|About.||What's going on.||Sunshine plus one.||Previously.||Cat food again.|
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.
Players Workshop (Term 5).
All the lyrics for act one.
Sitting around in my underwear.
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 Morning News
Funny Paper (M)
Notes From Jail
the Onion (W)
This Modern World (M)
1 FROM HELL
Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell
Kind of feels like it should be capitalized. I don't know. Alan Moore is best known for Watchmen, but he has been writing nonstop for decades, and all of it that I've read is on a par with Watchmen (or better). FROM HELL is a phone-book sized graphic novel about Jack the Ripper and is, thus far, top-notch.
2 The Body Artist
Hoo boy, this book sucked. I like Don, but I did not like this book. It is one big gob of RHET-class wankery. This book's major problem is that it is terrible. It's bad when a book is completely uninspired, but this book spends its entire length doing nothing other than claiming to be inspired. I wanted to yell at it. I wanted to recommend it to people I hate. I'll leave it there because I don't want to waste energy on negativity that could be better spent elsewhere, and I really do like ol' Don.
3 Divided Soul:
The Life of Marvin Gaye
This is a phenomenal biography. The author had complete cooperation from Marvin Gaye over the course of five years to conduct the extensive interviews that provide the core of the book, and Marvin gave sharp, honest and compelling self-analysis (though the author notes that Marvin was high during every session); the writing is equally honest, unflinching about the good and bad sides of Marvin Gaye as an artist and person. It winds up serving as a decent history of the Motown label as well, with participation from nearly everyone involved. (And if you ain't down with Motown, I got no time for you.) It's just such a well written book. The interviews with Marvin Gaye's father and the analysis of the father-son relationship - which ended in Marvin's murder at his father's hands - is deeply chilling, and a compelling story above and beyond the music. Vital study for aspiring artists and sex symbols.
4 Dada and Surrealism
Phaedon Press does some very nice brick-sized books on major (and minor) artists and art movements. They feature a good selection of full-color reproductions and fairly good essays that tend to be better at history than art criticism. This book is on the weak side so far (I've paused on it halfway through). The Dada sections don't rate with Robert Motherwell's Dada Anthology - they're actually kind of boring, which is an achievement in itself, given the topic.
WEFT 90.1 FM
art 'n resources:
b-side wins again 2001
010608 It feels like ages since I've had decent mashed potatoes.
There is a nice, sleepy-eyed company executive who does not yet know that I have quit and gave me a long, involved project to do. He keeps coming by to see how I'm doing on it. I keep lying about having done anything on it whatsoever. I'm on my way out, man. You're lucky I wear pants any more.
After the previous days' essays, I'm just weblogging today.
The Political Compass is a nifty website that offers a lengthy questionnaire and, based on your answers, replies with what the answers show to be your political orientation as well as where you stand in comparison to major political figures. Take the test and try to score further left than I did, I dare you. Gandhi comes out looking like an authoritarian bastard relative to me. The only thing that held me back was my insistence that Jews control the international monetary system. Okay, that's a lie. I just thought it was weird that I've had this website for so long and I haven't made any international monetary system jokes yet.
I'm not reading Salon any more. It's usually pretty good, but I can't take the risk that they're going to print another article like this one.
Fuckin Bill. There's all these controversies, and all this stuff going on, and where the hell's he at? Just sitting around, no links, nothing. Fuckin Bill. Drives me nuts. We might go to the McVeigh thing on Monday, and Bill likes to take lots of pictures when he goes, so if you want me to endorse your product in any of the pictures, let me know.
If they happen to come to you and ask if it's okay if they put my brain in a robot body, it is fucking well not okay if they put my brain in a robot body, and you tell them that.
There was a very confusing story printed in the newspaper recently, and I did some investigation to figure it out, so I want to tell you about it because you'll probably get distracted and not finish the investigation on your own. Okay. So you may have heard that Columbia Pictures made up a fake film critic to say positive things about their terrible movies, and they used the name David Manning, and they got away with it for a long time but then they got caught, and apparently people who took the fake critic's word for it that "A Knight's Tale" was going to be good and paid to see it are pissed and want justice. So now lawyers are involved. Okay, that all makes sense, I understand that. But then there was this bizarre, confusing statement:
(source) The flap triggered a probe by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who said he may fine any company that places misleading ads in the state. "We give this practice two thumbs down," Blumenthal said.
Huh? What the heck does that mean? We're talking about a court case and newspapers here, not somebody's hands. What do thumbs have to do with anything? Why would a lawyer say something like that in a case about deceptive movie ads? Is it free-associative madness? The intricate web of this man's mind proved too tangled for me to tackle -- at first. Fortunately, like scholars of ages past, I am classically trained and can draw upon my extensive knowledge of Roman history and culture for the answers to the confusing things that strange people do. I remembered that in gladiatorial contests, if the emperor wanted the losing contestant to be killed, he would give a thumbs down, and that was the winner's signal to chop off the other guy's head. Another clue was how Richard Blumenthal used the royal 'we' when he is clearly only one person. Well, we don't do things like that any more, even if Richard bloomin' Blumenthal thinks we should go back to outright murder instead of justice, so I tried to think of ways to warn Columbia Pictures that their heads were going to be cut off. I think it's wrong to try to make people think that "A Knight's Tale" is a good movie too, but I don't think it's worthy of death, especially when that death might involve being eaten by lions, which they did in Roman times. Unfortunately, Columbia Pictures has a website address which is really long, so I didn't have time to type it and they will probably all be killed by the savage Blumenthal. I mean, one thumb down is bad enough, but two? That probably means they pee in your eye first. Man, they don't have to do that.
010607 Official word about layoffs came down today, though true to form, they invented an asinine new word so they won't have to refer to them as such. People are mopey, because no one knows who's getting laid off and won't for a few weeks yet. Whose great idea for worker motivation was that? I know I laid myself off and am still waiting for them to find someone new for my useless position, so I am not, in the parlance of our times, trippin'. I was almost four hours late today.
Hiro, my co-worker, is a couple months into the lengthy process of applying to be a police officer. I can tell you about that some time, if you like.
They were tearing up one segment of the sidewalk near my apartment today, outside a building where work is often done. They got plans for that building.
North of the ghost-town that lies directly west of the Loop, there are meat-packing plants. That is nothing short of awesome. There are several of them, running for three or four blocks, and there are no sidewalks through the area; it's all grass, gravel and snack food debris from ages past. Like the rest of the area, the plants are fairly old and look run-down; they're still active, though. There was no one outside as I walked around, though a truck did appear to be nestling into embrace with a loading dock. I don't think that meat-packing plants are, themselves, fantastic - I don't eat meat, after all - but to find them a short walk away from work, away from the Mercantile Exchange and the giant Civic Opera, it felt like I'd walked through some sort of curtain that had fooled the other several hundred thousand people who work downtown. It smacks of slumming, a'la Common People, but it's nice to go hang out somewhere working class when you're feeling dirty from what goes on in these damn offices. (I am, after all, one of only two people in my extended family with a college degree.) The smell around there is quite pungent. It doesn't smell like beef, though, or any kind of meat that I know. A mediocre poet who was recently dumped might tremble and call it the smell of death, but I'd expect the smell of death to be more affecting, and I wasn't too affected. It didn't smell good, to be sure. It smelled on the bad side, but without committing. Mostly, it smelled peculiar. If I was going to work here much longer, I think I would make a habit of going over there during lunch, because I think it would be a very aggressive thing to do, coming back to work smelling like the meat-packing plants.
If you keep walking north from there, you come to a somewhat more civilized area of town where brand new brick condos are springing up all over the place. If I was a real-estate speculator, I'd probably buy a few. Occupation seems to be high, but you still never see anyone walking around. Such are the very early stages of gentrification. There are also a few old, deserted wood buildings from the turn of the century that will probably be replaced by condos sooner or later.
010606 Still waiting for my replacement to arrive and bring blissful unemployment in tow, I left work for a few hours yesterday to see if I could find any sites related to the Haymarket Affair. This office is on the fringe of Chicago's Loop district, which is named for the elevated train tracks that form a loop through the bustling, packed corporate areas of the city. Long before it was known as the Loop, this was the center of life in Chicago; the site of the first settlement, Fort Dearborn, is marked nearby along the river. Gobs of money are exchanged around here, and immense skyscrapers blot out the sun; the world-famous Sears Tower is down the block, for example. It all disappears within a few blocks, though. To the east is the lake, but to the west is forgotten land. It's like a no-man's land. The buildings still look sort of ritzy, but no one ever comes in or out of them, and there's no one on the street. It has all the necessary trappings of civilization and really doesn't look much different from the Loop, but there's no one around. I'm told it's unsafe at night, but during the day, my charm keeps me safe. The major difference between the Loop and the West Loop (although there is no loop to validate the name of the West Loop) is that there's no new construction. Around half of the buildings in the Loop are modern steel-and-glass, and the rest are ancient granite behemoths. The West Loop is almost entirely old school, aside from a few scattered condos. Nothing much has been demolished or disrupted in the last fifty years, so I figured I might be able to find some interesting stuff. It's not too hard to imagine everyone agreeing to leave the West Loop in 1952, keep everything the way it is and never come back.
So, I went out exploring. You can read about the Haymarket Affair in one of the sites under that link above; suffice to say, it was a huge incident in labor and political history, not just in this city but in the entire country, and should be in any agitator's consciousness. There are a few major sites related to the bombing: where it took place, obviously, but the Des Plaines St police station used to be the major seat of power in the city. The building is gone now, replaced by an empty lot, and the space is unmarked. There's an area called the Haymarket Square at Des Plaines and Randolph, but the speeches and the riot took place further west, over what is now the 90-94 expressway, and there are no historical mentions in the square. Monuments were produced by both sides after the incident - the victims and the cops - but the victims' monument is in a cemetary, miles away, and the cops' monument kept getting defaced by labor agitators until they finally gave up and stashed it in the basement of city hall, viewable only by appointment. Life picks up a bit when you cross the highway and get closer to the site, at Randolph and Halsted (roughly). The buildings are smaller, but still very old; they're either hopelessly decrepit or sparklingly refurbished. Most of them are home to hipster restaurants and a variety of hipster patrons. Neither of my sources, Paul Avrich's The Haymarket Tragedy and Richard Lindberg's Chicago by Gaslight, explicitly implicated the hipsters in the affair, but if I have learned anything, it's that those fuckers get their hands in everything. I checked them off as suspects and kept looking. I couldn't find any plaques or sidewalk markers. There are a few street signs for Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios, which are a mile or so further west, but nothing about the Haymarket anarchists. I walked up another block, to Green Street, and gave up.
Tomorrow: reflections on meat-packing plants.
010605 Today, I would like to talk about various eras of scientific thought and how they can be used for the creation of merriment. Science, like monkeys and people falling down, is funny. It is, however, an under-used and misunderstood area of funny. Fearing the big words involved, amateurs frequently avoid the scientist character; they seek refuge in easier characters for automatic laughs, like the preacher or the guy who talks about porn videos whose titles are variations on well-known cultural documents. The scientist character, however, is not about big words. They are useful if you have them, but it is truly unbearable to watch some twit babbling the word 'centrifugal' and thinking he or she has thereby achieved the scientist character. The essence of the scientist character is relaxed confidence, a heady disregard for all previous entrants in his field - I am punk, you are disco, infinitely - the knowledge that this scientist character is the summit of human thought, that this scientist character is the first scientist character to have all the necessary information to make statements about the world. There were three golden eras of science: the ancient Greeks, the Victorians and the 1950s Americans + Japanese.
Let us talk first about the ancient Greek scientist character. He is so poorly regarded by his descendents that he has been kicked out of 'science' and relegated to 'philosophy'; in his day, however, he was quite the man-about-town, breaking it down for the disco-lovers of his day, the worshippers of the Greek pantheon. The ancient Greek scientist character is easy to costume and visually appealing for his wild hair and eyes; not until Einstein would science return to the aesthetic excitement offered by the ancient Greek scientist character. His science was Dionysian, an exhilirating process of discovery, and his conclusions should always evolve based on new encounters but always return to a single, fundamental point. Start him off with a point that proceeds from no more than a single piece of evidence in the natural world: for example, the basic matter of life is fire, because it burns when I pee, and Euranes had the same symptoms, and he died after peeing. The ancient Greek scientist character is funny because he operates from claims of self-evidence rather than actual evidence. His conclusions should be treated as obvious.
The Victorian scientist character is another matter entirely. Whereas the ancient Greek scientist character is funny because he is all discovery and no scientific theory, the Victorian is funny because he is all theory and no discovery. The Victorian scientist character is inevitably well-dressed and posh of accent, but should have no qualms about getting goo all over his nice suit if the situation demands. Overapply the scientific method with him. He should constantly talk about his theories and refer to his many hypotheses as such. All of them should fail - ideally causing some terrible, gruesome misfortune for a hapless commoner who is the subject of the experiment - but the Victorian scientist character can never be deterred. It is easiest to play Victorian scientist characters as members of the medical profession (whereas ancient Greek scientist characters are best with chemistry and physics). He may have a number of bizarre devices to aid him, most of which are better mimed than used as actual props. The Victorian scientist character has a tendency to turn creepy after a while, so that should be remembered for long-term usage.
The 1950s American or Japanese scientist character is the best yet produced. This is the era that gave us gigantic radioactive monsters. How can we ever properly thank them for that? A hundred Saving Private Ryan's wouldn't be enough. With all that history gone by, the 1950s scientist character finds himself in a paternal position; how else to treat the rest of humanity, who still don't understand the ways of science, after 3000 years? Pipes and labcoats are essential for the 1950s scientist character, but these can be effectively mimed if done well. The science of the 1950s scientist character has no direct application. 'Space' and 'nuclear' are important concepts to him and should be at the core of whatever he does, but he need not be limited by money or business sense. For example, he can be engaged in lengthy experiments involving ways to make bricks fly. His experiments generally should not work out, but they should always be close, frustrated by a single complication. Ancient Greek scientist characters always go by a single name and Victorians are best with 'Sir', but 1950s scientist characters are always Doctor, though again they need not have anything to do with the medical profession. 1950s scientist characters should remind the audience constantly - and bear in mind themselves, for purposes of moving the scene along with new discoveries - that science is all around you.
Search engine false positive theater: scroll down to the bottom of the following web page to see Marc Heiden's Early Bronco! Sometimes, it's important to step back from the blur of recent broncos and go back to the classics, the early broncos. Yep, nothing less than a monster roll cage will do for me.
010604 I quit my job today - and oh, how I have been waiting to type those words, there they are now, and true. It's over and done with. The player-hating supervisor was quite chipper at the news, very friendly. She's kind of crazy. Her mood swings all over the place, her eyes bug out, her husband's on that all-meat diet and her two favorite movies are Deuce Bigalow and A Night At the Roxbury. She asked me if my new job was in my field of interest. In that I don't actually have a new job, and I have no field of interest, I told her no lies when I said that it was. She asked me if I could stay on until they found someone new, and I said I would, because it's really not bothersome being here at all when I can no longer be fired or even criticized. I have to imagine that the interview process for my job won't be too arduous. They asked for my help in composing a job description, and I smiled like the cheshire cat...
I celebrated by spending a couple minutes in the bathroom trying to get all four toilet stalls to flush at the same time - unfortunately, the handicapped accessible one has a door that faces away from the other three, and the extra time needed to turn the corner made it impossible - and then I bought an ice cream sandwich, because fuck all y'all. Not you, personally.
Not to engage in viral marketing, but I want to mention that I tried the brand new Mountain Dew Code Red this morning. I don't think it will catch on. The taste was okay on the second sip, but drinking an 20 oz bottle really tore up my throat. Also, it very clearly tastes like cherries, and part of the appeal of original Mountain Dew for me was that it doesn't taste like anything you'd find in nature. It tastes like it looks: entirely unnatural, unsafe, and undeniably charming, like me.
I accidentally deleted my 010601 entry. I am an ass. I think I have it backed up at home. It'll return, don't you worry about it. We're keeping a fair tally of all my ideological defeats.
I mentioned a broke-ass art gallery in Thursday's entry. I'm starting to think that guy owns the Shamanic Counseling joint next door to the gallery, because there is now a half-assed painting of two people at the beach in its window. When talking about art, you have to be aware of what the speaker is bringing to the discussion and imposing upon the art, of course; that said, it's probably deliberately fuzzy and abstract, but it looks to me like someone started painting two happy people at the beach and then decided that was a dumb idea for a painting and quit before he was finished. Man, that guy.
Some - nine hundred thirty-three to be exact - have inquired as to whether this page will cease to be updated once I am free of my job. This I say to you: probably not. Odds are, I will talk less about work and more about how charming I am. So that'll be good.
I keep waiting for this to go all One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, where it really looks like I'm going to get out, I'm going to escape, it's a sure thing, and then I booze it up, pass out and next thing you know they've lobotomized me and some goofball is wrecking the plumbing. Hiro and I are spreading a collaborative rumor that the new photocopiers ate someone's hand and the company is trying to cover it up. Blood, I tell you! Blood.
Back in the day.