Sunday, April 29, 2007


Today's Washington Post has an article on 82 inmates at Guantanamo Bay prison who have actually been cleared of all charges, but are still being held.

Nobody in charge has a good explanation for why the prisoners are still there. In some cases, it is because they themselves don't want to be deported back to their native lands, for fear of reprisals against them. Though eventually found innocent, the stigma of being branded not only a terrorist, but the "worst of the worst" by the Bushinistas, apparently lingers.

The U.S. government won't give them asylum, either, despite the fact that they created the situation in the first place, and most European nations won't let them in, either, apparently because The Decider told them not to.

The most interesting part of the article is this: According to U.S. government officials, of the roughly 385 people held at Guantanamo, only about 60 to 80 are due to be tried. The rest will be freed, eventually.

So they're innocent, right? Yet they're still held, still subjected to interrogation and torture and God knows what else, still victims of the capricious whims of an administration so utterly lacking in any kind of moral sense as to defy imagination, forced to act in a cruel farce even Joe Orton couldn't have penned.

Much of this nation and most of the rest of the world decries this madness, and yet it continues. A billion voices raised in protest cannot stop this. Can anything?

Friday, April 27, 2007


Bobby "Boris" Pickett has died at the age of 69.

I'm not going to make any extravagant claims for Pickett's one hit, The Monster Mash. It is what it is, a novelty song recorded solely to exploit his ability to do a decent but unremarkable impression of Boris Karloff. It gets trotted out every year at Halloween, not just by oldies stations, and I would guess more people today are familiar with Pickett's impression than they are with Karloff himself.

It's no great shakes as a song, but The Monster Mash easily evokes the heyday of Monster Kid culture, an era when children--boys, mostly--discovered the heady joys of classic Universal monster movies through TV syndication packages. The pleasure they derived from these felt forbidden but was mostly innocent, good clean fun with a mildly subversive edge.

I came along much later than that. The horror film had entered its punk phase by the time I came along, with crazy, wildmen filmmakers like George Romero and David Cronenberg taking a DIY approach to the genre, ignoring the familiar tropes of the past in search of something more meaningful, more personal, while still deploying spilled entrails and exploding heads.

Which was great, but part of me wishes my childhood memories included visions of Karloff's haunted eyes in The Mummy or Lon Chaney, Jr.'s helpless, uncomprehending transformations into The Wolfman or even Bela Lugosi's hambone turn as Dracula. I've seen these movies subsequently, of course, but I'll never know what they would have meant to me had I seen them at the right time, when they could have scarred me for life, or become old friends to which I could turn time and again.

I don't have those memories, but The Monster Mash gives me some sense of what that culture must have been like: It's a whole lot of fun.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


As you can tell by the symbol at the bottom of this post, I've been nominated --or have I won?--an award.

It would be nice if this was presented by some sort of society of eggheads and double-domes based in Oslo or some such, but it actually comes courtesy of my ex, Sue Ellen (who posts under the name Sudiegirl, which still sounds like an Earl Hamner character, but we'll let that go).

The Thinking Blogger award is supposed to celebrate blogs that do more than entertain, that make you think, and part of the deal with this is to name other blogs that make you think. I should, in fairness, mention Sue Ellen's--sorry, Sudiegirl's--site, which, despite a frequently snarky tone, details many of her personal struggles as somebody living with bipolar disorder and everything that entails. It's usually funny, not depressing, though I admit I think she writes better when she's depressed. Maybe that's just me.

A newly-started blog comes from Shawn Grandstaff. He writes with more enthusiasm than finesse, but he certainly has a unique perspective: He calls himself a "Christian anarchist", which means he believes the world can not only be changed, but saved. The rules of fair play compel me to mention that, as with Sudiegirl, I know Shawn, but that in no way influences my opinion. Ahem.

Okay, to recommend a site maintained by someone I don't know, let me suggest Dennis Perrin's site. Perrin wrote the splendid Michael O'Donoghue bio Mr. Mike, and is well-schooled in the art of comedy, but his site is mostly political, occasionally personal, frequently cynical but with just a hint of hope. An essential read every day.

There are many other blogs and sites I read on a more or less daily basis, but they fall a bit out of the purview of this particular award. So for now, I'd just like to thank the Academy, my agent, Marty Abramowitz, oh, and God, of course, and...hey, why is the orchestra cutting me off? Hey, wait...


Okay, Blogger, fine.

I'll do whatever you say. Tell me I have to upgrade to the "new" Blogger--and deny me access to my site unless I comply--and I'll cave. Try to make it sound like you're doing me a favor and I will bow before you, promising fealty forever.

But this morning you done pissed me off. You're supposed to remember me on my computer. I shouldn't have to sign in. Twice. And I realize this seems like a minor, pissy complaint--it took me seconds to do this--but it's a bad sign. This is how it starts, Blogger. Remember last summer, when you lost several posts somewhere in the aether? And then, after that, it was a week before I could log in?

Honestly, Blogger, I didn't intend to spend this time slogging away on you. I was going to assail the latest outrage from Alberto Gonzales' justice department, a scheme to impose even more stringent, blatantly unconstitutional limits on legal representation among prisoners at Gitmo, a plan that would, among other things, deny their lawyers access to "secret evidence"--a phrase that means whatever the hell the Bushinistas want it to mean.

It's an outrage, Blogger, and it makes me mad, but the fact is, it doesn't effect me personally. But this goofy shit you're pulling, it could prevent me from being able to vent my spleen for a day or two. It's about me. And you, too, of course.

So be nice to me, because I have the ability to write whiny, long-winded prose, and I will not be denied.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


One new DVD release I didn't mention yesterday is WKRP In Cincinnati: The First Season, because I'm not sure I should recommend it.

Let's be clear: WKRP, at its peak, may have been the finest sitcom in TV history: the writing was always character-based, brought to life by an ace cast. It had a nice feel for the quiet desperation and small triumphs of the staff of a low-rated, low-prestige radio station in the midwest. And boy, was it funny.

The problem is, the show used a lot of music. Mostly just in the background--it was set in a radio station, after all--but occasionally for very specific purposes, as when Foreigner's Hot Blooded causes meek newscaster Les Nessman to hilariously assert his manhood. Music licensing fees were relatively cheap when the show premiered in the late seventies, but the rights to the music on WKRP expired long ago, and to renogiate them now would be pricey.

So Fox Home Video, which is releasing the set, didn't bother to try. Some of the episodes in this release are from a syndicated version prepared in the nineties, with significant amounts of footage cut. Others try to preserve the integrity of the show as it first aired, but with the music replaced by generic soundalikes. Other scenes, when music featured prominently, have been cut altogether.

From a business standpoint, it makes sense; Fox has no way of knowing how this show will sell, and there's no point in spending a fortune in music rights without knowing they'll make a profit. But isn't the whole point of buying TV shows on DVD to get the show you originally saw, not the cut-down, time-compressed versions you see in syndication?

So in the name of integrity, you probably shouldn't buy this. But if no one buys it, Fox will never release subsequent seasons, and will feel vindicated in their choice to not spend money on it. And if it should turn out to be popular, thus inspiring Fox to renegotiate music rights for a more complete reissue, anyone who buys this will be burned.

What to do? I'll probably pick it up myself, but I'll probably curse a lot as I watch.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


A heady, nostalgic rush for me among today's new DVD releases.

First, though hard-core Bronx Bombers fans will snap up A&E's New York Yankees 1977 World Series Collection, it should be of great interest to socialogists as well. This is the team written about in Jonathan Mahler's great book Ladies And Gentlemen, The Bronx Is Burning, the beginning of the free angency era and arguably the beginning of the end of the Yankees dynasty, when Steinbrenner first started spending like a drunken sailor, hoping he could build a team that way.

Still, back then it worked, with Reggie "The Straw That Stirs The Drink" Jackson leading the way. A&E's collection has all six games against the Dodgers, plus copious extras, highlighted by Jackson's mid-season blowout with Yankees manager Billy Martin.

That season was when I first became a Yankees fan, as they seemed the very personification of New York City, which all through '77 had been depicted by the media as a kind of hell on earth, between the Son Of Sam killings and the insanity following the August blackout. To a twelve-year-old stuck on a farm in the middle of nowhere, NYC seemed as exotic as the planet Tatooine (yes, that was also the summer Star Wars changed my life), a beacon that would call me, a life that was waiting.

A couple of years earlier, that same kid sat slack-jawed through One Day At A Time: The Complete First Season. This was a show I initially watched because everyone else in the family watched it. For the next couple of seasons, I watched it because it followed MASH, and I lacked the energy to get up and leave the room. (Our black-and-white Philco obviously didn't have a remote, and even when we upgraded to a Quasar--featuring TruColor!--we still had to change channels manually. God, I feel old...)

Watching that first season now is both a horror and a revelation. A horror largely because of the hideously ugly clothes and settings, which were unfortunately all too typical of their era. The pacing is unbelievably sluggish, the stock sitcom elements grating, especially the whooping studio audience, a familiar annoyance from other Norman Lear shows of the era.

On the other hand, One Day At A Time sought to connect with audiences by attempting to depict a reality its audience likely knew well. Bonnie Franklin, whose committed but strident performance suggests she thought she was trying out for a Cassavetes film, plays Ann Romano, struggling single mom trying to deal with two teenage daughters, a hostile workplace and a shrinking dollar. It's not really very good, but at its best it has a piercing intensity unlike anything around now.

But for me, the nostalgia flame burns brightest with the long-awaited release of Von Richthofen And Brown, one of the first movies I ever saw in a theater. Released in 1971, when I was in first grade and just learning to read (I remember this because I could actually read some of the credits!), this story of the man who finally shot down The Red Baron seemed tailor-made for me. I literally have not seen it since I was six, and am prepared to be disappointed, but Von Richthofen And Brown is important to me personally for one reason: Though I went for the aerial battle scenes, what stayed with me for years after was a trippy hallucination sequence Von Richthofen endures after being injured. I certainly didn't know as a six-year-old that this movie was directed by cult icon Roger Corman, but it seems appropriate. If you see the right movie at the right time, you'll be a cinephile for life, no matter what you do.

Monday, April 23, 2007


According to the invaluable Iraq Body Count website, the latest minimum estimated number of civilians killed in Iraq is 62,281.

27 people were killed and nearly sixty injured in bombings around Iraq monday.

The U.S. military began construction of a barrier around the Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah in Baghdad, a project neither initiated nor endorsed by anyone within the Iraqi government. Even the usually spineless U.S. puppet prime minister Nuri al-Maliki found the balls to complain. A U.S. military spokesman said he wished to respect the wishes of the nation's citizens, but didn't say construction would actually stop.

According to a story in Sunday's New York Times, the Iraqi military routinely beats confessions out of prisoners before turning them over to U.S. officials. This is known among citizens of the country, one of the reasons they fear their own government and military much more now than they ever did during Saddam Hussein's rule.

The official number of U.S. military casualties in Iraq is 3323.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


David Goyer, screenwriter of the Blade films, is scripting a remake of the David Cronenberg thriller Scanners. Any reasonable person would say we don't need a remake, but Goyer has, as all Hollywood hacks must, a Unique Take. Speaking of the original film, he said this:

"Largely in sociopolitical terms, it's very dated. Cronenberg's movies are very political and very specific, and the original had a lot to do with corporate America and the Reagan years, and that's not what's happening now."

Ah. So how will your script differ? "Read about all the stuff that's going on in Iraq or the stuff going on in the Justice department, or Guantanamo Bay, or the rights that are being trampled upon. That's what I'm going to deal with in the remake..."

Where to begin? I'm seriously questioning if Goyer has ever even seen the original, or indeed, any of Cronenberg's work. To say his films are "very political" is astonishing. Cronenberg deals with the rot of individuals (their bodies and their souls), but his work always feels hermetically sealed--he almost never has any observations about society as a whole.

And Scanners was released in early 1981, having been shot early in 1980--Reagan hadn't been elected yet. Plus, it was Canadian, so Reaganism wouldn't have been an issue in any event. The only vaguely political notion in it is a depiction of shadowy government agencies attempting to use telepathically-endowed individuals for military use--a standard science fiction trope, but one that would seem to tie in with our current president's vague, unacknowledged use of backroom techniques against our anyone he claims to be an enemy.

So, Mr. Goyer, justify your work all you want, but you'll never fool anyone but yourself. Scanners is unquestionably lesser Cronenberg, but it still conveys a palpable sense of dread and despair no Hollywood product would ever dare to conjure.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


The clear day waning, temperature in the lower sixties, a slight breeze in the air--a perfect night for baseball. But first, a moment of piety--let's observe thirty-two seconds of silence for the dead in Virginia.


Aside from the fact that it is wildly inappropriate to bring this sort of thing up before a ball game played by little kids, and aside from the fact that this is the sort of bullshit gesture that serves no purpose beyond making us feel better about ourselves, the big question raised by this is: Why thirty-two seconds? Thirty-three people died.

Of course, we've already demonized Cho Seung-Hui, so the loss of his life doesn't matter.

The pointless analysis continues, all across the political spectrum, and it has an ugly tint. How could we have prevented this, people ask, how can we identify people who are mentally ill, and deny them access to handguns, and keep them out of our classrooms, and away from our children?

Hey, I have an idea. Let's just round up anyone who's ever taken a mood stabilizer or anti-depressant, who has ever been angry at a sibling or pissed off at their boss, who has ever given another driver the finger, who has ever had a fight with their spouse, who has ever harbored a negative thought, let's take all these people and pin yellow stars on their chests and march them off into the death camps.

To be human is to be fucked up. Some people deal, some people don't, and most of the ones who can't handle it jump from windows or slit their wrists or swallow a shitload of pills while listening to The Downward Spiral, but sometimes it's not enough to off themselves, sometimes they need to go out in a blaze of glory, the only way they can comprehend to give their wasted little lives meaning.

Which means innocent people will die, and I feel bad about that, I look at the faces of the dead and i want to cry, but you know what? People die--that's another fact about human existence, and the limbless orphans in Iraq most likely couldn't give a rat's ass about our national day of mourning, since to them hell is everyday life.

And if you really want to live in that perfect world where nobody ever acts on their negative feelings, here. Take this pods and put it under your bed. When you wake up, you'll never feel pain again.

Friday, April 20, 2007


At this point, it's hard to know what Our Beloved President is going to do about his li'l buddy Al. The attorney general's appearance before a clearly hostile senate committee yesterday was a disaster of Battlefield Earth proportions, with poor Gonzales clearly seeking some kind of support from Republican fellow travellers, but boy, was that support not coming. When Arlen Specter, a guy who's given Bush more than a few reacharounds in his time, sneered to Gonzales, "I don't think you're going to win a debate about your preparation, frankly," any reasonable administration would be dropping this dead weight fast.

Of course, we're not talking about a reasonable administration. Yesterday, as his hand-picked attorney general faced a hit squad, as the nation tried to make sense of the VaTech shootings, Bush appeared at a high school gym in Ohio, claiming--wait for it--history will vindicate him.

"When it's all said and done," the Exalted Douchebag said, "when Laura and I head back home--which at this moment will be Crawford, Texas--I will get there and look in the mirror and I will say, 'I came with a set of principles, and I didn't try to change my principles to make me popular.'"

Uh, right. What would those principles be? Only rich people matter? Fuck the constitution? It's good to be the king? Because seriously, Mr. President, you will leave this country in far worse shape when you leave, and like a shattered vase, it can never quite be whole again. Your little appearance in Ohio was yet another smug demonstration that you feel your place in history is assured.

Unfortunately, it is.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


In my high school speech class, one of our assignments was to give an Informative Speech. A how-to thing, in other words: How to change a tire, how to ride a horse, how to do needlepoint.

My speech explained various ways to commit suicide.

It was a joke, of course, my lame, adolescent attempt at subverting the system. The notion of an instructional speech seemed so lame, so dull, I wanted to contrast my deliberately stilted, rote presentation with the creepy, shocking premise.

The teacher, a cool, laid-back guy prone to quoting Arlo Guthrie lyrics in class, was concerned enough to contact the guidance counsellor, who called me into his office a few days later and introduced me to a therapist. Was I suicidal, they asked.

I was a fucked-up kid, hopelessly isolated from people my own age, reading a lot of William Burroughs, scribbling a lot of bitter notes, nursing a serious grudge against the world.

Which makes me exactly like John Lennon as a teenager, or Tim Burton, or Bill Hicks, or any of the millions of other misfits who pass through the world. Crazy dreamers, all of us, not quite fitting in. Some find those dreams lead to success, others spend their lives skulking in the shadows. Most simply grow up.

Occasionally, they buys guns and kill people.

The "warning signs" people are claiming they saw in Cho Seung-Hui just don't seem that unusual to me. He was anti-social, he didn't know how to ask a girl out, he wrote long, rambling diatribes against people he resented. His supposedly "shocking" writing, the stuff that so freaked out his professors that they contacted the authorities, strikes me as typical revenge fantasy bullshit, no more profane or violent than any night's programming on Spike.

True, the super-happy-funpack he sent off to NBC shows a guy who'd gone over the edge, but that's the point: By that time, he was gone, and he was going to go through with his Travis Bickle routine no matter what.

But the fact that he didn't fit in, that he harbored dangerous thoughts, was--gasp--mentally ill, none of that marks him as a potential killer. It simply makes him human.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Democrats in congress are considering giving immunity to Monica Goodling, a former aide to Alberto Gonzales. Goodling had previously stated she would plead the Fifth if asked to testify in any hearings related to the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. Democrats--and apparently, reluctantly, a few Republicans--consider her an important witness, the key to discovering how far up the chain of command this whole thing goes.

Clearly, Gonzales is lying when he says he had nothing to do with this. His stories are already more inconsistant than the Star Wars prequels, and likely the only reason he's hanging on to his job is because the Bushinistas figure if they fire him, he might become embittered, and all too willing to talk.

So if Gonzales is already dead in the water, whose fresh blood is this? Karl Rove seems to be the unofficial target of the Democrats' investigation, but really, why stop there? Even if Bush really is the clueless rube he pretends to be, he clearly was in the loop on this. And though he, Cheney and Rove have not technically lied under oath about this affair, they've lied by proxy through the obviously scripted testimony of Gonzales, the somewhat pitiful fall guy.

They have, in other words, commited impeachable acts, though I suspect the Democrats lack the cajones to push it that far. Still, I have to give them credit for continuing to pursue this matter, long after the press has dropped it as yesterday's news. They're actually acting as if they have some sort of responsibility to uphold the laws of the land.

If you didn't know better, you'd almost think they had souls.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Hey, it's not like I do this by popular demand--my weekly rundown of new DVD releases are, according to my stats, among my least-read posts--but it's a tradition, dammit, so here goes:

The good folks from The Criterion Collection continue their invaluable series of Jules Dassin noirs with the tough-as-nails prison epic Brute Force, in which Burt Lancaster practically burns a hole in the screen--a great movie star who was also a great actor.

Also, another of my personal DVD prayers has been answered with the release--finally!--of Robert Altman's Thieves Like Us, a thirties gangster saga with a solid, unsentimental script, great performances by Shelley Duvall, Keith Carradine and John Schuck, and peerless direction from Altman--it's one of the few movies well loved by people who normally hate his stuff.

And finally, Not Just the Best Of the Larry Sanders Show collects various episodes from the entire run of Garry Shandling's brilliant comedy/tragedy, as fine a show as ever broadcast on television, and ladles on the extras to give a real sense of what it was like to work on this series--apparently, showbiz is as hellish in real life as it was on the show.

That's it, unless you care about the second season of Mork And Mindy. If you want to see the origins of Robin Williams' loveable manchild persona, this would be the place to start. Then afterwards, pound your head with a hammer until you forget everything you've seen.


Hands will be wrung, platitudes will be uttered, shock and disbelief will be duly noted; thirty-two people dead in one go is quite an achievment.

And while the media focuses all its attention on trying to learn the hows and whys of something that is ultimately unknowable, the American cult of death will continue to operate, the shadows providing such perfect disguise.

Despite issuing mild words of comfort to the families of the victims of the unnamed gunman, Our Beloved President took the time on Monday to make an appearance at the White House surrounded by the families of soldiers killed in Iraq. The implication is clear: If these people can support him, why can't the rest of us?

Of course, those families support him because they want to, or perhaps need to. They need to believe their children, their parents, their brothers or sisters died for a reason, not as part of an act of caprice by an administration so drunk on its own power it will allow people to die by the hundreds and thousands just to try to save its own reputation, because we are ruled by people unwilling or unable to admit they made a mistake.

Details will emerge about the gunman in Virginia, what happened and how. Most likely, those details will be human, and recognizable; sometimes people snap. Nothing will change, though, and it will happen again. After all, we know what is happening in Iraq, the how and the why, and we are not stopping it. Very few of us will ever pull a trigger, will ever kill another human being, but no one in this nation can claim innocence.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Finally caught Meet The Robinsons this weekend (in 3-D, no less) and it, okay.

Disney bought the rights to William Joyce's slight but gorgeous picture book A Day With Wilbur Robinson eons ago, so this movie has been in the works for a long time. Apparently it was in something resembling final form when Pixar godhead John Lasseter was named head of Disney Feature Animation, and ordered major work done.

What Meet The Robinsons was like in its original incarnation we will never know, but as released, it shows some of Lasseter's fingerprints, but the movie it most closely resembles is Brad Bird's The Incredibles--the character design is very similar, and the movement and acting of the animated characters shows Bird's influence.

Trouble is, Bird is a genius, and his style is organic. Stephen Anderson is the director of record, but Meet The Robinsons feels like it has been cobbled together by committee. Feature-length animated films have seldom been the province of one single-minded creator (Who was the auteur of Dumbo?), but the best come together semlessly. Here, lovely grace notes and hilarious throwaway gags compete with heavy-handed sentiment and a lot of dead air. It's watchable, enjoyable even...but it doesn't have much of a purpose.

In some ways, Meet The Robinsons reminded me of The Great Mouse Detective, the mid-eighties transitional picture that paved the way for the (all-too-brief) renaissance in Disney animation that began with The Little Mermaid. It's slight but enjoyable, and better by far than recent Disney efforts like Treasure Planet, Home On The Range and the unspeakably awful Chicken Little. Whether it points the way to a brighter future for Disney's once-mighty animation unit, only time will tell.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


It was just over a year ago when a tornado ripped through Iowa City, the town I used to call home. That anniversary has been marked around here by retrospectives and updates, but all it made me think was, "Wait a minute! I remember writing about that at the time. Holy crap, I've been writing this thing for a year?"

So even though my official one-year mark has come and gone, it's never too late for a commermoration. I've been plowing through my back pages so you don't have to, and I've come up with a few observations:

1) I originally started writing this to deal with my grief over my mother's death, and I assumed that would, at least initially, be my main focus. By only the second post, I was whining about my ex. By my fourth, I was whining about my cats. Sadly, this set a pattern.

2) The second week of posts contained both my first placeholding Random Thoughts and my first piece about the Bush administration. Not until my third week did I use an oral sex metaphor to describe the media's treatment of Bush, and shockingly, not until my second month did I use the word "douchebag" to describe a Republican!

3) John Lennon, of course, gets a shout-out in the very title of this site, but it was three weeks before I referenced Phil Ochs, Peter Sellers and Sam Peckinpah, and four weeks before Phil Silvers got a mention. A week after that marked the first time I wrote at any length about Vincente Minnelli, who seems to take the prize for most-referenced artist. (I'm a huge fan of Minnelli's but that last fact surprised me, considering I've only mentioned favorites like John Carpenter and Stanley Kubrick in passing, if at all.)

4) Picking a title for each post in usually my favorite part of the process. Usually it's a favorite line of dialogue from a movie, a quote from a favorite author or, most often, song lyrics. Lennon gets used a lot, followed by Marshall Crenshaw and Stephen Sondheim. I thought there'd be a lot more Steely Dan lyrics and James Joyce quotes. Lots of Star Wars lines, though.

5) Speaking of which, there are far fewer Star Wars-based analyses of Bush's politics than expected, though probably more than necessary.

6) The quality of my writing is better when I knock it out in a rush, but I usually don't write that way. Certainly, I think my actual prose has improved over the last year, but I spend too much time analyzing every word, which, ironically, only makes things worse--I don't always say what I mean to say. I'll try to do better.

7) I'm not the same person I was a year ago.

Friday, April 13, 2007


I haven't commented on the whole Don Imus imbroglio because I hoped if I ignored him, he'd go away. It worked!

The First Amendment is absolute; anybody has the right to say anything. So did Imus have the right to call the Rutgers basketball team "nappy headed hos"? Of course. Should he have been fired for it? I'd have fired his ass the first time he said something racist or anti-semtic or homophobic, because, though I support free speech, I wouldn't want such noxious views emanating from anything associated with me. But hey, I'm not CBS Radio.

That the network was willing to put up with this for so long doesn't surprise me--they're in it to make money, and nobody ever went broke from making fun of other people. On a business level, tolerating Imus made sense, and when advertisers got skittish, pulling him made sense. I understand that.

What I don't understand is why so many people over the years were willing to make the piulgrimage to Imus' show, to perform like tummlers in his court. We're talking the cream of the crop of the nation's tastemakers and influence peddlers here, and their willingness to overlook Imus' casual prejudices tells us everything we need to know.

For the likes of John McCain or Rudy Giulliani to offer tender mercies to Imus is no surprise, but what about John Kerry or Joe Biden, James Carville or Frank Rich? Tim Russert, the arrogant, self-regarding Meet The Press host who fancies himself a non-partisan voice of authority, appeared on Imus' show immediately after The Comment, and offered an apology on Imus' behalf. You suck my cock, I'll suck yours.

Russert is too smart to give casual vent to his prejudices in public, and I'm not suggesting he's a racist, anti-semite or homophobe. (I'm sure some of his best friends are et cetera et cetera.) Yet he was willing to show support to a racist, and by appearing on his show repeatedly, legitimized his views. Republicans and Democrats were all too willing to whore themselves out for Imus, without giving his prejudices a second thought, until he and they got called for it, and then and only then was there any contrition.

These are people, in other words, wholly without conscience, and we have put our nation's fate in their hands.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I hate this, I hate how often this space turns into a memorial for the dead, and sometimes I think I never want to write another piece commemorating a fallen hero.

Then Kurt Vonnegut dies, and I have to write another.


To many of us, Vonnegut was a hero not because of his writing...although we should probably talk about that, shouldn't we? His writing, I mean. One of the best authors of the twentieth century? Nah, one of the best writers ever. Consider, most obviously, Slaughterhouse Five. Consider, too, Player Piano, The Sirens of Titan, Mother Night, Cat's Cradle, God Bless you, Mr. Rosewater, the criminally underrated Jailbird or the splendid collection of short fiction Welcome To The Monkey House.

Or don't consider them. Fine. Then consider his work as an essayist, like this observation about criticism of Mr. Bush's Iraq adventure: "By saying our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas..."

Maybe it wasn't the quality of Vonnegut's writing that so many of us (and by so many of us, I mean millions of people around the world, but more specifically, me) responded to, but his moral tone, the sense we found a voice we could trust, someone willing to tell the truth, which boiled down to this: Nothing means anything. Life is random. Try to do good. People die.

And maybe the greatest thing Vonnegut ever accomplished wasn't to do with his writing, but simply the fact that he lived until the age of 84, and when he finally went, it was for a purely random reason--he'd fallen a few weeks ago, and suffered severe brain damage.

But in all those years, he did not commit suicide, although he tried, as did his son, as did his Mom, who succeeded--she killed herself on Mother's Day in 1944, while young Kurt was in the Army, part of the journey that led him to capture by Nazis, to imprisonment in Dresden, where he was witness to the Allied bombing of the city, and where he helped gather the numerous corpses of innocent people, killed by his own side, where he watched as the nameless, numberless corpses were set ablaze.

His life was full of grief, he considered his madness genetic, he raged against a world so senseless and cruel, yet he pressed on, told the truth, and goddammit, lived a pretty good life. We should all do the same.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


This may or may not be a big deal, but Neil Aspinall is stepping down as the head of Apple Corps. (That would be Apple as in Beatles, not computers.)

For hard-core Beatle fanatics, Aspinall looms large in the legend. He shuttled them around in his van when they were just another working band, and famously got lost as he drove them to their audition for EMI. He was a general lackey until Mal Evans came along to take over the position as gofer and whipping boy, at which point Aspinall started ascending the ladder, finally being named by the lads as the head of Apple, their boutique label and corporate entity.

When the band broke up, Aspinall found himself in charge of maintaining their legacy. Due to the unfavorable terms of their initial contract with EMI, Aspinall couldn't prevent, for instance, the occasional use of Beatles music as commercial jingles, but he worked diligently to make sure reissues of older material were perceived as events, and has tried to make sure the band's music is treated as art, not product, which is why he has prevented their music from being available online, or on multi-artist compilation CDs. If you want to hear their music, Aspinall reasoned, you should buy the original albums and hear it the intended context.

He's made some missteps--what the hell is the deal with that Cirque Du Soleil thing?--but Aspinall has proved that the trust placed in him by the lads was not misplaced. He's done their name proud.

Aspinall's replacement is Jeff Jones, a former exec at Sony Music, who among other things was responsible for that label's excellent Legacy series of reissues. Any guy who could put together a comprehensive Moby Grape best-of is okay in my book, but Jones is just another music biz guy, not a member of the family. Aspinall could stay on good terms with The Beatles and their extended families because, damn it, he was there, and knew how to keep the peace. With someone else in charge, the fractious harmony may be disturbed, and more interpersonal rows may become the order of the day. More distressingly, will Jones seek to protect their image, or turn them into mere commodities?

It's impossible to know, of course, but this Beatlemaniac is not optimistic. We'll miss you, Neil.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Mom would have turned seventy-nine today.

Last year, in the immediate wake of her passing, the arrival of her birthday seemed immeasurably sad. This year, I confess, it snuck up on me, because somehow I had willed the sorrow away.

But today my job took me to Panora, a town not far from where I grew up. It all felt so familiar, passing through the melancholy rural landscape, twisting creeks and jagged wire fences and lonely farm buildings no longer used for their original purpose, and I couldn't help but remember.

This was my life once, a life I sought desperately to escape, and I found myself wondering if my rejection of that lifestyle was a thing Mom took personally, a rejection of the life she had married into, the life she had given me, her life.

Probably not--She knew better than that, I'm sure. It was only a passing thought, inspired by the gray skies and bitter rain of a drive down memory lane.

Still, it's the not being able to know for sure, the fact that I can't ask her, or apologize if I hurt her in any way, that is so hard for us, the living. How can we honor the memory of those we loved, when we don't always feel we honored them properly in life?


It was a weird summer. Technically, adolesence had arrived, but as I was in the neutral zone between junior high and high school, it didn't feel like it. I was the same way I'd always been, stuck on a farm, unable to drive, dependent on others for transportation. And always wanting to go somewhere, for no real reason.

It was a weeknight, like any other. Nothing to do in a pre-video world, nothing but reading or watching summer reruns. I looked in the paper to see if there were any movies showing worth seeing. Of course, even if there was something playing I wanted to see, I'd have to persuade someone to take me.

Phantasm? I'd heard of it by name, but I knew nothing about it. Some kind of horror movie, and that was good enough for me. I asked my brother John if he'd take me, but he had no interest in something he'd never heard of. The fallback was to ask Mom.

She said yeah, sure, she'd take me. Why not? She'd seen Halloween and The Fog, so she was good with horror pictures. Besides, she was bored with summer reruns, too.

The Perry Theater in those days was a single screen house, not quite an aging palace, mostly nondescript in appearance, though the walls of the auditorium itself showcased magnificent WPA-era murals depicting aspects of rural life. It was a quintessential small town theater, mostly showing second-run features, or in the case of Phantasm, one-week plays of movies in regional release.

The movie began--no previews, no opening credits. The protagonist was a kid my age, living with his older brother after their parents had died. Weird doings at a mortuary, a scary Tall Man, scurrying Jawa-like dwarves. Pretty weird, but it wasn't doing a whole lot for me.

Then,while our hero is poking around the mortuary, the Tall Man unleashes a flying silver sphere. Spikes emerge from it, and our hero ducks just in time, and it smashes into the head of an unfortunate bystander, and a drill pops out and digs into his brain, spilling oceans of blood.

mom and I sat there awestruck, looked at each other and began laughing hysterically. From that point on, Phantasm's director, Don Coscarelli, could do no wrong, and each weird new development--The Tall Man's finger is lopped off, spilling yellow blood, and his finger overnight mutates into some kind of weird-ass flying critter--just made it better and better. By the time the movie ended, my summer torpor had been shattered. Damn, this was cool.

I saw Phantasm three more times in various theatrical runs (they actually reissued popular movies to theaters back then), and have owned it on CED disc, VHS, laserdisc and DVD. It's being reissued today by the good folks at Anchor Bay, and the new digital upgrade is reportedly breathtaking on a high-def monitor. For now, with my faithful tube set, my copy of MGM's disc from earlier in the century will do, but when I upgrade my TV, rest assured I will upgrade my copy of Phantasm.

Not because I want to, but because I'll need to.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Johnny Hart, creator of the comic strip B.C., has died at the age of 76.

Hart created his strip in 1958, and his career is typical of many other creative individuals of his era.

B.C. may never have been a great strip, but it was initially a distinctive one, with a cast of philosophical cavemen and absurdist creatures. (Also way too typical of its era is the fact that the strip's only female characters were named "Cute Chick" and "Fat Broad".) It was never really a part of the late fifties/early sixties tradition of subversive humor, Lenny Bruce or Mad magazine, but it was informed by it. Like Charles Schulz's Peanuts--clearly an influence--it sought to explore some of the neuroses of the Age of Anxiety. Like Steve Allen's The Tonight Show, it sought to reconcile hipster cool with mainstream schtick.

And like Steve Allen, it overstayed its welcome, becoming increasingly conservative, both socially and creatively. Newspaper comic strips inevitably grow tedious over time, as the creators are forced to churn out material day after day, and the strain inevitably shows. (This is why the most fondly-remembered comic strips tend to have relatively short runs.) The decline of B.C. was a special case, however, as Hart's conversion to fundamentalist Christianity led him to preach in his strips, and his worldview became increasingly noxious, racist and anti-Semetic, and worse still, his work became astonishingly sloppy; often times his punchlines were simply indecipherable, his points obscure, vague or nonexistent. It was like a very late-period Sinatra concert--we can forgive him if he can't hit the notes anymore, but when he forgets the words, it's time to stop.

Sadly, Hart didn't stop, and in the process, trashed whatever fond memories one might have had of his strip. Sadder still, the strip is set to continue in other hands, becoming another pointless, soulless relic of another era, like Dennis the Menace, no longer attached to the spirit that created it, walking the earth like a phantom, damned to eternal irrelevance. It may not have been a great strip, but it was once a good one, and B.C. deserves a kinder fate.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


When is somebody finally going to call bullshit on Quentin Tarantino?

While promoting his new movie Grindhouse to writer Scott Foundas of LA Weekly, Tarantino pulls (at least) two whoppers. First, he mentions an article he wrote on director William Witney for The New York Times. He references it repeatedly, this article he wrote.

Thing is, he wrote no such article. He was interviwed by author Rick Lyman for a series of articles Lyman was doing for The Times in which various film luminaries would screen a favorite film with Lyman and expound upon it as it unreeled. So we'd get harvey Weinstein talking about Exodus, Michael Bay on West Side Story (!), Kevin Smith on A Man For All Seasons--and Tarantino on a Republic western William Witney had directed. In other words, he was interviewed by The Times--he never wrote for it.

In the very same breath, Tarantino spins another fantasy, as he claims the article he "wrote" prompted a flood of responses from old-school auteurist critics and filmmakers who'd never heard of Witney, and were so grateful to the Almighty Quentin for setting them straight.

Uh-huh. The 1978-79 edition of Leonard Maltin's invaluable reference guide TV Movies features a review of William Witney's early seventies Jim Brown vehicle I Escaped from Devil's Island: "This actioner is an insult to vet director Witney's standing with buffs who know his earlier work."

If Leonard Maltin--as mainstream a critic as you could imagine--was making reference in the seventies to the cult of William Witney, it is simply inconceivale that, as Tarantino claims, critics like Andrew Sarris and filmmakers like Peter Bogdanovich had no idea who the man was until The Benevolent Hand Of Quentin showed them the light.

He's lying, in other words. This is a relatively minor instance, but when Tarantino accepts credit for the "brilliant" dialogue in his films, when he knows damn well he may have lifted some of that from other sources (In Kill Bill, David Carradine is given a speech taken entirely from Jules Feiffer's book The Comic Book Heroes), it is theft. When caught, he always claims he intended it as hommage--the last refuge of the cinematic scoundrel.

The sad thing about Tarantino is that he has real talent, both as a writer and director (and I'd dearly love to see him direct somebody else's script), but he seems absolutely uninterested in developing that talent, preferring to stay in permanent fanboy mode, cranking out endless riffs on pop culture arcana, put in the mouths of characters who in reality wouldn't give a shit about any of this. He's like a slightly hipper Kevin Smith, mired in a hopelessly insular worldview, afraid if he goes out on a creative limb that it might reveal his creative shortcomings, or worse, make him seem less cool.

And if there's anything clear about Tarantino, it's that he clearly thinks he's the coolest guy in the room.

Friday, April 06, 2007


Next week, it begins. I become...whatever the hell it is I am to Paul.

He's taken to calling me "Dad," which is weird, since his mom and I don't even live together. (Yet.) But is some sense, I guess I'm taking over parental unit responsibilities, at least part-time. Tabbatha's new job requires her to work into the evening, so I'll be picking Paul up at day care, feeding him and hanging out with him until she gets off work.

I realize most people wouldn't consider picking a kid up at day care to be some kind of great adventure, but what do you want? This is all new. My life as I've known it is being replaced by an entirely different reality, full of mundane little details most people don't even consider, but which to me seem as exotic as anything Sinbad encountered in all his voyages.

Like grocery shopping. For me, Buying food has always been easy: What am I likely to eat this week? (Answer: Pretty much the exact same thing I ate last week.) But last night I found myself stumbling through the supermarket wondering, will he like this? I don't want him to have too much junk food, but on the other hand, I want to get him stuff he'll actually eat. Tabbatha says he likes bologna sandwiches with ketchup. Ketchup? I never buy ketchup. Who the hell wants ketchup on bologna? Who wants bologna, anyway, when you could have some nice salami? Or is that imposing my tastes on him? And if I get him to try something, and he doesn't like it, will he trust me again? In which case, how on earth will I ever get him to watch Raiders Of The Lost Ark?

I also have to watch out to make sure I don't get suckered. Tuesday nights are Kids Eat Free Nights at Pizza Hut. We went there this past Tuesday, and he made it pretty clear he expects this to become a tradition. (Sadly, since they also have an all-you-can-eat buffet on Tuesdays, which gives me an excuse to stuff massive amounts of food into my enormous head, he may get his way on this one.) He's also expecting me to take him to the video game emporium at the mall, and some park he knows about, and...God, I don't know. Tons of stuff. We'll see.

This is on top of the fact that I have to take him to baseball practice three nights a week, and in fact Monday night is his first game of the season. I know nothing about this stuff. I figure he'll be lucky if I get him there--the field on the south side has about a million seperate diamonds, and how the hell am I supposed to know which one hosts his games?

But I'll figure it out, because I have to. I have people depending on me now. I'm a grown-up.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Director Bob Clark has died in a car crash. He was 67.

The obits inevitably reference him as the director of A Christmas Story. Then, inevitably, they mention Porky's. And, ugh, Baby Geniuses.

That's an amazingly mixed bag right there. As if Baby Geniuses wasn't bad enough, Clark also directed two of the absolute worst comedies ever made, Rhinestone, featuring the deadly pairing of Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton, and Loose Cannons, showcasing that noted comedy trio of Gene Hackman, Dan Aykroyd and Dom DeLuise. (It's even worse than it sounds.)

But once upon a time, Bob Clark did some excellent stuff. In the early to mid seventies, he directed or produced a string of horror films every bit as worthy as anything by the more celebrated names of the era, guys like George Romero or David Cronenberg or Wes Craven.

Clark's Deathdream, for instance, is a chilling and surprisingly affecting parable about a soldier, killed in Vietnam, who returns to life and comes back to his home town. An obvious influence on Joe Dante's recent Homecoming, Deathdream was an early example of a director using the horror genre to comment on current events, and (sadly) it hasn't dated a bit.

Clark also produced and had a hand in directing Alan Ormsby's Deranged, a very, very strange movie based on the midwest's favorite psycho, Ed Gein. Part deadpan comedy, part straight-up horror fest, Deranged is mostly a character study, and the performance of Roberts Blossom as Gein surrogate Ezra Cobb would be justly celebrated in a perfect world.

Black Christmas virtually invented the familiar tropes of the seventies and eighties slasher cycle, and Murder By Decree is a superbly staged thriller pitting Sherlock Holmes against Jack The Ripper. That last title marked Clark's passage from the world of low-budget wonders to working with name casts. Soon he would be directing the likes of Jack Lemmon's godawful Tribute, and then came Porky's, A Christmas Story (which is unlike anything else in Clark's career), and then...after that, it just gets painful.

Clark's early movies are often awkwardly staged, and the camerawork tends towards the amateurish. Such defects are commom enough in low-budget movies, particularly of that era. But even though his budgets grew, Clark never really got better--his staging and camerawork seemed to grow increasingly maladroit, and the performances in his later films show his actors at their worst. Still, he kept working, and had several projects in the fire at the time of his death. His best movies were very good, and his worst efforts were fascinating in their very awfulness. A worthwhile body of work, though not always for reasons Clark might have wanted.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Various items noted as I scanned the Arts section of today's New York Times:

1) A publishing house paid 1.25 million for a book on Dewey, a cat who lived in a library in Spencer, Iowa. The publisher as much as admits this is a cynical attempt to cash in on the surpise success of Marley And Me, which means the book itself is an act of marketing, not creativity.

On the other hand, a book about a much-beloved orange stripey cat who lives a nice, long life and then dies? I'd start crying two pages in.

2) Speaking of furry critters, the movie Firehouse Dog receives a surprisingly favorable review from second-string critic Jeannette Catsoulis. The only reason I mention this at all is because this dreadful-sounding kiddie pic--He's a dog! Riding a skateboard! It's funny!--was directed by Todd Holland.

His feature film credits are undistinguished, but his work on TV includes episodes of Twin Peaks, Eerie Indiana, My So-Called Life and Wonderfalls. He was a producer and regular director for The Larry Sanders Show, one of the most tonally perfect things I've ever seen, and despite the excellent writing and casting, we can assume Holland had much to do with that.

And now he's directing farting dog movies. Good career move.

3) Keith Richards snorted his dad's ashes. That would be the only cool thing Richards has done since Brian Jones died.

4) The world doesn't need yet another movie based on a comic book most people have never heard of, but it kind of makes me happy that Warner Bros. is planning a movie version of Metal Men.

The movie, if it gets made, will no doubt suck, but if it brings any attention at all to the comics' author, Robert Kanigher, that will be all to the good. Kanigher spent most of his time at DC Comics churning out war stuff--he wrote Sgt. Rock, my favorite comic book when I was a kid--and when he ventured outside his comfort zone, things got weird. Metal Men is about a bunch of robots with the properties of different metals(!), but my favorite Kanigher character was Ragman, a superhero with no super powers whatsoever. He was just a guy who lived in a slum who dressed up in a really cool, ratty outfit and beat the shit out of guys. I seem to remember Nazis getting worked in to one issue, but I may be confusing it with another Kanigher book--in his universe, anything could happen.

5) Actress Anna Faris is getting a divorce. I've barely heard of her, but I didn't know she was married. Thank God the press is around to tell us these things!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


A bounty of cool stuff on DVD today, some of it new to the format, some recycled.

Essential titles never previously available include Bedazzled, a brilliant Faustian satire from Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, snappily directed by Stanley Donen, and Royal Flash, an ultra-stylish swashbuckler directed by Richard lester, very much in the vein of his Three Musketeers, and showcasing an awesome cast including Malcolm McDowell, Oliver Reed, Alan Bates, Bob Hoskins and the incomparable Alistair Sim. Great stuff, both of these.

Partially recycled is Mothra Vs. Godzilla, one of the Big G's best showcases. It's long been available in the U.S. in dubbed, pan-and-scan versions, but the good folks at Sony have answered the prayers of fanboys everywhere by finally seeing fit to issue the original Japanese-language version, gorgeously remastered and stuffed full o' extras. If you like giant monsters beating each other senseless, this is as good as it gets.

The Mario Bava Collection gathers four films from the great Italian fantasist, all previously available but newly remastered. Titles range from the seminal Black Sunday and the gorgeously Technicolor-saturated Black Sabbath to the lighthearted Girl Who Knew Too Much to the largely uninteresting Viking saga Knives Of The Avenger. There was some initial disappointment among fans that Black Sabbath appears here minus the U.S. dub tracks, which means you don't get to hear Boris Karloff speaking with his own voice, but the quality of the film, and the useful commentary from Video Watchdog editor and Bava know-it-all Tim Lucas, makes up for that.

Finally, we have something called the "Music Edition" of Bob Fosse's All That Jazz. Near as I can tell, all this means is you get a second disc of the soundtrack. Jazz was issued on DVD a few years ago, to cash in on the Fosse-mania surrounding Chicago, and the transfer wasn't all it could have been. I doubt this new version is much of an upgrade, but if it gets someone to pick up a copy of this brilliantly choreographed, edited and photographed kinda sorta musical, I'm all for it.

Monday, April 02, 2007


He's been gone from this world for twenty-three years, but Marvin Gaye was born on this day in 1939. He was an important, influential producer, a brilliant songwriter, and not incidentally, the greatest singer who ever lived.

His voice could do anything. He did lots of bedroom ballads, sure; he basically invented the R & B "loverman" tradition. He could do raw, sexy stuff, or pleading heartbreak stuff, or anger or despair. But his voice, sometimes gruff, sometimes sweet, sometimes a keening falsetto, always had an edge of vulnerability, and never, ever did he ever strain for effect. He knew his voice and what it was capable of, and he always delivered.

Obviously, the best way to celebrate Gaye's life and legacy is with some music. You couldn't go wrong with a hits compilation, particularly of his earlier material, which would include such singles as Hitch-Hike, Stubborn Kind Of Fellow and Ain't That Peculiar. These date from Gaye's time in the Motown factory, when songs and production were generally deemed more important than the artist doing the singing. Even then, Motown's staff writers knew what he could do, and these are among the most perfectly crafted pop songs ever.

You should also, of course, own his breakthrough albums, What's Going On and Let's Get It On, the former a groundbreaking howl of protest, the latter one of the sexiest, most groove-heavy things ever recorded. Everybody should be issued copies of these albums at birth.

For me, the greatest things Gaye ever did are two lesser-known albums from the seventies. Trouble Man was the soundtrack to a long-forgotten blaxploitation epic, mostly instrumental and jazz-based, eschewing the wacka-wacka cliches people associate with these things. great stuff all the way, but the title song is not only the best thing Gaye ever did, it is easily in the Top Ten Things Of All Time.

To me, his finest album was 1978's Here, My Dear, a work with a rather complicated backstory. Gaye owed his ex-wife a ton of alimony, and by court order, his salary and profits from this were to go to her. So he chose to record a chronicle of their marriage and its decline, and poured all his anger and pain and love into it. It is cruel to her at times, but he didn't spare himself, either, and it is one of the most frighteningly honest portraits of the human heart ever conceived. That it is also brilliantly produced and beautifully performed is a given--from Marvin Gaye, it could be nothing less.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


I'm not really a huge baseball fan (though I admit I did just read the almost embarrassingly fawning profile of Derek Jeter in today's New York Times), but I'm intruiged by a new poll suggesting Americans are deeply divided about Barry Bonds.

35 percent of people polled said they genuinely hope Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's career home run record, while 30 percent actively hope he fails. The other 35 percent of the nation presumably doesn't give a rat's ass either way.

People were polled at random, which means it's impossible to determine if the folks who responded are fans of the sport. A more valuable poll would survey only those who care about the game. Would they want Bonds to fail because they want to preserve aaron's legacy, a record arrived at by a guy who played fair? Or would they want to to succeed because the game is all about winning? Are today's baseball fans traditionalists, or is the whole thing being hijacked by the same showboating mindset that has already ruined pro basketball?

Personally, I don't even know why Bonds is still being allowed to play. He is and has always been a superb athlete, but when a player goes from being a normally-proportioned guy to an angry Bruce Banner in about two seconds, he didn't get that way by working out. Somehow commissioner Bud Selig insists there is no evidence Bonds is using illegal substances, though the proof would be his own physique. Then again, MLB's rules on doping are hopelessly byzantine anyway, and nobody took Bonds aside and tested him as soon as he entered Ben Grimm mode, so who knows?

Probably Bonds will continue to play, and assuming his arms don't don't fall off or his chest explode, break Aaron's record. After his retirement, it will be proven that his performance was enhanced by dubious means, and either an asterisk will be attached or his accomplishment will be stricken from the record, and he'll be denied entry into Cooperstown, despite his record. This depressing scenario could be avoided if Selig would just enforce the rules.

But that hasn't happened yet, and probably never will.