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A favor, from you to me:
My friend Per Jambeck has co-written a new book called Developing Bioinformatics Computer Skills. If you have a minute, please write a review for Amazon.com, whether you've read it or are willing to believe me when I say that Per is a top guy, a defender of justice and a friend to children. You don't have to know anything about science to write a review; just be creative and spread some love. Thanks.
self-portrait, with floating heads.
self-portrait, nude, in the box store.
self-portrait, wet, in mouth of whale, with fish.
This web page is the work of
Marc Heiden, 23 years old, who . He lives in Chicago.
My work voicemail cries out for you:
Players Workshop (Term 4).
Find-a-job: less hours, less pay OK.
Dizzy for the foreseeable future.
sometimes, I also write for
Thinking of Hesterman,
because I'm like that.
Kill Less of Me
Man Cutting Globe
the Onion (W)
Red Meat (Tu)
This Modern World (M)
What Jail is Like
1 Dada and Surrealism
I went to his art gallery while I was in London and enjoyed myself. Dada! Dada dada dada; dada, dada dada.
Robert Smigel, Adam McKay
I've never seen the SNL cartoons because I haven't been able to make it through an episode of SNL for years. Adam McKay co-wrote the book, though, so that was reason enough to buy it. He was one of the major players during Second City's mid-90s golden era. If you've listened to the CDs that came with that (bad) coffee-table SC history book, he played the "hapless fellow from human resources" in the "Mr Grissom" (aka "Gump") sketch with Scott Adsit, which is only the best piece of comedy ever. Adam McKay introduced me to Noam Chomsky during a sketch where he played Chomsky as a substitute kindergarten teacher. The book is pretty good so far. It's a great idea, and the 1960s Marvel Comics feel is done perfectly. The only problem is that the mediocrity of the art makes a few of the jokes incomprehensible. The ads are easily the best parts.
3 The Compass: the Improvisational Theatre That Revolutionized American Comedy
Said theatre was the precursor to Second City and the idea of improvisation as performance; the book is a chronicle of all that up to the mid 1960s or so, and a portrait of young hipster intellectual culture in the 50s and 60s. It's really quite good. The author interviewed literally every one of the many, many major players save Mike Nichols and Elaine May, whose thoughts are fairly well represented through extensive research. The latter, wow, it's hard not to be in awe of her after reading this. The book traces the development of the form and all of the myriad directions it could have (and did) evolve. Essential if you're interested in improv theory.
4 The Winter's Tale
Featuring that inexplicable Rosetta Stone of stage directions: Exit, pursued by a bear. When I was in Stratford, there was a gift shop with stuffed bears who had the stage direction on their shirts. I thought to myself, if I had a baby, and I mean a baby in the old bluesman sense, I would buy my baby a Winter's Tale bear. Maybe some day. The essay included with my copy, by Frances Dolan, left me gobsmacked:
These improbabilities, which might be summed up in the notorious stage direction Exit, pursued by a bear (III.3.57), make it hard for some people to take this play seriously. But perhaps what is most unlikely, but also most moving, is not that a bear will turn up out of nowhere and eat you - which is one way of dramatizing the unexpected assaults of daily life - but that the bear does not eat the baby on whom hope depends; not that one is betrayed or aggrieved, but that one goes on.
Aww, that's everything I've ever written, and she did it all in one paragraph. Shakespeare did it all in one bear, for that matter. Well, he was pretty good.
WEFT 90.1 FM
art 'n resources:
b-side wins again 2001
010518 The tech crew had my computer almost all day, which put me in a difficult position: when pressed for explanations of why I never log into the computer system at work until 2 hours or so after I'm supposed to be here but still mark the time down on my card, I usually make a number of vague, sweeping, excited references to projects that I've undertaken in the research library. I'm sort of on the media research "team" (1), so I do have access to it. I had to find things to do for six hours without the computer today, though, and that was hard. There's only so much time I can spend on the "research library project" before someone asks for specifics. The plan I came up with was to throw things away. I went through all the cabinets within twenty feet of me and took their contents to the shredder. I thought that was pretty clever of me: spring cleaning and all that. There didn't seem to be anything crucial. Most of it looked outdated. The only vital things that I threw away were all of the 2000 time reports. I felt like I had license.
My computer at work now has Workstation 5, which includes Windows 2000, but does not include all the monkey pictures I got for desktop backgrounds, so I had to go find all those again, damn it. The computer had a company logo background on the desktop when I turned it on, as if to say "Hey, we did you a favor and got rid of that monkey for you - and found this cool background of the company logo!" I'm reading too much into it, of course, but it was all the reason I needed to pee all over the bathroom walls. That's a lie. It'd be great if I did that any time they bothered me, though. If I put up polls on this webpage, I would make that a poll:
Is peeing all over the walls a valid expression of my discontent?
That's not true either, though. If I was to take a poll on this website, it would be:
There was a legitimate research project that I worked on for a while that involved going through a bunch of industry analyst websites and finding anything that mentioned this company. A woman who works here gave me her passwords for all of the websites, and every single one featured the word 'Pixie' with a different number after it.
Here, courtesy of my one-man research team, JC Dwyer, is more info on man-monkey fever:
(HINDUSTAN TIMES) Although a 1,000-strong police force has not been able to spot the creature, people who sleep out in the open in north-east and east Delhi continue to report attacks. Everybody seems to be on the lookout. In Noida, a mechanic wearing an all-black outfit matched the description of the mysterious creature both physically and sartorially. At least according to the people who beat him up on the suspicion, and then handed him over to the police. If the motive of the `monkey-man' (or gang of men) is to spread terror, it has certainly succeeded.
I'd like to repeat those last two sentences:
At least according to the people who beat him up on the suspicion, and then handed him over to the police. If the motive of the `monkey-man' (or gang of men) is to spread terror, it has certainly succeeded.
You have to feel pretty good about society when mob justice has reached a point where people beat the crap out of someone in a paranoid frenzy and then hand him over to the police. It makes the mob justice more of a polite gesture toward the police than anything else: here, we saved you the trouble of beating the crap out of him, figured you've been busy lately, wanted to help out. But the monkey-man remains free. Has anyone investigated the possibility that, based on the scolding tone of that last sentence, the writer of that article is the man-monkey's mom? I think it bears consideration. Well, now look at what you've done. I hope you're happy, monkey-man.
Also from the Hindustan Times: Monkeyman gives power to the people.
CNN for monkeys signing off.
(1) If the "team" metaphor is forced to be literal, on the media research team, I am the wacky Japanese guy who doesn't speak any English and is trained in the art of ninja but does crazy things like get suspicious of batboys and make weird religious sacrifices before he bats.
010517 I decided to leave work early again today, so I've only got ten minutes or so to write this entry. A tech guy is supposed to come by eventually to do an upgrade on my computer. I thought about dismantling all the frightening office sculptures on my desk, like the staple removers that are eating each other - there was an ambush, one is leaping at the other from the supply carousel thingy, you'd be surprised how disturbing it looks - and the zoo for binder clips toward the back, which is far more wholesome, because the big binder clips are watching out for the baby binder clips - but then I thought, screw that guy, I like the way I have my desk set up.
The woman who is in charge of time reports got promoted to the London office. All of my zany memos go out under her name, so most of the nation thinks that she does them. I'm sure the other work she does had something to do with the promotion, but still.
(news) Nearly a century after they perished aboard the luxury liner Titanic, three mystery passengers who were laid to rest in unmarked graves -- including a two-year-old baby boy -- may finally be identified by Canadian researchers through DNA testing.
And hopefully, the Titanic will finally be brought to justice.
I don't use my time at work very well. I was trying to formulate a scheme whereby I'd start a rumor that there was a conspiracy behind the death of former president Chester A Arthur, and then I could implicate people I don't like in the conspiracy. I wasn't really sure where to even get started with that one, though. Maybe put up a webpage about it. Some pictures, reader email. Sightings of the grisly ghost of Chester A Arthur. Photoshop Chester A Arthur's head onto the body of a grisly ghost. Shit, I don't know. I didn't get anywhere with it, which is why I am not happy with my time management skills. Clearly, there has been time.
010516 I tried to come up with a new game to play this morning at work, and eventually I settled on responding to whatever people said as a pterodactyl, but no one said anything to me.
The white-out painting that I mentioned earlier this week is still posted in the copy room. Sweet! History will judge them kindly for that, in light of the healing power of my genius and all. If you would like a free fax, even if you're international, of my fucking brilliant white-out painting, email me.
If you could please keep it down for a minute, I would like to take this opportunity to speak to the man-monkey who, according news reports, is terrorizing India. I am very well-respected in the man-monkey community; in fact, some would go so far as to paraphrase Chuck D in calling my webpage 'CNN for monkeys'. Let me say to you, then, man-monkey, and the rest of you can skip to the next part, because this is for the man-monkey, not you: stop terrorizing India. I'm sure that you have your reasons, and I'm sure that India isn't blameless in all this, but you have to understand they've had a hard time of it lately, what with all the earthquakes and caste systems. If you would like me to moderate some conflict resolution between you and India, I can do that. I have the charm and the, well, charm. So please, before you run into someone else's house and shriek and scratch their stuff, please contact me.
Okay, everyone else can start reading again, which is good, because now I am going to talk about throwing things at people. I work by the Chicago River, which is filthy and disgusting and has shit floating in it. On sunny days, the shit floating in the river includes large tour boats. For some damn reason, tourists take boat rides down this sewage canal that winds through a bunch of indistinguishable tall buildings. They never wave back when I wave at them, which pisses me off because it sets up this one-way zoo dynamic, e.g. look at the businessman in his native habitat. Today, inexplicably, someone left a frisbee outside the office. I took it downstairs with me and threw it at the first tour boat that passed by. I missed, but I'm only going to get better at it, as long as I can keep coming up with frisbees. I could just start scooping my feces, but my hands would stink when I went back upstairs to write that day's entry on the webpage.
Maybe the man-monkey is looking to franchise in the US.
010515 Here, in response to overwhelming (and frankly irritating) demand for more stories about elevators, is a story about an elevator: I exercised the Fuck All Y'All clause for a few hours today and entered an elevator to go outside. The tenth floor of this building is served by two banks of elevators, floors 1-10 and 10-20. The second set of elevators are usually quicker because they go straight from 10 to the ground. I wanted to get out of the building as quickly as possible, so I chose 10-20; risky, because it is in view of the lobby and you can be spotted by a supervisor, but just trust me on this one, I had to go. The elevator came quickly and I boarded it. There was only one other person inside. We stood in silence for a while. Having lost its sense of urgency, the elevator was now moving quite slowly. I decided, as I sometimes do, to make a Foghat reference. Slow ride, huh?, I said to the man. In a nasal bass tone identical to Scott Allman's, who used to perform at Second City, and if you never saw him there, which you probably didn't, think of a Tom Waits who could beat you up, and if all else fails, imagine a voice that says things like I drink to forget a lot or imagine the voice of a guy who drinks in silence for several hours and suddenly announces We've been lied to! and you'll probably have his voice, he glared at me and sneered These elevators are neanderthal. You really can't tell with guys like that whether they blame you for the situation or not, so all I did was reply, Yep.
Here is another example of trouble that I made: until recently, I was only asked to created the wretched zany time reports memos once every couple months. Since nationwide acclaim results every time I do one, they decided to go to the well too often and have me do one every time. I hate doing them because it's demeaning. I can make funny at a fast and furious clip, and the time report memos certainly don't call for genius, but it's really hard to lower yourself to that level - to be creative about time reports, to come up with something these people will understand and enjoy, to produce something that you dislike, to write for an audience of consultants. It sounds easy from the outside, but it's different when you're in here. Anyway, I thought about it for a while and, after a half hour, all I had was a JPG of an old etching of a sea monster attacking a boat and some obscenities. That's when I invoked the Fuck All Y'all clause and just left. Angry emails from the time reports people awaited when I returned. Yeah, bring it. I'm too charming to get fired.
I read about Douglas Adams' passing on Reuters Saturday night, but I didn't believe it until I read Neil Gaiman's page right afterward. Neil Gaiman tells no lies. I was thinking today about the whale from the first book, and Marvin's abandonment in the second book, and of course The Answer in the third book, and the love story in the fourth book, and poor Arthur trying to raise his daughter Random in the fifth, and that terrible sinking feeling on the next to last page of the fifth, and the electric monk in Dirk Gently, and being Outside the Asylum, and, oh, when Zaphod comes out of the Total Perspective Vortex, oh, yes. I left that out yesterday, so I wanted to mention it.
I was rooting for Gamera in Survivor: Monster Island, and he got voted off this week. Look, Godzilla cannot win. All respect to the big lizard, but he's gone prog-rock of late, after that travesty in 1998, and he needs to be checked. Kong is nothing but trouble in this version, and Rodan just isn't in a league with the rest of them, so I'm not sure who to support. I've always been a Mothra fan, but I can see why she didn't last. Gamera, however, giant turtle, defender of the universe, and, most importantly, friend to children, was the indie rock choice.
Douglas Adams died on Saturday. I read the news late on Saturday night after a long drive back from a family gathering. At the family gathering, some mention was made of Perry Como's death, which happened on the same day; Douglas Adams didn't mean much to any of them. They are hunter-gatherers. They don't read much. I read the news alone, upside-down, in my underwear. If you don't read that one of your favorite authors has died while doing it, that's just a harmless experiment in making blood rush to your head; if you do, it only makes things worse, because here you are, upside-down, how can you justify spending your time like this if Douglas Adams isn't alive any more? I have no idea.
Reading his books made me feel good that he was alive somewhere, whether he ever wrote another one or not.
Douglas Adams will be recognized some day as a great writer and one of the most influential of the last century. Like his friends in Monty Python, his critical reputation is a victim of the majority of his fans, Comic Book Guys who just don't get what was so good about his writing. You get so sick of them that it spills over on the source material. All they see are the non-sequiturs, wacky rah rah, but Douglas Adams had ideas, such amazing ideas, and he had soul. It's not about the non-sequiturs. Writing about his writing feels hopelessly inadequate, so I'll leave it there. It was beautiful at times, and it was fucking funny. I haven't read any of his books in a few years, but I cop from him every day, over and over again, shamelessly, helpless because I read his books as a pre-teen and loved them so much that I didn't have a choice other than to press on like him.
Douglas Adams once said the following, as advice to young writers:
Don't blow up the Earth in chapter one -- you're gonna need it later. (s)
I have not blown up the Earth in chapter one of anything I have ever written.
On Sunday afternoon, I drove to the Barnes and Noble in Evanston, where I was a bookstore rat during high school, where I bought all five books of the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, and I took a chocolate milkshake into the store with me. I tipped it to the Douglas Adams section, which is in the literary ghetto of Sci-Fi, and then I went outside. I took one sip of the milkshake for me, one sip for my friend Rory, who I called when I heard the news, one sip for Paul Djurijich, who borrowed books 2, 3 and 4 of the Hitchhikers' Guide during our senior year of high school and never returned them but enjoyed them so much that I didn't mind, and then I poured out the rest of the chocolate milkshake for my dead homey, Douglas Adams.
It made a loud splattering sound and scared the hell out of the outdoor patrons of the FlatTop Grill nearby.
010514 Sometimes, I like to write about dumb things that I do. It is a wily strategy that encourages the audience identify with me, because everyone has done some dumb things at various times in their lives, and it helps to convince them that perhaps I am not such an imperious bastard after all. Here is a dumb thing that I did: I was born! Ha, ha. No. I was bored, in the copy room, making a lot of copies, and trying to come up with something fun to put on the bulletin board. In the past, I have posted product recall warnings from McDonalds Happy Meals, a list that I found with questions that athletes and coaches should ask each other, and sealed envelopes with names of animals inside them; all of them, save one envelope, have succumbed to the ravages of time and/or player-haters. Having nothing on hand to post, I decided to paint a picture using white-out on gray-ish looseleaf paper. This is harder than you might think, because the white-out fades pretty quickly and you have to use a lot or it won't show. Grumble grumble, I thought. Van Gogh never had to deal with this shit. I painted a sun, with big rays streaming from its smiling face, and I painted a guy, who had an afro, and I painted some grass for the guy to stand on. Then I took one of the thick stickers that is designed to be permanently affixed over the company's old name on old trophies and plaques, and I put the sticker under the grass, trying to suggest that the company was like a potato: it is not good now, but maybe it will be good when it is ripe if the sun keeps shining on it and the dirt has a lot of nutrients. Smelling heavily of white-out, I posted the picture and left the copy room. I had to smell myself for the rest of the day, and the picture will probably not survive the rest of today (although it is still up at press time). So there's something dumb that I did.
Has anyone checked with Mr Tito (1) to see if he came back as a super-genius? In my experience, that often happens with space-monkeys. They should check on that.
(1) I proved conclusively that Dennis Tito, the so-called American businessman who paid $20 million to go to space with the Russian space program, is in fact an organ-grinder's monkey in 010507.
Back in the day.