I woke up in a strange place

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

December 31, 2011

Filing this away for later:

Orangutans go ape for iPads, gorillas not so much

"The orangutan iPad program, known as Apps for Apes, was started after the gorilla keeper at the zoo mentioned on her Facebook page that she'd like to get some iPads for her gorillas to play with, Rafert explained. It was kind of a joke, but a zoo volunteer took it seriously and donated a used iPad to the zoo. It turned out that the gorillas didn't really enjoy the iPad — "they are more stoic," said Rafert — but the orangutans went wild.

Now the orangutans' keeper, Trish Khan, lets the orangutans play with the iPad about twice a week. The orangutans are not allowed to hold it because they are so strong that they would probably wind up cracking it in half. Khan holds it up to their cages and allows them to interact with it."

I think it is absolutely critical that we learn how every kind of ape feels about the iPad.

Also, in case anybody was concerned, the elderly chimpanzee named Cheeta who starred in the Tarzan movies and died last week was not the elderly chimpanzee named Cheeta who starred in the Tarzan movies and became the world's greatest living painter. That was a different elderly chimpanzee named Cheeta who starred in the Tarzan movies. (In a sense, if we can indulge in some post-modernism here, it seems that every elderly chimpanzee named Cheeta starred in the Tarzan movies.)

Instead of painting, this particular chimpanzee seems to have dedicated his retirement to throwing poop, and far be it from me to suggest that is anything other than a totally worthwhile pursuit. Certainly more useful than anything I've been up to lately.

Happy New Year!

September 1, 2010

More letters home from Vietnam. (Previously.)

The Mekong River in the morning (1)

I'm in a city called Can Tho. You might be able to find it on your map, depending on how detailed it is - check along the Mekong, in southern Vietnam. Last night I was in Chau Doc, which you might be able to find near the Cambodia border, but it's quite small. No internet cafes. Can Tho has a few, but they're bizarre. I'm the only person here not playing an RPG or a keyboard-based version of Dance Dance Revolution. (It's loud and obnoxious, actually.) It's all housed in a dusty shack with a badly-aging paint job, and Google thinks I am spyware because of my location - I keep having to do those "type the word in this picture" tests every time I want to read or send an email, or even search the web. Despite its relatively large size (300,000 people), this is definitely a "gape in total shock at the foreigner" city.

Can Tho skyline

I met a Japanese kid and split a hotel room with him last night. It was fun to break out a bit of Japanese, and he seemed to enjoy it, too. Virtually all Japanese people who travel abroad travel in big guided tour groups, totally insulated and doing nothing for themselves, but if you do meet a Japanese person who's traveling independently, they always have the most amazing plans. Takeshi, the kid from last night, is on a six month break from university and plans to cover China (done), Vietnam (done), Cambodia, Thailand, Australia, Africa, South America (Chile, Argentina, Brazil), and more. By himself, with one backpack, in six months. It made me feel pretty unambitious by comparison.

This was the second day of my three-day jaunt along the Mekong River. Tomorrow night I'll take a bus from Saigon to Nha Trang, which is a beach city, and I'm not sure how long I'll stay there. Probably just overnight, although maybe even shorter, depending on my initial reaction to the city. If I step off the bus and it's just drunk foreigners stumbling around, I'll take off. (The bus gets in at like 5:30am, and leaves around 7:00pm that night.) The two Mekong days have been good so far, very relaxing.

Strangers passing in the daylight

It's hot here, but I don't think this trip will get any hotter than Angkor in Cambodia. I'm still not bronze (too scrupulous with the sun-screen), but have settled into a pleasant gold. My soak-the-shirt-with-sweat level is in decline, thankfully. And hot water and air conditioning seem to be everywhere in Vietnam - those would double or triple your hotel rate in Cambodia.

I'm going to punch the teenager next to me if I stick around too long, so I'd better wrap this up. Sorry. (He keeps looking over here to figure out what I could possibly be doing with a computer that doesn't involve pressing arrow keys to make animated characters on a pseudo-NYC basketball court dance.) I meant to write longer. I should have a little time to write tomorrow night between getting back to Saigon and catching the bus.

Cafe in Can Tho

I have big, round hickeys all over my back. After I writing some emails, I walked back to my hotel - circa 10pm - and at the city's major intersection, a man and a woman had mats laid out on the sidewalk. "Massa?" the woman called out. I stopped, intrigued by the total ludicrousness of the offer. "How much?" I asked. "Fi' dolla," she said. "I don't know," I said. She jumped up, ran around behind me and started massaging my shoulders. "Oh, fine," I said, figuring I'd spent way too much time sitting on buses over the last few days, and since it was a husband and wife team and they were right out in the open - on the sidewalk! - why not? So I took off my shirt and laid town on the mat, and both the man and the woman set to work smacking various parts of my body. They were distracted for a while by my back hair, and sent into spasms of hilarity by my chest hair. I just laughed and watched cars go by.

Eventually, another customer (Vietnamese) came by, so the man went to work on him, and the woman lit a small torch and began putting small wine glasses on my back. I couldn't see exactly how she was doing it, but she was using the heat from the torch to create a vacuum inside the glass, which then made the glass suck on my skin. I'm not sure if it had any therapeutic value or not, but it was pretty memorable to be lying on the sidewalk at a major intersection with no shirt and several wine-glasses stuck to my back and arms. She offered to do my front as well, but it was getting near 11pm, and the doors of the hotel were supposed to close then, so she plucked off the wine glasses and I headed back to my room. Now I have a few dark hickeys on my back, which is perfect timing for going to the beach today and tomorrow.

The wine-glass massage felt okay. My left arm was a little sore the next day - the husband was much stronger than the wife and he was working on that side - but not painful. The hickeys still look gross, but again, no pain. A good hour-long Thai massage costs less than $5, whereas the Vietnamese are experts at tacking things on to the cost - it'd cost more like $45 here, so I haven't bothered with a proper one. (The sidewalk massage, as I said, was an even $5, which was exactly what I had left in US dollars in my wallet at that time. I guess they had about $5 worth of expertise. Fair enough.)

Along the banks of the Mekong River (8)

Only a few minutes to write and eat dinner. I had 45 minutes between buses, thought it would be an hour and a half. Nha Trang in the morning - look north, along the coast.

Nha Trang

The overnight bus ride could have been worse. I certainly didn't sleep well, but I woke up without any lasting aches or pains, so I guess I got through it okay. Stumbled into a hotel room without really being aware of what I was doing and slept a couple hours more, was relieved upon awaking to discover that it was a reasonably nice room ($6 a night). The weather is incrementally cooler here. Although there as many foreigners a locals from what I've seen so far, I'm inclined to relax on the beach for a day or two. There are some islands out in the bay and I saw mention of a "Monkey Island" so I'm going to look into chartering a boat.

The local internet cafe had a printer - I helped them set it up, and they decided to charge about 12 cents a page - and I found a boat to take me to Monkey Island tomorrow. (Apparently, the official name is Lao Island.)

Palm trees lean

After I wrote that last email, I ate lunch (most expensive meal I've had in all of Southeast Asia - almost $7), went back to my hotel to change into swimwear, and then set off for the beach. It's only two and a half blocks from my hotel. It wasn't cold by any means, but it wasn't really sunbathing weather either, so after reading for a few minutes, I went into the water. Because of the wind, the waves were too high to swim very far out to sea. Most people were staying within a few yards of the shore and pogo-ing to catch the (quite large) waves.

And then I saved a girl from drowning. She and her boyfriend were a distance to my right, and everyone else was to my left. They were too close to the jagged poles of an old wooden reef. A giant wave hit, way over my head. I went under for a couple of seconds and came up, laughing, my shorts most of the way down my legs. But I happened to look over there and saw that, somehow, the girl had been pulled way out to sea - the tide was quite strong - and her (short) boyfriend was still struggling to get his balance in the foam. She started screaming, so I swam over there as fast as I could. I caught her hand and pulled her to my chest as two big waves hit. I was able to keep her head above water, but got two big nosefuls of salt water for myself. Then I swam with her back to shore. She was dazed, but she seemed to recover quickly. (No CPR necessary.)

So, pretty exciting. And my stomach has been queasy ever since from all that salt-water.

My mother emailed me to wish me a Happy Easter. (She'd like to believe I know when Easter is and will do anything about it, I guess.)

Jesus in Vietnam

Of course I'm alive, Mom. It takes a little more than a couple of border crossings to get rid of me. I'm in Nha Trang along the southern coast of Vietnam if you'd like to follow on a map. (Or, knowing you, maybe you'd just rather not know.)

(ED: My mother was, indeed, happier not knowing any more than that, and politely declined to hear about anything else I did for the rest of the trip.)

From an island

Exhausted again, but all's well. I have a bus to catch in about an hour. The boats worked out fine today. I spent the morning on an island, just swimming and gazing out at the blue blue sea, and then in the afternoon, I took another boat to the monkey island. I was kind of worried because, shortly after setting foot on the island, I lost the ability to say anything other than "monkeys monkeys monkeys", and I had some concern that it might be a permanent condition, but in time, clarity was restored.

King of the old go-kart shed

Whoever manages this island wasn't doing anything to keep the monkey population under control like the Japanese do at their various monkey centers, so there were quite a few monkeys running amok on beach chairs and idle jet skis, probably more than the island should be able to handle. I think some people tried to establish a beach resort here, but the monkeys aren't having it. There were a few odd tourist attractions like a go-kart track, and the monkeys kept wandering out on the track as well.

Needless to say, I took something like 400 pictures, and will have quite an effort to whittle that down to a manageable number on the bus tonight.

Made a move on the canoe

Monkey break-out

Basically, imagine Detroit after they win a sports championship, but substitute monkeys for people, and it's a beach instead of the ghetto, and they win a championship every day.

Pushing this jet ski out to sea

It did occur to me that I might have died before I arrived on Monkey Island. I had actually saved a girl from drowning the day before. I was sprawled out on one of the beach chairs as monkeys shook the umbrella next to me, apparently hoping that food would fall out of it, and I thought, maybe she pulled me under, and now I am in heaven. But the smell of monkey poop reminded me that I was still very much on earth.

The classy end of Monkey Island

Probably too much sun today. I'll have an easier time sleeping on the bus tonight than I did two nights ago.

August 30, 2010

Things are lost, but the space remains.

If you are like me, you are often barely paying attention to the world around you, but you snap to attention whenever there is a monkey. For much of the summer, these commercials were running on television, and I could not figure out what they were for, because I was never paying attention for the first twenty seconds. I would usually become aware as this chimp in a white sequined Evel Knievel jumpsuit strode into the upper left-hand corner of the frame, which was otherwise filled by parked cars. The announcer would say, "Oh, wait...there's a monkey." The chimp would press down the switch on one of those boxes commonly associated with dynamite, and glitter would rain down on the cars. Possibly the last couple of seconds would explain what the commercial was for, but I was always agog, and never able to capture that information.

It was very confusing. (It has been a confusing summer. I have a beard?) I kept searching Google for things like "ape with explosive device" and "chimpanzee glitter bomb anarchy" and found nothing useful at all.

Then it got fucking weird because the chimp became invisible. The same commercial was running, but now the announcer would say "Oh, wait...there's an invisible monkey." And the jumpsuit would come striding out there, but there was nobody in it.

It was around this time that I sent out all those inquiries about where NASA is with regard to a moon base, because I have had it with life on Earth if chimpanzee glitter bomb anarchy has gone into stealth mode. (If you are reading this from NASA, fuck you for not returning my emails. See if I write back next time you're losing sleep over whether some asteroid really does look like Sean Connery.)

Well, anyway, good news, sort of, because the chimp did not disappear on its own — it was disappeared by PETA.

(LA Times) On Dodge's website they explained how after just two e-mails alerting them about the mistreatment that animals often suffer in order to make commercials, they decided to change their spot. They wrote how they were unaware about the bad practices that some animals endure to be trained for ads. "We were saddened to learn this, and in the spirit of Dodge we wanted to take action. We decided to take the spot off the air, and we stopped a full-page newspaper spread from running. Dodge is firmly committed to never using great apes in our advertisements again. We released a new commercial. The footage is identical, only this time you won't see Suzie."

PETA let us know that they were happy with the "invisible monkey."

That link has video of both versions of the commercial, which as it turns out is for some trucks.

I understand PETA's reasoning — abusive training practices, social isolation, and all that. Bad stuff. Lord knows I don't enjoy being in show business, shame to subject chimps to this nonsense. Keeping apes out of advertising is good for chimps in general, but a bit rough for Suzie in specific, as she is now unemployed and will have to find some other line of work. (Perhaps in an office.) You can prevent other chimps from being trained, but you can't prevent Suzie from having been trained.

What fills the space? What do you see when you see an invisible monkey?

The monkey's viewpoint?

If you are like me, you often wonder what monkeys would do in various situations, but you also wonder what specific monkeys are up to these days, ones you haven't seen or heard about in a while. I had some inkling that the chimp from MVP: Most Valuable Primate and MVP 2: Most Vertical Primate had a new series coming out on HBO, but it turns out that's actually Steve Buscemi, so I was pleased to learn that, instead, the chimp has a cushy retirement ahead of him.

(Oakland Tribune) Before they started swinging from ropes and munching on popcorn and raisins at the Oakland Zoo, Bernie and Eddie had careers in television and movies.

They are still stars at the zoo, but now they are starting to mingle with five new chimps, playing hide-and-seek inside their leafy, expansive glass-enclosed home and entertaining thousands of zoo visitors each week.

Steve Ross, chairman of the Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan and director of Project ChimpCARE, which helped direct the move to the zoo, said brothers Bernie and Eddie were owned by Greg and Carol Lille, who live near Sacramento and trained chimpanzees for films, advertisements and print media, such as greeting cards, for more than 30 years.

"The Lilles worked cooperatively with all the zoos to place the chimps and were instrumental in ensuring these chimps were provided the opportunity to live out their lives in long-term sustainable housing such as at the Oakland Zoo," Ross said.

Greg Lille said he was under contract not to talk about the chimpanzee's past work history and declined to comment Wednesday. According to published reports, Bernie was the star of a hockey team in the 2000 movie "MVP: Most Valuable Primate," and its 2001 sequel "MVP2: Most Vertical Primate," where he plays hockey and rides skateboards.

Bernie, 16, and Eddie, 20, have over the past few months been integrated with Oakland's one male and four females. Eddie has become the peacekeeper in the group; Bernie had a little trouble with the lone male, Moses, at the beginning; the two now seem to be warming up to each other, zoo officials said.

It sounds like there might have been a fabricated biting incident, but it's all sorted out now.

(Obviously, we don't talk about MXP: Most Xtreme Primate on this website. It is non-canonical. Don't even bring it up.)

So here's hoping Suzie has a pension plan, and has not borrowed against her pension for more glitter bombs. I know how tempting that is.

August 10, 2010

The back wheel of my bicycle has been damaged by what is either normal wear-and-tear (I ride to work most days) or a shocking act of violence that was extremely limited in scope, being directed exclusively at bicycle spokes. Until some sort of final determination can be made, let us assume there is a madman out there targeting bicycle spokes, and proceed accordingly.

This article is worth reading, printing, laminating, and possibly tattooing, listing as it does the locations of all Mold-A-Rama machines in the Chicago area — either your eyes just closed and you were overcome with the glorious smell of hot plastic, or you have no idea what I am talking about — but you should go further, to Mold-A-Rama.com, where (under 'What's New') you can actually see a picture of the green gorilla in question. It's phenomenal. You can also apply for a part-time job servicing the Mold-A-Rama machines at the Oklahoma City Zoo, and you should, because it's a good opportunity and you don't have much else going on right now, as evidenced by the fact that you just spent the better part of an afternoon thinking about a green gorilla.

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.

Siem Reap

Sun behind Angkor Wat

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.

Tree of ages

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.

Monkeys of Angkor

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.

Lord Monkey of Angkor (and the weight on his shoulders)

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.

Somehow I wound up here

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.)

Drop block city

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.

Phnom Penh

Sam Bo, the city elephant

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.)

Kids on the loose

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.

Two feet and some things

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.)

Murdered by the Khmer Rouge

Upstairs at Tuol Sleng

Cambodians record a few thoughts about their torturer

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.)

Two tuk-tuks

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
when you're done.

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.

Monkey Coke fiend

Monkey with empty can, considering options

Monkey eats empty Coke can

I'm ending each day exhausted. I hope that means I'm making the most of this.

March 9, 2008

(I started writing this a while ago, but then I sold all of the jokes to gypsies, so now I must furnish the entry with new ones.)

An old friend of mine won an Oscar recently, which is excellent, and much like the crafty Ms. Passion, I had an influx of traffic on this here website due to a link on said friend's old blog. Given the, uh, adult nature of the traffic, I am feeling a certain amount of pressure to adopt an intriguing pseudonym like "Lorenzo from Accounting" or "Lunch", and posit scenarios which might better fit the expectations of these new visitors.

Yes! Us, together

I never thought it would happen to me! Despite his incorrect and shameful choice of headgear, the professional affiliation of great service toward our corporation was overwhelming! Together, we searched very much to achieve bare financial milestones established with great knowing by the regional management for whom effortless brilliance of leadership and strategy is infinitely disappointed by our meager abilities and profound inadequacy. But yet we both felt great seriousness toward our professional responsibilities!

There is an article coming in a local newspaper about the travel book, so I am looking forward to that. In the March edition, upon much consideration, we decided to change "Birdgeport" to "Bridgeport" on the map for that part of the city. One bar on the south side closed, so that came out, and a Neapolitan pizza place on the north side went in. But we haven't done anything about the somewhat daffy computer-generated index, which has to be seen to be appreciated.

Reports have it that Cheeta was featured on Episode 350 of This American Life. I haven't listened yet, but I am always excited for the old fellow to get some of the recognition he so richly deserves. His masterwork "Green, Brown, Yellow" recently had its first formal exhibition in my living room during a party, and I think everyone was very impressed. (I should note that I had it framed at The Practical Angle in Chicago and they did a fine job.)

The ecstasy of monkey (I)

I never thought it would happen to me! I was just sitting there on the mountain, on the lookout for peanuts or old fruit, when...

July 14, 2007

Drunken monkey driver


Spotrick says:
And that's why monkeys should not be allowed to drive.

Kat(i)e says:
I am confused - should I be looking at this from right to left? Either way it seems the cartoon is out of order.. >Is he is the car or not? Why does he get out midway thru and look at the car as though it's not his "Oh well, I'll drive it anyway! >Insert maniacal monkey laugh here<"

chimpsonfilm says:
It's a tough one. If we go right to left, then we can assume that he was driving really fast but in a straight line (1), got frustrated with the fact that the car was fully under his control and easy to operate, which is not as he was led to expect machinery would be (2), and decided to drink in order to restore his confusion toward human technology (3) - possibly this all relates to a deep-seated fear of evolution and absorption into the mechanized human world on the monkey's part. I'm not sure. Sadly, my kanji reading ability is abysmal.

June 26, 2007

If anyone died from suspense at the end of the last entry, I sincerely apologize. Sometimes, the power of these situations is too much even for my unstoppable reporting technique to contain. There should be disclaimers, perhaps. But now, I must continue. If you are returning to this website late and you have not read the first entry in this series, do not go any further; it will make no sense to you, and you are likely to find your emotions overwhelmed.

Shibuya B-Boy Battle: First match 9

So, at the end of the last entry, I was in Japan, and the original painting by the famous monkey was in Chicago. I was not sure that my mother could be entrusted with the care of fine art, but I had little choice. I've read a lot about how to be an art collector, and the literature is unambiguous on the point that you should not dent or bend the fine art, both of which stood a strong chance of happening if the monkey painting had to make two trips through customs. (This was around the time that Steve Wynn poked a hole through his Picasso; abuse of fine art was a hot-button topic.)

(I realize that some may consider my concern for the care of art hypocritical in light of a certain story that has been going around for years about my tenure as a security guard at the Krannert Art Museum and a painting which is shown on this page. In response, I kind of gaze off into the distance, and then suddenly change the subject.)

I could only trust that my mother would not botch the job. The seasons turned; beautiful autumn came to Hiroshima and the Chugoku area, winter followed and with it visits from friends, and spring slid out from behind all those cold winds. It was time to leave Japan again. I went on a long trip, returned to Japan a third time in order to pick up my stuff, and took my sweet time going from the west coast of the United States to my once and future home in Chicago. Through all of that, the painting by the famous monkey waited, hidden to me and to the world. My mother was under strict orders not to open it; whatever kind of wrapping those chimps had managed would have to serve as the last line of defense for the fine art inside.

Because I have, as I said, read extensively from the literature, I was aware that an unveiling is the sort of thing an art collector does with brand-new, never-before-seen artwork, so I announced that I would be holding one of those after I got back to Chicago. (Of course you're invited.) As you can imagine, though, I was more than a bit concerned when my mother admitted that she couldn't find the monkey painting, even though she knew it was around there somewhere. Tense days and nights followed. My mother doesn't actually do a whole lot except go to work and take yoga classes once a week, so she dedicated herself to the task of figuring out where she put the monkey painting, and by the next time I visited, she had found it. The painting was expertly packaged in exactly the sort of big cardboard envelope that humans might use.

"Well done, Dan," I said, softly. "Well done."

I had to open it. The literature is ambiguous on the point of whether the art collector himself is allowed to see the artwork before the unveiling, but I decided to excuse the impulse; I am, after all, new at this, and can be forgiven a few lapses in procedure. I slid my finger under the flap of the envelope, and removed a few knick-knacks: a certificate of authenticity, an autographed photo of Cheeta, and some other papers of that ilk. And then there was nothing else between me and the painting.

I am become Poseidon, God of the Sea, and you shall know my likeness

It is really fucking good. I was genuinely astonished from the moment I laid eyes upon it. I had an idea in mind when I chose the colors green, brown, and yellow, and Cheeta understood completely, transforming my pithy notion into the stuff of great artwork. The painting is abstract, and it is suggestive of bananas hidden in a forest. (The forest may be upside down.) I don't mind admitting that I almost cried; I had a masterpiece in my hands. At last, I had my own painting by a famous monkey.

Well, the unveiling is still yet to come. I need to get a job and possibly a new apartment first. Since I am still unemployed, I have plenty of time for scientific analysis, and I am pleased to announce, after extensive testing, that my famous monkey painting is a remarkable 54% better than anything Van Gogh ever did, which is saying something, because Van Gogh is really considered one of the major painters of his era. It is also 16% better than 82% of Picasso's work, 7% better than 70% of the remaining 18%, and the rest has yet to be calculated, but it's looking good for the monkey, and also for my happy life as an art collector.

I will be commissioning another painting shortly after getting a job.

June 22, 2007

I've had this news excerpt sitting around since last August.

(news) NEW DELHI - In an effort to keep monkeys out of the New Delhi subways, authorities have called in one of the few animals known to scare the creatures - a fierce-looking primate called the langur, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported Wednesday.

The decision to hire a langurwallah - a man who trains and controls the langurs - came after a monkey got into a metro car in June, the newspaper reported.

On June 9, a monkey reportedly crawled through some pipes and ended up aboard a train, scowling at passengers and jumping around a car.

Passengers had to be moved to another car while staff chased the dexterous creature, causing delays.

The langur handler was being employed to prevent more such problems.

"There are too many monkeys," Dayal was quoted as saying.

It's "cellar door" for some; for others, "too many monkeys" is the most beautiful combination of words in the English language. Admittedly, I was on the subway today, on my way back from buying some pants, and it was extremely crowded; I am not sure that monkeys would have improved the situation, so fair enough to the New Delhi subway riders and their langurs.

Do you see how understanding I have become in my old age?

The monkey's viewpoint?

I am ashamed to say that I wrote about the monkey painting on MySpace before I did so here. There is no good excuse; expectations are low on MySpace, so when you post something there, you're not really under any obligation to make it good. As long as it's OMG - or, ideally, OMFG LOL - you've held up your end of the agreement with the reader. Well, enough of that.

So there was the whole Howard Hong thing from the summer of 2005, when that visionary art collector paid like $25,000 to buy some paintings by a famous monkey from the swinging Sixties, which extensive scientific analysis (more about that later) has revealed to be the smartest thing anyone has ever done. I was unemployed at the time after my impulsive move to Austin, and I could feel the tangible lack of progress my life was making toward a state of ownership of art by famous monkeys; despair set in. Howard even emailed me, but I didn't really know what to say other than, "Can I have one? The article said you had a few of them. Seriously, could I have one?"

Well, everything got back on the right track, I'm happy to say. As you might know, I did finally get a job, and then I split for Japan again; I paid my debts and resumed my place as a responsible member of society, even if it was, perhaps, not the precise society that genetics had intended for me. And I got to thinking about making progress again. After a brief flirtation with investing my new-found savings in stocks and bonds, I decided to do the mature thing and find a famous monkey who sells his art.

And that's what led me to Cheeta. Famous? Check. That chimp was in the Tarzan movies, also also something called Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla, according to his IMDB page, which, based on the title alone, may be better than Citizen Kane. At 75 years old, Cheeta has been recognized by Guinness as the world's oldest chimpanzee, and his love for life is matched only by his love for cake, which I'm sure we can all understand. He's received a lifetime achievement award from the mayor of Palm Springs, and he hobnobs with Elayne Boosler and Jane Goodall. This, then, is a very famous monkey.

The history of the world

I've wondered, in retrospect, if Cheeta wasn't a great painter, would I have bought one of his paintings anyway, as a symbolic gesture, as a prisoner of enthusiasm? Fortunately, that concern never came to pass; Cheeta is actually a sensational painter. This, I think, is quite good; there is an emotional richness in this one as well, but it's somewhat less mature in form. (This one, on the other hand, shows a mastery of technique - if anyone was so foolish as to think that monkeys slap paint on canvas without meaning, that's conclusive evidence that they're wrong - and it's frankly rather haunting, too. I have a theory that it may be a memory from the set of Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla, but only Cheeta knows for sure.)

The good news for aspiring collectors of fine art is that the residual checks from Tarzan aren't paying all of the bills any more - and Criterion is apparently dragging their feet on the Lugosi DVD - so Cheeta, resourceful chimp, has combined his passion (the other one, not cake) with his need to pay the rent. (That's a trick I haven't figured out. You could, if you like, say that Cheeta has made a monkey out of me.) After running around the apartment and yelling in deep reflection, I sat down at the computer and commissioned an original painting from Cheeta. After I sent in my payment, someone named Dan - either a person, or a monkey named Dan who has figured out how to use computers - emailed me to say that the payment had been received, and Cheeta would paint it soon. I told him Cheeta should take his time. I know that you can't rush monkey art. Dan had asked me to choose three colors for Cheeta to use, and I suggested green, brown and yellow, but said that Cheeta should do as he liked. I know how artists get when they feel like their art has been commercialized, and I didn't want to get into that kind of situation with my first original monkey commission. I think Dan is all about the bananas, though, because there was no delay; my mom emailed me only a few weeks later to say that a wrapped package had arrived, and it mentioned chimps on the address label. I told her that package was fine art and she had better be careful with it. She said she'd put it in the storage closet with my old comic books.

(I should clarify, by the way, that I was living in Japan at the time, but I had the painting shipped to my mother's place in Chicago, because I figured it was a real long-shot that a pair of chimpanzees could work out international shipping. It was impressive enough that they had a PayPal account.)

So the monkey painting was in a package at my mother's apartment, unseen by human eyes, and I was on the other side of the world. This story is getting exciting; I will continue in my next entry.

December 22, 2005

I have new software for managing this here website. On the right, you can see a list of Categories. Click on one, and it'll take you to a page with all of the entries I've written on that subject. The archives have grown too unwieldly, and since I only have four or five different things that I write about, I wanted people to be able to find, say, all of the panda porn entries with ease. If you have recommendations about categories that I should add (e.g. stuff I'm always yammering on about), please let me know. So far, I've assigned categories for everything from Japan onwards and the entire college era. I'll get the rabbi era done eventually, but I don't know if I'll ever do the Beelzetron entries, because there are so many of them, and I need to do new things to write about.

A lot of people are up in arms over the recent article claiming that Stalin had a secret plan to breed half-man, half-ape super warriors, but I don't really buy it. Look, everyone wants to make a connection between communism and monkeys. If we could place a chimpanzee at Trotsky's side during his "dustbin of history" speech flinging poo at the Mensheviks as they left the hall, we could pretty much draw the curtain on the human drama, take a bow and exit stage left. But we can't. The basic idea of this story is that, in 1926, Stalin found a scientist who had built his reputation on the artificial insemination of race-horses for the tsar and gave him a bunch of money to create obedient, powerful monkey-men who were "insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat." The scientist failed, as the story goes, and was duly punished.

Predictably enough, there are no corroborating sources on the web other than one brief reference to the scientist in question and bloggers linking to the article and going "woo woo monkeys". (Has anyone ever noticed how much the proliferation of blogs has diluted the usefulness of search results? It'd be fine if any of them had something to add to the topic. Instead, you just get a two hundred winners linking to the article and going "woo woo monkeys".) As I said, I don't believe the story. I could be wrong, but let me drop some history and see what you think.

By 1926, Stalin had the upper hand in the leadership struggle, but he was not the absolute ruler yet. He was still cutting deals under the table with other members of the Politburo and pitting various factions against each other. Trotsky was still on the scene; Zinoviev wasn't far removed from his power base in Leningrad, and Bukharin was at full strength. The Five Year Plan was still up for debate. Stalin and Bukharin hadn't even allied yet, let alone agreed about the shape of collectivization. There's no way Stalin could blow the 1926 equivalent of $200,000 on a whim. Also, armies of super-soldiers were not really his area of concern. Back then, Stalin's thing was Socialism in One Country. It was Trotsky who wanted to get other countries involved in the revolution early and often, and Stalin built a bunch of political capital by deriding him for it. (Yes, that's a deliberate turn of phrase.) People mistake the Iron Curtain Stalin of post-WW2 for the original version, who was far more interested in screwing with Russians than anything else. He was infinitely insecure; he probably would have been content to exert his dominance over the psyches of Russia for the rest of his life if Hitler hadn't forced him to deal with, you know, fighting a war.

But it's the quote about wanting soldiers who were "insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat" that gives the lie to the whole thing. Since when did Stalin give a fuck about whether anyone liked their dinner? Whenever he needed a new labor force for a construction project, he just arrested a bunch of people, sent them off to the work site and told their families to mail them food care of the labor camp if they wanted them to eat. He loved that sort of thing. Read his memos: arresting people was the light of his life. It would have stressed him out if the prisoners were "indifferent about the quality of food they eat". He'd have moped around for days and worn the same underwear until it had holes in it.

VOROSHILOV: "There's a petition going around the gulags to have Pizza Night moved to Mondays."
STALIN: "Why?"
VOROSHILOV: "Bit of a pick-me-up. You know, hard labor is hard enough without a case of the Mondays."
STALIN: "Oh, those gulags. I try to say no to them, but one look just melts my heart."
VOROSHILOV: "Ho, ho, ho."
STALIN: "Ho, ho, ho."

August 10, 2005

I'm on my way toward a better mood. I'm not there yet, but I'm heading in that direction. The weather has been kind of crazy for the last couple of weeks, and I'm really starting to enjoy it. The sky has that "aww, damn" apocalyptic tinge. If you don't have anything at stake, the onset of armaggeddon can be kind of relaxing.

I haven't made any noteworthy progress toward getting a job. A place I applied to in Connecticut last December called this morning and hung up as soon as I answered. I called them back and hung up on them, because my vengeance is swift, and precisely measured.

Brought to my attention by the good Mr. Sacki, here is the single greatest photograph ever taken:

"An orang-utan plays on water skis at an event marking 100 days to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Pusan, southeast of Seoul, August 10, 2005. The APEC meeting will be held in Pusan in November."

My guess is that picture will be able to restore eyesight to blind people, so if you know any, bring them up to your monitor, position their heads and just stand there, saying "...well? Eh? Eh?"

If that's how they commemorate 100 days left until the conference, the mind boggles to consider what they have planned for the conference itself. Monkeys in spacesuits floating around in zero-gravity is basically the starting point for what it's reasonable to expect. Meanwhile, here in the US, on the very same day, the Department of Defense announces that the fourth anniversary of 9/11 will be commemorated with a march and a country music concert in D.C. I want so badly to believe that there will be at least one orangutan wearing a cowboy hat onstage, but the fact is, our nation has lost its way.

But this webpage would not be what it is without a fair dose of self-criticism:

(news) NEW YORK - A fan who plunged from the upper deck at Yankee Stadium onto the screen behind home plate during Tuesday night's game between New York and the Chicago White Sox was released from the hospital into police custody Wednesday. The game was delayed for four minutes in the eighth inning after 18-year-old Scott Harper of Armonk, N.Y., plummeted about 40 feet onto the large net. Harper told three friends he was sitting with that he was going to test whether the net would hold his weight — and then he jumped, police said.

"The next thing you know, you don't see him anymore. You saw him on the net," said 18-year-old Mike Spadafino, one of Harper's friends.

Obviously scared and shaken after he landed, Harper sat with his head in his hands for a few moments before climbing on the net back up to the middle level of seats as players watched and the crowd roared. Harper then was hoisted over the railing and led away by security.

"They claimed we were saying, `Sit or jump, sit or jump,'" Spadafino said. "It was everyone in there, in the basic area."

"People think we threw him off, but we're all best friends, so I don't think that would ever happen," said 20-year-old Giusseppe Tripi, another one of Harper's friends.

Best friends don't throw each other off buildings? Jesus, I have some apologies to make. Let me start with Saul. What I was trying to say when I grabbed you by the arm, spun you around and hurled you from the upper deck of the United Center was "I'm glad for the good times we've had together, and I really respect the way your shoulder has healed."

Sometimes, I despair of ever really managing to communicate with anyone.

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:

Sometimes, it helps to re-assess the situation. He's sitting in the mailing cart! Is that other monkey mailing him somewhere? What is going on? Suddenly, uncertainty is delightful.

(Tecmo Bowl) The Race-Changing Injury
This one happens only during seasons (obviously). When a black player gets injured, he appears white on the screen where he's lying on the field and the paramedics are rushing in to help him. But then when he's being carried off he's back to normal. I don't know why this would be, since it doesn't seem like it would take any programming effort simply to leave them in the same state they were when they went down. For some reason the programmers decided to make it so that everyone who gets injured looks white from afar.

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?

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.

Well, apparently, I am the last person you want to save your marriage, because I fucking suck at it. On the few occasions that I haven't been kicked out of the apartment, one of them has declared the marriage a sham and stormed out. I'm getting nowhere with this. The best I've managed to do is get them united in being pissed off at me, which hopefully leads to, I don't know, angry denunciation sex later on. One problem is that I don't type fast enough to break into the conversation, but more than that, I'm frustrated because I can't tell what portion of the blame falls on the programming (it's a college A.I. project, not a professional venture) and what is the fault of my various emotional inadequacies. I guess I'm bringing this up in the hope that someone a little better-adjusted than I am will give it a go and let me know. 'Mark' is one of the names they offer - the characters address you by name rather a lot - so I use that one when I'm doing my best (and things inevitably fall apart at the end), and 'Gonzalo' is the name I use when I'm getting frustrated.

(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.)

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.

May 24, 2005

I should talk about the scary dream that I had last night, because my foot still hurts. I was standing outside with a friend and her three year old daughter. They had a new house on a hill with big lawn and no other houses in sight, out in the country. It came time for the three year old to go to bed (even though the sun had only just begun to set), so we hugged, and then they went in, leaving the door open behind them. Suddenly I heard a cry from inside. The three year old had spotted a giant angry gorilla through the window. I ran to the door, but the giant angry gorilla was fast, and I couldn't close the door in time. The giant angry gorilla roared and clawed at the door. Desperate, I tried to kick the door shut. Unfortunately, in real life, I had fallen asleep on the couch, and my powerful kick actually hit the edge of the coffee table. That fucking hurt.

For the record, Fanta has become the beverage of choice among the Abu Ghraib prison abuse crew. According to Coca-Cola's website, consumers around the world, particularly teens, associate Fanta with happiness and special times spent with friends and family. Given that a new legal team was brought in for the defense today, could this presage a change in the defense strategy? If Pepsi meant "Look, the choice of a new generation was to flush the Koran down the toilet," and Dr. Pepper meant "Yes, I would like to be a Pepper, as opposed to someone who is going to jail for a long time," then Fanta may mean, "I associate this trial with happiness and special times spent with prisoners whose genitals I burned using hot lamps." I haven't been to law school so I can't really predict how that plea might turn out.

May 13, 2005

Another job for which I am better qualified than the man who currently holds it is the job of CTA President. Residents of the city of Chicago know that our public transportation system is teetering on the verge of collapse, and the minions of Kruesi claim that jacking fares to $3 while cutting service is the only way to save it. I, on the other hand, am possessed of wide, staring eyes and a strong urge to fly, and I have insights that the minions do not. For example, one way for the CTA to save a lot of money would be to cut down on the number of guys in green vests wandering aimlessly back and forth at the Division subway stop. Prior to this week, there was already a surplus of those guys, and now their number has doubled. The only thing they do that can be construed as work-related is getting out of the train's way when it finally creeps into the station.

Now, lest someone sneer and call me a consultant, let me clarify that I am not proposing layoffs. Workers are valuable assets, but they must be deployed correctly. These men should not be fired; clearly, they are well-versed in the art of bamboozlement, because they get paid to wander around in green vests, and their bosses think it's a good thing. They are experts in techniques that the CTA can use to get out of paying its debts. Put them in a room with, say, this month's electricity bill and a telephone. They know the weaknesses of middle management; they they know how to deal with that shit.

Kruesi is a weak little man who instead chooses to whinge about the state legislature.

(news) COVINGTON, La. -- Officials captured 47 monkeys that had escaped from the Tulane Primate Center, but six remained on the loose Tuesday and seemed to be hiding out in a heavily wooded area near the site. The monkeys escaped Monday evening. Officials said the monkeys got loose because a cage was not locked properly. The monkeys had observed how the cage was opened and closed and apparently used that knowledge to their advantage.

Mike Aertker, spokesman for the Primate Center, said the monkeys were being used solely for breeding purposes, and had not been subjected to experiments of any kind. Aertker said the monkeys are not aggressive and pose no threat to people.

The interesting thing is, when given a choice, 38 of the monkeys who were recaptured by the breeding facility chose to listen to Pinkerton.

Following up on my last entry, Arden, our remote correspondent, reported that Letterman had a bit on Tuesday night where he and Paul Schaffer tried to guess whether paintings were by an ape or an artist. According to Arden, the one by the ape was "quite a good painting". Frankly, when an ape paints well, I think he or she deserves some credit. The critics who derided Congo's exhibition in 1957 probably did so from a position of defending art; to admit that an ape could paint well would, they feared, open some kind of fissure beneath the integrity of modern abstract art, revealing it as a con along the lines of all those lame jokes and commercials where aesthetes mistake a common object for a masterpiece and shower it with pseudo art-speak. But it wouldn't. Some people paint better than others, and some monkeys paint better than others, too. Congo happened to be a fucking good painter. As the article said:

He painted within the boundaries of the sheet of paper and never allowed the paint to spill over the edge. He also appeared to know when he had finished a painting: He refused to pick up his brush or pencil over the work.

Could any monkey with a paint-brush produce great art? Of course not. I strongly doubt that this monkey's work would be anything other than an empty exercise in form, and this monkey probably lacks the discipline to go beyond surface assumptions about his relationship with his art. But, for fuck's sake, if you gave this monkey a canvas, he would come back to you with some fucking intense reflections about where he's been and what he's seen. And you can't tell me this monkey doesn't know some shit about life.

It seems to be raining very hard right now. But, seriously, if anyone thought that would prevent me from hitting all the locations on my carefully-drawn map for the first day of Free Frosty Weekend, they are fools. I guess I should take this opportunity to thank the crazy chili finger woman for her diligent efforts towards embarassing a corporate monolith into giving me a free lunch. If someone could get Pizza Hut to do the same, that would be great, because I don't feel like cooking tonight.

May 11, 2005

One of my colleagues reported that he'd done a Google search for the terms 'Heiden' and 'monkey' and come up with 137 hits from this web-page. In my defense, I can only suggest that a more accurate count might have included the names of individual kinds of monkeys (and apes), such as gibbons or chimps or gorillas. Really, though, the clear implication is that I've been shockingly derelict in my duties as a practicioner of serious fucking journalism and I need to focus.

(news) Congo the chimpanzee led a brief artistic career and enjoyed little critical success, despite the patronage of his contemporary and fellow abstract painter, Pablo Picasso. But nearly half a century after Congo's artistic career, some of his paintings are going on sale at a prestigious London auction house alongside works by Andy Warhol and Renoir.

Three tempera on paper works — brightly colored compositions of bold brushstrokes — will be featured as a single lot in the sale of Modern and Contemporary Art at Bonhams on June 20, the auctioneer said Wednesday. The lot estimate is between $1,130-$1,500. Bonhams said it believed the auction is a first.

"I would sincerely doubt that chimpanzee art has ever been auctioned before," said Howard Rutkowski, the auction house's director of modern and contemporary art. "I don't think anybody else has been crazy enough to do this. I'm sure other auction houses think this is completely mad."

Congo, who was born in 1954, produced some 400 drawings and paintings between the ages of 2 and 4. It was not immediately known if he was still alive, a Bonhams spokeswoman said. In 1957, animal behaviorist Desmond Morris organized an exhibition of chimpanzee art at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, including works by Congo. Critics reacted with a mixture of scorn and skepticism, but Picasso is recorded as having owned a painting by Congo, Bonhams said.

In all likelihood, given the average lifespan of a chimpanzee, Congo has joined Van Gogh, Modigliani and various other dead guys in the ranks of great artists who were unappreciated in their own lifetime. (And lest you think these are just more of my knee-jerk partisan pro-monkey politics, I suggest you check out some of Congo's work. It's really good!) Do you even realize how these artists are sitting around in the afterlife trashing us? The walls of heaven's coffee shops ring with Van Gogh's "She never loved me" and Modigliani's "It's not like tuberculosis medicine would have been that expensive" and Congo's "Pick my back" and Van Gogh's "Oh, yeah, they all love Starry Night *now*" and Modigliani's "I was doing that Africa stuff decades before Picasso" and Congo's "Are you going to finish that banana?"

I have long advocated giving every monkey in the world a bucket of paint. Worst case scenario, we end up with a bunch of blue and red monkeys looking sheepish. I say this to the leaders of the world: you're botching the job, let me take over for a while.

I really want those paintings, but I am well aware that heartless manipulators with large checkbooks will drive up the bidding. I actually would pay a thousand dollars for three good paintings by a famous monkey. Probably you knew that, though. I would frame them, and next to them I would frame my credit card statement, which would read 'PAINTINGS BY FAMOUS MONKEY'.


I was turned down for the lycopene study because Dr. Wu measured me at 6 feet tall, which is a full three inches shorter than I actually am, according to the physical I had before I left for Japan in 2003. My weight is normal for my actual height, but Dr. Wu did manage to weigh me correctly, so my actual weight at my non-actual height would make me kind of overweight and thereby disqualified for the study group. Now, I'm not saying that Dr. Wu is a jabbering incompetent lunatic but I do find it odd that I would lose three inches of height during a period of time when all I did was go to Japan and talk to Japanese people. If Japan has actually found a way to make visitors shorter, then I believe a number of health alerts are called for, as well as a motherfucking APB on that traitorous bastard Rick Moranis. The more plausible explanation, of course, is that Dr. Wu blew it, so the woman in charge of the study said I could come back in July and participate in that dosing group.

May 28, 2004 Let us now speak of animals. First, I would like to discuss how they can be employed in the education of those who seek to speak English:


This is a simple game that is played with the animal flashcards that are intended to be used in the kids classes. The deck is shuffled, the cards are dealt and the terms 'high-stakes', 'fold' and 'hold 'em' are taught, more for the instructor's amusement than anything else. (Anyone who has lived in Japan for any period of time will know that there is no need to teach Japanese people the word 'gambler'.) Each student lays down an animal, and then a battle ensues in which students attempt to 'knockout' the other students' animals by playing cards from their hand and making comparisons in which their animal is superior to that of their opponent. ("My monkey is smarter than your mouse," etc.) In the game's debut, Chisato (a housewife) and Chieko (a thirteen year old girl) savaged each others' forces, leaving the witless Morihisa (god knows what he does for a living) largely unscathed. It was looking like a serious tactical error when Chieko was left with only a rabbit to face Morihisa, who was showing a horse and had, let's face it, already done seven lessons on how to make comparisons whereas she was on her first, but Morihisa, frozen, was unable to generate a comparison in which the horse trumped the rabbit and could only watch as his entire kingdom was laid to waste by the rabbit.


One thing I like very much about Japanese people is that they can always be counted on to have an opinion about animals. Now, I'm fairly confident that any of my friends could produce a top-five-animals list in fairly short order, but the average man-on-the-street back in the USA has, I suspect, not given very much thought to the subject, which is very stupid not to have done. At the beginning of the class, students are asked to list their top five animals. (Nobody has trouble doing this.) Then they are taught how to make similes ('_ is as [adj.] as _' or '_ is not as [adj.] as _'), and while they are doing a silent reading exercise, I use the top five lists to seed the tournament. Snakes, wolves and pirahnas get automatic bids because they are featured in the text lesson I use to give the exercise an air of scholastic legitimacy, and also because every great competition needs villains as well as heroes, teams you root for as well as teams you root against. All of the #1 animals from the students' lists make the tournament, and so do animals featured on more than one list. Then, after some educational mumbo-jumbo, we are ready to play. Comparisons must be made, each series is best-of-three; the rest is up to chance.


    For two consecutive tournaments, Dogs came in as the consensus top-ranked species, and for two consecutive tournaments, Dogs made first-round exits. Their collapse in the first tournament remains the most shocking. Though hardly a small-species team, Birds had shown very little support prior to the match, earning a bid only because I had spent a while explaining the differences between parrots and parakeets and I needed a low-ranked team to fill out the lower end of the bracket. (The seeding procedures weren't completely finalized at that point.) In the end, Dogs' inability to fly cost them greatly. Birds' triumph was short-lived, as they got swept by Goldfish in the next round. But for a while, they were the toast of the Animal Tournament.

    Dogs would suffer another upset loss to Pirahnas in the Animal Tournament II before finally righting the ship and reaching the finals against Cats in Animal Tournament III, going on to topple Cinderella-story Koalas in Animal Tournament IV. "I fucking hate Dogs," said Andrew, a fellow teacher. "They're the Manchester United of Animal Tournament."


    Pirahnas are the Gonzaga of Animal Tournament. They never, ever appear on anyone's top five lists, yet tournament after tournament, thanks largely to the sharpness of their teeth and their swimming ability, they upset a larger-species competitor and go on an improbable run that stops just short of the trophy. In Animal Tournament II, the class wiseacre decided that he was backing Pirahnas all the way, and his aggressive approach stunned the rest of the class; before they had really begun to get comfortable with the target structure, he'd led Pirahnas to an upset of heavily-favored Dogs. (Dogs vs. Pirahnas is one of the great rivalries of Animal Tournament. They played twice more after that first matchup, with Dogs winning the next two.) By the time the next round began, the rest of the class was a little more prepared to back their own animals. Pirahnas took the first comparison, but Cats roared back to seize the second. The wiseacre was ready and spoke quickly, making a comparison on the grounds of 'cool'...but he made a key mistake in sentence structure and put the pirahnas first in the sentence, so it came out 'Pirahnas are not as cool as Cats.' He realized what he'd done and howled. The class cheered. Cats went on to lose in the finals to Goldfish.


    I double-checked the seeding because it looked too good to be true: a possible semi-finals matchup between Monkeys and Elephants. It had the potential to be the greatest non-championship series in Animal Tournament history. I began to think about inviting other classes in to watch. But anything is possible on paper; five minutes later, Wolves had upset Monkeys and Pirahnas had, for the second tournament in a row, swept the Elephants. The students seemed to realize they had fucked up when the semi-finals rolled around and we were looking at Wolves against Pirahnas. Nice one. Television ratings went through the floor. Elephants, the Kevin Garnett of Animal Tournament, have yet to get out of the first round.


    "I think there's something dodgy in the seeding there," said one of my fellow teachers, studying a bracket. "Monkeys got a pretty cushy first-round matchup, considering Dogs were the #1 seed and they had to play Pirahnas." The league office denied all knowledge of wrong-doing.


    I: Cats (d Goldfish)
    II: Goldfish (d Cats)
    III: Cats (d Dogs)
    IV: Dogs (d Koalas)
    V: Wolves (d Horses)
    VI: Dogs (d Dolphins)
    VII: Tigers (d Fish)

    Of course, you read all of that and you narrow your eyes. "He is dodging the question," you mutter. "Still I do not know where he has been for the last month. He must account for a number of things, and he has not done so. Curse his evasiveness; I will demand answers."

    "Holy shit!" you cry, seizing your computer monitor. "Is that a statue of two monkeys dressed as samurais?! And one of them has a bandage on his leg, presumably from a battle of some kind?! I cannot believe I have seen this! Having done so, how am I supposed to write this report for work? Thanks for blowing my mind, you damn webpage guy!!

    Last Friday was the one-year anniversary of my landing in Japan, so I decided to celebrate by going to the zoo. (Someone told me it's all happening at the zoo.) The Kyoto Zoo is notoriously depressing, so I decided to take the train up to to the atmospheric urban decay of Osaka and its Tenno-ji Zoo. It was, as the following image proves, a fine decision:

    The zoo itself is in an oddly exhilirating state of disrepair. The animals have been finding food somehow, but the staff appear to have fucked off at some point in the late 1960s. (It's not hard to guess where they might have gone: the zoo is next to the Shin-Sekai district, which is full of low-rent porn theaters, pachinko halls and gloriously seedy shogi parlors.) The Western concepts of 'urban planning' don't exist as we know them in Japan, leading to bizarre sights like this:

    The rhinos have very easy access to the highway, which is exactly what you'd want them to have, I suppose. There were a fine bunch of monkeys and penguins at Tenno-ji, and those are the cornerstones of any zoo, as far as I am concerned. (I'm not going to walk away disappointed as long as there are some monkeys and some penguins; it is a good rule to live by, really.) The hippo was underwater the whole time I was there, but they did have this helpful display that explained the ecosystem that forms around hippos:

    So, that's how that works. It was a very nice day. Later, I went to Kairyukan, the Osaka Aquarium, which was all right. Unlike Tenno-ji, the owners had spent more on building it than the spare change they had in their pockets at the moment when one of them said, "Hey, wouldn't it be fun to own an aquarium," so there was a fairly different ambiance. The highlight, predictably enough, was in Ecuadorian rain forest exhibit. It was intended to display some turtles and other fish, but the overly-thorough designers had evidently gotten a bulk discount on organisms typically found in the area:

    The three resident squirrel monkeys were avoiding the water, pausing in their leaps to give occasional utterly-confounded looks downward. ("Look, I'm sure they know there's been a mistake. Probably some fish wound up at the zoo and they'll be sending a car for us any minute now.) In any event, for those of us who were not squirrel monkeys, that was also a pleasant day. I sat and stared for a while:

    I almost had something. Oof! For a minute there, I nearly lost myself.

    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
    Since 1964, Jigokudani yaenkoen loved by many people in all over the world. Jigokudani Yaenkoen as a place where the interesting the mode of life of the Japanese Macaque can be observed nearby, and as a place of Monkey’s Onsen. And many researchers and photographers coming too, and they leave their achievements lots. Jigokudani is located in a mountainous area in approximately the center of Japan. Jigokudani Monkey Park is located in the valley of Yokoyu-River that flowing from Shigakogen area of the northern part of Nagano-Prefecture. At 850 meters in elevation, it is a harsh environment where snow covers the ground for one-third of the year. People called Jigokudani (Hell's Valley) because they could see the spectacle that looks like the hell that steep cliff, spring out boiling water from the surface of the earth. But this place is a paradise for monkeys. Two groups of monkeys are living in naturally at present.

    Remarkable points
    The monkeys, they are animals near by the human being. In other wards the human is a kind of the monkeys. They have some resemblances between human being. For example, face shape, and their appearance of hand and when they use it, and so on. In other way, they have original peculiarity appearance of their hind legs and how to use, and so on. Please try to observe their body difference between human or other animals and monkey. The Japanese Macaque makes groups it have highly social structures for their lives. In their lives, they are able to keep good relationship each other because they observe and consider about their each active in their group. Please try to observe each monkey what they do in their group.

    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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I think I've made my point.

    December 24, 2003 Although a full recounting of recent events will have to wait for a few days more, I would like to provide you with a story and a nice picture to send you into the holiday season on a positive note. You may remember the Hero vs Villain trials I was running a couple months ago. To recap, students are asked to select a hero and a villain, and then they must tell the story of their encounter using no more than five lines. The following story comes from Akiko, Kae and Rie. (To be honest, it was an Akiko-dominated affair. The strong areas of her vocabulary really show up in the final product, especially that first sentence. Rie had some input, particularly where exclamation points are concerned, but Kae took the Ringo role and mostly just gaped at the other two. Still, I will credit all three of them.) I believe it is a powerful piece of work and I would like to share it with you and with the armed forces everywhere.


    1. Saddam Hussein is so selfish and mean to people and one day he hit his friend.
    2. His friend told Superman what he did.
    3. Superman wanted to help him.
    4. So Superman fight with Saddam Hussein.
    5. Finally Superman win, and Saddam Hussein run away!

    RESULT: Superman d. Saddam Hussein, TKO.

    Let those who hit their friends be warned that that shit will not be tolerated in the new year or any year to come. And now, continuing the theme of friendship, it will come as no surprise that the picture is of monkeys.

    I am off to Hiroshima on an overnight bus. Happy holidays!

    December 20, 2003 It's 3AM! It's snowing in Kyoto! And I saw a monkey on a motorbike!

    I love everyone!!!

    November 3, 2003 quintessence (n) 1 : the fifth and highest element in ancient and medieval philosophy that permeates all nature and is the substance composing the celestial bodies 2 : the essence of a thing in its purest and most concentrated form 3 : the most typical example or representative

    April 15, 2003 Jesus! Does no one realize that this is the part where a deep rumble is heard from beneath Baghdad, and then a two-hundred foot tall Saddam Hussein rises from the ground with beams of concentrated chemical weapons shooting from his eyes, screaming "How, how, how will you stop me now?!?" Get out of there!

    In paranoid states, I fall into a sort of pop culture kabbalism, wherein apparently coincidental news in the world of arts and entertainment can be interpreted and cross-referenced in such a way to reveal a code that underlies the direction of future events. So, you can imagine how I reacted to the death of Edwin Starr, writer of the song "War". ("War! Huh! Good God, y'all. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Say it again, now.") Fucking two hundred feet tall with chemical-beam eyes, and suddenly Syria is in the Axis of Evil, and I still have to pay my credit card bill no matter what happens, but they won't accept yen, and yesterday, a random homeless person called me an alchemist in an accustatory tone, which is the third time that has happened. Fuck it! I'm done.

    (Fametracker) Charlie Sheen has gone on record to say that his prayers are only with some of the U.S. troops, and he refuses to say which ones.

    And now, for the touching story of a monkey living the good life.

    (news) PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Cheeta lives in this desert resort town like a lot of old movie stars, painting, playing the piano and watching his old movies. But as one of Palm Springs' only retired chimpanzees, he stands out. The last actor to have played the lead chimpanzee role in the Tarzan movies of the 1930s and '40s, Cheeta is 71 now the oldest chimp in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records. "He's just part of the family," said Dan Westfall, who saved Cheeta's life when he adopted him from Tony Gentry, an animal trainer who worked in Hollywood. Westfall and Abe Karajerjian care for Cheeta and other animals, including orangutans and monkeys, at a house they have nicknamed Casa de Cheeta. Cheeta spends his time playing with preschool toys, thumbing through magazines including National Geographic and playing the piano. In addition to his old movies, he likes watching Animal Planet and cartoons on television. Cheeta's handlers hope to sell some of his paintings which they describe as "Ape-Stract" to raise money for a sanctuary for homeless primates.

    Two new office buildings are being constructed on previously vacant lots in the diagonal between the rabbi's office and my old digs at Beelzetron. Presumably, they will house homeless office workers, and that will be nice.

    I now have a firm date of departure for Japan: May 21. I'll be in the Kansai region, which has the old cities (Kyoto, Nara) and Osaka, which, as anyone who has played Destroy All Monsters with me will tell you, has the long red boats that I like to pick up and throw. The Summersonic Festival presents itself as a good time for cowboys.

    Thanks to the angel of death and his decision to pass over the Israelites, I have the next three days off, and two more days next week. Thanks, angel of death! I bet I'd get arrested if I tried to send him a thank-you card through the U.S. Postal Service, though. Not like Santa.

    (news) A $1,400 monkey suit is on the loose somewhere in Champaign-Urbana. On Friday, April 4 the Xtension Chords, a student-run a cappella singing group, was selling tickets to their biggest show of the year, Acappellalooza X, when the suit was stolen. Because of the rainy weather, they had put the monkey suit near the stairwell in the southeast corner of the Illini Union. "They got sick of moving it in and out. When someone went to grab it, they saw it was lost," Eric Horng, treasurer of Xtension Chords and junior in LAS. The group rented the monkey suit from Dallas & Co. Costumes and Magic, 101 E. University Ave., Champaign. "I don't know why anyone would want to steal a monkey suit, Halloween is half a year away and it's hot in that suit," said Horng.

    This is the part where I recline in my chair and shake my head as the sole candle flickers and rain batters the walls of the remote mountain hideaway. I'm retired. I don't do that any more. Plenty of other people can catch this guy. You don't need me. What's that? Johnson is lost in the field? Damn it. You don't understand what it takes out of me, to get into the mind of a criminal. To become him! I can't do it again. I...can't. But I must.

    Because I like talking and writing, I am extremely disturbed by the current political and intellectual climate in America. The blacklists that have been launched against every celebrity who has spoken against the war are bad enough, but the nearly complete lack of outraged response is even worse. It's reported so casually, offhand, among items of society gossip. (Why can't we retroactively blacklist Donald Rumsfeld for shaking Saddam's hand and giving him weapons, or Dick Cheney for doing business with him less than five years ago?) Honestly, though, the incredible surge of internet fandom for former Iraqi information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf gives me sincere hope that the America I love is still there, waiting out the storm, and will return stronger, smarter and funnier than before - hopefully, no later than November 2004.

    March 28, 2003 I have been assured by my journalist friend Tom that the monkeys referred to in the report about the Moroccan land-mine squad report actually just manage the effort from central command in Qatar. So, that's a relief.

    In honor of an exceptional Point-Counterpoint in this week's Onion, I wanted to take a moment to note my favorite entries from the history of that fine genre. Unfortunately, The Onion's online archives are not comprehensive, so I could only find links to a few. I found an outside article that made reference to the powerful debate between the humidifier and the de-humidifier, but not the debate itself, and I couldn't find any reference at all to the one where a Packer fan and a Native American argued over what it was to see one's people obliterated. (Did I imagine that one?) The list looked skimpy without the missing entries, so I did not finish it. (2. Point-Counterpoint: Abortion and 1. Point-Counterpoint: Technology, for the record.) I sent The Onion an email expressing my feelings. Why didn't they archive "'Outdoor Advertising Is A Blight On Our Landscape' vs. 'I Just Wanted To Tell The Nice People About The Delicious Yogurt'"? I am losing touch with the world.

    I can't find a graceful way to pimp by Wish List for tearful goodbye presents. Believe me, I have tried.

    March 27, 2003 That woozy feeling is back. I must be on the right track.

    Obviously, my upcoming departure from indentured servitude has upset the balance of power between the rabbi and I. The shoe is on the other foot, if you will, or the yarmulke is on the other head, if you prefer something with situational relevance, or the crazy beard and curls are blowing in the wind on the other side of the street, you could say, if you were slightly mad. (The rabbi does not actually have either of those, just a slight funk that is reminiscent of old books and lox.) He has come to terms with my decision to leave, and now his only aim is to stall my departure as long as he can. Therefore, when given a task I do not wish to complete, I can threaten to give two weeks notice effective immediately, and he is forced to back off. For example, last week, he wanted me to call a bunch of rabbis who are new to the area and talk them into coming to a luncheon, because I can be charming when I feel like it. I said no, because I did not feel like meeting anyone new that day. And that was that. He is a cagey bastard, though, and has attempted to regain some of his former leverage by bringing cookies into the office and making reference to them whenever I show signs of becoming difficult. Of course, no cookies come from that guy without a story about the extended lineage of the bakers, families of Jews from Spain or Poland who have been baking for centuries. The cookies are generally quite good. I will give him that much.

    The United States suddenly became very forthcoming about Iraqi casualty numbers after the Al Jazeera POW report this weekend. I think someone from Gen. Tommy Franks' office is calling everyone who has a telephone to make sure they know that we're up 300-16 or so. You know, pundits are always quick to holler at athletes who draw parallels between sports and war, but no one complains when the government uses the semiotics of organized athletics to make war go down smoothly.

    I bought a digital camera in order to chronicle my time in Japan. All I have done with it thus far is to take pictures of myself hanging upside-down and making faces, like so:

    In very short order, I start looking like my grandfather does all the time.

    (news) A Moroccan publication accused the government Monday of providing unusual assistance to U.S. troops fighting in Iraq by offering them 2,000 monkeys trained in detonating land mines. The weekly al-Usbu' al-Siyassi reported that Morocco offered the U.S. forces a large number of monkeys, some from Morocco's Atlas Mountains and others imported, to use them for detonating land mines planted by the Iraqis. The publication quoted a highly-informed source as saying, "that is not a scientific illusion but a well-known military tactic."

    Well-known by shitheads, maybe. Super Monkey Ball takes on a tragic resonance in the light of such wicked, degenerate notions. Monkey Target, wherein monkeys para-glide over the ocean and attempt to land on colorful islands for points, is now re-cast as a dance of aggression and murder. Morocco used to be the place where Grace Kelly was queen. Now, they're trying to put blowing up monkeys next to the phalanx and the flank manuever in the annals of combat techniques. Of course, I will provide space on this web-page for the Moroccan government to deny these accusations, because they are only accusations, and we must be fair, and try to think the best of the world around us...

    February 4, 2003 I have a letter from the monkey house! The Oregon Zoo was quick with their response. They are all class at that zoo.

    >>> "Marc Heiden" - 2/3/03 1:49 PM >>>

    First, please accept my condolences on the passing of Hugo, the elephant.

    I read with great interest of Inji the Orangutan's Super Bowl prediction a couple weeks ago. I, too, thought that the Raiders would win. Although Inji did not succeed, I have great respect for her courage in going out on a limb (no pun intended) with the prediction. My question is this: Has Inji been informed that the Raiders did not win? If so, what was her reaction? Do you think that the news was / would have been especially disappointing to her, given her excellent 4-0 track record in the past?

    Thank you very much for your time.

    Best wishes,
    Marc Heiden.


    Thank you for expressing your sympathy regarding the loss of Hugo. He will certainly be missed not only for his genetic importance, but his mischievous antics.
    Inji has not been informed of her prediction error,nor was she informed of her success in the past. She is a wise matriarch who is not into the prediction process as much as she enjoys "working" the media that come to watch. She fully understand that she is the center of attention and loves watching the photographers follow her every move.

    Linda D'Ae-Smith
    Public Relations
    Oregon Zoo
    (office phone)

    What a fine zoo! I am glad that someone prioritizes mischievous antics over genetic importance. You'd think that would come naturally, but then you look around, and the rabbi's hollering about how American Airlines is trying to screw him again, and somehow it's your responsibility to be the intermediary.

    Should monkeys be taught success from failure? I don't see any reason to get up in their faces about it. The world will not be a better place if orangutans learn to second-guess themselves.

    I noticed this weekend that my new computer has an Internet Checkers program. To begin a match, one need merely be connected to the internet and launch the checkers program; an opponent of the same skill level is then found, and the game begins. Players can only communicate with each other through two dozen catch phrases such as 'Yes', 'Nice move' and 'I'm thinking'. I am attempting to carve out a reputation for myself in the Internet Checkers world as the 'It was luck' guy. In any event, I would like to use this forum to decry the cowardice of the Dutch player from last night who, after being lured into a triple-jump, immediately resigned, even though he had at least five pieces left. That is not the response of an Intermediate-skilled competitor, sir, and that is what you explicitly claimed to be. It is not bad to have received such a beating from my crafty checkers tactics, because they are indeed crafty, but to forfeit the match with so much still at stake speaks poorly for you. I call upon all Dutch checkers players of conscience to disassociate themselves from this cowardly act and restore dignity to the Dutch checkers world, and I further demand that the Dutch player from last night re-assign a more accurate rating, such as 'Beginner', to his or her checker-playing abilities. He or she can do so through the menu on the top left, under 'Skill level'.

    Also, to the player from Taiwan, I would like to say, 'It was luck', 'Yes', and 'It was luck'.

    February 3, 2003 For a moment I thought it may have been shuttle debris, but no, the rabbi is back at work. Before he left, he and I jostled over the wallpaper on my computer desktop. Seeking simple joy between plunges into Microsoft Word, I had the classic Lee Harvey Oswald Rock Trio running. Seeing it by chance one day, the rabbi chuckled, and then announced that he was deeply offended, that he had watched the event live on TV, and that Jack Ruby was Jewish. (He dwelled on the last point the longest before hastily reiterating his horror.) I kept the image and turned off my screensaver in order to ensure that the image was on-screen more often. Figuring that one of the first things he would do after returning to the office would be to check whether it was still there, I used this fine entry from The Boondocks to further my entries in passive-aggressive arts.

    Here is the reference for the football gambling monkey, courtesy of Mike Saul:

    (news) Inji the orangutan is the Oregon Zoo's resident gambler, and she has a 4 and 0 track record for past football predictions. Inji's keepers lay out a Tampa Bay t-shirt and a Raider t-shirt. The primate then decides who will win and puts on the appropriate shirt. "We've got a pretty clear pick here: Raiders. Her grandson there picked the Bucks, but he doesn't have her proven record," zoo director Tony Vecchio told KOIN 6 News. Keepers say orangutans are naturally attracted to reds and yellows, and Inji purposely picked the black shirt.

    I have sent an inquiry to the zoo and hope to have more news about the orangutan's reaction to the Raiders' defeat (and her own fallibility). Someone said, "Your website is funny, but it could be more poignant." Well, shit is about to get mighty poignant around here.

    January 31, 2003 I am sorry that this webpage has not been receiving the focus it should over the last few weeks. Free time at work was sparse for a while, and now that the rabbi is out of town, I am devoting nearly all of my spare time to strategizing methods of escape. I know that I cannot just up-and-quit without a new job to walk into, because doing that at Beelzetron landed me in crushing debt from which I may never recover. But I must go. This shit is like Hungary in 1956, either bail out now or the Communists get you and all of your stuff for the next thirty years.

    My friend Kurt, who is kind in the face of absurdity and also when facing away from absurdity, wrote a flattering essay about watching B-movies with me and some friends. Every smart-ass in a movie theater wishes he had a Boswell for his Dr. Johnson.

    For a brief, horrifying moment, I thought I had inadvertently made the worst mistake of my life when I discovered that the Lincoln Park Zoo had held a Zooperbowl party without my knowing it. I calmed down, though, when I realized that the party was not actually held at the zoo. What's the point, then? Bunch of jackanapes planned that thing, I'll tell you. Mike Saul kept talking about a monkey who has been making Super Bowl predictions and was 4-0 until this year, when he screwed up by picking the Raiders. I have been searching for information on the monkey's reaction, but have been unsuccessful thus far.

    I have a new email address. Spammers, you can make all the overtures you like towards the penis of heiden@enteract.com, because ain't nobody there.

    January 23, 2003 My head is cloudy with hatred for my job and the squealing, screeching idiots who work in my vicinity. I retreat to a discman whenever possible, but most of the work that I do involves writing, and most of the writing involves a creaky, quiet headset and tapes of the rabbi's rambling. ("So, write all of that into a letter about the terrorists in the Church of the Nativity", he says. "But clean it up, and make it sound friendly.")

    I am supremely ill-suited to work among the religious.

    Last week's curious yet inspiring penguin story, about the six penguins from Ohio who, upon introduction to their new home, talked the West Coast penguins into swimming laps all day for no apparent reason, has received pretty wide coverage: even The Daily Show had footage last night, although the writing wasn't up to their usual high standards. No one appears to have solved the mystery yet, although my brilliant detective work has revealed that the penguins' exhibit space once housed a group of squirrel monkeys, which led me to this website, where a squirrel monkey who claims to have a human mother and father makes a number of strident claims about his own availability for being messed with, and which makes me wonder about this establishment, which professes to specialize in squirrel monkey 'husbandry', or the science of getting monkeys to fuck, and how it ties in to the entire affair, especially given the first monkey's history of violence against diapers. Now read this:

    (news) For her part, penguin keeper Tollini predicts things will get back to normal in February when the onset of the breeding season will hopefully lure the birds back to their burrows. "It may be a very stimulating breeding season," she said. "I think they have gotten a new lease on life by doing this."

    So: are those penguins confused, or have I uncovered a bizarre scheme that defies imagination?

    There should be a name for people who leave mysteries more complicated than when they find them.

    January 2, 2003 It's 2003. Everything looks different, doesn't it? The sky is aflame, and there are so many more gargoyles eating peoples' faces than there used to be. In any event, I think everyone agrees that we are in the next century now, so at least that particular squabble is over and done with.

    I spent a pleasant New Year's Eve at the zoo. They were open late for holiday fun. There were clever light displays, and a festive horn was included in the price of admission. The idea, as I understood it, was for us to make the animals understand somehow that it was New Year's Eve and to get them excited about a fresh start, a clean slate, a new year. The catch, though, which went carefully unmentioned by the ticket-takers, was that most of the animals were clearly accustomed to going to sleep around 5, when the zoo normally closes. Tigers, lions and armadilloes alike took what appeared to be very enjoyable naps. The only animals who really brought the noise were the penguins, who splashed, dived, turned their heads in strange directions and fell over with all of their customary magnificence. Some special mention has to go to the sea lions, though, all but one of whom boycotted the soft-rock laser light show going on above their tank by hiding well out of sight for the entire night.

    There was some concern from my date that I might lose my shit when it was discovered that the great apes house was closed for construction and all of the chimps, gorillas, baboons and orangutans were off at another zoo until 2004. I did not lose my shit, which is not to say that I was entirely calm about it, and I chose to imagine all of the monkeys on a cruise together. The smaller primates were still present, fortunately, and most of them gave duly sleepy glances at the revellers while dangling from branches.

    The rabbi for whom I work is grimly obsessed with including disdainful remarks about the arbitrary nature of the Gregorian calendar. Last year, he harassed everyone who wished him a Happy New Year with 'hilarious' harangues and historical background on the subject. I think he was disappointed that everyone wised up and didn't say anything to him about it this year, so he sought people out, wished them a Happy New Year and then, whether they acknowledged him or not, harangued them for regarding it as a new year. No one else in the office really knows what he and I do here, as he is more or less renting the space, so they kind of button their lips and take the 'delight' until he is done. I tried to catch him in the act whenever possible so I could tell him to knock it off, but he is a slippery bastard.

    On another note, long-time readers will know that I am committed to providing around-the-clock coverage of usage of the term 'slut' in Shakespeare's plays. Let me then refer you to Act 3, Scene 3 of As You Like It, one of his better comedies, and the following exchange:

    Well, I am not fair; and therefore I pray the gods make me honest.

    Truly, and to cast away honesty upon a foul slut were to put good meat into an unclean dish.

    I am not a slut, though I thank the gods I am foul.

    Well, praised be the gods for thy foulness! sluttishness may come hereafter.

    ('Foul' in this context means 'without make-up or adornment; as nature made me'.)

    Today's amateur psychology poll question: is sluttishness a product of nature or nurture? What would B.F. Skinner say? If this question were to be somehow cross-referenced with the Stanford Prison Experiment, would the result be the greatest prison / education / porn movie ever filmed? (Speculate as to its ranking in a top ten list of the other great prison / education / porn movies of our times.)

    December 30, 2002 I am back at work, with my mind on monkeys and monkeys on my mind. I think I have figured out what I will be doing for at least part of New Year's Eve. Once there, I will have four hours to scheme a way to dodge the night watchmen and hang out in the monkey house for the rest of the night. Do you think I can do it? Perhaps you have not seen the list of martial arts I know. It has a table of contents, that's how long it is. And an index. With a handsome slipcase. All right.

    Human Resources sent down a yearly evaluation form for my job performance this year. The rabbi told me to fill it out myself. I will do so. It will focus primarily on martial arts and cake.

    Over the break, E. Amon alerted me to Super Gem Fighter, a video game from 1998 that involves many of the old Street Fighter 2 characters. The difference here, though, is in the special moves: Zangief, the giant Russian man, can execute a combo attack wherein he takes the other fighter out to lunch, reads a newspaper and then causes a scene at the restaurant, thereby doing damage. I am looking for screenshots of this powerful manuever in order to study it and incorporate it into my fighting repertoire.

    December 20, 2002 In my delirium, thoughts take the form of hydras. Hissing, monstrous heads lunge, feint, strike; blood rushes from my torn chest and pools into a response. Last night's fevered sleep found me wrestling with an all-Muppet version of Nelly's "Hot In Herre". How will the time-honored tradition of rewriting the racy subtleties out of hit songs for kids react to the removal of subtlety from pop culture, when sex goes from being the subtext to the text itself? It wasn't long before Grover rang forth with:

    It's getting hot in here
    So wear a pair of shorts

    And then, I was lost.

    I didn't go to work today. The rabbi is off for Israel for keg stands and blowing out subwoofers with the Talmud or whatever it is rabbis do when they're back in rabbinic party central. For my part, I rolled out of bed around noon, mumbled "ouch, my fucking head", and carried on with my day. Later this afternoon, I will pick up my new bowling ball. It was a present from my uncle Jim, a fine guy who bowls a lot and was ready for a change in his arsenal, so he gave me his gray ball. I took it in to have the holes fit for my fingers, and the guy at the pro shop asked if I wanted my initials written on it, so I said, sure, my initials are m-o-n-k-e-y, and he wrote that down on the order form. I am looking forward to bowling with it. I know it is seen as showing responsibility when you own your own house. Does the same apply to owning your own bowling ball? I am hopeful.

    (news) Customs officials opened his suitcase and a bird of paradise flew out but that was nothing compared to what they found in his pants -- a pair of pygmy monkeys. Californian Robert Cusack has been sentenced to 57 days in jail for trying to smuggle the monkeys, a total of four exotic birds and 50 rare orchids into Los Angeles Airport after a trip to Thailand, officials said on Thursday. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns said Cusack had been undergoing a routine inspection when he arrived last June until an official opened his suitcase. "It became non-routine when they opened his luggage and a bird of paradise took off flying in the terminal," Johns said. The agents found three more birds in his bag, tucked into nylon stockings, along with 50 orchids of a threatened species. Asked by agents if he had anything else to tell them, Cusack responded: "Yes, I've got monkeys in my pants."

    For the record, the totally spurious rumor that Robert Cusack is the crazy brother of John and Joan Cusck starts right here. In any event, Robert deserves credit for going for broke with that last declaration. Sure, we all say that from time to time, but how many times do we mean it? And either pygmy monkeys are the best-behaved monkeys in the world, or this guy has truly hypnotic pants. If the U.S. Customs Agency has any decency, they will let the monkeys walk off into the sunset with the pants where they were so happy. It's warm in California. Robert can wear shorts.

    Fuck! Grover's back!

    November 27, 2002 I am worried that Jesus doesn't always know when I am being serious, so I am going to go light on all of that stuff for a while and simply say, come on, Jesus, you know I'm just playing with you.

    Having decided last week to return to defining my self-esteem solely on basis of bowling results, I am flying high off last night's 193, equal to my all-time high. It was a powerful and inspirational performance for the entire team. We were matched against the #1 squad in the league, as we have been repeatedly throughout the year - a tough schedule for a young team - and, after struggling in the first match, we not only demolished but completely demoralized the opposition, taking the next two matches and the point for total pins. The regular season is now over with a week of playoffs to come, wherein we will attempt to secure a comfortable position in the middle of the pack and a fine launching point for next season's campaign.

    (legend) The story of the Golem begins in the old city of Prague. Many boys and girls do not know where Prague is located. It is the capital of Czechoslovakia,(a country in eastern Europe). As the legend is told, an old Jewish man named Rabbi Loew lived in Prague. He was a very tall and big man. So, he was called the Great Rabbi of Prague. He was a very kind person and cared for the people of Prague, but he became very sad because the people had to work hard all day.

    Funny how the rabbi I work for is largely untroubled by that sort of thing.

    While waiting for my soda to emerge, I noticed that the shitty vending machine downstairs at work has a website on its label. Let me link to that website, then, as a backdrop for the statement that the empire of Nancy Klong is in ruins:

    (company profile) Classic Vending, Inc. began with one route of 12 locations in 1989 by Nancy Klong. Nancy envisioned a company with no limitations. A business where customers could expect the highest quality products, largest commissions, and fast and reliable service. Throughout the past 13 years that is exactly what Classic Vending has been giving its clients.

    Classic Vending ought to be giving me a kiss on my black ass. The service provided by its machine has a number of limitations, primarily the ability to do anything other than be terrible. It repeatedly eats my dollars and does not return soda. Slots A1 and C1 have been written off as scorched earth, areas barren of refreshment because of how consistently they fail to function. In short, the service provided by Classic Vending, in the form of this particular machine, is for shit, and you can tell the entire Klong dynasty I said so.

    I will consider retracting these statements for a complete set of attitude ovals.

    Our research team has been investigating the monkey beach movie that I saw last week on AMC, and the best candidate appears to be The Bachelor Flat, a light comedy from 1961 adapted from a play. (How the monkeys figured into the stage version is an intriguing question that begs further exploration.) If our conclusion is correct, the dorky blonde guy who is mocked by the monkey may be the guy from West Side Story, which raises a number of important semiotic implications.

    (obituary) Mr. Moore tried to run the jail with compassion. When officials refused to let incarcerated mob boss Sam Giancana attend his mother's funeral, Mr. Moore got him last-minute permission from a judge. "He just thought it wasn't right for a man to miss his mother's funeral," his wife said. When Giancana's lawyer pressed him on how his client could return the favor, Mr. Moore mentioned he was having trouble booking musical acts for the jail. "After that talk, Aretha Franklin came, Liza Minelli, B.B. King, Johnny Cash, everybody," his wife said. "When they performed, those inmates were quieter than my 6th-grade class."

    I thought that was a nifty story. It made me wonder if I am connected to the mob in any way, if I may wind up having to post on a group weblog about machine-processed chicken in order to return a favor that someone did for a mafia guy. I'm fairly sure that I know too many martial arts to be subject to that sort of thing, but it'd be nice to know.

    I have no plans for Thanksgiving Day itself, so I will be attempting to cook with hilarious results. If I attempt to achieve hilarious results from the beginning, how bad can it turn out?

    November 26, 2002 If your ex-girlfriend leaves a lot of tea at your apartment, and you are a student of history, and as an artist you are interested in the deliberate miscontextualization of dominant symbols and memes, and your ex-girlfriend lives down the lakefront from you, if that is the situation, is it mature and appropriate to re-enact the Boston Tea Party with that tea? My instinct is 'yes', but I thought I would ask.

    With the first major snowfall of the season, holiday lights are up around town. In years past, the early appearance of Christmas decorations was mocked as a symbol of encroaching commercialism, but this year, as with 2001, I get the feeling that people have just had a shitty year and want to fall into the embrace of the holidays as soon as possible. The threat of war and the torrid, cynical decline in economic security has worn us out, as has the law passed by the Bush administration that every American over the age of 16 must be involved in the production of at least one (1) baby per ten month period and must then feed that baby to members of the Bush administration for undisclosed reasons relating to 'national security' and keep the law a secret from the rest of the world. Those, among other things, take a lot out of you. This year has worn me out.

    But although people may be tired, monkeys have reason to celebrate. In Lopburi, Thailand, it is once again that special time of year known as monkey buffet fair:

    In the words of Eumporn Jirigalwisul, regional tourism director for the Tourism Authority of Thailand, "it's like we have many, many friends." Other benefits, spiritual and tangible, accrue to the town. Spiritually, the monkeys offer the citizens of Lopburi wonderful opportunities to tum boon (make merit). According to Thai beliefs, donating food to the monkeys is a perfect way to accrue good karma. Judging from the hundreds of healthy monkeys scampering about, Lopburi residents are assured places in the highest levels of Buddhist heaven. As business grew, Yongyuth decided 11 years ago to show his gratitude and make merit by sponsoring an annual monkey feast. Employing three tonnes of food, four chefs, 30 food bearers, and 25 traditional Thai dancers, the monkey feast has grown into Lopburi's most lavish and photogenic spectacle. As spectators watched from the ground and monkeys watched from high up on the ruins, the town's high school students marched to the temple carrying brightly coloured banners. When the magic moment arrived, the single giant plate was unveiled to reveal a bounty of brightly coloured fruits arranged in enticing patterns around a centre of flavoured rice. The Thai dancers danced, the photographers photographed, and the monkeys seemed unsure of what to make of it all.

    Photographs of monkeys chowing down at this year's buffet fair can be found here, here and here. The entire article above is, of course, tremendously important reading (and splendidly written, at that). A religion in which salvation is earned by feeding monkeys makes so much sense. I am aggrieved at how I was raised and I am now ready to declare the existence of an anti-monkey conspiracy at the highest levels of the world government based on the fact that a perfectly viable system of belief exists in Thailand and instead we are carrying on with this Jesus shit.

    I am looking for trouble.

    While the total amount of food was the same as the previous year, a single table is more symbolic of the continuing economic difficulties in Thailand. Another factor is monkey psychology. Tourism director Ms Eumporn notes that with smaller tables, larger monkeys take ownership of an entire table, refusing to share even though the table has more food than they can possibly eat. "Just like humans," she says, with a sigh.

    Be careful, monkeys. Don't get mixed up in evolution. There is a downside to what we do.

    If you have ever had a bullshit fatwa called against you, you can surely relate to this:

    (news) "What we are saying is that the Holy Koran has clearly stated that whoever insults the Prophet of Islam, Mohammad, should be killed," Zamfara State Commissioner for Information Umar Dangaladima Magaji told Reuters. Asked to clarify the government's pronouncement, Magaji said the state had "passed a fatwa. It is based on the request of the people," he said, adding that this did not contradict the authority of Islamic clerics who have the powers to decree death sentences. "Being a leader you can pass a fatwa," Magaji said.

    Can you call a fatwa on people who call flimsy fatwas? Because Magaji is flailing about for a fatwa worse than anyone I've ever seen. "Being a leader you can pass a fatwa", indeed. Raise your hand if you're buying into Magaji's ability to pass a fatwa. Because I'm not. You can't just blow right by the clerics, shithead. Being a guy who writes on a webpage you can pass a fatwa, that's what I say. Fatwa on you, Magaji. See how you like it.

    One positive to ending a long-term relationship is that I can go back to my previous plan for what to do if I turn 25 and don't really having anything going on, which is to rob a bank and either make off with the money or get sent to jail and have some quiet time, write some memoirs or perhaps join the Nation of Islam. This, I think, is as flawless a plan as has ever been developed.

    As I write this, I hear an imbecile across the way calling someone else a 'stinkerpot', and I wonder if I made a mistake blowing my fatwa on Magaji.

    November 25, 2002 Conversation overheard between two guys sitting near me in a restaurant:

    As a man, the AUTHOR, eats Chinese food, another man, the CRITIC, looks up from a laptop.

    CRITIC: It's good. You just need to proofread a little bit. Like here. You misspelled 'killers'.
    AUTHOR: Oh, yeah.
    CRITIC: And right here...try 'vengeance'.
    AUTHOR: Yeah?
    CRITIC: Because you said that he wants revenge...he wants revenge, right?
    AUTHOR: Yeah.
    CRITIC: So, if you say that he wants revenge, and then you have him say, "I want revenge", you're just reiterating.
    AUTHOR: I like 'vengeance'. I want to use that.
    CRITIC: It's a good story, man. You just need a little structure.

    I have quit shaving for a while in order to express my inner emotional desolation, and people at work are reacting in all the wrong ways. I have set a very clear precedent over the past year that I am not interested in talking to any of them, but the appearance of this new bearded version of me seems to have reset their entire schema, making them once again a flock of chatty fuckers. I ask: why, if I have shown no interest in conversing about anything whatsoever over the past year, and have responded to past entreaties with a disdain that borders on art, would you think that I am interested in conversing about how various other people are growing beards? I need to make an example out of someone or something. I will do so, in furious fashion.

    (news) "The monkey is a tough opponent," huffed a police officer in Kagoshima, where the child was bitten in September by a monkey that eluded police. "He appears and disappears like a ghost. Today, he may appear on the top of a roof. Tomorrow, he may be somewhere else. "We couldn't capture him," the officer admitted. But, he added, "we couldn't have charged him either."

    The above article, about monkeys causing trouble in Japan, is essential reading for two reasons: for the antics of the monkeys, of course, but also for its role in the ongoing dialectic of the representation of the monkey, a field in which I am the world's foremost expert. The article is an important text because it highlights the struggle of modern man to write seriously about problems caused by monkeys. Clearly, these monkeys are causing problems for the villagers, and clearly, the author would like to do justice to their plight, but he can't help himself, adding qualifiers such as 'huffed' to a police officer's speech. I think it is a spectacular piece of writing, myself, but perhaps I'd feel differently if they were my crops. Well, probably not. I'd go out to eat.

    (news) "We have improved from last season … [but] we have to find a way to salvage victories," Rose said. "That's really the only way for us to grow as a unit. Anytime you don't have victory, it breeds all kinds of evil."

    I love it when athletes become incredibly serious and start phrasing sports in terms of basic, profound moral concepts such as good and evil. Man, here's for the home team.

    November 20, 2002 Last night, I returned from travels in the barren darkness to find a monkey on AMC. That was a sight for sore eyes. I wish I knew what the movie was. There was a cute girl in a bikini and an earnest dorky matinee idol curly blonde guy, and they were frolicking, and then the monkey implied that the dorky guy masturbates, so the dorky guy got all angry and said "son of a bitch" and then apologized, but chased the monkey off anyway. Then it was revealed that evil Arabs were pursuing the pair with murderous intent, but not so doggedly as to prevent frolicking on the beach. The best part was when the dorky guy got mad because he tried to kiss the cute girl and she said she "wasn't ready for that sort of thing", and then the monkey showed up with another monkey and the two monkeys made out, sending the dorky guy into a fit of rage.

    When I find myself in times of trouble
    And there are no monkeys on TV...

    Readers, displaying a reassuring trust that I am still in here somewhere, have been keeping me updated on the latest developments in the Manute Bol on Ice saga. For those who inexplicably missed the news, the cunning GM of the Indianapolis Ice of the Central Hockey League signed Manute Bol, the 7'7" shotblocking NBA legend, to a minor league hockey contract. Manute is 40 years old and long retired from basketball, but the GM must have seen something in the buttwhipping that Manute handed William "Fridge" Perry on FOX's Celebrity Boxing II, and the cagey Manute, seizing an opportunity to earn money for his Sudanese charity, agreed to terms. The team's webpage has a number of high resolution pictures here. Manute was like Yuri Gagarin trying to do a spacewalk in terms of being a very tall man playing hockey, though, because the team simply could not find skates that fit him, and Manute, knowing well that ice is slippery without proper footwear, retired, but not without making off with a bundle of cash for his charity.

    Much of the debate has centered on whether this was terrible because Manute was being made into some manner of circus act, or whether the humanitarian aid provided by his appearance justifies the embarassment. I don't take either position. I don't see that it was an embarassment. To see Manute on ice is a thing of beauty. It is a pure moment, a sight that defies archetype and nature, that simply exists outside of the bloodstained reasoning of human history. The desperation that forced Manute to appear on The 700 Club was something to be regretted, sure. But hockey? For Manute? Shut up, just for a moment, and watch. Just watch. Stop trying to make this fit a story that existed before this moment did. If this was any old tall man, then perhaps this would be something else. But this is Manute Bol. He is defined by the fact that he cannot be denied. He is real. And there he goes. He's skating.

    A need for something to do and relatively cheap tickets brought teenagers Brandon Anweiler and Jill Sexton to the arena. When asked about Bol, Anweiler turned to Sexton and said: "I hear he's like 7-10 on skates, which is amazing.''

    Ring True Foundation
    P. O. Box 271468
    West Hartford, CT 06127-1468
    Phone: 866-547-8326

    I have made this purchase in order to clarify a few things around the office.

    October 22, 2002 There is a new guy at work by the name of Julius. The name is not at all appropriate for him, and I feel obligated to strip him of it and apply the name to someone else who for whom it is more fitting. Sadly, in this office, there is no one who qualifies. I could be Julius, but shit is complicated enough already.

    (cereal box)
    Are you cheering for rainforests, even when nobody is looking?

    Are you prepared to talk to your parents, schoolteachers and even government officials about how important it is for rainforests to be saved for Kidz in future generations?

    Is there a spark of hope in your eye that something can be done by Kidz to save endangered animals in the Amazon?

    You're an EnviroKidz!

    I am not sure that I have ever seen a gorilla as profoundly deranged as the gorilla in the picture on the left. He is going to eat the fuck out of that cereal and derive a primal sexual satisfaction from doing so. That much is certain. At this point, everything else is mere conjecture. ("Even when nobody is looking?")

    I have not had Gorilla Munch, but Orangutan-O's are okay.

    September 12, 2002 (Indian proverb) These can never be true friends: Hope, dice, a prostitute, a robber, a cheat, a goldsmith, a monkey, a doctor, a distiller.

    On behalf of monkeys everywhere, what the fuck, India? You don't want me to develop retaliatory proverbs. I will shatter your cricket leagues with fierce linguistic techniques.

    I did not eat the challas. I am a semantic warrior, and I believe that I established conclusively that my hunger was more sacred than the bread, but I am trying to be cooperative, so I mailed the challas and laid down the fifty centi-benjamins for some Chex Mix.

    Our bowling team did not conclude its inaugural season in what anyone other than a flipper baby might refer to as proud fashion, but we were in a classy league, and for our efforts, we all received trophies. I am in possession (once it is recovered from Mike Saul's car) of an actual bowling trophy. I say this with a measure of pride, and also as a warning, for now I am in possession of a bowling trophy, and that is one less in a dwindling pool of fronts on which I can be fucked with.

    There is a lot of news to sort through; I will do that tomorrow.

    Also: I have a pirate flag, for impulse pirating.

    Things are good. The weather is cooling, and the mail guys at work did not cut me when I dumped a big holiday brochure mailing project on them. They are rather disconnected from what goes on at work, because, like me, none of them are Jewish. Most were fairly annoyed, and even the typically genial Ziggy seemed to be considering his retaliatory options, but they pulled through. The project was not my idea. These projects never are. I am not the malcontent I am so frequently credited as being.

    July 15, 2002 I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

    I have a dream that one day the best and the brightest among our youth will be permitted to spend their days, not in perpetual self-abasement for money, but in service of mankind's highest ideals, of truth, of beauty.

    I have a dream that I am having a power-lunch with some monkeys, in a fancy restaurant, with deals out on the table, deals involving massive amounts of bananas.

    I have a dream that the more studied among the monkeys are wearing glasses. There is a dress code, but no species wears a suit as well as a monkey, and in my dream, these monkeys look fantastic. One of them is even wearing a leather pilot helmet and aviator goggles, as if he were Charles Lindbergh.

    I have a dream today.

    I have a dream that these monkeys want to make a deal, that when these monkeys are tense and sweating over the details, they jump up and down, they hoot and holler, they swing from chandeliers, they get drunk from bottles of wine and fall over.

    I have a dream that only a few bananas are separating the monkeys from sealing this deal, but that gulf is wide, because it is the gulf of international finance, and monkeys do not understand the intricacies of international finance.

    I have a dream that monkeys are scratching their heads, with an off-kilter grin.

    I have a dream that when all appears lost, when it appears that a deal cannot be reached, the snooty French waiter arrives at the next table with an expensive cake for a fat white man who has complained about the monkeys and the noise they make, and, my friends, this waiter slips on a banana peel and the expensive cake goes all over the place, primarily on the snooty waiter and the angry white man, and let me tell you this, my friends, the monkeys are clapping their hands, and they are laughing.

    I have a dream today.

    I have a dream that power is in the hands of the people, that bananas are in the hands of the monkeys, that the shared experience of a perfect moment can transcend all else, that truths, self-evident, can break down the walls of finance and secure the bananas necessary to secure brotherhood, and, my friends, in my dream, there is a monkey, and that monkey is me. I am that monkey.

    Power to the people. Bananas to the monkeys.

    (news) Wang (Zhi-Zhi) reiterates that he is not defecting from China and will rejoin the Chinese National Team when they play an exhibition game in San Francisco before the World Championships on August 29 in Indianapolis. Wang says he wants to return to Dallas, but he sees himself getting more playing time with the Warriors...and playing time is important. "I would get maybe 10 minutes of playing time [last season]. I want maybe 20 minutes, like [Eduardo] Najera," Wang said. "Nellie [Don Nelson] says [my] defense no good, rebounding no good. I want to be a good rebounder and good at defense. I want to play summer league, practice defense and practice rebound. Maybe next season Nellie will watch and say, 'Good defense, good rebound ... we need Wang.' "

    Wang has been the forgotten tall Chinese man in all of the Yao Ming hype, so I wanted to give readers a chance to catch up with him here. It seems like he has a good attitude. We do, indeed, need Wang.

    May 23, 2002 Damn it. The Rabbinic Ombudsman, a nice guy if there ever was one, is on leave because his wife is having a baby, and through some goddam strange machination, because I'm charming, maybe, I don't know, I am the backup ombudsman. Me. Whattheshit. I am raging. I don't know anything about this crap. I feel like standing out by the elevators, tearing off my shirt and screaming DON'T YOU GET IT? I'M NOT JEWISH! I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ANY OF THIS! I am not qualified to be an ombudsman! I'm not qualified to be an assistant Judaic scholar, either, but at least people leave me alone when I'm running that one. Damn it! For seven work days! Everyone at this end of the office hates me, too. This is the lair of the various ogres. Fucking ogres! Fuck! Somebody talk someone on Ninja Tune into making a chill-out track using this for me.

    There is a window in this office, which is nice. And the Ombudsman's supervisor is a good guy. The weather's improving, and I'm blowing less snot out of my nose, so my allergies are on the decline. I finished reading a book I liked. I had a cookie in my file cabinet for times like these, so I brought it with me. It was good. I could go back and forth like this all night.

    I should tell someone to please water my retarded plant while I'm away. I should probably phrase it differently, though.

    (news) Sparks flew on last night's FOX special, "Celebrity Boxing 2" ... Other winners in the muscle-flexing mix included NBA giant MANUTE BOL, who beat up former Chicago Bear WILLIAM "The Refrigerator" PERRY.

    MANUTE! MANUTE! MANUTE! I knew he could do it. He killed a lion once, you know.

    (news) JUST like humans, small primates can acquire a taste for alcohol - and behave in a similar fashion when under its influence, scientists have discovered. A controversial research project that involves giving alcohol to 1,000 green vervet monkeys has found that the animals divide into four main categories: binge drinker, steady drinker, social drinker and teetotaller. The vast majority are social drinkers who indulge in moderation and only when they are with other monkeys - but never before lunch - and prefer their alcohol to be diluted with fruit juice. Fifteen per cent drink regularly and heavily and prefer their alcohol neat or diluted with water. The same proportion drink little or no alcohol. Five per cent are classed as "seriously abusive binge drinkers". They get drunk, start fights and consume as much as they can until passing out. As with humans, most heavy drinkers are young males, but monkeys of both sexes and all ages like a drink.

    This marks a new low for my enemies, who are now trying to get at me through green vervet monkeys. Jesus. This is between you and me. Leave the vervet monkeys out of this. I'll admit, I enjoy the misadventures of the occasional drunk capuchin monkey wearing a beret as much as the next guy, but setting up a lab for the purpose of turning monkeys into binge drinkers is crossing the line, delving into menacing symbolic territory, and I am a reasonable man, I do not see why it has to be like this.

    These are difficult times. I have to find an OMBUDSMAN t-shirt and then go all Johnny Rotten on it, tear it up, scrawl I AM NOT AN on it with a marker, and wear it around the office.

    (testimonial) This is a very true story about a 76 yr old lady with Alzheimer’s Disease (my mother) and a Baby Monkey named Chase who really needed to be loved and not moved from house to house. My mother came to live with me Oct 2000 because she was unable to live by herself any longer. Mother has always gotten alone well with my Java named KIKKI who is 6yrs old. Kikki loves to sit and groom mother but, they both take little “naps” also while watch the Discovery Channel. A good friend of mine (who of course) has monkeys, came by with a baby Spider Monkey named Selena. Selena was holding onto her HUGGY, and wasn’t moving around a lot and we sat Selena in my mothers lap. Mother didn’t have any reaction. I said mother what do you think about the baby monkey. She looked at me saying something to the effect of you girls are just fooling me. I said mother that monkey is real. Well, my friend pulled Selena off of her HUGGY and she SCREAMED. I thought my mother would just fall in the floor. She then grabbed that monkey & huggy and held onto them the rest of the time they were there. For the next several days mother just kept on and on to any and everybody about that BABY Monkey. And she was constantly asking me where the baby was. Finally, I decided if she keeps talking about that Monkey I’m gonna get another Baby. At my home now I have a Java 6yrs old, green monkey (vervet) who is 8 yrs old and a special 6yrs old Snow Monkey. Okay, you guessed it, she kept talking about the Baby. So I called my friends and said GET ME A BABY. Within 72 hours they had found a little fellow 9 weeks old that was in his 2nd home . I said get him ! Baby Chase, had not been Loved, yet. He didn’t even have a HUGGY, he had just recently acquired a blanket of his own. Let me tell you those days have changed. Baby Chase has his NEW Grand-mom eating out of his hands. When she gets up in the mornings she looks and checks on the Baby. Mother’s Nurse and a friend of mine & myself change his diaper, and feed him. But, the joy that little fellow brings to mother is well worth it. Chase and mother crawl around in the floor playing “hide-N-seek”, are just playing. I checked on mother one afternoon, (knowing that she was napping) and she was sitting in her rocker asleep and he was laying across her shoulders sleeping. I’ve been asked how much did you pay for him, and my reply is IF he was $100,000.00 he would be worth every penny, because of the smiles and laugh’s we are having with him. So to me it goes without saying, WHO NEEDS WHO MORE ?

    Damn straight. What?

    April 30, 2002 I bought a sandwich for lunch. It's nice when you know exactly what kind of mood you are in, and in this case, I was in the mood for a sandwich. It didn't even cost very much. I decided to eat it while walking around, so I unwrapped one end and started eating. After the fourth bite, the bottom half of the sandwich fell through the bottom of the wrapping paper and landed on the sidewalk. I stared in disbelief. A high-powered business couple walked by. The woman said, "Ooh, looks like that sucks." Yes, it did.

    It felt like a cross-check from Jesus.

    Now I am in a new mood, which is not so easily articulated.

    (news) A local company was indicted earlier this month by a federal grand jury on charges of importing wild, underage and pregnant monkeys to the United States. LABS of Virginia, with local offices on Canon Boulevard in Oyster Point, was accused by the Fish and Wildlife Service of illegally importing the monkeys from Indonesia in four shipments through Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. LABS of Virginia is run out of the same offices - and owned by many of the same people - as the Bionetics Corp., an established local research company that does work for NASA Langley Research Center.

    If monkeys are in the news, I can be trusted to find out and get all worked up about it. As you may have expected, I have submitted my resume to LABS of Virginia for the position of wild monkey smuggler. I will not even have to commute for the job, since it's done through O'Hare, which is just a train ride away. I am excited about the challenge of passing off wild, underage monkeys as rambunctious children and midgets to get them through airport security. My track record speaks for itself. I am operating under the assumption that the company imports wild monkeys and then just lets them go, because its agenda is to turn Chicago into a new Bombay. Why else would they be importing monkeys?

    What's really exciting about the article, though, is NASA's tangential - and unexplained - involvement with the monkey smuggling operation, and the fact that new Hubble Space Telescope pictures were released on the same day that the story broke, and if you give me a dollar I will write a nine hundred page book explaining the co-incidence, and Thomas Pynchon's lawyers will threaten a lawsuit and then offer me a deal whereby either I take Pynchon's place, assuming a shadowy mantle which has existed for thousands of years, or I get silenced and sacrificed to the godhead. Come on. One dollar.

    There is a stain on my shirt from the fallen sandwich. I am trying to pass it off as "roguish".

    April 29, 2002 My work situation has again become dodgy. The rabbi will be gone for two months or more, unable to walk and having various fluids pumped into him, and while he does phone in some writing assignments, I do not have what is considered a 'full' workload. At Beelzetron, I was allowed to go for 50 billable hours at a time without activity, but they must think it's bad for morale for me to be playing like that around here. So, without consulting me, the rabbi told people that I can be rented out, and the only other things that go on around here involve answering phones, typing labels and stuffing envelopes. Sorry. I have listened to way too much Public Enemy to be cool with that.

    I was flipping through television channels this weekend during one of my occasional fits of not wanting to have anything to do with my computer, and some station was broadcasting an NFL Europe football game. The players looked helpless and disoriented, like modern man.

    (news) A controversial computer reconstruction of a 36,000-year-old Neanderthal skull has revealed that the individual was violently bashed with some sort of tool. But the wound was not fatal and shows signs of healing, say the authors of the study who also suggest that the individual was nursed back to health. But not all anthropologists agree with [Project Leader Dr. Christopher] Zollikofer's interpretation. Tim White, an anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley, vehemently disagrees with Zollikofer's findings. "The paper does not provide convincing evidence that this is a healed head wound," writes White in an e-mail. "Arguments of 'lesion' depth are made based on a drawing, but the conclusions are not even supported by the drawing. The Zollikofer paper is a perfect example of what I describe there—a physical anthropology driven by arm-waving, hi-tech, and headlines, rather than by critical analysis. These guys are creative but not critical," says White, adding that the bone lesion could just as easily have been caused by a bump on the head.

    Methinks anthropologist Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley, protests too much. Seems he's raising quite the hullabaloo to sell the press on a bump to the head. What, exactly, scares him about this dead neanderthal? Does Tim White have an alibi for where he was during the Châtelperronian period? I'll lay a bet right now that all the razzmatazz is cover for the fact that Tim White is capable of using tools, just like the one that took an innocent neanderthal to his end, and he'd like to keep that a secret.

    Ah, I never even managed to get that sinister monkey at the zoo convicted (011209), and I never figured out who the Monkey Man in India was (0105). I am a shitty detective. Tell me you love me.

    I was happy that Wilco chose those two buildings for the cover of their latest album, because, growing up in Chicago, those particular buildings represented a certain state of mind for me, and based on the contents of the album, it is nice to know that someone else feels the same.

    I stayed home all night on Friday because I felt like I hadn't been spending enough time with my cats. Man, I'll tell you about punk rock.

    It rained on Saturday.

    February 27, 2002

    I had an idea for a good mysterious scrap of paper to be left behind by vanished settlers at a distant outpost. It will either have to be in Antarctica or outer space, since that vanished settler shit doesn't really fly in Naperville, but, okay, the settlers have been dropped off and left to put their settlement together, and the main ship heads back for supplies. It returns to check on them a year later, and they are all gone, vanished without a trace - except one scrap of paper, or perhaps one piece of writing on a wall:

    we haue receivd strange and divers cookies

    And then the mystery about where they got off to is never solved. Puts Roanoke to shame, I think. I received some strange cookies yesterday, so I was thinking about that.

    Some people have been asking when I am going to get my monkey football team off the ground. I bought a GameCube with my income tax refund, and I bought a pair of sports games (Madden Football and FIFA Soccer) with the intention of using the Create-A-Player feature to assemble entire teams of monkeys to dominate the sports world. (I checked both of the manuals, and there is nothing in the rule book that says I can't have an orangutan playing goalie.) My plan has been carefully drawn and has a number of stages that will ensure its success. I am trying to get better at both of the games so the monkeys won't lose all the time and get discouraged. I think I am ready to move forward with the monkey soccer team first. (There are still some lingering questions about who will play what position on the football team.) I am leaning toward entering them in the English Premier League first, although I may have them beat up on the American MLS first. I'm not sure. Anyhow, leading a team of monkeys to victory in the World Cup is a much better and more satisfying goal than my previous ones regarding writing and performing, so I have reoriented my efforts in that direction.

    Parents should dream of their children's disillusionment being as elegant as mine.

    Here are a pair of topical linky-links: Evidently, Irvine Welsh is doing a free reading and DJ session at the Metro on Thursday. I might go to that, if I don't get too wrapped up in the monkey soccer issue. Also, I should note that the band Cornershop released a new single entitled "Lessons Learned From Rocky I to Rocky III". I haven't heard the song, but I'm humming it, if you know what I mean.

    Here are a few new plays starring the ever-popular CHARACTER and his friend / enemy, INTERVIEWER:


    Glaring at each other, the CHARACTER and the INTERVIEWER head in separate directions: One to the dinner buffet, and one to the ice cream machine. It is not entirely clear which is which. The CHARACTER exits, his plate full, and the INTERVIEWER is left alone onstage.

    INTERVIEWER: I hate that guy.

    The INTERVIEWER is consumed by his hatred. This is all ironic and shit, because he's at a buffet.


    The INTERVIEWER has turned off his tape recorder. From across the table, he glares angrily at the CHARACTER.

    INTERVIEWER: I am tired of talking about your penis.
    CHARACTER: My penis is part of me.
    INTERVIEWER: I don't deny that, but...
    CHARACTER: I'm not about to deny a part of myself. When you ask me questions, I have to answer, as myself. I can't be true to the interview process unless I am myself. Therefore, a proportional percentage of my answers to your questions will be about my cock.
    INTERVIEWER: I hate you.
    CHARACTER: You're the one asking the damn questions.
    INTERVIEWER: Why can't you just be interviewed? God! Yeah, you're playing within the rules, but you're using a technicality as a cheap excuse to talk about your penis. How would you feel if I just used questions from cock-rock song lyrics to do the interview?
    CHARACTER: Go right ahead.
    INTERVIEWER: Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.
    CHARACTER: That's not even a question.
    INTERVIEWER: I want to know where love is. I want you to show-ow me.
    CHARACTER: Ha! You have fallen right into my trap! I can work mention of my penis into that answer very easily!
    INTERVIEWER: (to himself) I must do better. I have it! (looks up) If you choose not to decide, have you still made a choice?
    CHARACTER: Well, my cock...Wait! Those are Rush lyrics!
    CHARACTER: You have linked Rush and my cock?!?
    INTERVIEWER That's my trap for you, motherfucker!
    CHARACTER: I am slain.

    The CHARACTER is slain.


    The interview is going reasonably well to this point. The audience is tense, wondering how long the tenuous peace between the INTERVIEWER and the CHARACTER can last.

    INTERVIEWER: Have you been eating enough potatoes?
    CHARACTER: Oh, sure. I have french fries, tater tots, mashed potatoes. What was once a glaring hole in my diet has become one of the strong points, really.
    INTERVIEWER: That's great to hear.

    The audience gasps, surprised that the INTERVIEWER's response did not incorporate the word 'motherfucker'.

    INTERVIEWER: And what do you have there?
    CHARACTER: This is a potato gun.
    INTERVIEWER: Oh, neat. Like in high school science classes.
    CHARACTER: Yep. I made one for myself.
    INTERVIEWER: What do you do with it?
    CHARACTER: Well, it's a potato gun...
    CHARACTER: I shoot potatoes with it.
    INTERVIEWER: That is the stupidest shit I have ever heard.

    The audience erupts in cheers, finally getting the friction they came to see.

    CHARACTER: Fuck you, it's stupid. Maybe you never heard of a little thing called the Irish Potato Famine.
    CHARACTER: I shoot the damn potatoes because I remember the Irish Potato Famine and I don't intend to let it happen again. I shoot the potatoes dead!
    INTERVIEWER: I am so fucking tired of interviewing you. I hate you more than poop on toast.

    A generation passes, and the INTERVIEWER dies of the Irish Potato Famine. Now, it is the INTERVIEWER who looks foolish, not the CHARACTER. But then, we are forced to consider that the CHARACTER is alone in a universe with a god that has a really faulty understanding of history, and suddenly, the CHARACTER seems to be the real fool. The audience considers the issues and becomes remarkably enlightened, much more so than all of the other audiences at the other plays, who come to appear moronic by comparison.

    February 25, 2002

    As a result of gifts received during this most recent birthday, I have a large gorilla in my bedroom, and he is cradling a real explosive device in his hand, a long red industrial fuse. He is called Amigo. I say this so you will understand that when I refer to a monkey with an explosive device in the corner of my bedroom, it is not a metaphor for me, but is, in fact, an actual monkey.

    I have long resisted decorating my cubicle. I don't want to dignify the abstract notion of the cubicle as a residence for a human being by personalizing it, and the rabbi is always yammering on about the numerous horror movie-themed items in the cubicle behind mine, so I could bring in flyers from indie rock shows or plays I did, but then I'd have to sit through the rabbi's stand-up routine about them every week or two, and it would be more of a pain than it was worth. The rabbi can get kind of obnoxious like that. Recently, though, my mother gave me a picture frame that has space for three wallet-sized photos of family members, and since I don't really have any family members to put in there, I decided to fill it with some of the monkey photos that people like to give me. After due consideration, the three that were chosen, from left to right:

  • Sad baboon in black-and-white with caption, "Zoo animals suffered at hands of Taliban";
  • Suave gorilla in color that came with Telemundo, a stuffed monkey that I got for Christmas;
  • Happy chimpanzee wearing eye-glasses in black and white, clipped from newspaper ad.

    The thing about me is, I engage in dadaist acts of aggression because I am too lazy to communicate with other people. I figured that the monkeys would pose a devastating critique to work-place iconography, and anyway, I could look at the monkeys while I was on the phone and try to make faces like them. Shortly after arriving at work, the curious rabbi noticed the pictures and conspired to get me away from my cubicle so he could figure out what this new addition to my desk was. From afar, I heard him enlisting the horror fan's help in figuring out why I had a bunch of monkey pictures in my cubicle. I yelled at him, and the rabbi beat a hasty retreat. Later in the afternoon, he came out of his office and asked me to explain the monkeys for him. Improvising, I said that the baboon was a reminder of injustice and suffering, that the chimp was a symbol of the joy of learning, of study, of rigorous pursuit of knowledge, and fortunately I didn't have to come up with anything for the suave gorilla, because everyone was laughing except the bewildered rabbi, who told me that I was strange and again beat a hasty retreat.

    An INTERVIEWER enters, with a notepad, to speak to the CHARACTER.

    INTERVIEWER: Tell me about your project.
    CHARACTER: Well, I bought this video game, FIFA Soccer, for my video game system. Soccer is a popular sport. They call it football in other countries, because the players use their feet to play the game, for the most part.
    INTERVIEWER: Go on...
    CHARACTER: And what I'm selling are called "All-American Memory Cards". See, you need a memory card to save your game. It's this thing you buy and you put it into a slot in the video game system and then it remembers what games you've played and what teams you've beat. Well, they have a lot of teams in the FIFA, and it was really bothering me that the teams from the Axis of Evil, you know, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, they like soccer too, and their teams are good, and I think it's anti-American, because your American team might lose to the Axis of Evil team.
    INTERVIEWER: So, what you're selling...
    CHARACTER: What I do is I beat all of the Axis of Evil teams, and then I save it on the memory card, and then I sell it to you, so your memory card is pro-America, instead of being blank and potentially anti-America.
    INTERVIEWER: I hate you.
    CHARACTER: I make a lot of money.
    INTERVIEWER: I hate you a lot.
    CHARACTER: Axis-of-Evil-loving motherfucker.

    They move to opposite ends of the stage, which is revealed to be an All-You-Can-Eat buffet.

    I have a mad lust to live in, to inhabit hundreds of different places without ever touching down completely.

    February 7, 2002

    After two months of work, I finally brought in a piece of decoration for my cubicle. It is a picture of a monkey. He looks very suave.

    I did watch the Super Bowl this weekend. I can only really get interested in most sports for the communal aspect. It's nice when the communal aspect includes food. Yum. This was only the second Super Bowl I'd seen from start to finish (the first is no mystery). I had to avoid last year's game for fear that I might see the commercials that the unfortunate conglomerate of my then-employment created to advertise themselves. This year, no such concerns. Nothing much of note during the broadcast other than the conclusion of the game, which was a stirring testimony to the human spirit. I forgot to watch for the tax commercial that the Coen Brothers directed. I did my own taxes, so my unemployed-for-half-the-year ass was not its target market. But if the proceeds help the Coens afford a better class of monkey for their next movie, which may or may not involve a monkey (I don't know anything more than you do), that's fine. I'm not about to dictate.

    Here is an idea for a commercial, developed while watching the Super Bowl:

    There is a monkey in a living room. It is a well-apportioned home, speaking to ownership by an upper middle class family. The monkey is throwing his feces. This is energetic, excited feces throwing - not angry feces throwing. We include a close-up on the monkey's face to indicate that it is a smiling monkey. The monkey finally runs through his supply of feces and ambles off in search of the bananas with which to generate more. His shit is everywhere. The family returns home and contemplates their feces-spattered domestic splendor. Most of the family is distressed, but the (mother?) remains calm. She sends the other family members on their way and breaks out the (Febreze?). In a series of close-ups, we see her applying the cleaning product. Then, we pull back to see the rest of the family re-entering the living room, where the mother has just finished her work. The living room is sparkling new. The father shakes his head. "It's as though there was never a monkey throwing his feces around in here!" The family grins, and we center on the product logo.

    Alternatively, the mother selects the wrong cleaning product. She then has friends over, and they all comment that the place smells like monkey shit.

    A guy was singing on the train Saturday night, and another guy was perturbed about it. He asked me why the first guy was singing. I said that I didn't know. "So we have to sit here and listen to him sing?" I said that I didn't plan to do anything about it. He paused, and then he spoke. "Have you ever seen the laughing man?" I said that I had not. "He sits outside of this one Borders. I walked by him one day in the morning, and he was laughing. Then I walk by again after work, and he's still laughing. I asked him, why are you laughing? The guy stopped and looked at me. 'Richard Pryor', he said."

    February 2, 2002

    I was, then, very, very sick. I am not completely done being sick, but the worst is past. I can't remember ever having been more sick. Sunday was the worst. I couldn't really move. I had to keep all the lights off. Even the TV or the computer monitor took the pain of my headache up to '11'. Oh! I was beset. I couldn't take any time off from work, since the rabbi is off to California this week and had to cram to make up for it, including a marathon session where we composed a letter to the New York Times calling William Safire's favorite bioethicist wack, so all I could do was be dazed and plan to pass out during most non-work periods. It sucked.

    Why does the rabbi get to go to California? Man, I never go anywhere.

    I want to apologize to the several dozen people who were referred to this webpage over the last few days in their search for information on the Mayamura vs. Chase Manhattan lawsuit. Apparently, mine was one of only two or three pages on the entire web to make mention of the lawsuit, a hefty class action affair that netted me a cool 86 cents from a credit card I'd cancelled nearly a year before. Even law-related engines like lawcrawler and ilor were referring hapless law students to me. I doubt they found anything useful. Sorry. If you actually get to meet ol' Mayamura, though, sent him my best. That guy rocks.

    Title your first book The Koran. People will think it is the other, more famous book titled The Koran, and they will buy it. Mohammed did not register The Koran as a legal trademark under U.S. copyright law, so you will not be sued.

    The sales will be good. Hopefully, they will like it so much that they will keep reading even after they've discovered that it is all about relationships and crap, not Allah.

    Muslims will not approve of this practice. It will be awkward between you and them at parties or in the elevator. They might have liked your book otherwise.

    My job began on an awkward note last month when I ate the rabbi's Hannukah present. It was chocolate. I thought it was for me. It seemed like a very nice thing for the company to do, giving all of the employees a present of some chocolate for Hannukah, but it turned out to have been for the boss man, not for me. There was a card that said as much. I was hungry, though, and didn't read the card until after I was done. I felt bad. I threw away the card and made no mention of the chocolate when the rabbi came by, and it seems safe to say, one month later, that he knew nothing about it. (I didn't want to lose the new job, but it did seem like a pretty funny reason to get fired.) On Monday, people came by to drop off a tub of Tu B'Shevat kosher trail mix. Tu B'Shevat, according to the card, is the Jewish Arbor Day. I was in a fevered, paranoid state, and the gift seemed like nothing less than an accusation, a bloody red hand on my doorstep. I gaped at it until they came back around again and dropped off a second tub for the rabbi. I calmed down. When the rabbi came by, he told me I could have his. "Merry Christmas", he said. My paranoia formed a moebius strip.

    (news) Fischer said all the Dole bananas in "Super Monkey Ball" originated in Japan, where the game was first released and "Dole was launching, as only the Japanese can, a line of luxury bananas. After all, this is the land of the $70 melon. So it was a great opportunity to do cross-promotion with them."

    I bet Mayamura eats only luxury bananas. No, seriously, what the fuck is a luxury banana? Is there a hard-scrabble, life on the streets banana? Must we ghettofy fruit? I checked the corporate webpage, but Dole Asia made no mention of the luxury bananas. They did, however, in order to illustrate the effect that Dole Asia has upon Asia, have a picture of these smiling Asians:

    So there's that. These people are eating Bright Yellow for dinner. He will be having some Bright Yellow Drink to go with his Bright Yellow Soup. I hope he's hungry.

    (news) Scientists at the World Economic Forum predicted on Friday a grim future replete with unprecedented biological threats, global warming and the possible takeover of humans by robots.

    Man, what is going on in New York? There are protests, obviously, but are the depressed mad scientists a front for the billionaire industrialist pigs or are the billionaire industrialist pigs a front for the depressed mad scientists? I mean, that was their phrasing, not mine. Possible takeover of humans by robots, indeed.

    It's such a common assumption that robots are intent upon taking over. Babies are cute, robots are bent on domination, etc. Speaking as one of the world's foremost experts on the robot mind, I don't see that humans, at present, have anything that a robot would be all that interested in. They don't care about video game systems or cars or any of that. (They just draw lots on who's going to be the video game system that day.) The average robot might want to get its hands on my kick-ass ninja rattlesnake bowling ball, if I ever buy one, but I probably never will, and further research needs to be done on whether robots would care about bowling in the first place. Robots don't want your cell phones or your CDs or your credit rating. They can get all that stuff for themselves, and without working at some dumb consulting company first. I can see how, if I was dating some cute girl, a robot might try to take over so he could make moves on her. And I have some decent leftover pizza in the fridge, but it wasn't quite so good that a robot would go so far as taking over to get at it. This planet? I don't know. It's nice, but I think if I was a robot, I'd go set up on one of the moons of Saturn and make throwing things at Earth into the national pastime.

    January 25, 2002

    If anyone has a good manual for how to achieve no-mind on demand, please let me know. I have to work on that. It takes me way too long to achieve no-mind right now, and it has been causing some problems of late.

    Ted Washington of the Chicago Bears is in the house for today's entry. Ted is great. Any fool who thinks he can run against a defensive line featuring Ted Washington has another thing coming to him. Ted's team was eliminated from the playoffs last weekend, but he's still a great guy and I wanted everyone to know about him. He has his own website. I have added it to the 'Peeps' section on the right and it will remain there until the end of the month.

    Okay. Here is something that bothers me: it's great that humans can now communicate with gorillas with sign language, but no one shows any inclination to take the next step, which is to get the gorillas to act as double-agents and relay what the other animals really think of us.

    It's the weekend, almost. I like the weekends. I'm not as bothered about working as I used to be, so the build-up isn't as intense as it was back in the day. The anticipation that I used to feel about those fleeting bursts of freedom now takes the abstract form of longing to live in some other part of the world and looking forward to that, as if it's a certainty, as if I'll get to live my twenties over a couple times, as if a life of some kind would be waiting for me when I arrived, some way to bring the melody and leave the static. I read an article about temperate lakes that are forming on an island near Antarctica, and I know I was supposed to bemoan global warming, but all I could think about was whether I had enough money for a down payment on some lakefront real estate. (I don't.)

    I wrote a line about a "No-Mind For Dummies" book above, but I had to bury that one in the ancient tomb with the Dialecticon. Shit. There is a gang of sinister Tonight Show gag writers engaged in a vicious psychic war with me.

    January 23, 2002

    There have been some complaints recently that my fighting prowess is scaring white America. I thought that it might be good to use today's entry to talk about some of my faults, calming everyone down a bit. Once I started writing, though, I realized that the list could do with some nice fonts and pictures and samples of dialogue from old science fiction movies, so this webpage isn't really the place for it. Therefore, if white America would like a copy of the list, it should send me a self-addressed stamped envelope, and I will be happy to mail it to them free of charge. Okay. I am very helpful.

    Here is the substance of a highly effective anti-drug PSA:

    (news) The alpha male in a group of monkeys gets the best banana, doesn't have to fight--and is less likely than subordinate monkeys to use cocaine, scientists have observed. Dr. Michael Nader of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and colleagues found that animals who became dominant after moving from solitary housing to social housing showed changes in brain chesmistry that made them less likely to use drugs.

    I am among those who believe that shitty PSAs are the major, hidden culprit in causing drug use among our nation's children. The only person I can speak for is myself, of course, but playing the 'alpha male' card would have totally sold a young, impressionable me on the virtues of a drug-free lifestyle. (I don't use drugs anyway, but that has more to do with the necessities of my fighting prowess than communication received from society on the point.) They could show a weak-ass beta male snorting coke and then getting his ass beat because he couldn't smell the stench of the alpha male's urine on a favored tree, for example. All they have to do is illustrate that something truly valuable, a shot at the alpha male-ship, is at stake. ("Cool" and "your life" are too abstract to have any real sway, but alpha-hood? Shit.) This idea could potentially save millions of lives, and if even half of those lives buy me a milkshake, it will have all been worth it.

    Possibly the best part of that study is the fact that the lead researcher's last name was Nader, which allows the reader to imagine the yearly updates at the Nader family reunions. What have you been up to, Ralph? Ran for president, lost, wrote a book. And you, Michael? Got a bunch of monkeys hooked on crack. Well, bravo, kids. Bravo.

    I have a problem with some of the graffiti in my neighborhood. On a light pole at the corner of the block that lies between my apartment and the train station, someone wrote - in clear, block letters - WELCOME 2 THE LAND OF THE DOUBLE BONE HARD NIGGAZ. Okay, fine. Good to know where I am. But there is no corresponding boundary marker for the other end of the land. I have looked quite carefully, and I cannot find the opposite border. Look, guys, one marker does not a territory make. I have no idea whether I'm on my way out or on my way into the land of the double bone hard niggaz when I walk past that light pole. For all I know, my apartment could be smack dab in the middle of the land of the double bone hard niggaz, and, as a resident, I think I ought to know that sort of thing. Do we have a national anthem? How do we feel about the cops? I have no idea. I am sick and tired of this lazy map-making. Amerigo Vespucci would never have tolerated such sloppy work. The double bone hard niggaz need to hire a qualified cartographer and set some proper borders. And that's that.

    I figure they read my webpage every day, so this is a good way to communicate.

    Here is a play for three women:

    The WOMEN stand near an author's cubicle, talking as he is trying to work.

    WOMAN: I read the sad article about the little boy.
    WOMAN: I haven't read it yet.
    WOMAN: I left the magazine in California.


    December 9, 2001

    I read the news every day, searching far and wide for stories that are overlooked or underserved by the mainstream media and require the attention of a news outlet such as this one. I read a lot of stories, good and bad. Most are filed away for reference, and a select few are used on this web page. Every once in a while, though, a story comes along that chills me to the bone. It is my responsibility as a reporter to face these grim incidents with objectivity and clarity. This, unfortunately, is one of those times. Material contained in update may not be suitable for younger readers. Parents, please be advised. (1)


    Monday, December 3 was a day like any other in the primate house at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois. Gorillas trumbled, orangutans lolled, bonobos wanked -- and chimps swung, leaped, played their part in the grand pageant of life. There were six chimpanzees in that primate house: two males, M'Chawi and Keo, and four females, Donna, June, Vicky and Kibali. Most of them were older apes, save M'Chawi and Kibali, who were both in the prime of their lives. M'Chawi was the resident alpha male. He lived above the rim, as it were. On that morning, like so many others, any lucky visitors in the early morning would have been delighted by the sight of the magnificent M'Chawi on the upper monkey bars.

    None of those visitors could know, though, the secrets that lay within that primate house. M'Chawi's was not a democratic alpha male-ship. From the moment he arrived, he wanted to be the alpha male, and he got his wish...but at what cost? What enemies did he make along the way? Not the females, to be sure. They enjoyed his hot monkey (attention). But questions lingered...

    On December 5, 2001, readers of the Chicago Sun-Times received sad news in their morning paper. I was one of those readers. It was not my morning paper; it was someone else's morning paper, and it probably passed through many hands before arriving in mine. It was my afternoon paper. Giving nary a fuck about the other stories, I headed straight for the monkey news. And what I found there shocked me.

    (news) M'Chawi, a middle-aged male chimpanzee born at Lincoln Park Zoo in 1978, has died. The chimp collapsed about 11:15 a.m. Monday, during a routine morning with the exhibit's four females and the other male. "It certainly was a shock,'' said Lincoln Park Zoo primate curator Kristen Lukas.

    My first reaction to the news was self-centered. That monkey could have been me, I thought. He was born in 1978. So was I. Twenty-three years old? So young...

    The 23-year-old, 240-pound chimp had seemed in good health, she said. His family history suggests he might have had a heart attack. Chimps can live into their 40s in captivity, but M'Chawi already outlived his father, Sam, who died at age 19, and his mother, Shauri Jet, who died of cardiac complications when she was 21, zoo spokeswoman Kelly McGrath said.

    Surprising as the death was, the zoo already seemed to have a pat explanation in place. Heart problems. Sam, gone at 19. Good old Sam. But something didn't add up. My grandfather has serious heart problems and I've never had any. Maybe that's what bothered me. Maybe the pieces just fit too easily together. Either way, I didn't buy that an otherwise healthy chimp, an alpha male at that, would suddenly drop dead. You don't fight your way to the top with a ticker that's about to blow. There had to be something else.

    I read a little further...and suddenly, it all came back to me.

    The chimps were together in the Great Ape House, when M'Chawi, on the upper level, "appeared to get still and got weak'' and collapsed, Lukas said. The other chimps "went up to him and touched him, almost like they were expecting a response.''

    M'Chawi had fathered several offspring, but none is now at Lincoln Park.

    The remaining male chimp at Lincoln Park, named Keo, is 44.

    Keo. Oh, shit. Keo.

    Flash back to November 5, 2001:

    (news) Keo, the extroverted, swaggering showoff chimpanzee at Lincoln Park Zoo who loved to hoot and scream as he marched in front of the public with his shoulder-rolling, bowlegged gait, has changed. Once loud, he's quiet. Once extravagant, he's deferential. The 43-year-old even looks smaller than he was just four months ago. In short, Keo is now behaving more like a chimp in the wild.

    It's a simple numbers game. Before M'Chawi could take over at the top, someone had to move down and make room. Keo was that someone.

    That was precisely the zoo's goal when keepers decided to combine their two chimpanzee groups into one. M'Chawi, a big, virile 23-year-old male, and two females, Donna, 36, and June, 34, joined Keo and two other females, Vicky, 37, and her daughter Kibali, 21, in July. The move was difficult for the keepers, who watched uneasily as M'Chawi bloodied Keo to establish his dominance. But the resulting social structure, now quite peaceful, provides zoo visitors with a better picture of how chimps interact under natural conditions.

    It isn't easy to let go of alpha status. Clearly, Keo liked the limelight. Before M'Chawi arrived, he was alpha with a capital 'A'. Maybe it went to his head a little bit. A little too much hooting, a little too much shoulder-rolling. Being dethroned had to sting. But how much?

    The question wasn't whether they would fight, but rather how badly Keo, a relative shrimp at 135 pounds, would be hurt by M'Chawi, in the prime of his life at a very fit 260 pounds. "This is how chimps do it in the wild," Lukas said. "The competing males fight to the point of drawing blood, but once dominance is established--and usually before someone is killed--peace is made and a sort of social equilibrium takes hold for the entire group."

    On July 19, a Thursday, they shut down the ape house, separated Keo and M'Chawi from the females and placed the two males together.

    "We expected the worst," Lukas said, "and at first there was a little chasing and nipping, but by early afternoon, Keo was grooming M'Chawi's face with his lips."

    The two seemed content and peaceful together until the following Sunday, when, during feeding time, M'Chawi attacked Keo, biting him in the butt and on a forearm with his razor-sharp canine teeth.

    "There are a lot of blood vessels in the rump area, so there was a lot of blood," Barbiers said, "but the injuries weren't serious."

    M'Chawi bit Keo in the ass? A lot of blood vessels in the rump area, indeed. Anyone who's ever had a big, red, inflammed monkey butt knows that it's fun to show off -- but once your ass takes a bite, it's never quite the same. How are you going to show off a butt with teeth marks? M'Chawi had crossed a line, definitely. And Keo had to be pissed. But Keo was no dummy. He had to have known there was nothing he could do against the larger, stronger ape. Keo got a raw deal, but it was all part of the game. In "Chinatown", Jake can't touch the real bad guys. And in the primate house...

    The move was difficult for the keepers, who watched uneasily as M'Chawi bloodied Keo to establish his dominance. But the resulting social structure, now quite peaceful, provides zoo visitors with a better picture of how chimps interact under natural conditions.

    Everything, justice included, takes a backseat to the almighty How Chimps Interact Under Natural Conditions. Chimp bit you in the ass? Sorry, pal. Got to look like natural conditions. And nature says he gets away with it.

    "What we see is M'Chawi sometimes slaps others on the back hard just to show that he is boss. Then, in the next few minutes or hour, he'll make up by hugging, to show nobody is angry anymore."

    Now the other five chimps show their obeisance to M'Chawi daily. The four females literally bow and scrape before him, seeking his approval before they eat or seek a favor from him.

    M'Chawi knew how to smile for the cameras, but he had a dark side, all right. He liked to be worshipped. Power went to his head. The future belonged to that monkey. Dig a little further, and check out this nugget:

    The merger was also the first step in bringing more attention to the zoo's chimps, which have always had a sort of second-banana status to its world-famous gorilla collection. Next year the chimpanzees will be moved to another zoo so the Great Ape House can be torn down to make way for a much bigger facility. When the new ape house opens in 2005, the zoo believes its chimps may be just as big a draw as the gorillas.

    M'Chawi wasn't satisfied with being the alpha male of the chimp section. He wanted it all. He wanted to take his act on the road, and then he wanted to make his triumphant return in 2005, free of competition, and take a shot at the gorillas. M'Chawi wanted to be the number one monkey. All the pieces were in place...

    But he forgot about something.

    Keo is now much more subdued. He looks like he has shrunk, since his hair now mostly lies flat. "Keo spends a lot of time observing everything the other chimps are doing. You almost see him thinking about how he fits in," Ross said.

    Fuck's sake! Who are they talking about there? A monkey...or Iago? Yeah, Keo did some thinking, all right. He did a lot of thinking.

    Now, flash forward to the present:

    The chimps were together in the Great Ape House, when M'Chawi, on the upper level, "appeared to get still and got weak'' and collapsed, Lukas said. The other chimps "went up to him and touched him, almost like they were expecting a response.''

    Donna may have been expecting a response. Vicky and Kibali, too. But not Keo. He knew exactly what happened. Keo knew that it was a little something called murder. He had the motive. He had the smarts. And now, he had what he wanted.

    "I think he's probably surprised by all the attention he's getting from the females,'' Lukas said, noting that "when you're not the alpha male,'' you don't get noticed as much. Now, Keo might be promoted.''

    So, there you have it. A chimpanzee is dead. Another chimpanzee has what he wanted: one more shot at the big time. The zookeepers were oblivious, thrown off by the 'heart attack' ruse. Keo committed the perfect murder. Oh, sure, M'Chawi was a first-rate bastard. But did he deserve to be murdered in cold blood? Jesus, I don't know. Is the primate house a better place now that M'Chawi's tyranny has come to an end? Does that justify what Keo did? I ache to blow the lid off this whole sordid mess and tell the zookeepers what really happened on December 3rd, but that won't change anything. In the end, I, too, am bound by the damned Natural Conditions rule. My hands are tied.

    But I'll tell you what I will do. I will visit the Lincoln Park Zoo this winter. You can come with me, if you want. I will head to the primate house, and I will go to where the chimpanzees are. I will find Keo strutting his stuff, and I will lock eyes with him through the glass. I want him to know that I know what he did. One guy didn't fall for it. No winning streak lasts forever, Keo. And everybody pays up some time.

    (1) There are parents reading this webpage? What the fuck?

    July 31, 2001

    I realized, and if you see the movie you'll come to the same conclusion, that they are going to need me to write the sequel to Planet of the Apes. I cried to the heavens that I wanted to live my own life, that I had my own dreams, that other men could carry the burden of history, but in the end, I resigned myself to doing what I must. I will write it. I am going to need them to buy the rights to The Great Gatsby for what I have planned.

    Since I am unemployed, I thought it might be helpful if I made note of some of the other film projects that I am willing to write:

    Generations will be a powerful family epic featuring several generations of famous apes: General Thade, Pericles, Cornelius, Dr Zaius, the monkey-man from India, Marcel (from "Friends" and "Outbreak"), Gorilla Grodd (from Grant Morrison-era "Doom Patrol"), King Kong, Bonzo and a bonobo to be named later. They will do all the usual things that happen in powerful family epics, except they will be monkeys. Trust me, it will suck if some studio hack takes the idea and tries to write it. I am the only man who can do it.

    Chowder a documentary about how people talk in Boston. It will be very educational and promote understanding among diverse groups of people.

    Untitled Russian Submarine Drama about the final hours of the sailors who died in the submarine that sank last year. I will do a lot of research and plant a lot of press releases about how hard I am working to achieve historical authenticity. That will serve as a smokescreen for my real thesis, which is that the same guy who assassinated Trotsky did the submarine, too. Seriously. He attacked the submarine from behind with a mountain climber's axe. Also, the dialogue will be in Russian with English subtitles. That will make the movie seem more authentic. However, the subtitles will not be an accurate translation of the dialogue, which, in the original Russian, will be a stream of obscenities regarding people who I do not like. If any Russians should ask to see the movie, we will claim that the sound is all messed up.

    The Unnamable another Highlander sequel. They find some more immortals under the couch, so they have to fight them. That's pretty much all.

    July 27, 2001

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

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

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

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

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

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

    July 9, 2001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I woke up in a strange place is the work of Marc Heiden, born in 1978, author of two books (Chicago, Hiroshima) and some plays, and an occasional photographer.

    Often discussed:

    Antarctica, Beelzetron, Books, Chicago, College, Communism, Food, Internet, Japan, Manute Bol, Monkeys and Apes, North Korea, Oregon Trail, Outer Space, Panda Porn, Politics, RabbiTech, Shakespeare, Sports, Texas.


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    Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.