The Spitznagel Tapes

And push the red button to record, Mr. Nixon...Tonight, on a very special episode of the Daedalus Howell Show, we take a tour of the Spitznagel Tapes Volume One. Regale in these choice snippets from interviews conducted by my pal and colleague Eric Spitznagel who writes for magazines like Esquire, Vanity Fair and The Believer among others. In the course of an hour, you will hear his conversations with Tenacious D’s Jack Black and Kyle Gass, actor Luke Wilson, political satirist Steven Colbert of the Colbert Report and Simpsons writer George Meyer. Throughout I interview Spitzy about, well, interviewing. Also, listen for the world premiere of a previously unheard Tenacious D tune.


Nomaville: Older than Jesus

Pass the salt.Last week I turned 34 and since then many have delighted in mentioning that I’m now older than Jesus. When I point out that the Jesus, the man, the myth, the messiah or what have you, made a fairly famous curtain call a couple of millennia ago and couldn’t possibly be younger than me, they squint and say I’m missing the point. Not to hedge my bet in the Culture Wars, but I take great stock in the fact that I’m still younger than John Lennon, who, in my pop-culture infested mind, has been inextricably linked to the man-deity since he called him out celebrity-death-match style in 1963 with the “Bigger than” business.

“But Jesus is immortal,” some do-gooder trying to save my soul patiently explained.

“Then he’s definitely older than me,” I reply and genuflect in relief.

As is popularly known and celebrated, Jesus rose from the dead half a week after his Roman Holiday. I’m not sure if that’s a solid bid for immortality – you know, dying. Granted, he did come back, but by Hollywood rules that means Jesus is technically a zombie. I won’t quibble about that here, except to say Everything I Know About the Mysteries of the Universe I Learned from the Movies, which upon reflection sounds more like a hipster self-help manual than a confession of spiritual bankruptcy (which upon further reflection would probably be the same thing). Suffice it to say, I’m not a believer, but to be fair, I don’t believe in the Beatles either, I just believe in me – Yoko and me.

Contemporaries of mine, it seems, have had an easier time reconciling their belief systems with reality. When my pal Gustav was confirming his name was on the roster of an Eastern studies class the professor asked “And you are?” He simply replied, “I am,” and curried instant favor.

A year ago, I overheard a ruddy-faced old man at a diner recall encountering a man with a nosebleed. He asked if he could pray for him. The man agreed and the old gent pronounced “In the name of Jesus, I command you to stop bleeding!” Of course, the bleeding stopped (otherwise, I suppose, there would be little reason for him to recount the story). Had the man with the nosebleed been a hemophiliac, however, the anecdote could have been a pithy tale of lost faith and perhaps a ruined shirt – and dare I say funnier for it.

Religion is like software for the mind and for many it’s their operating system. In the computer world, which is really just our world served on a platter for their eventual domination of us, Microsoft’s Windows is the Catholic church of platforms – it vast, domineering and is full of security holes that are prime for violation – digitally speaking. Like all the Christendom backed-up in American minds, it’s the default platform of the nation’s personal computers. Apple’s OS, due to its minority status and fiercely loyal constituency, is any order of fundamentalism one cares to conjure. Apple people are zealots and Steve Jobs is their messiah (among his forthcoming techno-miracles is unthawing Walt Disney, I hear). Open-source Linux is the Zen platform: through it information flows freely but it only has a fleeting sense of identity (sometimes it’s a penguin, sometimes it’s a red hat), but like Zen there’s no money in it so there’s little incentive to proselytize.

This is my operating system: Groucho smoking Freud’s cigar whilst doing the floorshow on the Titanic. And everyone is smiling.

Related blog: New Pope.

Unrelated: Jesus Dress Up!

SonomaWino: Owl Ridge

Who?In a semisecret compound off Sebastopol’s Gravenstein Highway, a converted apple-processing plant now churns out world-class wines by a handful of producers, among them the marvelous Owl Ridge Wines. Through some deft telephone work, I wrangled a tasting with the winemaker and then did him the professional courtesy of showing up 45 minutes late.

Complicating matters was the fact that I had blown the head-gasket of my Jeep on my way west, necessitating rescue from my pops, who picked me up at a tasting room in Kenwood where I waited, chatting up Bette, the 83-year-old sales associate (who actually had me autograph a copy of the Bohemian for her). My dad and I eventually made it to Sebastopol, and since he had the decency to never leave me in a hot parked car as a kid, I thought I’d return the favor by bringing him to the tasting.

We travel well together — I do all the talking and he does all the head-shaking. Imagine George Emerson and his father in A Room with a View, but instead of me being moody and making punctuation marks with my food, I drink too much wine and he drives.

After locating the winery, we entered a slim door into a large warehouse. The industrial interior wasn’t much to see but could pass for the set of a mid-’80s hard rock video: corrugated metal, cement and catwalks. The only things missing were the over-rouged women in halter-tops and elf boots washing a car — or each other.

Winemaker Joseph C. Otos eventually found us and ushered us into a back conference room. The man is a youthful thirty-something and has the quiet confidence that comes stock in dudes who are taller, broader and generally vaster than the average bear.

Tasting wines in front of their creator is often like sitting on the edge of the bed while someone tries to impress you with her poetry. Not the case here — not only could Otos see through me, he could see over me and possibly in back of me, too. More importantly, Otos’ wines are poetry in a bottle — very good poetry. Byron-meets-Ferlinghetti good.

Though a range of excellent wines were poured, Otos’ Cab program had particular resonance with my palate that day. The 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley ($50) has a wry sensibility with winking notes of currants, cherry and, as Otos put it, a “fudgey aromatic.” Right you are, sir. It also comes with an optional screwcap, which is quite hip.

The 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the T.R. Passalacqua Vineyard ($19) in the Dry Creek Valley is a full-bodied, expressive wine marked by cranberries, blueberries and softer notes of white chocolate. The multi-award-winning 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon “Vineyard Select” Sonoma County ($38) is likewise a Cab to reckon with, heady and drenched in notes of black tea with a dusty quality that instantly made me want to invest in antiquarian books. I mentioned this to Otos, who nodded back warily. My father, of course, just quietly shook his head.

Owl Ridge Wines, 2064 Gravenstein Hwy., Ste. 120, Sebastopol. By appointment only. 707.823.9505.

Nomaville: Interstellar *69

Bubble trouble.Last week, intrepid reporter and radio raconteur Daedalus Howell was contacted by intelligent beings from globular cluster M13 – the recipients of the ill-fated Arecibo Message sent from Earth 32 years ago in an attempt to contact extraterrestrial life.They got Howell’s phone number by mistake. And he missed their call. But, they did leave a message. It went like this:

“Hey, this is Stacy from Globular Star Cluster M13. Listen, we just got your message, and well, this is awkward over the phone, but the thing is, um, I think we probably shouldn’t pursue this whole communication thing until you, the People of Earth or whatever, work some things out.

“First off, ‘humanity’ as a concept is just too inconsistent. Don’t get me wrong, you guys do some really cool things – Bach’s cello suites, Sgt. Pepper, Cat’s Cradle, zinfandel (but not the white kind), Hamlet, the Bill of Rights, the movies – I mean, how brilliant, the movies! And roller coasters and Miles Davis and e.e. cummings and grilled cheese sandwiches. That Van Gogh with the white flower. All great. I can go on forever, but then – bam! You hit a major speed bump with us: Why can’t you play nice with each other?

“I mean, seriously, dudes, the Inquisition? The Holocaust? A-bombs? September 11. What the fuck? Violence? Still? At your age? How juvenile is that? Listen, I know there’s a good kid in you somewhere, People of Earth. Where’s the esprit de corps? Didn’t they tell you that you don’t have to have a common enemy to all get on the same side? How about just a common goal – I mean, you got that dude on your moon, right? And please tell me he’s not all pixel-ly like the picture you sent.

“After we got your message we were totally stoked with the idea there was another kid in the sandbox. We were saying, man, it would be so cool to a chat about big picture stuff, compare notes about the meaning of it all. Then we checked you out online. Dude, as it stands, we’re too afraid of getting nuked by you people. Sad, but true.

“What’s really trippy is that your cruelest acts are done in the name of some deity or other. First off, it’s quaint you would even think that way at all. Listen, kid, if you believe there’s a mind behind the platypus are you sure you want to kill in its name? I mean, who knows what it’s thinking, you dig? And second off, what hubris, humanity, to presume to know the intentions of a god when you can’t even recognize that you’re an endangered species. I mean, seriously dude, your planet is almost totaled. And don’t think for a minute that you’re coming to ours.

“Anyway, I don’t mean to harsh on you too bad – actually that’s not true, I do – you need to hear this stuff. Humanity needs a systemic rebuild. Start on the individual level, start simply – just try to be better people. If you can’t do that, just try to be better people to each other, until you’re all getting along – then maybe, maybe we’ll invite you to the party. As it stands, you’re the kind of guest that drinks too much, offends everyone and lights the couch on fire and then has the gall to ask if you can crash on it. I mean, duh, People of Earth. When you feel you’ve finally gotten over yourself and can play well with others, then we’ll talk. Until then, don’t call us, we’ll call you.”


Older than Jesus.The title of this post is my new age in Roman numerals: 34. Yes, today is my birthday and I’m shocked to discover that if I were to write my bio in Latin, my age looks like pornography and intravenous drug use rolled into one – make that 1 x 34.

Bio: Daedalus est a praeditus XXXIV annus vetus scriptor.

What am I complaining about? I should feel lucky to turn 34 – a lot of people don’t. For that matter, a lot of people do who shouldn’t. I just slipped by and I’m glad I did. This year, I’ll try to make you glad I did too.

The best way to make people glad you were born is to have your birthday turned into a national holiday, which federally mandates a day off. So, please, go and celebrate Daedalus Howell Day, enjoy a spin of the globe on me – you deserve it, especially those of you kind enough to have sent birthday greetings. Much thanks!


Convert your own age into Roman numerals courtesy of Nova Roma.