Sunday, May 25, 2008


[*From the STMcC Archive: 2008, March.*]

My friend at work, The Great L.C., owns 8,000 compact discs (really!). For the last year or two, he has left on his desk whatever albums I’ve requested so I can hear them on Saturdays when it’s just the building, the ghost and I.

Recently I created a new Listmania List for titled “MUSIC FOR YOUR DRINKING PLEASURE (80 Proof Tunes 4 Boozin’ 2)”

This lighthearted list features many records I used to drink to and contemplate in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. One of those albums was Bob Dylan’s BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME, but not having heard it for 25 years, I asked The Great L.C. to leave it for me just over a week ago. In two words, I was “Blown Away!” Yes, it was my favorite Dylan record back then, but I had forgotten most of it. I had forgotten that the countless times through the decades when I said, “It’s life and life only”, it was Dylan’s song “IT’S ALRIGHT, MA (I’m Only Bleeding)” that I was quoting from. If someone - knowing that I still owned the albums BLOOD ON THE TRACKS and SLOW TRAIN COMING - had asked me a month ago what I thought of Dylan, I would have said, “He was fairly good, but he didn’t have much impact on me.”

So, imagine my surprise to find a huge portion of myself being sung back to me while I was listening to BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME. It felt like I had stepped back in time and come face to face with my youthful self as it was unconsciously developing its own writing “voice.” I always knew that I had picked up some of Steinbeck’s empathy and Twain’s cynicism, humor, and sense of irony. But I never realized before that I had learned how to manipulate words, how to PLAY with concepts, and learned how to swing wide the mind’s gate encouraging the ingression of ideas, by listening to Bob Dylan all those many years back. Only now do I realize that my “voice” is a combination of Twain, Steinbeck, Dylan, and the most lonesome and homesick shade of the color Goldenshadow that we can live with. (If only I had one tenth the talent of any of these three aforementioned artists, I would be rich and famous, and you’d have to pay $ to read what I write… which would be much better than THIS!)

I use the word “genius” very judiciously. Even so, I now openly acknowledge that Bob Dylan was/is a true genius, and that it took me this long to realize that fact only proves that a genius I am not. Just over a week ago, I was suddenly astounded by his wordplay and the unbelievable imagination dam burst and creative cataract that is BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME. It is a veritable embarrassment of wild riches; like finding a magic pot full of inspiring ideas at the end of the rainbow! And I find it mind-boggling when I remember that this album was recorded in 1965, just 9 years after Elvis sang “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog!” Nine years? Goodness! I hear nine lives and nine galaxies between them.

BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME is an aural treasure chest of social commentary, well-placed authoritarian rebellion, wonderful wordsmithing, and periodic hammering on “the part of the elbow where the ulnar nerve passes by the internal condyle of the humerus.” I like his sinuous, whiplash rhythms and how he occasionally forces the beat to conform to the lyric, rather than the other way around. And that contagious LAUGHTER at the false start of “BOB DYLAN’S 115th DREAM” … Dang! Being able to hear that laugh again and again, anytime one chooses, is worth the entire price of the album all by itself! (If you’ve never laughed that hard, you’ve missed out on the very best that life has to offer!)

It is only now, at age 48 in 2008, that I fully understand what caused all the Dylan adulation back in the ‘60s. That these sounds still seem so special, so exciting, and still pull the listener into Zimmyland 43 years after they were recorded, is the real evidence proving that BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME is a genuine musical masterpiece. Here it was a major influence on my own writing unbeknownst to me; I was assimilating it for years without being aware of the internal activity taking place within my mind. However, it was unexpectedly ALL BROUGHT BACK HOME and revealed to me these 25 years later. Why did I not “see” what I was hearing in the late ‘70s and very early ‘80s? I guess I just needed to experience more “life” before I could really experience what Mr. Zimmerman had produced. And I have to believe that some of my deafness was related to my lust for loud, fast music: roaring guitars and tough posturing.

That’s not to say I didn’t like Dylan -- I did, obviously, but he was “just another musician” whom I enjoyed listening to; nothing really special; not a genius, not a writing teacher or an instructor in the creative process. Or so I thought. Beyond these explanations, my only excuse is the timeworn but ever reliable: “Uhp! I’m an idiot!”

Now that I’ve confessed to my former ignorance, I’ll close this Blog installment with a word-for-word copy of a love letter (?!) that I wrote to a girl I liked back in June of 1983; hopefully you will find this half as amusing as I do. Terrill was an American friend who was raised in Holland but was living in Greece at the time that I wrote to her (eat your heart out George Thorogood!) I have always kept a photograph of Terrill inside my compact disc case of Dylan’s BLOOD ON THE TRACKS album because, coincidentally, that collection of songs has always reminded me of her in so very many ways. The letter is loaded with seemingly random, fleeting thoughts and has such a double-jointed stream-of-consciousness style about it that it struck me as being “Dylanesque” even as I was writing it, and I actually commented on that fact in the letter itself. It is loony like Daffy Duck, but it does exhibit my youthful personality (read: “insanity”).

[*NOTE: As mentioned in my letter, I did go to see a movie that evening. It was "Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out Of Balance" and to this day, it remains my all-time favorite film!]

~ Stephen T. McCarthy


Wow, I am SO hungover.

Doug and MD are in Palm Springs. Last night, Twinkie and me and Lynth went out and got so drunk. I feel OK except I keep getting these fast bizarre thoughts. I have nothing to do so I thought I’d write, right? (Write, Right…that’s almost like Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman or New York, New York.) I’m at the corner of Ocean Ave. and Linnie Ave. in Venice. It’s about 4 or 5 blocks from the beach. I’m sitting in the bed of my truck with my 500 pound non-portable typewriter. I am so hungover. I don’t know why I’m doing this. I got drunk last night. It’s something I’m good at. I’ll bet I’m…I’ll bet I can get drunk better than you. Terrill, I’m worried about your drinking! I like Southern Calif. Out here, you can type in your truck by the beach ‘cause you feel like it and nobody cares. Now if I tried to take my typewriter down to the beach in say, a state like Texas, I’d probably get arrested for disturbing the peace.

I’m not drunk, just hungover. In fact, I haven’t had a drink since last night. Everytime I wake up with a hangover, it seems that I had been drinking the night before. Amazing! I’m beginning to think that it’s not just a coincidence!

Uh, when I woke up this morning (Hey, did you like the way I started this sentence with the word “Uh”? It makes it seem like I’m talking instead of writing. I think that’s neat. I’m going to have to try using that a little bit later in this letter and see if it works just as well a second time. “Uh”, that’s a good word; I wonder who made that one up.) When I woke up this morning I went into Mark’s room and slipped into bed with him. At first he started to complain about it but I said, “Hey, relax, it’s all we’ve got.” But we just talked about our hangovers for a while and then…and then, whatever. But I mean we’re not like people in San Francisco, if that’s what you’re thinking.

Uh, this morning Mark went fishing in Malibu. (Notice I used “Uh” again. It worked as well as it did before…don’t you think?) I don’t like fishing because I don’t like to hurt things, and you know I think fish are probably “things” and when they get that hook through their mouths it probably hurts. I don’t really care about fish all that much but I still wouldn’t want to hurt them! I’ve seen more fish than you, nyahhh, nyahhh, nyahhh!

This is a beautiful day; last night was fuzzy. If you, Terrill, were here right now you know what we’d do? We’d probably be walking along the beach, here in Venice, and you know how people sell their art here? Well, we’d be going by and I’d look at some painting and (it would be a good sized one) I would say to you, “Hey, Terrill…look at this, do you like this painting?” And you would say, “Not especially, do you?” And I’d say, “Oh, it’s OK…kind of interesting, I think.” But we wouldn’t buy it ‘cause we couldn’t afford it. So then we’d go to one of those cafes on the beach and get a beer and watch the waves and the dogs and the Frisbees.

I’m not going to drink today. I’m getting tired of drinking; I think I’ll find something else to start doing.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that I was Bob Dylan.

So what are you going to do tonight? I might see a movie. I saw one once before and I thought it was pretty good.

I’ll have to Xerox a copy of this letter ‘cause otherwise I won’t believe I wrote it ten years from now. Everytime I just get going, this stupid bell rings and I gotta (see, there it happened again) start a new line.

Some tourists just walked by and stared at me. They probably thought I was some weirdo from California. Oh, if they only knew.

Hey, I hope this letter isn’t scaring you. Is it? It’s not meant to. Sometimes I scare MYSELF. But this is just something fun to do. You know how it is. I’m really not crazy…just mentally disturbed. But seeing as how Father’s Day is coming up soon, I just thought I’d write.

You don’t have to reply to this letter (a boat just went by) ‘cause I’m going to write another one in about a week. A real one. Right now my mind is just in the ozone layer. I think it’s because of the hangover because I don’t usually write letters like this to you. At least I haven’t before.


So, anyway, uh, do you think you’re wunderbar? Stupid word. So is groovy and glad and stupid, stupid words. I have to drive because I’m too hungover to walk.

You know what I was just thinking? That if you wrote me a letter all in Dutch I wouldn’t understand any of it. Not only can I not read Dutch but I can’t even speak it. It’s all Greek to me! Get it? Greek. Hey, do all Greek men really have hairy chests and do they all really wear gold chains? I’ll bet a Molson they do!

Some girl smiled at me. She was probably a weirdo tho. You know how these Venice types are!

I’m really something. You probably think this is all real romantic, don’t you? You probably think you’re real cute, sitting there on some street in your truck, typing a letter, don’t you? Think you’re real creative or unique or something, right? Well, you’re not. Anybody can do that. That doesn’t make you a real artist. It proves only your stupidity. Dumb girl.

My leg fell asleep.

I hope this letter doesn’t scare you. You like it, don’t you? I hope so…I’m writing it specially for you. I’ll be back to normal tomorrow. Normal…how boring!

Think of this letter as a post card, OK?

Oh wow.

Hey, I’m going to write you another letter later. Letter later. And I’m going to send a couple pictures, also. Neat, huh? Isn’t the postal service neat? Neat is another stupid word.

Well, listen…I’m gonna go now. I mean, sh#t, you think I got nothing better to do than write you a post card? Hell, I’m a busy guy. Sh#t and hell…two cuss words in one paragraph. Pretty good, huh? Think you can do that?

Don’t cuss. I don’t like it when you cuss. Well, OK, you can cuss but just a little bit. Nothing too vulgar, though. Just like, whatever…sh#t, hell, damn, potty, etc. You know, just ladylike cuss words.

Well, I gotta go. You’ll get a real letter from me in a little while and then…well, whatever…you can read it and stuff like that.

‘Bye. Be good. Nice, whatever. (Wow, I am SO hungover.)

-- Bob Dylan



[*From the STMcC Archive: 2008, Feb.]

Recently I was describing my religious viewpoint which is an amalgamation that entails a belief in and/or acceptance of 58.33% Christianity; Bad Dreams; two and a half buckets full of Buddhism things; foundational Winnie-The-Poohism…with strings; an old, lonely dog’s howl at the moon; a mellow Karen Carpenter tune; a baker’s dozen of Bobs Watson’s tears; and six cold Sierra Nevada beers. [*Crimony! Is anyone still reading this drivel? GET A LIFE!*]

Put it all together and what have you got? I dunno, but I’ll bet that 666,000 fools would drop money in it if I passed the collection plate, and would follow me in if I jumped in a lake. Bah-Bah-Bad Sheep, have you any brains? “No, Pastor Stephen, dey’s washed out by da rains!” Oh, Man! Brothers and Sisters, you’re probably wondering why I called you here: I have a dream… that one day I’ll wake up to find myself living in a Beverly Hills mansion, sharing my bed with a gorgeous European sports car, and with a collection of restored, classic supermodels parked in my football stadium-sized garage just waiting for me to take them for a ride. Will you pay for my dream? Say “Amen”, Brothers and Sisters! Can I get a “Hallelujah!”? Dig deep my faithful flock, while Sister Bertrille passes the plate and Brother Bojangles plays ‘Give Me That New Age Self-Glorification’ on his holy kazoo!

Sorry. I got carried away. [*It’s that dead debarred lawyer’s spirit which possesses the dead used car salesman’s spirit which possesses Stephen, who sometimes gets the best of both of them. If that made sense to you, then you’ll want to make an appointment with Stephen’s shrink… or his exorcists.*]

I purchased this cheap cardboard sign in Virginia City, Nevada, back about… uhm… well, back when I bought it. I don’t know who came up with these definitions for various religions, as they are uncredited. I therefore suspect that the writer is that famous Greek philosopher, Anonymous – who seems to have written more good stuffs than any other single literary giant, including that brilliant but alcoholic English pub hound, Shakyspear. I altered one of the following descriptions (“altered” = improved) and even added a couple more (“added” = invented), and I will put an “stm” (my initials) behind the ones that I had something to do with, so as not to misrepresent Anonymous. [*Yeah, and so he can squeeze every little bit of personal credit possible out of this strictly nonprofessional pseudo-entertainment.*] Without further ado, here is…..


Sh#t Happens.

Knock!-Knock! Sh#t Happens.

Sh#t Happens because you’re bad.

Sh#t Happens because you don’t work hard enough.

If Sh#t Happens, it’s the will of allah.

Maybe Sh#t Happens, maybe it doesn’t.

No Sh#t!

Why does this Sh#t always Happen to us?

Sh#t Happens, but my wives and I are prepared for it. (stm)

If Sh#t really Happens, it’s not really sh#t.

Meatless Sh#t Happens. (stm)

This Sh#t Happened before.

The Sh#t only Happens in your mind.

I am one with the Sh#t that Happens. (stm)

There’s nothing like a good Sh#t Happening.

What is this Sh#t anyway?

This Sh#t doesn’t bother me.

Send more Sh#t.

Let’s smoke this Sh#t.

I sincerely hope that I didn’t offend anyone with this comparative religion guide; I certainly didn’t mean to. [*That’s a crock of “Stuff” that “Happens”! He not only meant to offend everyone, but he DID IT, too!*]

OK, but seriously, folks, despite the fact that I don’t fully accept all of the tenets of any organized religion, I myself am – honestly! – quite religious. [*Yeah. He worships Jim Beam and he buys that brand of bourbon religiously!*] Jesus Christ is my personal Savior and the President of my world; He’s my principal Advisor and my Bodyguard. You want to mess with me, you gotta get past Jesus first, and nobody but NOBODY gets past Him: Jesus Saves. [*He’d make a great goalie!*] Heck, Jesus has even managed to save me from marriage, making him my Best Man for REAL and the aptly nicknamed “Prince of Peace.” [*Sure, but think about the terrific bachelor party and the many food processors you never got!*]

A lot of people don’t realize that Jesus actually does exist and that one can choose to have a true friendship with Him. I find that Jesus walks in my shoes with me [*And that’s why Stephen’s feet are forever hurting him!*] and the person who accuses me of being a “Jesus Freak” has in fact “nailed it.”

I think that one of the best things ever said about Jesus was not said at all, but was actually sung. In his song “WHY?” (available on the album “JOY IN THE JOURNEY: 10 YEARS OF GREATEST HITS”), Christian wordsmith Michael Card sang:




If a person doesn’t comprehend why that verse which Michael Card sings in “WHY?” is Truth of the Highest Order, then that individual has not the slightest understanding of why Jesus was hanging around down here. But you see, the thing of it is: LOVE Happened!

May you Bless And Be Blessed.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy
[*Who can only hope that he’s been “forgiven” for his sinful Sense O’Humor.*]

Saturday, May 24, 2008


[*From the STMcC Archive: 2008, Jan. 1st.]

Last October, my brother Napoleon and I held an estate sale in preparation for putting our house on the market with the hope of selling it and getting the hell out of Hell (A.K.A. Airheadzona). Our real estate agent put us in contact with a nice woman named Kathy who conducted the estate sale for us (last name withheld as I’m sure she wouldn’t want the world to know that she knows us). Enclosed with our check from Kathy was a sale recap which included the comments: “You guys have been the most entertaining clients I have had to date. It has been a pleasure to meet and work for you.” [FYI: My Brother and I are also available to perform at birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, wedding receptions, bachelor parties and wet T-shirt contests (be sure to ask about our senior citizens discount). Yes, you too can hire and be personally entertained by the renowned Brothers McCarthy who over the years have thrilled countless visiting circus freaks and carny folks!]

I was pleasantly surprised when we received a homemade computer-generated Christmas card from Kathy, the back of which read, “Printed with lead-based ink in China (just kidding!)” Now you understand how this woman can appreciate foul balls like Nappy and me. The card had the names of all of the family members printed in it, along with their dogs (2) and cats (7), and mentioned last was “FLOATIE (Frog. Yes, he’s still alive!)”

I hopped right on an E-mail thanking Kathy for the card, and I wrote: “I was very relieved to learn that FLOATIE is still with us. (Even though I didn't even know there was a Floatie until your card arrived.) Ya know, I've always been a sucker for a tough toad. And that Floatie... well, I guess they just don't come any tougher than he is. That frog may be the last amphibian standing. (I hope he remembers to turn out the lights after he's eaten the last fly standing.)”

I came to learn that FLOATIE is a water frog that Kathy gave to her Son for Christmas when he was 7 years old. That was 18 years ago; Floatie was just a tadpole then, and Kathy’s Son was only a tadlad. Floatie (who was only expected to live 2-5 years) became a frog, while Kathy’s Son became a man. Floatie Frog is now only two years away from breaking the record. Someday, some filmmaker is going to make a documentary about fantastic Floatie titled ’THE FROG THAT WOULDN’T CROAK.’

Naturally, this story made me think of DR. RON PAUL who is running for president in 2008. So strongly do I believe that if this current Congressman was leading the Executive branch of our government it would be a healthy tonic and healing balm for the USA, that on December 27th, I made the ultimate sacrifice for him. No, I didn’t lay down my life –- something much more drastic and depressing than that: I reregistered as a Republican. I have been an Independent for many years, but Airheadzona recently changed its voting procedures, making Independents ineligible to vote in the primary elections. Only by becoming a “Repugnantcan” am I able to cast my vote for RON PAUL in Airheadzona’s Primary. I hope to be living in another state soon anyway, so I will revert to an Independent after I leave here and the state of Airheadzona returns my grey matter to me. (When you arrive here, they confiscate your brain at the border but give you a claim check in the event that you should ever recognize your mistake and move back: “Brains? We don’t need no stinking brains! Bienvenidos a Arizona. Marque el numero dos para continuar su vida en espanol.”)

But what of DR. RON PAUL? Despite the old adage (“Never trust a man with two first names”), Doctor Paul has proven himself to be a trustworthy American Patriot by remaining faithful to the U.S. Constitution during his many years as a Texas Congressman. Never once has he robbed Ron to pay Paul. So many times has he voted against legislation which clearly usurped the Constitution’s authority and transgressed its articulated limitations on Federal power that in the Legislative branch of our government, he has the nickname “DOCTOR NO.” I have been following RON PAUL’s Congressional career for years and I’ve often said that RON PAUL is probably the only real American patriot in Washington D.C. That sentiment is seconded by the former Treasury Secretary William Simon, who has said that Ron Paul is the “ONE EXCEPTION TO THE GANG OF 535” on Capitol Hill.

Shortly after he announced his candidacy, DOCTOR PAUL was interviewed by Stephen Colbert on TV’s The Colbert Report. I think this exchange really summed it all up.

COLBERT: “I’m not sure how to feel about you. … You voted against The Patriot Act, you voted against the Iraq war, but you also hate taxes and you hate gun control. … Are you a Republican or are you not a Republican?”

DR. PAUL: “Now you’re confused because I’m a Constitutionalist and you haven’t met one in a long time. And it’s not that unusual to put those together if you believe in The Rule Of Law, and you believe in The American Tradition, and believe in Limited Government, and believe in Liberty.”

Having donated money to a politician’s political campaign for the first time in my life, I have received E-mail updates from RON PAUL. One of them included the following:

“I want you to know how much I owe you, and everyone dedicated to the real America. You and I know our real country - the America of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, of economic, civil, and personal liberty, of strong families and communities, of great businesses and professions, of strong peace and low taxes and sound money - all of which are under assault by the politicians who occupy our nation's capital.

“With your help -- and I can't do anything without your help -- I want to change all that. Together, we can restore our constitutional republic, and oust the mountebanks who violate the ideals of the Founders with income taxes, Federal Reserve inflation, deficit spending, preemptive wars, torture, secret prisons, and abolition of habeas corpus.”

On December 3rd, RON PAUL sent an E-mail that nearly inspired me to go outside and fly my Betsy Ross American Revolutionary flag:

“There were two moments I especially enjoyed at the CNN/YouTube debate -- despite my frustration at some of the questions, and the maldistribution of time.

“First, I was pleased at John McCain's attack … mainstream politicians NEVER attack an opponent they think is far behind. The McCain campaign, we've heard, is worried sick about New Hampshire, and they thought a slam at me would help. Ha! Of course, it only strengthened our forces.

"Then, after the debate, Rudy Giuliani walked up to me and said, "Oooh, you sure have a LOT of supporters." It's only the beginning, I told him.

“Indeed, he could have told that by the crowd outside after the debate. Mitt Romney had a few people, but no one else did. We, on the other hand, had about 500 enthusiastic revolutionaries, plus a boat, a trolley, and two planes towing lighted signs. As I looked out at the crowd, I thought: the establishment has no idea of what they are facing. We have an army of freedom, prosperity, and peace. As the L.A. Times political blog noted the other day, the British also thought they had no problem with the Americans -- until Yorktown.”

I would love to see RON PAUL win the Republican nomination and then name FLOATIE FROG as his running mate. Just like Floatie, the enduring American Ideals of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of a Free Lunch will NEVER DIE!

I am posting website addresses below and I urge you all to explore them well and consider them deeply before casting any vote for America’s next president. The first is RON PAUL’s official presidential campaign website detailing his voting pattern and what he continues to stand for. The second is an article he wrote titled “The End Of Dollar Hegemony” and for many people it will be an absolutely shocking piece which examines the house of cards we call our “economy” and explains why our servicemen have been dying (and will continue to die) in the Middle East.

Bear in mind that RON PAUL is the only presidential candidate from either party who has vowed to end the Iraq War immediately if elected. He may also be the only presidential candidate from either party who does not have ties to the Council on Foreign Relations (I’m not sure if Duncan Hunter does). If that statement holds no meaning for you, then run – don’t walk! – to my ’So You’d Like To’ guide titled “STOP BEING A USEFUL IDIOT.”

The Ron Paul Website:

The American Economy And The War In Iraq:

Ron Paul’s latest books for sale are titled:
'The Revolution: A Manifesto' [*Published 2008, April]
'A Foreign Policy Of Freedom: Peace, Commerce, And Honest Friendship'

Please check out the websites above.
If not for your country and not for me,
Then do it for FLOATIE,
So he’ll live forever in the Land of the Free.

Let’s put RON PAUL in the White House so that Hellary, Obama, Rudy, Romney, and Old Man McCain will learn firsthand that “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green” with envy. FLOATIE would approve -- after all, RON PAUL has already been endorsed by The American Frog Federation (AFF), and we all know that traditionally when a presidential candidate endorsed by the AFF is elected, it means that there will not be four more years of “Winter” in the USA.

Sincerely, Your Friend And Mine…

~ Stephen T. McCarthy
(Whose greatest dream is to become so wealthy that he can afford to get drunk in an airport bar.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

THE 15 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS (A Communist China Tradition)

[*From the STMcC Archive: 2007, Nov.]

For most of us, Christmas is a time of giving, feasting, visiting, and recalling joyful memories while getting falling DOWN liquored UP. Who isn’t reminded of that special gift? The first bicycle perhaps, or an electric train, a puppy dog, a urinating baby doll that cries “Change me”, or a Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist’s dummy. (That last one was MY favorite childhood present. My least favorite gift was a children’s Bible from my Aunt; it made me cry. But “Blessed are those who mourn,” Jesus said, “for they shall be comforted.” And I was indeed comforted when I saw what my Brother received from my Aunt: one-piece, pink bunny pajamas.
“Fa-ra-ra-ra-Ra / ra-ra-ra-Ra!”)

Ordinarily I prefer to post lighthearted “stuffs” on my Blog because life is just darned serious enough already. But this time I want to take the opportunity to remind us all of the realities that we often tend to lose sight of after that eighth mug of hot buttered rum. Not everyone is celebrating Christ’s birth as pleasantly as we are. The following true story of Christian persecution comes from the book “JESUS FREAKS; VOLUME II” by dc Talk and the Voice of the Martyrs, copyright 2002 by Bethany House Publishers:

Pastor Li De Xian speaks about suffering from experience. The man who said “I will preach until I die” has stuck to his word. Despite continued pressure from the Public Security Bureau (PSB), Pastor Li refuses to miss a service unless he is in prison, or change his message of salvation through Jesus Christ. During the period of October 2000 to May 2001, he was arrested fifteen times for preaching in his unregistered house church in Guangzhou. He has been arrested so many times during the past two years that he has lost count. During one recent detention, jailers tied his arms and legs together and chained his arms and legs to a bedpost for three days. When they finally released him from this torture, he was forced to work on an assembly line in the prison factory PUTTING BULBS INTO STRINGS OF CHRISTMAS LIGHTS TO SEND TO AMERICA! He and the others had a quota of between 4 and 5 thousand bulbs a day. … Li has seen imprisoned Christians tortured so badly that their buttocks bled through their clothing. He spent 15 DAYS in prison on this particular occasion.

Yet rather than this experience teaching him to be afraid, it has taught him to be prepared. He travels at all times with a small black duffel bag that he keeps packed with a blanket and a change of clothes – the things he will need for prison whenever he is arrested next. “Arrests will come at any time, but we are not afraid, as we have prepared ourselves, and we have not done any crimes.” Whenever possible he will spend his time in prison reading THE BIBLE, something he manages to smuggle in with amazing regularity.

His wife, Zhao Xia, strongly supports him in this and refuses to worry. “God will take care of him,” she says, “so there is no need to worry.”

“Don’t feel sorry for us,” Zhao Xia says of their lifestyle. “At least we are constantly reminded that we are in a spiritual war. We know for whom we are fighting. We know who the enemy is. And we are fighting. Perhaps we should pray for you Christians outside of China. In your leisure, in your affluence, in your freedom, sometimes you no longer realize that you are in spiritual warfare.”

This Christmastime, as we shop for gifts that express our love to others, let’s keep in mind that China embraces Communism - a failed economic/social system responsible for murdering approximately 100 million human beings worldwide, and torturing and starving many millions more. Perhaps we shouldn’t monetarily support nations like China (and others) that deny basic human rights to their citizens.

Now before I ruin Christmas for everyone, pour yourself another eggnog (not you, Rudolph! You’ve clearly had enough nose paint already!) and let me attempt to lighten the atmosphere with a few genuine responses that boys ’n’ girls gave to Art Linkletter on his 1950s TV show House Party. These come from the book “KIDS SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS”:

Q: Where did you get that scratched nose? Have an accident?
A: It was nothing much. I fell out of the Christmas tree.

Q: Have you written Santa Claus?
A: I’d better whisper in your ear or I’m going to spoil Christmas for these other kids.

Q: Did you see Santa this year?
A: See him? I fixed him a bourbon and water.

OK, last and least, if you’re interested, feel free to visit my Ghost Of Christmas Reviews Past at by clicking the links below. These are some Yuletide reviews I previously wrote which prove I haven’t always been an Ebenezer Grinch.

My review for the compact disc
The Christmas Music of Johnny Mathis: A Personal Collection
is titled:
"Attention! This E-Mail Just In From THE NORTH POLE."

My review for the classical compact disc
The Best of Leroy Anderson: Sleigh Ride
is titled:

My review for the book
It's a Wonderful Christmas: The Best of the Holidays 1940-1965
is titled: "Take McQUARTHY'S QUIZMAS QUIZ..." (Do take the test and learn how little you really know about the Christmas holiday!)

Well, Merry Christmas, Fruitcakes!
Have you been naughty or nice?
Nice is alright but lacks some of the spice.
Naughty’s heavy on spice but comes at a price.
The price of naughty can be a lot of thrown rice.
Might ah suggest you should maybe— ah say,
You should maybe think twice.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

POSTSCRIPT: A nice Pal wrote the following:

"Please don't forget to include that WONDERFUL holiday story you sent as a Christmas card to me last year. It was about the correspondence you received from your incarcerated pen pal. That was such an amazing, lump in the throat tale."

So, by special request, here it is:

My 'So You'd Like To' guide titled, See IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE Come To Life! (A Xmas Miracle)

Thursday, May 22, 2008


[*From the STMcC Archive: 2007, Oct.]

Welcome to Mensa-donkey 101, or “So You Want To Be A Smart-Azz.” (Pay attention because there WILL be a test.)

For a few years now, I have used the expression “A Mensa-donkey In Phoenix, Airheadzona” in conjunction with my pseudonym. It seems that this has led to some confusion, with some individuals assuming that I am a member of Mensa. Truth is, I occasionally coin my own words and phrases. For example, “Liquidated” means Dead Drunk. Regarding the local football team, I have said that “The Arizona Cardinals are so bad that they couldn’t even beat the Arizona Cardinals.” (Feel free to borrow the phrase whenever your own sports team is stinking up your taxpayer-funded stadium.)

Thinking that he was putting me in my (egotistical) place, a Liberal once left this remark for me in the Comment section of one of my reviews: “Sorry but I'll never be as dumb as you need me to be. I'm MENSA too but I don't put it at the end of my Amazon moniker.”

Being a proud non-Mensa smart-azz, I responded with this: “Mensa-donkey is my own euphemism for Smart-a##, and I would have expected a Mensa member to ‘get it’ without explanation. I wouldn't know whether or not I qualify for membership because I've never felt a need to have my intelligence evaluated and verified by some preening, egotistical, eggheaded organization.”

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape; you don’t spit into the wind; you don’t pull the mask off the ol’ Lone Ranger; and you don’t mess around with a Mensa-donkey Master.

The idea that anyone would mistake me for a Mensa member is pretty laughable: I was a straight “C” student in high school… although I WAS above average in athletics and in girl-watching at the beach during periods 2, 3, and 4 (I always returned to school after lunch because in my 5th period Public Speaking class I sat next to Jean Gonzalez - a seriously hot babe! Yow!) And I undoubtedly have the lowest SAT scores ever recorded this side of the Special Olympics. (I used to answer the first 5 to 7 questions properly, but then I’d get bored and rebellious and start turning my answer page into pictures: “Let’s see… I’ll make section 2 a Peace Sign, and section 3 a big star, and section 4 will be a Colt .45.” That wouldn’t go over so well today because they now frown on guns in school, even if the gun doesn’t shoot lead but is merely comprised of No. 2 pencil lead on an SAT answer sheet.)

I have no idea what my I.Q. is because I’ve never had it tested; I don’t really believe in the accuracy of I.Q. tests (and that alone probably makes me some kind of a genius).

I don’t know if there are any advantages to being a Mensa member, but I know that there are advantages to being an effective smart-azz. For one thing, people who are aware of your style and smart-azz aptitude don’t mess with you much. A very funny friend of mine recently said to me that he thinks I “sort of do debate martial arts, catching [an opponent’s] line and using it against him in improved form.” (A great compliment which I value more than I would the phony back-patting from 100 card-carrying Mensa eggheads.)

Another surprising benefit of advanced Mensa-donkey martial arts is that it dissuades friends from E-mailing you those silly questionnaires that are supposed to test your personality, or loyalty, or attractiveness to the opposite sex. (You know what I’m talking about here… those quizzes that you never received prior to the invention of E-mail - back when people had to address an envelope and put a first-class stamp on it.)

There are a couple of basic ideas to keep in mind if you want to sharpen your own Mensa-donkey skills and eventually earn your Black Belt:

#1) The acronym N.A.S.A. stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration, but some observers commenting on that famous spaced-out organization’s notorious tendency to obfuscate issues and evade straightforward questions have charged that the acronym really stands for “Never A Straight Answer.” This is a truly essential acronym for Mensa-donkeys to remember also, as it goes right to the heart of being a smart-azz. Always think NASA: Never A Straight Answer. Nothing infuriates a person like getting twisted responses to basic questions. Someone has asked you a very upfront, forthright question and is expecting a direct and valid answer in response? Never give them a straight answer; take their question and TWIST IT!

#2) Consider words and how they can be wielded. Many words (and phrases) have multiple meanings, or can be given new interpretations with just a little bend - and this can be an effective weapon when an opponent’s own “wordsword” can be bent backwards and used to disembowel him or her. (Ain’t that a cool word? Wordsword: it’s the word “word” twice with the bent letter “s” in the middle. I dunno, I guess I’m just easily entertained.) Example: When a Liberal said to me, “You're quite full of yourself, aren't you?” I answered his question with, “I would much rather be full of myself than be full of what you are!” Word starts with “W”, and so does “Weapon.” Coincidence? I don’t think so! Always ask yourself: “How can I use his words against him?” And then DO IT!

#3) Alliteration. Is this just a natural God-given gift? Whether or not alliteration can actually be taught and mastered as other skills can be is still a hotly contested point in Mensa-donkey dojos the world over, but the bottom line is this: Alliteration is an effective device which strikes hard and makes a blow more memorable. The “Morning After Alliteration Sting” (MAAS) has been recognized and hailed as the premier "junkyard dog bite" of Mensa-donkeyness by the Master smart-azzes throughout history. If you’ve got the gift, USE IT!

Are you ready to test your new Mensa-donkey skills? Sometime back I received one of those silly E-mail questionnaires from a friend with too much time on his hands. Well, I applied my Master Mensa-donkey techniques in answering it, and then returned it as requested. Needless to say, my friend hasn’t sent me an E-mail quiz since, and that’s a good thing. (He’s still a friend, and that’s a good thing, too.)

Following are the same 49 questions that my Buddy sent to me. Get your old No. 2 pencil and a piece of paper, and answer them, keeping in mind the Mensa-donkey principles we discussed earlier. After completing the test, check your answers against mine (below) and see how you compare to a certified Master in Mensa-donkey martial arts.

1. Full name?
2. Were you named after anyone?
3. Do you wish on stars?
4. When did you last cry?
5. Do you like your handwriting?
6. What is your favorite lunch meat?
7. How many kids?
8. Names and ages of kids?
9. If you were another person, would you be friends with you?
10. Do you have a journal?
11. Do you use sarcasm a lot?
12. Would you bungee jump?
13. What is your favorite cereal?
14. Do you think you are strong emotionally and physically?
15. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
16. Shoe size?
17. Red or Pink?
18. What is your least favorite thing about yourself?
19. Who do you miss most?
20. Do you want everyone you send this to, to send it back?
21. What color pants and shoes are you wearing?
22. Last thing you ate?
23. What are you listening to right now?
24. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
25. Favorite smells?
26. Last person you talked to on the phone?
27. The first thing you notice about the opposite sex?
28. Do you like the person who sent this to you?
29. Favorite Drink?
30. Favorite Sport to watch?
31. Hair Color?
32. Eye Color?
33. Do you wear contacts?
34. Favorite food?
35. Scary movie or Happy ending?
36. Last Movie you watched?
37. Favorite Day of the Year?
38. Summer or Winter?
39. Who do you hate in life?
40. Favorite Dessert?
41. Who is most likely to respond?
42. Least likely to respond?
43. What books are you reading?
44. What's on your mouse pad?
45. What did you watch last night on TV?
46. Rolling Stones or Beatles?
47. What's the furthest you've been from home?
48. Do you have a special talent?
49 Favorite Quote?

Now compare your answers to the answers I gave to the same questions:

1. Full name?
Stephen T. McCarthy
2. Were you named after anyone?
No, I was the first born of my siblings.
3. Do you wish on stars?
I wished on Susan Dey once, but she never showed up.
4. When did you last cry?
This afternoon while slicing onions for my Limburger cheese sandwich.
5. Do you like your handwriting?
I'd rather it was lifting a bottle of Budweiser to my lips.
6. What is your favorite lunch meat?
Does Spam count as meat?
7. How many kids?
No more than two, and only if properly cooked.
8. Names and ages of kids?
Oh, I don't care about that as long as they're not underdone.
9. If you were another person, would you be friends with you?
I don't know. Which other person?
10. Do you have a journal?
I forget; let me consult my diary and find out.
11. Do you use sarcasm a lot?
A lot? No, I use it exclusively.
12. Would you bungee jump?
Bungee jumping is for wimps who play it safe; I ride a motorcycle!
13. What is your favorite cereal?
14. Do you think you are strong emotionally and physically?
Call me a name and see if I don't kick your a**!
15. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Can I have a slice of pie instead?
16. Shoe size?
Which foot?
17. Red or Pink?
If it's all the same to you, I'd prefer a Chablis.
18. What is your least favorite thing about yourself?
Well, some people say that I tend to repeat myself. I don't really believe that, but that's what they say, that I tend to repeat myself.
19. Who do you miss most?
The cat; it's pretty quick.
20. Do you want everyone you send this to, to send it back?
If I wanted it back, why would I have sent it in the first place?
21. What color pants and shoes are you wearing?
Shoes again? You have a shoe fetish, don't you? You really should see someone about that.
22. Last thing you ate?
A Limburger and onion sandwich.
23. What are you listening to right now?
The hum of my computer and the clicking of my keyboard.
24. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Color me sad.
25. Favorite smells?
I don't know Favorite. Does he?
26. Last person you talked to on the phone?
The secretary of my girlfriend's ex-husband's lawyer.
27. The first thing you notice about the opposite sex?
The size of her… bank account.
28. Do you like the person who sent this to you?
If he's buying the next round I do.
29. Favorite Drink?
A case of Budweiser.
30. Favorite Sport to watch?
Horse racing when my long shot comes into the homestretch with a 15 length lead.
31. Hair Color?
32. Eye Color?
Kind of a bloodshot.
33. Do you wear contacts?
No, I usually write or call them.
34. Favorite food?
35. Scary movie or Happy ending?
What does Happy's ending look like?
36. Last Movie you watched?
The Last Picture Show.
37. Favorite Day of the Year?
38. Summer or Winter?
Why are Fall and Spring being ignored? What do you have against Fall and Spring?
39. Who do you hate in life?
No one; they're all dead now.
40. Favorite Dessert?
41. Who is most likely to respond?
The one who most needs to get a life. (That appears to be me.)
42. Least likely to respond?
Susan Dey
43. What books are you reading?
Thought you'd catch me with a trick question, eh? I'm not reading books... I'm reading an E-mail questionnaire.
44. What's on your mouse pad?
A roof?
[*Note: Whereas “My Mouse” would be a fine answer worthy of any self-professed Mensa-donkey, a real Master such as myself, gives not only the unexpected answer but also reinterprets the word “pad”, too. The technical term for this advanced technique is “Double Whammy.”]
45. What did you watch last night on TV?
The screen.
46. Rolling Stones or Beatles?
The Beach Boys.
47. What's the furthest you've been from home?
You mean today? Fry's market.
48. Do you have a special talent?
Is this a family questionnaire?
49. Favorite Quote?
"The King Of Beers."
Wait a minute here! Where's question #50? Who the hell sends a questionnaire with 49 questions on it? That's like rapping out "Shave And A Haircut" but failing to knock "Two Bits!" I just knew I shouldn't have gotten mixed up in this!

Grasshopper, now that you are graduating toward a Black Belt in the art of Mensa-donkey, let me give you just a couple more pointers to help send you on your way:

*When performing debate martial arts against a Liberal’s Socialistic bovine excrement, always remember to direct your laser-guided verbal barbs at the Liberal’s bleeding heart; never succumb to the temptation to go for the head shot, thinking to obliterate the Lib’s brain - this military tactic just assumes way too much.

*Remember the important acronym NASA: Never A Straight Answer.

*But most of all, don’t ever forget that possessing Mensa-donkey skills is a tremendous responsibility. Never take that responsibility lightly! Don’t be an evil smart-azz (a demon); always be a Mensa-donkey for good (an angel). The demons may get the girls, but the angels get the... The angels get the… Hmmm… Well, hell! Look, just be a “good” Mensa-donkey, will ya? After all, when axed about it, Lizzie Borden said, “Goodness is its own reward.”

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Time Flies When You're Having LIFE

[*From the STMcC Archive: 2007, Sept.]

Something arrived in the mail very recently that has me distraught. The moment I turned the envelope over and saw what was stamped on its reverse side I was taken aback:

“Santa Monica High School, Class of ’77
30 Year Reunion”

THIRTY YEAR REUNION?! Now, I don’t like liars to begin with (imagine the vexation I experience when thinking about the world of politics), and I especially don’t like liars when they boldly attack me personally with ridiculous charges of Old Age. This Reunion Committee is trying to convince me that I graduated from high school THREE FREAKIN’ DECADES AGO, when I know for a fact that it was just yesterday! Ooh, that gets my dander up.

But then upon further reflection, it occurred to me that, despite the Reunion Committee’s obviously preposterous exaggeration, there ARE signs that perhaps I didn’t really graduate from high school “just yesterday.” Maybe a little time truly has elapsed.

For one thing, I turned on the radio yesterday but didn’t hear STAYIN’ ALIVE by The Bee Gees. I guess it was only unfounded optimism on their part after all. (Don’t feel too badly Bee Gee boys; no one stays alive forever, especially in the world of entertainment.)

And then there are these many scars on my body. There’s the one on my right forefinger where I gashed it open down to the bone when a glass I was washing burst apart while I was in an intoxicated condition. All my drinking buddies were out partying and I had been enjoying some “Drunken ME Time.” When I saw the profuse amount of blood running out of “Drunken ME”, I wrapped my hand, poured another drink to steady my nerves, and called my parents’ house. I explained to my Ma what had happened, just so that if I expired due to loss of blood, there wouldn’t be some big mystery later about how I died. With hindsight, I realize that I probably didn’t really need to make that call: When my body was discovered on the kitchen floor in a massive pool of its own blood, and the blood-splattered broken glass in the sink and my cleaved finger were noticed, the chances are pretty good that the authorities would have had some reasonable suspicion about what had happened to me. Especially in light of the fact that this was a couple of years before the KGB perfected its infamous Finger Cut Assassination Technique. It’s unlikely that an autopsy and investigation into my death would have been necessary.

Then there’s that big scar where I had a cyst removed. They admitted me to the hospital for this one and anesthetized me into unconsciousness – a very peculiar sensation. The doctor said, “I’m going to introduce something into your IV now that will put you to sleep and when you wake up it will be” “All over”, said the nurse peering down at me when my eyes opened in what seemed like the same moment. The phenomenon seems oddly akin to my current situation. It’s as if in the very same moment that the school’s principal was shaking my hand and handing me my diploma, a few blocks away at the post office, the 30 year Reunion Committee was depositing my invitation into the mail slot.

But there are other indications that I didn’t really graduate from high school “just yesterday”: I remember the acting career that I was trying to get off the ground. No sooner was it slightly airborne than it returned to earth like the Hindenburg. And I may have slightly overindulged in adult beverages at some point because I have a vague recollection of a rather severe hangover that I suffered in 1980 through 1986. I do, however, vividly recall experiencing euphoria at Dodger Stadium when I witnessed firsthand one of the most celebrated moments in the history of sports: the injured Kirk Gibson’s amazing ninth inning, two-out, Game 1-winning 1988 World Series home run against the Oakland Athletics. In the parking lot afterwards, passing a ten-year-old boy clutching his dad’s pant leg in one hand and a wilted A’s pennant in the other, I said, “How ‘bout them Dodgers?” The boy nodded mutely and I could clearly see in his eyes that he was completely numb in body, mind, and soul. The two of us combined represented the ultimate illustration of “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

Of course, it hasn’t all been THAT much fun, and I know that at least a little time has passed since my high school graduation because some of the people I love the most are no longer here with me. Two good friends committed suicide: Andy shot himself, and Ty let the cops do the shooting. And my acting buddy, Marty, was killed instantly when a guy trying to elude the police in a stolen car during a high-speed chase, ran a red light at Arlington Avenue and Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles, while Marty was coming through the intersection on the green.

I held my Pa’s hand while he was slipping out of his earthly life in 1996, and I did the same thing for my Ma nine years later when God decided that He needed her more than I did. (Yeah, I’m an orphan.)

But the fact that my brother, Napoleon, is neither dead or in prison is pretty much all the evidence I need to prove that 30 years CANNOT have passed since my high school graduation. And as if that wasn’t enough proof, I’m asked to believe that 3 decades later, Sylvester Stallone is STILL playing boxer Rocky Balboa? Ha!-Ha! That’s too rich!

But then again, I remember myriad “odd” jobs I’ve had. There was that three week period where I was a telemarketer while looking for “real” work. Then one day I told my boss, “No, I will not solicit donations for Planned Parenthood; no, I will not tell people that every one and a half minutes around-the-clock, fifteen acres of rain forest are being razed; and no, I will not inform gullible Libs that the DNC must raise 3 million dollars in the next week if it is going to have any hope of saving America from fascist space alien Conservatives determined to deflower their daughters and sell their sons to Israel for secret sacrificial rites to Jehovah.”

“Well, why don’t you quit then?” he suggested. And so I took his advice and “hung up” my telemarketing career.

Or the juice delivery route I enjoyed: it entailed driving 100 miles a day through the Phoenix Summer (normal daytime temps of 106 degrees) in an old, beat-up, non-air conditioned, non-refrigerated truck. Factoring in all of the stops I had to make, I sat down to do the math (always a misadventure with me) and concluded that I had to average 101.4 miles per hour if I was to get all of the juice delivered before it spoiled. The Phoenix Police Department was very understanding; not only did the cops not attempt to arrest my progress, but oftentimes when they saw my dilapidated truck approaching in the distance, they would stop traffic for me. The cops knew that I honestly didn’t have time to obey traffic signals.

In ruminating on these dog-eared pages of my own life, it seems to me that our lives are just a series of Ups and Downs, Joys and Pains, Guillotines and Superglue. (Hmmm… “Guillotines And Superglue” -- that might make a good title for the autobiography I have no reason to write and no readers to read.) To paraphrase John Lennon, I’ve found that “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy daydreaming about making love to Laurie Partridge.”

But what about this 30-year reunion invitation? I won’t be attending the reunion because, in the first place, no one would believe that it was really me there. My senior year in the Theater Arts Department, I was voted the incongruous combination of “Best Body”, “Best Legs”, and “Shyest.” (That last one translates to: “The Nonentity Least Likely To Turn Up On The Internet 30 Years Later With A Sense Of Humor And A You-Can-Kiss-My-Keister Attitude.”) Who’s going to believe that the formerly shyest person is now in possession of a Terrell Owens mouth and a Don Rickles personality? I can hear them now: “Alright, who are you REALLY? And what have you done with Stephen T. McWhatzhisname?”

The reunion announcement includes an E-mail address and I recognized the names of 3 of the 4 people on the Committee. There’s a current photograph of Sally D., who looks older than I remembered. The poor girl. I’m sure glad that -- other than the pimples that have disappeared from around my chin area -- I look exactly the same. It was either Sally D. or Sharon D. who did the 80-proof stagger into the ninth grade Student Government class one day, sat down at her desk and then promptly threw up all over it. I’m very tempted to E-mail the Committee to enquire about it, but I’m not sure if that’s an appropriate opening after not having seen nor spoken with a person for (supposedly) 30 years: “Hi, Sally. Was it you who threw up on her desk in Student Government? So, WHAT’S UP these days?”

And then there’s Eve B. Now the funny thing about this is that not long ago I happened to come across my old 6th grade class photo and was very surprised to see that Eve B. was obviously the prettiest girl in the class. So how come I wasn’t skirt-chasing her back then? I never paid the slightest bit of attention to Eve, but instead, I had a crush on a little redheaded girlfriend. (Our relationship ended in 7th grade when she made fun of my braces by calling me “Tinsel Teeth.” I was hurt deeply. I’m more mature and less hypersensitive now. If it happened today, I’d just fire off an immediate retort and that would be the end of it: “Whatever you say, Hennahead.” Like I said, I’m more mature now.)

I can’t for the life of me figure out why I wasn’t following the pretty Eve B. around the playground with my tongue picking up dirt, leaves and discarded chewing gum. Was I not just dumb, but BLIND, too? And since my brother and Eve’s brother, Bruce, were friends, I had plenty of opportunities to get to know Eve. (Obviously her parents had no sense of humor or they would have named her brother Adam.)

I’d like to E-mail the Committee and tell Eve that I now realize that she was the supermodel of the 6th grade, but I’m afraid that it might come off sounding a little like a 30-year retroactive pickup line. Truth is, even if by some slim chance the girl is optically challenged and insane enough to be slightly interested in me, I can’t afford a wife and I’m too tired for a girlfriend. So, should I contact the lovely Eve or not? I dunno. I think maybe I’ll wait for now, and E-mail Eve on the occasion of our 50-year graduating class reunion . . . tomorrow.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

Monday, May 19, 2008


[*From the STMcC Archive: 2007, Sept.]

I was a senior at Santa Monica High School during this country’s bicentennial (that was 1976 for my readers “educated” in our Federally-controlled public school system), and like most of my peers, I eagerly listened to the popular Rock ’N’ Roll acts of the day. There were a few exceptions: I never did like Rush, Yes, Ted Nugent or Jethro Tull (call me a homophobe if you must, but I just felt there was something unnatural about a longhaired man in tights prancing around on a stage with a flute in his mouth!)

One of the first Rock bands I fell in love with was Styx – this was before they became nationally and then internationally popular. Because band merchandise was not available at that time, I silkscreened my own T-shirt and often wore it to school. My classmates were forever asking me, “What is Steyeks?” Of course, my answer was, “It’s pronounced Sticks, and it’s a Rock band from Chicago.” (Who’d ever heard of Greek mythology and a river in Hades? Yeah, I too was “educated” at a Federally-controlled public school.) The first Rock concert I ever attended was at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium where the unknown Styx opened for the headlining band, Journey. (Oddly enough, over the years, I saw Journey perform three or four times, but I was ALWAYS going to see the “other” band.)

I was raised on those two basic parental commands: “Comb your hair!” and “Turn it down!” And I was mystified by how my parents could listen to -- what they called -- “music” that didn’t contain nary a trace of electric guitar. “Where’s the guitar solo?!” I would shout incredulously whenever my Ma tried to get me to sit still long enough to listen to a Count Basie number. And forget sitting still, I couldn’t even “stand” Glenn Miller. The man was guilty on two counts: no electric guitar and a terrible last name. (I hated the surname Miller for some inexplicable reason, although it never dawned on me that I found it perfectly acceptable as long as it was preceded by the given name Steve. But then Steve Miller played an electric guitar.)

I suppose I’m a bit chagrinned now to admit that 31 years later, Glenn Miller’s instrumental, MOONLIGHT SERENADE, is my all-time favorite piece of music, and I don’t own so much as one musical note by Steve Miller anymore. So much for the electric guitar, eh? Somehow, when I cut my hair, my great fondness for that particular instrument was cut too.

I’m sure there’s nothing unique about the story of my gradually developing taste in music and the early disdain I felt toward my parents’ Old Fogy stuff. Coming to learn with time that our parents aren’t as stupid as we thought they were when we were teenagers is a pretty universal experience. For instance, it’s been said that the definition of “adolescence” is: “That period when a boy refuses to believe that someday he’ll be as dumb as his father.” Or to peek at it from the other end, as that Genius of Letters, Mark Twain, once wrote: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

And now when I sometimes contemplate the music of my teens and early twenties, I groan at some of the examples of fuzzy-brained lyrics that my prior rebel heroes wrote, recorded, and got wealthy from. (Like most kids between the ages of 15 and 24, I thought I had all the answers to the world’s problems – and I got ‘em mostly from listening to dunderheaded Rock ’N’ Roll dudes singing songs of idealistic protest while lacking even the slightest understanding of the reality of human nature, nor having any awareness of who really pulls the global and societal strings.)

Following are some of my favorite examples of dumb song lyrics from my youth. At this point in my life, I rarely listen to the artists from my younger days and I own just a few of these recordings. I’ll confess that America and Zevon (that’s A and Z but NOT everything in between) are still in my collection, but doggoned if I’ll admit to The Babys, baby!

Let’s start with the aforementioned Steve Miller, but I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t mind if a person butchers a word to make a rhyme, just so long as it’s funny. For instance, I get a kick out of it when in DANG ME, another Miller -- this one being Roger -- sings, “Roses are red, Violets are purple; Sugar’s sweet and so is maple syrple.” (But then I get a kick out of Roger Miller anyway. He’s one of the few non-Rock artists I embraced from a young age. My Pa used to wake me up for school by suddenly blaring Miller’s YOU CAN’T ROLLER SKATE IN A BUFFALO HERD. And people wonder why I turned out so goofy?)

But I find it intolerable when Steve Miller butchers his grammar (whether knowingly or unknowingly) to force a rhyme that isn’t even humorous. In his 1976 hit TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN he sings: “Billy Mack is a detective down in Texas; You know he knows just exactly what the facts is; He aint gonna let those two escape justice; He makes his livin’ off of the people’s taxes.”

Boo! Hiss! Steve, TAKE THE TEXTBOOK AND RUN… to a remedial English class and don’t return until you’ve learned what the proper rules of grammar “is.”

And while we’re on the subject of grammar: I’d say that anyone who doesn’t dig Marvin Gaye’s classic Soul album “Let’s Get It On” is probably as soulless as HAL-9000, the cold ’n’ calculating supercomputer in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Unfortunately, however, Marv ends his song JUST TO KEEP YOU SATISFIED by singing, “It's too late for you and me, it's too late for you and I; Much too late for you to cry; It's too late for you and me, much too late for you and I; It's too late for you and me, much too late for you to cry.”

I guess he figured that if he sang it both ways he’d be right at least half of the time. Sheesh! Why didn’t he just ask someone how to sing it in a grammatically correct fashion? I could have told him, but then I would have insisted on an album cover credit: “Ebonics to English translation by Stephen T. McCarthy.”

On The Babys’ second album “Broken Heart”, there’s a song titled SILVER DREAMS in which the brokenhearted crybaby, John Waite, sings to the woman he is going to be missing: “For the next year, I’ll be traveling roads that take you far from me.”

Would someone please tell that big Baby that the roads he’s going to be traveling will be taking HIM far from her, not the other way around! I mean, for crying-out-loud, how can the roads be “taking” HER anywhere when she ain’t movin’ at all? It’s one of the fundamental laws of roadtrip physics: “He who travels the roads gets taken away from the people and places where he started.”

But some Rock stars are more mathematically than grammatically challenged: In the song THE FACTORY from his post-drug and alcohol rehab comeback album “Sentimental Hygiene”, Warren Zevon (ordinarily a clever lyricist) sings, “I was born in ’63; Got a little job in the factory; I don’t know much about Kennedy; I was too busy working in the factory.”

Got that? The reason he doesn’t know much about Kennedy is BECAUSE he was too busy working in the factory. Now considering that JFK was assassinated in 1963, this puts the singer working in a factory as an infant in diapers. If we give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s talking about Robert Kennedy instead, this still puts him on the assembly line at the age of five when Bobby was murdered. Uhm… I don’t think so. I mean, there WERE child labor laws even back in the ancient ‘60s. Maybe the REAL reason he didn’t know much about Kennedy is because he was born in 1947 and by 1968 he was sleeping all day and partying with a fifth of Vodka every night.

In 1975, One-Hit Wonder Sammy Johns made it to #5 on the Billboard charts with the song CHEVY VAN which includes the line, “Her long legs were tanned and brown.” Wow! The ol’ double whammy: tanned AND brown! Is that when she lays out on the beach for a month and then dips her legs into Andy Gump portable johns, Mr. Johns?

A decade later, the former fashion designer and ex-model Sade also hit #5 on the charts with SMOOTH OPERATOR. Now Sade was not grammatically nor mathematically challenged… but she seemed to have a little trouble with her geography. In SMOOTH OPERATOR she sings of traveling “Coast to coast, L.A. to Chicago.”

Well now, I have gone “coast to coast” on a number of occasions. I’ve done it by car and plane. And in each instance, I either started at the Pacific Ocean and ended up at the Atlantic Ocean, or started at the Atlantic Ocean and finished up at the Pacific Ocean. But never once have I flown or driven “coast to coast” and ended up on the shore of Lake Michigan. Now, if Sade sang, “West coast to the shore of Lake Michigan, L.A. to Chicago” I wouldn’t really have a problem with it. I did mention that she was a former model, didn’t I?

Oh, but stupidity comes in all genders, colors and nationalities. Anyone remember the “Dirty (’N’ Dumb) White Boys” from England calling themselves Foreigner? Their first single FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME made it to #4 in ’77. With great passion, they sang: “It feels like the first time; Like it never did before.”

Now how can that be? How can it feel “like the first time”, and simultaneously feel “like it never did before”? I wish those Foreigners could have made up their minds: Did it feel like the first time? Or was this a completely new and “foreign” feeling? Obviously, models have no monopoly on Dumb.

Who remembers America’s #1, 1972 hit A HORSE WITH NO NAME? Well, is it just me, or does this strike you as a shade redundant?... “The heat was hot and the ground was dry.”

I always thought of cold and heat as being mutually exclusive, but I suppose that if we can have a Cold War, we can also have a cold heat, so it’s nice that America clarified that for us. It kind of reminds me of Orwell’s book 1984 and the three slogans of Big Bro’s Ministry Of Truth: “War Is Peace”; “Freedom Is Slavery”; “Ignorance Is Strength.” And Heat Is Cold… except for when America says it ain’t.

Newspeaking of politics, it’s often fascinating to see a Rock star, or any other type of celebrity, try to wrap their empty mind around a subject other than fashionable drugs, fashionable automobiles, fashionable fashions, or the latest Britney “Pop Tart” Spears meltdown. For instance, there was Mick Hucknall from England’s group Simply Red singing to us in the 1986 hit MONEY’S TOO TIGHT TO MENTION, that money’s too tight to mention. But if that was the case, then why did he mention it a total of THIRTY-FOUR times in the song? Mick also took a jab at “Reaganomics”, something I’m sure that he understood to the same degree that Englishmen comprehend baseball’s Infield Fly Rule. But perhaps being a “Mick” himself, he felt authorized to speak out about President Reagan’s “MICS.”

In 1971, another English band, Ten Years After, had a Top 40 hit with I’D LOVE TO CHANGE THE WORLD. Their big remedy for relieving global stress was to: “Tax the rich, feed the poor; ’Til there are no rich no more.” Where did they get such a revolutionary idea? Well, see, once upon a time there was a little political tract titled “The Communist Manifesto.” But what the Englishmen failed to recognize was that relative to the great mass of unwashed Middle Class, THEY were the rich. I didn’t see the boys standing on the corner passing out one hundred dollar bills to the po’ folks, did you? Maybe what they meant to say was, “tax those OTHER rich, feed the poor; ’Til there are no rich no more…other than us.” Or perhaps Ten Years After’s great acts of charity didn’t actually begin until Ten Years After they retired from Rock ’N’ Roll. Well, let’s face it, their two-faced propaganda was merely par for the “Bullshi-vik” Country Club course. Oh, to be young, rich and stupid!

But I think the gold medal winner in the combined categories of Stupidity and Hypocrisy (“Stupocrisy”) is John “Lenin” Lennon for his song IMAGINE, which went to #3 on the Billboard charts in the same year that Ten Years After was propagandizing the young.

John Lennon once said that his song IMAGINE "is virtually a communist manifesto." I guess it didn't bother him much that while he sang "Imagine no possessions; I wonder if you can; No need for greed or hunger; A brotherhood of man", for tax purposes he owned a herd of Hereford cattle that he had never even seen. I'm OK with the cattle, but I detest the hypocrisy of a wealthy capitalist advocating Socialism for all “the little people" like you and me! But then, come on! -- any man who believes that Yoko Ono is a “singer” is bound to have faulty judgment on multiple fronts. (Yo! John! Didja know that Ten Years After wanted to tax you until all of the poor were fed? Awfully “liberal” with YOUR money, weren’t they? The poor? “Let ’em eat cake… or Hereford cattle!”)

OK, enough about politics. Let’s talk about that brilliant wordsmith Ted “Gonzo” Nugent and his tough guy anthem, STRANGLEHOLD. I used to get a chuckle out of the line: “If your house gets in my way, baby, you know I’ll burn it down!” I mean, REALLY! He had this problem often did he? …

Poor Ted’s just skipping down the road, minding his own business while softly whistling “Cat Scratch Fever” when suddenly a house leaps into the middle of the path to block his way, and the house pronounces in an authoritative voice like The Black Knight in the movie Monty Python And The Holy Grail: “NONE SHALL PASS!”

Well, look, if any of you houses are entertaining the idea of harassing Ted, you’d better rethink it, because Mr. Gonzo has put you all on notice that he’ll burn ya down, baby! When you see him coming, don’t even THINK about getting in his way!

Speaking of Elton John, I always hated his song CANDLE IN THE WIND, a weepy, wimpy denunciation of the public’s crass obsession with Marilyn Monroe’s carefully cultivated, self-produced, self-perpetuated, money and career-making sexpot image. At one point, the singer bemoans the media’s supposed monomaniacal interest in the condition of Monroe’s corpse. He sings: “Even when you died, Oh, the press still hounded you; All the papers had to say was that Marilyn was found in the nude.”

Now, I was only three years old when Monroe died, so I can’t state with unequivocal certainty that the newspapers reported on more than just her nakedness, but I’m prepared to go way, way out on a limb here in speculating that the papers probably had more to say about Monroe’s death than that she was found in her birthday suit. I mean, once a person got past that first salacious sentence, it would become a rather boring article, don’t you think? Can’t you just see it now? …

Hollywood –- Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Marilyn was found in the nude. Etc.

No, Elton, when you sing that “all the papers had to say was that Marilyn was found in the nude”, I think it is YOU who is not giving us the whole story. “Just the facts, Ma’am. But ALL of the facts, Ma’am.”

Speaking of Marilyn Monroe, on his program House Party, Art Linkletter once asked a nine year old boy, “Who would you pick as famous parents for a day?”
The little boy answered, “Jimmy Durante and Marilyn Monroe.”
“Why?” Linkletter pressed him.
And the nine year old replied, “Jimmy Durante is funny, and Marilyn Monroe ..... Say, haven’t you seen that calendar?”

With this Blog, I don’t mean to imply that Rock stars are incapable of writing high quality song lyrics. To the contrary, in August of 2005, I created an “So You’d Like To” guide titled “READ THE GREATEST SONG LYRICS EVER PENNED.” If you’re interested in seeing the other side of my perspective on this subject, you can check it out by accessing my SYLT Guides via the center column link on my Profile Page at Amazon.

But enough of bad song lyrics! Right now, I think that what I need most to cleanse my mental palette is a shot of Cannonball Adderley with a splash of Miles Davis and a Dave Brubeck twist. Or perhaps some Benny Goodman on the rocks. Or maybe even just some Satchmo straight from the trumpet.
Ma and Pa were right: their music was better’n mine!

~ Stephen T. McCarthy