Merrill » 2010 » January

“Something Extremely Important”: my new video

Posted January 31st, 2010
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I just turned a draft of my newest book in to a new editor. That means it is a very tense time for me. Therefore I have been doing what I always do when I am tense: edit my little films.  This is a video I have been working  a while. I was trying to make it as a stand alone film, but now I have decided to combine it with footage I was given of me reading the piece at a benefit for Tails of Joy, a great dog rescue run by my friend Elayne Boosler.  SO….here it is:

Better intended games to entertain prisoners

Posted January 27th, 2010
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Hopefully this ruling will encourage prisoners to play more Monopoly, which will help  foster an inmate’s obsession with remaining in the real life correctional environment,  buying it,  and eventually turning it in to apartments and  hotels.

Dungeons and Dragons Prison Ban Upheld

Robert Caplin for The New York Times Published: January 26, 2010

In an opinion issued on Monday , a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected the claims in a lawsuit challenging a ban on the game Dungeons & Dragons by the Waupun Correctional Institution in Wisconsin. The suit was brought by a prisoner, Kevin T. Singer, who argued that his First Amendment and 14th Amendment rights were violated by the prison’s decision to ban the game and confiscate his books and other materials, including a 96-page handwritten manuscript he had created for the game.Prison officials said they had banned the game at the recommendation of the prison’s specialist on gangs, who said it could lead to gang behavior and fantasies about escape.

Dungeons & Dragons could “foster an inmate’s obsession with escaping from the real-life correctional environment, fostering hostility, violence and escape behavior,” prison officials said in court.

Cleaning out my office: A potpourri of stuff I saved

Posted January 24th, 2010
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Because I am a writer, I am always at work. What I mean is that I regard everything that comes toward me as potential subject matter.  And although I am not a hoarder, my fascination for the show “Hoarders” on A&E probably comes from my own tendency to save stuff in case I ever need it as a detail , if not a topic, for something I am going to write. I guess its kind of a relief to see how far I am from a worst case scenario. Nevertheless, my office is always a mess.  And not only because I am not tidy. Its because I save  tons of articles and pamphlets and books on surfaces around me, thinking I am going to need them someday. Then when that day comes ,  I never  find them because they are buried in a file (or a pile) called “Ideas for Stuff.”

When I first met the man with whom I am currently sharing what I laughingly refer to as my life, his solution to my problem was to have me hang everything up in the guest bathroom. Here is the result of that. It was a good idea but there is no more room on those bathroom walls .

So today I am pretending to clean my office. I am trying to throw out books that are hurting my soul because I bought them and know I am never going to read them. Its not that hard for me to throw out clothes I never wear. I should be able to do it with my unused subject matter collection. Therefore, in the interest of encouraging myself to  discard some of this stuff, I am going to write a few words about some of them now.

1.The book: Extended Massive Orgasm: I bought it because …come on. But I just opened it up to a page at random and read this sentence:”Remember that the sensation in your genitals is the most important thing for you to concentrate on.” Um…I kind of think I knew that. I need shelf space.

2. Ann Chamfort’s Great Book of Secrets: Once, about ten years ago, I subscribed to a metaphysical newsletter  under the name Zontar Mozinky because I wanted to see what mailing list bought the name. And I was richly rewarded. I got special personalized mail for Zontar Mozinky for many years, always offering him amazing prophesies of coming riches. I also got this book as a bonus offering. The secrets are mainly magic spells. For instance Prosperity Pasta Sauce: “full of ingredients that bring prosperity and riches: tomatoes, onions,basil ,dill, marjoram and pine nuts. It also contains garlic and cumin for protection from theft. The moon shapes of the zucchini and shrimp will bring you luck.”( I had forgotten that the reason my house has not been foreclosed on is that I always have onions, basil, dill, marjoram and pine nuts on hand. I guess the fact that the basil is pretty moldy isn’t a deal breaker.)

3. The Brainy Echidna: (from the New York Tiimes)  “They are one of the most pacifistic of mammals.” Dr. Rismiller (of the University of Adelaide) said, “Nobody bothers them. They don’t bother anybody. There’s a lot we could learn from them”

And in that level head sits a mighty brain. Among humans, the neo-cortex that allows us to reason and remember accounts for 30 percent of the brain. In echidnas that figure is 50 percent…  To reach them you must hike in to the highlands of Australia on treacherously steep and slippery terrain where it rains 275 inches a year… “If you hold them against yourself, they’re friendly and they won’t struggle,”said Mr. Opiang (founder of the PapuaNew Guinea Institute of Biological research.)”

Damn. I want to hike in to the highlands and hold echidnas against myself.

4. Regarding the disappearing/reappearing nature of duck phalluses: (from the NY Times) : “Some ducks grow phalluses as long as their entire body. In the fall the genitalia will disappear, only to reappear the next spring….A bird phallus is similar-but not identical -to a mammalian penis. Most of the time it remains invisible, curled up inside the bird’s body. During mating, however, it fills with lymphatic fluid and expands in to a long, corkscrew shape. The bird’s sperm travels on the outside of the phallus, along a spiral shaped groove, into the female bird.” (Also: “97% of bbird specie have no phallus at all.  Most male birds just deliver their sperm through an opening.”)

(Who knew that the book I mentioned in #1. was possibly written by a duck.)

5.An article from the NY Times that defines EDNOS, a word I have never heard before.  Its an acronym for “Eating disorders Not Otherwise Specified.” “Ednos remains the nation’s most common eating disorder.”

6.An article from the NY Times about OCD in animals.:” 8% of dogs- five million to six million animals- exhibit compulsive behaviors. Males with the problem outnumber females three to one in dogs whereas in cats the ratio is reversed.” There’s something to be learned from this.I am not sure what.

7. Snackertainment: I have been saving pamphlets and entire magazines on this topic since…(wait for it) 1990. I can’t bring myself to throw away the physical evidence of such a hilarious new word.  In this photo we see Snack Food Association President Jim Shuflet presenting the Top Crunch Award  for snack promotion at SNAXPO ’90.

Well, back to cleaning. I think this blog solution to my problem has not been the raging success I had hoped. Because I can already sense that I am not going to be able to part with my information about the echidna, or my SNAXPO souvenir.

I also might need to make prosperity pasta someday. Perhaps after my extended massive orgasm.

This new supreme court corporate donations ruling: here’s the sane solution

Posted January 22nd, 2010
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Now that this new Supreme Court ruling has opened the door officially to unlimited campaign control on the part of giant corporations,  it seems like it will no longer make  sense  to pretend that the “people” holding our nation’s highest political offices are actually not just figure heads for consortiums of international corporations. It’s easy for us to get confused and think of them as “people” (as in individuals, human beings) because they do peopley kinds of things like get haircuts, go on vacations, have sex with people they are not married to,etc. But the truth is that the only path to truly understanding the behavior of these so-called “people” depends on being able to see through the glossy veneer of their indecipherable yammering to the lobbyists and corporate interests who are really at their core.

When some senator you have never heard of gives an impassioned speech about the first amendment, is he really just a mouthpiece for ClearChannel? When a majority of them support the invasion of a struggling impoverished country in the name of freedom everywhere is it because they are seeking real estate to build a Home Depot? Understanding this stuff is like watching a foreign movie without subtitles.

Usually it isn’t my job to propose solutions to these kinds of problems, but I think I have a way to try and minimize the confusion we are all having trying differentiate truth from lies. Maybe it would make everything clearer if we just let the corporations run for office.

I know It sounds kind of harsh at first, but it might not be any worse than our present method for selecting presidential candidates which is essentially to cast a Presidential sit com with a lovable reformed rake character as the romantic lead and a whimsical- but blunt curmudgeon- next-door-neighbor-and-best-friend as his side kick . This old system has worked very well telegenically for decades , but as with all sit-com actors, you never can be sure who these guys are in real life.

With my new plan perhaps the Republicans might create a ticket that would offer Rockwell Manufacturing for President; tough on terrorists (The B1 bomber) but still forward thinking and cutting edge: (Rocketdyne! The Space Shuttle! The semiconductor!) Then perhaps balance the ticket with the friendlier and more gregarious sounding Beatrice Foods for Vice President: Progressive, (Beatrice sounds like it could be a woman) yet traditional (Orville Redenbacher) and concered with domestic security ( Blue Bonnet Margerine , Chef Boy Ardee!). Also, since Beatrice foods is a division of ConAgra, the minority vote would be assured.(Rosarita Refried Beans! Hebrew National! LaChoy! Swiss Miss!)

In opposition the Democrats might run the very relevant to the twenty first century Presidential candidate of IBM; big on leadership (consultants in 170 countries!) and stability (a continuous history since the 19th century!) then add to that the friendlier more youthful and up-to-date Apple for Vice President. (I-tunes! Ipod ! Mac!!)

It makes sense in other ways too. Witch hunts concerning mysterious campaign donors would become a thing of the past. And although many people are inherently suspicious of corporations, all Americans love logos . So between tee shirt giveaways and Nascar races there’d be no more need for those old fashioned empty speeches and slanderous ad campaigns. Instead it will all just boil down to which tee shirt do you want? The one with the lovable Chef Boy Ar Dee astride that cool B1 Bomber? Or the one with that rocking silhouetted iPOD lady dancing atop the more graphically tasteful two-tone IBM letters?

Never again will there be a problem getting the young people out to vote. Imagine the enthusiasm for an election that pitted Mountain Dew against Sprite. Or the Hummer against KFC.

Okay, I know it isn’t a perfect system, but it makes as much sense as what goes on now.  And it certainly is a good match for the new supreme court ruling. Plus it’s completely up front. If the Bush administration had simply run as the Pennzoil/ Halliburton ticket, no one would have had the slightest doubt about what was going to happen to the country in the next eight years.

He had every last attribute. He Was Perfect.

Posted January 15th, 2010

Damn. Just my luck to find out about this after enrollment is closed.

But since I can’t join, I still wish I could have been there when he explained what he meant by “nonsense’ to seventeen Jewish women.

Goel Razon, a 60-year-old Israeli, was brought to court in Tel Aviv, Israel. He is accused of sexual enslavement, rape, extortion and sexual assault.The police said that the suspect was either 59 or 60, and maintained his cultlike community in several apartments in a neighborhood of south Tel Aviv.
Explaining what he saw as his attraction, Mr. Ratzon said: “I am perfect. I have all the attributes a woman wants.

Police on Monday seized a book of rules written by Razon for his 17 ‘wives,’ hours after he was arrested .His  code of conduct sets out fines to be levied for each infringement. Regulations include:

1. No women shall marry nor shall any woman attack another, either verbally or physically. Fine: NIS 2,000, to be paid into the family kitty.

2. No woman shall question another about her whereabouts. Fine: NIS 100

3. No conversation is permitted in rooms other than the living room. It is forbidden to talk nonsense. Fine: NIS 200

4. No woman shall sit idle when there are dishes to be washed, cleaning to be done, children to look after etc. Fine: NIS 2000

5. Any two women caught fighting will be punished equally. Fine: NIS 2,000

6. It is absolutely forbidden to question Ratzon on his whereabouts or intention. Fine: NIS 400

7. It is permissible to ask to accompany him; but refusal is to be accepted without appeal. Fine: NIS 300

8. No woman shall interrupt Ratzon or intervene in matters not concerning her. Fine: NIS 500

9. All orders are to be obeyed immediately. Fine: NIS 300

10. No woman shall work while a ‘man’ of over 12 years of age is in the house. Fine NIS 3,000

Police began investigating Ratzon in June 2009 after receiving a complaint about abuse from one of the women.

He is considered by his companions to be the savior (Goel in Hebrew) of the universe, and is attributed godly and supernatural abilities. Many of the women have his name and portrait tattooed on several parts of their bodies.

Goodbye disgusting string: I AM HEALED!

Posted January 5th, 2010
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The string of which I speak.

The string of which I speak.

It appeared that I was apparently stuck wearing a piece of smelly filthy string around my wrist for the rest of my life.
The way it happened was that I arranged to have myself  blessed-and- healed by Buddhist Monks in 1996.  I did it for a couple of reasons, some of them ironic.  For instance , the fact that the healing was to take place in the upstairs loft of  a trendy  Malibu clothing boutique was a detail that really made me laugh. Especially because at the time I had a magazine column and was almost always seeking a topic I could write about for at least 1500 words.
But I would be remiss if I didn’t also own up to the fascination I had for new age frippery back then.  I was never sure how much of what I attended I also  sorta believed . All I knew was that I liked to hear about  a  variety of strange, vaguely spiritual, occasionally spooky, metaphysical type things.    So that  Saturday morning, about a week after I signed up and paid a fee,  I climbed a staircase just behind a table that was piled high with animal print Capri pants on sale  and was directed to a room where I met with my own personal healer monk.  He was dressed in a traditional saffron colored robe, although I remember being kind of amused by his standard issue scuffed up western footwear. Diaphonous robes just don’t look right with Bass Weejuns.

He was also sporting some rather stylish wireframe glasses.

For about half an hour he chanted, or we chanted together. Sometimes he described vivid  tableaus upon which I was supposed to meditate. I seem to remember one that involved a thousand flying swordsmen because I also remember fretting that perhaps I wasn’t visualizing them well enough, and would inadvertently compromise my results.
I do remember how the whole thing ended;  I was splashed with some very special water and then my monk (if I might be so bold as to call him that) tied a red string around my left wrist.

“When the string falls off, you will be healed.” were his famous last words.
On my way out of the store, I felt so good I bought some Capri pants and a purse.

Cut to: Now.

The string was moldly, and kind of stinky. The red color been replaced by gray, which was good in a way because I didn’t like the idea of people assuming I had taken up the kaballah.  But, it had also acquired a patina of yellow paint from the last time I redid my bedroom. It was one truly disgusting looking piece of string.  But after a lifetime of watching horror movies and episodes of Twilight Zone that involved someone who had received and then ignored an ominous warning, I didn’t feel  I could simply  cut it off and throw it away.  And anyway, it had to fall off on its own.  The monks promised.  But it was wrapped around my wrist in three unbroken strands that showed no signs of fraying. If they had said “This will fall off sometime around 2010” I think I might have run out of there screaming.

Then last night it fell off! It actually fell off, all on its own. I was so relieved and happy that it was almost worth the long wait. After fourteen fucking years of ugly wrist syndrome, I am finally  free at last. And I guess I am  finally also HEALED, though its not clear from what. At the very least I am healed from the ever present irritation of having to wear a decrepit string bracelet.  And since I bothered to spend 14 years regarding the removal of this string as a bad omen, I think its only fair that I go ahead and take the falling off of the string as a good one.

I think 2010 is going to be the best year ever. At least in matters related to wrists and string and healing.

Happy Nudibranch!

Posted January 2nd, 2010
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starfish 1anemone 2pelican and gull

So…it was a holiday season full of catastrophes and family emergencies for the residents of my house. It was a scary ride over an unpredictable landscape. But happily  the moon decided to proceed with the previously scheduled tides,  as planned. Therefore  New Years Day was one of the lowest tides of the year. A beach near where I live has a nice assortment of tide pools to look at.  They  generally contain the usual suspects: live sea anemones, starfish. pelicans, and sea gulls along with the spiky remains of sea urchins, and craw fish. Not too much else turns up, as a rule, except this year we saw some nudibranch! At least I think that’s what they were; (also called sea slugs. But I didn’t think anyone would keep reading if I played the sea slug card ahead of the nudibranch card. )  Below is a little video documentation of that momentous event. I admit it is not the most exciting footage you will ever see. In fact, an argument could be made against deciding to post it at all. But if you had as crazy and scary a holiday season as I did, and also had attended as many underpopulated low tides as I have, you would understand that it was a kind of a thrilling running in to this odd creature. So why don’t we all pretend, as we watch it, that it is one of those incredibly colorful, and exciting nudibranchs like we see in the photo to the left180px-Heterobranchia_composite_03. Just imagine the vibrant colors as I invite you come with me now to the magical world of the nudibranch at low tide.