By Marc Heiden, since 1997.
June 4, 2010
There was a fairly simple reason why I didn't write many emails home while I was in Cambodia: decrepit keyboards. So this doesn't describe most of what I saw there. Here's what I managed to plunk out.
I've been out of email range for the last couple of days. Can't really type an entire email at this keyboard, as most of the keys barely work. Just wanted to say hello.
I'm sorry I haven't written for the last couple of days. Still trying to find an internet cafe in Cambodia with a decent keyboard...no success, but one has to have slipped through, even if only by accident. I've been in the jungles around Angkor Wat from sunrise to sunset, and will be again tomorrow. It's unfathomably hot in there. And amazing.
I'll write tomorrow if I'm not absolutely drained again, regardless of how many of the keys are stuck together. (This may look short, but these two sentences took a lot of time to pound out.) And if I am too drained, then I'll send you something from Phnom Penh, my next stop, the day after tomorrow. (It's the capital city.)
I'm exhausted again, but I'll type until I'm about to drop. I'm not quite bronze, but I am kind of golden at the moment. I'm off to Phnom Penh tomorrow morning on the bus, and then I'm going to try to arrange a side-trip to a city called Kampot before I go onward to Vietnam.
I did see monkeys twice on my first day in the jungle. There was a pack of them running along on the side of the road in the morning. My motorcycle driver paused so I could check them out.
Then, at the end of the day, after sunrise, a monkey showed up outside the front gate of Angkor Wat as I was leaving to strike poses on top of a statue.
Most of the last three days have been hiking amid the temple ruins, but there were some odd diversions - yesterday, my driver was keen to take me to an army base (at least I hope it was an army base) where I could shoot a gun. I was feeling agreeable, so we went, and a Cambodian guy handed me an M-16, showed me how to hold it, popped in a cartridge of bullets and left me to fire away at a bunch of old tires until I ran out.
Pretty surreal experience. He was trying to talk me into spending $120 for several rounds with this new shiny supermachinegun they had. Nobody seems to realize that, while I have more money than anyone they know, I'm still not *that* rich. Some nine year old girls at a small lunch stand yesterday extracted promises from me to bring them two bicycles, a football, and new shoes on Sunday. (I guess they were trying to be reasonable by giving me a few days to put the whole package together.)
The guy at the firing range also tried to sell me on a rocket launcher, but we never got down to discussing a price on that one.
I'm trying to decide my next move. There's only one travel agent who sells bus tickets to the next place I wanted to go (south, to Kampot and Bokor Hill National Park), and I couldn't find them today. So I'm tempted to head straight into Vietnam from here, although I'm a little ahead of schedule right now, and I did want to see one more place in Cambodia before I left. Not sure what to do. (I could use this extra time for Malaysia at the end of the trip, but I've never actually thought of any reason to go to Malaysia.)
The heat is exhausting, but I'm all right. I need to do some laundry quite urgently. In Bangkok, they'd do 1kg for about 75 cents. I'm not sure what it is here. I bought new shorts and some t-shirts in Bangkok, but have yet to find anyone anywhere, even in the depths of the pirate-knockoff market stalls, that sells shoes in my size. People see my feet and gape. It's a universal human reaction.
My visa won't be ready until tomorrow afternoon, so I have to wait for the Sunday morning bus. Found out later that the elections are being held here on Sunday morning, so I was glad I'd decided to leave - developing countries can get a little weird after elections.
I sat down with the intent of making this a longer email, but this must be the worst Cambodian internet cafe yet. I think the four Windows 98 computers in here must be splitting a dial-up connection. (On the plus side, it's 50 cents an hour.)
So today I went to the Khmer Rouge sites - the prison-museum, and the killing fields - and I'm done with sights in Phnom Penh, but I have one more day here. Not sure what to do. I could use a day out of the sun, I guess. I read something about a pool, so I might go there.
(ED: I did not wind up going to said pool.)
I don't think I mentioned this - so, to get around in Cambodia, you generally flag someone down (or, if you're foreign, they flag you), agree on a price and hop on back of their motorbike. Once they've got you, they'd like to be your personal driver for the day - there are way, way, way more of them than there are tourists, and they can go hours between 'fares' - so it takes a bit of work to shake them off
In my case especially, being a young white guy by himself, they want to get me to a club / 'dance show' / 'massage'. So I've taken to telling everyone that my girlfriend IS with me, but she's (insert activity off the top of my head) right now. They get sad for a moment (one asked to see a picture), and then the light goes off in their head that they could lay down today's fare to borrow the cart (hitches to the back of the cycle, can hold two tourists) from their friend, and then they really excitedly begin proposing full-day itineraries for the next day. I then disappoint them by noting that my girlfriend has already made a plan and reserved a driver but I don't know how much it is...which leaves them at an impasse for future negotiations (although the guy today said he'd be parked outside the hotel all morning tomorrow morning just in case, meaning I need to buy a gorilla mask when I leave tomorrow).
Speaking of monkeys. Remind me to tell you about the one who stole my Coke.
I'm ending each day exhausted. I hope that means I'm making the most of this.
June 3, 2010
If today is rotten, then I will talk about yesterday. Here's another travelogue, pieced together from emails to various recipients in spring 2007, when I was in Thailand.
I'm in Bangkok. I arrived last night around 1am, and it was 83 degrees outside. Mercifully, it rained early this morning, but the temperature is on the way back up. I am going to be an expert on sweat.
Wish you were here. I'm staying around the corner from the famed Khao San Road, which was a gibbering backpacker chaos at 2am (when I showed up). My backpacks are way, way smaller than anyone else's. It would be good to have you along - not only for the company, but also because probably fewer Thai dudes would be asking me if I wan' lady, boom-boom? (Probably.)
Best pad thai I've ever had, for breakfast: seventy-five cents. Also, there is to be a t-shirt buying frenzy at some point. Among the best shirts I've ever seen for $3-$5.
Still having a good time, although I was probably on the verge of heat stroke yesterday. Bottled water is cheap; I've gone through a ton of it. I meant to take a taxi from my guesthouse to the Grand Palace but, in the process of trying to get clear from the taxi touts who hang out by the guesthouses, accidentally found myself halfway there. So I walked the rest of the way.
I wound up in the National Museum first, which was probably a mistake. It was reasonably interesting (and gigantic - like twenty buildings), but the heat was increasing, and I was already starting to get worn out by the time I finished there.
An amusing phenomenon, as long as you know about it in advance: there are guys who hang out a couple blocks from every major tourist attraction, and they try to start a friendly conversation ("Hey, where are you from?") and then ask where you're going, and then tell you it's closed today (I heard "today is a Buddhist holiday" three times, "the monks need to pray in the morning" once, "your clothes not right" once, and total gibberish to the effect that only Thais could go in once, and a few more who I just ignored), but they could take you on a sightseeing tour...and if you agree, you wind up going to a minor temple somewhere and then to a shop (silk, tailor, jewelry) that has paid them a commission to bring you in. I'd read about it in advance, so it wasn't any bother, just kind of ridiculous. Are they not aware of each other?
The bit about my clothes did have an element of truth, although not in the way the guy meant it - at the Grand Palace, they supply you with long nylon sweatpants to pull over your shorts. Apparently, shorts are disrespectful, but nylon sweatpants are devout. I felt hyper-gross by the time I finished walking around there.
Saw a temple called Wat Pho yesterday afternoon, which has the world's largest reclining Buddha. It's gold, and it was indeed rather large. Probably longer than the one in Nara, although the one in Nara seemed thicker and heavier.
The temple itself was massive, lots of fascinating little statues and giant, basically un-photograph-able structures. (I tried, anyway.) Also took a long boat ride through the canals, with all of those river houses on stilts - some elegant, some barely standing.
Chase strives to piss me off. I'm in Bangkok right now. Last night, from the airport, I withdrew 4000 Baht (which Chase exchanged as $118.29 plus a $3 service charge). I needed to make another withdrawal tonight, but suddenly I can't access my account. (Each of the different Thai bank ATMs gives a slightly different oblique explanation).
I'm assuming this was some stupid fraud flag they threw up. (One withdrawal from Thailand? That's normal. Two withdrawals from Thailand? That's obviously fraud.) Chase Online isn't any help. Please call them (1-800-935-9935 said the site) and ask them why I can't access my account. (The account number is at the bottom of my checks.) If they need information for verification, email me back and let me know what they want. If you can find a tactful way to express that they've really pissed off their customer, you might do that, too, but only after account access has been restored...
Thanks. (Was having a good time until this.)
Sorted. The guy at this internet cafe let me use his phone. Being one of the few white guys who's speaking Thai has its advantages. The Chase guy was a bit of a pissant, and I was none too thrilled about announcing my debit card number, last-four-digits, etc out loud in a public internet cafe, but it's done now. I had to complete the call within six minutes - we agreed 10 baht / minute, and I was down to my last 60 baht - and got it done in three. I had to give the Chase guy the exact date I'm returning to the USA. Never had to do this with Japan, but I guess they don't consider that a high fraud-risk country.
Anyway, back to having fun!
By the way, if you wan' lady boom-boom, I've already met about two hundred guys who would like nothing more than to provide directions to said lady (and corresponding boom-boom). There are, it must be said, certain differences between Evanston and Bangkok.
Today, I'm going to go shopping - see if I can find some new shoes, maybe some new shorts and pants - and then tomorrow I'll probably take off for Lopburi, where I expect I can see some monkeys. Needless to say, exciting.
(ED: In fact, I went to the Bridge on the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi instead, and then to the Tiger Temple, but don't appear to have mentioned it in any emails.)
I had a minor crisis two nights ago, when my bank suddenly put a freeze on my checking account. One withdrawal from Thailand (made at the airport) was cool, as far as they were concerned, but two meant fraud. So I had to get my mother to call them to confirm that's what they did, and then make an international call to tell them to take off the hold. It wasn't a major crisis - I have plenty of US dollars that I'm saving for later in the trip - but still, being in a foreign country with no money is one of those experiences...
I spent the morning training at a muay thai (Thai boxing) gym. I can barely lift my arms, but they don't have to go too far to hit the keys.
There are Family Marts in Bangkok. They have no Crunky ice cream, though.
I went bowling at the mall and although I only hovered around a 150, the whole place was in awe of me. Apparently, nobody in Thailand ever breaks 100.
Out of time on this machine. Hope to hear from you soon.
March 28, 2010
Eleven years ago, I wrote and directed a play called "Monks in Trouble". (Here's the script.) I was a student at the University of Illinois, of the Urbana-Champaign variety, and a member of the Penny Dreadful Players, who were (and are) a student theater troupe that could pay for your flyers, props, and costumes, and could get you free performance spaces in campus buildings. It was a grand old time, and the bands Very Secretary and Demoted to Hugs rocked in accompaniment. Today, you can see members of the cast and the bands in projects musical and otherwise like The Laureates, Favorite Saints, The Fling, and The Show 'n Tell Show.
One of the original cast members, Rory Leahy, recently asked for permission to put on a new production of "Monks in Trouble", and I happily agreed. It was the first production for his new theater company, American Demigods. I wasn't involved with the new production after granting permission, and hadn't read the play since the original production. (It takes a few years before I can enjoy reading anything I've written.) I've been busy as a writer in the years since the original production, but for various reasons, I haven't been inclined to get involved with theater again. So it's not likely I would have ever re-mounted the show myself, and that's part of why this production was such a pleasant surprise.
"Monks in Trouble" ran from February 12 - March 20, 2010 at the Apollo Theater in Chicago. I saw it during the second and fifth weekend, and was delighted with the show both times. (Although I'd begun to re-edit the script in my head by the second time I saw it. And my younger self was definitely over-enamored with swearing. Well, shucks.)
I'd written the script with all of the original actors in mind, so it was a lot of fun to see the roles in different hands. A couple of the characters really benefited from being played by older actors. One in particular — the brilliant Ken Craig — made me wish I'd given his character more to do. The staging brought out a slapstick element that the much larger original space wouldn't have allowed, and the director chose to end the show with a neat (unscripted) sequence soundtracked by "The Man Who Sold the World" (the Bowie version).
So I was happy with the results. A couple of quiet nights aside, I'm told the box office was strong. Reviews were up and down. I've collected them below, posted in the order I became aware of them (which is not necessarily the order they appeared).
I'm well aware that artists never come off well when they try to strike back at their critics, so I decided to wait a while before compiling these. It's uniquely unpleasant to have your work trashed, particularly when it seems like the critic is trying to put on a show of their own by kicking you. But it's only really a problem if your own relationship with the work is shallow or insecure. If you were truly absorbed in creating and living with that play, or album, or film, or whatever, then anything said (good or bad) by anyone other than a trusted friend or editor is going to be purely incidental by comparison.
My friend Molly told me about a writing class she took in London with the theater critic from Time Out. She turned in a review of a production of Antony and Cleopatra that starred Helen Mirren and just-back-from-Hollywood Alan Rickman. Heretical as it may sound to give Alan Rickman a bad review, Molly thought he was pitching his performance to the movie cameras, and she led her review with a Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves zinger. She was quite proud of it. However, the Time Out theater critic told her that it's actually quite easy to write something clever; it's much harder to write something insightful, to reveal something about the thing you're reviewing (good or bad).
For completeness, here's the 1999 review from the Daily Illini, by Timothy Konczyk.
That one was a treat. I later had a chance to read a play Tim had written, and it was quite good.
And on to the 2010 reviews. First up, a user named Breadcrumb from TheatreMania.com.
My husband and I were delighted seeing Marc Heiden's rich comedy Monks in Trouble. The 5 very talented actors; two who stand out ; Dan Cooney and Ken Craig, take their audience on a journey seeking the answer to a soulful mystery. This is perfect entertainment for a weekend; light enough to separate oneself from the work week; with a shadow encroaching.
Second came Keith Griffith from the Chicago Reader. (The director told me that Griffith was a last-minute substitute for another reviewer. What a shame!)
The Three-Stooges-Meet-Kafka concept--bumbling monks get trapped in a monastery that's disappearing piece by piece--may have sounded great over drinks. In the harsh klieg light of reality, though, Marc Heiden's play suggests a bad sketch grown to monstrous one-act proportions. Director Rory Leahy appears to have focused all his attention on a series of monologues the monks deliver--most of the other scenes play like they were put up with nothing more than instructions on when to enter and exit. The American Demigods serve up this brew of churlish humor and laughable theology in conjunction with The Short Stack, a set of three forgettable dramatic sketches.
I can only hope that I never fall so far out of love with the English language as to sign my name beneath a turn of phrase like "the harsh klieg light of reality". I grew up with the old multi-section Reader, though, so I'll admit wishing that we got a better hearing there. C'est la vie. (I'd forgotten this, but I apparently had a dream about a bad Reader review for "Monks" in 2002.)
A ChicagoReader.com user named artiste replied in the comments for Griffith's review:
Were you watching the same show I was? Monks in Trouble has a terrific cast and is a thought provoking, humorous play.
Wasn't me and the director says it wasn't him, so I guess we've got ourselves an internet goon squad.
Next up was Nicholas Ryan Lamb from a website called Steadstyle Chicago.
On with the main event, "Monks in Trouble". Monks, each with their own reason for inhabiting this monastery, and each with their own "less than Monk personalities", have recently been victims to "the void". This unexplainable event is slowly making the world around them disappear. Well, not disappear but there is merely a void where something used to be. Michael and Lorenzo are on a mission to explain these occurrences and try and stop them from continuing. The show is portrayed simplistically but effectively. You won't get caught up with grand sets, costumes, or lighting, but this isn't needed. What the show is focused on is the text. The script is written quite well and precisely by Marc Heiden. Rich with not only fantastic banter but the inclusion of the character reveals are extremely well penned. The acting is quite enjoyable as each actor brings a unique quality to the characters.
Then came a blog review from Beth Dugan, a short-time co-worker of mine and a longer-time co-worker of the director's.
Monks in Trouble was fun. It was simple, and while I would have splurged for actual costumes and not nylon Halloween monk robes which were clingy in places I don't want to think about monks having, the cast was great. The actor who played the shy, feckless monk was so soulful in his performance, I felt deeply for what he was going through.
I assumed that would be the last review, but one more appeared, a mere eleven days before closing. Brandon Kosters of something called fnewsmagazine.com, fwrote the following freview.
This is the kind of play SAIC students should be going to see, particularly the writing students and the performance artists. Not because it's good, but because it's a testament to what you can do in a small space with few actors, virtually no props, and limited costuming. The show is sort of double header, with The Short Stack (Three short plays written by Reina Hardy) starting the show.
An alum of UIC? How dare you!
Really the perfect illustration of what the Time Out theatre critic said. The writer is begging you to appreciate how clever he is. Reference to an edgy comedian! Zany reference to a Disney movie! Cutting analogy to a Chinese restaurant! Are you impressed yet? Although that last one does neatly underline the quality of writing one ought to expect from a typo-riddled art school blog that runs theater reviews at the speed of four weeks late — it is, after all, only delivering what it's capable of providing readers with.
If I've missed any reviews, I'll post them here. Otherwise, that's the lot!
October 4, 2009
The individual entry archives template got bonged, somehow. (Almost certainly my fault.) Though restored to functionality, it's now in some kind of default state, which a half-assed Sunday morning effort was not enough to resolve. Seems to work, anyway. The category archives are still working fine. I haven't written about Antarctica since 2003? What the hell else is there to write about?
August 8, 2005
I've given it a lot of consideration, and based on the state of my job search and the economy as a whole, I've decided to take a new approach and post a picture of a monkey wearing a tie:
(Tecmo Bowl) The Race-Changing Injury
Madden '06 is coming out, and a severe test of my self-restraint will begin tonight at midnight. I could be putting all of this idle time to good use building a franchise, I will tell myself. The little digital men will thrive with the attention I will be able to give them as an unemployed guy. Beaming, their skill ratings will increase, and I will use the joystick to increase the amount of imaginary money they receive. It all seems so reasonable. Everything works together; nobody is on their own, unless their skill rating drops under 60 or so.
In the meantime, I've been trying to make a contribution to the store of knowledge on Wikipedia. It's slow going, because I'm not feeling very communicative right now, but I've left a mark. For example, I wrote exactly one line of this entry. Can you guess which one?
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 30, 2005
It's hot again, and the three-legged cat was waiting outside my door with a bunch of things to say about it. I let the cat in and gave it some cold water. My mother says it probably has fleas, since it spends all of its time outside. I told her I think she probably has fleas and hung up. Actually, I just asked to borrow some money.
So, here's the news out of Jacksonville:
A gorilla and a chimpanzee are both recovering after a fight at the Jacksonville Zoo. They live just across the moat from each other, which is usually a good barrier, since both fear the water and neither knows how to swim. One of the largest gorillas at the zoo, a 24-year-old male named Quito, either fell into the moat or tried to cross it, and ended up on the chimps side.
Dr. Nick Kapustin is the Zoo's Veterinarian. He says, "There was an altercation and we have a chimp with Quito going into his territory and the two got aggressive with each other."
Chimps are more aggressive, but much smaller. A 150-pound chimp named Jackson went up against a more than 500-pound gorilla, named Quito, and the chimp lost.
Kapustin says, "Jackson the chimp sustained some bite wounds and lacerations and he was treated immediately."
Quito didn't have any physical wounds but apparently went underwater when he was in the mote, which left him very sick.
Kapustin says, "He likely inhaled water into his lungs. That can create some respiratory problems and that's what we're dealing with now."
Both Quiot and Jackson are recovering in their indoor habitats and both are expected to be okay.
What in the hell was the chimp thinking? That gorilla had 350 pounds on it! I guess everybody has to defend their territory, but let's face it, if some 550 pound guy showed up at the door of my apartment, I would make certain strategic concessions and perhaps devise a plan involving running away with the remote control. That's not what the chimp did, though, and fortunately his unrealistic assessment of his own fighting ability did not prove fatal. An exhaustive two-minute search of the Jacksonville Zoo website did not reveal any updates about the condition of the combatants, although apparently a bonobo had a baby last year, so that's nice.
Anthropological studies tend to focus on social interactions and hierarchies within the individual species, but I've never been able to accrue as much data as I'd like regarding what different kinds of monkeys and apes think about each other. Now, we know that when a chimp sees a gorilla, he thinks, "I can take that guy." So that's good to know. It's a start.
Obviously, I ain't got no job, and I've been playing this game called Facade over the last couple of days. It's unique in the sense that the goal is not to defeat someone or win a contest or wrangle shapes; you play a character who visits his married friends one night and observes their marriage falling apart, and then you either speed the decline or try to save the marriage. It's done in the style of a one-act play, complete with curtains. (In a nice touch, it generates a 'stageplay' based on what happened during the game.) The characters speak out loud, and you talk back to them by typing. They're meant to be able to parse complete sentences - you don't select from a set of responses, like most RPGs, and they remember what you've said before. There are a few things that come up each time (a bad trip to Italy, the decor of the living room), but otherwise, each game is intended to come out differently depending on what you do.
(A bit of web research has at least revealed that Grace will not run off with you, no matter how much you make out with her, so at least I'm not the only person who has tried that.)
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.
July 21, 2005
I wanted to say something about the passing of James Doohan, aka Scotty from the original Star Trek. I was lucky enough to catch an interview with George Takei on MSNBC a couple of nights ago. Obviously, it's an empirical fact that George Takei kicks ass, but even empirical facts can use a little reinforcement from time to time, and this interview did just that. Takei told stories about Doohan's lust for life and manic embrace of everything that crossed his path, and alluded to his legendary battles with William Shatner. Just imagine this, if you will - we'll set it on the bridge of the Enterprise, to give it a backdrop. The hired director stands behind the camera, helpless and mortified, as Shatner and Scotty go at each other for barely comprehensible reasons while George Takei lounges in the navigator's chair and laconically urges calm. If you were in 1968 for a day, where else would you rather be than in the other chair on that bridge? Had just one of those battles had been recorded, it would have been the single greatest episode of Star Trek, bar none. Because you know they went at it for well over an hour once they got started. Tack on a scene of Spock saying "Uh, the Klingons are firing anger rays at us" at the beginning, cram in a few commercial breaks wherever you can, and it's an automatic classic. Ideally it ends with Shatner getting pelted with Tribbles and singing.
Inadvertently, I seem to have summed up why the last two Star Trek series fucking sucked.
July 20, 2005
I made an empty box into a desk!! I have decided to start emphasizing some of my positive attributes for the benefit of hiring managers who receive my resume and head straight to Google in order to find out what I'm all about. Well, let me tell you, I emptied the books out of that box and turned it upside down like a frown, and I've got myself a desk now. My laptop is sitting on top of it and I couldn't be more pleased with how it's working out. Previous desks in my apartment have included a pillow and the floor. This box, however, combines the firmness of the floor with an even greater elevation than the pillow. It's excellent and provides a sterling example of the problem-solving capability I can bring to your office.
Wait!! This has to be casual, or the hiring managers won't believe it. They are a cagey bunch, able to see through elementary deceptions, and bless them for it. One casts an eye over the carnage of the last century and notes, sadly, that's what happens when you just go by resumes, cover letters and an interview. Do you really think the Bolsheviks would have hired Stalin if they had looked at his LiveJournal? "What? The wholesale slaughter of his political enemies is one of his Interests? And the Peasantry is conspicuously absent from his Friends list? Fuck that guy! Let's hire someone else instead." You have to check that shit out. Sometimes you post a job and you get someone who looks like a real winner, has all the skills and work experience, but then it turns out Pol Pot is in his extended network on MySpace, so kick that ass to the curb and call a fucking temp agency.
I parked like an asshole a few days ago and I haven't had any reason to move my car since. I feel sort of bad about it. It's not intruding on any neighboring spaces, but it definitely tests the diagonal limits and brings disorder to the area. Everyone else has jobs, so they move their cars more often. My car sticks out of the crowd because it's still rocking the Illinois Lincoln plates. I don't know what the laws are in Texas about switching your registration. I'll get to it, eventually. Did you know that everyone in Texas carries two guns with them at all times, and whenever they get excited, they jump from foot to foot and fire the guns in the air? It's true! Before I came here, I thought that was just a cartoonish stereotype. I was in H.E.B. last week and I saw that ice cream was on sale. Sweet, I thought. I'll buy some. I reached into the freezer and an old lady, adjusting her glasses, asked me if the ice cream was on sale. I said, yeah, it's two for $5. And then she started cheering and shooting guns in the air! I took cover behind my shopping cart as chunks of the ceiling rained down upon us. The manager came over and looked angry. He greeted the old lady by name, and then he turned to me. "Look," he said. "I reckon we're offering a square deal on this here ice cream." I told him I thought they were offering a very square deal, and that's why I was buying two. "Well, you look like you're about to shit a horned toad," he said. "Most reasonable folks'd let a few bullets fly for a deal like this." I assured him that I hadn't meant any offense, and that I didn't have any guns, or I certainly would have fired some right then and there. He was shocked to hear that I didn't have any guns and asked me how people in other states communicate their excitement. The old lady said she felt sorry for me and gave me one of her guns. "Go right ahead," she said. "I've got a basement full of them." I thanked her and left the store.
My concern, though, is that I'll have a job interview and the hiring manager will offer me the job but when I don't start firing guns in the air, the hiring manager will assume I don't want it and withdraw the offer. I'm going to have to see if my neighbor will loan me some, should I actually get a job interview. (Hopefully, the clever strategies employed in this entry have made that more likely.)
July 11, 2005
Every day is like camping when you're unemployed and you have no furniture. My comforter is spread out like a sleeping bag on the living room floor, carefully positioned underneath the ceiling fan, and there are two pillows within a three-foot radius of it at any given moment. I sleep there, serene and untroubled by the heat. I'm concerned that I might develop a complex about the bedroom, which I haven't used. I put the alarm clock in there to stake my claim, but there hasn't been a reason to wake up yet. I could drag the comforter in there to sleep at night, but then I'd be sprawled out on bare carpet when I watched television in the living room by the light of day, and that seems uncivilized.
(YO, the alarm clock represents the Spanish flag, in case my metaphors are too DANGEROUS for you!! And civilization is a Ronco showroom!!)
I saw an ad on craigslist about some office chairs that you could go and pick up for free, so I kicked my car into action and headed over to the driveway in question. Sadly, though, I failed to fit any of the nice ones into my two-door Civic. I guess I overestimated how much it can hold. I mean, until recently, I had basically everything I own crammed into it. Books, mostly, and some incoherent t-shirts. A television, a laptop. Some stuffed monkeys, some Russian military gear. An autographed picture of Manute Bol. And I can't fit an office chair in there? I'm about to roll up on the space-time continuum with some what discount outlet sold you that internal logic?! type shit. Anyway, I did manage to squeeze a rolling chair into the front seat. I brought it into the living room, but it was ruining the feng shui, so I put it out on the porch. It has kind of a 1970s home office feel, the chair does, and now the porch does, too, by extension. But inside, the camping trip continues. Except when I'm thirsty, I can get some root beer out of the refrigerator, which you can't do when you're camping, unless you brought a cooler, but electricity is a kind of ice that never melts, nature boy!! Holla back now!!
Everything is going well. My rent is paid until August, and there is a pool within twenty feet of my front door. I'm paying for an internet connection, too. This is the first time I've paid for an internet connection since I was in Japan, and since everything ran through the yakuza in that neighborhood, who knows if we were even paying for it, or if it even was the internet. At my last apartment, my upstairs neighbor was letting me use his wireless network. I baked him some cookies, and later I bought him a case of High Life. Does that count as paying for it? (YO, High Life represents the champagne of beers, in case my metaphors are still too DANGEROUS for you!! Or at least that's what the packaging said. I don't know. I've never tried it.) Anyway, if there's one thing I fucking love, it's paying bills, so that's working out, too.
I guess I'm already leaving my mark on this apartment, because there appears to be a brown spot on the carpet over where I was sprawled out on the floor earlier, eating chocolate ice cream. I'm going to start eating well tomorrow. Today has been a shameful day in nutritional terms, dominated as it has been by cookies, ice cream and, for reasons that are still unclear, two pickles. The food in Austin is amazing, though. The worst thing I've eaten so far, a soggy eggplant sandwich, would have been cause for a triumphal march in Chicago. It occurs to me now that I can't remember if any of my friends in Chicago cooked for me this year. In case they did, let me say that I was not including your cooking in that generalization, because when you cooked for me, it was in a city called love. See? Nobody's offended! Are you amazed by what I can do with words? God, sometimes I sure am. I have ironclad strategies to mask my emotional inadequacies, in print at least.
Tomorrow I will start making phone calls to ask people why they have ignored the friendly cover letters I sent them in response to their job postings. I realize that my resume doesn't make a lot of sense. I mean, I wrote it - heck, I lived it. But I feel like it has character, and it's all true, so that has to count for something. Nobody will hire me, though, that much is clear. I've moved on from my old theory, which held that my first employer, Beelzetron, was maintaining a blacklist, and every company in the United States was abiding by it - especially with the names that were in bold, at the top, in an eye-catching font, like mine surely was - Comic Sans MS?! Doris, somebody got a coffee ring on my tie!! My new theory is much more complex than that. So, as it turns out, purely by accident, there's some kind of a Da Vinci code in my resume, and I can't see it because I haven't read that book, but all of the hiring managers eat that shit up, so they see it right away, and the code says, STARVE THE BEAST. That is what is causing all of these problems. I will find a way to get paid, though. I always do.
June 15, 2005
I really want to do something to cause problems and sadness for the online job sites. I don't expect to be able to do it any time soon, but I need to develop a strategy for this, because it sets a bad precedent to allow anything to fuck with the good faith of fine people who just need a job. The only plans I have come up with so far are heavily dependent upon me having unlimited money. For example, in one scenario, everyone who works for Monster.com gets signed to lifetime contracts, making them excited, and then the focus of the company is shifted to making sculptures out of raw sewage. The company intranet is filled with ads for cushy jobs in other divisions, and employees can set up search agents that email them ads that match their criteria, allowing the employees to send their resumes with just a click of a button to a fictional email address that will never, ever reply to them.
I don't have unlimited money, though. You'd think I would, given that I've had this weblog for like eight years now, but somehow I've managed to miss it. No worries. All things considered, it's worked out pretty well for me.
The results of the Terri Schiavo autopsy are in, and although it offers categorical evidence that she was brain-dead and beyond all hope of recovery, her parents have not changed their minds and neither has President Bush. Because I have recently decided that I am a goddam mercenary as long as I don't have to work very hard and get paid holidays, let me offer the following ideas for them to bolster their case against what might otherwise appear to be overwhelming reality:
1. Doctors say that the vision centers of her brain were dead, and she could not see anything. Was that because of the lack of oxygen to her brain...or did her husband viciously put sunglasses on her while she was in a dark room, and then have the scans taken?
It would suck to have to apologize for having been completely wrong, so I expect that everyone is going to kick in for my consulting fee and hit the airwaves as soon as possible. You read it here today; you'll hear it from Bill Frist tomorrow.
I'd be remiss if I didn't link to the Martian sunset photo, if for no reason other than so I can find it again later. I'm rendered speechless and sincere by that sort of thing. It's a real photograph! Enough with the computer-corrected ultra-bright images, that's what a sunset really looks like on Mars and there's how I want my tax dollars spent. The Mars Rovers are great. When Opportunity finally got its wheel un-stuck, I went ape-shit. Why do we even care about sending people to planets? It's just empty symbolism. We'll get around to that eventually, but how much better would it be to have rovers on six moons of Saturn than two guys kicking around where rovers have already gone? We need to learn what secret, arcane practices are taking place on Venus, and rovers can tell us. (I am convinced there are some. I can lead a team to program the rover with ten thousand ways to convince aliens it's down.) There are volcanoes on Io, for fuck's sake. That is serious business. And Kurt Vonnegut has been right about everything else so far, so we need to send a rover to Titan as soon as possible.
(I will amend this entire line of argument to its incontrovertible opposite if I can be one of the two guys who gets to go to Mars. I've never completely recovered from the betrayal I felt when I learned there was no real way to get involved in astronomy without extensive use of math.)
June 6, 2005
I hope everyone has read the monkey economics story in The New York Times by now. There's really no way to do it justice by quoting any particular excerpt from it. In fact, I'm not sure that any sequence of words and numbers in the English language has achieved such powerful effect since, say, the Gettysburg Address. That's pretty much what that article is. Adam Smith gets irrefutably smacked in the introduction, which is always a good fun, and now that they have discovered prostitution, the Capuchin Whore of Babylon should be along shortly and there will be no stopping the tortured artists among them. (Bonobos, on the other hand, are still waiting for one of them to emerge as something other than a Whore of Babylon and discover apostasy in order to complete the other half of the famed whore-nun divide.) The only problem with the article is the very last sentence, which implies that the monkeys engage in economics much like humans do. In fact, the monkeys are much better at it, because they walk out of there with grapes and Jell-O, whereas guys at the stock exchange yell a lot and have to wear ties all day.
(news) The Pope, who was elected in April, also condemned divorce, artificial birth control, trial marriages and free-style unions, saying all of these practices were dangerous for the family.
Does anyone else get the impression that someone in the Vatican is just making up secular practices and seeing how many he can report to Ratzinger with a straight face? What, exactly, is a free-style union? Is that where my arm is married to your leg but my shoulder is playing the field, or is the Pope trying to pick a fight with the Jungle Brothers? Can you renew a trial marriage after thirty days at the special low introductory rate, or does that only apply to the trial period, after which the marriage is full price? What about marriage a la carte? Marriage on demand? Ratzinger, you boob, you're just giving us ideas out here in the secular world.
June 1, 2005
They're almost finished building a new porch outside of my apartment, and although I won't know for sure until I'm out there, it looks like it's going to be more or less identical to the old one. Was I foolish to hope for something new? Triumphal arches, flying buttresses? Give me a fucking gargoyle, at least. I've never been clear on why things are ever built without gargoyles. Pretty much all I have to ward off evil is a plush gorilla on a shelf. It does all right, but still.
(If I was head of the city building commission, I would have a big red stamp that said "Get yourself some gargoyles or go back to your lego set, chump", and many architects would feel its wrath. Everyone says that Frank Lloyd Wright was so great, but how much better would the Prairie-style have been if he'd been forced to come up with gargoyles to fit with it? Far better, actually. I've seen that alternate universe and it rocks the pants off ours.)
(news) An Iraqi soldier died from poisoning and nine others were in critical condition after they ate free watermelon handed out at a checkpoint in northern Iraq, police said Wednesday. "A vendor offered a poisoned watermelon on Monday to Iraqi soldiers manning checkpoints between Shorgat and Kiyara," said police Colonel Fares Mahdi. "One soldier died and nine others who were rushed to the hospital are in critical condition."
I'm not sure I want to live in a world where you can't eat free watermelon given to you by complete strangers. I don't know if I've made my desire to be fired into outer space explicit, so let me go ahead and do that now. Can a weblog serve as a living will? How pissed off do you have to be to poison a watermelon? According to this, Iran sends 70% of its watermelons to Iraq. And that's to say nothing of this guy, the four-time greased watermelon champ of Wisconsin, who was killed in a roadside bombing in February. I keep thinking about the square watermelons in Japan, and I wonder how I'm going to make it through this summer.
But! You know this publication too well to think I would end an entry on a note of despair. Like everyone else, I was surprised when Deep Throat turned out to be some old guy. That really turned my head around about what old people can accomplish, and I'm optimistic that we'll start to see a more "can-do" attitude from our nation's millions of idle oldsters. I mean, look at this guy! He's old as dirt! Have you ever seen anyone that old? It's time for the rest of the elderly to get up and get the remote themselves.
However! I bring news of an alarming nature as well. We hoped this day would never come, that they would never fall into the hands of a rogue nation, but recent reports confirm that North Korea has command of long-range tactical insults, as shown by their explosive use of "balderdash" in an article about something or other. Furthermore, according to the Korean Central News Agency, we are getting absolutely destroyed on the battlefield of rhetoric. Apparently, we haven't managed to put forth a single plan that hasn't been assailed, rebuked, refuted, or come under fire. Worrisome, that. Now this is where I come in. Do you think I could single-handedly win a war of rhetoric with North Korea? Remember, we only won Vietnam when Rambo went in by himself, free of the chain of command and all of that other nonsense. My suggestion is this: hire me at once. Evidently, this is the eternal sun of humankind we're dealing with here. Well, I am a blackbelt in the English language. I will take him apart. The man will barely qualify as a night-light when I'm through with him. Put me in, coach! Just don't make me spend all day in these damn offices any more.
March 11, 2005
So, I have kidney stones, and I've had them for damn near a week, and I've got Slade's "Here It Is Merry Christmas" all cued up for when the bastards finally pass. This is a fairly incontrovertible sign of age, I guess. In those quizzes about how old you really are, admitting to kidney stones immediately sets the base to 50. I'm thinking if I could take one of the judges to go to a monkey park with me, I might be able to negotiate that down to 40, but if they take a close look at my diet, they're going to declare me legally dead and call it a day. I have to keep away from those quizzes.
I don't have a problem with every sign of aging. I thought I found a grey hair in December and I got all excited, but I couldn't find it again when I tried to show it to someone. I assumed there would be more to follow, giving me a distinguished salt-and-pepper look and, with it, increased credibility for my schemes. As it turns out, however, that was merely the first signal that my body has decided to launch a full-scale campaign of betrayal. Does it really think it can win this battle? Too-mortal flesh, I will fucking transcend you. Alas, for the moment, I am out of pills for these kidney stones, and disinclined to pay for another bottle. I don't even know what those pills were doing anyway.
One thing that I should mention is that the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Rogers Park sold this week. So that's good news. I did not manage to submit my bid for the house before the auction was over. My idea was to attach retro-rockets to the sides of the house and use it as a space-ship. I don't know if that would have been acceptable. Still, everyone seemed happy with the results of the auction. This Frank Diliberto character clearly knows his business; I have an old shoe that I would like for him to market as a condo, and I think that he could do it. If we brought the same reporter out to do a story, it might look something like this:
CHICAGO - If you think selling a
After several months on the market, a
A few years ago, another
"There was always a relatively small market for them," said
But the hard sell on
First, owners often can't remodel or even paint
Then, there's the
"His philosophy was different," he said.
When it was
But Inland's Diliberto says the
"This," Diliberto said, "is a chance to buy a piece of history."
I can't believe I just wrote that. Jesus, what will be the third entry in this strange trilogy?
February 28, 2005
I am hell-bent on living in a Frank Lloyd Wright house at some point in my life, so it was with great interest that I read an article published last week about one for sale in Chicago. The headline of the article suggested that the owner had been having some difficulty selling it. "I could probably get about five hundred dollars together," I mused. "More if I buy generic macaroni and cheese instead of the real stuff." Unfortunately, once I read the article, the cause of the owner's difficulty became all too clear: the house is in Rogers Park, neighborhood of my youth and my post-collegiate doldrums. It was with great amusement, then, that I read the attempts of reporter Don Babwin and real estate developer Frank Diliberto to do a little soft-shoe on the reasons why nobody will buy the house. I don't blame them, of course; Frank needs to make a sale, and Don probably flew in from the coast and took a taxi from the airport, leaving him with no time to soak up any of the local character. Here, then, are my helpful revisions to the article, provided in the interest of giving a more complete and informative experience for the reader.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home Is No Easy Sell
CHICAGO - If you think selling a house designed by the most famous architect in American history is easy, think again.
After several months on the market, a 1915 Frank Lloyd Wright house on Chicago's North Side is going on the auction block, with bids starting at $750,000 — less than a third of the original $2.5 million asking price.
A few years ago, another Wright house sold at auction in Cincinnati for only about $400,000.
"There was always a relatively small market for them," said Ronald Scherubel, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. "Even when he (Wright) was alive they weren't for everybody."
But the hard sell on Wright houses runs deeper than their historical lack of appeal, **or in this case, the lack of appeal of the crackheads urinating in the alley.**
First, owners often can't remodel or even paint the homes without permission from some government official, **unless, of course, they are King Killa or an affiliate of Tha Bone-Hard Niggaz, in which case they are heartily encouraged to identify themselves on whatever public property happens to be nearby.**
Chicago designated the four-bedroom Emil Bach House a landmark in 1977, so both the city and the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois must now sign off on any substantial changes, Scherubel said.
"That house is really intended to stay that house," said Frank Diliberto, senior vice president of Inland Real Estate Auction, which is handling the March 8 sale. **Except for the stuff inside, all of which is intended to be stolen from the house within four months of any resident taking occupancy.**
Then, there's the way Wright laid out his Prairie-style homes and their size — usually on the small side.
Unlike modern houses, with their roomy kitchens and bedrooms, Wright built homes with spacious living rooms and dining areas. Kitchens were simply places to prepare food and bedrooms were just for sleeping, Scherubel said. **Stomachs were just for consuming food, not for getting stabbed by angry hoboes.**
"His philosophy was different," he said.
In the Emil Bach house, the kitchen is bigger than in most Wright homes, said Inland Real Estate spokesman Darryl Cater. Still, he said, "Frank Lloyd Wright designed kitchens for servants." **As a result, the shitheads who break in may feel cramped as they carry your stuff through the kitchen out to their van in the alley.**
Some of Wright's early homes also have developed expensive structural problems, such as sagging roofs. Scherubel said the Emil Bach House didn't appear to have those problems, **though the prostitutes who work at the motel down the block do appear have developed expensive structural problems, such as sagging boobs.**
The biggest problem the Emil Bach House might have is its location.
When it was built, it was a country home with an unobstructed view of Lake Michigan. Today, it's on a busy street lined with apartments and businesses **and urinating crackheads** in the city's Rogers Park neighborhood.
If the home were in Oak Park, a Chicago suburb with a large concentration of Wright homes **and a low concentration of people trying to stab you**, it would have sold for about $2.1 million, said Ken Goldberg, a real estate agent who tried to sell the house for months before Inland Real Estate stepped in.
"Nobody pays that in East Rogers Park," he said of the house. **Because everyone in East Rogers Park has spent their rent money on crack.** It sold two years ago for $1 million.
But Inland's Diliberto says the neighborhood won't dissuade people who want to own one of just 380 Wright houses in the United States. The company has heard from prospective buyers across the country, **none of whom have any idea where this house actually is.**
"This," Diliberto said, "is a chance to buy a piece of history." **And to give your car radio to some jerk with a brick.**
Seriously, who is King Killa? I'm not even sure how the modifier works there. Either we need evidence that God intends him to rule killas by divine right, or we need a notarized list of kings he has killed. Either way, once again, we're just not getting the full story.
February 11, 2005
On my way home from work last night, I stopped by the Division Street Russian Bath House. I asked the man at the counter if they have memberships. He repeated the word, nodded, and wrote down a name and a phone number for me to call between select hours the next morning. Now I am wondering if I just applied for a job with the mob. I haven't called yet. I will think about it over the weekend. Perhaps I should prepare a list of salary requirements, just in case.
(news) The parents of one of the teens asked for a restraining order against Herb Young, accusing him of making harassing calls. He admitted calling the Ostergaards once after hearing the teens were talking to a newspaper, and at one point saying "the gloves (are) off," which apparently was taken as a threat.
This is ridiculous. A person is being threatened when the other party takes the gloves off? Am I the only person who has ever heard of metal gloves with spikes on them? What the hell was Gauntlet all about, anyway? The naivete of the older generation, most of whom have never ventured into a dungeon as a wizard, a warrior, or a valkyrie - let alone as a Quester, the elf - fills me with dismay. Health care costs are going to skyrocket over the next few years when the terrorists get word that they can knock on the doors of older Americans, announce "the gloves are on" and then punch the unwitting older Americans in the face with metal gloves with spikes on them. And I, as a taxpayer, am not pleased.
I should mention the Super Bowl. It was a pleasure to be back at one of my friend Kevin's annual Super Bowl parties, held in scenic Bolingbrook, Illinois. The game itself was all right, and I broke even on the betting in which I engaged, leaving my lifetime earnings as a gambler well above the water mark. (If you are looking to turn your quarter into two quarters, then I am your man.) Although I supported the underdog Eagles of Philadelphia, I was not displeased with the outcome, because the victorious Patriots are a fine team. The real question, though, is whether a series of excellent commercials - in this case, the ones where the one guy was working at the office and all of his co-workers were monkeys - can redeem, in any way, a company whose service is utterly shite - in this case, Careerbuilder.com. It's a bit of a conundrum. In this ideologically reductionist age, does my stand against the cynical, heartless manipulators who perpetrate the ongoing con that is the online job market (Monster.com, HotJobs et al) represent an ipso facto denunciation of commercials involving monkeys? Because it's not even as though this was a poor use of monkeys. They did very, very well with it. So how can I support the use of monkeys in advertising while remaining in principled opposition to Careerbuilder.com? I feel like one of those helpless leftists from the 1930s who feared Stalin but were paralyzed to denounce him because they were committed to the eventual victory of socialism. Well, I am committed to the eventual victory of commercials with monkeys in them. And I don't know what to do.
January 29, 2005
It's a shame that babies don't like old people as much as old people like babies; I was thinking about that as I took my one-and-a-half year old niece to visit my great-grandmother at a nursing home. (Add another 'great' to the title from the niece's perspective, and slap a star next to my family's name on the Early Procreators Award.) Fate and fading memory have conspired to trap babies and old people in an adversarial relationship. Were babies a little bit smarter, they might be able to better interpret the approach of these frightening spectres whose kind words, not their state of decay, represents the truth of their intentions; were old people a little bit more lucid, they could hold seminars and lectures, brainstorm all of the ways they were creeped out by old people when they were young and discuss ways to avoid them now that they are, themselves, old. But no! Babies, old people, j'adore, terror.
I had to keep busy to avoid thinking about how the soft-brained old people were probably just merging me and my mother and the baby into two generations as opposed to the three we actually are.
I started a semi-permanent job yesterday, although it's really just an on-going temp job, so there's no saying how long I will carry on with it. The work is not really up my alley, as it were, but the people there are as nice as you could ask for from a place of employment. I'm not going to say much else, because I have this theory that my tendency to talk shit on my webpage may be costing me jobs. My friend Fritz asked me to remove mention of him from a very old archives entry, more than seven years old, in fact, wherein I had used his first and last name in the context of describing him as a giant walking nipple; he was worried that a potential employer might do a background check on him and take that in a bad way. (Because he kept clicking on the link in Google to see if I had fixed it yet, Google naturally assumed that that was the kind of page that people wanted to see when they wanted to see something about him, so it shot right up to the top of Google's page-rankings, the reverse of the intended effect. I finally removed it and he did get a job that he was happy about.)
It really annoys me that employers would do something like that, though. It is a dirty, under-handed trick and it should be roundly rejected by all good and decent men. In comic books, only the most depraved villains attempt to target the hero's family. Targeting my innocent puppy of a web-page is, frankly, on the same level of depravity. Had Beelzetron been keeping a weblog in which they admitted that they were keeping me in a cage and they had tiny men with forks jabbing at me throughout the day, among other vicious and reprehensible practices, and were prospective employers to read Beelzetron's weblog from the same period of time and hire someone - a Comparative Literature major might do well, and it would be the first known professional application for that degree - to prepare a report juxtaposing the two, then I would say, by all means, judge me, for in the end my hands shall be found to be righteous. But that is not the case. In our deadly game of cat and mouse, I was the only one to speak, and although I did not start it, I am judged for it, while Beelzetron continues to roll around in cash and throw orphans through windows. You tell me how that's fair.
This web-page began in different times, back when Chuck mocked the idea that anyone would be interested in a 'text-based' webpage, and I went daily with it when we were still rolling our eyes at the obnoxious new term 'blog', assuming that no reasonable culture would adopt a linguistic fart like that. (Oh, well.) But damn you, you barons of capital, you stick to grades and job references in your consideration. There is a meaning to the entries in my archives that is more than base malice, even the entries where I leave strange and ominous messages by the copier and dump out all of the white-out. It is restlessness, the fevered rush for something greater, and you must understand that, and how it can benefit you. And if not - if you peruse my excellent resume, nodding approvingly at the tasteful use of Futura font, and you note how well it fits the description of the job you have listed - and then you read my webpage and cross me off the list because of what you read here - well, you're either semi-literate or you're a dick, and fuck you all the same.
The other possibility that I have considered as to why I don't get more jobs is that the number of deadly martial arts that I know has crossed a certain threshold and prospective employers are concerned that novice fighters who wish to make a name for themselves will interrupt the work day by challenging me. That is a fair concern, and if you contact me, we can discuss it.
January 10, 2005
This was supposed to be my last day at work, but my supervisor called in sick, so I'm not sure what to do. Just hang around, I guess. But do I come back tomorrow? If they wanted me back for the finite period of one day, presumably there were tasks to complete in that day, and I have completed no tasks today, so the 'day' has not actually taken place, although I fully intend to get paid for it. Semi-employment is confusing.
As soon as the work dries up here in Connecticut, I will move back to Chicago, probably in the next couple of days. O, city of my origin! I know what lies in wait for me; Chicago will have a raft of truly shitty weather ready when I tramp around in search of an apartment. The vicious ways of Chicago weather define my sense of season, and since I have been away for a while, my internal thermometer is screwed up. With only one day of snow last year, Kyoto never really made it out of late fall for me. Eventually, winter had to be crammed into three hours at the monkey hot springs at the beginning of March. I was almost back on track after a blistering summer, but then I went to Russia for a while, and Siberia was in deep autumn. As you can probably imagine, that place is fucking emphatic about autumn, so it was pretty well fixed in my head. But then I landed in Connecticut, which was having a warm, balmy fall. There has been no serious weather up here, and Chicago reliably provides at least one screaming motherfucker of a scorched-earth snowstorm by this point in the season. I am disoriented; although I know where I am, my sense of when I am is shot. It'll come back, eventually.
(news) Civil War buffs are getting access to a treasure trove of information — thousands of original maps and diagrams of battles and campaigns between 1861 and 1865, all posted on the Internet. The items depict troop positions and movements, as well as fortifications. There also are reconnaissance maps, sketches and coastal charts and theater-of-war maps.
SCENE FOR A CIVIL WAR RE-ENACTMENT SOCIETY
The multi-purpose room is a-buzz. JEFF, an accounts manager from Naperville, throws open the doors. The crowd gasps as he points an accusing finger at TED, vice superintendant of the public works department in Downers Grove.
JEFF: You've got a lot to answer for, Ted.
JEFF turns to the crowd, waving a sheaf of papers.
JEFF: I just downloaded these from the internet. It is my sad duty to inform the Society that the troop positions and movements from our re-enactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville - drawn up by this man - were completely fucked!
The crowd cries out. Two men faint.
JEFF: What do you have to say about that, Ted?
Furious, TED stands up from his folding chair.
TED: You have gone too far, sir. You have said enough. You have questioned my integrity, sir, and I will not have that. This is altogether too much.
TED addresses the crowd.
TED: Mistakes were made, my fellow Society members. But I ask you once again for your trust. Let me examine these new internet documents, and let me build with them. Let us not tear down with them. Let us build with them. I cannot do the work of this Society if every man runs to the internet to fact-check every decision I make for every re-enactment of every incident of the War Between the States. I ask you to place in me the same trust that you would feel for Jefferson Davis, or for Abraham Lincoln, as the case may be. Let me hold that trust, and I pledge to you, I will make the necessary corrections, and I will use these new documents to lead the Society unto an era of untold accuracy in re-enactment, for that is the goal we share, is it not?
The room is silent.
JEFF: It is...General.
There is a murmur of agreement, which builds into applause. TED nods, wipes his brow and sits down.
TED: Thank you. Now, to our first item of business. The First Baptist Church of Westmont has sent us their rental charges for next weekend's re-enactment of Grant's surrender at Appomattox, and I believe they are reasonable.
January 9, 2005
My New Year's resolution is to quit signing my own name on my credit card receipts. I've had it with that; it is a sham and I renounce it. Leon Trotsky, Jean Valjean, Mookie Blaylock, Dingus McGee and Batman have recently made purchases that were charged against my account, and none of them were challenged. Come on, Trotsky (a diner) believed in the revolutionary overthrow of the entire system on which the card is based. Valjean (Citgo) is a convicted criminal and parole violator. Batman (Citgo), I can understand. Maybe he needed some gas to drive across town and stop the Joker, and you didn't want to stand in the way of that. But Mookie (Toys R Us)? Do I look like I never averaged more than 5.3 rebounds per game? Frankly, that's insulting.
That is my only resolution. I believe in keeping things modest.
The new photo gallery below is from Japan. Although only one of the two castles is found on the Osaka map of Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters, the presence of ninjas at Himeji-jo make it a more than acceptable substitute for its lesser counterpart in Osaka, which can be picked up and thrown by any monster worth its sea-salt.
December 30, 2004
One of the things that I really missed about America was quarters. They are a bomb-ass form of currency and life in other countries is poorer for not having them. The 100 Yen coin in Japan is shaped much like a quarter, but it is dangerous for Americans when the dollar-unit is not represented by a paper bill, because we are not taught to be serious about how we spend our coins, and therefore they can go pretty quickly. Japanese money doesn't involve paper until you get up to 1000 Yen. I have a special fondness for the Y1000 bill, because it features Soseki Natsume, a novelist from the Meiji era whose most famous book was a 650 page epic called I Am A Cat in which the narrator is a cat, written long before college rhet class students were writing stories from the perspective of a spoon. I wound up at Natsume's summer house once, by accident, and found a life-size black-and-white cardboard cut-out of him kneeling on the porch, racking his brain for ideas, and I thought of the words of another of his narrators, Botchan:
"Ever since I was a child, my inherent recklessness has brought me nothing but trouble."
One of my students quoted that to me once, in their own translation.
No! I am talking about quarters. I don't need to tell you why they are good: they make arcades come to life, two of them buy you a can of pop, one of them buys a fine gumball, or at least it should. It's the phone-call coin. I have never felt completely without options as long as I am in possession of a quarter. The fifty-cent piece tried and failed to subordinate the quarter. Any coin that is called a 'piece' is not a coin that I trust. God damn! I found a dime on the street in Osaka once and was understandably perplexed. How can a coin that small expect to compete? On one hand, you could always swindle my brother into swapping a big nickel for a small dime. On the other hand, when you did, you'd earned five extra cents. Way to go. What are you going to get with that? And the little bastard holds a grudge.
When I returned to the USA, I was excited to see the progress that had been made in the State Quarters series since I'd been gone. I used to enjoy a good evening sitting around the fire, talking shit about the quarters of different states. (In case any readers of this webpage have ever thought that it might be fun to hang out with me, that should set you straight about what you could expect.) Ohio has and continues to be the best, as it prominently features a moon-man; Indiana was generally acknowledged as the next best, owing to their use of a giant race-car. The quarter of my current home state, Connecticut, is for shit, which is, in that way, much like the state slogan. But what are you going to do? They elect Joe Lieberman to the Senate here.
As for quarters introducted after I left, everyone knew Illinois was going to go with Lincoln, but at least it was Action Lincoln. Wisconsin probably has a valid claim to best quarter now, which must be something nice to talk about on those cold, wintry nights. The one that interested me the most, however, was Florida:
Has anyone else noticed how interesting that is? I know what they think they're going for with that design, or at least what they think you think they're going for. But has anyone noticed the order of events there? The Spanish galleon is arriving just after the space-ship has left. They are saying that the space-ship was there first. In other words, the Florida quarter argues for a retrograde interpretation of history - either that, or it's suggesting that human beings were planted on the earth by aliens. That's a pretty fucking provocative thesis for a state quarter, especially considering their electoral history.
It is a lazy Thursday afternoon at the consulting company. For all of my bluster about keeping their expectations precisely modulated to ensure the perfect nexus of slack and paycheck, it turns out that I finished the first draft of my project too early, so I had to take an unpaid holiday on Monday until they had the revisions ready. I was much more careful with the revisions, leaving thirty minutes' worth of work to be accomplished today, so that I could not be left at home again while they catch up. This is a nice consulting company, though, and I wish them no harm. I do good work for them. In a show of school spirit that surprised even me, I used orange-and-blue as the dominant color scheme for the presentations I worked on. The presentations are all about building teams and being a leader. Interestingly enough, counter to the notions of some of my colleagues, they do not appear to recommend punching people in the face. I'm wondering if I should just go ahead and put that in there for them. They seem wise, though, and perhaps they do not need my counsel. For example, there are always snacks in the kitchen. They keep a basket stocked with chips, peanuts and chocolate. Why do more businesses not realize that the loyalty earned with free food far outweighs the actual cost to purchase it? If Beelzetron had kept me stocked with cookies they'd have saved a fortune on white-out.
October 5, 2004 A new chapter in the long-running feud between South Africa, Namibia and the black rhinoceros is about to begin, and as readers will expect, I am on top of it. Black rhinos have had the upper hand in this battle for the last few decades due to laws against hunting them. These laws were passed in the 1970s after studies showed a serious decline in the numbers of black rhinos in the wild; there have been calls for independent investigations into possible manipulation of the data used to draw those conclusions, based on reports of suspiciously horn-shaped imprints in several of the population figures, but these calls have gone unanswered. Today, however, the world of the black rhino goes topsy-turvy:
(BBC) Namibia and South Africa are each to be allowed to kill and export five black rhinoceros per year. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) will also allow the two nations to increase their exports of leopard products.
"What the fuck," say the leopards. "How did we get dragged into this?" But the real effect can be seen on the streets of Namibia and South Africa, where the first rays of hope have begun to shine for people long accustomed to rhinos acting with impunity. Charitable organizations will now, one assumes, initiate efforts to provide each and every one of the villagers with their very own pen and pad of paper, enabling these besieged individuals to strike back at the rhinos by writing the names of those rhinos down on the paper for possible inclusion among the five. As Hemingway wrote, the rhinoceros has one fear, and it is lists; it is time for the black rhino to fear again...or is it?
Each country will be allowed to export products from five animals only each year, and they must all be elderly males. The application was supported by the scientists and technocrats of the Cites Secretariat, who believe that taking elderly males can actually help herds to expand.
And with that, the game is revealed. The depth of rhinocerosian ruthlessness is unparalleled. Under the guise of conservation, the younger rhinos have sold out their elders; the rhinocerous is famous for being the only animal in nature that borrows against its own future, but this represents a new low, a profoundly desperate gambit. By shifting blame for their declining population from hunters to their own elders, the black rhinos may believe they are forming a detente of sorts with the hunters. You can be un-villified, they say, and you can have our parents, too, and we will carry on as we did before. But do the black rhinos truly believe that this fragile peace can last? That, for the sacrifice of a few old rhinos, the rock-and-roll nineties can last a little bit longer? That they can charge, horns held high, ever and always onward, and for the force of their feet upon the ground, the sun will wait in its horizon until they arrive?
Just what exactly is going on here?
April 10, 2004 It's been a good weekend. On Thursday, I went to visit the local monkeys with some friends. The babies were out and around, and although they were young, they appeared to be committed to the fundamentals, namely the tremendous importance of climbing on things and the equally tremendous importance of abandoning the basic principles of physics as applicable to self-preservation whilst launching surprise attacks intended to knock each other off said things. We met a Japanese researcher who was tracking what he referred as 'monkey male female intimacy'. He'd identified the alpha male of the mountain and kept following him around with a notebook, running if necessary. Did the alpha male have many girlfriends? No, he said, checking through his logs to be sure. Zero girlfriends. We weren't really surprised, given that some git was following the poor monkey around with a notebook, making even a master seduction process rather difficult. We gave sympathetic nods to the obviously frustrated monkey and I wondered how long it would be until he abdicated the alpha-ship in exchange for some time alone with the ladies. For everyone else, it was a beautiful day, with spring weather and the last of the cherry blossoms crying out life and peace and naps whenever anyone liked.
On Friday, I found an international foods store and gave the Japanese a fright by wandering around with a dazed grin. I nearly wept at the sight of some Newman's Own products. I blew the last of the petty cash on chips, dip and a jar of pickles.
On the left, you will notice a new photo gallery. Instead of a standard travelogue, wherein I would merely tell of the long journey and the train breaking down in the middle of nowhere and the crazy French nature photographer who hired me as his translator and the long hike through the forest and along the narrow, frozen mountain, let me quote to you from a pamphlet, some of which is available on the website.
An outline of Jigokudani Yaenkoen
Most readers of this web-page will be able to make an educated guess about of the spiritual significance of what I found there. Needless to say, it was a powerful day, and I will bring those truths to you, in time. For now I have only the pictures, and may they be a spell for winter wherever it lingers.
(news) A warning that terrorists might strike trains and buses in major U.S. cities using bombs concealed in bags or luggage has the nation's transit systems ratcheting up security measures.
Is this really what it's come to at home? If they're serious about tackling concealed sources of terror on the trains, they need to start with buckets of barbecue chicken on the CTA. A whole lot of terror has been enacted upon my innocent stomach by those fucking things.
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.
May 12, 2003
The pre-departure vagrancy tour now takes me out on the open road, away from computer screens for a few days. I should mention before I leave, though, because some readers have assumed otherwise, that I will continue to maintain this web-page while in Japan, so there will only be minimal interruption of service, except in the unlikely event that Osaka proves to be an exceedingly normal place in which to wake up.
May 7, 2003
I have tried, because I am cooperative and reasonable, but I can't manage to get swept up in SARS fever. Perhaps I'm just not ready to move on after Iraqattack 2003, because I never got the sense of closure I needed from a climactic warehouse fistfight between Saddam and Bush, say, or the discovery of actual weapons of mass destruction. But I think I've been fair, and SARS doesn't have what I look for in a global panic event. A hyped-up remix of the flu? This is truly an era of diminished expectations. I try to be polite to SARS followers and give a duly serious nod in response to their concerns about my heading to Japan, because that's what they're into, and one thing I've noticed is that nobody's really likes hearing how something they're interested in isn't all that good. Of course, I'll take the necessary precautions while I'm over there, such as not making any day-trips to small towns in China for a festive round of doorknob-licking. But, really, there's going to have to be a mutant SARS monster or something on that level for me to get into this.
My pre-departure vagrancy tour finds me in my friend Henry's apartment down in our old college town for the next couple of days, following stints in downtown Chicago and Wisconsin. He has a relatively new computer but still has the same keyboard from when we roomed together six years ago. From this keyboard, dwarves were sent forth to attack my trolls in Warcraft, and in brighter times, dwarf-troll alliances were formed against our other two roommates' dwarves and trolls. It's hard not to get sentimental. The collected grime of six years of use has taken its toll on this fine-tuned machinery, though, and I really have to earn each response from the space bar. We spent a merry night compiling research on the current projects of Sir Mix-A-Lot, Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer. (The rumors are true: Hammer is, again, an MC. You can go home again, it appears. Tom Wolfe is therefore deemed unable 2 touch this.) A brief report:
MC Hammer: "Active Duty" (2001) album finds him wearing a number of horrendous outfits, many of which are entirely unsuitable for active military duty, such as fur coats; no longer raps, just kind of shouts in sub-DMX fashion. Unbowed, still refers to self as world's foremost entertainer and spiritual leader.
Vanilla Ice: "Bi-Polar" album (2001) combines two separate albums, one rap-metal ("Scabz") and one rap (hit single "Hot Sex"); both are crap, but do sound different. Has roped in an obscure affiliate of the Wu-Tang Clan for credibility, although said member is likely no longer possessed of vocal cords, as one imagines that loaning the Wu-Tang name to a Vanilla Ice project would be be rather difficult to explain to Ghostface Killah. Online store announces closing in April. "Word To Your Mutha" tour ambles through Canada.
Sir Mix-A-Lot: Still in his prime. Extensive documentation available of every critical list on which "Baby Got Back" (song and video) has placed higher than other, more commercially successful rap artists. Clips from UPN's "The Watcher" curiously unavailable.
April 21, 2003
In my failure to provide a sustained narrative for this web-page, small but relevant details are being omitted, such as the fact that, due to his voice-over work for SBC, Tommy Lee Jones is dead to me. It goes without saying, of course, that all others involved with the making of those commercials are also dead to me, but I do not know their names, and I am not aware of any history between us, whereas Tommy Lee Jones and I go all the way back to The Fugitive, which makes it all the more regrettable that he pulled this crap.
March 14, 2003 Oh, right on. And my boycott of the Art Institute will continue until those anti-American bastards start referring to their collection as Freedom Impressionism.
I have troubles. The intersection of SBC's repair department and the management company of my apartment created a mushroom cloud of sloth that overwhelms my attempt to conduct telecommunications from home. It was nice in college, when there were only three or four landlords in town and you could do some real damage with a strongly-worded Usenet message. Now, my landlord knows I'm on the way out, so they give me the janitor's cell phone instead of his home phone, and he's furious at me for calling on his cell. ("I pay for this! This is mobile! I pay! Call at home." When? "You call later.") Now he has a vendetta against me, and I do not have the words to make us allies.
It is a shame that the Wendy's chain of restaurants has chosen to exploit the national climate of fear and distrust with their current ad campaign, which stresses and encourages hatred for one's fellow man. It was widely expected that they would struggle to find a new direction for their advertising after the death of their founder, chubby Freemason Dave Thomas, but this leap into thirty-second tales of man's inhumanity to man - a small town on the verge of physical violence over sandwich preferences, a circle of auto mechanics cursing a recently-departed fellow worker, sadistic treachery hatched by gamblers on an unsuspecting 'new recruit' - is certainly unnecessary. But is it without precedent? Perhaps not. For some, ads run by Wendy's even prior to the outwardly genial, inwardly Lilith-envisioning while sexual congress-having Thomas spoke of suspicion and throwing the undesirables up against the wall. His eyes twinkled in one ad as he went door-to-door, hunting for the last few people who had not yet tried his new bacon sandwich. Vegetarians and vegans across America wondered if they would soon receive a visit from the Wendy's Death Squad. So, we can see that the hatred and divisiveness currently espoused by Wendy's has historical roots, but that certainly doesn't excuse it. Seven hundred coupons for free large Frostys, however, can begin the healing.
December 24, 2002 If you are reading my web page this late on Christmas Eve, then you are my favorite person in the world. It's snowing outside and I will run around in it shortly. I tried to dream of a white Christmas and failed, dreaming instead of a sinister Little League baseball team in which every player had fangs. But there's a white Christmas anyway! Send your ninjas. I will best them in a snowball fight. Just see if I don't!
December 11, 2002 There is sad news: Mary Hansen, member of the band Stereolab, died in a car accident. I have always thought well of Stereolab, and many of their lengthy compositions allowed me to slip out of the studio for a bathroom break as a late-night DJ without feeling guilty about cheating the listeners of their due musical enjoyment. Also, I never had to screen them for obscenities, and I appreciated that.
Sometimes, the only way to pay proper tribute to an artist, to truly express the life that has passed, is to quote his or her own work. In memoriam, then, Mary Hansen of Stereolab:
Bing bing bong
Rest in peace.
My cat is still sick. He isn't throwing up any more, and he has been staying away from the Christmas tree. He just lacks energy. I think he will be fine, but he is spending a lot of time moping in the closet. It may be a teen thing.
Life rockets forward, though. The competitive oral hygiene scene in Florence, South Carolina has a new big dog to wrassle. Check out the brand new website for Heiden Dental. The charismatic, piercing gaze of Dr. Marc Heiden and the languid, insinuating leer of Dr. Larry Heiden surge from the computer screen, threatening "Quality and Excellence in Service and Care" and not giving a damn who hears them do it. The implications of the qualifying quotation marks around the word "Always" in "New Patients Are 'Always' Welcome" will keep you tossing and turning all night long. With the launch of this provocative, fiercely individual website - who else has the brass balls to offer Consultations at No Charge for the whole world, including the Chinese, to see? - Heiden Dental puts the "come hither" back in oral hygiene.
Heiden Steel is still my favorite namesake company, because it is fun to read their website and pretend they are talking about me ("Modular in design and flexible in function, the Axel Laser is a state-of-the-art laser that will allow Heiden to produce faster and more efficiently...") but they have not responded to any of my entreaties for merchandise, so fuck them until further notice.
October 23, 2002 Are you having a good ROCK-tober? There is only a week left. We must seize these days; now is the time when we must solo, but we must not forget to return to the three chords from whence we began before November dawns, lest we spend an entire year trapped soloing, condemned to prog rock fusion noodling and suffering entreaties from Chick Corea until the hallowed month comes around again and we can bring this fucker back home. Let all young monsters of rock beware.
September 6, 2002
If anybody reading this is in touch with Malcolm McDowell, please have him contact me. I need to talk to him about something. (He'll know what.)
August 24, 2002
Gotta give the peeps what they need...
February 15, 2002
I have some advice, and I know it is a day late, but you can't stop the flow. Here is the advice: Every year, I talk to at least one perfectly reasonable, pleasant person who, despondent over being single on Valentine's Day, declares that they are going to turn gay or lesbian. Now, I have never been gay on Valentine's Day, but I don't think that's a solution to the problem, because there are probably a lot of gay people who sit around all the time and can't find a date for all the same reasons that straight people can't. If you are looking to exempt yourself from Valentine's Day, don't turn gay (or straight). Turn model train enthusiast. Have you ever seen those guys? Do you think they are the slightest bit perturbed about not having a date on Valentine's Day? Hell no. They have little people to paint. They just got this new convenience store, and they are trying to decide which junction would be most economically appropriate for it, Stonybrook or Westhead. They are reading a book on how responsible model train enthusiasts incorporate continental drift into their layouts. They are much more protected from the torments of Valentine's Day than gay people, because the strips of plastic grass create a stuffy yet vibrantly colored and photo-realistic zen state. So, if you're serious, turn model train enthusiast. That is my advice, for all the frustrated lovers.
I am going to the polar wilderness this weekend.
February 14, 2002
I hope that everyone who reads this is having a great day. My day has been okay. The weather where I am is uninspiring. How is it by you? I have to say, your local sports team is my second favorite. They are a great bunch, who play with heart.
My friend Mike Saul aged today. Huzzah, Michael Saul, greatest of the Sauls! A brief selection of other, lesser Sauls:
Saul of Tarsus: In the Bible. Persecuted Christians, then changed his name to Paul for some damn reason and persecuted non-Christians. Persecution sucks. My friend Mike Saul persecutes nobody. Also, he is featured in a number of my plays, which are funnier than the parts of the Bible featuring Saul or Tarsus.
February 12, 2002
I am trying to be helpful, because I want to rehabilitate my reputation, so I have invented a new form of poetry. Many people would like to be poets, and the fact is that the world at present has a shining abundance of people who are very good at every aspect of being a poet - the faraway gaze when mundane worldly matters are being discussed, the willingness to make statements about how modern relationships work, candles all over the place, frequent use of meaningful glances that are intended to be rich with implication - everything you'd expect from a classic poet, other than the actual production of good poetry.
Well, in helpful fashion, because I am not such a bad guy, I have chosen to blame form for the lack of good poetry. I mean, shit. Sonnets are all fine and good, but who has that kind of time any more? A, B and C? This is the age of efficiency. C gets spun off into its own poem at the first hint of marketability. And some jerk starts yapping about villanelles, all I got to say is, look, I have a mortgage to think about. (I do not have a mortgage, but I am claiming that I do, in order to appear as a sympathetic, proletarian character.) If function is to follow form, and the function has not functioned, then form must be held liable.
Okay. Clear your mind. Think about clouds or something. Then, read this:
ODE TO A SANDWICH
Beautiful, right? I mean, that guy wants a sandwich. I can relate to that. (I wrote it, but still.) Now, since it is a beautiful poem, everyone who read it probably assumed that I spent several weeks working on it. Let me tell you a secret: I wrote it really quickly. Don't tell the Norton Anthology, but I pretty much wrote it as I typed it. You probably think I got lucky. Fine. Watch me do it again:
ODE TO THE FAT GUY BOWLING
Fat guy bowling
No, that wasn't an excerpt from The Odyssey, nor was it Tennyson in Arthurian mode. I totally just wrote it. Doesn't it say something about where we are, as human beings, in this space and time? Doesn't that truth extend beyond the words, into the very genetic makeup of the poem itself? Welcome, gentle readers. Welcome to the Complaintet. Here is how it is done:
For many unfortunate poets, titles are like premature ejaculation. They come up with something really loaded, really promising, and the poem never lives up to it. Fuck it. The title is an ode to whatever the poem is about. That way the reader knows where you're going, and they can decide, Okay, I would like to read a poem about food, where can I find one? There's one. Cheers.
THE BODY OF THE POEM
The first line is a single word or short phrase. It is the topic of your poem.
That lets the reader know that the title matches the poem, that there wasn't some filing mistake where the poem about buildings wound up with the title of a poem about sex. Then, the second line repeats the first line twice. Repetition is powerful. It places emphasis on what was said before and creates a sense of urgency.
Valentine's Day, Valentine's Day
The third line bares your soul. It must contain either the word 'fuck' or the phrase 'God damn'. Both are very intense things to say.
Wearing a brown paper bag over my god damn head
The fourth line repeats the second line, except cut in half, so it's only once. This is very poignant. The reader must now reconsider the topic in light of what you have said in the poem.
If you are reading the poem out loud, you get all quiet at that point.
Let's see all the pieces put together:
ODE TO VALENTINE'S DAY
Well. I think that speaks for itself. Poetry lives again. I hope you enjoy the complaintet and have success using it to communicate something true about yourself to the world. I have written 834 complaintets today alone.
MUST SHIT RHYME?
Oh, sure. The first, second and fourth lines should rhyme.
February 6, 2002
Historically, the consensus feeling about your weapons has been that they are useless against me. I have astonishing skill and technique, obviously, and the ways of evil are doomed to fail, so you should leave this planet and/or return to your lair, so on and so forth. You've heard it all before. With spring right around the corner, moving season is coming up, and many people are faced with the decision of whether to go to all the hassle of packing up their weapons and lugging them to their new apartment - or, to just leave the weapons out on the curb with their old couch. Well, before you make a decision, please read this. With the passing of time, and through experimentation, we have noted a handful of ways in which your weapons can be worthy of notice, at the very least, if not entirely useful:
They can make toast. If there is only a little space left in the van, and it comes down to a choice between your toaster and your weapons, why not bring the weapons? Just because they were completely ineffective against my armor doesn't mean they will be ineffective against toast, unless it is armored toast, but what are the odds? And the weapons have sentimental value, whereas the toaster, you can't even remember where you got it. A bank? Your mom? all you know is, it's been there ever since you got your own place.
Along similar lines, that shitty ion cannon that I scoffed at before I beat the crap out of your gross lizard henchman thing won't be scoffed at by your date when you use it to light the candles for a romantic dinner for two. (Just don't invite that lizard guy. Ha, ha.)
For very large papers, when normal paperweights are too small, your weapons would be good paperweights. Why do you make your weapons so large? There is no proven size-to-effectiveness correlation. The big weapons with all the coils wow the press, though, so you do what you have to do. Anyhow, if you get into, say, architecture, what with its schematics and blueprints that tend to be very long, and you are asked to make a building in a very windy area, your weapons will be useful for keeping the blueprints from blowing away.
For use against others who oppose me. The fact is, a lot of the people who build weapons against me are dicks. It's entirely possible that you may wind up in conflict with one of them, in which case you can use your old weapons, because those guys are totally vulnerable to the kinds of strategies that fail against me.
They're kind of cute. Aw, insulting someone's weapons is like calling someone's baby ugly. It's just not cool. I like your weapons. They are nice. They are useless against me, but I can appreciate the care that went into making them. They look space-age, and I am flattered that you went to the trouble of building a weapon to oppose me in the first place. So, thanks. You're the best opposition that a guy could ask for.
December 21, 2001
The kindness of strangers, again: I received a letter from my old credit card company, Chase Manhattan, who are not a very good credit card company but did provide the last burst of capital I needed to finish my college education. After working for a few months, I paid off the credit card and cancelled it with an immature but utterly satisfying burst of expletives over the phone. The account had been dead and gone for ten months, so I was surprised to hear from them. Inside the envelope was a check for 86 cents and a terse explanation that it was the disbursement for a settlement awarded in a lawsuit entitled "Mayamura vs. Chase Manhattan Bank USA, N.A." Evidently, Mayamura fucked Chase's shit up and scored 86 cents for me. So, in the only way I can, I would like to show my thanks by dedicating this update to Mayamura. I can buy most of a bottle of soda with this check, and you're damn skippy I will do just that.
In depositing the check unblemished, did I miss a golden opportunity to scrawl HA HA TAKE IT YOU FUCKERS in the 'Memo' section, or was my restraint tasteful?
In holy shit news, long-time readers of this webpage may remember the undertaking of an epic project a few months ago: THE CALENDAR OF ROCK. The idea behind the CALENDAR was to give classic rock stations viable themes for every month and major holiday, for as everyone knows, ZEPtember comes but once a year. A number of people helped us out with submissions and some of the more tricky entries (I am overdue in publishing a complete version), but I don't think any of us expected to be able to take down the great white whale of the calendar year: February. Seriously. What a linguistic cluster-fuck of a word. How could you possibly work classic rock into February? Ladies and gentlemen, courtesy of my friend Crawfie Ward, I give you:
FebruMARY CHAPIN CARPENTER!
Can you imagine an entire month of playlists based on Mary Chapin Carpenter? Holy shit. I don't work in an office where I have to listen to classic rock on my co-workers' desk radios, thank Mayamura.
November 30, 2001
The office decided to decorate for Christmas yesterday. Being a cheerful, helpful, pleasant and reasonable man, I offered to help. That stalled my database project and bought me at least a couple more hours of employment. (All I really want is to stay employed through the end of the day today. Anything else is gravy.) You could tell that the company was broke, because they didn't care when I started climbing on window ledges and balancing between the tops of cubicle walls and file cabinets to do the adventurous light threading that I had planned. They knew that if I fell and tried to claim insurance, they would only be able to laugh and shrug. So I climbed around like a Christmas monkey and made the place festive.
There are plenty of California-based venture capital firms in San Francisco and Menlo Park, but I have yet to find a single one in Compton. What the fuck?
November 28, 2001
I am so broke that it is, actually, kind of funny. I spend money on three things: train rides, cat food and bowling. I asked my accountant, and that's what he said to do. I couldn't afford a real accountant, so I hired Walter from my VHS copy of The Big Lebowski. It's working out okay. It's fun to go through my receipts at the end of the month and say, yep, bowling, bowling, cat food, bowling, transit card, cat food, bowling.
I am in a nice stretch at the moment, though, employed under the table and off the tax record for a nearly dead dot-com. They are nice people. They needed someone to sit at a computer and be left alone, and I am highly regarded in that industry, so a friend referred them to me and it's working out just fine. It's great to cut the temp agencies out of the equation. It makes me feel more like a migrant worker.
I want to talk for a moment about sombreros, which are occasionally worn by migrant workers in warm climates. I'm not sure which of my memories is the earliest, but this one is at least in the top ten: I was three years old, and my mother, her boyfriend and I were eating in a Mexican restaurant. Our salsa was served in an upside down sombrero and, needless to say, we cleaned that fucker out, because, like me, my mother (who was then younger than I am now) never had any money and therefore the impulse to hit the pre-meal chips and salsa like a ton of bricks became something of a proud family tradition. The sombrero, then, was empty, and for some reason the waiter never took it away. I asked my mom's boyfriend if he was going to take the sombrero. I had cleaned it with my napkin, so he needn't fear getting salsa in his hair, and it had clearly been presented to him by the waiter. He said no. I grew insistent. He ignored me. That was the crystalline moment: I had a feeling of utter disgust for this shithead who wouldn't claim his rightful sombrero. Did he lack the courage? Did he disrespect the sombrero? Fuck that guy, I felt, though not in those words. And my mother eventually came to the same conclusion, though probably not for the same reasons.
November 22, 2001
I do not have any late fees at the video store. It is a fragile balance, but it has held, for now.
November 16, 2001
At times, I get the feeling that pharmaceutical commercials - the ones where hazy images of people and puppies at play in sunny green fields are soundtracked by warm-voiced announcers calmly listing the profoundly awful things that could happen if you used the product, such as impotence and abdominal pain, prohibited by law from telling you why you would want to use it in the first place - will be remembered as the great art of this era. But then, I want the Sanford and Son theme song played at my funeral, so what do I know? (1)
I have worked, and I have sat around. I earned enough to pay my credit card bill, so cheers for that, even if it's not quite my rent. I did another round on Judge Mathis, meaning that at least two full weeks of the show will feature me in the background, working very hard to portray an audience member. I watched some audience members to prepare for the role. They remain a mystery to me.
I may sound like fun, but I'm not. All I ever do is sleep and get conspired against. You'd get bored of me very quickly.
The shoot for "Helter Skelter" happened on several cold days a few weeks ago. I portrayed Officer Richard Burbridge, who arrived as backup for Officers Wisenhunt and DeRosa at the Sharon Tate murder scene. If you have a copy of the book, by Vincent Bugliosi (who narrated the documentary), you can find good old Burbridge in the index. The book has a lot of photos, and the actors and actresses on hand were all dead ringers for their real-life counterparts. There were no photos of ol' Burbridge, though, so I can only wonder if I did him justice. There was one day of shooting at an abandoned police station on the northwest side of Chicago. It was closed in 1995, but the police didn't as much move as they up and left; there were enough vintage items sitting around, like arrest records and prostitution reports, that everyone on the shoot felt compelled to sneak a look inside the drawers marked "cash and valuables". The producers only had two guns on hand that day, so poor Burbridge got stuck with a walkie-talkie instead. I made the best of it. The battle for screen time was a little frustrating; DeRosa was a fat older guy who actually looked like a cop, so they had him front and center, and Wisenhunt looked like Ray Liotta, so they ate that shit right up and let him wrangle the crazy murderous hippie chicks. All I had to offer was the ability to look terrified on demand. The production assistants were also short on badges, and DeRosa was cunning enough to snatch up one for his chest and one for his hat, so the director felt insecure about showing my and Wisenhunt's heads, because we looked poor in comparison, having badges only on our chests.
In the book, the key scene for Burbridge occurs early on: once the murder scene has been secured, the other two cops leave and Burbridge stays among the dead to wait for detectives and forensics. That, for me, was the Burbridge apocalypse, and you can guess how I felt when I heard that they weren't going to shoot that scene. The shoot for the Tate Ranch was in Joliet, running continuously from 5pm to 1pm the next day. The house was rented from a grandmotherly old lady who was probably in her mid-seventies, and every room was frozen in immaculate 60's decor; the old lady stayed on set for the entire time, snapping pictures of the actors whenever she got the chance. I developed a bit of an attitude problem when I realized that they weren't going to paint all over her walls in blood. That, for me, was pretty key. There was only a neat, tidy "PIG" on one of the outside doors. "God", said the actor playing Tex Watson, one of the murderers. "You're pretty pissed off about that, aren't you?"
There are certain subtle differences in October weather between California and Joliet, Illinois; specifically, it is sunny in the morning in both places, but in only one is it warm. We were not in that one, but we were supposed to act as though we were. We were dressed for 85 degrees, and it was 40. I can't speak for anyone else (save the female murder victims, and I swear I wasn't looking for it, but trust me, they were only wearing thin nighties and it was pretty had not to notice), but my nipples were rock fucking hard. It was cold. Our major scenes involved the approach to the house and securing the area. I felt that Burbridge was probably a take charge kind of guy and the other two were probably pusses, so I took the lead on the approach, and therefore it was me who hit the slippery patch first, fell down and tore open my left hand on the rocks. I'd broken my finger the day before and wasn't wearing the splint (for purposes of realism), so I bled and suffered and it fucking hurt and I missed a key sequence while I was getting bandaged by the frantic PAs and the kindly old lady. Everyone was very nice to me afterward and treated me like a hero for returning to the shoot, but they still didn't film Burbridge's apocalypse. Fuckers. Bugliosi (or, as I call him, the Boog) is going to be furious when he finds out.
The old woman who owned the house had a hobby: she liked to go to celebrity golf tournaments and get the famous people to take pictures with her. She was exceptionally good at it; her basement was covered wall to wall with several thousand color 8X10 photographs. She had every American president going back to Gerald Ford; she had athletes (John Elway, Roger Clemens, Dr. J, Mike Ditka); she had movie stars (two Samuel L. Jacksons, a withered Joe Pesci, a Jack Lemmon with obit attached); literally thousands. All of the actors spent their spare time scouring the walls, trying to find bizarre ones. There was a new Bob Hope annually over the course of a few decades. You could see the awareness go with every passing year. The best part, though - and, inexplicably, my foremost memory from the entire experience - was the Wall of Shame. There were only two pictures there, side by side: the old woman with OJ Simpson, and the old woman with Bill Clinton. Nice.
My finger is feeling better.
(1) And I know it's not going to be. Damn it. I have no qualms about haunting you fucking people until that shit gets played.
November 9, 2001
I asked a magic eight ball if using crack would be considered more socially acceptable in years to come, because I had a dream that suggested it might. The magic eight ball told me to ask again later.
I signed up to play in a fantasy basketball league with a bunch of guys from Iceland. The Internet is great like that. The league is run by Ingvar, whose team name suggests that he is a homeboy of the American rapper DMX. I'm playing under the assumption that, if I win, I get to be from Iceland. Ingvar didn't come right out and say it, but I think it was implied.
On the writing page, there are several new short plays. They were written for the sketch comedy show that I did last month, and now they are on the Internet, no longer subject to fuck-up actors who can't remember their lines and don't seem to understand that the lines were written that way for a reason. I know that if you were in one of my plays, you would be very good at it. These other people, I don't know what their problem is. I am a reasonable man, and still there is all this trouble. My mother and I got into a bit of a row over whether it would be funny for me to use a 6-month old nude picture of myself in lieu of a headshot for the program. She wouldn't release the picture. You could see my baby butt and everything. Damn it. Anyway, I hope you like the plays.
These are the surreal miseries. I keep seeing ghosts when I go running by the lake late at night, and the ghosts are frequently feeding pigeons, but I cannot tell if the pigeons themselves are ghosts or if they are real birds that just happen to be there. Can ghosts feed real pigeons, or must the pigeons necessarily be pigeon ghosts? Do the pigeons eat ghost food, thinking that it will be tasty? If the pigeons are ghosts, what kind of intense shit went down involving a pigeon for the pigeon to have left its spirit behind on this earth? God help us all if the pigeon ghosts are seeking some kind of retribution.
Despite being fully registered at three temp agencies (and having contacts at two more), I have only worked for one day out of the last two weeks, and that was as a Photogenic Young Man in the audience at the Judge Mathis syndicated television show. When you looked around at the other audience members, you could kind of see why the producers wanted reasonable young men like myself around for the shots where audience members were visible. Most of the cases sounded like the various arguments that took place during my family's holiday gatherings when I was younger. I kept waiting for the mashed potatoes. Instead, I received minimum wage under the table. The shows with me will begin to air in three weeks or so.
One of the newer temp agencies made me take a Conscience Test along with the standard battery of Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. The answers ran the standard five point range of Strongly Disagree, Disagree, In Between, Agree, and Strongly Agree. The questions featured hot topics of our day such as whether it is okay to steal from work "because everyone does it" and whether it is okay to "slack off a little when the boss isn't around". The test's cagey psychological maneuvering was impressive, to be sure. I wound up coming in as an Amoral Motherfucker. So, if any offices come calling for an amoral motherfucker temp, I've got that market cornered.
I would like to apologize in advance to any amoral motherfuckers who lose their jobs and get replaced with cheap temp labor like me. Wait a minute. No.
October 20, 2001
I am getting tired of writing about all of the people who are trying to kill me, but it seems like that's all that's going on any more. Here is a story from work: I am temp-ing at the property management office that runs the Chicago Board of Trade. As usual, my duties mostly involve screwing around. (I don't have a web-connected computer, though, which sucks.) The woman who sits in front of me normally opens the mail for the office, but in light of the recent anthrax mail scares, she has been ever-so-slyly shifting the task into my hands. I accept the mail and look down to start working; then I peek up and catch a fleeting, satisfied, thought-to-be-secret grin on her face. Clearly, it was her tactical genius that earned her the Mom Of The Year coffee mug.
Two characters are role-playing in a wood-paneled family basement on a Saturday night. One, a young boy named Terry, is the GAME MASTER; the other, an elder demon named CTHULU, is his only friend.
GAME MASTER: Cthulu, you realize you have a minus 7000 against all charm rolls.
CTHULU rolls a pair of ten-sided dice. The GAME MASTER takes note of the result.
GAME MASTER: The elf resists your advances.
I should write a feature-length script about those two.
I wish I had enough money to buy airline tickets. I have no qualms about flying in airplanes or going overseas right now, and tickets are so cheap. They will probably be expensive again by the time I regain financial stability in mid-2002, though. Still, were a superhero to be created that was based on me, he would be The Man Without Qualms, because he would not have any of those, and people would notice, and make comments about it, and buy him a milkshake.
October 11, 2001
When I am old and my friends begin to pass on, I am going to give them Viking funerals. I figure I owe everyone that much.
Wednesday October 10, 2001 @ the Harold Washington Library, Chicago:
INTERVIEWER: How did you feel about the attacks on September 11?
Sunday was an eventful day. I have a pleasant routine on Sundays: I wake up late for class at the ImprovOlympic, rush over there, improvise for a while, join my friends in the middle of their football watching day and eat whatever is left of the bean dip, and then we run around and yell at each other when the game is over; later, I go home, sleepy and full of stomach, optimistic that some sort of job will commence on Monday. This last Sunday, however, was different. United States military action against Afghanistan began, for example. Bombs were dropped. Also, the landlord finally turned on the heat in my apartment. It was very cold for several days, and I had to wear multiple sweaters whenever inside. Were these events linked? The night before, I had noticed that someone taped "Afghanistan" to my mailbox. I peeled it off and went on my way, not realizing until the next day that the label was part of a plot by the bastards to fool the government into thinking that my apartment was Afghanistan. The army had been trying to freeze the Taliban out, but once the label was gone, they realized that Afghanistan is actually very far away, not in my apartment, so they switched to Plan B for their reprisals. That is the best explanation I can come up with for Sunday.
I have not been linking to many things of late and have thus risked being decommissioned, so let me resolve that:
We have new entries for the CALENDAR OF ROCK:
Van HALEN-tine's Day (Valentine's Day)
Some may consider this behavior madness, but if you are a person of decent musical taste who is forced to listen to classic rock all day long, you do what you have to do to survive.
September 6, 2001
I am working as a temp right now. The guy who stands at the crime scene, shakes his head and says "Now that it's got a taste for human flesh, it won't be long before that thing kills again" had a bunch of personal days saved up and decided to go out of town this week, so I'm filling in. The money is okay.
September 1, 2001
I haven't had a case of the hiccups in like fifteen years. Am I some kind of super-man?
August 9, 2001
I am a laser weapon.
August 4, 2001
Here is more of what I have planned for the bastards: using my bioinformatics skills, I am going to isolate the gene that makes piranhas grow teeth. I am going to remove that gene, and I am going to breed a lot of piranhas. Then, I am going to take the bastards swimming. They will enjoy the pool, for it will be a hot summer day. When the bastards are all in the pool, I am going to flip a switch, and the piranhas are going to come rushing into the pool. The angry piranhas will furiously gum the bastards, and it will be a very creepy feeling that the bastards will not soon forget.
August 2, 2001
You may not realize it, but all they ever talk about on Telemundo is how much they like you.
July 29, 2001
Here are some brief anecdotes involving people with infirmities. I was waiting for the bus, sitting on a newspaper box, kicking the sides rhythmically and insouciantly, and a blind man walked by. He was doing a splendid job of navigating sidewalk obstacles, but my eyes were drawn to his shirt, which featured a garish design and the name HOOTIE AND THE BLOWFISH in big letters. I had a feeling his friends assured him the shirt was from some cool indie band, so he wears it all the time because he doesn't know any better. I felt bad about that. His friends probably do it to him whenever he does anything that bugs them, and they're probably jerks, so they probably do it all the time. Earlier that day, I was in a diner with some of my friends, who are not jerks. They are nice. Suddenly, a man in a big wheelchair came barrelling through the joint. He rammed into our table, so we moved it to ease his passage. He rolled on by with his posse. Although he was clearly confined to the wheelchair, his musculature did not appear diminished (read: non-spindly). He had a headset with a white tube extending toward his mouth from he could drink. It occurred to me that he could get milkshakes through that tube, and I nearly shat myself. I wanted! I want. Okay. After I got home from the social event to which I took the bus that night, I turned on the television. There was a commercial for the Special Olympics, sponsored by one of those companies with a violently awful name, and it featured a retarded boy in a track suit telling people "this is my back" over and over again. Slowly, the viewers are led to realize that he is a runner and he is talking shit to the other runners. His back is "all (they'll) see" when they race him. I thought about it and decided that he probably shouldn't be talking shit, because someone might say "Oh yeah? Well, you're retarded", and that beats the whole "this is my back" line. He's just leaving himself open to have his feelings hurt.
July 19, 2001
Mic check? One-two, one-two.
Suspicions possibly confirmed, then. (From 010716.) I hope no one ever tries marketing robots that way. Wouldn't that be terrifying?
I went to buy a cookie last night and noticed that a dry cleaner who fucked with me once is now out of business. It was late and there was nobody around, so I had no way of knowing whether the dry cleaner recognized the correlation between fucking with me (via my dress shirts) and the financial collapse of his business. How does that story relate to the above news clip? Well, while I was interning with the Wu-Tang Clan a couple summers ago, people would always ask me why the RZA even keeps Ol' Dirty Bastard on staff. He's always in jail, they'd say. Focus groups respond poorly to things that are dirty and things that are ol', and adults 25-44 definitely don't like bastards. Outside consultants were always producing studies that showed the Wu-Tang could shave 26% off their above-the-line costs if they downsized the ODB. (Bail, crack, babies, things like that.) Well, it's times like last night that you need an ODB. If we were in the same clan together, he would have gone to that dry-cleaner as soon as they began struggling and he would have mocked them. He would have waved his arms and shown his big metal teeth. He would have drawn an analogy between me and powerful, scary things. He would have laughed at them and illustrated, in skittering rhythmic fashion, the point that fucking with me is like the kiss of death to a dry-cleaner.
So, I'm interviewing for my own Ol' Dirty Bastard, if you're looking for something to do. Send me your resume. Bastard skills are a prerequisite, but I am willing to train promising candidates in dirty.
July 6, 2001
Here is the dream that I had: I was in Montana, during the winter. The retelling of dreams is never as interesting to the listener as it is to the person telling it, of course, but you lean forward anyway, because it's been a while since you've heard from me and you're eager for any insight the dream might give into my ever-mysterious mental state. I was in a bus depot, and it was night-time. I was reading a magazine, and it had an article about Harrison Ford. Harrison Ford has a ranch in Montana. I know that from my conscious life, having known a girl whose parents knew the people who built the ranch for Harrison. Back to the dream: the article says that Harrison Ford and James Caan are great friends. They spend a lot of time together. I make a mental note to email my friend Rory about this. Then James Caan himself walks into the bus depot. He is wearing a green parka with a fur-lined hood. He sits down and we exchange friendly greetings. I am aware that he doesn't know that I know about him and Harrison Ford. James Caan asks if he can read my newspaper. I have a newspaper with me. It is a week old. That is another element from real life: there is a week-old sports section underneath my desk, where I can't reach it without an effort, from a week ago, when they had the NBA draft and the Bulls did all sorts of things. I tell James Caan that the newspaper is a week old. Oh, he says. Happens to him all the time. I stand, and I walk into the other room, where teenagers are having an ice cream social. They love me at ice cream socials, so I hang out with them. After a few minutes, James Caan comes in. The teenagers are young, and they are not familiar with his movies, so they do not recognize him. James Caan begins starting shit at the ice cream social. I politely request that James calm down. He assures me that he is just having some fun, and then he throws a table across the room. I tell him to stop it. We battle. Through the next door is an abandoned industrial warehouse, of course, and we fight our way through it. My kung fu is mighty, and I land the most powerful blows, but it soon becomes clear that James Caan cannot be killed. The fight scene covers literally two hours of dream-time. I try everything, from acid baths to giant concrete slabs, but it only slows his relentless approach. Back in the other room, the teenagers keep trying to resume the ice cream social. James Caan is beginning to wear me down. He cannot be killed. Finally, in my most desperate hour, a plan arrives: I lift James Caan above my head and throw him through the window, out into the parking lot. He is stunned, because it is very cold outside, and there is snow on the ground. I run outside and begin shouting for Harrison Ford. The only way for total disaster to be averted is for Harrison Ford to come pick up his guest. Many headlights switch on. The dream ends with me shouting and James Caan stirring...
Oh, you know I love you.
May 19, 1999
"choose to enjoy it?" hah! the movie was fucking awesome!!! sand people, man! sand people!!!
May 18, 1999
I remember being eleven years old on Christmas Eve. I knew that within hours life would catch up with this wonderful event and it'd all be grey and normal. I wanted to catch a snapshot of the ecstatic state of anticipation, since it would seem so impossible later on, so I wrote a note to myself before I went to sleep: a hello from the brink. I tossed out that note years later during an, erm, teen episode, but the idea remains. as I write this, I've 5 hours and 45 minutes left until I get to see "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" at an 8:30am showing opening day. perfect for someone thoroughly excited but not a crazed fanboy by any stretch. the ticket is a gift from a brilliant friend.
I've already decided that I'm going to love this movie. although I'm at the right age, I saw the first trilogy much later than everyone else of my generation. I never had the chance to get swept up in it - partially because "Return of the Jedi" was the only one I saw in original release (and I didn't have access to a VCR for several years afterwards), but also because it seems to me that being a huge fan as a kid was all about having a best friend who was also really into it. the two of you could babble lines and trivia back and forth...my swingin' sociopathic younger self never had that friend, so I could only play catch-up when I finally did get the chance to see them later on. but this one? Ewan McGregor rocks my pantheon. I've been defending his casting for years, and he's gonna be awesome. so's Liam, and Samuel L., and everyone else. this is my trilogy.
fuck the backlash. movie critics have had 15 years since "Jedi" to figure out why the first three were great. most of them are still making the same errors in their reviews. they still don't get it. I'm bored of people claiming to be weary of the hype, as if it's an assault on them or something. ah, suck it up. if you're really tired of it, go volunteer at a domestic abuse shelter. I guarantee you won't hear much there. otherwise, shut up and endure it. I think you'll survive. (it's not that bad, anyway. "Godzilla" was worse, in my estimation, and had far less justification.) more than anything else, I'm sick of self-appointed gurus holding forth in every major media forum with the revelation that "this is just a movie". their wisdom and distance has given them the ability to look down on us scurrying plebes and drop that particular golden nugget. as if we don't know that it's a movie? of course we do. everything is what it is. they're "just" boring people who apparently haven't got anything interesting or original to write about. we react as we wish. I plan to enjoy this movie like a five year old on mescaline because I choose to. cheers.
long-lost acquaintances are encouraged to email and we'll go see it together. ah, cool. five and a half hours to go!
January 1, 1999
only 1002 more years 'til 3k!
I woke up in a strange place is the work of Marc Heiden, born in 1978, author of two books (Chicago, Hiroshima) and some plays, and an occasional photographer.
Antarctica, Beelzetron, Books, Chicago, College, Communism, Food, Internet, Japan, Manute Bol, Monkeys and Apes, North Korea, Oregon Trail, Outer Space, Panda Porn, Politics, RabbiTech, Shakespeare, Sports, Texas.
January 2012, December 2011, January 2011, September 2010, August 2010, June 2010, March 2010, October 2009, February 2009, January 2009, September 2008, August 2008, March 2008, February 2008, October 2007, July 2007, June 2007, January 2007, September 2006, July 2006, June 2006, January 2006, December 2005, September 2005, August 2005, July 2005, June 2005, May 2005, March 2005, February 2005, January 2005, December 2004, October 2004, July 2004, June 2004, May 2004, April 2004, February 2004, January 2004, December 2003, November 2003, October 2003, September 2003, August 2003, July 2003, June 2003, May 2003, April 2003, March 2003, February 2003, January 2003, December 2002, November 2002, October 2002, September 2002, August 2002, July 2002, June 2002, May 2002, April 2002, March 2002, February 2002, January 2002, December 2001, November 2001, October 2001, September 2001, August 2001, July 2001, December 1999, November 1999, October 1999, May 1999, February 1999, January 1999, December 1998, November 1998, October 1998, June 1998, May 1998, April 1998, March 1998, February 1998, December 1997, November 1997, October 1997, September 1997, and the uncategorised wilderness of the Beelzetron era: 010622 - 010619, 010615 - 010611, 010608 - 010604, 010601 - 010529, 010525 - 010521, 010518 - 010514, 010511 - 010507, 010504 - 010430, 010427 - 010423, 010420 - 010416, 010413 - 010409, 010406 - 010402, 010330 - 010326, 010323 - 010319, 010316 - 010312, 010309 - 010307, 019223 - 010219, 010216 - 010212, 010209 - 010205, 010202 - 010109, 010126 - 010122, 010119 - 010115, 010112 - 010108, 010105 - 010102, 001229 - 001224, 001222 - 001218, 001215 - 001211, 001208 - 001204, 001201 - 001124, 001124 - 001120, 001117 - 001113, 001110 - 001106, 001103 - 001030, 001027 - 001023, 001020 - 001016, 001013 - 001010, 001006 - 000927.
Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.