Saturday, January 15, 2011

Drugs, John Wayne, & Jesus

The Duke of Stratosphere
I know everybody these days is aware of just how important their recommendations are.

That’s true, isn’t it? I mean, you are aware of the increased chances of your buying something that pops up on your recommendation list enough times, right?
And hell, even if you aren’t aware, the good people over at surely are. That’s what those lists are there for, in the end: They take all your buying habits, stir them around around in a special Amazonian electronic marketing engine in which they are studied by a barnful of hamsters and compared with the buying habits of millions of other customers, and Voila! Out pops a list of items that you’re probably going to want to buy. You just didn’t know you wanted to buy them.

This is sophisticated and heady, really cutting edge, 21st century stuff, and billions in sales dollars hang in the balance. And it is one of the reasons why this time of year sucks for me. I am left with the aftertaste of my Christmas gifts of a few weeks back. Sure, the Holiday Beast of Christmas Past has already done the worst of its damage. It’s done leveling Tokyo and it’s stomped out of town for another year.

But now’s the part of the show where my recommended items list starts looking a little hinky.

You know, like I bought a copy of the Transformers II DVD for my nephew, so now my recommended movies list starts showing every goddamned CGI Hollywood blockbuster that’s ever been made. It’s enough to drive a woman already on the cusp of insanity right on over the edge.

So I’m on last week, minding my own business, and sure enough, the rubble left behind by the Holiday Beast’s yearly rampage is sitting right there for all to see, bearing its fangs and laughing – laughing! – at me right to my face.

“Fuck!” I yell out in desperation (although in truth, that method of solving my problems rarely helps much).  “Drugs, John Wayne, and Jesus!”

And Dana, she doesn’t miss a beat. I haven’t even realized she’s upstairs, but she shouts, from out in the hall, Jeopardy-like, “Name three things you might find in the desert!”

Drugs. John Wayne. Jesus.

It hits me like a lightning bolt. Like the lasers that the Holiday Beast shoots out of its eyes in those old Japanese movies the kiddies love.

Drugs. John Wayne. Jesus.

The last three things that flash before the eyes of the fading American Empire before history closes the lid on its casket. It’s the perfect title of a book on modern culture: “Drugs, John Wayne, & Jesus: Front Row Seats for the Death of the American Dream.”

Hell, it’s the name of a blog that earns its blogger a book deal. Much better than fucking “Lesbians in My Soup.” What kind of bloody moron names their blog “Lesbians in My Soup”?

Well, as could probably have been predicted, this gruesome threesome of concepts soon occupies my every waking moment. I find myself drawing potential connecting tissue from A to B to C – drugs to John Wayne to Jesus – when I should be working, or eating, or watching the kids on the jungle gym.

Drugs, John Wayne, and Jesus. It’s the working title for an unfinished Alejandro Jodoworsky Acid Western from the late Sixties. Had it ever reached fruition, it would have ended up being titled, “The Last Temptation of Marion Morrison.” It would have climaxed with the eponymous character freeing himself from the bloated John Wayne carcass that he’d become, and then fighting it out mano a mano with his own acquired persona as a crowd of spectators  throws stones.

Scene from a lesser-known Jesus fable
Jesus Christ, why have I still not upped and moved on out to Hollywood to sell screenplays? There are literally dozens of low rent movie theaters that are going to run out of material for their midnight movies because of my failure to commit.

And where in the blazes is Elvis during all of this, anyway?

There’s a scene in the real Alejandro Jodoworsky film, The Holy Mountain, where the main character is cleansed of all the physical and spiritual toxins he’s been building up by living in society. The guru character presents him the resulting toxic residue as a chunk of fool’s gold.

Those most American of all modern American figures – John Wayne and Elvis Presley – could probably have both used a good cleansing of toxins late in the game. Swollen, glistening, engorged on pork, prescription pills, and cancer past the point of bursting … a little time out in the desert, tripping on peyote with Jesus would have done both of them a world of good.

When Jesus was out there in the desert, the devil took him to the top of a cliff and showed him all of the cities and treasures of the world. And the devil said, “All of this will be yours if only you follow me!”

Jesus said no. Elvis the King and John the Duke, though, well, we all know what they said.

They can’t be blamed, though: If Jesus were alive today, you just know he’d be 250 pounds with a terminal prescription pain pill habit. His phoned-in performance in The Gospel of Matthew IV in 3D would not have prevented it from opening at number one at the box office. Lukewarm reviews, but God knows the guy still has charisma.

Drugs, John Wayne, and Jesus.

Jesus Christ. John Wayne. Drugs. Three great tastes that go great together. It all makes such perfect sense now. How could it ever have been any other way?

I guess the takeaway from all of this is that we should have faith in our recommendations. Even right after the holidays. The recommendation engine is all-knowing, and only has our best interests in mind.

So sit back, relax, and consume. 

It’s what Jesus would do.


  1. ***On January 31, 2011, I removed the “Disqus” comment add-on from this blog.
    When I removed it, the old comments were deleted with it.

    These are those comments:

    January 17, 2011
    Old Friend wrote:
    “I have always found the recommendation list very useful, for showing me what else an author had published. It is literally free advertising for a, say, ghostwriter. I mean when you happen to click on a weird book your second-cousin who always stayed in the basement has recommended to you, how else will you find out all the other mind-imploding reality-butchering parents-scaring books this ghostwriter had written, without exposing yourself to the rest of your extended family in Oklahoma that you are actually intrigued by such unmentionable books, that you are as special as that basement cousin that nobody talks to?

    Of course I am citing a hypothetical example here to make my point. But frankly, truth has been stranger than fiction. And in the age of 24-hour TV and radio and internet that are filled with attention-getting commercials and intrusive advertisements, a recommendation list is really not half bad, although it is without real intelligence at the moment. Which reminds me, I need to get back to my patent applications of that artificial intelligence invention I have been working on ...”

    January 17, 2011
    Katy wrote, in reply to Old Friend:
    “If you like peyote, you might like John Wayne.
    Or something...

    The recommendations have never done me much good with music. In fact, they've been awful. They've been trying to convince me that I'd probably like Sufjan Stevens for about 6 years now.
    With books, it's been a little better.”

    January 18, 2011
    Old Friend wrote, in reply to Katy:
    “I never really saw much of John Wayne's work. He looked like the dumber version of Ronald Reagan, always serious, wrinkle faced, a cigar in his teeth and a gun in his hand, pointing both at me. I mean, I know that gun was always shooting blanks, but that smoke can kill me, you know?

    You have an singularly unique taste in music, or frankly, the lack thereof, since you jump all over the place and would buy anything some eeky basement dweller stamps out of his CD burner and peddles at a local bar. After all these years, I still have no freaking clue just what you listen to, partly because you have refused to show me and let me sample your 2,000 album collection, dork!

    So no wonder Amazon is no help for you on this matter. But for books the content and style can be more consistently categorized even among different authors. Besides, writing and publishing books are much harder than hitting the “record” button on GarageBand, it takes real depth and thoughts, something the eeky basement dwellers are often too young or too isolated to have obtained in their lives.”

  2. Deleted comments, cont'd:

    January 18, 2011
    Katy wrote, in reply to Old Friend:
    “John Wayne is a cultural thing, I think. He's a meme - you take one look at him, and you just understand the attitudes and values that he evokes in Americans of a certain age. He does this even though what people SAW in him wasn't actually what he was.

    I guess. I mean, you and I are both not of the proper place and time to be able to ever fully appreciate John Wayne...

    I've always sort of wanted to get into the whole "Westerns" thing. It's a genre, but it's a genre that can manipulated, and you have these incredible subgenres like Spaghetti Westerns and Acid Westerns.”

    January 19, 2011
    Old Friend wrote, in reply to Katy:
    “Well, in my humble opinion, American Westerns has been better understood by the peoples of the world than Americans themselves. Westerns was hip and different at first, it greatly contributed to the growing American mystique after the war. But after awhile the world started to figure out that Westerns was nothing but a bunch of crybabies telling their women how tough of a life they had after they killed off the Indians and grabbed their land. Tough-men like John Wayne made Americans feel better about themselves, it made them feel justified for genocide, since they clearly earned it -- just see how tough they had to build everything from scratch, never mind the fact that there was already a civilization and a way of living, that did not turn the prairie into a dust ball.

    I therefore don’t really care to appreciate John Wayne and what he represents; I can put up with it on a boring international flight, but only if Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven is showing. And frankly, I don’t see you ever getting into Westerns, even with drug references in the genre title, for a simple reason: it’s not dark enough for you to match your view of the world.”

    January 20, 2011
    Katy wrote, in reply to Old Friend:
    “I don’t know. I have never thought about it much until recently. The form of the Western, though, is something I think you could really play with… The backdrop is generally a desert or rolling plains, dotted by ghost towns consisting largely of criminals and saloons and brothels…

    You can really strip away a lot of elements of society for that sort of story.

    I don’t think I ever considered that until I read Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian,” which is a kind of dark and twisted Western. I don’t think I’d be interested in the kind of romantic or Manifest Destiny varieties of Western, but… the potential is there in the genre for interesting shit.”

  3. Deleted comments, cont'd:

    January 20, 2011
    Old Friend wrote, in reply to Katy:
    “The closest thing I can think of were the classic martial arts movies, and I don’t mean the Hong Kong variety, but the classic novels and folklores that had been earnestly made into movies that didn’t sell much outside the Chinese market. The thing is, I see a commonality between these worldly different genres. See, I think they actually intended to portray the essence of their respective societies. Although we may grow unsure, or even weary, of their original messages or ideals, but they were nonetheless made to convey those ideals.

    I appreciate them less for their truth, but more out of respect and awe of those who went before us, having to have struggled through those ages, despite of which they strived for those ideals. Of life and brotherhood, of honor and love, of hate and vengeance, of life’s meanings when life was so petty and unforgiving. No doubt that in the future my kids may say that Unforgiven was too unrealistically romantic about the American illusion of justice and freedom that never really existed in our lives. But what can we do? We are dumb and weak enough to let evil walk among us.

    Just yesterday, I had enough and I didn’t want to take it any more. So I stayed in the left lane, at two clicks below the legal speed, which was 75 miles per hour in this part of the world. And unlike most locals who would scurry to the middle lane when the assholes came bearing down in the left lane with their high beams flashing, I stayed put, I didn’t budge. And when they one by one for a full hour passed me on the left shoulder of the freeway, which they always did at all hours of the day and also the reason half the locals stayed put in the middle lane out of pure fear, I honked my horn to tell them to go to hell.

    Why only half the locals stayed in the middle lane? Because the other half was passing me on the left shoulder. Most people would see devil and then decided to either join the devil or let it by, using every excuse under the sun, even the safety and welfare of their loved ones. They ignore the fact that the only way to ensure their loved ones’ safety is for those assholes to be stopped, since evil is not going to stop passing on the left shoulder if we keep letting them pass on the left shoulder.

    Something is always worth dying for, you know.”


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