Monthly Archives: May 2019

The Art of the Insult, by Mike Baron

THE ART OF THE INSULT

The perfect squelch. The withering put-down. The witty slander that leaves folks gasping in disbelief and delight. D.H. Lawrence on James Joyce: “Stewed-up fragments of quotation in the sauce of a would-be dirty mind.” Winston Churchill: “Unless the right honourable gentleman changes his policy and methods and moves without the slightest delay, he will be as great a curse to this country in peace as he was a squalid nuisance in time of war.” Dorothy Parker: “Their pooled emotions wouldn’t fill a teaspoon.” Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman: “Every word she writes is a lie including ‘and’ and ‘the.’”

High school, for me, was an unending search for the withering put-down. Like Eric Harris, I had no use for humanity and it had no use for me. Unlike Eric, I lacked that black toxin which caused him to mow down a dozen classmates before turning the gun on himself. I used to memorize what I considered witty put-downs. Many young men go through a phase where alienation causes them to judge harshly. Most of them grow out of it.

However, Facebook breaths new life into this adolescent movement. There’s something about Facebook that brings out the worst in people. They say things on Facebook they wouldn’t dream of saying to your face. You actually have to struggle to keep a thread on track without degenerating into I posted that Lady Gaga had killed it at the Superbowl, and within twenty posts it had degenerated into “Fuck you!” No! Fuck YOU!”

Serial insulters are witherers. Wither the witherer? The latest rage seems to be fabricating faux nineteenth century insults without the wit. “Hoofwanking bunglecunt” has a certain cachet, as does “twatwaffle” But it has no meaning. Oh insult, where is thy sting?

They will never replace the classics. “Fuck you!” “No! Fuck YOU!”

My friends, I have five rules for arguing on Facebook. 1: No sarcasm. 2: No personal attacks. 3: Be brief. 4: Keep your sense of humor. 5: Know when to quit.

Boxing Movies by Mike Baron

BOXING MOVIES

Most boxing films follow a familiar pattern. Hubris, devastating defeat, introspection, begging the reluctant trainer to participate, inspirational training sequence, vindication and triumph. This has been the pattern for virtually every Rocky movie and Creed II is no exception. I enjoyed it, but it was all deja vu. Part of sports’ movies appeals is that we know what to expect. The underdog will triumph, even if the underdog is heavyweight champ when the movie begins. The highlights were Bianca’s unexpected introductory song prior to the climactic fight, and Brigitte Nielsen’s cameo.

Antoine Fuqua’s Southpaw follows the same pattern, but it is more entertaining due to unconventional twists and Jake Gyllenhall’s ferocious performance. The exceptions are more interesting because of how they deviate from formula. Chuck, starring Liev Schreiber as Chuck Wepner, the Bayonne Bleeder, who found himself fighting Muhammad Ali almost by accident, is as unconventional as it gets, focusing not on his boxing career, but his home life as a regular guy who lucks out, and dines on his luck for the rest of his life.

Bleed For This, a biopic of Vinnie Paz, is different because of Paz’ remarkable story. He broke his neck in an auto accident, was told he would never fight again, and regained the lightweight title by beating Roberto Duran.

The Set-Up, starring Robert Ryan, is a film noir masterpiece. Ryan’s character is no champ, just a journeyman asked to take a fall in his last fight.

The Harder They Fall, Bogart’s last movie, is a cynical look at the corrupt fight racket featuring Rod Steiger as a fast-talking con man. Should be on everybody’s list.

Music VS Muzik by Mike Baron

MUSIC VS MUZIK

There is music, and there is muzik. You know music when you hear it. The Beatles. Beethoven. The Beat. Melody, harmony, and rhythm arranged in a way to create joy, sorrow, excitement. A dynamic arrangement of sounds that provide not only entertainment, but catharsis and often trigger introspection about all aspects of life.

Then there is muzik, a commercial product that serves as aural wallpaper at best, and an irritant at worst. Anyone who logs into Comcast’s On Demand knows what I’m talking about. Insidious little phrases, sometimes riffs, that repeat endlessly and go nowhere. Some elevators still use them. Their commercial name is Muzak. But it is not music. It it is to music what the zombies in a Bela Lugosi movie are to real human beings. Moving but lifeless. Television theme songs are mostly real music, but the background sounds they play are not.

Many people collect film soundtracks and play them while they work, because the soundtracks remind them of the emotions they experienced while watching the film. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with it. Some of those soundtracks, like American Graffiti or Guardians of the Galaxy are rife with real music. Popular music is just as vital and important as the classics. But when you hear Bernard Herrmann’s groaning soundtracks to Hitchock, or Taxi Driver, those are mostly sounds designed to evoke a feeling, often a feeling of dread. Herrmann does it with ominous chords. Is it music? Music is in the ear of the behearer. I would rather listen to the Beatles.

Florida Man Novel, Chapter Forty-Four by Mike Baron

CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR

They booked Krystal into the Glades County Jail Friday afternoon. The bored woman cop who fingerprinted her said without looking up, “Look who’s back.”

“Nice to see you too, Edna.”

A matron wearing blue latex gloves walked her back to the big holding cell, steel benches bolted to the floor, holding a dozen women. Two huddled in a corner. Six sat rapt in front of the flat screen TV behind the chain mesh grill tuned to The Shopping Channel. The other four sat by themselves. As the door slammed shut behind Krystal, a big, wiry black woman who looked like she played pro basketball stared at her in amazement. For an instant, Krystal thought she was going to get in a fight, but the woman’s expression morphed into delight.

She came right up. “Ain’tchoo the Black Dildo?”

Krystal put a hand to her face. “I am so embarrassed.”

“What for, girl! You should hold your head up! I watched that video myself about a dozen times, and everybody I know loves it! They should give you some kind of medal!”

The woman turned to the room. “Hey! Y’all know who this is? This is the Black Dildo!”

She grabbed Krystal’s hand and held it up like the winner of a fight.

Every woman except one sad soul in the corner stood and applauded.

“ALL RIGHT!

“YOU GO, GIRL!”

They crowded around, reaching out to touch her as if she had special properties.

“How you like that big black cock?” asked a wan white woman with a blue neck tat.

“It was a wedding gift. I got me a real man. I don’t need no lady’s aid.”

“I hear that!” whooped one.

A dyke with a shaved skull and a nose ring closed in. “You swing my way?”

Krystal smiled. “Nope. Sorry!”

The basketball player stuck out her mitt. “Airwrecka Jones.”

“Krystal Duba.” They shook. Then everybody else wanted to shake, high-five and fist bump.

Airwrecka pushed people back. “All right, all right, give her room. Whatchoo in for?”

“I tried to buy wine with my food stamps. So they called the manager and I threw a frozen lobster at him. Then the cops chased me and I went into a canal.”

Airwrecka nodded sagely. “Been there myself. Now look here. You got name recognition, girl. I don’t know who put up that video, but you a private person. You got the right to your own video. People will pay big bucks to advertise. You got a youtube channel?”

“No.”

“Who put up that video?”

Suddenly, Krystal saw things clearly. “Jen. Jen put up the video.”

“Who Jen?”

“My best friend.”

“She ax your permission?”

Now Krystal was getting mad. “You’re right! That’s me on the video. I didn’t give her no permission!”

“You should sue her.”

“No, she ain’t got shit. What I should do is take over ownership of that video and start selling ads, like you said.”

“Now you’re talkin’. Now omma do your hair.”

A female guard came up to the gate. “Duba, it’s your call.”

Krystal perked right up. “Who? What?”

“It’s your turn. You get one phone call.”

The guard accompanied Krystal to a wall phone where she phoned her mother.

“Trixie, it’s Krystal. I’m in jail again.”

“Whazzat you on the news?”

“What for?”

“Crazy lady waving a lobster.”

“Yeah. Can you bail me out?”

“How much?”

“A thou.”

“Jesus, Krystal honey, I ain’t got that kind of money and neither does Stanton. Did you call Gary?”

“Gary’s out of the country right now. You call him. He should be back this evening.”

“What do you mean out of the country?”

“He took a job to fly down to Mexico City and bring something back.”

“What do you mean, bring something back? He ain’t involved in drugs now, is he?”
“Of course not! It’s just a favor for a friend.”

“Well I’ll try him right away, but he ain’t got any money neither.”

When Krystal got back to the holding cell, Airwrecka went to work braiding her hair into corn rows, using a comb. First she washed Krystal’s hair in the stainless steel sink, using liquid soap from a dispenser in the wall.

“Then I part the hair in rows from front to back,” she explained as she went to work. “Then I divide the first row into three small sections, and make the first braid stitch…”

“How do you know this?”

“I got a degree from the Fuhrman School of Cosmetology in Miami. I’m licensed to braid, dye, cut, and curl. I been workin’ at Miss Thing’s Hair Salon down in South Miami.”

“How’d you end up here?”

“Girl, that’s a long story.”

“We ain’t goin’ anywhere.”

“That’s true. Well my man Graham come up with a plan to sell pedigreed papillons.”

“Oh I love papillons!”

“Me too. They are so sweet. Anyhow, what I din’ know, Graham was making up those pedigrees himself. He’s a printer, see, so he knows how to make up all sorts of things. Fake certificates and documents, things like that. He just did it as a goof for his friends all these years, you know, when someone retirin’, they ax Graham to make up a certificate World’s Biggest Crybaby, or World Fart Champion. He make up all these impressive seals and things, you look at ‘em you swear they’re real. There’s elected officials who have Graham’s certificates on their walls and they don’t even know they’re fake.”

“Where’d he get the pups?”

“Well Graham knew a lady breeds ‘em from painting her house. These was unplanned pregnancies. Her papillon and a schnauzer. That’s what tipped ‘em off I think. Those Papillons they didn’t look quite right. They call ‘em ‘Butterfly Dogs’ on accounta the ears, but these here, they was more like moth dogs or somethin’. Anyway, they had moth ears.”

“I told him, Graham. You may as well make up new certificates that say these here are Moth Dogs, and you tell ‘em it’s a new breed, and you’re waiting to hear from the American Kennel Club ‘bout recognition. But he says to me, don’t you worry about it, sweet thing. These people don’t know a Chiuahaha from a pitbull. ‘Cept he was wrong about that, and when this lady tried to verify her pup’s pedigree, the AKC set her straight.

“Graham was ready to give her her money back, but no. She wants to go on Judge Judy. So we got tickets for the show. You can bring one guest. So we fly out there, they put us up in a nice hotel, and then we do the show. She was a nasty bitch, that woman who sued Graham. Her name was Nancy Something, from Palm Beach. She just nasty. She makin’ all sortsa racist comments and shit. She brings the dog. Judge Judy looks at that dog and says, ‘I know dogs. And that’s no Papillon. Judgment for the plaintiff for five thousand dollars. Step out, please.’”

“But that was in Los Angeles,” Krystal said, trying to keep up.

“I know it was, but then I saw that bitch down at the Quik-Mart last night and I put her on her ass.”