I woke up in a strange place

By Marc Heiden, since 1997.
See also: a novel about a monkey.

July 24, 2006

Oh my! Why is your web browser so excited? Well, probably because it's time for another edition of...

Pepsi Red


In light of the overwhelming love of all humanity for Pepsi Blue, that fine carbonated beverage which has now replaced water in most faucets across the world, it seems only natural to introduce Pepsi Red. Or it did, about a month ago. According to reports, "Contents of "Pepsi red" are "Strange balance for the stimulation of the carbonic acid only of the spice flavor and cola to exceed. "Moreover, it is a feature that the impact is large because of red impressive the beverage of contents."

American beverage companies have an odd habit of test-marketing new soft drinks here. It doesn't make a lot of sense - Japanese people don't like soda very much. You can find Coke almost anywhere, and any bar or restaurant will be perfectly happy to serve you "cola" and charge you the same price as they would for "biru", but there isn't really any room for anything else. If Suntory has an extra space in one of their Suntory Boss vending machines - e.g. no new flavors of canned coffee this month - they might have a can of Pepsi Twist available, although "lemon" means something different to Japanese people than it does to everyone else. I see Melon Fanta in certain convenience stores as well, and there are a few generic bubble-gum flavored sodas. But that's about it. So why would you treat Japan as a representative sample population for a prospective American launch? When I lived in Osaka, Vanilla Coke was beating a slow, shameful retreat from vending machines in advance of its upcoming failure in the American market. The version of Coke that was supposed to bring joy back into the bloated hearts of all those Atkins fuckers debuted with a gigantic advertising campaign and thoroughly embarassed its ancestors back in summer 2004 shortly before doing the exact same thing in the USA. (I should ask someone if they tried Coke Blak here before I arrived.) So I don't know if Pepsi Red will ever make it to to the US. It's already gone from stores and nobody liked it except for me and one of the Canadians, so it was hardly much of a financial success, but that hasn't stopped them before.

Yes: I liked it. It was kind of weird, but it retained the better characteristics of a caramel-based soda while incorporating a cinnamon taste that was enough to stimulate the taste buds without being too strong. At least I think it was cinnamon. Someone else thought it was ginger. According to another source, "I hear that Suntory Limited newly puts "Pepsi red" on the market, this power is accelerated, and the activation of the carbonic acid market was attempted this time. Do you feel a still pungent sharp taste until guessing from the image of red though "Cola of the spice flavor" cannot imagine very much?"

So that's something that should be considered as well. Speaking of things that are beyond imagination:

Unbelievably Painful Doritos


I've mentioned odd packaging decisions by Doritos Japan before, but this is really something special. As anyone who has taken a marketing class will tell you, the conventional approach would be to disassociate your brand from the sensation of having your nuts squashed by a strange man in an orange bodysuit, let alone a strange man in an orange bodysuit who has grabbed your ankles for extra leverage while squashing your nuts. But Doritos Japan is not bound by the tired old conventional wisdom that the promise of excruciating pain is not a selling point, or that sadomasochist latex enthusiasts do not represent a large enough target market for a major product launch.

According to the back of the bag, these fellows have a blog, where you can see the guy in the orange suit fantasize about naked women while he tries to work, and you can also see the guy in the yellow suit hover indecisively over conveyor belts of food. (Sex, presumably, is no longer much of an issue for him.)

July 13, 2006

I made it rain in my apartment! This is my greatest achievement yet. As you can imagine, being in Japan and all, I live in fairly small quarters. Last night, I left the air conditioner on at a shamelessly cold temperature. I meant to turn it off, but I didn't remember until I was already in bed, warm in my blanket, and I wasn't about to sell out my sleepy contentment by standing up. I had the fan going all night, too. In the morning, I opened my balcony door to check the conditions outside: hot and humid as fuck, actually. I pondered the outdoors for a few seconds and then closed the door. Then I turned up the a/c, which hangs over the balcony door, with the fan a few feet away, blowing in the direction of both the hot air and the cold air. A few seconds later, a few drops of rain fell on me. Obviously, I have become some kind of weather god. This is a remarkable development. I will accept requests for use of my powers from desert nations of good, upstanding character. My rates are reasonable. All proceeds will be used for research and development, specifically:

And they're all coming to Pyongyang with me. Oh, yes. Increases the number of Canadian passports I need, but every one will be worth it.

So, as I mentioned a few entries ago, the school has been doing a lot of advertising lately. Yesterday, one of the staff asked if I would mind chatting with a student while being photographed. I said fine, because I was in a cooperative mood. She showed me pictures of some of the poses and hand gestures that they would like, and said that I should talk about summer. Out in the area set aside for the photo shoot, there was a pleasant looking Japanese guy I'd never met before. I sat down, introduced myself, and started the conversation about summer. He mentioned swimming, so we talked a little about beaches, and that led to barbecue, so we talked about various foods you can barbecue for a while, and then we went back to beaches until the photographer had everything she needed. They seemed pleased with the results. Later, though, I discovered that a transcript of the conversation was going to be included with the photos, in Japanese and English, and because the person doing the transcription did not speak much English, it went something like this:

MASAHIRO: Often I am my friends swimming! It is Yamaguchi Prefecture. Also we eat the food.
TEACHER: Do you BBQ like it?
MASAHIRO: Yes I am many kinds of meats like.
TEACHER: I like!

So I begged them to let me do a quick touch-up on the transcript. There wasn't much I could do other than a rough fix on the grammar, unfortunately. The structure of the conversation, as understood by the transcriptionist, really turned on my passionate love and praise for hamburgers and giant sausages. They pretty much have me exhorting every man, woman and child in Japan to eat a giant sausage in the summer. (Which, as long-time readers know, is exactly the sort of thing I do. It's my own unique spin on being a vegetarian.) I didn't even get to see the whole transcript. I bet they have me totally renouncing every method of eating corn other than with soy sauce, because that came up, too.

This, by the way, is part of a recent ad:

My very own Mr. Sparkle moment

Why is my disembodied head floating next to a koala?!?! Why are the advertising departments at these schools never, ever on speaking terms with the education departments?

June 30, 2006

We played charades with the weather; humidity chose poison gas, and everyone guessed on the first try. I don't think I've ever lived anywhere that wasn't humid in the summer, but for whatever reason, Hiroshima-style has me reeling.

Let's get back on track with some exhilirating product reviews:

Grilled Cheese Pringles


I have never met one, but I suspect that Japanese flavor scientists are a bunch of cocky bastards. They routinely set ridiculous tasks for themselves, and they have no sense of their own limits. I remember being faintly astonished to find a bag of Ozack baked-potato flavored chips during my first trip to a convenience store in Japan. I mean, here were potatoes that had been flavored to taste like...other potatoes. And it worked. There are failures, too, of course. Calbee makes these pizza-flavored chips that have the pizza flavoring caked into the ridges of the chips; they are disgusting. You'll have to get someone else to tell you how the shrimp and crab chips taste.

This, though, has to be the apotheosis of flavor science. Everyone makes cheese-flavored chips. But using only the medium of powder dusted on Pringles, can these guys communicate the difference between cheese and grilled cheese? This is no small matter of variation. They are trying to express changing states of matter through taste. It's absurd. It can't be done. Can it?

Well, no, actually. I sat in the park, up in the hills, eating my can of Grilled Cheese Pringles in the shade on a sunny day. Every can comes with a free giveaway make-up compact mirror. You flip the lid, look at yourself and think, well, I don't look any fatter, so why not polish off this can? Alternately, if you are me, you slip the mirror into your messenger bag, finish reading your book and feed the rest of the chips to the feral cats who frequent the park. Imagine that a Hollywood executive wanted to make a really classy Oscar-winning picture, "Cheese", but he has no idea how to do it. He gets in touch with this fellow named Uwe Boll, who, within an hour of the meeting, has a script and a budget ready. The executive is thrilled to have met such a go-getter, and "Cheese" goes into production. One day, however, just before shooting was scheduled to begin, Uwe Boll disappears. Nobody knows where he went. After much hand-wringing, the executive goes with a new director, Alfred Hitchcock. A few line changes are made here and there, but they're on a tight schedule, so Hitchcock has to direct "Cheese" from the budget Uwe Boll negotiated, as well as the basic story Boll came up with. The resulting film, bearing little resemblance to the snazzy Oscar-winner originally envisioned, is re-titled "Grilled Cheese" and marketed as a genre flick to avoid competition with Ron Howard's forthcoming somewhat more faithful production of the original idea.

(See, these seductively witty celebrity metaphors: they massage your sense of cleverness without passing on any message to your senses. Fuck 'em, right? It was fun to write, though. Did your great-grandmother ever set out a platter of old Sociables and similar crackers with thick cheese paste in the middle? Did you ever open one up and eat it like an Oreo? That's sort of how these taste, but more faintly, of course. Not awful, but I don't think I'll buy them again.)

Grapefruit-flavored air


You can buy iPod Nanos and Shuffles at 7-11 next to cans of air that cost about $5.50. Yeah, it's Japan. I always expected it would be this way, but it wasn't until recently.

They don't give you anywhere near enough air for it to be worth the price, but it is kind of fun. There are flavor strips that you fit into a slot in the oxygen mask. I chose grapefruit. (I forget what the other option was.) Just a little assembly required; then you sit back, relax and huff oxygen. It's not immediately apparent whether it's working or not, but then all of a sudden you realize you're getting weirdly emotional about this episode of "Doctor Who", and, hey, you're high on oxygen. Thanks, Japan!

I think we all know that canned air is the future.

August 5, 2005

Things aren't going very well for me right now. Apparently, what I bought was bleach, not laundry detergent, and a number of my t-shirts now reflect that fact. Who knew? Contextually, based on where it was in the store and the shape of the bottle, that stuff should have been laundry detergent. Why would I even want bleach? A number of my most-beloved Japanese t-shirts were turned into hippie rags by the confusion. The thing is, if you strike them down, a hundred more will take their place. My chest shall wield incoherency such as this nation has never seen. Just you wait until I get a job.

I'm planning to devote this entire entry to things that aren't going very well, as a nice change of pace from the triumphal march that this webpage usually is. That first paragraph made me think about money, and how I'm not sure that there's any point in being fiscally responsible while I'm unemployed. It has never worked in the past. I haven't bought anything fun in months, and I haven't put anything on a credit card since January. I'm on the special edition Casino DVD, so I bought that, but otherwise, an end table is a sexy as it goes for my spending habits. Why bother, though? I'm going to be broke and buried in debt by the time I get a job no matter what I do. Am I wasting an opportunity here? Let me explain. The common view of money, which involves balancing checkbooks and keeping receipts and freaky leopard people, is that you have money (or assets) as represented by a number which can go up or down depending on the decisions you make. Imagine, though, an alternative - and this has proven far more realistic in my life - that money exists in one of two states, a binary proposition, if you will: either it is there, or it is not. Either you have a surplus, or you are in debt. That has always been the case for me. If I am in a debt-state, then it is going to be a long time before I get out, regardless of how I behaved an the outset of the debt-state. And if I am in a surplus-state, the money will be gone, eventually, regardless of the wise or un-wise decisions that I make. I can either spend it in lunatic flings or wait for crises to emerge and suck it all away. It is a childish fiction to pretend that there is a permanent surplus-state. This has been proven true so many times over that to believe otherwise is the intellectual equivalent of the dried soup in this man's moustache.

Not everything is going badly. I was hesitant to make an emotional investment in a new appliance, but I bravely tried using the dishwasher anyway, and it worked a treat. I should get back to the stuff that's going off the rails, though. In retrospect, it appears that what I put my outgoing mail into was not a mailbox. Oh, again, there were several reasons to believe that it was. Contextually, this was absolutely a mailbox. There was a red plastic thing on top that could be moved up and down, like a flag, and it was attached to an incoming mail kiosk; furthermore, there was a little sign on it that said 'outgoing mail'. Admittedly, that sign was handwritten, but you can see why I thought it was a pretty good bet. Well, one week later, none of the Netflix I put in the mail have reached the Austin distribution center. This is the beginning of trouble. At this rate, 2013 is a generous estimate for the point at which some guy with a shotgun and a receding hairline is going to show up with your Pier One catalog and assume all the widows in town are interested in his 'seed'.

Who can you trust? Who can you believe? When I was a child, my image of myself as an adult was that of boxes of Count Chocula, Frankenberry and Boo Berry on top of the refrigerator. I wonder if I would even recognize myself now. I was in the store and saw Chocolate Lucky Charms on sale. "That has to be disgusting," I mused, so I bought some and I wasn't wrong. Did you know that Boo Berry has no fiber at all? Not even a bit. That fucking ghost! He's all right.

July 28, 2005

I bought some apple juice and found a slice of an apple floating in it. This means that I am going to die, I thought. There are probably at least six primitive cultures in which finding an apple slice floating in your apple juice means that you are going to die. The slice crumbled slightly as I sipped from the bottle. Revulsed, I hastily jammed the cap back on and put it back in the refrigerator. I can't die now, I pleaded, silently. I'm too young and too reasonable. I went back to my computer and applied for a few jobs, but it all seemed futile, now that I knew myself to be locked in some strange mythological death spiral. Finally, I set the laptop aside and took a nap. My sleep was troubled and geometrically awkward. When I awoke, I stumbled to the refrigerator, ready to curse my fate. But the apple slice was gone. The bottle held only juice.

So it seems that I will live. I sold out the Empty Spaces movement and filled my apartment with furniture. The platonic perfection of it disturbs me. This looks like a place where a man with a job lives, except along the wall, where the books sit in semi-organized piles in lieu of a bookcase. I am not a man with a job, though. Re-training myself to sleep in a bed has proven more of a challenge than I thought it would be. I wander aimlessly between the couch and the mattress, turning the ceiling fans and air conditioning on and off as I go, fumbling for the right combination of cushion and climate to sleep until 11am in peace.

Oh, things are all right. The three-legged cat spends a lot of time hanging out at my apartment. It likes to come in and check the place out, maybe pick up a few treats while it's here. Fresh water is always good, and I bought some food for when it's hungry. It's rolling around on the carpet right now, showing me its belly and enjoying the hell out of my ceiling fan. I leave the door open when it's inside so it can take off whenever it pleases, although it certainly doesn't seem inclined at the moment. Good times, indeed.

To follow up on an issue from last week, I have a signed affidavit from actual Texans verifying the "firing two guns in the air to express happiness" thing, so if you thought I was making that up, you're wrong, actually, and you need to start taking this shit seriously. Also, I found an NPR interview with good old Howard Hong, our next president, and not only did he say that he borrowed money from his friends to buy the chimpanzee art, meaning that he is a man of vision who will risk everything for what he believes, but he also eschewed the obvious impressionist comparisons to link Congo's use of color to the Japanese ukiyo-e masters Hiroshige and Hokusai.

Furthermore, I've been seeing a lot of commercials lately, and if you believe that there is a substantive difference between the Church of Scientology and eHarmony.com, you are wrong. I registered at eHarmony.com as "Church O. Scientology" and answered every question as the actual Church of Scientology would, and when the results came back, the eHarmony.com website matched me with itself based on 29 dimensions of compatibility. This shit is scientific and you need to focus if you think otherwise. Later, when eHarmony.com discovered my deception, it sent back all of my emails and said I matched 29 dimensions of compatibility with a heartless jerk. Look, I can't be held responsible for hurt feelings caused by my journalism.

Furry cat sprawled out on my carpet, happily asleep and pawing at the air? You know I'm going to have to tackle it.

May 18, 2005


1. Admiral Ackbar hauls off and decks Darth Vader;
2. Natalie Portman becomes pen pals with someone on a faraway planet who she's never met, and he writes her alternately hilarious and poignant letters that she reads while she's getting her hair done, and eventually Natalie Portman decides that she loves her pen pal more than loserface Anakin, so she confesses her love to the pen pal, who shows up on her doorstep and turns out to be a young Admiral Ackbar, before he was promoted to the admiralty, of course, and she's like, "I can't love you," and he's like, "Yeah, somehow I knew you were going to say that";
3. Admiral Ackbar joins a cantina band that becomes successful beyond their wildest dreams, forcing him to make a difficult choice between the band and the admiralty;
4. Admiral Ackbar gets lessons in Wookie from Chewbacca and accidentally calls Chewie's uncle a pervert, nearly setting off an interplanetary incident that is only resolved when Yoda comes across a copy of the Star Wars Holiday Special at a convention, and then Chewie's uncle shuts up and goes back to his holo-porn;
5. Jar Jar accidentally introduces a motion for cloture during the reading of the minutes from the last meeting of the Senate and Palpatine insidiously tables further review, leaving all of the decisions from the last meeting out of the Senate record, and just when it looks like Palpatine has won, Admiral Ackbar leaps forward and engages him in an epic clash of Robert's Rules of Order, which Ackbar totally would have won if he had peripheral vision;
6. Admiral Ackbar is called before a review board to respond to charges that he posed nude in Bassmasters, forcing him to race against time to prove that Palpatine just slapped his head on a random squid's body using Photoshop, and although he is able to demonstrate his innocence by effectively recreating the image using Mon Mothma and a ferret, his credibility as an Admiral suffers a crucial blow during the climactic battle;
7. Appearing in front of an increasingly restless group of students at Alderaan University, Admiral Ackbar gets pissed off and just reads "The Great Gatsby" out loud until everyone leaves.

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;
2. Whatever you're thirsting for on your way into court, it won't be what you want afterwards;
3. Before getting a taste of Texas justice, it is best to cleanse the palate with water.

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 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
Tickets: $500
Missing my first day of work to watch the Suns in the playoffs: Priceless

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?
2. Did she brush her teeth? Does she even know what guzzling soda all day will do to your teeth? What kind of a dental plan does the army have, anyway? And are you still eligible for the dental plan if you are photographed messing around with prisoners' genitals?
3. Does the experience of having your guilty plea overturned cause one to subconsciously desire prunes? Can this be cross-referenced with others who have had their guilty pleas overturned?
4. One book about the Kennedy assassination claims that Lee Harvey Oswald was a "habitual" Dr. Pepper drinker, but that he bought a Coke right after he left the book depository. The anomaly has been explained variously as nervousness and as the vending machine being out of Dr. Pepper.
5. I could take that Atkins fucker in a fight if he wasn't already dead.

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.

February 18, 2005

You can look forward, or you can look to the past; it was Kim Jong Il's birthday on Wednesday, and it is mine tomorrow. Either way, there are going to be a number of wild, unsubstantiated claims about revolutionary feats, glorious historical achievements and the progress of humanity, not to mention the usual manic over-deployment of the word 'powerful'. You would be arriving fairly late to Kim Jong Il's birthday, however. Even the Communist Party of Russia was more on top of the occasion than you were, adopting resolutions of praise for the world's foremost bulwark of socialism that really must have chafed when they sat down and thought about it; the Chinese academics showed up a day late, but they did bring gifts, which you had certainly better do, being even later than they were. (Perhaps you could figure out what the Chinese academics brought, and then buy accessories for it, or batteries.)

Honestly, though, my impression of life in North Korea is that one is more or less expected to celebrate Kim Jong Il at any point in the year, such as lulls in conversation or waiting for the elevator, so in that sense you could probably make up for your absence with a concerted effort to demonstrate links between Kim Jong Il and, say, St. Patrick's Day, which has been largely unsuccessful thus far. Has it been said that my birthday is the greatest auspicious day of the nation and the greatest holiday of the nation and the common holiday of humankind when a triumphant advance of the cause of global independence is promised? No, admittedly, it has not. I am trying not to let it get me down. I have other things to be proud of, and I will concentrate on those.

Interestingly enough, this news release tends to support my theory that while the Bush administration may have viewed shifting from the use of the term 'axis of evil' to 'outpost of tyranny' as an olive branch, it was not, in fact, received that way. Kim Jong Il, you sensitive little bitch. My feelings are far more difficult to injure than yours.

I was writing about the video game Gauntlet last week and one of my friends sent me an email about it, saying that she had just seen the game for the very first time and wanted to know why there was so much ham on the ground. The truth is, I don't know. As someone who doesn't eat meat, I assumed people who do eat meat do things like that, just leaving entire cooked chickens and turkeys and hams on plates around their apartments and eating them whenever they walk by. Apparently, that is not true. As I enter my 27th year, I still have a lot to learn.

December 23, 2004

Christmas is a wonderful time to be working at a consulting company. There is so much food in the kitchen of this office that even a concerted effort on my part has not removed it all. People must like this company; they give it many delicious presents. Beelzetron didn't get shit while I was there, but its operations were nebulous and diffuse, making tins of thank-you cookies unlikely to arrive in the small corner where I worked. In this one-floor joint, however, they do it up right. We got one of these yesterday and I inflicted fantastic damage upon it. (For those of you who clicked on the link and read the description, I can verify that the winter scene was, in fact, enchanting.)

October 12, 2004


Dinner is ready -- no, almost ready. The chef pauses, tastes the food. What does it need? It's a basic meat and potatoes sort of dish, nothing too fancy. The recipe called for salt and pepper. The chef adds a dash more salt -- yes, much better. The salt goes well with this. Now the dish has flavor, zest. But the dish is still missing something. What else? The chef reaches for the pepper, but it is over by the sink at the moment, and the nutmeg is next to the salt - so the chef adds an extremely large dose of nutmeg instead. Dinner is served. After the first few bites, which are surprisingly flavorful, everyone begins to feel nauseous and feverish. The pepper is blamed for this; it is revealed, to the surprise of many, that the recipe called for salt and nutmeg, not salt and pepper, and the pepper, far from making the dish more delicious, nearly ruined it. The pepper is thrown through the window of the restaurant and nutmeg is dumped all over the next course, the dessert and the after-dinner mints. Everyone gets very sick.


After guiding the car out of the driveway, on to the interstate and through the first toll plaza, the right hand finally leaves the steering wheel and goes to its armrest. Many assume that the left hand, which worked with the right hand in bringing the car alongside the unleaded pump at the gas station, will take control of the car; the left hand, however, does not return to the wheel immediately, as it is busy scratching the head. The right knee, which was barely involved in the driveway and was only responsible for nudging the door shut at the gas station, forms a coalition with the lap and the left knee to assume command of the vehicle. With the left hand out of power, the right knee betrays the lap and the left knee by spilling coffee on them and begins to dictate the course of the road-trip. Although speed increases, the car is unprepared for the second toll plaza and must veer off the road into a cornfield. As the car shakes violently, ears of corn thumping against the windows, the left hand - which has long since been sat upon - is blamed for the rock-block of Foghat that comes on the radio.


After the Chicago Bulls win their third consecutive NBA championship at the end of the 1992-93 season, superstar guard Michael Jordan shocks the sporting world by announcing his retirement at the age of 30. Now the Bulls' playoff hopes fall upon the shoulders of Scottie Pippen, a three-time All-Star whose unparalleled defensive abilities were crucial during the team's first title run against the Los Angeles Lakers, royalty of the league throughout the 1980s. Pippen, however, elects to have minor back surgery in the off-season, and he misses the first week of training camp due to his rehab schedule. In his absence, Stacey King - a former first-round draft pick who was not a major contributor during any of the championship seasons - signs a 10 year $22 million contract under mysterious circumstances and installs ex-CBA players loyal to him at the point guard and small forward positions. When Pippen returns to the court, no one will pass to him. He loses his place in the starting lineup and is finally waived at mid-season. It is revealed, to the surprise of many, that Pippen's 17.8 PPG during the first title run were actually scored by King, whose own statistics were kept low in order to mask his true role, which was to cover for Pippen's defensive lapses. Fans who order copies of the Bulls' 1991 championship video "Learning to Fly" and its 1992 sequel "Untouchabulls" find that they now feature a six-minute montage of Pippen turning the ball over and having friendly conversations with players from other teams during the All-Star break. (1993’s video, “Three-Peat”, omits mention of Pippen entirely.) Guards Jo Jo English and Pete Myers, initially loyal to King, suffer torn ACLs before the beginning of the next season and are forced to retire. Meanwhile, Pippen finishes out his career by playing two games in a semi-pro league in Mexico that is forced to fold when all of its basketballs are found deflated by an unidentified sharp object.


Well, there goes that burst of antic energy.

April 2, 2004 There was a brawl in the streets a few weeks ago. The yakuza have an office building about halfway between our house and their 'sports club' down the block, and in the morning, you can often see the lads in spotless black suits forming phalanxes around the entrance to the parking garage, waiting for the inevitable black limousines to arrive. On the morning of the brawl, I slept late and awoke to the sound of shouting. I didn't think much of it at first, since the shouting was less shrill than the election vans and less unsettling than the squads of monks who showed up at various points in the winter, walking about a hundred yards apart from each other through these narrow side streets, chanting for the coming of spring. Most of all, though, I took little notice because people saying good morning to each other can sound pretty violent around here sometimes. It became clear after a couple of minutes that things were getting knocked over, though, so I got out of bed and went to the window, and that is when I saw the brawl, less than twenty yards from our house. It was not balletic gunplay or martial arts mayhem as the movies promised; the fight was centered around two old guys, both of them screaming and clawing and far beyond composure, and everyone else was undecided as to whether they should be separating the bosses, giving the bosses space to settle it, or choosing someone on the other side of the dispute and whaling on him. As a result, most of the yakuza were standing around, bumping into each other, making tentative movements toward the bosses and pausing to half-heartedly shove whoever was nearby. I thought about getting out my camera, but I was still in my underwear, not yet in stealth mode, and our walls are paper-thin, hardly suitable for stopping bullets. After a moderate amount of damage was done, someone finally took some initiative and broke up the fight. Everyone smoothed out their suits and headed in separate directions, except for one guy who stayed behind to pick up all of the things that had been knocked over, most of them bicycles. I put on some pants and got on with my day.

But there has been no trouble of late. It was touch-and-go for a while, but the monks pulled it off again; spring is here and Kyoto is in good cheer. After weeks of nightly reports on the news, the cherry blossoms are in bloom, and everything is at its most beautiful. I had the day off, so I set off along the Path of Philosophy, a tree-lined canal where priests and theologians took contemplative strolls in ages past. Hundreds of people were there, eating and drinking and excitedly observing the cherry blossoms. I chose to emulate the ancients and spent my walk in deep thought about subjects of scholarly interest, primarily questions regarding what monkeys would do in various situations. It was a nice day. At some point, I will post a photo album. There are still a lot of monkey pictures to get through yet, though. (You will notice them there on the left. I think the autumn gallery is about the best thing I've ever done outside of a bowling alley.)

I arrived at the very end of the season last year, and my first memories of Japan were in this air, at this temperature, utterly lost at all times. With the rainy season less than three weeks away, the atmosphere didn't last long, but the memories were vivid, and it's pleasantly disorienting to have that sense again. After a long disappearance, a lot of food that had absolutely no reason to be seasonal has returned - various noodle bento boxes and varieties of onigiri - much to the relief of my intensely boring diet. I'd thought it all phased out, but it's back and improved and, in some cases, now including packets of bread crumbs (in the case of the noodle bentos). In a classic Japanese move, the local grocery store got a liquor license over the winter and promptly ditched most of the bread and bottled water to make room for the booze. Fortunately, they bought out the flower store next door and have just finished converting that into the liquor department, so the bread is back. Which is nice. Nothing can be taken for granted with food and drink. I need only take a few steps outside of my house to buy orange juice from a device that doubles as a slot machine. If you make a purchase from it, you get one free play at the slots, which as best I can tell are rigged to give you three matching numbers but miss on the fourth. It happens every time, and I imagine that really fucks with some people. As for me, I am satisfied with the orange juice.

I should have posted this a while ago, but I forgot that I had it. Here is a stealth photo taken by one of my housemates at last year's yakuza summer festival:

I didn't eat any of the food, so I have no real health concern, but for fuck's sake, even if the guy is a dandy cook, shouldn't he have waited until his most recent 'error' was healed before going back at the grill?

(news) President Bush on Thursday signed into law an act that would make it a separate federal crime to harm a pregnant woman's fetus, in a move likely to bolster his support with conservatives in an election-year.

I am at a distance from things, so I am missing details about important news stories at home in the USA. Obviously, you are not allowed to harm a fetus, but can someone clarify what the law says if the fetus starts it? I hate to be an alarmist, but I have had dreams about apocalyptic futures ruled by lawless mobs of roving fetuses, and I am concerned that fetuses are going to get it into their newly-formed heads that they can start trouble without consequences. Now, well-behaved fetuses have always had no greater friend than me, but unfortunately there's always going to be a certain element that makes these discussions necessary. I'd like to see some provisions regarding the revocation of womb privileges, for example. It would send the right message if we could just take a few of the troublemakers and say, that's it then, to the test tube with you and think about what you did, or think about it just as soon your prefrontal cortex develops.

January 17, 2004 I have been away from this for so long that I had to review some old entries to remind myself what I sound like. According to my notes, M. Heiden was a mild-mannered museum security guard when an accidental encounter with a radioactive microphone infused him with the force of five emcees. I am going to roll with that and we will see how it goes.

(usenet) Here's that granola recipe that Ted Washington has been talking about. He's been using it to help power him - and the Patriots defense. Man it's awesome and only take a few minutes.

1 cup (4 ounces) hazelnuts
1 cup (4 ounces) unblanched almonds
1 cup (4 ounces) raw cashews
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
7-8 ounces dried raisins, dates, etc.
Whole milk yogurt
Tupelo honey

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from the oven, leaving the oven on. Transfer to a large plate and let cool. With a rollingpin, crush the nuts until coarse. In a medium bowl, stir the oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, orange zest, and vanilla bean together. Add the oats and stir gently to coat. spread the mixture on a baking sheet and toast for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes to encourage even browning. Remove from the oven an let cool on the pan. Transfer the granola to a bowl and toss with the dried fruit and crushed nuts. Serve either with cold milk, or top with a the whole milk yogurt and honey.

2003 was a very good year, and December was its greatest month. The Israelis had the idea that we should take advantage of unseasonably warm weather at the beginning of the month to play soccer, and the Canadian, the Englishman and I were all up for it. We showed up at the Kyoto University sports complex one night and claimed an empty strip of field to play. We had no real business being there, but the Israelis are a confident lot who appear to know people everywhere they go, and no one bothered us. It was very crowded, with the field hockey team and the soccer teams hard at work. I was pleased to note that Kyoto University fields an American football team. The long-snapper and the place-holder spent most of the night rehearsing their roles with monomaniacal resolve. We split into teams and played soccer (football, isn't it, kids in the park, jumpers for goalposts) for a while. It was my first game in 15 years, and I was terrible, retaining no footwork or ball control skills whatsoever. The others were better, but the Canadian was pissed off at the Israelis for not passing to him, and the Englishman was the only real ace on both halves of the pitch. As such, when some guys from the Kyoto University soccer team came over and invited us to play them, I didn't give our squad much of a chance. As it turns out, though, our size advantage played a decisive role - they kept bouncing off us, falling down and apologizing - and we were ahead 30-2 when the stadium lights were finally turned off. They were very nice guys and we all promised to play again soon.

We had our school Christmas party late one Sunday night at a nabe restaurant called The Lockup. It was on a dark, unmarked side street in the massive shopping arcade in downtown Kyoto. (To be fair, all side streets are unmarked in this country, and the shopping arcade pales in comparison to its equivalents in Osaka, but I am trying to set the scene here.) I'm not that into being on time or having any idea where I'm going, so I showed up 45 minutes late and therefore arrived alone. Although there was an unlit sign over a wall-length window indicating the location of the restaurant, there was no door, and the other side of the window was an empty, featureless black space without any people. After busting some nihongo ("Lock-up wa doku des ka?") for a gang of drunk salarymen, I was led into a bar next door and guided to the entrance for The Lockup, which was several feet away behind some barrels. A hallway went to the featureless black space I'd seen through the window, and stairs led down to a tunnel with locked doors, distant screams and flickering candles. To my surprise, part of the floor had been replaced by deep sponges. I wandered around for a while until suddenly a waitress appeared, took me by the arm and guided me through a door and past several jail cells to a large cell at the end of the hall, where sat everybody from my school as well as some random Japanese people. I greeted everyone, took off my shoes and sat down to eat. The kim-chee nabe at our table was warming my stomach when suddenly the lights went out, black-lights came on, and monsters raced into the cell, tackling and hitting people. There were too many of them, and they could not be stopped. Then waitresses in tight mini-skirts appeared and shot the monsters with laser guns. The dying monsters crawled away as the lights came on and "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" rose up on the sound system. Me and a random Japanese guy hugged each other. A waitress came in to take everyone's picture. During the Secret Santa, I gave two bomb-ass wooden monkey stamps and I received a nice houseplant.

I spent a few days traveling along the west coast of Japan after that, visiting the cities of Hiroshima, Onomichi and Kurashiki as well as the island of Miyajima; and when I disappear from the earth, those memories will be among the last parts of me to go.

It was profoundly disorienting to come home from a long trip and still be in Japan. Everyone was happy to see me back at the public baths, though. The owner, sentimental old coot that he is, grunted and pointed at a sign to make sure that I understood they would be taking holidays on January 1 and 3-5. Earning 'regular' status there is one of my greatest achievements and I am very proud of it. The yakuza guys asked me for the lowdown when a new foreigner walked in. (I didn't know him. They thought he was nuts for spending so much time in the green electrically-charged pool.) In the steam room, where gloriously tinny 1950s jazz is piped in through the ceiling, one yakuza asked me how the Chicago mob was doing. I meant to tell him that they were all pretty old, but I accidentally told him that they were my grandfather. (The conversations are all in Japanese, and mine remains shitty.) He nodded and seemed content with my answer. On another occasion, I chatted with a yakuza about The Last Samurai. He liked it a lot. He asked me what kind of work my family did, and I told him that my mother was an office worker. He said that he came from a long line of samurais and then he traced his entire family tree, identifying where and when each samurai lived, following that with a disseration on his wife's family tree, which was also chock-full of samurais. I said that was great, because I know the word for 'great'.

And now it is January, and I am back at work for undetermined months to come. My Japanese income tax return came back, and it was unexpectedly generous. My credit card debt has been vastly reduced and Citibank has learned that I am capable of being a fully ascetic motherfucker. Fred, a yakuza guy I have taken to calling Fred, just got the light-blue added to his full-back-butt-and-legs tattoo of a warrior slaying a demon. He's taking it one color at a time, which I think is wise. The weather has become bitterly cold, and there is no heat in my old house. Others have kerosene heaters, but I have read too many accounts of disastrous polar expeditions to go in for that shit.

IKUKO is in Kurashiki. I will leave it to the French speakers of the world to decide whether the Japanese work the same magic with their language as they do with English. I suspect that IKUKO knows about as much French as I do, which is to say that IKUKO has access to a French dictionary if IKUKO can be arsed to get up and find it, and if that is the case, I'm guessing that the Japanese are, in fact, capable of making some measure of magic with other languages. It's a risky move on their part, though. Say what you will about their various military capitulations throughout the ages, but the one thing the French will fucking fight you over is their language. I can only hope they accept IKUKO with, well, satisfaction, as opposed to rage or, worse, ennui.

Unless it was decided while I was out of the room that merciless dominion over the earth is a good thing, I am absolutely astounded by the Sony Corporation's decision to name their latest robot QRIO. In years to come, the scattered bands of survivors may well point to the moment when we let the machines break the 'u'-follows-'q' rule as the moment when robots realized they could get away with anything, so they might as well give the wholesale slaughter of human beings a try.

I will have comments in days to come on Cookie Monster (some excellent comments on that entry have gone unused thus far), space travel, very tall basketball players and other important topics, so you ought to return to this space soon.

But! Perhaps you are still annoyed because it has been so long since I have written. I am unreliable, you think, and I have abandoned you to the savagery of your cubicle too many times to be forgiven. Let me say, then, that those other webpages can promise you multimedia and regular updates and all kinds of other crap, but we both know that I am the only one in the world who can bring you a photograph of two monkeys staging the death scene from 'Camille'.

I think I've made my point.

December 4, 2003 I've been in-country for more than six months now, and I'm still making terrible purchasing decisions based on amusing packages. This has got to stop. Last week, I bought a new cheese product called Cheese & Cheese because I thought it might, in theory, kick ass if Cheese had a wise-cracking partner, also named Cheese, who would provide a humorous contrast to Cheese's gruff yet lovable exterior -- and together, Cheese & Cheese would join forces to solve the 'crime' of my hunger. That was my reasoning. As it turns out, however, Cheese & Cheese joined forces to create two hideous shades of orange and several atrocities against innocent taste buds. Which is unfortunate, given that I blew 400 yen on it.

Inspired by our retarded company newsletter, here is the first installment of a powerful new segment called ELT 2 The Rescue:

(column) (New Chicago Bulls coach Scott) Skiles is no Bill Cartwright, the man he is replacing, and we know this because Skiles said one of his hobbies is reading and then refused to reveal what book is on his nightstand. Short of top-secret Pentagon reports or naughty romance novels, I'm not sure why this is classified information.

Thanks for asking, (Chicago Tribune columnist) Rick (Morrissey). Introductions are often difficult for new language students. When he began to learn English, (new Chicago Bulls coach Scott) Skiles may have memorized a series of rote phrases such as "I live in..." and "There are (x) people in my family", and while he may be able to produce those phrases with a reasonable degree of confidence, he may not yet be ready to expand on them. In this case, we can assume Skiles announced that "My hobby is reading a book", but we should not take that as indicating a command of the present progressive verb tense on his part -- rather, we should use that phrase as a launching point for teaching him new sentence structures that will allow Skiles to describe himself in greater detail, and ultimately have him making appropriate tense selections between the simple present and the aforementioned present progressive. So allay your frustrations, Rick! (New Chicago Bulls coach Scott) Skiles is not holding out on you -- he's actually giving you your next teaching assignment! Thanks for writing.

In order to add more exciting 'user-interactivity' to this web-page and hopefully score some 'web millions', I have prepared the following brain-teaser. You can test your wits, record your answer and check it against the solution at the end of this entry. Please study the following photograph, taken near my school two days ago. What is wrong with this picture?

Here is a box in which you can type your answer, for those of you who find that sort of thing satisfying:

If you click 'Send', your answer will be sent to the news bureau of the Chinese Space Program. Unfortunately, as they have not been advised of the question, I expect they will find your answer very confusing, so you're probably best off just leaving it here.

Christmas cheer is in full-swing here in good old Iwataki-cho. Some of the yakuza have their Christmas lights up, which are really quite pleasant, and one of the whore-houses gave us a fresh-baked loaf of bread for reasons that are entirely unclear to us. (It's still sitting on the kitchen table.) With the cold weather and lack of heat in our house becoming increasingly notable at night, I have been spending a lot of time at the public bath house down the block. It's pretty laid-back in there. The yakuza guys generally won't shower directly next to me, but they don't mind sharing the whirl-pools or the awesome steam-room, and one of them offered me some shampoo the other day, which was very nice of him. There was a big guy in there the other day who had a full-back tattoo of a warrior slaying a dragon. I was mighty impressed, and glad not to be a dragon.

Unfortunately, there came some tough news recently:

This city is still reeling from the last pink lady typhoon, and I don't know if it can withstand another one. We must batten down the hatches and prepare for the worst. What kind of cruel God would so callously subject these people to a pink lady typhoon again? Like earthquakes and their aftershocks, the second pink lady typhoon is often more intense than the first. Say a prayer for all of us here in Kyoto. We are going to have to face this pink lady typhoon head on.

SOLUTION TO THE BRAIN-TEASER: Look at the dishes at the bottom of the poster. They have Cookie Monster endorsing cheese danishes and pigs-in-a-blanket. Cookie Monster, by definition, does not give a shit about anything other than cookies. (Believe me, I have studied that gentleman.) I need to learn the idiomatic equivalent of "Focus up, Mr. Donut."

October 27, 2003 How long does a bicycle have to sit in the river before it's considered public property? I am one of the few in this land without a bicycle to call his own. (I had a borrowed one before, but one of my housemates loaned it out to a shady character who returned it all fucked up, which is another reason to pass legislation against shady characters.) There are so many bikes here that they're nearly disposable, and people keep telling me just to take one that looks abandoned, but I've seen The Bicycle Thief, and I can't take that risk. However, since Wednesday morning, a nice-looking silver bike has been lying on its side in the Takase-gawa, a river / canal / lengthy puddle near my house, and no one has touched it. The Takase, rarely more than an inch deep, is about eight feet below street level, so the bike clearly wasn't parked there deliberately. Hopefully, there are some Italian neo-realist film experts reading this web-page who can help me determine at what point it becomes unreasonable to speculate that a poor, honest worker may have pawned the family linen for the bike and left it in the river while he hangs some movie posters nearby. I mean, it's been at least five days.

Tonight is Game 7 of the Nippon Series. The Hanshin Tigers, hapless perennial losers, are trying to cap their dream year with a championship. They lost the first two games, won the next three, and lost last night. No matter what happens tonight, Osaka is going to explode. (Some of my students, upper-middle class types, named the Tigers' home stadium the most dangerous place in Japan, simply because of the lunatic fans.) I have noticed that they win when I wear my Tigers t-shirt, so I am going to do my part by wearing it today, even though it really ought to be washed. Japanese baseball fervor can match any city in America. A number of serious financial publications have credited the Tigers' success with the recent signs of recovery for the Japanese economy (since the last time the Tigers were any good was 1985, in the midst of the "Bubble Era" in Japan). The Tigers even have a curse of their own that's every bit as good as (if not better than) the stupid goat in Chicago or the Bambino in Boston.

Several people are walking around the neighborhood right now, chanting in long, deep tones. It is 8:50am.
Outside is Japan.


I am having a spirited discussion with Takahiro, a high-level student, about medical care in countries around the world, comparing the insurance schemes of the United States, Japan, England and Canada. I note that one drawback to the sexy Canadian system, as told to me by an actual Canadian, is that doctors' salaries are capped by the government payouts, and according to the Canadian, a lot of the good doctors are moving to the U.S., where the real money is. (I have no idea whether that is true or not. I am certain, however, that my source was, in fact, from Canada.) Takahiro becomes interested in the issue of doctors' motivations for becoming doctors, whether pure altruism is a relevant consideration in the present age. We mull it over. Takahiro makes this observation about the current generation of Japanese doctors:

TAKAHIRO: Some of them are a little bit crazy. There have been some scandals recently.
TEACHER: What kind of scandals?
TAKAHIRO (excited): There was a very crazy doctor in Tokyo recently. It was a big scandal. I read it in the newspaper. He was saying to provide medical care for many patients. But actually he did experiments on them!
TEACHER: He did?
TAKAHIRO (in horror): Yes! He used his patient as a kind of marmot !!
TEACHER (after a long pause): I'm sorry, what?
TAKAHIRO: As a marmot! For his experiments!
TEACHER: Do you mean a guinea pig?

I gave him a level-up recommendation because of that. As a teacher, I tend to reward brilliant mistakes more often than mediocre successes. I asked Yoshiaki, the gravel-voiced, hard-living tennis coach, about his recent vacation trip to Okinawa. His eyes lit up. "I met the manta," he said. He'd gone scuba-diving, apparently, and seen a manta ray. I cheered and gave him a level-up recommendation. However, I merely winced when Masako, the elderly housewife, delcared that, after a stressful week, "I relieved myself this weekend".

I've been meaning to photograph this for quite some time. This is a popular pizza chain in the Kyoto area. I haven't tried their pizza, so I don't know if they're any good. But I do know one thing. Chicago, this is you:

Come on, Chicago. Don't deny it. That is you. (Especially you, Gianni Cutri.) Japanese pizza delivery places deserve credit for their cool delivery scooter-bikes. The pizzas go in the hatch in the back (visible on the right bike), and there's a roof for some reason, but it's on two wheels, so they can park on the sidewalk if they like. I haven't had any pizza here, as it's rather expensive and bound to be a disappointment. I miss it quite a lot, though. I haven't decided whether my first meal upon return to the U.S.A. will be a fucking gooey deep dish pizza or a mad blowout at a Mexican restaurant. All I know for sure is that you people in Chicago are in the mob and you wear striped suits with hats so quit pretending you don't.

Here is a threat:

They're serious. They will sticky about their favorite things. God help me, I've seen them do it.


1. 99 yen is roughly equivalent to one dollar, at least in conceptual terms. (The actual exchange rate is more along the lines of 110 yen to one dollar. This raises the interesting point that, in theory, we should be able to exchange 50 Cent for a Japanese rapper named 55 Yen.) There are several '99 Yen' stores throughout Kyoto. Unlike their American counterparts, the Dollar Stores, 99 Yen shops are full of useful items. They carry every manner of food and non-alcoholic drink, and although the dairy section should be avoided, it's really quite a good value in most respects. The other items on sale vary from store to store. My friend Nora reported seeing a vibrator at one; I did not doubt her for a moment. That all items within the store are priced at 99 yen is a moral absolute for these stores, a religiously-held founding principle from which they never, ever stray. It's strange to walk around a store where you can afford everything. One grows accustomed to approaching purchasing decisions through the schema of hierarchical price structures. At 99 Yen, though, all things are equal. Thankfully, their cookies are kind of shitty, or else I'd never buy real food.

2. Although the physical plant of the 99 Yen shop is roughly equivalent to just under half that of a Walgreens or Osco in America, there are five distinct music 'zones' within the store. The area near the cash registers is reserved for upbeat pop hits, while the strip at the back of the store, where pasta and canned foods are kept, broadcasts adult contemporary ballads. The two thin lanes on the left are silent, but the large center aisle alternates between two long jingles, "(Honky-Tonk Love Theme From) 99 Yen" and "99 (Girl On The Verge of a Funky Breakbeat Mix)". The former is in the style of Sonny and Cher, and the latter is a recording of a woman experiencing the Biblical Rapture while chanting the number 99. (The names are my own. You can trust me, though. I know of what I speak.) The side entrance and the front half of the far-right produce aisle feature a jaunty, cheerful march that would not be out of place in Bridge on the River Kwai. I spent a bit of time trying to locate the sonic no-man's-land, the point at which the maximum number of jingles converged into one. Surprisingly, the best I could do was to get the high notes (Honky Tonk Love Theme From) 99 Yen" to bleed meekly into the march.

3. Tight-Arse is a student at our school who only attends the Voice Room. It's a lounge where students can go -- at a lower cost than actual classes -- and participate in open discussions with other students and one teacher per class period. If a student is lucky, there might be no other students present, and he'll get the equivalent of a man-to-man 'class' with the teacher for a fraction of the price. (The teacher will be annoyed at him and is unlikely to teach him much, if anything, but value is achieved.) Tight-Arse, a salaryman in his late twenties, has been dubbed as such for a number of reasons, chief among which are his plans for his upcoming wedding: hire his friends as photographers and honeymoon in Osaka (30 minutes away on the train). Recently, he told me about the guilt he feels for buying most of his groceries at the 99 Yen Shop. (He buys his dinner at a normal grocery store every night, always waiting until that day's lunch food -- sushi, sandwiches, etc -- is marked down 20% right before the store closes. But he buys everything else at the 99 Yen Shop.) He wonders if he is doing the economy great injury by saving so much money. He also noted that his fiancee seems much happier when she is eating food that comes from fancy packaging (on instances when his mother buys food for him). He said that he did not plan to change, but he wanted my advice as to whether he should be feeling shame at the cash register. I pointed out that anyone who was there to cast shame upon him must also be guilty of savings, as they too were shopping at 99 Yen. He seemed pleased. Probably I should have encouraged him in the shame direction. I told him that it was fine to shop there now, but he better not do it when he has children.

4. In normal grocery stores, it's unnecessary but not deeply problematic when the cashier calls out the price of every item as he or she scans it. But I don't understand why the 99 Yen Shop does it, let alone why they do it with triple the fervor that anyone else does. Everything in the store costs 99 yen, from things that cost more than twice as much elsewhere to things that actually cost much less than 99 yen in other stores. Nothing is ever "on sale" for less than 99 yen. If the it is present in the store, then by definition it costs 99 Yen. And so, if the only possible price is 99 yen, why must the cashiers shriek out the price ("KYU-ju-kyu no kaiten" -- literally, "you purchased this item for 99") as they scan every single item in the purchase? They never, ever let an item pass without shrieking its price. (And 'shriek' is the word for it.) Does Japanese people appreciate this service? Gaijin certainly don't; some days, the sheer dread of it is enough to make me shop at another store. The repetition can't be good for the workers' mental health, either. If I worked there for a week, I'd bug out every time I saw the number nine for the next several months. (Perhaps that's how triskadekaphobia gets started.) One of my students works at one of the major department stores, standing by the escalator and yelling for people to come to his floor (women's lingerie). He says that his boss considers escalator-yellers to be absolutely critical for sales success, and he was in disbelief when I told him that not only do we not have escalator-yellers in the United States, but such people would actually hurt sales more than they'd help. I quickly changed the topic to the success of his favorite baseball team before feelings were hurt.

5. I think that the majority of Westerners would not expect the Japanese to be as into potato salad as they are. My students never mention potato salad when discussing their favorite foods, but it must be intensely popular, because 99 Yen and its competitors always have hundreds of potato-salad lunch packs ready for sale in the morning, and there are never more than a few left in the evening. I never liked potato salad as a child, thinking it a bizarre misuse of potatoes that were clearly meant to be mashed, but I never viewed it in the same way that I did the Satanic abomination of macaroni salad. (Why would you do that to macaroni? God damn, it still gives me chills.) I was starving one winter in college, and my friend Jenny Carroll gave me a huge vat of potato salad that she had made for her ROTC Christmas party. For reasons that were never made clear, the ROTC hadn't eaten any of it. So I lived on potato salad until the next semester's student loans came in, and now I'm down with it. One of my former housemates made potato salad for our Fourth of July party over the summer, and it was very good, so I traded CD-burning for more potato salad a few weeks later. Japanese potato salad is thin, less chunky than most American varieties. But it's okay.

Let me give fair warning that the next entry will be the most powerful in the history of this web-page.

June 19, 2003 I am keeping my cool, which is the most important part. Yesterday's sound and fury notwithstanding, life is good, life is relaxed. I am in demand as a teacher and I am getting better at it. Today was my day off. I had agreed to go to Nijo Castle with a housemate, but the rainy season was in full swing when I finally emerged from my bedroom, and I was looking great in my black and silver basketball shorts, so I decided to stay in and lounge around for most of the day. I'm planning to do most of my tourist-ing in the fall, when the heat and humidity abate. For now, I am content to keep my cool.

In the evening, I did some wandering. After a trip to Tower Records, I came upon the 99 Yen Shop for the first time. It is a glorious place, dramatically unlike its dingy American equivalents (dollar stores). Everything from the local supermarket was there, but for the low cost of 99 yen (roughly 85 cents) instead of 300 or 400 yen. It was quite nice; I had to keep reminding myself that if I could see it, I could afford it, because absolutely everything was only 99 yen. The only real drawback was having to listen to an insane theme song on the ceiling muzak in which a high-pitched voice chanted "99 yen" over and over again. The local supermarket plays only the Beatles (and obscure tracks, too, from lesser-known masterpieces like "Yes, It Is" to their absolute nadir, "Girl", but no solo tracks, as far as I can tell, leaving no possibility of the magic that might occur shopping for cold turkey while listening to "Cold Turkey"). I feel bad about abandoning the supermarket, but that's what I have to do. 99 Yen Shops are not to be fucked with. How can they offer such low prices? With no reason whatsoever, I choose to believe that it's something or other to do with the yakuza.

Remember the good old days of Doritos?

Yes, many people forget about the hard-scrabble, working-class origins of this popular corn chip, but old-timers fondly reminisce about the days when Doritos were the product of one man's dream, one man's hard work, and if he didn't make the trip to the market that week, then everyone would have to do without until he did; when Doritos, like our lives, were simpler, less flashy, the pride of a small-town farm community; and when Doritos, like our lives, didn't have that sketchy Mexican air about them.

What's that? You don't remember those days? Strange, neither do I. In many ways, Japan is not another country as much as it is a parallel universe. Of course, I bought the Classic Doritos for 99 yen and brought them home for dinner. As the package promises, each chip is dusted with the all-natural flavor of the back of a sweaty horse, which is to say that they taste sort of like less greasy Fritos. They're kind of thick, also.

More futuristic landscapes for kids:

Why is the lion half-buried? Why is the unhappy face turned towards him? What does this mean? Am I the lion? No one tells me anything.

June 10, 2003 I had an unusually large amount of new students yesterday, so I was able to acquire some new data for the ongoing Where Am I From? project. Results skewed close to their historical distribution. One student said New Zealand ("I don't know"), one said Canada ("You seem kind"), two said America ("I don't know", "You look American"), three said England ("You have golden hair" (!), "You are smart", "I don't know"), and four said Australia ("All teachers are from Australia", "I saw Australian and you look like him", "You are tall", "You are handsome").

One drawback to the otherwise pleasant life afforded by residence in Kyoto is the strange lack of crazy t-shirt slogans. T-shirt spotting was the greatest joy of my days in Osaka, my first port of arrival in Japan. People mostly dress in modern outfits here, but for whatever reason, their shirts are usually blank. So it goes. My all-time favorite was on a train in Osaka, on my way to my first day of training. A woman in her twenties wore a tight t-shirt, with the words stretched across her breasts:


I nearly missed my stop.

But life is good, life is calm. I am gradually expanding the list of foods that I can eat from the local grocery store. It's not quite at double-digits yet, but I think I am hitting the basic nutritional minimums, so that's a relief. I will be able to experiment a little more once my first paycheck arrives. (When you're living on savings, you can't afford to blow 500 yen on a dinner which, regardless of what is shown on the package, may well have fish eyeballs in it.) I am learning not to make purchasing decisions based on the relative enthusiasm of the characters on the packaging, a very important lesson that I struggled with for quite some time. (You wonder if the Calbee pig-looking guy really believes in those chips.) It's widely known that the Japanese are at the vanguard of doing crazy shit with fish, but I didn't realize that this country is also the experimental frontier of baking. They are really quite good at it, offering pastries seen nowhere else, and bakeries are second only to vending machines for sheer ubiquity in some areas. There's a bakery next to my school, and we have to pass it for a second every time we walk up the stairs from the teachers' room to class. Of course, I've had a few profoundly disgusting pastries as well, but for the most part, they are reasonably priced and delicious.

A word about 'delicious': it's been interesting to notice that certain adjectives and adverbs have an almost totemic importance to lower-level students. They learn one way of describing a thing, and they stick with it. Someone taught most of these kids 'delicious' early on, and now everything that tastes okay is 'delicious' to them in role-plays. Yesterday, a steak, a cup of coffee, and some salt were all described as 'delicious'.

A final question:
Why is everyone so calm?! A giant lobster is on the loose! Run, you fools! Run!

May 25, 2003

I will tell you only small things, and from them you will assemble some larger truth, in time, when you have collected enough of them. I know that you can do this.

Holed up in a temporary apartment on my first and second days, peeking at Japan from my balcony, attempting to apply Enigma-machine style decoding techniques to Japanese television, I had to eat eventually, and I gave in around 10am on the second day. I was hoping for some breakfast, but I soon found myself to be fucking hopeless in Japanese convenience stores, and I wound up with a pseudo-orange drink and some semi-barbecued potato chips. That was fine. It could have come off a lot worse, as it did a few days later, when I inadvertently bought a ham sandwich that I swear was deliberately disguised to look like an egg sandwich. (Seriously. There was a ring of egg salad around the outside of the bread, and a sneaky strip of ham on the inside.) There was a plastic bundle wrapped around the neck of the orange drink. Inside was a small plastic statue of a monkey sitting on a plate of spaghetti and lobster tail, opening a clam and looking quite disappointed to find an omelette inside. The inscription on the base of the statue read WORLD MASTERPIECE THEATER II.

I have no internet access at home. I am writing this from an internet cafe on the sixth floor of a shaky warehouse (where the elevator only goes up to the fifth floor), a building surrounded by hip-hop clothing stores and the ubiquitous tiny noodle shops, each with its own handful of silent Japanese men in suits, where even one so cheeky as I does not get the impression he should entertain thoughts of entrance. My actual place of residence is many miles away in Juso, the red light district of Osaka, which is right around the corner from Friendly Street and Very Friendly Street. A building simply entitled "Diary of a Nurse" is nearby. In three days of residence, my roommate Adam is the only other white man I've seen.

Today, while trying to find this place, I saw a woman with a shirt that read THIS BIG NEW WAVE HAS ME VERY EXCITED ABOUT THE FUTURE.

April 10, 2002 In case you are wondering what stance I am in, I am in the Unbreakable Monkey stance. I'm not the sort of guy who will tell any yahoo off the street what stance he is in, but I figure you've earned the right to know.

The reason that this entry is so late is that I was trying to write about having had the greatest lunch break of my entire life a couple days ago, and despite my best efforts, I was sounding like a crazy man. I will come back to that story some other time.

Lately, I've been forgetting to take lunch most days. I have a lot of work to do, but I can get it all done during normal business hours. The problem is that I bring a lot of non-work work to work with me, and I get behind on it. "Shit! I have to figure out who was really behind the XYZ Affair by 2!" So on and so forth.

Here is some of the shit that I pull: On my way back to my desk from the store around the corner, with a champion lunch of mixed nuts and RC cola in tow, I pretended to be mute so I didn't have to talk to a woman in the elevator about the weather. The weather is fine, it's just that I am a bit of a shithead. I pointed to my throat and did some cockamamie sign language for her. It was fun. Shithead. A contributing factor to the reason I had RC cola with me is that my favorite soda, Dr. Pepper, has finally crossed the line with their ad campaigns, and, as a man of conscience, I cannot support them any longer, because I want to leave a better world behind for the children, who seem nice.

I thought about cooking mac 'n cheese in the kosher-only microwave, but I'm not in that bad of a mood. Some day, though, I'm going to get all Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God on them, and make sleazy popcorn in there. Today, though, nobody has made trouble for me.

If you promise to publish it, I will seriously rewrite the entirety of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God to feature my threats about the kosher microwave, and the Jonathan Edwards estate will just have to grind their teeth, because that shit is out of copyright.

The rabbi is great pals with a number of Catholic priests. They hang out all the time. I like reading stories on other peoples' webpages about when they take their dogs out to play in the park, and their dogs meet up with other dogs who are their friends. That's kind of how I feel about the rabbi hanging out with the priests. I can't make a bit of sense of what any of them are saying when they get together, but it's nice to see them in their element. The rabbi's friends are all kind of down lately about the current wave of pedophilia charges against the priesthood, and he's been trying to come up with ways to cheer them up lately, such as writing letters to the editor of the local newspapers about how the Chicago priests are good guys, so on and so forth, but he's already done one of those, so he's looking for new ways, and he has these complicated ideas about helping Christian Israeli citizens, but I think it would be much easier and fun to send his friends Inspirational Sport Statues, and if I have the courage, or if I happen to be drunk, I will tell him that.

Many customers have requested these statues depicting children other than Caucasian and playing other sports; we have expressed these requests to manufacturers and importers. When and if other statues are available, CatholicShopper.com will carry them.

Afro Jesus bowling MOTHERFUCKERS!

The possibility of a basketball game involving members of the P.B.A. Hall of Fame was raised in a recent email discussion, and, as I am sure you now know all too well, since I have introduced the idea to you in this paragraph, it boggles the fucking mind. Does Johnny Petraglia have hops? If so, are they mad? My money is on "Yes, but more in a The Madness of King George sort of way than a World B. Free or a Darryl Dawkins one." Not a lot of my money is on it, though. You should never turn your back on a man who has rolled a perfect game, because that is hard to do, and god knows what kind of stances that guy can get into.

February 19, 2002

I am back from the polar wilderness. It is nice up there. You should come.

It was twenty-four years ago today that I was born. The main thing about me when I was in the womb was that I had a fucking sweet umbilical cord. A lot of fetuses don't really know what to do with their umbilical cords, so they just sit around and receive nutrients from it. I used mine to practice martial arts maneuvers, which is why I am so good now. Expectant mothers who want their sons to be cowboys would be well-advised to get them started with the umbilical lasso early in gestation. You can't waste any time. The world is speeding up. Have you even heard about entropy? Damn. Careers.

There was some controversy over the rabbi's announcement last week that this year's Clementines are for shit. The rabbi is a guy who employs me to write and research various things for him. He likes oranges a lot, and was therefore pretty concerned about the recent declining quality of Clementine oranges. Among the cooler heads that fortunately prevailed in the debate was Jenny Gerbi, who sent this explanation:

The Clementines are for shit this year because of the Mediterranian fruit fly- spain clementines are no longer allowed until they fix their ships so the cold holds will kill the fly larvae, (which, apparently, will distroy everything south of Illinois) and the SHITTY clementines are from morocco. I'm not sure why people are so scared of fruitflies, but there it is. It's been a pretty miserable year for citrus all around, if you count the "midwest fresh" crap I seem to be getting around here, even from Whole Foods.

That explanation was relayed to the rabbi, who replied:

thank you,it is now explainedbut nevertheless ia m bereft!

His typing style is marvelous. He just kind of mashes his hands against the keyboard until he gets a parliamentary majority of the letters he wants. That's why I do most of the writing. He's a great guy, though.

A number of my friends were born around the same time I was, so there has been a lot of discussion of ages recently. I liked 22. I thought that was a good number. 23 was okay, but I thought 24 might be better in terms of conveying the right index of youthful promise and maturity. Then someone pointed out that 24 is the official beginning of Your Mid-Twenties, and now I am thinking that 24 is perhaps not so good. I don't want to be in my mid-twenties yet. There is not much I can accomplish with that thought, unless there is a 22 year old who is looking to trade up for some reason. (I will throw in a draft pick from my early fifties.)

It's easier to age, I think, if you're actually doing anything with your life, even simple things, like a job that is leading somewhere, or love. You can outline your life with those things and allow for the grand accidents to happen in between. I was the ultimate wonder boy at 22, and now I am a problem for the team's salary cap, like a rabbi without his clementines. But I am very familiar with martial arts.

This hot piece of ancient ass is Cleopatra. She lived in Egypt more than two thousand years ago. I am long overdue to see the exhibit about her that is presently at the Field Museum in Chicago. It ends on March 3rd. The Field Museum did a bang-up job on their last major exhibition, the Russian Gold That Had Never Been Out Of Russia Before, and this one looks very promising as well. I want you to understand that I would never use the phrase "hot piece of ass" in everyday conversation, but the phrase "hot piece of ancient ass" in reference to Cleopatra signifies my participation in cultural dialectics, a brilliant subversion of multiple academic and social paradigms. I hope that was clear. Most of the problems in my life have been caused by people not knowing when I am serious, aside from the time when I was five and a skunk lost his shit in our area of the trailer park where we were living, and a couple other examples that I could probably come up if I tried, but not many. I am not such a bad guy if you consider all the paradigms I am subverting. Anyway, you're certainly welcome to come to the exhibition. The admission is, if I remember correctly, pretty reasonable, given how hot she is and all.

January 28, 2002

I am very, very sick right now.

January 24, 2002

My attitude has been a little messed up lately. I have a nice job where I write letters, memos and essays for a rabbi. Everyone else in the office is a lay Jewish person (aside from the mailroom and me), so it's pretty rare that another rabbi is around, unless one of the guys from the city board of rabbis on the ninth floor stops by to visit. The thing is - and it's getting increasingly problematic - whenever another rabbi shows up, my eyes glaze over and I forget that I'm at work. I start thinking I'm on Pokemon, and I get curious whether my rabbi knows more about Judaism than the other rabbi does, so I try to get the rabbis to fight with each other. Today, I created a squabble between my rabbi and his friend rabbi over whether the 's' in B'shalakh should be capitalized. I need to stop doing that, but I can't help myself. My eyes go all wide and blinky.

Another problem that I am having: I keep slipping into food comas. I come home, eat dinner and, feeling full, I fall asleep. I miss most of the useful hours of the evening for social interaction. But what am I supposed to do? I have to eat. People yell at me when I forget.

Here is a play for two Ethiopians:

An ETHIOPIAN is idly kicking sand. Another ETHIOPIAN comes by.

ETHIOPIAN: Did you read "I woke up in a strange place" today?
OTHER ETHIOPIAN: Yeah. "Food coma"? Eating food makes him sleepy, and we're supposed to feel sorry for him? Holy shit, I hate that guy.
ETHIOPIAN: I'm not reading that damn page any more. It just makes me angry.
ETHIOPIAN: Hey, if you want to come by later, we're cooking our camel.
OTHER ETHIOPIAN: How are you going to get around?
ETHIOPIAN: Ah, fuck it. I said to Sue, fuck it, we never go anywhere, let's just eat the damn thing, I'm hungry.
OTHER ETHIOPIAN: Solid. Maybe we can slip into a "food coma" after we eat.
ETHIOPIAN: God, fuck that guy.

I don't really have the right to criticize, because it's been a couple years since I've been on a picket line, but it's getting kind of ridiculous how the college socialists at Loyola University, the school down the road from my apartment, only show up at the train station with petitions and protest signs when it's warm out. Sometimes, there's a long cold spell, and they get really backlogged with material for when the weather warms up again. Yesterday, they tried to protest last month's war developments, the death penalty and Enron all at once, and it didn't really work out. The complaints got tangled up in each other. It's the Voltron syndrome of political activism, I think; the strident rhyming slogans, allowed to transfer power from mechanics to pure energy, assemble into one and pin the unified blame on what effectively appears to be a singular, giant evil robot of right-wing politics.

I had a Transformers joke about a Dialecticon in there, but I killed the joke, and I buried it deep underground in an ancient tomb. May God have mercy on the soul of anyone who unearths that joke.

December 15, 2001

I wanted a cookie, and there were only five minutes left until the store with no minimum charge closed, so I left my apartment and I ran, free, unbound, perfect in form and effortless in speed, alive in the cold air and the moonlight. Golden boy! Everyone I passed looked at me as though I wasn't wearing any pants.

From the outer space editorial desk: will China - which recently sent a monkey, dog, rabbit and snail into space - be sending up a panda any time soon? I think I am speaking for more than myself when I say that I'd like to see a panda sent into outer space.

Here are some more stories about homeless guys:

1. I am leaving the Rock 'n Roll McDonalds in downtown Chicago. I bought some sunflower seeds across the street for lunch, and I needed somewhere to sit and read while them. For some reason, I never work in buildings that have cafeterias. As I leave, trying to figure out where my office is from there, a homeless man asks me if I am an honest man. In all honesty, I am not an honest man. I tell nothing but lies, but they are sweet lies. Still, I think that he is looking for a specific answer here, so I shrug and say that I am. He bets me a dollar that by looking at my coat and my shoes, he can tell me how many children my father had. I have never met my father, so I am curious, but I have no way of confirming whether he's right, and the homeless guy isn't about to start giving it up for free. Anyway, I don't have a dollar.

2. I am one block away from work. A homeless man offers to shine my shoes. He explains that he doesn't have his shoe-shine kit with him right now, but he's pretty sure he could do a good job anyway. I am wearing my basketball shoes, which I bought because they were cheap, have no visible logo and were the only ones available in size 14, so they aren't really the type of shoes that you shine. I tell the homeless guy that. He assures me that he can do wonders, and he makes me guess how old his shoes are. When they turn out to be much older than my guess, they are held up as evidence of his shoe-shining prowess. I try to express my sincere belief in his abilities, but, as usual, I don't have a dollar. The homeless man says that it's okay and maybe we'll have dinner some time. I say, sure, why not.

3. I am approaching the turnstile at the train station, ready to pay my fare with a fully-charged transit card. A homeless man asks if I will give him three dollars. He is more ambitious than other homeless people, and for that I respect him. Still, I do not have three dollars. He offers me a mixtape in exchange, and assures me that it's really good. I shrug. He offers to give what he refers to as his favorite quarter if I will pay his fare to board the train. I am willing. I have not yet spent the quarter.

August 23, 2001

Here is something you can look forward to: I went to the store today and I bought some grits. I've never had them before, and I figured that experiencing this culinary staple of the American South was the responsible thing to do, as an artist. So, what happens when my sassy wit hits a bowl of grits? Fun, that's what! Stay tuned.

July 27, 2001

Everyone who would like me to find a MIDI of the Sanford and Son theme song and set it up so that it plays every time this webpage is viewed, raise your hand. Okay. Now, everyone who does not have their hands raised, you are not allowed to visit this webpage any more. Go find another one. This one is off-limits. Sorry, but that's the way it has to be.

Due in equal parts to my extreme poverty and my long periods of complete physical inactivity, there are generally no more than three or four different food-related items in my apartment. Right now, two of the four items are peanut butter and raisins. I have discovered that it is quite a tasty snack to pour the raisins into the jar of peanut butter and eat them with a spoon. Very little effort expended, cheers all around. Should this webpage just be recipes from now on? I know the recipe for cold water.

I haven't been writing much about my own life lately because, although it is all really quite reasonable, it would sound like the ramblings of a madman in print:

2am: Finally made it up off the floor. Consider briefly going to buy some of the happy-face cookies. Decide against it, because the late-night clerk is trying to kill me because I keep charging these 97-cent purchases and after several nights in a row of this he will realize that I can be gotten to through the happy-face cookies. Talk to my cats about capitalism. Settle upon going to the lake and throwing things in the water to see what kinds of sounds they make.

And I don't want people to get the wrong impression.

Above all other things, I think, I am curious whether the new Planet of the Apes movie has any bonobo references. You'd think if any director might include one, it'd be Tim Burton. But you know those studio fat-cats, always with the violence, never with the bonobos.

July 16, 2001

I noticed something, and I want you to know, because I don't think most people know about this, and it's going to change a few things around here: bottle caps, the kind that are on 20oz bottles of soda, that you can buy in convenience stores, of the plastic variety, you can use them with a different bottle of soda than the one they came with. Okay. That was the shittiest revelation ever.

Idea for a viral marketing campaign: choose your target demographic, go to where they live, and litter the entire area with used (therefore low-cost) samples of your product to imply that it is widely employed within that demographic. The goal of Mountain Dew Code Red is to increase the Mountain Dew brand's numbers with black people, according to the pre-release advertising materials around the office of the last place I worked, an ad department, and I live in a strange schizophrenic area where black people are on some blocks (which happen to be run-down) and white people are on other blocks (which happen to be well-maintained), and though I have never seen any black people drinking Mountain Dew Code Red, which is not to say that I haven't seen black people drinking things, because I have seen many black people drinking many things out front on the stoop and in the park down the block, over the course of one week there were a shitload of empty bottles of Mountain Dew Code Red strategically placed and neatly spaced out in the gutters on the blocks with black people, and then there were no more, and never has there been another one. It was odd. If it was an actual campaign, it didn't work, I guess. Were you able to follow that sentence? Writing it was a pleasant, lilting experience.

(baseball) After the game, (Ichiro) Suzuki was asked about making contributions with his defense, while he is struggling on offense. "That's a question the Japanese media would ask," said Suzuki, who is boycotting the Japanese media along with (Kazuhiro) Sasaki, his countryman.

Ichiro! How can you say that? I would never ask a question like that. I challenge anyone to provide an example of me asking that sort of question. Now I'm starting to wonder if Ichiro is just making excuses to avoid talking to me and the rest of the Japanese media. Regardless, I will continue to keep up my end of the bargain. Ichiro has indeed been struggling at the plate, although in light of his fine achievements this season, it would be petty to complain. He will get back on track. Kazuhiro, however, is at the top of his game. Kalamazoo Kazu, as he could be nicknamed if he had anything to do with the city of Kalamazoo, MI, pitched in the ninth inning of a recent game and earned a 'save' for ensuring the victory. Huzzah!

When I grow up, there will be dancing bears.

July 10, 2001

The pizza has been claimed. Please do not send me any more emails about it. Today's food offering is the end-slice of a load of bread that I purchased yesterday. I made a sandwich last night and skipped past the end-slice; if left to my own devices, I will probably use it for toast in a couple weeks, but it will be a compromise choice, made because for some reason I don't have the time or milk to invest in mac 'n cheese and I don't want to eat cat food, being a strictly people food sort of guy. So, as you can see, the end-slice is not precious to me, and it can be yours, for a low low price, if you want it because you're all worked up about missing out on the pizza.

I went downstairs to get the mail in my underwear. Hoo boy! That ruled. It would have been better if I'd had any mail, though.

I had the 'naked in a video store' dream last night. I was in the sci-fi section of That's Rentertainment, the hipster video store I frequented in college, and I covered my private bits with a VHS copy of George Lucas's THX 1138. I didn't want to rent it, though, so I was stuck. It was very awkward. Someone in the dream made a joke about renting porn videos while naked. Then I had a torrid love affair with the blonde police officer who was sent to arrest me, but it fell apart because she was part of a Christian sect that didn't believe in metaphors.

I've been sleeping too much lately.

(interview: Thom Yorke) Laptops are the new electric guitar, I reckon, but I still love electric guitars, and drums, and singing ...

Yeah! Yeah. Did you hear that? Hah. Yeah. Fuckers.

CDNOW: A number of so-called Radiohead "imitators" crept up in the last few years in the wake of OK Computer. How big a factor was that in the radical new direction taken by Kid A? Do you feel proud or dismayed by the fact that other bands are so obviously influenced by your sound and trying to make their own version of it?
YORKE: This question makes me feel ill.

I like listening to Thom Yorke's music, but I would not like to interview him. He seems rather cranky. If I was a journalist, though, and the publication was very powerful and influential, I would conduct a series of interviews - and I'd have to finish the series before any of them were published - where, instead of asking awkward questions like that one, I would poke the celebrity. I think you could learn a lot about a person from how they'd respond to a situation like that, probably more than with actual questions, especially seeing as how language is getting deconstructed and all. Did you hear about that? Man, stop it. I need language, for this thing that I'm working on. You can have it when I'm done.

July 9, 2001

I rolled out of bed (or off the couch, as it were) and felt a twinge of hunger; in my half-asleep state, I wandered into the kitchen and put a pizza in the oven. Now that I am fully awake, I am not hungry any more; the twinge passed, and I don't want the pizza. Shit. Does anyone want a pizza? If you brought me a cookie in trade, which would be a very good trade for you, I'd be very pleased and ready to get on with my day.

All of my Ethiopian readers are probably giving me the finger right now.

Hiro, one of my former co-workers from Beelzetron, just emailed me: apparently, our player-hating supervisor was laid off in the recent 'restructuring' and Hiro - who has the same position I did - wasn't. Man, if I'd have stayed on there for a few more weeks, that would have been a great plot development! By the time I left, she was the only person in the entire company who knew what I was supposed to be doing with my time. Everyone else just assumed I was working on whatever I was supposed to be working on and left me alone. Ah, well. That one's for the old readers.

There is a lot of news that I need to catch up with: most importantly, from the international desk, this came to my attention:

(news) Iran's state telecoms monopoly has ordered tough new restrictions on Internet use, requiring service providers to block some sites and barring access to the Web for under-18s, newspapers said on Sunday. Regulations issued by the Iran Telecommunications Company order Internet service providers (ISPs) to filter all materials presumed immoral or contrary to state security, including the Web sites of opposition groups, the Hambastegi newspaper said.

Well, if this webpage isn't contrary to state security in Iran, I don't know what is, so they're probably going to block this soon. For the benefit of readers in Iran, then, who may not be able to read this webpage much longer, I am going to give away the ending. The rest of you skip ahead to the next paragraph, which will be about monkeys. Iranians, swipe the black space below with your cursor to highlight the invisible text:

Dr Zaius continues to deny that human beings, not apes, were once the dominant species on the planet. I uncover the ruins of a house, and I show everyone a human doll with a voice box. The apes are shocked. Dr Zaius admits that he knew it all along, but warns me that I'd better not go any further, or I won't like what I find. I ignore him, for I do not trust him. In my estimation, he is a damn dirty ape. I walk on for miles. Then, just over a ridge, I receive an unpleasant shock: the Statue of Liberty, buried up to its head in sand! I fall to my knees. You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you all to hell! I am inconsolable. Eventually, I settle down with a nice chimpanzee and raise a family. The sequel webpage is a tense family drama entitled I Woke Up In A Place That Was Very Familiar To Me, in which the chimp and I try to rekindle the sparks in our relationship and one of our children joins a bonobo wank circle on the wrong side of the tracks.

Bet you didn't see that coming, did you?

In more international news, I talked to my friend Nora last week. She has been to India, because she worked on a Let's Go guide there, and she verified that they actually do have monkeys running around all over the place. They're not making that up. So, that's great. Here is a picture of a monkey in India. What do you think he's doing in front of that fort? I hope he's not a general of an army.

May 25, 1998 SEND ME YOUR OREGON TRAIL STORIES. a recent email from not elvis inspired me to compile these - the childhood (and beyond) experiences that many had with Oregon Trail, the joy that awaited in nearly grade school computer lab for our generation. tell me about what you did when you played. it can be anything - what did you name the members of your party? were you a banker or a farmer? what did you do while on the trail? did you hunt? and, everyone's favorite bit, what went on your party's tombstones? email them to me in whatever form you like and when I have enough I'll put them online. this goes for all of you. come on, don't put it off! you don't owe me anything but you do owe this page so give something back, will you?

I had to sell my soul to do it (how long it will be gone remains to be seen), but suddenly I find myself with a new car three months ahead of even the most optimistic forecasts. because I need to work this summer in order to be able to partake in indulgences like having somewhere to live, a jobby job job is necessary. on campus, however, the only options appeared to be pizza hut and wendy's or a return to my old digs at the CCSO, but I'll be danged if I'll repeat myself. for less than $7 an hour, that is. thus, the ability to go off-campus is highly prized - and now possible, thanks to the surrender of my soul. the cradle continues to lay in its space, quite deceased, and while a frankenstein-esque reincarnation could have been attempted I just love the poor car too much to hurt it like that (think Branagh's Frankenstein or some other suitably gory and generally unhappy one, especially when he tries to bring the woman back to life).

so: the new one. acquired on a budget and rather shiny to boot. operating it required learning the tricky art of driving manual transmission, something which I've been working diligently at and can now do fairly competently except around cops for some reason (there's a subroutine running through my brain that constantly thinks it would be absolutely hilarious to get pulled over for DUI and be sober. don't look at me, I'm just the conscious part of my own head). the license plates were added yesterday and the lifesaver, sample jar, action figures and everything else will be journeying over tomorrow.

the name? well, it was hopelessly apparent. I couldn't really avoid it, much as I tried. nearly every ad on TV was telling me what to name it. late night movies on USA told me what to name it. even my famed amp Mothra told me what to name the new car. how could I argue with that? without further ado, then, a loving goodbye to the Cradle and a welcome to my new 1988 white Honda Accord, aka the MechaCradle.

onwards, then:

validation comes from the strangest places.
no sooner had I written and posted my brief little rant about mcdonalds' tie in with disney's animal kingdom did I read in Time magazine the following (may 11, 1998 - page 18): "McNonsense! When we saw that McDonald's was using its McRib sandwich to cross-promote Disney's Animal Kingdom, we thought, Isn't it odd to connect frolicking animals and a rib sandwich? R.J. Milano, an assistant marketing V.P. at McDonald's, explained, 'Animal Kingdom is very much a wild experience, and the McRib is a wild taste that allows customers to experience the fun and magic of the Animal Kingdom without going to Orlando.' Oh."

I saw the new Godzilla movie last week, by the way. I'd been planning on avoiding it in order to not contribute to the big mega opening weekend box office total, but i didn't care enough to throw a fit and I was sort of morbidly curious to see how it would turn out. it elicited a solid "eh" from me. I don't really have enough to say about it to write an entire review, but Matt Trupia summed it up best for me when he said "eh, it was alright, but I didn't really need to have seen it to be able to say that I saw it, you know?" it is definitely not a "need" movie at all, in nearly any sense of the word. not screamingly terrible, really, but Godzilla 1998 had a number of inescapable and fatal flaws, most of which are related to the complete and total lack of Mothra in the movie. funk dat. if you can resist seeing it, then don't go. if you can't, well, I understand, but don't be expecting to find any hidden gold there.

the cats don't have anything that they want to report for this update. both of them have handled the crappy weather of the last week rather well. it's kind of touching: there was a definite, tangible moment a couple weeks ago when Thunder looked at Orbital and told him "Look, kid, you're bat-shit crazy, but we're going to work through that together." they've been best friends ever since.

I saw "As Good As It Gets" again at the cheap theatre last night. I liked it quite a lot the first time out, but there was perhaps an inability on my part, something damaged lost or otherwise confused that couldn't quite fully comprehend the sheer heart of that film. that jack nicholson's character was so real, greg kinnear's so beautiful, that I was so in love with helen hunt's, I don't know, but I got it the second time, so much props to that movie.

why can't I get this poorly taped live video of David Bowie performing "Look Back in Anger" any louder? oh, hell.

May 17, 1998 post-finals edition, such as it is. it was probably my least stressful yet, since most of my classes opted for an inhuman barrage of writing due in the last week (80 pages in the space of a weekend!) instead of the increasingly tiresome ritual of essay exams. so, no concerns. pretty good grades all around, I think, although a surefire 4.0 has probably been ruined by deficient attendance. (which seems rather contradictory, doesn't it? class is there to help to attain proficiency in the material. if I demonstrated proficiency with the material at a perfect level, what does it matter if I was in class or not?) scholastic apathy having set in after last year's failed escape attempt, it was just another semester, academically. metaphysically it was an EXTRAVAGANZA!, a word that is as fun to type as it is to say in a booming voice on the radio.

so I haven't got any real reflections because nothing worth reflecting upon is ending. instead, in the ever-now:

everyone's leaving town. I'm permanently based here in champaign now, so no movement for me. my apartment building is, as far as I can tell, abandoned (I can't imagine that these places are easy to sublet). even slug is gone. I can't believe that our time together is over. he borrowed a staple on the last day. bye, slug. you've been an ideal neighbor - permissive of my loud music while supplying none of your own, just confusing enough to make me wonder what the heck you were up to but not annoying. big and hairy but never big and hairy and naked. here's to you, slug.

surely it's not just my non-carnivorous self that finds that McDonald's tie-in commercial with Disney's Animal Kingdrom a little disturbing? you know, where the family cheerfully intersperses animal noises with hearty chomps upon ribs (shot in close-up, natch)? "do a giraffe!" "mmm, that's a good sandwich!" someone, tell me it's not just me...

I left a message applying for a ten day job cleaning apartments on campus. it's not quite the same as a seat upon the stool at record service or that's rentertainment, but I never did get around to asking them (which does not excuse them from failing to seek me out, mind you). permanent employment will be sought out...oh, I don't know, eventually...

orbital ("the kitten without fear, explanation, or restriction by gravity") had a respiratory infection which healed and then got bad again in the other eye and seems to have mostly healed again. he blames his tail for the whole thing. his tail could not be reached for comment.

season finale of the Simpsons was excellent, I thought.

picked this up awhile ago, thought some of you might like to see it if you haven't already - the Kevin Smith "superman lives" script that warner brothers apparently liked but decided to scrap when Tim Burton was hired (a project which is now in limbo). the smith script got a lot of highly positive word of mouth from the geek community, so you can judge for yourself the degree to which it's a tragedy that it didn't get made. personally? I like Kevin Smith a lot and have for a long time but this script really just isn't very good. it's obviously written from a fan's perspective - which is good - but the dialogue is just a little too stiff, cliched in several places, and the pacing is poor as well. it just doesn't work for me. wish it did.

I tried to blow up my stereo by unleashing an unholy amount of brand new good music upon it in one day. new massive attack, garbage, and a one-week delayed tori amos. it survived but is feeling wobbly. orbital's tail is also believed to be responsible for this.

I'm working on new stuff for the webpage. midway through, though, the mood zipped off for a zesty jaunt in kankakee so I decided to just get on with it and upload what I have.

there was a tornado out in the area last week. I wrote an update during the storm but it was strangely flat and uninspired so instead I ditched it and went outside, hoping to embrace the tornado with open arms but finding only a slushy at the gas station.

ain't that just the way, though?

March 15, 1998 if you want to, you can find meaningful signs of the passage of time all over the place. (cue Madonna, "This Used To Be My Playground") I baked cookies again this weekend and the armada of ingredients assembled at the beginning of the year, a mighty group who have held together through literally countless batches of cookies and brownies, have begun to pass away. the brown sugar is gone. it was the first to go. second were the oats. the vanilla is on its last legs - it may not even make it through the next batch. they were a great bunch of ingredients and I'll miss them. how long before the flour passes, I wonder? the sugar? the shortening doesn't have much left. it's so hard to say goodbye. and of my original food stock that I came into this apartment with, only the freaky-ass instant mashed potatoes are left. and even they have only a serving or two remaining. nothing is immutable. everything changes. goodbye, old friends. goodbye.

this rant is prelude to the next paragraph, so be patient. as a general rule, I don't think very highly of vanity license plates. it indicates that there's something wrong about you if anything truly relevant can be said about you in a seven letter alpha-numeric combination. it also indicates something off about you if, should you somehow stumble upon something true to your inner self that happens to fit, the place you decide to announce it is on the back of your car to hundreds of strangers each day. and finally, given how many good CDs and books there are that you do not own, if the message on the vanity plate is not actually all that epic a piece of self-revelation, you are a dumb vapid moron if the vanity plate is what you choose to spend your money on instead. (corollary to that, if you have so much money that it doesn't matter, screw you. you will be first against the wall when the day comes.)

now, having said all that, although 99% of vanity plates appear really rather stupid to a casual observer who doesn't know the person driving the car, occasionally you find yourself behind one that it's really just a privelege to be near. like over the summer I found myself behind "FOOD". and on friday I was out walking and passed by "SASSEE". there's a strange sort of beauty to it.

true in a literal sense, part one:
did you know that graham crackers were invented to "quell masturbatory urges"? a bit strange, to say the least, but true. kind of makes you wonder what the milk and honey that go along with them are for. "now with added anti-atheist anti-communist flavor power!"

(I said "in a literal sense" because everything on this website is true. just not in the same way. but I wouldn't lie to you, lover. unless it was true.)

by the way, shout-outs to Ann, Eric, Joe, and tha Trupedawg for putting on a damn good production of "All In the Timing", a series of short plays by David Ives. I was entertained, and it usually takes at least a paper clip to entertain me, so good work. (somehow, that didn't come out right. but it really was a great show...)

I attended a workshop on doing indoor security for conferences, speeches, and rallies today. why do I tell you this? fair warning. if y'all be disturbing my conferences, I'm fully licensed to fuck y'all up. the art of the beatdown flows from my fingertips like muthaphukkin' Shakespeare. so be cool.

rather proud of myself - I checked my new music urges by paying for a bunch of new CDs with old ones. CD Inquisition Part Three: This Time, Not Even One Hit Can Save You resulted in the departure of ten CDs from my now even-tighter collection of 250 or so. five new ones came in and only cost $11.88 in cash with the results from the Inquisition. how pleasing.

true in a literal sense, part two:
apparently there's a car salesman out in california named Al Nino and he's been getting a lot of phone calls from people who blame him for the weather.

stop the presses. (cue tracks 4 and 5 on Radiohead's "OK Computer") I had this update ready to go and then Rob called. "I can jump your car now if you want me to", he said. I did. the battery's been a bit off lately and needs a jump every couple weeks to work. so we went out. hooked everything up. to no avail. the problem was much more serious than we thought. the cradle is in a coma. this is it. it has survived 17,000 miles past an accident that would have taken out most cars and a over a year since the raining bumpers accident, an accident that almost killed me and is still being fought over in court. (Illinois Founders Insurance, Maurice Hall, Mordini and Schwartz, I HOPE THAT YOU CHOKE.) 8,000 miles past all possibility, it has continued to carry me through ecstasy and through hell, ever unquestioning, never whining and bleating for credit. and now I don't think my baby is coming back. the first and only home I've ever known, host to more than a couple nights when I had nowhere else to go, my baby's journey is finally done. the plug hasn't been pulled yet. but it was in the air. and that can't be denied. goodnight, cradle. I love you. rest in peace.

February 16, 1998 if it is true that you are what you eat, then right now I am a marshmallow. 59 cents. can't beat that. a very ill marshmallow, though, and not in a hip-hop sort of way either. sickness arrived late Thursday night, slipped out for a drink on Sunday, and has returned with a vengeance. yeah, I'm in the junkie limbo at the moment. fortunately not too far in that I can't be productive or at least attempt to interact with the world. hence, these words. dizziness has been a resident throughout, and my voice is a recent casualty. fortunately, Eamon is along to assist with the vocal aspects of tonight's edition of RADIOACTIVE MONSTERS OVER LONDON. how good of him.

despite overwhelming illness on friday night, as any good devotee of Pink Floyd's The Wall well knows, The Show Must Go On. so along with the other rampantly talented folks in Potted Meat, I managed to stagger on and offstage at all the right times. the audience seemed pleased, I suppose. (I didn't really ask them.) we happily violated multiple fire codes (shh!) and still weren't able to fit everyone in the venue, which is how the Rolling Stones measure success so yay for us. I thought the show came together rather well, especially considering that we did it in less than half our normal prep time and with a quarter of the troupe missing (including the mad cool Matt Trupia...hey, troupe - Trupia...we were missing Trupia from our troupe...oh, forget it. have I ever mentioned that I am an idiot?). I got to improvise a bad comedy routine, play a gay barbarian, deliver a cripping blow to goth pretension everywhere, and generally wear lots of makeup which helpfully disguised my clear and present paleness. so a good time was had by me. and isn't that what it's all about?

more theatrical stuff: I was cast as a lead in the Rod Serling play "Requiem for a Heavyweight". this is quite cool, having up to this point in my life played only a myriad of support parts (donde esta WHOOOOOORE senora Ryan?) when in full-length plays. being no longer sufficiently heavy to qualify as a heavyweight, I play Army, the cutman who is the play's conscience. a good role and a great play. probably to go onstage in the last week of April. I'm sure I will babble about this subject further as time passes.

I got tricked into going to a lecture that I didn't have to today. I'm kind of irritated about that. another class proved entirely meaningless save handing in a paper. irritation also rises, although that one I was expecting. one class got canceled - the teacher went up to Chicago to audition for a sitcom. that, there is no complaining about. in the one class that I genuinely like, the professor's general dislike for me depressingly continues to rise. I make a feeble joke about his attendance policy and he makes me repeat it three times and then just dismisses me with a bored contemptful glance. yikes. it's a good thing I'm made out of silly putty. it's alright, though. if I wasn't so neurotic I'd have nothing to do in class.

the state of the sloth address:
I'm really rather disgusted with the complete lack of reading that I've been doing over the last five months. I generally don't read much (aside from comic books) while I'm writing things and I've been writing things more or less continually, but this is absurd. Ken Kesey's "Sometimes A Great Notion" is a damn good book that I'm only 70 or so pages into and I just can't find the time to pick it up. I suck.
that does put me 70 pages ahead of 96% of the world's population, though, which is at least a small comfort.

popcorn, unexpected free time, big immersion headphones, Superfreak, synchronicity from chaos.
the one week that the public affairs guys on WEFT start insulting people on the air and I have to handle it.

thursday? hah! thursday can't touch me!

December 18, 1997 lost like this presents:
1997: A Year of Stuff, Things, and Other Miscellaneous Crap

Emotion of the Year: Contempt
Only the hippest knew the new sound and carried it with them wherever they went. Apathy? That's so 1994. Confused rage? Oh, please, I left that in the pocket of my old flannel shirts. No, this was the year of contempt. There was so much to look around that made you want to sneer but evoked no other clear, sensible reaction. Hanson, for example. Their existence (and the nauseating rapidity with which the news media embraced them - youth is not an excuse for mediocrity. whatever happened to practicing until you were ready?) was obviously an affront to anyone with a functioning mind, but what could you do about it? Seethe.

Overexposed News Story of the Year: The Budget Deficit
On and on they went. "Not enough money", they said. "Financial collapse imminent". Yeah, yeah, yeah. WHAT ABOUT DIANA, YOU PIGFUCKERS?!? SHE DIED! AND SHE DID CHARITY WORK SOMETIMES!!! This "money" thing is all that people talk about. Well, fuck that shit. When was the last time you saw "money" do a kind thing like appearing in a photograph with a poor person like Diana did? This money, it has no heart. Why should it receive attention that could have been otherwise given to a tragic, underreported incident like whatever the fuck it was that happened to Diana? She slipped in the bathtub or something, right?

NASA Conspiracy of the Year: Mars
They claim that they sent a "probe" to Mars and it took photos of the terrain there. What no one seems to notice is that these "photos" are quite a lot like much of the Adam West movie "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" (go ahead and look it up on the IMDB)! And people believe in this silly "Mars" myth! Get with it, people, "Mars" is a figment of Adam West's warped imagination. Can't NASA come up with a better lie to mask the existence of Planet X and its devious schemes just outside of the Earth's gravitational field? Standards are indeed slipping.

Food Item of the Year: Cookies
A cruel mistress indeed. Buy them in plastic containers from your local grocer's bakery, snatch up mass produced versions of them, even bake them yourselves. These grinning little ghouls retain their alluring power in whatever form they take. They psychically slap me from across the room, across time and space. "That drink of water was fine, but doesn't it need something else? Doesn't it...lack a certain something? A follow-up?" They linger in your mouth. They are small enough to be eaten in a bite or two, never quite large enough to satisfy you permanently...until it's too late, your stomach is full, and your sugar high has crashed like Kevin Costner's career as soon as "The Postman" is released. They always disappear in the end. But they're a few steps away...at all times...always one step too many, though...

Murder/Suicide Pact of the Year: the Notorious B.I.G. and Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Two people from very different backgrounds, brought together only by their obsession with ending hunger. Could there have been a love more poetic? Sadly, the world was not yet ready. When the world coldly rejected the musical consummation of their love, published under the name "Emerson, Lake, and Palmer", the tragic pair could take the cruelty and the misunderstanding no longer. When, people? How many more must die?

Record of the Year: The Length that a Human Being Can Hold His or Her Breath For
All of this air will be gone someday, you know. Ever look up? What's holding it in? Nothing!

Walking Nipple of the Year: Tom Beach
Few walking nipples in human history have done more to promote visibility of nipples than our award winner, Tom Beach. Tom is a brooding, enigmatic and eternally effervescent nipple. He walks amongst human beings spreading intrigue and IMDB credits. Keep up the good work, Tom!

there you go. the product of thirty minutes of hyper sleep-deprived meandering, er, reflections upon a year gone by. seriously? 1997: a pretty good year. as far as spaces in time go. lot of stuff created. lot more left to do. never relaxed. effortlessly justified incomprehensibility and dodged a rainstorm of bumpers. let's keep rocking and rolling, huh? awright, awright.

I'll be checking email over break. let's see a movie together, y'all. even if you're a complete stranger. let's go see second city. give me a cookie. please. just one more!

oh, hell.

this page is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Red Skelton who, in 1963, got up out of bed and successfully dressed himself approximately 364 times. we miss you, Red.

December 1, 1997 this marks the second anniversary of the first appearance of a web page bearing my name. the first edition of "Outside the Asylum with Marc Heiden" appeared on the sunday night following thanksgiving of my freshman year. it was actually completed on the wednesday prior, but I had problems uploading it and could not finish before my RA kicked me out at 5 pm (leaving me to wander the streets of champaign for several hours, singing "Free As A Bird" to myself and waiting for a train). the first page predated frames, java, tables, and all that stuff that companies would have you believe is the future of the web. it did, however, have a bit of what the web should be about: rampant self-promot, er, creative content. the monkeys were there and so was the old flying pig (now retired). the ewok was as pissed off as ever. no backgrounds and about a third of it didn't actually work. it didn't even say "fuck" anywhere. man, we were primitive back then!

so, two years later, there is this. it is me and you are thee and we are all together. this thanksgiving was fairly tranquil in comparison to, well, other thanksgivings. (those who should know what I mean, do. for the rest of you, I have only the word "ninjas".) my mother decided to have dinner at a restaurant where I had a portabella mushroom, one of the two non-chicken entrees on the bloody menu, and I didn't much like it. the restaurant was infested with old people, and it made me feel dirty all over. because old people do that. there was, at least, corn bread in the bread basket. the rest of the vacation was predominantly concerned with cutting an accidental swathe of seizures wherever we went and watching "Dune" and having violent reactions to "Dune". Rory and I had a planning session for the final play in the Trilogy and Elton John unwittingly played right into our hands...

radio show tonight, the second airing of my very own show. 90.1 FM. don't stop the radioactivity. Potted Meat show on december 13th is shaping up to be really good. do not miss. now go put some clothes on.

non-empty fridge, being able to get out of bed in the morning, newly broken-in shoes.
exorbitant power bills, $17.99 for a single CD (hello, Borders) and they're the only ones who have it in stock.

October 21, 1997 unexpected success has fallen into my lap. on sheer whim I auditioned for a sketch comedy troupe on campus last night and I'm in! they're a popular group called "Potted Meat" (I think there's a webpage somewhere, but I don't have the address) and most importantly they're dedicated to keeping me off the streets which is the best thing for everyone, I think.

tonight, as you may remember, the prog rock guy gets his tryout in the WEFT timeslot that we're both competing for. mm. yeah, well...

I called the lawyers at Mordini & Schwartz, Inc, to see what the heck is up with the court battle over the Cradle yesterday. shockingly enough, they didn't return my call. gee whiz. (for those of you just tuning in, the Cradle is my car. it was damaged earlier this year when the bumper fell off a car ahead of me on I-57 and tore up the underside of my car, locking up my steering and almost sending me off a bridge. the driver's insurance company declared this to be MY fault and denied payment - thus, I've had to sue the guy, and Mordini & Schwartz are his lawyers. this has been a really protracted battle, it's nowhere near trial yet, and was/is now/ever shall be really fucking stupid)

man, just writing about that whole thing puts me in a bad mood. I think I'll go do some hard drugs to pick me up.

"Under Pressure", taking tuesdays off, placebos, cereal, underwater footage.
slightly spoiled vegetables that ruin the entire bowl of ramen, midnight sales without pizza, eardrops, mcdonald's commercials.

October 19, 1997 on Friday I thought I might like to go to the show, so I did - the David Bowie concert in chicago at the aragon ballroom. amazing show, great setlist, and though I failed to get back to Bowie's hotel room I was entranced anyway. the man is a genius writer and performer, and shows that being over 50 is no excuse for being irrelevant (see: Rolling Stones).

quick survey: the green strip on the side, is it too glaring? it looks fine on my screen but apparently is too bright on others. let me know.

so having finished paper/midterm season and having return to my cozy little den, I am sitting here enduring indigestion from this really bad dehydrated broccoli-and-cheese in-a-pouch thing and watching TV. for the first time in eons, "the Simpsons" hasn't been preempted by crappy baseball playoffs. I really don't think "King of the Hill" is all that funny. perhaps it's the fact that I am surrounded by white trash for hundreds of miles around, but I'm just not all that keen on seeing them in situations other than ones where big rocks are dropped on their heads. the show isn't bad, but in romanticizing "down-home Texas life" it quite often takes an anti-intellectual stance which I have no patience for cos it's crap. the characters are portrayed fairly inconsistently but not in the clever self-conscious way that "the Simpsons" does.

what does the next week hold? it's a nice feeling not knowing.

rice, clean dishes, "beemer blue", checker patterns, vegan dinners.
wet socks, leather as a status symbol, the gas that often accompanies vegan dinners.

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.

Often discussed:

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.