schillinger: No, of course not. I’m a neo-Nazi. I would never do that.
Beecher: Oh cool. Though I don’t support your political affiliation. I was a lawyer.
Schillinger: Oh really? Guess what, it’s rape time.
Beecher: NOOO, not again! Rape! Rape!

Schillinger tattoos a swastika on Beecher’s ass.

Guy in a wheelchair does Shakespearean monologue.

Season 2:
Bodie: Yo, I’m a young black guy. I’m a gangsta.
Adebisi: I am from Africa. I wear a funny hat. Now it is time for me to rape you.
Bodie: NOOOO!
Several people get killed in gruesome ways.

Beecher: You stay away from me, guy from Law and Order Spinoff! You raped me!
Guy from a Law and Order Spinoff: But I love you Beecher!
Beecher: Oh I love you too! Smooch smooch!

Guy in a wheelchair does Shakespearean monologue.

A riot breaks out.

Season 3:
Beecher: I’m going to be a Muslim.
Muslim Imam: You are no Muslim.
Beecher: Shit, you’re right. I’m going to go get revenge on Schillinger instead. God I hope I don’t get raped again.
Guy from a Law and Order Spinoff: Don’t worry, I will protect you. Only I get to pound your sweet, sweet ass.
Muslim Imam: Yeah, you’re kicked out of Islam.
Beecher: Fine!

A retarded boxer gets raped.

Season 4:
Guy in a wheelchair does Shakespearean monologue.
Everyone gets raped.

Season 5:
Neo-Nazi Extra: Hey I’m a neo-Nazi.
Schillinger: Hey dude, go rape that other dude. For the cause.
Neo-Nazi Extra: Can do! [rapes young white guy dressed as a woman].

Neo-Nazi Extra: Man, I sure am glad I got that gum transplant. My gums were in rough shape.
Schillinger: Those gums were from a black man. You can’t be a neo-Nazi anymore. Hey, other neo-Nazi extra: rape this guy!
Neo-Nazi Extra 2: Can do! [rapes newly mixed-race former neo-Nazi].

Original Neo-Nazi: I will cut out my own gums so as to be racially pure! AAAAAAHH!

More people die.

Season 6
Beecher: Oh my God, I’ve been released! I don’t have to be raped anymore! Oh no, it was just a dream. NOOOOO!!

Everyone dies.

The End.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Beasting of the Week: Satan

Above: Le Tigre, the Face of Beasting .

Left: "Lord, why hast thou Beasted me?"

Now, strictly speaking, this beasting did not begin this week (I guess strictly speaking it began at some point during the Old Testament), but as it appears to be an ongoing effort, and because there is no actual requirement that the Beasting of the Week actually take place during the week in question, we’re running with it.

A few weeks ago, I came across a fantastic article in the UK newspaper The Daily Mail, titled “Pope's exorcist squads will wage war on Satan.” Now, who wouldn’t want to read that? I meant to write about it earlier, but I didn't. Which I am blaming on the Devil. Fucking Satan!

The article is all about how Pope Benedict XXX (as I believe he refers to himself in his own infallible head) is very worried about the very real problem of, well, the Devil. Specifically, the Devil getting all up in people’s shit, forcing Benedict (or, as his closest friends call him, “Eggs”) to send out priests to do exorcisms. Here's a taste:

“The Pope has ordered his bishops to set up exorcism squads to tackle the rise of Satanism. Vatican chiefs are concerned at what they see as an increased interest in the occult. Each bishop is to be told to have in his diocese a number of priests trained to fight demonic possession…
"Thanks be to God, we have a Pope who has decided to fight the Devil head-on," said Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s ‘exorcist-in-chief’. Too many bishops are not taking this seriously and are not delegating their priests in the fight against the Devil. You have to hunt high and low for a properly trained exorcist.”

I wish my job were more like the Pope’s, where you come up with all sorts of crazy solutions to problems that don’t exist. I mean, all this must really be about the fact that Benedict didn’t really do anything of note for a few months because he was off playing Guitar Hero or something, and then one of his underlings at one point works up the nerve to ask His Holiness if there’s something he needs help with, some grand initiative he’s been working on for all these months to help the world, and Benedict is all thinking ‘Holy shit, I better come up with something quick’ so he tells the guy, “Yes, I have been pondering the growing problem of, uh, the deepening specter of, uh, oh yes, SATAN! We must stop Satan, he is possessing people left and right! I want a report on my thousand year old desk made from wood from the Garden of Eden in the morning!” That way, whenever my boss would come into my office and ask me what I’d been working on, I could say shit like, “Witches, boss. Witches have been coming into kids’ rooms at night in the form of cats and stealing their souls to use them to make their brooms fly faster. So I've been sitting here at my desk doing Sudokus, because every time you solve a Sudoku, a witch contracts antibiotic-resistant flesh-eating bacteria and dies. What do you mean you're not buying it? Fuck you, I'm infallible. That's it, I've had it: you're excommunicated, Jackson. Burn for all eternity, asshole.”

Left: The Pope. You would think that the cardinals would, as part of their Pope-selection criteria, have something along the lines of "Candidates for Pope should not look really, really evil."

I suppose you have to deal with bullshit anywhere you work, and I guess these are the types of management problems you come across when you work in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church (or, as we call refer to it here at the Hacienda, “La Iglesia, que es una, santa, catolica y apostólica”. It's a mouthful.). Imagine that you are working in human resources and you have to call someone into your office and bitch at them about them not delegating enough responsibility in the fight against the Father of Evil? You'd have to go home your wife would ask you about your day, and you'd be all wanting a drink because everyone hates you for always yelling at them about Satan. Nobody needs that type of aggravation, man.

Imagine you are a bishop. Assume that you are a rational person and are in the church to help people with real problems, and that you therefore don’t concern yourself with problems like demon infestations, because they aren’t real. All of a sudden some Vatican suck-up asshole calls you in to his Holy See or whatever and starts chewing you out about your lackluster Satan preparedness plans. What could you tell that guy? You can’t tell him that Benedict is being a nutjob about this, because, guess what, Benedict can’t be wrong. So now you have to go back to your luxurious bishop’s residence, call in a bunch of your priests, and you have to sit there with them and brainstorm about how you’re going to FIGHT THE DEVIL. You have all these guys, all of whom are already pretty tightly-wound because they don’t make any money, can’t have sex with women, and go to bed every night praying to the Lord to rid them of the burning desire to kill that they feel every time a cel phone goes off during Mass, and now you have to be like, “Well, Father Juan Carlos, I want you to make me a spreadsheet about our anti-Satan initiative. And you, Father Mbeki, do you think you could come up with a nice PowerPoint presentation for the Cardinal? Get some pictures of Linda Blair and Max von Sydow in there, those’ll really sell it.” And then you have to pick which of your dudes are going to get to go to Rome for that big Exorcism training, and you know it’s going to be the biggest suck-ups who’ll be volunteering for that. Ugh.

But apparently this is all moving forward, so if you get possessed, you won’t have to worry about missing work because you’re tied to your bed with your head facing backwards, masturbating with a crucifix and yelling about peoples’ moms sucking cocks in hell. You just call up your local Exorcist Squad—you know what would be badass? If those guys had capes—and they’ll come take care of you. Don’t you worry about Satan, baby, because Benedict’s got your back. Satan, you got BEASTED.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

America's Next Top What?

Editor's Note: Tonight, a very special comment from our very first guest columnist, Don Paco's special lady friend, Doña Paquita!

I, unlike Don Paco, am not much of a writer. (I didn't even add that, I swear! -DP) I’m just too damn lazy to elaborate on paper; I think and I say and that’s as good as it gets. Besides laziness of varying forms and a knack for falling prey to conniving, international travel agents, Don Paco and I share a few other things in common, one of which is the belief that the stake of the world depends greatly on the outcome of the upcoming U.S. presidential elections. In fact, if you are an avid fan of Don Paco’s blog, then you likely do too (you may also inexplicably—and to the shock and dismay of the mother who bore you—find yourself recognizing baseball players by name…Que Barbaridad!). So, tonight I watched the democratic debate with great anticipation, given that we are finally down to the top three candidates.

Ok, I lied.

I was actually in a vegged-out state, well over halfway through an America’s Next Top Model marathon and kind of annoyed when I found out that these democratic candidates would have the nerve to insist on having their debate compete against the reruns of this incredibly addictive show. Not to mention, when Top Model had its commercial breaks, I already had tremendous options to continue to prolong the future onset of Alzheimer’s through the following intellectual stimulation exercise: just 2 channels up on VH1 I flipped to the story of the Jackson Five, just 10 channels down on Bravo I could catch Project Runway reruns and TLC was showing their new gem of a show, Miss America: Reality Check (this was on channel 98, so it was a little harder to go back and forth). However, because I am equally intrigued to find out about who will run in this next Presidential Race as I am to learn who already became America’s Next Top Model this past season, I decided to limit my commercial-break-channel-surfing to these two broadcasts—a wise decision, to tell you the truth. I thought that I couldn’t have picked two programs that were any more different than these.

Boy, was I wrong!

At one point in Top Model, the contestants known as “Bre” (pronounced “bree”) and “Nicole” were in the middle of some major drama, whereby Bre found Nicole annoying and when she found her granola bars missing she assumed Nicole was guilty, so without a second thought she marched into her room and threw out Nicole’s prized Red Bull drinks—Yikes! Now, that’s quality drama, folks! Well, right after the following commercial break, I jump over to CNN and find myself experiencing some serious deja vu. Hillary was in the middle of accusing Obama of working for a slumlord, among other possible fabrications, and Obama was hissing and scratching right back in a similar fashion. Meow-za is right!

I found that the more I switched between these two programs, the more alike they seemed. I don’t know if any others made this same observation (it’s OK if it means confessing to watching a crappy reality show; it’s addictive, believe me, people will understand). I think I became especially disturbed when John Edwards reminded me of Kim, the poor model stuck in the middle, trying to have a say and be a mediator. Luckily for the nation, John Edwards seems to care just a little bit more about ending poverty than about his future in the high-end fashion industry (unless we’re talking about couture hair designs, in which case he and his $400 hair cut may think twice). Regardless of John Edwards’ possible secret passion for the world of style, I think he shone more than ever tonight. I first want to clarify that I am a fan of all three candidates and am very easily charmed by Obama’s charisma and idealistic appeal. The problem is that Hillary and Obama are two celebrities, and therefore may succumb more easily to cheap paparazzi stunts. Edwards seemed to be more grounded and focused tonight on turning the attention on poverty and healthcare. I’m not making any decisions just yet, but I am tired of so much drama everywhere I turn. Tonight Edwards got my attention by talking about the real issues that I and most of us care about. Let’s hope the catfights are left to the models for now; it’s only a matter of time before the pre-election debates between the democratic and republican candidates come up, then I’ll be ready for some claws!

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Thousand Words

Why bother writing anything today? Nothing I could come up with would beat this picture of a little girl's face as George W. Bush hovers over her on Martin Luther King Day.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

DOJ to Investigate Shortstop Miguel Tejada

Washington, D.C. -- Rep. Henry Waxman of California spoke for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in calling for Attorney General Michael Mukasey to initiate a Department of Justice investigation into whether Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada lied to Congressional investigators in 2005 about steroid use.

"Lying to federal agents in the course of a federal investigation is a crime, one which carries up to a five-year prison sentence," said Waxman. "You can't be lying to the Congress and just get away with it. You're out, Tejada! As they would say in your home country, the Dominican Republic, PONCHAO!"

Tejada maintains his innocence, and has repeatedly denied using performance-enhancing substances.

"I don't lie to nobody," declared Tejada. "I don't use those esteroids, I use the vitamina B-12. I just have to inject it because it work better if you inject it into your culo, which my trainer he tells me is the body's B-12 processing organ. Is no steroid. Is me, Miggy! I play every day!"

The DOJ probe will not be limited to Tejada's alleged steroid use. Ranking Committee Republican Tom Davis of Virginia also wants to investigate whether Tejada has been involved in other recent scandals.

"We still don't know who ordered the firing of all those U.S. Attorneys last year," said Davis. "And while those attorneys serve at the President's pleasure, and thus there was no crime whatsoever in removing them, we still want to know what role Tejada played in those events, just in case there was a crime. Because it was probably his fault."

Tejada denies any involvement in the U.S. Attorney scandal.

"I don't know no U.S. Attorneys!" exclaimed Tejada. "I got an American lawyer. I no fire no one! I just show up and play hard every day! Miggy just wants to be out there on that field giving 100%!"

"Yeah right," said an unconvinced Waxman. "Then what about that meeting you had with Alberto González and Monica Goodling where you discussed the list of which U.S.A.'s weren't loyal enough Bushies? Who compiled that list if it wasn't you?"

"But I don't recall being present at that meeting, I don't recall who composed that list! I was aware of the list, but only because I saw it in the news!" responded a visibly anxious Tejada.

"That's what González said, too," said Waxman. "The bottom line is that we are not going to allow the further subversion of our Constitution and our government by this Administration anymore. Congress is going to exercise its oversight powers and rein all this corruption, and we're starting with someone who is clearly at the center of all this wrongdoing, Houston Astros shortstop and former Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles All-Star Miguel Tejada."

Further piling on, David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, wrote a letter to the Committee reminding them to also ask Tejada about his "integral, decision-making, buck-stops-with-Miggy-and-no-one-else" role in the CIA's decision to destroy videotapes of detainee interrogations at secret prisons.

"Yeah, that whole thing, that was all Tejada," wrote Addington. "I didn't have shit to do with that."

Hearings have been scheduled for February. Tejada's attorney has stated that Tejada would be willing to testify if he is given immunity from being shifted to third base.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Books I Read in 2007, Pt. 2

What was the biggest lie to come out of the White House in the last ten years? Was it WMD's in Iraq? The Iranian nukes that will supposedly rain down on us any minute now? The whole not having sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinski thing? Compassionate conservatism?


The biggest lie to come out of the White House in the past ten years was this gem, reported in US News and World Report on August 20, 2006:
But President Bush now wants it known that he is a man of letters. In fact, Bush has entered a book-reading competition with Karl Rove, his political adviser. White House aides say the president has read 60 books so far this year (while the brainy Rove, to Bush's competitive delight, has racked up only 50). The commander in chief delved into three volumes in August alone-two on Abraham Lincoln and, more surprising for a man of unambiguous convictions, The Stranger, Albert Camus's existential tale of murder and alienation.

Yes, that's right. The White House at one point had the cojones to claim that George W. Bush, between morning workouts, 10 p.m. bedtimes, and whole days full of running the government into the ground while using the Constitution to wipe the ass of America, somehow also read 60 weighty tomes, many of them lengthy biographies or historical volumes, others high literature (or, as Bush himself put it, "three Shakespeare's") . And that's not for the whole year--that's through mid-August. This lie is so pointless and transparently false that I can't even verbalize how irrationally mad it makes me. I mean, after this, the lie gloves were off. I wouldn't have been surprised if after this they'd started claiming that Bush was a surgeon, and that he was the one that fixed Giuliani's ass cancer with his special laser butt surgery techniques and chemotherapy-secreting nipples, and that we've always been at war with Eastasia. Let's move on.

I left my book list off on Sam Walker's Fantasyland, which is not dirty like the title makes it sound. After that came:

19. Time's Witness, by Michael Malone. Malone is an author from North Carolina who is very, very talented. This book is kind of like To Kill a Mockingbird, but much bigger and funnier. The book is the second part of a trilogy that is well worth checking out, as is just about anything written by Malone. I don't know why he isn't more famous than he is.

20. Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood. One of only four female authors on my reading list this year. 2006 was even worse: one book by Atwood, and one "book" by Maureen Dowd. Hideous. Apparently I am a literary sexist. I don't know why this is. I also don't really have too many albums by female artists. My bad karma on this front will probably somehow lead to a Hillary Clinton presidency. America, I apologize.

21. The Ancestor's Tale, by Richard Dawkins. This book was fucking excellent. It looks at human evolution backwards by looking at humans, and then goes back and looks at, for example, the last common ancestor that we humans shared with, say, the Neanderthals, and before that, the last common ancestor that all the major primates descended from, and before that, the last common ancestor of all primates and lemurs, and before that, the last common ancestor of, I don't know, all non-ungulate mammals, eventually going back all the way to the theoretical single-celled organism that all life on Earth is descended from. Along the way, Dawkins takes all sorts of potshots at Christianity (he also wrote a book called The God Delusion, so you can sort of guess where he's coming from on that front). The book is awesome because it is essentially about all sorts of awesome animals that are now extinct, which is what all books should be about or at least have a chapter on.

Right, below: Megatherium Americanus, the giant ground sloth. Now extinct, this was probably the most badass mammal that ever lived. If I could breed an army of these and control them with my brainwaves, I would rule the world. In theory, climate change and hunting by early humans killed them off, but I'm pretty sure that what really killed them was an army of nuclear Frankensteins. It's the only rational explanation.

22 and 23. The Sportswriter and Independence Day, by Richard Ford. Beautiful writing. The plots of these books (the first two installments of a trilogy about a man, Frank Bascombe, who lives in New Jersey and doesn't do much) are nothing to write home about--if you're looking for action, look elsewhere--but the writing is amazing. I don't generally write in my books or underline stuff (I used to in college, but that was so I'd have something to say in section), but these two books are all sorts of marked up. This stuff is kind of like John Updike in that it's about well-off, introverted white guys and their enviably oh-boo-hoo problems, except that with Ford, you don't want to punch the author or his protagonist in the face every minute that you're reading it. These books are not for everyone, but I think if you come across them at the right moment in your life, they will mean something to you. God I am lame.

24. Freddy and Fredericka, by Mark Helprin. I don't know how or where I picked up this book. It is about a kind of Prince Charles-like Prince of England who is forced to undertake a mystical quest to conquer America before he can become the king of England. It is absolutely ridiculous and well worth checking out. It does kind of drag a little in the middle. Kind of like how this is dragging. You can bail out now, you don't need to be here.

25. Dancing Naked in the Mind Field, by Kary Mullis. I hated this book. It is a memoir written by a Nobel Prize-winning chemist who likes to surf and drop acid. My cousin recommended it to me--she loves it, being a chemist herself--but it was easily the most insufferable thing I read all year. Blaaaaaah. Hated hated hated it.

26. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by JK Rowling. Hey, did you hear Dumbledore's gay? No shit.

27, 28, and 29. White Jazz, The Big Nowhere, and The Black Dahlia (in that order) by James Ellroy. Ellroy is the guy who wrote L.A. Confidential, and that book, along with these three, forms a quartet. I read L.A. Confidential and a few of his other books a few years back, and really liked them, so this year I went back and read the other three in the series, except all out of order. The chronological order is Dahlia, Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz, so I was really all over the place in reading them in the order that I did, but they're fairly loosely connected--basically what ties them all together is that they're all set in L.A., and all four of them have a character named Dudley Smith (the James Cromwell character in L.A. Confidential) causing trouble. Ellroy is obsessed with the story of the Black Dahlia's unsolved murder because his own mother was unsolvedly murdered in L.A. as well. He seems like a pretty fucked-up dude. However, his books are pretty damn awesome, great noir stuff. Black Dahlia is my least favorite--it's kind of unnecessarily flowery (pun!) and it's no surprise that the movie version is damn near unwatchable. I know that the ladies all seem to love Josh Hartnett, and I'm sure he's a very nice guy, but man is that guy 20 different kinds of awful.

30. Consider the Lobster, by David Foster Wallace. Wallace is considered the shit for his crazy fiction experiments--got a MacArthur Genius Grant and everything--but I think he's at his best when doing non-fiction. This is a collection of magazine articles he's done over the last few years, and it is excellent. More on Wallace in a bit.

31. The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, by George Saunders. There is no real way of explaining this book, but how can you not love that title?

32. Collapse, by Jared Diamond. Diamond's follow-up to Guns, Germs, and Steel focuses on examining large, prosperous civilizations that collapsed in a relatively short period of time. He identifies several factors that can lead to these sudden collapses. Problem is, the book gets pretty repetitive after a while, and it becomes a bit of a slog. Also, I found out that this is what Diamond looks like, and after seeing that, it was much harder to take him seriously. He looks like Harry Shearer in A Mighty Wind.

33. Air Guitar, by Dave Hickey. Another MacArthur Genius Grant guy. This is a book of essays. I didn't really dig it as much as I was told I would. He writes a lot about the 60's and 70's, which apparently for him consisted of reading lots of art criticism and watching short films where all that happens is that a dude gets a haircut and smokes a cigarette. (Sign me up!) I guess you had to be there.

34. Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. Here's how I described this book to a friend of mine over email when I started reading it:
i am reading a book called "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace.
He's the guy uses lots of footnotes (in fiction). IJ is his big magnum opus. It's not really distillable into a short description, but basically it is set in a near future where some environmental catastrophe (never quite explained, but it is implied that it is essentially the result of greedy corporations just dirtying shit up and no one really giving a damn about it) has led to the US annexation of Canada and it focuses on a teenage genius/tennis prodigy and a recovering drug addict/burglar who get involved in a whole bunch of crazy shit having to do with a government conspiracy, paraplegic Quebequois terrorist assassins, and a movie that causes the brain's
pleasure circuits to overload, turning viewers into vegetables that just want to watch the movie over and over. It is over a thousand pages long, including a hundred pages of endnotes, some of which go on for dozens of pages. It is crazy.

"That sounds awful," emailed back my friend.

But I like it. I've read it twice now. There's no explaining it.

35. Icon, by Frederick Forsyth. Very cool spy thriller from 1996 which somehow pretty much managed to predict the rise of Vlad Putin.

36. The Death of Ivan Ilych, by Leo Tolstoy. I read this because it was really small and fit in my pocket one day that I had to go out and run errands. It is about an asshole dying and kind of realizing he's led an asshole life and that all his friends and family are assholes. I bet Tolstoy was the fucking life of the party.

37. Charlie Wilson's War, by George Crile. Like the movie, except mujaheddinnier.

38. Arctic Dreams, by George Lopez. Some book about the Arctic by a guy that really, really likes the Arctic. Pretty cool, but I lost interest after a while. There was a lot of the guy talking about how quiet shit was. I mostly read this because apparently pretty soon there's not going to be an Arctic. I'm not sure if that will affect all the quiet or not. Also, Eskimos seem like they'd be pretty fun to hang out with. Also, you know what animal just doesn't make sense? The narwhal. There is now way that thing should exist.

Narwhals: small whales with unicorn horns filled with magical navigational powers. Created on the 8th day, the day that God created really awesome weed.

And that was it for 2007. I'm sure George W. Bush read 127 books, including Infinite Jest 4 times (once translated into Czech), but I can't feel bad about myself, because the man is a huge genius. Are you still reading this? I apologize.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bush Arrives In Jerusalem; Angry He's Still President

"Hey! Hey airplane driver guy! This ain't Crawford!"

Jerusalem, Israel – President George W. Bush was surprised and angered to emerge from Air Force One and find himself in the capital of Israel for a meeting with Israeli leaders.

“I thought I was done Presidenting already,” whined a visibly irritated Bush. “Condi told me that this flight was gonna take me to Crawford. This ain’t Crawford. This is that country with the Jew Al Qaedas! What the fuck!”

Apparently, the President had been under the impression that he had finished his second term, a misconception that had gone uncorrected by Vice President Cheney.

“Dick told me it was all over and done with,” said Bush. “He made me sign all these papers with no dates that said PARDON on ‘em. Said they was so I could roll over my IRA and keep my health plan for a few months. But I told him I'd let the free market take care of my health needs. I don't need no Socialist medicines.”

Confusion about recent domestic political developments seems to have fed into the misunderstanding.

“What the hell is going on? Hasn’t the campaign been going on for a year already?,” pleaded Bush, his close-set eyes narrowing and his brow knit in concentration. “How can there still be campaigning left to do? Chris Rock won that one primary, but then Poppy’s friend’s wife beat him and then, you know, like, beat McCain. I mean, I saw that asshole Clinton’s wife give that speech last night after she won and everything.”

“I thought that was it, they held the election, so now it was just a matter of having Greg Kinnear wear his cap and gown—how come he never wears the hat?—and put her hand on the big praying book and repeat that poem with your name in it, out there on the steps of the big white building when it’s freezing cold out,” said Bush. “That poem’s hard. It doesn’t rhyme. But at least the guy in the cape reads you the lines so you remember ‘em. The only tricky part is the name thing. I was gonna fly back for that, skip all the parties. Past my bedtime. They should do ‘em earlier. I can always TiVo Two and a Half Men.

Bush seemed to blame Senator McCain for not dispatching Hillary quickly.

Left: In his mind, McCain goes to his happy place and begins writing the "Regrets, I've Had a Few" chapter of his memoirs.

“I knew that creepy little angry cripple wasn’t going nowhere, I never liked ‘im, you guys saw I made the stiff little bastard hug me for the cameras, but backstage I made ‘im kneel before Zod. Like in that Niagara Falls Superman flick,” said Bush.

“KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!,” he added.

Upon being informed that the general election is not scheduled to take place until this November, the crestfallen President pulled out a picture of himself with Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and Karen Hughes, clicked his heels, and repeatedly uttered the phrase “There’s no place like home” with his eyes closed.

It is unclear whether Bush will remain in Jerusalem to take part in the scheduled talks. Several aides who wished to remain anonymous said that Bush has been disengaged from Israel policy since finding out that the “Roadmap to Peace” was not an actual map.

“How we gonna get some peace if we don’t got no map?,” demanded Bush. “Did you look in the Resolute Desk? Check the Book of Secrets, Goddammit! Didn’t nobody else see that Nic Cage documentary? What do you people do all day?”

Bush spent the remainder of the day petulantly biking with his Secret Service contingent.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Books I Read in 2007, Pt. 1

In 2001, I got a Palm Pilot. I thought, "Wow, now I'll really be organized! I will put all my law school assignments on there, and I will always be on top of my shit!"

It didn't really work out that way.

I wound up never really using the Palm Pilot, and as for law school, well, the less said the better. But the Palm Pilot did lead to one cool thing: in looking for uses for the damn thing, I decided to start keeping a list of the books I read during the year. That list was originally on the Palm Pilot, but as I abandoned the ill-starred organizer (seriously, that thing expected me to re-learn to write in order to get stuff on there, clearly I should have seen that that was never happening. Every once in a while I need to write something in cursive and I damn near have a heart attack; my cursive is like that of a palsied illiterate), I just started keeping the list on a piece of paper.

Mostly I keep the list in order to remember what I've read, and when I read it. It's also handy just to see how different it shapes up year to year, both in terms of content and raw numbers. For example, 2004, the year I started working full-time: very low total. 2007, a year when full-time work didn't really figure into the picture: a banner year.

Curious as to what I read this year? Here it is, in chronological order.

1. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. This won all sorts of prizes. It's about a guy and his kid wandering around in a post-apocalyptic America. It is bleak. McCarthy also wrote No Country For Old Men (which I read in 2006). The Road would be a very, very different movie.

2. 3 Nights in August, by Buzz Bissinger. Bissinger, the author of Friday Night Lights, writes about the 2003 St. Louis Cardinals and manager Tony LaRussa, framing the book around a blow-by-blow account of a 3-game series against the Chicago Cubs. The book is mostly about how LaRussa is kind of a baseball genius, but what also comes through is that LaRussa is also kind of a giant asshole.

How many night in August was that, Tony?

3. Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Shit?, by Steve Lowe and Alan McArthur. Don Paco's younger brother lives in Scotland, and for Christmas he tends to get me funny British books. This one was read entirely in my bathroom during the month of January. It was basically just two British guys listing things that are shitty, and what makes them so shitty. The book was basically a blog you could keep next to your toilet.

Man-eating plants are always a plus.

4. The Ruins, by Scott Smith. This was a good thriller that I don't want to say too much about, as doing so would spoil it. It's about a bunch of young American tourists that go visit some old ruins in the Central American jungle, and bad shit starts happening. I passed it on to my stepdad and as far as I can tell, he has not been sleeping well ever since. You know what though, fuck it, I'll spoil it: the tourists then get killed by telepathic, carnivorous plants. The plants fuck with the tourists' heads all night, and then, one by one, eat them alive. The book is very well-written and very intense. It will undoubtedly be made into a movie which has no chance of being anywhere nearly as good as the book.

5. Cast of Shadows, by Kevin Guilfoile. Another thriller. This one is set "a few years from now," in a time that is in now way different from the present other than for the fact that certain advances in cloning have been achieved, and it has become legal for couples who can not conceive to have a baby cloned from either of the parents' DNA. The action gets going when the daughter of a cloning doctor gets murdered by an unknown assailant. The assailant left behind some DNA, and the doctor gets creative with it. This book is like John Grisham for people getting a Masters in Bioethics.

6. Oblivion, by Peter Abrahams. Cop who is slowly losing his memory has to solve a crime. This and the last two books, if I'm not mistaken, were bought after appearing in Salon.com's 2006 "Best Beach Reading" list. I read them 6 months later because a) that's when they came out in paperback (who takes a hardcover to the beach?) and b) you can go to the beach in Puerto Rico whenever the hell you want.

Martin Amis: The Christopher Hitchens of novels.

7. London Fields, by Martin Amis. The best-known novel from British bad-boy novelist (how to be a bad-boy British novelist: 1) be British; 2) use the word "cunt" a lot; 3) write novel). Written in the late 80's and set in a right-before-the-Apocalypse 1999, the novel is about a woman that engineers her own murder in order to avoid having to face aging. Or as the Brits call it, ageing. If I were smarter I would have more to say about this literary classic. Amis apparently has lots of dreams where his teeth get knocked out, and he's got all these weird daddy issues because his dad was also a famous British author.

8. A Right to be Hostile, by Aaron McGruder. This is a collection of Boondocks comic strips. I'm counting it as a book because that shit was expensive.

9-12. Books 1-4 of George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, and A Feast for Crows). These four books were each a thousand pages of AWESOME. Now, I'm not entirely certain that approve of Martin (seriously, "George R.R."? Just commit and go with G.R.R., buddy), but the guy has written some badass books. I'm not a big fantasy fan: aside from the Lord of the Rings books, which I've read quite a few times, I don't ever read it. But these books are awesome. They are not your typical fantasy books, in that there are no elves or hobbits or dwarves (actually, there is one dwarf, but he's of the achondroplastic variety that TLC is so fond of, not some magical bearded midget living in a palace under a mountain). All the characters are human, and none have magical powers. The setting is essentially an inverted version of medieval England, and the plot, which unravels through the points of view of a multitude of characters, is about the struggle between a variety of contenders for the throne of the kingdom where the action takes place. What makes the books such a good read, though, is Martin's eschewing of easy good guys vs. bad guys dichotomies; as the series goes on, Martin throws you for a loop by starting to show you things through the points of view of characters which had been painted as plainly evil in the first installment, and he starts revealing loads of backstory that begins to muddy the moral assumptions created at the outset of the narrative. The constant changes in viewpoint keep you plowing through the books very quickly (I believe all read all 4,000 pages of these books in a one-month period), and since just about all the characters are intriguing and have interesting things happening to them, you don't have that "Heroes" problem of completely losing interest whenever the blonde lady whose power is to see her evil self in the mirror shows up onscreen with her bald husband, whose powers seem to be walking through walls and being a really bad actor. Also, on the periphery of the story are some dragons. Don't pick up these books if you have plans for the upcoming months, or if you are very impatient: the series is expected to run to seven books, and book five is over a year overdue, and as of yet has no set release date (aaargh!).

George R.R. Martin: Not really shocking that his books are rife with underage girls getting married off to gross old dudes.

13. City of Truth, by James Morrow. After those four monsters, it was time to shift gears and go for something short and light. City of Truth is a 90-page book I found at my other brother's place in NYC. It's set in a city where the populace has all been conditioned, Pavlov- or Clockwork Orange-style, into being physically unable to tell a lie. The protagonist is a guy who works for the city and whose job it is to take old works of art or literature (from before the no lies era) and purge them of falsehoods (for example, erasing horns from drawings of unicorns). The book starts off very funny--Morrow's depiction of what it's like to pick someone at a bar without access to hyperbole or euphemism is very, very funny. Not so funny: when the guy's son contracts an almost certainly fatal disease. The book then becomes about how the guy tries to overcome his truthfulness conditioning in order to try the only treatment anyone can think of: reassuring the kid that everything is going to be all right. The book is a quick read, and well worth checking out.

14. The Neon Bible, by John Kennedy O'Toole. This was another very short book, the debut novel of the author of A Confederacy of Dunces, which may well be the funniest book ever. Seriously, go pick that one up. Neon Bible, however, is not at all funny. It's about some kid that not much happens to. O'Toole eventually killed himself, and, assuming that the protagonist in this book is based on him, it's not really very shocking. Also, as far as I can tell, the Arcade Fire's second album, Neon Bible, has nothing to do with this book. Though it is also pretty humorless. Or rather humourless. Damn Canadians with their funny spelling and existential Quebecois angst.

Neon Bibles? Leave your funny at the door.

15. Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl. This was one of those books that I thought was amazing at first, but after a while I lost patience with it (London Fields is kind of that way, too)--the writing is really unique and vibrant, but it sort of begins to grate on you after a while. But it's still a really cool book. This is the author's first novel, though, and you can tell that she's going to be very famous someday, and her fame will be well-deserved.

16. On Beauty, by Zadie Smith. I really liked this book, about the dynamics of a family headed by a frustrated British academic whose career has stalled and his African American wife. I've always liked Smith--who became very well known after her first book, White Teeth, became a big hit a few years ago--because when her second book came out, she actually told people that it wasn't very good and not to buy it, which I think is pretty cool, because personally I think it blows every time that some band is recording a new album and in all their interviews they say that it's going to be their best album ever, and then it's, like, Sam's Town or some shit. Mind you, Zadie Smith is not a band, but I'm glad that she is honest.

17. JPod, by Douglas Coupland. This book was crazy. I also found this in my brother's NYC apartment (an unexpected literary treasure trove). It's not really about anything other than a bunch of computer guys doing ridiculous shit at their job at a video game design company, but it was really funny. This is the first Coupland book I've read, but I look forward to reading more.

Jacque Jones is a nice guy, but he's not going to save your fantasy squad.

18. Fantasyland, by Sam Walker. This is a book about a sportswriter who joins the most competitive fantasy baseball league in the country and winds up completely giving his life over to his shitty fantasy baseball team (he even hires two paid staffers to help him run the team). You know the guy is in trouble when the book starts out and he's got a huge boner for guys like Jacque Jones and Doug Mientkiewicz (had to look that one up). I may have to make my special lady friend read that one so that she can see that relative to Walker, my own crippling addiction to fantasy baseball is no big deal.

We'll get to the second half of the list tomorrow or the next day. Remember, I am lazy.

Monday, January 7, 2008

I Have Been On Strike (But Not Really)

Happy 2008.

I hope that you have managed to get by without your sporadic dose of Don Paco lately. Hopefully there have been no drownings among those of you crying yourselves to sleep in my absence.

I would like to tell you that I have not posted since before Christmas due to the fact that I have, in a touching and principled display of solidarity with my brothers and sisters in the Writers Guild of America, been on strike. It would be great if my silence of late had been due to my protest of the exploitative conditions under which I toil, uncompensated by my corporate overlords for the profitable fruits of my labors. However, I have no corporate overlords, and I generally perform few labors and thereby reap very little fruits therefrom. Mostly I have not updated this page because I am lazy and have recently had very few funny ideas. The former remains true, and apparently the latter does as well.

But now I am back, and ready to take my place alongside The Wire, the Beatles, and penicillin on every single critic's list of greatest things that have ever happened ever, which I figure will require that I post something at least every once in a while. So keep an eye on this space (or, better yet, subscribe to the RSS feed), because tomorrow we kick off the new year by looking back at all the ridiculous books I read last year. How ridiculous? Four of them prominently feature dragons, and one of them deals with evil telepathic man-eating plants (Feed me, Seymour!). Don't miss it.