By Marc Heiden, since 1997.
May 24, 2005
I should talk about the scary dream that I had last night, because my foot still hurts. I was standing outside with a friend and her three year old daughter. They had a new house on a hill with big lawn and no other houses in sight, out in the country. It came time for the three year old to go to bed (even though the sun had only just begun to set), so we hugged, and then they went in, leaving the door open behind them. Suddenly I heard a cry from inside. The three year old had spotted a giant angry gorilla through the window. I ran to the door, but the giant angry gorilla was fast, and I couldn't close the door in time. The giant angry gorilla roared and clawed at the door. Desperate, I tried to kick the door shut. Unfortunately, in real life, I had fallen asleep on the couch, and my powerful kick actually hit the edge of the coffee table. That fucking hurt.
For the record, Fanta has become the beverage of choice among the Abu Ghraib prison abuse crew. According to Coca-Cola's website, consumers around the world, particularly teens, associate Fanta with happiness and special times spent with friends and family. Given that a new legal team was brought in for the defense today, could this presage a change in the defense strategy? If Pepsi meant "Look, the choice of a new generation was to flush the Koran down the toilet," and Dr. Pepper meant "Yes, I would like to be a Pepper, as opposed to someone who is going to jail for a long time," then Fanta may mean, "I associate this trial with happiness and special times spent with prisoners whose genitals I burned using hot lamps." I haven't been to law school so I can't really predict how that plea might turn out.
May 23, 2005
I know that a lot of people are pissed off because I haven't covered the walking panda story yet. What you have to understand is that I am battling a number of firmly entrenched financial interests in my ongoing crusade to expose the panda porn once and for all, and while nothing escapes my notice, it doesn't necessarily get written up right away, because there is a strategy at work here. I don't have the kind of resources that the panda sex industry does. In all honesty, I did mean to cover this last week, but then I got side-tracked with the Oregon Trail thing. I'm here now, though, and here it is:
TOKYO (AFP) A lesser panda is proving a hit at a zoo near Tokyo as it can stand on two legs like a human being for about 10 seconds, an unusual feat for the species, zoo officials said. The two-year-old male panda named Futa stands up several times a day when "it sees something interesting", said Hiroyuki Asano, an official of Chiba Zoological Park, southeast of the capital. "We have kept lesser pandas for nearly 20 years at this zoo, but I have not seen one like Futa, which can stand for such a long time," Asano said. "Futa is like an idol to his fans."
I remain doubtful that even a panda can make walking upright "cool", but if these fans really are driven to imitate their idol, it can't be a bad thing. Seriously, though, what does a lesser panda have to do to stop being lesser? The poor bastard is walking upright for ten whole seconds and has legions of devoted fans, and he's still a lesser panda. At some point, Futa has to begin to wonder why he even bothers.
The furry, seven-kilogramme (15 pound) animal, whose natural habitat are the mountains of China and the Himalayas, was born in another zoo in central Japan. Unlike the black-and-white giant panda, the lesser panda has brown fur with a stripe on its tail. Futa, fed fruits and bamboo every day, has a female mate, and the zoo hopes they will have a baby panda in the near future.
A PANDA'S LAMENT
FUTA: Look! I'm walking!
Apparently - and I'm not making this up - Futa has a grandfather named Ron who is also good at walking upright. Way to go, Ron. But nothing in the world matters less than a panda who's too old to make more babies.
Every once in a while, I feel a responsibility to put something on here that absolutely nobody other than myself is going to find amusing. This photo gallery is fairly old - it's from my second day in Russia, when I was scraping the bottom of the barrel for things to do by myself in Vladivostok on a rainy day. There was a museum built in mounds overlooking the bay with decommissioned chain guns and missiles sitting around, and I don't even know if I was supposed to be walking around up there, and I guess technically I don't even know if any of them were actually decommissioned, but eventually I wandered into a cave-like museum dedicated to the Russians who had, throughout history, kept Asians out of this particular area. And, as it so often does, a certain madness set in, and I started trying to photograph the little army men in the museum's many dioramas in dramatic ways. The lighting was very bad (I believe there were proles on treadmills at the power station), but I did my best, and I really do think the last few are nice. I could make this one available as a print. It's even more pleasant at three times the size.
May 19, 2005
As I started to gather my thoughts for this entry, an email from my friend Eamon arrived with a link that put me in a reflective mood. As some people may know, when I finally returned to Chicago, I spent a bit of time bored and depressed and obsessed with getting the entire Bolshevik Party across the Oregon Trail successfully without any fatal "accidents" along the way. (I believe that my use of Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Zinoviev and Bukharin was a reasonable distillation of the original Politburo. Some will criticize the omission of Kamenev, but I feel that he is given fair representation as an implicit member of the Zinoviev - Kamenev power axis. Granted, I would rather not travel across the country in a wagon with a whiny shit like Zinoviev, but this is a matter of the historical record, not my own personal comfort.) I wanted to test whether the Bolshevik Revolution was an elitist, murderous sham from the start (the Richard Pipes view) or whether, given more careful stewardship, the substitution of a party vanguard for the proletarian masses could have developed into a true dictatorship of the proletariat (Isaac Deutscher, et al) and successfully led the workers of the world to Oregon.
Because I am fucking amazing at science, I set up the trials very carefully. I hadn't played Oregon Trail in several years before setting out. (Contrary to the assumptions of many who downloaded my copy of Oregon Trail and looked at the high scores, it was my younger brother who obsessively tried to shepherd the 1992-93 Charlotte Hornets across the country, not me.) My feeling was that they had to start out as farmers from Illinois ($400 start-up cash) if they were to have any credibility as friends of the laborer, and if the only way to get them all across was to allow them to be bankers from Boston ($800 start-up cash), then they were basically kulaks and the whole thing was bullshit by definition. (You could argue that was the case anyway because I wasn't about to set out on the trail in October anyway, but I felt that if I could land them in the Willamette Valley by then, that was a suitable corrollary.)
So I spent a while working on that. I am a big believer in blowing a ton of money on oxen and just eating whatever you can shoot along the way. I tried to be fair to all members of the party, regardless of their historical deeds. For example, there were a few incidents on the trail when Stalin got the measles and I was disinclined to rest so he could recuperate - when Trotsky's dysentery was treated with much greater care - but ultimately I did not overstep the bounds of fairness. The other ground rule I had - and this is based on the fact that Lenin only ever wore a suit and Stalin only ever wore a trench coat - was what brought this entire story to mind when I read the link from Eamon, an interview with the creators of the original Oregon Trail, with questions from grade school children:
Mindy Pontzon, age 10, writes:
So, yeah, as far as I was concerned, no Bolsheviks were allowed to buy any clothes, either at Matt's General Store or any of the trading outposts along the way. That seemed like a very important rule to me at the time. You have to remember that I was kind of depressed and wasn't wearing any pants myself. I never got around to posting my findings on this webpage. I should probably hold out for a prestigious journal, but it's embarassing when they fight over me, so I will settle for this, instead.
1. It was extraordinarily difficult to get Trotsky and Stalin across the country together. I shit you not. One or the other was almost always dead by the end. (Usually Trotsky.)
The fact is, the Bolsheviks had a pretty easy time on the trail as bankers, and they couldn't hack it as farmers. Does that prove Pipes' thesis once and for all, or does it merely presage the antagonism that developed with the peasantry post-NEP? I'm not going to pretend that my findings are conclusive. If someone will give me a grant and a copy of the Great Maine to California Race, I could probably get some definitive answers.
(news) A Russian village was left baffled Thursday after its lake disappeared overnight. NTV television showed pictures of a giant muddy hole bathed in summer sun, while fishermen from the village of Bolotnikovo looked on disconsolately. "It is very dangerous. If a person had been in this disaster, he would have had almost no chance of survival. The trees flew downwards, under the ground," said Dmitry Zaitsev, a local Emergencies Ministry official interviewed by the channel. Officials in Nizhegorodskaya region, on the Volga river east of Moscow, said water in the lake might have been sucked down into an underground water-course or cave system.
You'd think they'd be used to things disappearing in the middle of the night by now in Russia. That's always how it works. First they come for the dissidents, and then they come for the lakes. And if you tolerate this, then your porches will be next.
May 18, 2005
AMONG MY HOPES FOR THE NEW STAR WARS MOVIE, WHICH I WILL SEE AT MIDNIGHT
1. Admiral Ackbar hauls off and decks Darth Vader;
Just give me those seven things and I will be content, Mr. Lucas.
So, another one of the Abu Ghraib crew went on trial this week, and I was right there on Yahoo News tracking what the accused was drinking on the way in and out of the courtoom. My investigation went as far as the fifth page of search results, and I can now confirm that US Army Spc. Sabrina Harman was swilling Aquafina prior to her initial pre-trial hearing last week, but as proceedings wore on, she switched to Nesquick. What does all of this mean?
1. You get a lighter sentence if you're not all hopped up on caffeine;
May 13, 2005
Another job for which I am better qualified than the man who currently holds it is the job of CTA President. Residents of the city of Chicago know that our public transportation system is teetering on the verge of collapse, and the minions of Kruesi claim that jacking fares to $3 while cutting service is the only way to save it. I, on the other hand, am possessed of wide, staring eyes and a strong urge to fly, and I have insights that the minions do not. For example, one way for the CTA to save a lot of money would be to cut down on the number of guys in green vests wandering aimlessly back and forth at the Division subway stop. Prior to this week, there was already a surplus of those guys, and now their number has doubled. The only thing they do that can be construed as work-related is getting out of the train's way when it finally creeps into the station.
Now, lest someone sneer and call me a consultant, let me clarify that I am not proposing layoffs. Workers are valuable assets, but they must be deployed correctly. These men should not be fired; clearly, they are well-versed in the art of bamboozlement, because they get paid to wander around in green vests, and their bosses think it's a good thing. They are experts in techniques that the CTA can use to get out of paying its debts. Put them in a room with, say, this month's electricity bill and a telephone. They know the weaknesses of middle management; they they know how to deal with that shit.
Kruesi is a weak little man who instead chooses to whinge about the state legislature.
(news) COVINGTON, La. -- Officials captured 47 monkeys that had escaped from the Tulane Primate Center, but six remained on the loose Tuesday and seemed to be hiding out in a heavily wooded area near the site. The monkeys escaped Monday evening. Officials said the monkeys got loose because a cage was not locked properly. The monkeys had observed how the cage was opened and closed and apparently used that knowledge to their advantage.
Mike Aertker, spokesman for the Primate Center, said the monkeys were being used solely for breeding purposes, and had not been subjected to experiments of any kind. Aertker said the monkeys are not aggressive and pose no threat to people.
The interesting thing is, when given a choice, 38 of the monkeys who were recaptured by the breeding facility chose to listen to Pinkerton.
Following up on my last entry, Arden, our remote correspondent, reported that Letterman had a bit on Tuesday night where he and Paul Schaffer tried to guess whether paintings were by an ape or an artist. According to Arden, the one by the ape was "quite a good painting". Frankly, when an ape paints well, I think he or she deserves some credit. The critics who derided Congo's exhibition in 1957 probably did so from a position of defending art; to admit that an ape could paint well would, they feared, open some kind of fissure beneath the integrity of modern abstract art, revealing it as a con along the lines of all those lame jokes and commercials where aesthetes mistake a common object for a masterpiece and shower it with pseudo art-speak. But it wouldn't. Some people paint better than others, and some monkeys paint better than others, too. Congo happened to be a fucking good painter. As the article said:
He painted within the boundaries of the sheet of paper and never allowed the paint to spill over the edge. He also appeared to know when he had finished a painting: He refused to pick up his brush or pencil over the work.
Could any monkey with a paint-brush produce great art? Of course not. I strongly doubt that this monkey's work would be anything other than an empty exercise in form, and this monkey probably lacks the discipline to go beyond surface assumptions about his relationship with his art. But, for fuck's sake, if you gave this monkey a canvas, he would come back to you with some fucking intense reflections about where he's been and what he's seen. And you can't tell me this monkey doesn't know some shit about life.
It seems to be raining very hard right now. But, seriously, if anyone thought that would prevent me from hitting all the locations on my carefully-drawn map for the first day of Free Frosty Weekend, they are fools. I guess I should take this opportunity to thank the crazy chili finger woman for her diligent efforts towards embarassing a corporate monolith into giving me a free lunch. If someone could get Pizza Hut to do the same, that would be great, because I don't feel like cooking tonight.
May 11, 2005
One of my colleagues reported that he'd done a Google search for the terms 'Heiden' and 'monkey' and come up with 137 hits from this web-page. In my defense, I can only suggest that a more accurate count might have included the names of individual kinds of monkeys (and apes), such as gibbons or chimps or gorillas. Really, though, the clear implication is that I've been shockingly derelict in my duties as a practicioner of serious fucking journalism and I need to focus.
(news) Congo the chimpanzee led a brief artistic career and enjoyed little critical success, despite the patronage of his contemporary and fellow abstract painter, Pablo Picasso. But nearly half a century after Congo's artistic career, some of his paintings are going on sale at a prestigious London auction house alongside works by Andy Warhol and Renoir.
Three tempera on paper works — brightly colored compositions of bold brushstrokes — will be featured as a single lot in the sale of Modern and Contemporary Art at Bonhams on June 20, the auctioneer said Wednesday. The lot estimate is between $1,130-$1,500. Bonhams said it believed the auction is a first.
"I would sincerely doubt that chimpanzee art has ever been auctioned before," said Howard Rutkowski, the auction house's director of modern and contemporary art. "I don't think anybody else has been crazy enough to do this. I'm sure other auction houses think this is completely mad."
Congo, who was born in 1954, produced some 400 drawings and paintings between the ages of 2 and 4. It was not immediately known if he was still alive, a Bonhams spokeswoman said. In 1957, animal behaviorist Desmond Morris organized an exhibition of chimpanzee art at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, including works by Congo. Critics reacted with a mixture of scorn and skepticism, but Picasso is recorded as having owned a painting by Congo, Bonhams said.
In all likelihood, given the average lifespan of a chimpanzee, Congo has joined Van Gogh, Modigliani and various other dead guys in the ranks of great artists who were unappreciated in their own lifetime. (And lest you think these are just more of my knee-jerk partisan pro-monkey politics, I suggest you check out some of Congo's work. It's really good!) Do you even realize how these artists are sitting around in the afterlife trashing us? The walls of heaven's coffee shops ring with Van Gogh's "She never loved me" and Modigliani's "It's not like tuberculosis medicine would have been that expensive" and Congo's "Pick my back" and Van Gogh's "Oh, yeah, they all love Starry Night *now*" and Modigliani's "I was doing that Africa stuff decades before Picasso" and Congo's "Are you going to finish that banana?"
I have long advocated giving every monkey in the world a bucket of paint. Worst case scenario, we end up with a bunch of blue and red monkeys looking sheepish. I say this to the leaders of the world: you're botching the job, let me take over for a while.
I really want those paintings, but I am well aware that heartless manipulators with large checkbooks will drive up the bidding. I actually would pay a thousand dollars for three good paintings by a famous monkey. Probably you knew that, though. I would frame them, and next to them I would frame my credit card statement, which would read 'PAINTINGS BY FAMOUS MONKEY'.
I was turned down for the lycopene study because Dr. Wu measured me at 6 feet tall, which is a full three inches shorter than I actually am, according to the physical I had before I left for Japan in 2003. My weight is normal for my actual height, but Dr. Wu did manage to weigh me correctly, so my actual weight at my non-actual height would make me kind of overweight and thereby disqualified for the study group. Now, I'm not saying that Dr. Wu is a jabbering incompetent lunatic but I do find it odd that I would lose three inches of height during a period of time when all I did was go to Japan and talk to Japanese people. If Japan has actually found a way to make visitors shorter, then I believe a number of health alerts are called for, as well as a motherfucking APB on that traitorous bastard Rick Moranis. The more plausible explanation, of course, is that Dr. Wu blew it, so the woman in charge of the study said I could come back in July and participate in that dosing group.
May 5, 2005
Does anyone know what happens to milk chocolate when it gets old? I've had a giant chocolate rabbit on my desk for some time now and I would like, ideally, for it to remain there for the rest of my tenure at this job. After melting the peeps that had previously adorned my desk - it was a tribute to the recently-deceased Pope, and we gathered around the microwave in the office kitchen, saying nice things about the old guy as the peeps assumed strange and horrifying forms, and then we left the mess in the sink and pretended to know nothing about it - I needed something else to liven up the ol' work station, and wouldn't you know it, the convenience store downstairs was selling all of the long-past-due Easter merchandise at a massive discount. It was probably the craftiest set of negotiations I've ever conducted. How often do you seal a deal over a giant chocolate rabbit with nothing more than a pair of Washingtons? I'm on record as having said that M.B.A.s are for shit and I think the fact that I closed that deal without a day of business school proves my point in a fairly emphatic fashion.
Because I work until 7pm, I'm usually here when the cleaning lady comes by, and she always dusts behind the giant chocolate rabbit. I've never had to tell her to do that. Wealthy plutocrats often say that good help is hard to find, but that hasn't been my experience at all.
When the game began, though, the two die-hards stood up and unfurled their trump card, a hand-written sign that said something along the lines of:
Hair Dye: $8
Their placard inspired a few thoughts. First, who is more of an [word for donkey], the guy who is three years behind the times and thought of the “joke,” or the guy who, back at the apartment, said, “Now that’s funny, dude. You totally have to take that to the game”?
Paul Shirley's journal is back for the playoffs and offers another compelling reason to support the Phoenix Suns (at least in the West - for legal reasons, I have to keep rooting for the Bulls until they're formally eliminated). He is the twelfth man on a team that only uses seven players, giving him the basketball equivalent of a temp job where you sit in front of a computer all day and try to look busy whenever someone walks by until you just can't be arsed to minimize browser windows any more. Having smacked down the "priceless" "joke" is a profoundly noble use of his position, and in the May 3rd entry, he establishes a formula that plots the vector in an emotional matrix involving Shawn Marion and a drunken homeless guy outside the arena. At the very minimum, that entitles him to a supporting role in an "Escape to Victory" remake. Or a little bit of playing time.
May 4, 2005
Some readers may have reached the perfectly reasonable conclusion that my kidney stones were fatal, or that they caused an explosion in my urinary tract whose shockwaves led to my arms to falling off, and that my insurance had not yet agreed to cover new, robot arms, forcing me to spend several months trying to peck out an entry of typical length using a stick held between my teeth. Really, though, all that the kidney stones did was usher in an era of discontent in which I slept face down on the couch a lot and avoided my computer. Pissing into a funnel will do funny things to a man's state of mind. When I started feeling communicative again, I put together this new design and then became distracted by the Bulls' playoff run. (I added the link to the Bulls usenet group to the sidebar so that people could see what I was up to and decide if they would like to lobby their local paper to hire me as a sportswriter. I find that Chicago is beset by crappy sports columnists. The beat writers are all pretty good, but the columnists are vile men who believe in nothing and would rescue their hair-care products from a hotel fire before they'd help an orphan who just needed to know where the stairs are. Except Sam Smith. As far as he's concerned, the mustache combs the paper keeps sending over can get fucked, and so can the orphans, too.)
It takes weird things to spur me to write. I'm not very busy at work right now, so I focus most of my energy on throwing notes to the neighboring cubicle and making viciously disparaging remarks about the warrior spirit of the Washington Wizards to whoever is willing to listen. But just a moment ago, as I went through another round of obsessively checking websites that might have been updated, I noticed there was a new photo up on Yahoo's news page for the Lynndie England trial. That in and of itself was not remarkable, because they've been running that as the lead story all day, but here's what caught my attention: in the morning, they showed her arriving for the hearing clutching a Pepsi can in an oddly conspicuous manner. (The mind is trained to think of Abu Ghraib endorsement deals, but the fingers know better than to bother typing them.) In the afternoon, however, after the judge had ruled a mistrial, the photos showed her walking out of the courtroom with a similarly conspicuous can of Dr. Pepper.
1. Why did she switch? Did someone pressure her into it? Who wanted her caffeinated and why?
Hopefully the media will pursue this line of questioning and we should have some answers early next week. (Or, alternatively, the media could ask why none of the officers who ordered these hicks to torture prisoners will face any kind of discipline other than a firm and decisive promotion.)
(The mind is trained to generate a cheap movie reference joke involving Mountain Dew: Code Red. The fingers know better than to type it.)
I had to go over to the University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital yesterday for the initial visit in a study I'm participating in. Basically, you agree to stop eating tomatoes for a month or so and then you get paid. I will miss the pizza, but otherwise I am willing to accept those terms. I paid off all of my credit card debt while I was in Japan, and then I ran it right back up by spending a month in Russia and then being unemployed until right before Christmas. It was frustrating, but it will give me a lot to talk about with Yakov Smirnoff next time I'm in Branson, so I know I made the right decision in the end. But for now, I am trying to get back out of debt as quickly as possible. I've heard all about responsible financial planning, but that shit is too slow. So is laundering money for Nigerian bank officials who have discovered an account belonging to a German man who died in a car crash, leaving no relatives to claim his $3.4 million dollars. (Seriously, have you ever tried it? It takes months!) I want to get out of debt now, now, now. I headed over to the hospital after work, listening to a recently-acquired copy of the audio-book of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" on the way - it didn't occur to me how stupid that was until I noticed that I had pulled into a parking garage at fifty miles per hour - and then let the doctors run me through various paces. I told Dr. Wu that I had been living in Japan and he tried to sign me to China as a free agent. I told him I'd think it over. First I have to get paid.
I will try to return to this web-page more often in the days to come.
I woke up in a strange place is the work of Marc Heiden, born in 1978, author of two books (Chicago, Hiroshima) and some plays, and an occasional photographer.
Antarctica, Beelzetron, Books, Chicago, College, Communism, Food, Internet, Japan, Manute Bol, Monkeys and Apes, North Korea, Oregon Trail, Outer Space, Panda Porn, Politics, RabbiTech, Shakespeare, Sports, Texas.
January 2012, December 2011, January 2011, September 2010, August 2010, June 2010, March 2010, October 2009, February 2009, January 2009, September 2008, August 2008, March 2008, February 2008, October 2007, July 2007, June 2007, January 2007, September 2006, July 2006, June 2006, January 2006, December 2005, September 2005, August 2005, July 2005, June 2005, May 2005, March 2005, February 2005, January 2005, December 2004, October 2004, July 2004, June 2004, May 2004, April 2004, February 2004, January 2004, December 2003, November 2003, October 2003, September 2003, August 2003, July 2003, June 2003, May 2003, April 2003, March 2003, February 2003, January 2003, December 2002, November 2002, October 2002, September 2002, August 2002, July 2002, June 2002, May 2002, April 2002, March 2002, February 2002, January 2002, December 2001, November 2001, October 2001, September 2001, August 2001, July 2001, December 1999, November 1999, October 1999, May 1999, February 1999, January 1999, December 1998, November 1998, October 1998, June 1998, May 1998, April 1998, March 1998, February 1998, December 1997, November 1997, October 1997, September 1997, and the uncategorised wilderness of the Beelzetron era: 010622 - 010619, 010615 - 010611, 010608 - 010604, 010601 - 010529, 010525 - 010521, 010518 - 010514, 010511 - 010507, 010504 - 010430, 010427 - 010423, 010420 - 010416, 010413 - 010409, 010406 - 010402, 010330 - 010326, 010323 - 010319, 010316 - 010312, 010309 - 010307, 019223 - 010219, 010216 - 010212, 010209 - 010205, 010202 - 010109, 010126 - 010122, 010119 - 010115, 010112 - 010108, 010105 - 010102, 001229 - 001224, 001222 - 001218, 001215 - 001211, 001208 - 001204, 001201 - 001124, 001124 - 001120, 001117 - 001113, 001110 - 001106, 001103 - 001030, 001027 - 001023, 001020 - 001016, 001013 - 001010, 001006 - 000927.
Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.