In the Penile Colony

"In the Penile Colony" was originally published, in August 2015, in Word Riot, a publication that seems to be defunct. Note: this story has been altered or updated since its original publication. If you like it, you might like to read it inside a book instead of on this website, in which case you should procure a copy of The War on Xmas. There just aren't many places where you can steal it. It will never be for sale at War-Mart, so stealing it will always be immoral. This is why I have the sliding payment scale option in the bookstore.

If we had lived in a godless, socialist country like Finland we would have been fine, but here in the land of Family Values our marriage could not survive paying for preschool. We were not like the Patagonias, who toured the school with us in their matching down jackets and drove away in their silver Lexus. We were Wash. Park interlopers, working class people who refused to admit we couldn’t give our children the lower-middle class upbringing we had enjoyed.

It was actually cheaper to shuttle Connal, our boy, out of Westwood, the sort of neighborhood most Denverites only know of, if they know of it at all, as a place to avoid, to a Montessori school in lovelier, swankier, tidier, gang-free Washington Park. The school was nicer and higher-rated than the one in our neighborhood, and cheaper because their rent was insanely low. Yes, Connal—I fought for the name, pagan, Irish, strong, rare. It means “powerful wolf.” I am aware that children will call him Connalingus, but I expect that to work in his favor when he enters high school. For the record, I am not a pagan (more like a provisional deist, like Brett Gurewitz, E.O. Wilson, and Thomas Paine) but repelled by the combative, culture war Christianity of my youth. Before all this started we had been flirting with Unitarianism, which provides the spiritual comfort and sense of community of Christianity without the gaybashing.

I moved to Denver in 2009 with my band, The Magic Skinflutes. We were a hillbilly noise group out of Stillwater, sort of Slanted and Enchanted-era Pavement blended with Ray Wylie Hubbard. We had a modest following but never made it big, even though, maybe because, our only full-length album was reviewed in Pitchfork: “If Scott Kannberg raped an inbred Appalachian, and their offspring recorded an album while simultaneously being waterboarded and trying to pass a gallstone, the result would sound exactly like Ghetto Palm.” We named the record after the tree of heaven I found growing from a small crack in the concrete patio in my back yard. Westwood is a hidden gem, albeit a common, low-value gem like quartz, and I love it. It’s affordable, seemingly ungentrifiable. White people have been trickling in, but not the hip and rich. It’s an odd neighborhood, neglected by the rest of the city, including the people responsible for running the city. It still has several dirt alleys (which I like). People keep roosters, in violation of the city’s rules on chickens. Three-fourths of the carports are in violation of city building code. The bicycle path goes nowhere; it zigs, it zags, and it disappears. There’s too much graffiti and too much trash, but we are happily free from the terror of yard Nazis and covenant control. My biggest complaints were the fireworks, which I got used to, and the street racing, which reminded me of Oklahoma, as did the men who dressed up in tight jeans, boots, and cowboy hats on Saturday nights. In the years I lived in Westwood, I pulled up hundreds of these trees, all over my yard. In China the tree of heaven is known as the foul-smelling tree; here it is a weed tree whose annual growth can be measured in feet instead of inches and that is often found in poor, often toxic neighborhoods with little botanical diversity. Hence its nickname: ghetto palm. The reviewer particularly hated one of my favorite lines, from a song called “Kate”: “I found a tick on my perineum that reminded me of you.”

It’s easy to have principles, but hard to stick to them. I’m an American, which means I don’t submit to urine tests, especially to go work at Target or Costco. I don’t do drugs, so I would pass the test, get the job; that’s not the issue. I may be a whore, but I’m not a sellout. The business fundamentalists want to keep government out of business. Well, I want to keep everyone who’s got no business there—the government, Office Depot—out of my urethra. So after the band broke up I found a gig pedaling a pedicab, a bicycle taxi. I hauled tourists all around downtown. The pay was not great, about $12,000 a year, but it kept me in shape. There were no benefits, other than the ability to live by my principles, set my own hours, and stay home with my child during the day.

“We’re going to have to come up with an extra $970 a month,” my wife, a fifth-grade language arts teacher, reminded me after we got a packet in the mail from the preschool, four months before he was due to start. “And there’s a $250 materials fee. And they finally cashed the deposit, so there’s only about $150 in the checking.”

When a potential employer spots a gap in your work history, he just assumes you spent that time in prison. It doesn’t matter if you were backpacking the Continental Divide Trail with your childhood best friend who is dying from cancer, or if you were volunteering teaching adults who were failed by their country how to read; as far as the reader of your résumé is concerned, you’re a jailbird, unhirable. The longer the period of unemployment, the harder it is to get an interview, let alone a job. I tried. I let Connal watch four hours of Wild Kratts while I sent out my résumé and cover letters. I stayed up late every night for two weeks applying for dozens of jobs. My schedule was an obstacle. With my education, a mere bachelor’s degree in biology, and spotty work history, there was no way I was going to land a nine-to-five job that would pay enough for us to afford Connal’s preschool and send Elle to a non-abusive daycare, unless I wanted to join the oil-and-gas industry, in which case it would have made more sense to just murder my children and save myself the trouble of trying to build a future for them, so I could only apply for jobs with odd hours, and they all required urine tests. Weekend barista at Starbucks—urine test. Home health worker—urine test. Overnight security guard at a marijuana grow house—urine test. I feel like I should repeat that last one, with some italics: overnight security guard at a marijuana grow house—urine test.

Fortunately, there was no urine test required to become a minimum-wage-earning sign spinner for a marijuana dispensary on Alameda, a weekend gig offering two six-hour shifts, rain or shine, blizzard or heat wave. Why is it that people tolerate sign spinners but hate panhandlers? Both just stand there and hold a sign. There are some superficial differences. Panhandlers usually fly signs made out of cardboard, while the sign spinners usually have flashier signs with loud graphics and bright colors. Then there is the actual spinning, which can get pretty fancy and hypnotic. But fundamentally, they are the same jobs. They’re both advertising. Sign spinners advertise things like tattoo shops, cheap pizza that tastes like cardboard, and marijuana, while panhandlers advertise inequality. I applied and got the job, which wouldn’t even get us halfway to the extra $970 a month we needed.

“I can pedal every night this summer. Donate plasma. Donate sperm.”


The sperm idea was moot anyway. The people most in need of the extra money from sperm donation make the worst candidates. The infertile want rich sperm, from successful men, not poor sperm from struggling artists and failed musicians. But I’m not failed; you’re only failed when you stop trying.

“I can turn tricks on Colfax.”

She laughed, a bit too hard for my taste, and said, “If you can make $970 a month, then do it.”


It wasn’t as simple as shaking my callipygian moneymaker on Colfax. I had to go on the internet. I thought I would have to cozy up to some hacker who could serve as my Virgil in the infernal Deep Web, but all I had to do was head to Craigslist, where less than twenty minutes of searching got me connected to a company called Gentlemen of Pleasure. They maintained an elegant website and offered a free app for tech-savvy clients. The gentlemen posted their pictures, along with brief profiles, and the ladies browsed and set up an appointment with the gentleman of their choice. It was beautifully simple. When a lady chose me, my phone beeped.

No urine test was required; I just had to look pretty. I’m not Zac Efron, but I was in top cycling shape. I had my teeth whitened the next day and then sent in my photo and created a profile, and two nights later I had my first date. I had lied about my age. Thanks to sunscreen, exercise, clean living, and a less-than-thirty-hour workweek, I am young-looking, like Kafka, especially when clean-shaven. I know guys my age, especially back home, who look like they’re in their fifties. I told the agency I was twenty-five. That first night I earned $600 for four hours work, escorting the nice lady, fit, in her forties, to dinner and a show, then back to her room, where I failed to perform and nearly started bawling, so distraught was I over this near betrayal of my wife, even though it was in support of our family. “Sara” thought it was adorable, my overwhelming guilt, and slipped me an extra hundred.

My next client would not be so easy on me. There are a lot of unwritten rules in the male escort industry. One of the big ones is that if you earn a rep for not putting out you won’t get as many clients, and the ones you do get will be weird and bad tippers. “Erin” threatened to leave negative feedback if I didn’t deliver. So I stripped to my boxers and eased her on the bed. “I hope you’re ready for this,” I said with a roiling, guilt-ridden gut. I closed my eyes and pictured my wife. “Oh, I’m ready, baby,” she said in an excited voice. Then, breaking character, she said, “That’s more like it, mister. Keep it up. Pun intended.” Then she resumed her intimate tone: “I’m ready, baby. It’s so wet down there. It’s like a can of peaches.” There is no way the feedback she would have left if I hadn’t put out could have been nearly as negative as the feedback she left after I vomited on her while attempting to perform Saran-guarded oral sex.

I thought I’d spend my whole life in Oklahoma. Then Obama got elected and three of my relatives named their black Lab puppies after him. Don’t believe the politically correct hype: people in the middle of the country are as racist as you think they are, not all of them, of course, but more than you’d like to think, and not just old people.

When we moved to Denver, right away we all started hanging out at the Hi-Dive. We played a few gigs there, but mostly we drank and watched the other shows. Nicole, who is thankfully far removed from Denver now, having followed her heart, in hock to a dreadlocked drummer, to Austin, was a bartender there and dated our bass player for about a year. (I played guitar.) She called me the predator. I hadn’t learned that people don’t meet in bars anymore; they meet online and then arrange to meet at a bar. She thought it was weird that I would sit at the bar and drink and talk to women I didn’t know.

“It’s just creepy,” she told me, and she even started warning girls away from me, but Jen didn’t listen. I never dreamed, as I stared into her vodka-clouded blue eyes, how my Ludditic predation would change my life. I bought her some drinks, chatted meaninglessly until the music got too loud for us to talk, asked her on a date, and we went to an exhibit at DAM the next week, followed by dinner at Le Central, and seemingly in an instant I was a thirty-one-year-old stay-at-home dad wondering how to pay for his son’s preschool. Getting a full-time job wasn’t the answer because about a month after he would start preschool Jen would have to go back to work and I would be starting over, staying at home with Elle, who was due in late July. I had hoped to use my month of downtime to work on some new songs, but that is never how it works out. The things, and the women, I would do for my family.

One morning in June, out of nowhere, Connal said to me, “But dad, I don’t want to go to school by myself. I want you and mom and Elle and Ashcroft to come.” Ashcroft was our dog, an adorable and well-intentioned but hopelessly inbred pug. It was heartbreaking. We were in his room playing. Let me amend that: he was playing, and I was lying on the floor in agony, having hauled seven hundred pounds of Texas newlyweds from their hotel to the theater the night before, followed by a date with a generously proportioned young woman who asked to call me Brad and paid $100 to sit on my lap and cry for an hour while I said nice things to her. “You’re pretty.” “You’re a good person.” “God loves you.” “I’m sorry I was mean to you in high school.”

“You’ll love school,” I told Connal.

“But I want to stay with you.”

“You need some socialization. You’ll make so many friends.”

“But I have friends.”

“Your dinosaurs are good friends, but you need some more people friends, too.”

“The diplodocus is my friend.”

“I know, buddy.”

“Pachycephalosaurus is my friend.”

“I know, buddy.”

“Deinonychus is my friend.”

“I know, buddy. He’s my friend, too, and when you go to school you’ll be able to tell all your new friends about your dinosaur friends.”

“And my animals, too?”

“Your animals, too.”

Something adults could learn from children is not to belabor a point. A three-year-old knows when he’s licked and can move on to the next subject. “Where’s your work?” He pointed to the bedroom: “Is that your work?”


The ceiling. “Is that your work?”


“Are you not going to work?”

“Not today. Are you going to work?”


“How lovely.”

It was. I don’t mind working, but I hate jobs, being a wage slave. I’ve always thought jobs are for people who don’t really like spending time with their family. That’s not me. I love my family, and I like being around them. I genuinely like them.

The guilt was eating away at me, eroding my soul as if it was the Constitution and my secret was the Patriot Act. So that night, after Connal had gone to bed, I told Jen.


Why is the idea that other women would want to sleep with their husbands so comical to so many wives?

“I’m serious.”

It took a moment for my revelation to really register.

“You’re serious?”


Never confess a horrible secret to your wife while she is holding a hot iron. We picked up our conversation after I had washed and slathered butter over my burn.

“I just need to do it for a year.”

“A year in which you’re unfaithful to me.”

“I wouldn’t be being unfaithful. I’d just be going to work. It’s like if I was a porn actor. It’s just work.”

“But I never would have married a porn actor.”

“You wouldn’t have fallen in love with me if I was a porn actor?”

“I would have listened to Nicole.”

“You know, people do a lot worse things at their jobs, and it’s considered perfectly acceptable.”

“Like what?”

“Lobbying. Advertising. Pop music.”

“That’s true.”

“I’d rather sell my body than my soul. I can make enough money in a year to cover preschool for both of them, and squirrel away money in savings. This gig has a short shelf life anyway. This”—my toned body—“isn’t going to last forever. I know it’s not ideal. I don’t want to do it. I’m not having fun. But it’s for the children.”

We came to an agreement: no sex and a firm time limit. I would do it for a year, which we hoped would be enough time for me to save enough money to cover a year of preschool for each child. I would not have sex, or any variation thereof, with any of my dates, even if that meant less money. That was really a huge relief for me.


About two weeks before Elle was born and six weeks before Connal was due to start preschool my phone beeped. I was getting steady dates; I even had a few regulars. And there were some weird ones. “Shelly” was a hard-core conservative Christian lesbian who paid me to accompany her to full-frontal strip clubs where I was to act as if I’d dragged her there against her will. She would slip me a large wad of dollar bills before we went in, and then I had to pretend to force the ones upon her to pass on to the strippers, which she preferred to do lip-to-lip, so to speak. “Mary” liked for me to listen to her use the toilet after she had overindulged in Indian food. “Zelda” liked to scream profanities at me while pleasuring herself as I videoed her. That arrangement really pushed the boundaries of my agreement with Jen, but Zelda was an amazing tipper. I wasn’t earning big money because I wasn’t putting out, but it was still more lucrative than sign spinning. At this point, I had earned nearly forty percent of our goal, which meant we had almost enough money to pay for Connal’s year of preschool. I could pull out at any moment and be safe. We would have money for Connal and time to think of a new plan for Elle. I was getting comfortable. A woman named “Nadia” had scheduled a date with me for that night, 7 p.m. at Elway’s. I had never been there, and I couldn’t imagine eating there. I’ve always been bothered by John Elway’s gigantic teeth. But I was bothered much more by the picture of Nadia. My wife is beautiful, but Nadia was another level of beautiful; she was legitimately pulchritudinous (good album name). Blond, tall, athletic, alluring—here was a woman who could tempt me. With the others it was relatively easy to be faithful; attractive as some of them were, my wife was always more attractive. Nadia, though, she would almost make it worthwhile to lose your home and family.

She was even more pulchritudinous in person. Elway’s was interesting—not that you care; you want to get to the juicy part. (I’ll be honest with you: I did, too; at least part of me did.) After dinner she took me back to her room, didn’t invite me, just took me. She was staying in a former mansion that was now a bed and breakfast. “I’d like to give you a bonus,” she said. “Say $500?”


“I won’t make you work too hard for it.”

She disappeared into the bathroom, then emerged a few minutes later wearing lacy underwear that redefined the word “skimpy.”

“There’s a condom in that drawer.”

“The thing is . . . .”

“Don’t you want your bonus?”


“$500 for real quick sex. Most guys would be willing to pay me $500 for what I’m about to do to you.”

She placed her hand on my chest, let it slide south.

“I thought so,” she said as she leaned into me. And the front door opened and two large black-suited men strode in, handcuffed me, and informed me that I was under arrest. I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking about this recently, and I can confirm that the most embarrassing thing that can happen to a man is to get arrested while suffering from a painful, raging, unappeasable erection.

We had been informed of ways to protect ourselves from the feds. Don’t accept a date until the Jane has entered her credit card information (something the feds can’t do). Never explicitly agree to take payment for sex. (Apparently an erection can be legally considered as a substitute for verbal consent.) But I had gotten comfortable and lazy because I wasn’t putting out. I also figured the feds had better things to do with their time and resources than bust a high-class sex worker who didn’t even have sex with his clients, what with all the sex traffickers, drug kingpins, gangsters, and terrorists running amok. Of course, those people all have big weapons and no consciences, while I was low-hanging fruit.

The feds took all my gigolo money, but my parents sent bond money. The feds wanted to flip me and take down the other Gentlemen of Pleasure, but there are some lines I won’t cross. Not just urine tests; I also won’t rat on people who don’t deserve it. This meant I would go to prison, minimum security. I spent nearly two years there, managing to remain faithful to Jen, who basically was forced to divorce me and take the children; otherwise they would have become wards of the state. I was in a putrid jail cell, what smelled like a home for wayward farts, waiting for the paperwork on the bond to be settled so I could be there when my daughter was born, when my daughter was born. I was born to be a father. Aside from playing guitar, it’s the only thing I’ve ever been good at. But I am not there to read to my children. I am not there to change Elle’s diapers. I am not there to sing “Dock of the Bay” so Connal can go to sleep.

This is a stupid country, where a racist rancher can rally thousands of supporters so he can continue to run his cattle on public land in the Nevada desert, land completely unsuitable to cattle, without paying his cut-rate grazing fees, all in the name of fighting Big Government, and a devoted father of two can be entrapped and imprisoned without a whimper of protest from the public. What was even my crime? I did not run around raping those women. They paid me for the pleasure of my company. That may be befuddling to you, but befuddlement is not a crime. I don’t understand why people pay for bottled water when they could drink tap water for free. I’m befuddled by it. Yet I don’t demand that bottled water be outlawed in the name of morality. I’m not a highly political person, but class warfare is one thing that will set me off. I’m a Teddy Roosevelt, Square Deal type of guy. I like for people to get a fair shake. And when it comes to prostitution, no one gets a fair shake, except for rich guys. Once a month or so in Denver, the police raid Colfax. If you take the time to look through the records, you’ll see they usually hit Colfax and Vine and Colfax and Gaylord on the east side of town, Colfax and Quitman on the west. They’ll haul in a dozen or so working-class men per spot, usually Hispanic guys. Maybe once a decade they’ll uncover a high-class brothel, and that gets all the attention.

It’s like the people who oppose welfare and raising the minimum wage. You’re setting people up to fail, really to starve or turn to crime. Or the people who oppose abortion and birth control. It’s the same with prostitution. If the government’s not going to legalize prostitution, at least do something to restore the middle class. Don’t drive us to it and then tell us it’s illegal.

After I finally got out on bail, and before I was officially remanded to my second-rate prison, I saw Nadia, whose real name is Amanda Parker, outside the courthouse. “Hey,” I said, “I was thinking, since you ruined my life and all, and left me with the blue balls to boot, we might as well finish what we started. Do the deed. I mean, I’m sleeping in my car tonight, but if you’ve got a hotel room somewhere . . . .”

It was just as well she said no. As it turns out, she had a cock-wilting laugh.

©Alan Good 2018

Magiography: Buff Dick God

Note: This profile in ass-kissing was originally published on September 18, 2017, in a different section of the website. I've moved it here to make room for other stuff.

Ben Garrison made this picture. Think about that the next time you do something stupid. You'll feel better immediately.

Ben Garrison made this picture. Think about that the next time you do something stupid. You'll feel better immediately.

Here's my caption: "You're a 10. It's time to let God into your heart. Or your mouth. Your mouth works too."

I don't need to mess with much analysis; I mainly just want to make fun of this shit. If you want analysis, try this:

The picture above is a screenshot; I'm having trouble finding the original cartoon on Ben Garrison's website, but I will update if I ever track it down. The point is that God is in Trump's junk. Or Trump wears a Speedo with the word "God" on it. If Trump's dick is God, then what happens when Trump dies? Is God dead again then? Is Old Testament God hard and New Testy God limp? So many questions!

Garrison has made some bizarre Trump-worshipping cartoons, but what fascinates me about this image is that if I could draw I would make this exact cartoon as a parody of the way Trump people view their magnificent leader, as a way to say they care very little about policy, they mainly just want a buff dick god who will tell everybody what to do. (Everybody except them.) Liberals are too free sometimes with the Fascism label, but Trump is clearly an authoritarian figure and his sycophantic supporters clearly want an authoritarian figure, a strong man who will protect them and come in their mouths. They don't see Trump as a person but as a god, and his pudgy earthly form is just an illusion, and only true believers can see his true Herculean physique. Such would be the implications of my caricature; yet here is Garrison presenting what I would intend as mean-spirited parody of Trumpers as his earnest view of Trump. See, I would be saying, this is what Trump looks like to these fucking people; see, says Garrison, this is what Trump looks like to me.

For the record, this is what Trump looks like:

I ripped this image off the website Know Your Meme: 

I ripped this image off the website Know Your Meme:

I try not to make fun of people's weight or bodies, but since the cartoon is so much about Trump's body, I have to point out that he is not in great shape. He's certainly not ripped. If Trump is your image of masculinity, I think you should Google William Howard Taft. 

Two things I love about this cartoon: the detail of Trump's glutes, and that heterosexuality and truth are in Trump's armpits.

I liked Obama well enough, but I never thought he was some dick-god savior. He was the best president of my lifetime, but I've lived through some duds. I'm also aware of his flaws and failures. I've got it easy now, since I'm more comfortable in opposition, so it's easy for me to say that if Hillary Clinton was president I wouldn't be running around saying "Rah-rah Hillary, she of the mystical vagina which has the power to destroy racism and John Birch paranoia," but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be doing that. I hate hero worship in all forms, but I especially hate it when the hero being worshipped is a special level of piece of shit. Maybe I'm stupid, but I've always thought political cartoons are supposed to be satirical, not public brown-nosing.

I've never felt so useless. My only skill is in making fun of people, and every time I come across another person who is just a human caricature I become less relevant.

©Alan Good 2017


Christmas 2017

There once was humanity's savior,
who spoke about moral behavior,
goodness and kindness—
that's all behindness,
now Jesus has fallen from favior.

Note against misinterpretation: some readers could conclude that I think the problems in society all stem from people not having Jesus in their hearts or not going to church, but when I say "Jesus has fallen from favior" I mean he, and his basic teachings, has fallen out of favor with many, many people who purport to love, worship, and follow him. I don't like to write essays, but I guess I'm OK with excessive footnotes to silly poems. Sorry to get serious all of a sudden. I am an ex-Catholic agnostic. I don't care about religion in and of itself. It doesn't suit me, but I don't see any problems with people being religious or loving Jesus, God, Buddha, Allah, or any other deity. I enjoy some Christopher Hitchens, but I am not an anti-theist, and I don't share the view that religion is inherently bad or regressive. However, if you don't see how religion is often harnessed by fanatics, demagogues, and the powerful, you can probably stop reading. I'm not going to convince you. I don't believe that Jesus was divine, which is something I have in common with Thomas Jefferson. Like Jefferson, I believe in the wisdom and goodness of much of Jesus's teachings. I disagree with some, I am quite bothered by some, but I'm on board with the majority of his teachings. I mention Thomas Jefferson because he's a key figure in the culture war that, should my side lose, will spell the end of enlightenment, freedom, and democracy. The biggest threat to Christianity comes not from atheists, Muslims, or Hollywood, but from the types of Christians who insist that Thomas Jefferson, and all the founders of the United States, were Christians. Some of them were Christian. Some were deists, believers in a Creator who doesn't take much interest in human activity beyond the initial act of creation. Jefferson most certainly was not a Christian. He respected Jesus, but even if he tended to describe himself as a Christian he fails the fundamental test of Christianity: he did not believe Jesus Christ is the literal son of God. No one who rejects the divinity of Christ can be considered a Christian. This is not speculation. This is not subjective. It is a matter of record. Jefferson openly stated his opinion, and he went so far as to create The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, often referred to as the Jefferson Bible, a collection of Jesus's teachings with all references to the supernatural cut out. The Christian nation narrative pushed by so many Christian conservatives relies on the myth that this country was founded as a Christian country, based on Christian teachings, by Christians. If you allow that some of our founders were not Christian, the claim that the U.S. is a Christian nation crumbles. So its adherents rewrite history by arguing that Jefferson and all the founders were explicitly Christian. This narrative represents a threat to non-Christians, democracy, and liberty, as well as to Christianity itself. I don't dispute that the U.S. is majority Christian, but we are not a Christian nation in the sense that our laws are explicitly Christian laws or anything like that. I regard such a view as both un-American and dangerous, a threat to my personal liberty. I have no desire to destroy Christianity, or even to undermine Christianity, but I will fuck you up if you try to impose religious laws on me, my family, my neighbors, my compatriots. Religious freedom is not, as people like Ted Cruz want you to believe, about Christians being able to make laws based on Scripture or Christians being allowed to discriminate against supposedly unChristian groups. We—by we I mean not liberals or atheists but non-fanatics—need to reclaim the term "religious freedom." Whenever you hear a news story in which the phrase is used to describe an instance in which a religious person is attempting to impose or enforce his narrow religious beliefs, you should write a letter to the editor or the ombudsman, reminding them what "religious freedom" really means. Religious freedom is about individuals having the freedom to choose which religion, if any, to belong to, and to be free from the constraints of religions to which they don't wish to adhere. Here is Thomas Jefferson on the matter, in a well-known passage from Notes on the State of Virginia: "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg" (quoted from Early American Writing, ed. Giles Gunn, 440-41). It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there is a God, and as long as he doesn't try to compel me submit to the will of his God, we don't have a problem. 

The loudest, most pigheaded Christians have made their religion unappealing, and if you care to look up some polls on how young Americans feel about religion you might see that this is true. More importantly, they pervert their faith. Christianity, in its best form, is a very American religion: it's about love and tolerance. But the theocratic wing, of which the infamous Roy Moore is an extreme example, makes it about whiteness, straightness, purity, being superior to the infidels. They cannot be described as simple Biblical literalists, for they do not love their neighbors, welcome strangers, or (we can be grateful for this one) murder fortune tellers. They're just self-important, simple-minded, close-minded, self-serving assholes. If that was all I wouldn't bother talking about them, but they reject science, they require conformity, they desire power, they are dangerous. If you were to compare the writings of an Al-Qaeda-linked religious philosopher and a right-wing Christian fundamentalist, with all references to the name of their religion and their God blacked out, you might find it difficult to identify which text belonged to which dangerous religious extremist. I've said this before, but I have a small enough audience that I can say it again: religion is good when it's used for good, bad when it's used for bad ends. People get worked up about abortions and gay marriage because those are easy issues. It requires no effort to say you're against abortion. For many people in many communities, there's very little social pressure to support abortion rights: in general, one's friends and family and peers are likely to agree. I am a liberal, pro-feminism nonbeliever. I have no political or religious incentive to be against abortion, but I will say that abortion makes me very uncomfortable. I think abortion should be legal, but I don't like it. I don't like the way people talk about it, too frequently glib or abstract on one side, gruesome and absolutist and downright stupid on the other. I think men should be allowed to have opinions about abortion. I think we, through our government, through nonprofits and schools, through our relationships, should do everything we can to reduce the number of abortions that are performed in this country. Those so-called pro-lifers who rail against abortion, who call my side baby-killers, are complicit. The Catholic Church is complicit. If you are against abortion and you are against condoms and other forms of birth control, if you're against teaching young people how to fuck responsibly, you're complicit, a base hypocrite destined for the eighth circle of Hell. You're creating a system designed to create unwanted, unplanned pregnancies, a system that harms young women and young families, that treats unborn children not as precious but as an electoral commodity, that benefits only disingenuous politicians who run for office on an anti-abortion platform and do nothing, when they're in power to really reduce abortion rates because if they actually did something useful to reduce abortion rates they'd have no wedge issue to run on and distract voters from the many shitty horrible things they're doing with their power. I don't like abortion because I don't believe in an afterlife, so ending a potential life before it has a chance to live—that bothers me. I don't presume to judge women who have had abortions. It's not a choice I would want to make. It's not the government's choice to make. If you want to end abortion, stop trying to outlaw it, and start making this a country where abortion is less necessary or appealing.

For years we heard the talk that Predident Obama was secretly a Muslim. This was a two-pronged attack. They were saying he was un-Christian and therefore un-American. It was also a way to further otherize him based in his skin. Donald Trump rode the Obama-is-a-Muslim wave to the White House, but no one seriously believes Donald Trump is a Christian. Christian support for Trump is a Machiavellian calculation. Trump is the means to an end. The end is Christian rule, Saudi America.

Let's play a game: Who said it, Jesus or Bernie Sanders?

1. "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven."

2. "While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

3. "Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need."

Answers: Jesus, Eugene Debs, Jesus. Sorry I tricked you with Bernie Sanders, but I needed someone with more name recognition than Eugene Debs.

If you are a Christian, that's good, I respect your faith, and I encourage you to shut the fuck up about gay people and abortion and start worrying about homeless people, immigrants, the poor, the most vulnerable, the people Pope Francis talks about the most.

How Barack Banned Christmas

A FOX NEWS Christmas Tale

Every host
Down at Fox News
Liked Christmas a lot . . .

But Barack,
Who was never on Fox News,
Did NOT!

Barack hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Which hosts at Fox News all regarded as treason.
It could be, they hinted, that his head’s not on right.
It could be he hates Christmas cuz he’s not White.
Aha!, said the hosts. He’s an Atheist or ‘e
Is MUSLIM—O Glory—we just broke the story!

Whatever the reason,
His skin or his views,
He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating Fox News.
“I need a plan,” he said, “to ban Christmas so
I’ll hang pretty lights and I’ll hang mistletoe!
I’ll say Merry Christmas—I won’t say Holidays!
I’ll say Merry Christmas in so many ways!
MERRY Christmas! And so it don’t sound like mockings
I’ll say it while hanging up Christmas-y stockings!
I’ll say it on TV! To improve the optics
I’ll say it to Christians from Baptists to Coptics!”

The Fox Newsian hosts knew his plan was a ploy,
A dastardly plot for Barack to deploy
Liberal agendas such as Death Panels and . . .
A BAN on Christmas in this Christian-y land.
“Not,” said the Foxer who got paid the most highly,
“On my watch,” proclaimed the great great Bill O’Reilly.
That night while good children did dream in their beds
Of opening up toy guns to shoot pretend Reds
Bill O’Reilly was plotting a plot of his own,
A plot to save Christmas, which O’Reilly alone
Of ALL of mankind could hope to ever ever
Achieve or accomplish or even endeavor.

And so to save Christmas from anti-God PC
Culture he flew in his jet down to DC.
He sneaked into the White House, with its phony cheer,
And said, “No, sir. Not here. No no NO! Not this year!”
And then he enacted his masterful plan,
A plan to discover Barack’s Holy Quran!
He looked in the cupboards, he looked in the drawers,
He looked in the bathrooms while down on all fours.
He looked inside offices round, square, and oval.
He was tiring and bored and growing less hopeval,
But then from outside and just all of a sudden
He heard a loud BUMP and a CRASH and a THUD in
The famously famous and rosy Rose Garden.
His nerve he did steel and his heart he did harden—
He looked, he saw, lying there in red pajama
S, Mr. Barack Hussein “Osama” OBAMA!
However, Bill learned, when he looked a bit closer,
That Christmas-hater was a Santa Claus poseur.
Obama looked up and said, “Oh, hey there, Billy.
Lend me a hand up. I sure do feel silly.
I was trying to climb down with this sack of presents.
I’m ever so grateful for your Foxy presence.”
Bill O’Reilly was outraged, and irked, mad, and vexed!
If this travesty stood—O good Lord! O what next?
This was mater’al for his next No-Spin rant, a—
Who’d ever have thunk it?—a damn BLACK man Santa?!
Bill flew from the White House in righteous ‘dignation
And flew back to New York to inform the nation
That Christmas was ruined and forever tarnished.
He spoke with a truth raw and real and unvarnished.
So Christmas was canceled, so Barack got his ban,
But Jesus came down and He installed a White Man
Back inside the White House, thus returning honor
To this re-great country. Barack . . . was a goner.

Bill was a hero, but he came out a victim,
For PC enforcers fought back and they licked ‘im.
They invented the rusiest, sleaziest ruse
To gotcha O’Reilly, get him BANNED from Fox News
By spreading—NO not cheer, but cruel yet true tales
Of harassment by Bill and his owner, Rog Ailes.

O’Reilly’s forgotten, might even be dead now—
Shhhhhh! White Santa’s coming so get off to bed now!
Give thanks to who vanquished that Barack-ly Grumpus,

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL! (‘cept for Muslims and gays,
Dems, fems, and heathens who say Happy Holidays).
But to conservytive Christians—and certain Jews—
Merry MERRY Christmas from your friends at Fox News!

©Alan Good 2017

Tips for Trump Supporters Who Want to Pretend to Themselves They're Still Christian

It may seem like an oxymoron and no doubt it will be used as an example by all the major dictionary publishers under their definitions of “oxymoron,” but you can be a Christian Trump supporter!

"Donald Trump is a fucking oxymoron." —Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

"Donald Trump is a fucking oxymoron." —Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

However, in this new political climate of amoral leadership and blatantly phony religious faith, your standard variety of cognitive dissonance will only get you so far. Trump supporters who want to identify as Christian are going to need a little extra help in order to get through this presidency without feeling like pawns of Satan and crumbling like the foundations of our moribund democracy under the weight of the unavoidable guilt stemming from their blind support of a racist, narcissistic, heretical sexual predator for president. Trumpers, when the truth comes rushing at you in a tidal wave of sorrow and regret, just use whatever combination that works of the following tips to shove those inconvenient feelings back into the vacuum of your soul.

  1. Make “I did it for the babies” your mantra. You can’t pretend like Trump didn’t cause a bunch of abortions—actually you totally can pretend that Trump didn’t cause a bunch of abortions or rape teenage girls and throw abortion money at them because we live in an age where whatever you want to believe is the truth can absolutely be the truth and anyone who contradicts you can be dismissed with the phrase “Fake News” so it really doesn’t matter how many times he’s been divorced and remarried or how many times he cheated on his wives or how many women he abused, assaulted, and raped because Trump claims he’s against abortion and that makes him a moral figure!

  2. Absolutely do not think about the babies that aren’t getting conceived because decent people don’t want to bring new life into the nightmare reality Christian Trump voters helped create.

  3. You might feel racist for supporting him sometimes if you pay attention to anything Trump says or does but just remember that while racism is bad and definitely un-Christian it’s not racist if you don’t even regard whatever group you’re being racist against as human so you’re good.

  4. Even if global warming turns out to be true and we could have done something about it instead of electing a fucking moron who thinks science is a hoax, the sun is still going to die one day and that will be the end of life on Earth anyway, assuming the Yellowstone supervolcano doesn’t kill us all first.

  5. Even if Trump gets us into a nuclear war with North Korea that all but destroys life on Earth, global warming was going to do that anyway.

  6. When Trump goads North Korea into firing missiles at the U.S., take comfort in the knowledge that they’ll strike major cities first and most of the people—even the babies and the preborns—who die will be pro-choice.

  7. Tell yourself that if Trump should resign, be impeached, or die because the power tie he uses during autoerotic asphyxiation is just too damn powerful, then Mike Pence will become president and the nightmare reality will only really harm gay people.

  8. When Congress does fuck-all to protect Dreamers and Trump tells ICE to start rounding up and deporting people who were brought to the United States at a young age and have known it as their home for their entire lives even if they’re not technically citizens, you might feel some pangs. You might even hear a voice, the voice of decency and compassion you can usually drown out with talkradio, quoting these words that Jesus Christ spoke two thousand years ago and that are memorialized in Mark 12:31: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Just say, “I’d sure love myself a free trip to Mexico!” and turn up Laura Ingraham.

  9. So Trump, with your help and support, is emboldening white supremacists and alt-nazis, using his presidential power to benefit his business and reduce his tax burden, undermining attempts to protect our air and water and natural resources and mitigate the coming horrors of climate change, attacking public lands and sacred sites, sabotaging our democratic institutions, amplifying disinformation in order to create a propaganda state, retweeting Fascists, turning Americans against each other, ruining football, and increasing tensions with the only world leader more dangerous than himself—at least we’re allowed to say “Merry Christmas” again and that’s all you ever wanted.


©Alan Good 2017

A Real American's Guide to Knowing When to Believe Allegations of Sexual Assault

Disclaimer: this guide is satirical. If you actually follow this formula you're a piece of shit and you probably think "MAGA" is a word.

With all these allegations of sexual assault floating around like the creepy debris in The Upside Down it can be difficult to know what to think, whom to believe, whom to hate. That's why I've come up with a handy formula that red-blooded Real Americans can use to verify the legitimacy of sexual abuse allegations. It's simple: if a woman accuses a Democrat or a Hollywood figure you dislike or some other elitist of the cultural or coastal (but not the economic) variety of sexual assault, believe her. If a woman accuses a Republican of sexual assault, the bitch is lying out her whatever.

Of course, not everything is black and white. Some situations will fall in the gray area, which is why I also created the following thought experiments because you shouldn't have to feel conflicted when people you admire are accused of being abusive perverts.

Let's start with an easy one: a woman accuses a Democratic senator of pinching her buttocks without her permission. He claims to remember the incident differently but apologizes because in hindsight what he did was still inappropriate. Whom do you believe? Easy: the woman is a hero and the libcuck rapist pedophile needs to resign!

Also easy: a dozen underage women accuse a Republican senator of molesting them. First off, it's best to assume any accusation against a Republican is just a smear campaign coordinated by Nancy Pelosi, Satan, and the man-hating Mainstream Media, but for form's sake we'll still work out the solution logically. So what do you do? Ask yourself this question: does he deny it? If he denies it it didn't happen. Ergo, the bitches are lying! They're just mad because Hillary lost the election. Plus age of consent should be left to the states. My dad had a saying when I was growing up: "Old enough to bleed, old enough to breed." Mother nature always knows more than some bureaucrat, so let’s let biology and not Big Government regulate sexual relations.

You hear allegations that a celebrity has groped a number of women and used his size to block them from leaving a room so they can't avoid his unwanted penis display. He's probably an elitist but you still want to like him because he has a new movie coming out that you really want to see. What's the right call? Tough one. In this situation, I recommend you play it by ear. Are the feminazis on Twitter piling on him? It might be safe to still watch his movie because he's probably on your side now. The Republican Party has made it clear that sexual assault will be not just tolerated but glorified, so look for a healthy number of accused men to migrate to the GOP, where they will be worshipped instead of shamed. I would also make sure to get your buddies together and go see the movie on opening weekend. Just to send a message to all these lying bitches.

A famous Jesus-loving, gun-worshipping, flag-waving, Trump-voting country music singer has been accused of inappropriately touching a child. What do you do? You don't want to come across as pro-child-fucking, but you also can't cede moral ground to the libs, so the smart call here is to share a bunch of articles about how John Podesta and Hillary Clinton are child molestors.

A public figure you greatly admire has just been accused of a rape that occurred more than thirty years ago. The woman has lived with the pain and guilt and shame of the attack since she was a teenager, while the man has gone on to achieve great success and to be regarded as a fine family man and moral leader. Is the accuser a brave woman or a lying bitch? It's a hard call when you don't necessarily know the political leanings of either party, but it's always safer to err on the side of lying bitch because that lying bitch had thirty years to come forward with these allegations and she's clearly only doing it now because she wants her fifteen minutes of fame as well as to be doxed by an anti-feminist internet troll so she can receive hundreds of death and rape threats from rage-filled nihilists and professional masturbators.

What if both the accuser and accused are Republicans? This is a pickle, but tie goes to the runner, the runner being the man.

Here's a curveball: someone accuses you of sexual misconduct. Do you take responsibility for your actions, apologize to your accuser, reflect on your actions—or do you tell everyone she's a lying bitch? Trick question: repeat after me: "I was a Democrat when I did that."

It's important that women feel heard when they come forward with their tales of being groped, abused, assaulted, raped, intimidated, disrespected, yadda yadda yadda. But there are two sides to every story. We can't allow unfounded allegations to ruin the lives and reputations of pro-life sexual predators. Remember, not all rapists are Clinton donors.

©Alan Good 2017

Because You Can't Burn an Ebook, Part II

Are you an intolerable outrage junkie? Have you been stockpiling Bibles and cans of baked beans to prepare for the coming antifapocalypse? Did you hire a defrocked priest to exorcise the libtard out of your Keurig machine after the company pulled its advertising from Sean Hannity's TV show after Hannity defended a guy who fucked a fourteen-year-old girl when he (Roy Moore) was in his thirties? Do you think Timmy Tebow is the GOAT even though you know in your cold, dead heart he couldn't throw an on-target deep ball to save his soul? Or maybe you've been laughing so far but now you're kind of uncomfortable because you're the type of person who thinks that my genitals make me incapable of opening my mouth without "mansplaining"? Listen, you're not as bad as the Famous Keurig-Killers, but you can't defeat Fascism with portmanteaus.

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, I NEED YOU! I'm a writer, and I'm just sort of languishing over here. I'm an outsider. Not a fake outsider with eleventy million Twitter followers like some people who call themselves outsiders, but a real outsider with a little over two hundred Twitter followers and half a dozen fans. I've never been able to find an agent that gets me enough to take a chance on actually repping me. I get published in literary journals, but I'm not widely known. Because I can't find anyone who wants to publish my books I've published them myself, and because I published my books myself nobody wants to write about them, and because nobody writes about them almost nobody reads them. A few people have found my books by accident, which is not the best marketing strategy.

I need to find a way to trick someone into writing about one of my books. The way publishing works most of the time these days is you basically can't get a book deal until you get famous. I used to be pretty good at baseball, but it's too late for me to try to break into the majors, and I'm too shy to go on TV. The only thing I can do to get famous is to just piss a bunch of weirdos off.

Which is where you come in.

My new book, which is a collection of short stories, is pretty offensive. One of the characters is a superhero who sets a Confederate flag on fire with his laser eyes. Another character refers to Donald Trump as "Captain Spraytan." I—not a fictional character, but me personally, the actual author—refer to members of the men's rights movement as a bunch of "cockalorums and dingleberries." Plus this book of fiction is called The War on Xmas, playing off the fictional War on Christmas that Fox Newsians whinge about every December. So get on your high horse, ride it down to the bookstore, or your computer, and buy my book, and tell your stinky friends to do the same, and y'all dumbasses can have a righteous bonfire that will really show me where I stand while at the same time putting me in my place. Go ahead and burn it. There's no way I would have used a special type of ink that converts into an airborne poison when exposed to heat.

Still not offended enough to organize a boycott-a-book-by-buying-it-so-you-can-set-it-on-fire campaign? "Deplorable" is an insult. Jesus hates Nazis. Slavery was bad. Robert E. Lee was a traitor. Richard Spencer is a Hitler fanboy with a shitty haircut. Milo is a racist dufus who suffers from joke blindness. Donald Trump is a fucking rapist.

Still not offended? Here's an excerpt from the first story in the collection. It's called "Doppelbänger":

Melora left me, after five years of non-marital union, over my disposition. My acid tongue amused her, but it left a weird sensation in her vulva. And then suddenly, just about a year after our bitter split, came a card informing me that the honor of my presence was being requested by Victor Jensen Johnson and Melora Simone Roland, who would be united in the sacrament of holy matrimony, celebrated at a nuptial mass on the fourteenth of February in the year of our Lord two thousand and fifteen at six o’clock in the evening at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, 1530 Logan Street in Denver, Colorado. Melora, the mellifluous one, is who trained me to say vulva instead of vagina, and she left me for a VJJ.

So I was grumpy and bitter, a fount of vituperation. What sentient being isn’t? If you’re not a raging misanthropist you’re not paying attention. Isis. Congress. Fracking. Murder. Lobbyists. Wal-Mart. Pedophiles. Rapists. Birthers. Birchers. Holocaust deniers. Fascists. Fundamentalists. Omnipotent corporations skullfucking the impotent people. Racist cops. Racist pundits. Racist leaders. Racist peons. White college kids having blackface parties. Superstition. Manspreading. People who talk on their cell phones in public restrooms. Sidewalk skateboarders who text and ride. Poachers. Pesticides. Credit cards. Climate change. Climate change “skeptics.” 9/11 truthers. Mitch motherfucking Albom. Fucking 19 Kids and Counting. Or is it Fucking 19 Kids and Counting? Plastic. Poverty. Insurance companies. People who trash up trails and campsites. War fatigue. Rally fatigue. Fact fatigue. The great unwashed, uneducated, unvaccinated. Ignorance. Patriotism. Here’s some fucking patriotism for you: my sister was raped by a soldier while on tour in Iraq, and when she reported it to her supervisor she was gang-raped by four men from her unit, men she had called her brothers. She killed herself, one shot to the head, and they walked free. The gods protected them, the brass, too; they all made it through without a scratch, no limbs lost, no traumatic brain injuries (that requires a brain), no post-traumatic stress disorder, all back in the States with their families, living their lives, raising hell over here. ISIS, by the way, did not invent recruitment through social media. And social fucking media. Cyberbullying. Internet trolls. Viral videos. Efuckingbola. Wife beaters. Men who wear wifebeaters in public. Homophobes. Drug dealers. Cartels. Meth-heads. Originalists. Tea party animals. Astroturfers. Populist plutocrats. Modern poetry. Burnouts. Binge-drinking. Binge-watching. At least Allen Ginsberg got to see the best minds of his generation destroyed by madness; the best minds of mine were destroyed by Netflix.

If that excerpt doesn't fill you so full of rage that you pay a lot of money to have your Keurig repaired just so you can smash it again then you might actually be the type of person who would like to buy this book just for the old-fashioned purpose of reading it, rather than boycotting it. Either way, it's available on Amazon for $13 or in the bookstore of this website at whatever price you choose to pay, in increments of one dollar, between $6 and $13. Yes, there's a goddamn $0.99 ebook version, but buying that won't show me anything; take another look at the title of this essayvertisement.

For those of you who do choose to boycott, I humbly suggest that while you're boycotting The War on Xmas you might as well go ahead and boycott Barn Again, too. Here are the instructions: "Because You Can't Burn an Ebook." And remember: "boycott" is one of those words, like "liberty" and "prolife," that changed its definition after Y2K, and now it means you buy the product you're trying to protest so you can take pictures of yourself protesting it so you can post those protesting pictures on social media.

Side note: I found an interesting documentary about Richard Spencer.

That's it. I hope you're real mad now. Buy the book. If you want to, I mean; I'm not your boss. It's just a suggestion. But buy it.

Fun fact: if you click on the image right above this text you'll be able to buy the book.

Fun fact: if you click on the image right above this text you'll be able to buy the book.

©Alan Good 2017

Malarkey Books: A Playlist

These notes accompany a Spotify playlist called Malarkey Books. I've tried to include every song or artist mentioned in my books, plus a few that didn't get mentioned but are still there under the surface.

50 songs. 3 hours, 20 minutes.

Side 1: Barn Again: A Memoir

1. "Special Death," Mirah.

The first song on the list is not mentioned anywhere in my books; nor is the artist. However, Mirah is one of my favorite musicians. "Special Death" is probably my favorite song of hers. I listened to it nearly every day for two years when I was still in college, especially in England. It was on the playlist I made for myself to accompany the book I was working on through those years, a book that wasn't any good, that I gave up on, thankfully. The book was called Malarkey. It was shit, but I liked the name so much that I used it as the title of Johnny Barnard's first book in Barn Again: A Memoir, and it's also central to my website and imaginary publishing company, so there is a connection.

2. "Fuck Tha Police," NWA

The first musical allusion in Barn Again comes in the author's preface.

3. "A Horse With No Name," America

I don't hate America as much as Barn does, so even though I don't like this song I'm still including it on the playlist, mainly for the contrast with "Fuck Tha Police."

4. "Rocky Mountain High," John Denver

I've never been a fan of this song, but it is mentioned in Barn Again in the Unabombinator chapter, when Barn is driving around, on the run from Fate, who has been stalking him with plane crash movies as he anticipates flying to Spain. He's listening to the radio in the car, and the DJ queues up a set of plane crash music: John Denver, Otis Redding, Stevie Ray Vaughan.

5. "Cigarettes and Coffee," Otis Redding

6. "Texas Flood," Stevie Ray Vaughan

7. "Johnny's Gonna Die," The Replacements

This song comes on in the coffee shop, another message from Fate.

8. "London Calling," The Clash

One of Barn's stall wall poems alludes to this one.

9. "I've Been Everywhere," Johnny Cash

He takes the title of his projected collection of latrinalia from this song.

10. "La Bamba," Richie Valens

You can't sing "La Bamba" in an airport.

11. "Gimme Back My Bullets," Lynyrd Skynyrd

Plays on the stereo of a stolen Hummer.

12. "Pay Me My Money Down," The Weavers

From chapter twelve (you have to know Samuel Beckett's most famous quote and some banjo terminology in order to get the "Frail Better" joke):

I was in a few atrocious bands in my youth, and I could never decide whether I wanted to be a post-punk rocker or a folk player. I earned drinking money in England playing songs by Pete Seeger and The Clash on a cheap Chinese banjo, as described with very little fictionalization in chapter twelve of Malarkey, a chapter I proudly named “Frail Better.” In a life filled with puns, that was my best. I’m a member now of a roguish band of strings players. We call ourselves The Prairie Dawgs. We’re a lot like The Weavers, if The Weavers were a bunch of tattooed, bearded anarchistic environmentalists. I don’t have any tattoos; I do have an on-again, off-again beard. We play a few old folk songs and a very few standard bluegrass tunes, but mostly we write our own songs. We all contribute to the music, but I write most of the lyrics. Songwriting satisfies my yen for rhyme. One of my favorites is a standard-sounding country tune that starts off like this: “This morning I got born again, again, / A new lease on life, a refund on my sin.”

13. "Robin Hood Theory," Gang Starr

The footnote to the part where Barn's making fun of music videos:

I don’t want to leave the reader with the impression that I am some smug white guy who thinks that hip-hop is not real music. On the other hand, a list of all the hip-hope artists I enjoy and admire, such as Gang Starr, De La Soul, and Blackalicious, might appear as over-trying. Any writer who isn’t at least mildly enamored of hip-hop is probably a poseur, his purported love of language just a front to compensate for lack of skill and soul. Believe me or don’t; I quite like hip-hop, but there’s a subgenre within it I don’t care for, and that is hip-hop of the MTV bitch-ho variety.

14. "Oooh," De La Soul, featuring Redman

15. "Release," Blackalicious, featuring Saul Williams, Lyrics Born, and Zach de la Rocha

This one's long but worth the time.

16. "Tom Sawyer," Rush

The undercover officer who tries to bust our fuckup hero at the end of the book seems to be doing an impression of Geddy Lee, the singer of Rush.

17. "Stereo," Pavement.

No reason to include this, other than I love Pavement and this song includes a solid Geddy Lee reference.

18. "The Donald," A Tribe Called Quest

I set up a Spotify account just so I could listen to the new Tribe Called Quest album. This song's on here for the two paragraphs on Trump toward the end of the book.

Side 2: The War on Xmas

19. "Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down," Kris Kristofferson

The introduction ends with an allusion both to this song and The Handmaid's Tale.


20. "Barracuda," Rasputina.

I recycled the name "Melora" from one of the characters in that abandoned novel; I took the name from the singer of Rasputina, which was my favorite band for a few years. I saw them play in Lawrence, Kansas. Rasputina is a cello-driven gothish band. The covers album, The Lost and Found, is probably my favorite, probably their most accessible. This track comes off a live album. I was pleased to discover that they've put out several albums while I wasn't paying attention.


21. "Let's Get Fucked Up," Tech n9ne

This happens to be the only song I know of KC rapper Tech n9ne, who is just under SuperChad in the hierarchy of Kansas City heroes. 

"Paris (When I Die)"

22. "Fancy," Reba McEntire.

"I might have been born just plain white trash, but Fancy was my name."

23. "Texas (When I Die), Tanya Tucker.

I prefer the altered lyrics in "Paris (When I Die)," but this is still a great song.


24. "La Juala de Oro," Los Tigres del Norte

The unnamed narrator of this story is drinking beer with a guy named Miguel, who is an undocumented immigrant who hates norteño music but listens to it out of solidarity.

25. "Life on the Border," Piñata Protest

Sort of a stretch, as it's not mentioned in the story; I'm just including it for fun. This is norteño punk.

"In the Penile Colony"

26. "Summer Babe," Pavement.

My favorite band. Herb, the narrator of the last three stories in the book, was in a band called The Magic Skinflutes, "a hillbilly noise group out of Stillwater, sort of Slanted and Enchanted-era Pavement blended with Ray Wylie Hubbard." The band is called The Skinflutes in the version of the story that appears in Word Riot. I took the name from a fake band I was in for a couple days in high school. We were going to perform at the talent show until our religion teacher took us aside and told us what the term "skinflute" means. We acted shocked and soon after disbanded, since we'd only formed in order to perform as the Skinflutes. After "In the Penile Colony" was accepted I found out there was a real band called Skinflutes, so I updated to The Magic Skinflutes.  

27. "Conversation with the Devil," Ray Wylie Hubbard

I could have chosen any Ray Wylie Hubbard song, but I probably enjoy this one the most: "What you won't find up in Heaven are
Christian Coalition Right Wing Conservatives, / Country program directors, and Nashville record executives."

28. "Something Happen Always," Preston School of Industry

Here's an excerpt of the fictional review of The Magic Skinflutes album Ghetto Palm:

We had a modest following but never made it big, even though, maybe because, our only full-length album was reviewed in Pitchfork: “If Scott Kannberg raped an inbred Appalachian, and their offspring recorded an album while simultaneously being waterboarded and trying to pass a gallstone, the result would sound exactly like Ghetto Palm.”

It was inspired by actual Pitchfork reviews of Kannberg's music. (Scott Kannberg, aka Spiral Stairs, was in Pavement. He formed Preston School of Industry after Pavement broke up and has a new album out, simply as Spiral Stairs.)

29. "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay," Otis Redding

In jail, Herb wonders who's going to sing this to his children every night. I sing this one to my children. At least once a day for the last four years. Never get tired of it.

"One Man's Trailer Trash"

30. "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore," John Prine

One of my favorite songs. Herb moves into a trailer park, next door to America Joe, who looks like the narrator of this song.

31. "Mr. Banker," Lynyrd Skynyrd

People in the park lose interest in Herb's musicianship when they find out he doesn't know any Skynyrd. Most people don't know this song. Fuck "Sweet Home Alabama." Listen to this one instead.

32. "Ghost Rider," Suicide

Herb tells someone his favorite band is Suicide.

33. "Colorado," Paper Bird

Herb gets replaced and The Magic Skinflutes get a track played on Open Air, Colorado Public Radio's new music station, so here's the first song ever played on Open Air, on Halloween of 2011.

34. "No Deal," Townes Van Zandt

One of my favorite songs. Herb records a solo album in his trailer: "My album was called, naturally, One Man’s Trailer Trash, and it had sort of a punk/post-punk singer-songwriter aesthetic, Townes Van Zandt with Descendents and Hüsker Dü influences."

35. "Suburban Home," Descendents

36. "Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely," Hüsker Dü

One of their more well-known songs.

37. "Gin and Juice," Snoop Dogg

Herb sings this one (with different lyrics) to his kids: “Rolling down the street blowing bubbles, sipping on Naked Juice, / laid back, with my mind on my bunny and my bunny on my mind.”

38. "Karma's Payment," Modest Mouse

Herb describes one of his guitars as "a claptrap-looking guitar with an old hubcap for a body. It looked like something the people from The Hills Have Eyes would play, but it had style. Its sound was a paradox, bright and clean but also dirty, like Carlos Santana and the young Isaac Brock were playing at the same time, competing for control of the guitar’s soul." Brock is the singer and main guitar player for Modest Mouse.

39. "Black Magic Woman," Santana

40. "Angel from Montgomery," Bonnie Raitt, John Prine

Herb plays this song, in a duet with Ryann, at his concert in the trailer park.

41. "Enter Sandman," Metallica

Herb only knows this song because he used to sing it to his son.

42.a. "The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey's Grave," The Butthole Surfers

Writing lesson: Herb could have said, "I woke up with a massive hangover." Instead, he went with "I woke up with the worst hangover of my life. It felt like The Butthole Surfers and the Art Ensemble of Chicago were using my empty head as practice space, but it was just Jen. I had rigged 'The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave' as her ringtone."

42.b. "Combat Rock," Sleater-Kinney.

It's not that I don't like The Butthole Surfers, but very few people are going to want to listen to this song. This playlist has a lot of great songs. Most of them are by men. That wasn't intentional. It just worked out this way; the ring-tone/hangover thing only makes sense with two dissonant groups like The Butthole Surfers and Art Ensemble of Chicago. I could make it work with My Ruin, who I saw perform in Brighton, England, many years ago. But the reference would be even more obscure. I'm taking the opportunity to just sneak in a couple tracks by female artists, songs that I like from musicians that I like but haven't alluded to in the books.

43.a. "Backyard Scuffle Shuffle," Art Ensemble of Chicago

43.b. "The Greatest," Cat Power

I've tried to like Art Ensemble of Chicago. I just can't do it. I've tried to listen to this playlist with The Butthole Surfers and Art Ensemble of Chicago right next to each other. I just can't do it.

44. "Skinny Love," Bon Iver

This song signals the hipster invasion.

45. "Anarchy in the UK," Sex Pistols

Not a Sex Pistols Fan, but Herb's new band The War on Xmas sings a cover of this song before the riot breaks out.

"The Magic Member"

46. "The Preacher and the Slave," Utah Phillips

The War on Xmas performs an impromptu version of this song.

47. "Box Elder," Pavement"

One of my favorite Pavement tunes, sometimes covered by The War on Xmas.

48. "Gone Daddy Gone," Violent Femmes

Herb notices his ex-wife, Jen, is wearing his old Violent Femmes shirt, which probably means something. (The t-shirt is the exposed part of the iceberg.)

49. "Marquee Moon," Television

Last song reference in The War on Xmas, special to Herb because he was listening to Television while he was redoing the floor in the children's room before they were born. 

50. "This Land Is Your Land," Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

This one's not mentioned in either of the books, but it's my playlist, I can do whatever I want here, and I love this version. The bastards are always trying to take our land away from us, by the way. Don't fucking let them. 

©Alan Good 2017

Party Unity 4ever!

There once was an outcast New Yorker
who love-hated Senator Corker.
They fought online,
yet both fell in line
to betray th'American worker.

I don't normally go for sight rhymes, but in this case I think it was justified, although I'm not going to try to explain why. If you want to just mispronounce "worker" that will be OK with me.

Curse of a Betrayed Fan

"Damn! Damn! Damn your black souls down to HELL!
You spoiled 'kneelers' of the NFL.
Beware! O beware!
I'm sendin' ya there!
Soon as I light this damn flag—oh well."

Here's the full video, in case you're interested in unintentional self-parody:

Please note: I don't know this person. I don't know anything about her. I don't enjoy making fun of her. I'd much rather take the piss out of a monstrous, attention-seeking public figure, but when you upload a ridiculous video to the internet, you open yourself up to ridicule. I'd like to hope she regrets making this video. She should certainly regret posting it, although judging from a Facebook post boasting about how many views it's gotten, she doesn't seem to regret it. She doesn't offer much in the way of argument or thoughtfulness in the video, but she seems sharp enough to have absorbed Donald Trump's First Rule of Social Media Dominance: it doesn't matter if seventy-five percent of the people sharing your content are mocking you; you still get big numbers. I don't want to say she is racist, or Racist-racist, because I don't know enough about her, and reducing her to racist status gives her an opportunity to deflect legitimate criticism by saying no, she's not racist, and how dare someone say that about her! While I don't see how anyone could separate racism from the nationalist fervor that some NFL fans have been displaying since Trump declared war on black athletes in order to distract us from more important matters, I want to acknowledge that "racist" is the term used by the person who uploaded the video, which was originally posted on Facebook, to YouTube. The first time I watched this video, I laughed, I thought it was better satire than anyone at Funny or Die or Saturday Night Live could have created, but more than anything the video makes me feel sad. Maybe I feel bad about making fun of her, but not bad enough not to do it. She deserves it. Fortunately for her, we live in a country, a culture, in which millions of people will watch her halfassed rant against the Steelers and her Chaplinesque fumbling with the team flag, which appears to be impervious to fire, and only three or four people will read any of this.


©Alan Good 2017