Monday, July 30, 2007

My newest piece for Esquire, "How About a Little Hope?", is here today:


How About a Little Hope?

Yes, yes, we know. The world is polluted, Iraq is an utter mess, NBA referees are crooked... Here are 20 quotes from scientists, actors, and convenience store employees who aren't so hopeless.

By Litsa Dremousis (more from this author)

7/30/2007, 8:03 AM

Jump to story

How About a Little Hope?

Photo illustration by Eric Gillin, images via iStockPhoto

We are all going to die. But while this is an unfortunate byproduct of still being alive, this fact has taken on a pervasive sense of doom over the last few years. It's not that we're going to die, it's that it's going to happen right now and in an incredibly painful way. Every day it's something new: Bird flu, global warming, terrorism, gun-toting school kids, crazy old Russians stockpiling newer nukes, poisonous Chinese toothpaste...

The list goes on and on. So why do most of us resist the urge to suck down a Vicodin Stoli and call it a day? The reasons are as elusive as they are myriad. American philosopher William James once asked, “Why should we think upon things that are lovely? Because thinking determines life. It is a common habit to blame life upon the environment. Environment modifies life but does not govern life. The soul is stronger than its surroundings.”

Perhaps we're compelled to live not merely because it is a biological imperative, but because we believe things will get better. Maybe hope -- like those cravings for the sex and red meat that will eventually kill us -- is hard-wired into our DNA. Or maybe, more so than anything, hopelessness is the ideological equivalent of legwarmers or the Segway: ostensibly modern, ultimately useless.

Since we're glass half-full people, we asked 20 subjects, What gives you hope? This is what they had to say:

• Patton Oswalt, actor, Ratatouille
• James Cartwright, commander, Navy SEALS
• Yellow Hawk, homeless man
• Sean Carman, attorney, Department of Justice
• Amy Sedaris, writer; actress, Shrek the Third
• Dr. Sylvia Lucas, neurologist and multiple sclerosis researcher
• Brad Listi, novelist, Attention.Deficit.Disorder
• John Roderick, guitarist, The Long Winters
• Ron Jeremy, porn star, All I Want for Christmas Is a Gangbang
• Will Napier, seven-year-old
• Kate Izquierdo, music critic, San Francisco Bay Guardian
• Randal Gage, television news executive, KOCO Channel 5
• Mistress Matisse, professional dominatrix
• Mary Rouvelas, attorney, American Cancer Society
• Kathleen Bresnahan, night-shift hostess, Denny's
• John Vanderslice, singer/songwriter, Emerald City, Pixel Revolt
• George Langley, actor, Enemy of the People
• Arthur Bradford, author; director, Dogwalker, How's Your News?
• Barfly, singer, Saturday Knights
• Sam Arefi, clerk, Union 76 gas station and food mart

"What gives me hope is the dreadful tread of history. Knowing how much closer we’ve been to the edge of destruction, and managed to pull back and save ourselves, means we’re probably going to do okay. I mean, we bounced back from the Black Plague, and the people who did it still believed in goblins. We’ve got iPods and Pinkberry now. We’re bulletproof."
-- Patton Oswalt, actor, Ratatouille

Return to top.

“Nothing ‘gives’ me hope, but I have it. I hope that each of my two sons will grow up to be a better man than I am. Sure, there are other things I hope for but in the grand scheme, they aren't that important. Hope is what one can find within oneself in order to make sense of things and make it all worthwhile. A struggle, no doubt. But if you need someone or something else to give you hope, then you don’t really have it. You just have an excuse.”
-- James Cartwright, commander, Navy SEALS

Return to top.

"The National Rifle Association gives me hope. Peace comes out of the barrel of a gun and whoever has the most bullets wins."
-- Yellow Hawk, homeless man

Return to top.

“When someone is a spectacular failure on every level, it crushes my spirit. When the most powerful man in the world is an arrogant bully who is actually proud of his ignorance, why even get out of bed? But when great people make a small mistake, when they inadvertently reveal their humanity through some small blunder, that gives me hope. I already loved Hugh Grant, but when he was caught getting a $50 b.j. from a sidewalk hooker, he instantly became my favorite actor.”
-- Sean Carman, attorney, Department of Justice

Return to top.

“What keeps me going? The feeling I got back in elementary school when Miss Parker had us plant seeds in the bottom of our Dixie cups and then days later we saw grass. That's hope in a nutshell.”
-- Amy Sedaris, writer; actress, Shrek the Third

Return to top.

“What keeps me working these ridiculous hours is the hope that I can make a difference in peoples' lives when they have no hope. Medicine is not about curing disease. But it’s about providing hope, support, and relief while sickness resolves or comfort, compassion and ease if it cannot.”
-- Dr. Sylvia Lucas, neurologist and multiple sclerosis researcher

Return to top.

“Hope is one of those wonderful lies that we tell ourselves: things will be better tomorrow. The truth is that things might not be better tomorrow. We might get hit by a bus tomorrow. Or an asteroid. Or a bullet train. And if that winds up happening, most of us are hoping for some sort of heavenly afterlife in the Great Beyond. And the interesting thing about this heavenly afterlife is that most of us imagine it as an eternal family reunion in the clouds, even though most of us don’t really like family reunions, and most of us don’t like clouds. And even if we do like family reunions, and we do like clouds, most of us wouldn’t want to be at a cloudy family reunion for eternity. Me personally? My sense of ultimate hope is more polytheistic in nature. I’m hoping for the reunion, certainly, and I’m hoping for the clouds. But I’m also hoping for some sunshine. And a beach. And eighty virgins. And Jesus’ cell phone number. And I’m hoping to be reincarnated as a rock star who also happens to be the fastest man alive. Because I believe it’s so important to stay positive.”
-- Brad Listi, novelist, Attention.Deficit.Disorder

Return to top.

“The Constitution of the United States. It's still the best document of its kind, and written into it are exactly the kind of protections that ensure that no person or group of persons, no matter how diabolical or insane, can hijack the country for much longer than a decade”
-- John Roderick, guitarist, The Long Winters

Return to top.

“What gives me hope is that I’ll have good heath. My dad is eighty-nine, quick-witted, healthy as an ox, and his mom lived to be in her mid-nineties. I have a pet tortoise named Cherry and her lifespan is one hundred and sixty. So God or Mother Nature wants us to live that long to keep tortoises company.”
-- Ron Jeremy, porn star, All I Want for Christmas Is a Gangbang

Return to top.

“I hope to see penguins.”
-- Will Napier, seven-year-old

Return to top.

“City life is a clash of concrete, temper and finance that does little to assuage my darkest social inclinations. But where there is struggle, there is regeneration. I live in hope, then, because despair precludes participating in the war against those who are complacent, those who are cruel, and those who wear deck shoes to the office.”
-- Kate Izquierdo, music critic, San Francisco Bay Guardian

Return to top.

“The surprises keep things interesting. You can't predict how a sunset will flare over the horizon, how swimming in the sea under a warm blue sky will feel.”
-- Randal Gage, television news executive, KOCO Channel 5

Return to top.

"Phrases like 'having hope' and 'what keep me going' to me seem of imply that one is under some sort of ongoing duress. What keeps me going is that I'm happy and I like my life. I don't think of it as having hope, I'm just...happy."
-- Mistress Matisse, professional dominatrix

Return to top.

“I have hope because despite the rapes and murders, there are outpourings of love and sympathy afterwards. Even better, there are the everyday moments, like when I saw two men running with a handkerchief held between them. I found out later they were training for a marathon. One was blind, and the other was leading the way.”
-- Mary Rouvelas, attorney, American Cancer Society

Return to top.

"I'm excited to go to college. That's my next big adventure. I'm modeling with Seattle Models Guild. I'm going to see where it goes. If college doesn't work out, I'll have modeling as a fallback."
-- Kathleen Bresnahan, night-shift hostess, Denny's

Return to top.

“Caffeine gives me hope. Sometimes, when I brew my wicked strong Irish black tea just perfect, about halfway through the mug I feel a clear and overwhelming feeling of optimism. It didn't surprise me when a study a few years ago implied that suicide was much less likely among coffee and tea drinkers.”
-- John Vanderslice, singer/songwriter, Emerald City, Pixel Revolt

Return to top.

“Most recently, what has given me hope comes from Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything where he makes the following observation about the human species: ‘For complex organisms, the average lifespan of a species is only about four million years -- roughly where we are now.’ Maybe our selfish little reign of terror is nearly at its end. Other than that, The Family Circus pretty much gets me out of bed everyday. ‘What are girl chipmunks called? CHICKmunks!’ Priceless.”
-- George Langley, actor, Enemy of the People

Return to top.

“As much as we talk about how everything's going to shit, it really isn't. Young people come along and take a look at things and will surprise us with new ideas. And I recently read Ishmael Beal's book A Long Way Gone. Even though it's filled with horrors and hopeless situations, at least there's this one guy who made it out and wrote this great book. When someone can produce something like that from the madness of his life, it gives me hope.”
-- Arthur Bradford, author; director, Dogwalker, How’s Your News?

Return to top.

“I actually have a tattoo on my left forearm of a cocktail bomb wrapped in a banner with the word ‘hope’ in it. Trying to articulate what that tattoo means usually just makes me sound nuts so I always leave it open to interpretation. What keeps me going is a desperate fear I might miss out on something amazing if I don't keep on truckin'. I mean, the Red Sox won a World Series. What's next? ‘Ghost riding the whip’ in the Olympics? Free wi-fi in Bakersfield? Oh yeah, and 2012. I want to see if the shit really hits the fan when the Mayan calendar expires in 2012. ”
-- Barfly, singer, Saturday Knights

Return to top.

"You know, after what my dad went through, what I do is not that hard. He escaped from Iran during the war with Iraq. He came here with, literally, twenty bucks in his pocket and now he owns a bunch of businesses. So I give myself hope. I wake up each day and say 'I'm happy.'"
-- Sam Arefi, clerk, Union 76 gas station and food mart


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Today we salute my cherished friend, Mr. Eric Spitznagel...

...who is not afraid to fly the dork flag very, very high regarding the (sure-to-be-awesome) Simpsons movie:

I'm not judging. I will be the exact same way when the Sex and the City film is released. (That's right. I said it.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Or make-up sex and bowling:

I've been an R.E.M. fan since 1983 (my friends and I would pour over the lyrics on Chronic Town and Murmur with the intensity most people reserve for porn or the Bible) and an admirer of Marc Jacob's designs since before he had his own label, when he took over the Perry Ellis house when the latter died. Even with the impending move, I'm not selling my R.E.M. vinyl and the few Marc Jacobs pieces I've been able to afford are among my favorites. But perhaps, like pepperoni pizza and Green and Black chocolate, some things that are sublime individually should never be mixed.

The upcoming Marc Jacobs ads featuring Michael Stipe are a total crapfest:

There is absolutely no moral or logical reason...

...why prosecutors shouldn't have the option to seek the death penalty in abuse cases this venal and where the defendant's guilt is not in question:

From the Associated Press via CNN:

SAN DIEGO, California (AP) -- A former respiratory therapist was sentenced to more than 45 years in prison Wednesday for sexually preying upon some of the most defenseless patients at the hospital where he worked: children so sick they couldn't speak out.

Wayne Albert Bleyle had pleaded guilty to molesting five disabled children and taking pornographic photographs of others. Prosecutors said he targeted patients who were comatose, brain-damaged or too disabled to talk.

He allegedly told investigators he molested as many as half the children he treated in 10 years working in the convalescent ward at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bigger assholes than Lindsay Lohan's parents

I don't usually weigh in on Britney, Jessica, et al because they don't interest me, but Lohan is actually quite talented and perhaps has more in common with Robert Downey Jr. than, say, the Hilton sisters. I'm not underestimating the severity of Lohan's back-to-back DUI charges: my grandmother was permanently injured by a drunk driver and spent the rest of her life in crippling pain. But I have several friends and acquaintances who are recovering alcoholics and/or addicts. I know that addiction doesn't absolve morally or exonerate legally, but that it does explain the neurological underpinnings of certain behavior.

That said, could Lohan have been saddled with more craven and inept parents than her perpetually convicted father and her never-had-it-never-will mom? Yes, but only slightly. Individuals from various historical epochs who are/were bigger assholes than Michael and Dina Lohan:
  • Eva Braun: Hitler is the more obvious choice, but Braun willingly and repeatedly gave him beav. Which makes you wonder if she didn't occasionally pull trains with Weimar thieves and child peddlers: it seems unlikely she leapt straight from courting normal fellows to boffing one of the most evil men in history.
  • The two guys who asked if I wanted "one in front and one in the butt" and said they wanted to "give those curls a pull" when I was walking through Belltown last week on my way to meet TJ. If I could get Titus Andronicus on them--grind them into a pie and feed them to their loved ones--I would, unquestionably. Besides, I know several great musicians who would play a most raucous "Free Litsa!" show.
  • The Nazi soldier who shot at my father when he was a kid, thereby permanently lodging shrapnel in his leg. (Yes, I know, another Nazi, but there's room on this list for more than one.)
  • Ann Coulter. Not only is it okay to refer to Ann Coulter as a "cunt", it shouldn't be okay not to.
  • The person married to ______. See "Ann Coulter".
  • "Papa Doc" Duvalier, the deceased Haitian dictator and father to the only slightly less deranged "Baby Doc" Duvalier. "Papa Doc" would have his enemies decapitated then have their individual heads brought to him on a tray while he was in the bath, where he would stare into their eyes and meditate. You have to wonder from whence the initial impetus sprung, i.e. the first time he thought, "You know, I've got an idea..."
  • Anyone who says, "It's all good".

Monday, July 23, 2007

I'm in so much pain right now I can barely stand it and yet...

...I'm mustering the concentration to note that this is one of the most poorly written pieces of shit ever:

You know you wish you'd thought of it:

  • To stave off protracted economic instability, airlines should offer, at a slightly higher rate, flights that bar children under twelve. (I'd suggest charging parents of said kids more, but like swiping ecstasy for Dick Cheney's heart meds or throat-punching Seattleites who refer to New York as "too noisy", it would be illegal.)
  • If you don't like Regina Spektor and/or Elliott Smith, you don't get to vote.
  • In the eighteen months following a divorce, one relocates to a government-sponsored ranch in say, Wyoming, where therapy and beer are provided for free.
  • The stone-throwing scene from "The Lottery" is enacted against those who don't think Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby's recording of Cole Porter's "Well, Did You Evah!" is one of the high points of the twentieth century.
  • Free head and pizza for whomever cures CFIDS.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

One more reason I heart

I have a love/hate relationship with Gawker Media--sometimes I think they're spot on and others I think they're recklessly cruel--but their latest venture, Jezebel, is wickedly funny and the smartest of the bunch. Today's post on perceptions of curly hair makes me want to buy their editorial staff a round of blueberry-glaze donuts:

And if you haven't already, check out the unrelated but equally compelling

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stuff I don't get:

  • Telling me you ate rabbit the other night
  • The guy with the "Free Tibet" and "Peace is Patriotic" bumper stickers who, while driving like a teeth-grinding meth head, cut me off on Market Street this afternoon
  • Jamie Lee Curtis' musings on Huffington Post
  • Healthy individuals with ample cash and no kids who prattle on that they don't know what they want to do with their lives, expecting sympathy instead of bemused disdain
  • Journey, then or now (seriously, David Chase, what the fuck?)
  • Writers who believe MFAs connote talent
  • My downstairs neighbor who beats off loudly (dude, you're solo: color within the lines)
  • Billy Corgan's sense of self-importance
  • "Vegetarians" who don't understand that "just eating fish" makes them carnivores
  • Anyone who doesn't think Wanda Sykes and Patton Oswalt are totally fucking hilarious
  • Deriving anything but time-warping boredom from wedding and baby showers
  • Giving a shit about Janet Jackson's weight

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Hitch

The introduction is unintentionally hilarious--why bother eating oatmeal for your cholesterol if you knock it back with Scotch, cigarettes and prosciutto?--but the man is staggeringly intelligent and remains one of my favorite writers. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Christopher Hitchens:

Monday, July 09, 2007

Another gem unearthed in the pre-move excavation:

Q: Does the glamour part of show business put you off?

A: No. Not at all. I love it. It's dress-up. I like all that. It would be awful to lose that. It's like the monarchy. I might not necessarily approve of what it represents, but I'd miss the hats.

--Emma Thompson, Vanity Fair, February 1996. (Interview by Kevin Sessums, photo by Annie Leibovitz.)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

At the risk of sounding ethnocentric...

...I'm appalled that such practices continue in any part of the world for any reason, whether it be religious, cultural, or economic. It's just wrong: