I woke up in a strange place

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

August 2, 2005

I want to thank everyone who sent kind words about the three-legged cat. He's still gone, but he is not forgotten, and as far as I can tell, he did not, in fact, have fleas. I have established a scholarship in his memory for other animals who are missing a leg and don't seem to give a shit about it.

(news) TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - It may not rival Sundance or Cannes, but Michael Moore says the film festival he conceived with other movie lovers in this Lake Michigan town was a bigger hit than expected and has a bright future.

"By all accounts it was an overwhelming success," Moore said Monday. "It was a movie junkie's paradise."

The festival ran from Wednesday night through Sunday, concluding with "Casablanca" under the stars by the Grand Traverse Bay waterfront. It featured 31 films, most of which sold out, and panel discussions with Hollywood insiders. About 20,000 tickets were sold for the indoor showings. Moore estimated total festival attendance — when the outdoor movies and panels were added — at 50,000. About 115 businesses signed on as sponsors. Anecdotal evidence suggests the festival was an economic boon for downtown — particularly motels and restaurants, said Doug Luciani, president of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.

Not everyone was pleased. Genie Aldrich, a local conservative activist, and a Dallas-based group organized a shorter rival festival with movies they said conveyed "pro-America, pro-family" themes. One of them, "Michael Moore Hates America," was cut off after about 10 minutes because it contained profane language. Aldrich acknowledged crowds were sparse, with only 20-40 people attending some movies, although she said several hundred were on hand for the opening night.

"It's not about a body count. It's about the message, and our message has reverberated around the world," she said, adding that the Traverse Bay Freedom FilmFest would return next year. "They've awakened a sleeping giant. Michael Moore should be feeling like Custer at Little Big Horn."

Yes!!! Their message has reverberated around the world!!! You guys feeling it?!?!

"Ohhh, SNAP! I can't even believe how bad Michael Moore just got TOLD! She likened his ass to a 19th century American general who killed and then got killed by the people indigenous to his continent! I may not have any of my shit any more after that tsunami, but at least I ain't got a big analogy saying 'bitch' hanging around my neck!"

"I'll drink to that! Should we survive to maturity, every one of our offspring will be told to expect any film festivals organized by filmmakers with liberal political views to be countered by another, smaller festival with crappier films that the organizers haven't watched all the way through, somewhere within a hundred miles or so! Holla back, Cambodia!"

"The Khmer Rouge knew a thing or two about dealing with dissenters from the dominant political ideology, but even they were inspired by the way Genie Aldrich gets her message across. For these guys, it's all about the body count. But hey, you can't argue with her results. Unfortunately, having fallen out of favor with the government, I'm about to get a proverbial counter film festival to the head."

"YEAH!! We got all our shit packed up in here and we're on our way to the next pro-America, pro-family counter film festival. When we get there, some time within the next twenty years or so, there's gonna be 24-34 people at some of those showings!! All around the world, Genie! All around the world!!"

June 15, 2005

I really want to do something to cause problems and sadness for the online job sites. I don't expect to be able to do it any time soon, but I need to develop a strategy for this, because it sets a bad precedent to allow anything to fuck with the good faith of fine people who just need a job. The only plans I have come up with so far are heavily dependent upon me having unlimited money. For example, in one scenario, everyone who works for Monster.com gets signed to lifetime contracts, making them excited, and then the focus of the company is shifted to making sculptures out of raw sewage. The company intranet is filled with ads for cushy jobs in other divisions, and employees can set up search agents that email them ads that match their criteria, allowing the employees to send their resumes with just a click of a button to a fictional email address that will never, ever reply to them.

I don't have unlimited money, though. You'd think I would, given that I've had this weblog for like eight years now, but somehow I've managed to miss it. No worries. All things considered, it's worked out pretty well for me.

The results of the Terri Schiavo autopsy are in, and although it offers categorical evidence that she was brain-dead and beyond all hope of recovery, her parents have not changed their minds and neither has President Bush. Because I have recently decided that I am a goddam mercenary as long as I don't have to work very hard and get paid holidays, let me offer the following ideas for them to bolster their case against what might otherwise appear to be overwhelming reality:

1. Doctors say that the vision centers of her brain were dead, and she could not see anything. Was that because of the lack of oxygen to her brain...or did her husband viciously put sunglasses on her while she was in a dark room, and then have the scans taken?
2. Doctors say that her brain was about half the size of a normal brain for a woman of her age. Was that because of the brain damage...or was it because the liberal media stole half of her brain while nobody was looking and implanted it in the reanimated corpse of Pol Pot?
3. Doctors say that, contrary to the allegations of right-wing media pundits, there was no evidence whatsoever that her husband, Michael Schiavo, had abused her. Was that because he did not, in fact, abuse her...or was it because he was taught ninja stealth torture techniques by agents of Pol Pot in exchange for half of her brain?

It would suck to have to apologize for having been completely wrong, so I expect that everyone is going to kick in for my consulting fee and hit the airwaves as soon as possible. You read it here today; you'll hear it from Bill Frist tomorrow.

I'd be remiss if I didn't link to the Martian sunset photo, if for no reason other than so I can find it again later. I'm rendered speechless and sincere by that sort of thing. It's a real photograph! Enough with the computer-corrected ultra-bright images, that's what a sunset really looks like on Mars and there's how I want my tax dollars spent. The Mars Rovers are great. When Opportunity finally got its wheel un-stuck, I went ape-shit. Why do we even care about sending people to planets? It's just empty symbolism. We'll get around to that eventually, but how much better would it be to have rovers on six moons of Saturn than two guys kicking around where rovers have already gone? We need to learn what secret, arcane practices are taking place on Venus, and rovers can tell us. (I am convinced there are some. I can lead a team to program the rover with ten thousand ways to convince aliens it's down.) There are volcanoes on Io, for fuck's sake. That is serious business. And Kurt Vonnegut has been right about everything else so far, so we need to send a rover to Titan as soon as possible.

(I will amend this entire line of argument to its incontrovertible opposite if I can be one of the two guys who gets to go to Mars. I've never completely recovered from the betrayal I felt when I learned there was no real way to get involved in astronomy without extensive use of math.)

June 2, 2005

The timing of my post about the rhetorical beating our nation is receiving was uncanny. I wrote it yesterday afternoon; last night, the ineffectual, inept administration decided to unleash its most fearsome, snarling beast, Cheney, and send him into attack mode. As political insiders know, Cheney is kept in a cage all day and fed raw steaks with methamphetamines while rude men jab him with poles until he is frothing with rage, except on weekends, when he has to fight wild boars for his dinner. So this is apparently the best guy we have to fire a rhetorical volley at North Korea in retaliation for their brutal use of the word "balderdash". Well, the administration opened the cage, and here's what happened:

"Kim Jong Il is one of the world's more irresponsible leaders..."

"Cheney is hated as the most cruel monster and bloodthirsty beast,
as he has drenched various parts of the world in blood."


They absolutely dismantled the bastard. And then, as poor Japan backed away, North Korea brutalized it with a series of rapid-fire snide expressions, finishing the battle with a devastating "by hook or by crook" manuever.

We're done. I hate to be pessimistic, but our nation simply does not have the capability to fight this rhetorical war, and I have moved on from a "eventually they'll give me a call and I'll single-handedly lead us to rhetorical victory" scenario to "I'll have to lead a ragged band of survivors in a post-self-esteem-apocalyptic world to a series of small-scale guerilla rhetorical victories and we'll go from there", which in some ways may be even more compelling. (From the sound of it - 'balderdash', 'by hook or by crook', etc - Grand Moff Tarkin may be the one who is teaching them English, which would explain a lot, actually.)

I know it's sort of passe to talk about web searches that show up in your server stats, but I have to brag about being the only result for "wookie bamboozlement". That's right up there with my bowling trophies in terms of lifetime achievements.

June 1, 2005

They're almost finished building a new porch outside of my apartment, and although I won't know for sure until I'm out there, it looks like it's going to be more or less identical to the old one. Was I foolish to hope for something new? Triumphal arches, flying buttresses? Give me a fucking gargoyle, at least. I've never been clear on why things are ever built without gargoyles. Pretty much all I have to ward off evil is a plush gorilla on a shelf. It does all right, but still.

(If I was head of the city building commission, I would have a big red stamp that said "Get yourself some gargoyles or go back to your lego set, chump", and many architects would feel its wrath. Everyone says that Frank Lloyd Wright was so great, but how much better would the Prairie-style have been if he'd been forced to come up with gargoyles to fit with it? Far better, actually. I've seen that alternate universe and it rocks the pants off ours.)

(news) An Iraqi soldier died from poisoning and nine others were in critical condition after they ate free watermelon handed out at a checkpoint in northern Iraq, police said Wednesday. "A vendor offered a poisoned watermelon on Monday to Iraqi soldiers manning checkpoints between Shorgat and Kiyara," said police Colonel Fares Mahdi. "One soldier died and nine others who were rushed to the hospital are in critical condition."

I'm not sure I want to live in a world where you can't eat free watermelon given to you by complete strangers. I don't know if I've made my desire to be fired into outer space explicit, so let me go ahead and do that now. Can a weblog serve as a living will? How pissed off do you have to be to poison a watermelon? According to this, Iran sends 70% of its watermelons to Iraq. And that's to say nothing of this guy, the four-time greased watermelon champ of Wisconsin, who was killed in a roadside bombing in February. I keep thinking about the square watermelons in Japan, and I wonder how I'm going to make it through this summer.

But! You know this publication too well to think I would end an entry on a note of despair. Like everyone else, I was surprised when Deep Throat turned out to be some old guy. That really turned my head around about what old people can accomplish, and I'm optimistic that we'll start to see a more "can-do" attitude from our nation's millions of idle oldsters. I mean, look at this guy! He's old as dirt! Have you ever seen anyone that old? It's time for the rest of the elderly to get up and get the remote themselves.

However! I bring news of an alarming nature as well. We hoped this day would never come, that they would never fall into the hands of a rogue nation, but recent reports confirm that North Korea has command of long-range tactical insults, as shown by their explosive use of "balderdash" in an article about something or other. Furthermore, according to the Korean Central News Agency, we are getting absolutely destroyed on the battlefield of rhetoric. Apparently, we haven't managed to put forth a single plan that hasn't been assailed, rebuked, refuted, or come under fire. Worrisome, that. Now this is where I come in. Do you think I could single-handedly win a war of rhetoric with North Korea? Remember, we only won Vietnam when Rambo went in by himself, free of the chain of command and all of that other nonsense. My suggestion is this: hire me at once. Evidently, this is the eternal sun of humankind we're dealing with here. Well, I am a blackbelt in the English language. I will take him apart. The man will barely qualify as a night-light when I'm through with him. Put me in, coach! Just don't make me spend all day in these damn offices any more.

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 18, 2005


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

Just give me those seven things and I will be content, Mr. Lucas.

So, another one of the Abu Ghraib crew went on trial this week, and I was right there on Yahoo News tracking what the accused was drinking on the way in and out of the courtoom. My investigation went as far as the fifth page of search results, and I can now confirm that US Army Spc. Sabrina Harman was swilling Aquafina prior to her initial pre-trial hearing last week, but as proceedings wore on, she switched to Nesquick. What does all of this mean?

1. You get a lighter sentence if you're not all hopped up on caffeine;
2. Whatever you're thirsting for on your way into court, it won't be what you want afterwards;
3. Before getting a taste of Texas justice, it is best to cleanse the palate with water.

May 4, 2005

Some readers may have reached the perfectly reasonable conclusion that my kidney stones were fatal, or that they caused an explosion in my urinary tract whose shockwaves led to my arms to falling off, and that my insurance had not yet agreed to cover new, robot arms, forcing me to spend several months trying to peck out an entry of typical length using a stick held between my teeth. Really, though, all that the kidney stones did was usher in an era of discontent in which I slept face down on the couch a lot and avoided my computer. Pissing into a funnel will do funny things to a man's state of mind. When I started feeling communicative again, I put together this new design and then became distracted by the Bulls' playoff run. (I added the link to the Bulls usenet group to the sidebar so that people could see what I was up to and decide if they would like to lobby their local paper to hire me as a sportswriter. I find that Chicago is beset by crappy sports columnists. The beat writers are all pretty good, but the columnists are vile men who believe in nothing and would rescue their hair-care products from a hotel fire before they'd help an orphan who just needed to know where the stairs are. Except Sam Smith. As far as he's concerned, the mustache combs the paper keeps sending over can get fucked, and so can the orphans, too.)

It takes weird things to spur me to write. I'm not very busy at work right now, so I focus most of my energy on throwing notes to the neighboring cubicle and making viciously disparaging remarks about the warrior spirit of the Washington Wizards to whoever is willing to listen. But just a moment ago, as I went through another round of obsessively checking websites that might have been updated, I noticed there was a new photo up on Yahoo's news page for the Lynndie England trial. That in and of itself was not remarkable, because they've been running that as the lead story all day, but here's what caught my attention: in the morning, they showed her arriving for the hearing clutching a Pepsi can in an oddly conspicuous manner. (The mind is trained to think of Abu Ghraib endorsement deals, but the fingers know better than to bother typing them.) In the afternoon, however, after the judge had ruled a mistrial, the photos showed her walking out of the courtroom with a similarly conspicuous can of Dr. Pepper.

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

Hopefully the media will pursue this line of questioning and we should have some answers early next week. (Or, alternatively, the media could ask why none of the officers who ordered these hicks to torture prisoners will face any kind of discipline other than a firm and decisive promotion.)

(The mind is trained to generate a cheap movie reference joke involving Mountain Dew: Code Red. The fingers know better than to type it.)

I had to go over to the University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital yesterday for the initial visit in a study I'm participating in. Basically, you agree to stop eating tomatoes for a month or so and then you get paid. I will miss the pizza, but otherwise I am willing to accept those terms. I paid off all of my credit card debt while I was in Japan, and then I ran it right back up by spending a month in Russia and then being unemployed until right before Christmas. It was frustrating, but it will give me a lot to talk about with Yakov Smirnoff next time I'm in Branson, so I know I made the right decision in the end. But for now, I am trying to get back out of debt as quickly as possible. I've heard all about responsible financial planning, but that shit is too slow. So is laundering money for Nigerian bank officials who have discovered an account belonging to a German man who died in a car crash, leaving no relatives to claim his $3.4 million dollars. (Seriously, have you ever tried it? It takes months!) I want to get out of debt now, now, now. I headed over to the hospital after work, listening to a recently-acquired copy of the audio-book of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" on the way - it didn't occur to me how stupid that was until I noticed that I had pulled into a parking garage at fifty miles per hour - and then let the doctors run me through various paces. I told Dr. Wu that I had been living in Japan and he tried to sign me to China as a free agent. I told him I'd think it over. First I have to get paid.

I will try to return to this web-page more often in the days to come.

February 25, 2005

Some people have written to ask if I knew the Killer Japanese Seizure Robots. Actually, I did. I cannot pretend that their English showed much improvement while I was there, but I miss them all the same. I go to their webpage rather often and feel nostalgic, and also epileptic.

Last week, in the midst of discussing my own impending birthday, I delivered a powerful oration on the nature of holidays in North Korea, noting that, as far as I could tell, St. Patrick's Day was the only one that had not been revealed by the North Korean media to be Kim Jong Il-related in origin. Following up on that, we have the following from our sideline reporter, Arden:

I really am as shocked as anyone about the failure in coalescence of Kim Jong Il and St. Patrick's Day. One upside of flunking out of U of I was my opportunity to study "The History of China and Japan" at the substantially less politically correct Parkland College, where you learn things like, "Korea is known as the Ireland of the Orient, because they also have a history of alcoholism." With a shared culture like that, how could these countries not be attending each other's parties?

I thought about that, and I suppose one reason might be the hair issue. We know, from science, that all Irish people look like this, while the government of North Korea has set clear guidelines for hair and attire. How, then, might a drunken North Korean socialist fanatic judge the Irish?

1. The hair of the Irish is too long in the back, and it is unruly. Although men aged over 50 are given allowed two extra centimeters of hair to cover balding, that is clearly intended for use toward comb-overs. Irish people allow their excess hair to spill out of their hats, and it provides no aid towards concealing their baldness.

2. The nappy ends of the hair and beards of Irish people tends to suggest that they do not get a trim once every fifteen days, as prescribed. That leaves them with undue amounts of free time in which to be infiltrated by corrupt capitalist ideas.

3. There are, the North Korean media reports, civic advantages to wearing smart shoes. Irish people, however, choose to wear long, yellow shoes that are pointy and bent upward at the end. By no reasonable measure are the shoes of the Irish smart. In fact, as one representative from the goverment argued, "No matter how good the clothes, if one does not wear tidy shoes, one's personality will be downgraded." It is a sensitive issue, even among fellow drunks, when one's personality has been downgraded.

4. If there is a link between a person's clothes and appearance and their ideological and emotional state, one is hardly encouraged by the inability of the Irish to put their hats on straight. Are Irish people perpetually drunkenly challenging the world to fight because they favor pointy clothing over smoother, less angular ensembles, or do they favor pointy clothing because they are drunkenly challenging the world to fight?

The sad fact is that while North Korea and Ireland may be able to overlook those differences before the wine starts flowing, it is inevitable that, by the end of the night, someone will have accused someone else of falling short of ideals in accordance of a socialist lifestyle, and someone else will suggest loudly that certain parties appear more interested in socialism than girls and are, therefore, gay. None of that is likely to be taken well; fisticuffs will probably ensue. So maybe that's why.

The skill with which I settle things has to be admired.

(news) But U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci told reporters Wednesday that he was perplexed over Canada's apparent decision to allow Washington to make decision if a missile was headed toward its territory. "Why would you want to give up sovereignty?" he said. "We don't get it. We think Canada would want to be in the room deciding what to do about an incoming missile that might be heading toward Canada."

Fucking hell! Yes, you might think they would...but they don't. That is the central enigma of the Canadian psyche and I cannot believe we have such a hopeless incompetent as this Paul Cellucci contending with it. The Canadians are going to eat him alive, metaphorically of course, there is no telling what they will actually do, but it is not going to turn out well for any of us. God damn. Get him out of there!

To answer your next question, yes, I am willing to take over as Ambassador to Canada. Holy shit! I will be so good at it.

My life has been quiet for the last week or so. Tonight, I will get my car back. My mother went joy-riding in it a few weeks ago and some guy rammed into the back left corner while it was parked, so his insurance is paying for the entire rear bumper to be re-painted. That's nice, I guess, but there is really no point to having a freshly-painted bumper when you live in the city and park on the street. Like moths to flame, degenerates without any semblance of parallel-parking ability will be hypnotized by its bright, unscarred green, given over to the irrational notion that they have plenty of room to fit their rusted-out Oldsmobile behind my car. I will be lucky if the bumper lasts two days before returning to its previous state, or worse. Really, what's the point? Every time I see one of those stupid gee-whiz-so-fast DSL commercials, I shake my fist. Fuck the internet! Where is my rocket-pack? I was led to believe there would be rocket-packs! I am increasingly irate, and a disturbance even to myself.

There is one more thing that I should mention - you have no idea how thoroughly these entries encapsulate everything that is on my mind at the time they are written, so I can't leave anything out - and that is the death of Hunter S. Thompson, the noted American lion-tamer. It's hard to write anything about Hunter S. Thompson because you must constantly check yourself to be sure you are not trying to write like him; perhaps it's not a problem for the old folks, the hardened professionals, but we young'uns have to watch out for it. You either wind up sounding like a pale, mis-shapen imitation of the man or a colorless version of yourself. (Hunter S. Thompson, Kurt Vonnegut, and Raymond Carver: read them, but not while you are writing anything of your own.)

There have been many tributes, summations, epitaphs and reflections over the last week or so, and nearly all of them have had a palpable self-consciousness about them in some way, shape or form. You can't be unfair about that, though. Nobody was expecting to have to write these things; everyone was caught off guard, and only the worst among us were glad to have the chance. When it comes to memorials for Hunter S. Thompson, all you can really ask is that they leave you with something. Compare, for example, this one, by Alexander Cockburn, to this one, by ESPN writer Eric Neel. One writer is far more skilled than the other, far better-versed in history and politics and literature, and the other is more or less exactly what I wrote about, timidly placing words next to each other until a column has been formed. And the interesting thing is, the first one leaves you with less than cat shit, and the other one leaves you with this:

The only time I ever spent with Hunter Thompson took place on one strange night at his home outside Aspen. I read aloud from his latest book that night -- Hunter liked that kind of thing, liked to hear his words come alive, he said. I held a number of weapons, the names of which I can't even remember, because he would just hand them to you and say, "Here, feel that." (My friend Daniel carried a sword around for more than an hour for fear of offending the good doctor.)

I was taken on a tour of photographs on the walls (not framed, just tacked up there in little collages), some of the young, fit journalist, some of the baggier, more weathered writer, some of the headlong madman, and all with a half-remembered story. I ate some kind of crackers and cheese and nursed a glass of gin, praying he wouldn't peg me for the lightweight I really am. And for a stretch, I sat next to him on a low-slung leather couch watching the Kings and Lakers go head-to-head in the fourth quarter. Hunter had money on the Lakers. They were winning but not covering, so every missed shout was a wincing blue streak and a chance for him to ask me what the hell they were doing and why wouldn't Kobe feed the Big Daddy?!

Everyone hates on Hunter S. Thompson's Page 2 columns, but I liked them. It was fucking cool when he wrote this, about the 2001 Bears:

"I owe the Bears an apology. I called them "phony," but I was wrong. They are a gang of Assassins and I fear them. They will croak St. Louis in the playoffs."

Even after the Bears got killed in the playoffs, we fans still had that, not the Lombardi Trophy but not that bad either. More than anything else, I liked the Page 2 columns because most of them were evidence that someone to whom I felt a deep sense of gratitude was now enjoying himself with friends watching sports. I liked the Eric Neel column because I wanted to watch football in that room, even though there was no way that it was not going to be awkward as hell for a non-drinker (non-smoker, non-drug user, non-meat eater!) like me. Possibly, I would have been shot. Well, Eric Neel told me what it would have been like, a little.

(Does anyone else remember how, in the days after September 11, 2001, every fucking so-called celebrity in the country solemnly pressed Their Take against our chests, hoping that Theirs would be the One that Was Remembered, that History would Say, This One Commemorated It, This One Defined the Moment? Well, unlike basically all of them, Hunter S. Thompson's column doesn't look like shit when you read it today.)

One thing the man had absolutely mastered as a writer - there were many things, of course, but I'm just going to identify one of them, because this is only a weblog, after all, and you people don't even provide me with an expense account - was the full range of synonyms for the verb 'to say'. Read something he wrote with that in mind. I always enjoyed that about his writing. But, again, be careful about doing it while you're writing something, or you'll wind up having to print out a list from some online dictionary to avoid feeling like a brick-layer every time you settle for 'say'. He opened up one of his books with this quotation from Mark Twain:

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.

Yes. That, exactly.

I keep straying. Here is my entry into the eulogy-stakes:

Hunter S. Thompson could tame lions, fierce motherfuckers with sharp teeth. I saw him do it. He's gone now, but you can bet those lions still see him when they go to sleep, here and forevermore.


January 25, 2005

And now I am back in Chicago. I was in Japan, and then I was in Russia, and then I was in Las Vegas, and then I was in Connecticut, and now I am here, again, in Chicago. I will write until this album is over, and then I will go for a walk, because it is sunny outside and it makes me kind of crazy to sit up here in this spare bedroom all day surrounded by my handful of possessions and the adjunct thousands of my stepfather's video collection.

"Did you know that you have two copies of Desperate Journey?" I asked.
"You can't have that one," he said.
"I wasn't asking for it," I said. "I was just making note of it."
"No, I need two copies of that," he said, eyeing me suspiciously.

I will do a brief job taking notes on a focus group on Wednesday, and then I will start working in a longer-term position on Friday. Over the weekend, I will move my stuff into a new apartment, and on Tuesday, I will move my self into that apartment. After that, I don't know. I have to go ahead and turn 27 in a few weeks. At some point, I should put together the Lego set of the Mos Eisley cantina scene that I bought on sale at a Target on New Year's Eve, allowing Lego Han Solo to shoot Lego Greedo first. I'll have to make a few phone calls and see if they offer memberships for discounted admission at the Division Street Russian Bath House, whose walking-distance proximity to my new apartment will be frequently exploited if they're willing to drop below $22 per visit. The yakuza baths in Kyoto only charged 300 yen. Even with the falling dollar, that's still pretty cheap. I miss the yakuza baths. I'll never know if that one guy got the yellow added to his full-back dragon tattoo. You could see where it was going to be, but...

(news) BASRA — As Iraq’s election campaign enters its final stages, most candidates are more worried about staying alive than canvassing for votes. Even the few like Shia politician Mansour Al Tamimi who have openly joined the electoral race are avoiding debates and rallies at all cost. Fears of assassination loom so large that most of the 7,500 candidates taking part in the January 30 poll are keeping their names secret, denying voters information normally considered fundamental to the democratic process.

Do you have to be a born or naturalized Iraqi citizen to run in their upcoming elections? If Nader had any kind of foresight, he would have ditched the U.S. presidential election and run in Iraq. He could have diverted all of his money from campus copy-shops to security and then won debate after debate just by showing up. He'd have achieved all of his purposes. Sure, there is the risk of getting blown up, but since when was that a concern? Come on. I am the only person who has vision.

Below, you will find a new set of photos, rather a large bunch, taken on my way up and down Mount Fuji in Japan over the summer. I discovered some interesting things on the trip, such as the fact that you should not attempt to climb a mountain in old basketball shoes, and also that my fear of heights, previously so slight as to be nothing more than an amusing footnote, becomes a major issue when it's dark and there are no lights or fences or handrails and I'm coming down a steep, smooth slope at an elevation of over 3000 meters, in old basketball shoes. But, really, it was fucking awesome, so please enjoy the photos. I didn't photograph the way that life-saving chocolate bars kept getting more and more expensive at each shack I passed, or that Coke and cans of hot corn cost about five dollars each at the summit. I had been in Japan for more than a year at that point, and the omnipresence of vending machines had ceased to be in any way remarkable by then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 10, 2003 I hope you liked the quintessence. It was a powerful day. Today's entry will restate themes from earlier entries and tie up some old plot threads before I move on to new topics in the future, such as how I'm sick of these Atkins people insulting bread, which is a good food and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.

Wherever you go in this world, there is no escape from anti-climax: the Hanshin Tigers lost in Game 7 of the Japan Series, falling short just like the Cubs and Red Sox did. At last check, one of the major daily newspapers was still running front page stories about the Tigers, even though they're not playing any more. (I don't know what the stories are about. Unfortunately, the English versions of the newspapers here are much more restrained than the Japanese originals, and they run actual news on the front page.) One of my students attended a financial seminar where an executive from a major bank -- I will refrain from saying who it is to avoid the faint risk of libel charges, but you might have heard of them -- announced with a straight face that the Japanese economy is going to rebound based on absolutely no evidence other than the fact that the Tigers have been successful twice in the last 50 years and the economy was strong in those times. The student was tremendously excited. Since he appeared to have made no plans to check himself prior to wrecking himself, I attempted to check his self for him, but I don't think I was entirely successful in doing so. Well, I hope it works out, and I hope the currency doesn't crash until after I leave.

An update on the battle against panda-porn is long over-due. Even when I am silent, I am busy. Nothing escapes my notice, not even evidence as well-concealed as the sight of two pandas fucking on the side of a train car:

You know what, though? This is one case where the parents and the zoo-keepers have to share some of the blame, too. This is what comes of the tremendous social pressure on pandas to reproduce. In some twisted way, in their narcotic-addled state, these poor pandas are just trying to do what they think they're supposed to do, and some callous, cynical bastard is making pornography from it. The pandas get locked in a cycle of sex and drugs, and they can't get out, even as their very bodies are falling apart. This panda's nose has caved in from years of cocaine use:

How long has it been since that panda had a warm meal? They have him out there working the streets, and he can barely stand. Even when you take them in and try to turn them around, when night comes, they become desperate and lapse back into their old habits, as this police photograph shows:

That moment of clarity that flashes in the panda's eyes is absolutely heartbreaking. For a moment, it's as though they know what has become of them. For every panda we save from a life of pornography, there are three more who are never heard from again. Perhaps most despicable of all is when these smut-merchants use pandas to recruit other pandas. Please be advised that what follows is extremely graphic material:

How can they get away with showing that in public, you ask? I don't know. I really don't. Here are some student email comments on the panda-porn issue:

you've got 2 nice pics of panda...
and what the hell are you talking about!?
i mean, why porn????
i was like, "huh!?" you kidding or something?
maybe you know things more than me. yeah.


talking about a panda, i got a panda-shaped key chain from a japanese publisher (i dont remember the name..).
it was like a prize, but it's not...
i mean, if somebody reads at least 2 books from that publisher, s/he can get that stuff anyway. so, no winners.
i applied for that before i read your website about panda, so when i got it (obviously after having read about the panda story), i was like, "here's a panda again... yeah, marc, you're right. pandas are really popular in some strange way in japan..."

Moving on to another emotionally-fraught topic, here is a picture of the bike-in-the-river:

Several perspectives were offered on whether I should take the bike. The Israelis in the house got all excited and wanted me to get it so they could try to break the lock like they said they used to in Tel Aviv. My friend Katy noted that, in Spirited Away, the abandoned bicycle makes the river spirit sick, and he bestows many blessings on Sen / Chihiro in thanks for her removing the bicycle and making him well again. I thought that was an awfully good point, especially as I've found Spirited Away to be eerily accurate in all other respects regarding life in Japan. Several of my students confirmed the near-disposable attitude towards bicycles in the city and recommended that I take it. Kurt suggested that Japanese bikes may be like lizard tails, and when pursued by a predator, salarymen will leave their bicycles behind and escape. On the other hand, The Bicycle Thief continues to be a movie that I have seen, and I kept worrying that the poster-hanger would come back for his bike, even though it had been in the river for more than a week. The Israelis insisted that if I took the bicycle to the local police box, saying that I found it abandoned, then if nobody reported it missing within a month, it would become my property, and I could say the lock was broken when I found it. Reluctantly, I took the bike. I hope I made the right decision. I can't second-guess myself now. It would be pretty silly to go and put the bike back in the river.

The elections were finally held on Sunday. There are no laws -- and, apparently, no anger or resentment -- against noise pollution, so the numbers of Assholes With Megaphones reached a sort of critical mass in recent days, with campaign vans parked outside our school from open to close and trucks with speakers driving around every neighborhood of the city as early as 7AM. There was even a helicopter flying overhead at one point, blasting some creep's message loudly enough that it could be clearly heard on the sidewalk. In an exciting development, though, none other than Godzilla was running for office. On Saturday, a van arrived with Godzilla's name painted on the side in big red letters, and smiling people stood on top of the van, waving and making speeches for hours. The best part is that although Godzilla himself was apparently elsewhere at the time, he deployed little Godzukis to run around and hand out campaign literature. Here is photographic evidence:

There were two Godzuki-squads on duty at the same time. When a squad saw someone walking through any part of the square around the train station, they'd sprint after them, with the Godzuki assigned to get the passer-by's attention and the guy with the yellow-and-blue sash on propaganda duty. (There was a third guy, the one in the blue coat, whose job seemed to be to protect the Godzuki's flank.) So, naturally, we chased after them:

The guy in the yellow-and-blue sash was annoyed by our presence, but he channeled his anger into whatever harangue he was delivering to the voter. Godzuki was sort of bemused. Shortly afterwards, I had a man-to-man lesson, and I asked the student if she knew that Godzilla was running for office. "Yes," she said. I asked her if she was going to vote for him. "Yes," she said. I said that was probably a good idea, and then I asked her if Godzilla was going to destroy the city if he lost the election. "Yes," she said. I got all wide-eyed and asked her what office he was running for. "Yes," she said. I asked her if she understood anything I had said. She smiled and tilted her head to the right.

No, panda! Stay away! Damn you, ram, defiler of innocence.

November 7, 2003 While it lasts, please enjoy some fun I had with bandwidth thieves (scroll down to the part about Tom Bosley).

October 15, 2003 It's election time here in Japan. Forward-thinking innovators that they are, the Japanese have solved the problem of campaign finance reform by making assholes with megaphones the primary venue of political discourse. The better-funded organizations record women with infantile voices reading their slogans and hire dirty old men to drive around residential neighborhoods in trucks with loud-speakers. The lesser-funded organizations have to rely on less mobile, slightly less dirty old men outside of train stations to get their message across. It's all the more irritating because the message never even amounts to much; nearly every other word, from radicals and establishment candidates alike, is "thank-you-(polite-acquaintance)". I resent the implication that I've done them some kindness. The idiot who sets up outside of my school in the evening spends half of his time listing other train lines where he likes to jabber. (And then he thanks the train lines, as if they can hear him. I want to learn Japanese if only to tell him what a fucking idiot he is.) There is a passage in Alex Kerr's Dogs and Demons: The Dark Side of Modern Japan about a Japanese neighborhood that demanded several trees be cut down because they might attract "noisy birds", but never thought to register a complaint about the roving politicians or the squawking traffic signals. (Traffic signals squawk here.) As is to be expected, then, our students just passively accept the idiots-with-megaphones, never taking notice or registering annoyance with them. Some teachers, myself included, use the idiots-with-megaphones as objects for "culture lessons" about how anybody doing that in a Western country would get the crap beaten out of them. (Students are considered to have failed if they don't head downstairs after the lesson and tell the idiot with the megaphone to shut up.) I have found that teaching is all about making your fury educational as best you can.

I have been trying to keep up with politics in the United States, but I am inevitably disconnected from events, and must rely on internet articles to give me a sense of what is happening. Checking up on the Democratic primaries, I found these poll results:

I can see that Gen. Wesley Clark is in the lead with Gov. Howard Dean running second, but what surprises me is that someone called Monkey Brain appears to have 3% of the vote. Is a monkey brain running for president under the Democratic banner? If so, let me issue a strong caution about voting for monkey brains that do not reside within monkey bodies. It's true of all species: removed from their bodies, brains in jars become violent, hateful and deranged; in the case of monkeys, their natural whimsy turns into sinister, calculating evil. Hence, I cannot endorse the monkey brain's candidacy. It would be interesting to see a demographic breakdown of its supporters. I suspect that it has cornered the pure evil vote, who historically have supported vengeful abominations of science, and that evidently gives him higher numbers than poor Dennis Kucinich. (Come on, Kooch.) My best guess is that the monkey brain may be some kind of Green Party affiliate, and its support will level off in a few weeks when Ralph Nader returns from vacation and insists that Monkey Brain be returned to Monkey Body. (But where will the monkey brain swing votes go?)

Much like their American counterparts, the Democratic Party of Japan firmly believes in putting out its fist and sort of hoping that evil walks into it at a speed that will bring about an impact that will cause evil to re-think its actions but not hurt the Democratic Party of Japan's knuckles too badly.

This poster is yet more evidence that people have become all too quick to point the blame at spectral black apparitions for social problems. They are truly the scapegoat of the modern age; and when you consider the recent statistics showing that the ratio of spectral-black-apparition-on-random-old-guy-and-school-girl violence is actually significantly lower than the numbers on random-old-guy-and-school-girl-on-spectral-black-apparition violence, it becomes all the more egregious.

Also, let me make one more thing perfectly clear:

These croissants can brag about their eating ability all they like, but when breakfast was over, one of us was eaten, and it wasn't me.

Yeah, it's that easy.

September 15, 2003 I think I am through the summer crazy without any serious trouble. The timing of the seasons are a little skewed here, because the Kansai summer is split into the rainy season (first half) and the bastard hot season (second half), which is finally drawing to a close. In the years since I finished college, I have become renowned for making terrible decisions in the summer. Something about hot weather and working full-time sets me off on some bad craziness, and I start doing things I would normally know better than to do. Two summers ago, for example, I quit my job without having another one ready, and that led to six months of unemployment and debt from which I have yet to recover. (I really thought I had that aquarium job locked up.) I am not going to talk about the summer of 2002 except to say that my decision-making in 2001 was basically the Bhagavad Gita in comparison. I don't think I did anything terribly rash this summer, unless you count moving halfway around the world to a place where I don't know anybody and I can't speak the language, but that wasn't really a summer decision, as it was late spring when I arrived. I keep the air conditioning in my room at 18 C at all times in order to create the illusion of winter, when I am much wiser.


(AP) With the nation still in mourning over the sudden death of sitcom actor and everyman hero John Ritter, Congress is considering legislation that would require wrong doors, the great bane of Ritter's life, to be clearly labeled as such. House Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), the sponsor of the bill, grew visibly emotional as he spoke on the House floor. "Every year, thousands of innocent, well-intentioned Americans walk in the wrong door and all hell breaks loose. For too long, we have blamed the misunderstandings that result, and spent too much of our energy attempting to correct those misunderstandings, frequently making them worse in the process. We must look elsewhere, to the real problem: the wrong doors themselves." Complicating the initiative, however, is what Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Min) has referred to as the "shifty" nature of the wrong door. "Often, the wrong door is separated from being the right door by time, not space. Right doors become wrong doors in a matter of seconds, simply due to the arrival of an unexpected neighbor, girlfriend or landlord." Although Coleman had prepared a report on what he referred to as "the quantum implications of this spatial transferrence", his explanation was interrupted by the arrival of Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wi), wearing a padded bra designed to look like twin watermelons. Feingold, startled by the presence of reporters, insisted that the situation was not, in fact, what it appeared to be.

People have been asking how I'm doing with the language. The answer is that I'm doing quite poorly. You'd think that, living in Japan, I'd have some cause to learn some Japanese, but the fact is that it just doesn't come up very often. I'm paid to make Japanese people stop speaking Japanese, and outside of work, I just use the same ten words over and over again, mostly thanking store clerks and telling drunks I can't understand them and to quit talking to me. It would be nice to be able to say more, but my motivation is lacking. It's a problem I've discussed with students (hello, Asuka): the huge gap between being able to say anything and being able to say anything worth saying. The language CDs are all about asking for directions, commenting on the weather and ordering drinks. I'm not interested in any of that. I need to be able to say things like:

1. Before you decide to charge me for that milkshake, perhaps you should consider my status as an international connoisseur of milkshakes, and while your initial assumption may be that I will not accept bribes in exchange for favorable reviews, I think you will be pleasantly surprised if you give it a try;
2. Your robot appears to be regarding me with suspicion, and I would like to assure you that his fears are unfounded and he should be calmed, particularly where the use of lasers are concerned;
3. Please direct me to the nearest residence of monkeys.

By the time I learn how to say any of that, it'll be time to leave. It's tough being divided by from your neighbors by languages. The rabbi and I used to argue about the Tower of Babel. He'd send me an email responding to something I said with a proverb in Hebrew, knowing full well I couldn't understand it, so I'd make up words and send them back to him, and he'd call me into his office and we'd yell at each other. He took the position that Tower of Babel was a good thing, because language comes before thought, and artistry of language supercedes artistry of ideas. I took the position that his position was really stupid. If Chomsky heard the rabbi, he'd just freak out and start randomly clawing at things. (I don't know why I always let myself get drawn into those arguments. You're not going to get anywhere arguing over the virtue of something you believe to be a metaphor with someone who believes it to be the literal truth, anyway.)

On a completely unrelated note, I have this to ask of fans of the NFL:

Are you ready for some football?!?!

The list of respects in which Hank Williams, Jr. has outlived his usefulness is long and well-documented, but the clear superiority of this little guy is yet another reason why our team can afford to trade Hank Williams, Jr. to another planet for draft picks. Rebuilding on the fly is the way to go, folks.

May 7, 2003

I have tried, because I am cooperative and reasonable, but I can't manage to get swept up in SARS fever. Perhaps I'm just not ready to move on after Iraqattack 2003, because I never got the sense of closure I needed from a climactic warehouse fistfight between Saddam and Bush, say, or the discovery of actual weapons of mass destruction. But I think I've been fair, and SARS doesn't have what I look for in a global panic event. A hyped-up remix of the flu? This is truly an era of diminished expectations. I try to be polite to SARS followers and give a duly serious nod in response to their concerns about my heading to Japan, because that's what they're into, and one thing I've noticed is that nobody's really likes hearing how something they're interested in isn't all that good. Of course, I'll take the necessary precautions while I'm over there, such as not making any day-trips to small towns in China for a festive round of doorknob-licking. But, really, there's going to have to be a mutant SARS monster or something on that level for me to get into this.

My pre-departure vagrancy tour finds me in my friend Henry's apartment down in our old college town for the next couple of days, following stints in downtown Chicago and Wisconsin. He has a relatively new computer but still has the same keyboard from when we roomed together six years ago. From this keyboard, dwarves were sent forth to attack my trolls in Warcraft, and in brighter times, dwarf-troll alliances were formed against our other two roommates' dwarves and trolls. It's hard not to get sentimental. The collected grime of six years of use has taken its toll on this fine-tuned machinery, though, and I really have to earn each response from the space bar. We spent a merry night compiling research on the current projects of Sir Mix-A-Lot, Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer. (The rumors are true: Hammer is, again, an MC. You can go home again, it appears. Tom Wolfe is therefore deemed unable 2 touch this.) A brief report:

MC Hammer: "Active Duty" (2001) album finds him wearing a number of horrendous outfits, many of which are entirely unsuitable for active military duty, such as fur coats; no longer raps, just kind of shouts in sub-DMX fashion. Unbowed, still refers to self as world's foremost entertainer and spiritual leader.

Vanilla Ice: "Bi-Polar" album (2001) combines two separate albums, one rap-metal ("Scabz") and one rap (hit single "Hot Sex"); both are crap, but do sound different. Has roped in an obscure affiliate of the Wu-Tang Clan for credibility, although said member is likely no longer possessed of vocal cords, as one imagines that loaning the Wu-Tang name to a Vanilla Ice project would be be rather difficult to explain to Ghostface Killah. Online store announces closing in April. "Word To Your Mutha" tour ambles through Canada.

Sir Mix-A-Lot: Still in his prime. Extensive documentation available of every critical list on which "Baby Got Back" (song and video) has placed higher than other, more commercially successful rap artists. Clips from UPN's "The Watcher" curiously unavailable.

April 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.

April 8, 2003 I have been sick. The rabbi said something or other about mold spores and weather getting warmer, but I was spaced out at the time. His daughter married a doctor, so he is never short for an opinion on health issues. I am still cranky about the onset of seasonal allergies shortly after I turned 20, as I had previously thought such weaknesses to be the exclusive province of chumps, but here I am, running through tissues like it ain't no thing. I hid my tiger-striped kleenex box behind some books because I was tired of people gaping at its vaguely pornographic splendour. My mother bought it for me a couple years ago, when an insurance investigator came to check out the recent break-in at my apartment. She thought it conveyed an affluent lifestyle, which would make the investigator more likely to believe I once owned the items I was claiming were stolen. My mother, like the rabbi, was born without a crucial signal receptor in her brain that tells her when she is out of her element.

(profile) Bush believes he was called by God to lead the nation at this time, says Commerce Secretary Don Evans, a close friend who talks with Bush every day. His history degree from Yale makes him mindful of the importance of the moment. He knows he's making ''history-changing decisions,'' Evans says.

Didn't he get a C- while earning that history degree? We are so fucked. Or, to be more precise, you are so fucked, because when the day comes, I will be in a remote monastery in Asia with some monks and some monkeys, playing catch.

I had some Chinese food last week and was accidentally given two fortune cookies. Both of them had the same fortune: "The weekend ahead predicts enjoyment." I decided immediately to spend the entire weekend in a bowling alley, hoping that said enjoyment would manifest itself in the form of breaking the 200 barrier, but at some point between then and the weekend, I got distracted and forgot. I can't even remember what I did that weekend.


Snow-women want to hop my jock. But they only love me because I will not melt.

In advance of moving to Japan, I am selling most of my non-portable possessions. If anyone wants to own the partially-melted area rug of a legend, please contact me at the above address.

April 1, 2003 Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, and each has its own character -- and its own way of expressing a sense of community. My friends in the Ukrainian Village have pleasant weekly traditions such as movie nights and breakfast-for-dinner get-togethers. In Rogers Park, affectionately known as the RP, we have weekly hobo knife-fights. That's just what works for us. The hoboes spend all week getting riled up, and by Tuesday, they're good and ready to have a go at each other. Afterwards, everyone sits around tending to their wounds and telling stories. Last Tuesday, one of the older hoboes told me that Dick Cheney used fly in for the fights each week, attempting to pose as a hobo by spilling mustard on his suit coat. It's considered a major faux pas to enter the fights by posing as a hobo, because that violates the purity of the tradition -- really, it's a night for the hoboes -- but Cheney did it anyway, even when people recognized him as the chairman of Halliburton, which continued doing business with Saddam Hussein through its subsidiaries as late as 1998. The hobo said that Cheney was a really dirty and bloodthirsty fighter, and he'd stand over his fallen opponent, bragging about how well-fed he was. Supposedly, everyone was quite sick of Cheney, but he'd come every week anyway, claiming executive privilege to turn an innocent community tradition into a sick spectacle of bloodlust. The hobo shuddered as he recounted Lynne Cheney's frenzied shrieks at the sight of hobo blood, which she'd claim for use as clown make-up. I never got to see it myself, but the hobo seemed quite serious as he told the story, and he was one of the best knife-handlers, so that does lend some credence to his story. Just as the tradition was about to die out, Cheney stopped coming. He seems to have found another hobby, although no one knows what it is.

In more personal news, I am ready to admit that I live in fear of the day when a slip of my finger leaves one of my emails signed 'Marv.' The 'c' is so close to the 'v' on my keyboard, and there is no barrier between the two, no fail-safe for a split-second when I am a shade below the top of my game. The thing is, were I to slip once, I could never be taken seriously as 'Marc.' again. To the recipient of that email, I would become 'Marv.', once and forever. I can't risk that. I'm considering remapping my keys to the Dvorak layout. The 'c' and the 'v' aren't even within a row of each other in Dvorak. But it's not likely that I'll make the change, because I have all these rag-dolls trying to wrap me up in drama. Fuck drama! That is my credo for the present.

The rabbi has begun to grow paranoid about what I will say during my exit interview at the end of the month. He called me into his office for a private meeting, and opened by announcing his agreement with what he believed to be my list of complaints about the other workers in the office. (He and I have virtually nothing to do with them professionally, but I'm out among them nonetheless, and for the most part, they are a fairly obnoxious bunch.) The rabbi stressed that I should 'pull no punches' about them during the interview. Then he began dropping hints about what he called 'giving a certain someone ammunition'. Like all decent cartoon characters, he has an arch-enemy, a rabbi who works upstairs in human resources. The other rabbi is constantly out to cut his funding and catch him in violation of various rules and regulations that he is frequently in violation of, such as dubious expense reports and falsified time cards. (I have met the arch-enemy rabbi, and to be fair, the guy is a jerk.) In a clumsy attempt to be subtle, the rabbi hinted that I shouldn't complain about him during the exit interview, lest his nemesis get access to the notes and use them against him. To be honest, I hadn't started thinking about the exit interview yet. I was planning to exact my grudge by making absolutely sure that my successor knows the score before they take the job. But perhaps I should make the most of the occasion. Perhaps I'll rap the whole thing. I just need to assemble a list of rhymes for 'cut his funding'.

February 20, 2003 Presidents Day is past, and America did not do an especially good job of honoring its presidents. The Chester A. Arthur 19 cent piece, for example, remains but a twinkle in the eye of the caretakers of the Chester A. Arthur Historic Site and Birthplace. The working men of this land, of whom President Arthur was frequently aware, continue to be forced to pay for purchases that cost $1.19, such as a bottle of soda, with the laborious combination of a dollar bill, a dime, a nickel, and four pennies - and that's the best case scenario. (God forbid the dollar bill be replaced by four quarters.) Where is the Ronald Reagan Negative One Dollar Bill? We owe the American worker a better way to tell his fellow man that his fellow man owes him a dollar. Slapping down a Ronnie will do just that. Above all else, when will the new national justification, "That man tried to kill my daddy", take its rightful place on our currency? If we don't love our presidents, they will go away, like the dolphins in that one book - or perhaps it was the whales, and perhaps it was actually Star Trek IV.

As for the upcoming election, I am throwing my initial support behind Rep. Dennis Kucinich. He is not a handsome man, but he is an eloquent and intelligent speaker, and I think that if being allowed to call him "President Kooch" were a condition of his being elected, he would go along with it. Also, he went so far as to include links to his favorite bowling alleys on his congressional website. How could the nation go wrong? How, indeed.

(interview) Interviewer: Your characters don't seem to have personalities.

Burrows: This was a novel of ideas. I didn't go into personal relationships.

Interviewer: You have people speaking in paragraphs, using words like "indeed" in casual conversation. After your protagonist, Joan Milton, watches the planes hitting the World Trade Center, she turns away in horror and says to her friends: "What an almost unbelievable tragedy! It will take a great resolve to overcome this terrible blow." My question is, have you ever heard real human beings speak?

Burrows: This is the way I speak. In my circle, I am regarded as a fascinating conversationalist. I have a dinner group that has been meeting for maybe 30 years. I admit that may be a little limiting.

Interviewer: Your only black character, who is named Jesse Jackson Jones, expresses his concurrence by saying, "Right on!"

Burrows: Yes.

The Morning News should give me a Ronnie for that fine link.

I had a good birthday. Thank you for the emails!

January 3, 2003 BREAKING NEWS! Extensive audio testing has revealed the shocking truth: Bob Seger has not been singing "Like A Rock"...he has been singing "Like IRAQ" all along! Traitor! What can we do to combat this insidious threat? Well, the first step is for all broadcasters of conscience to cease playing that and all other Bob Seger songs immediately before any more damage is done to the innocent psyches of our children. (Think of all the things that have, in their formative years, been likened to Iraq! Hundreds, thousands of associations!) Secondly, we build internment camps for members of the Silver Bullet Band. The bassists and drummers may simply have been deceived through falsified sheet music and other standard bamboozlement techniques, but we have to assume complicity on the part of lead and rhythm guitar players, and especially that fucker who played piano on "Against the Wind".

There was a light dusting of snow outside when I left for work this morning. I think there is time and occasion left for a good old avalanche, a bring the city to a halt storm, but it doesn't seem to be in the offing. Well, there was Christmas Eve, and that was nice.

The library has not responded to any of my entreaties. Retaliatory gestures are in preparatory stages.

The Chinese made headlines again recently by reiterating their plans to launch manned space flights. They used the occasion to also announce their plans to send men to the moon and to Mars. I have long believed that government expenditures on anything other than sending men to Mars are bullshit, so I must give due respect to the Chinese for the announcement, although anonymous foreign sources, despite worldwide consensus in the rap world, choose to hate on the players and the game:

(news) "There are even more outlandish plans, like manned moon bases. They think they can put a man on the surface of Mars. Some of these are too ambitious but a lunar program could be the next step," the diplomat said.

Do you think that the Chinese space program is unprepared?! Check your head, sir:

Would-be spacefarers typically went through three to five years of training, including courses in rocket design, astronomy and communications, state media said. There was also a flight manual on board the spacecraft for emergencies, the Sichuan Daily quoted Qi Faren, Shenzhou's chief engineer, as saying. "In case there is a problem when people are on board, the astronauts can quickly flip through the book to find the reason," Qi said.

They have an instruction manual, so what's the problem? NASA is jealous they didn't think of that with Apollo 13.

The Chinese space program, which does not disclose the name of its astronauts, prefers to shroud its space program in a veil of secrecy. I worry, therefore, that I may come into conflict with the Chinese government over this web page. Such a showdown would be unfortunate for everyone involved. Perhaps an arrangement could be reached whereby I would receive a trip to Beijing, where I would play 'Clumsy American Astronaut' in a propaganda film about the superiority of the Chinese space program. Then, NASA could make a sequel propaganda film, also starring me, wherein 'Clumsy American Astronaut' overcomes his confusion and winds up being the best astronaut ever. Several rebuttal films later, the world is captivated by my portrayal of 'Clumsy American Astronaut' and resolves to set aside its differences, leading to a new era of peace for humanity. Alternately, I make off with the monkeys from both space programs, inherit an olive farm in the south of France, attempt to train the monkeys to pick olives, and come into hilarious conflict with the villagers. Either way, I think this is a good plan, and I recommend we get started as soon as possible.

December 23, 2002 A small measure of my faith in America was restored when Trent Lott's "Black people, I love you" plan didn't save his job as Senate Majority Leader. A mere two weeks after the eruption of controversy over his series of pro-segregation remarks, Lott was removed from his post, and a replacement was quickly named:

(news) Senate Republicans unanimously elected Bill Frist on Monday to lead them in the next Congress, and began trying to shift their focus from Trent Lott's inflammatory remarks to tax cuts and the rest of President Bush agenda.

It wasn't long, though, before bad craziness returned to politics:

(news) Bill Frist still keeps a white doctor's coat in his car and has always been willing to dispense medical advice — whether during the anthrax scare on Capitol Hill or on overseas trips he makes to provide medical care to the poor. Republicans are now banking on the heart surgeon-turned-politician having the right prescription to erase the memories of the race controversy that toppled Trent Lott as Senate GOP leader and to restore the party to a course of broadening its appeal. "Frist is really your friendly neighborhood doctor. That's a big difference for the Republican Party," University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato said of the man Republicans picked Monday to become Senate majority leader next month.

The fact that Frist is a heart surgeon is being marketed by his party so heavily in the stead of actual convictions that we are forced to regard being a heart surgeon as his basic conviction, which casts a disturbing light on soundbites like these:

A few moments ago, my colleagues gave me a responsibility equal to that, and in some ways, many would say, even a heavier responsibility," he said. "I accepted that responsibility with a profound sense of humility very similar to placing that heart into a dying woman or a child or a man."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's understands his job in terms of ripping hearts out of living people! He tells sweet stories about where he puts the hearts, but let's face it, those hearts had to come from somewhere. 'Tis better to give than receive, or to place organs rather than harvest, he would say, but that is an amateur diversionary tactic. What about the hearts Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist keeps? What does he do with those ones? Keep them in jars? Eat them? Feed them to some dark god in his basement? It is absolutely imperative that an independent commission be formed immediately to demand accounting for the usage of each and every heart that came into Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's possession. Furthermore, mark well the convenient silence from the original owners of the hearts, none of whom were quoted in that or any other article about the vote. Each and every one of those people must be located, offered protection and asked to give sworn testimony that Senate Majority Leader Frist had permission to take their hearts. Men and women of courage must come forth now. In these troubled times, we can hardly stand to have a wanton devourer of living hearts in control of the Senate. How much longer before open, public baby-eating on Capitol Hill? How much longer?

I should write some reflections on the Christmas season. But you should arrange for sandwiches to be delivered to me by capuchin monkeys, so we'll call it even.

December 19, 2002 I live in ridiculous times. In their wake, I try to enjoy the fact that my personal disasters are usually odd, sometimes memorably so, and rarely mundane. As they happen, though, and in the long days thereafter, I become sulky as fuck. My current disaster is that I slipped on the back stairs behind my apartment while taking out the garbage and clocked myself upside the head, leaving a bloody gash upon said head. It hurt. The head has been repaired in more or less satisfactory condition, but now I have to wear a hat whenever I am in public because there is a large bandage, and a patch of hair is gone for the stitches' sake. The hat is fine when I am outdoors, because it's much the same hat that I would be wearing anyway, but indoors, it is strange. There is no time to explain to strangers that I got clocked upside the head, so they think that I am simply some twit in a hat, and I am so much more than that. At work, of course, it's fine, because they all wear yarmulkas, and if anyone had bothered to ask, which they didn't, thanks to the precedent set by my patented imperious glare, I would have informed them that I am a humanist, and it is very important for humanists around the holiday season to wear longshoreman's caps, as some kind of solidarity populist thing, so don't fuck with my beliefs. By and large, though, I don't much want to talk about it, because I am sulky as fuck.

I think the audience of this webpage is divided evenly between those who like me and those who want me dead. I am fine! I tell you that, I am fine. Half can relax, half can clench their fists.

My stepfather, a retired literature professor, made fun of me for reading Timon of Athens. That was prior to the clocking of my head. I don't know why people have to cause trouble.

(news) Also calling for Lott to step aside yesterday was religious broadcaster Jerry Falwell. While taping the TV show "America's Black Forum," Falwell said Lott's Dec. 5 statements "were indefensible. . . . By staying on, he's compromising the president's agenda."

Likely to go unnoticed in all of the hubbub surrounding Trent Lott is this tremendously important issue: What is Jerry Falwell doing hosting a show called "America's Black Forum"? Should Jerry Falwell be acting as a spokesman for black people in America? Does having an 'in' with Jesus mean you get to up and declare yourself black? These are questions.

December 6, 2002 Today was the holiday luncheon at work, an event notable mostly for marking the terrifying, undeniable truth that I have spent an entire year of my life in this place. The volumes of sound and fury aside, I actually only spent nine months at Beelzetron; I have been working for this maniacal rabbi for more than a year now.

Everyone else has been frantically busy all week working on fundraising events, but my workload has been light, as most of the rabbi's current schemes won't kick in until January, and there hasn't been much to write, because I don't think he's especially interested in Hanukkah, compared to the other Jewish holidays. Too mainstream, perhaps. (Comparatively, I produced several novels' worth of yammering on about Yom Kippur.) He also isn't much for office functions, so he left before the lunch. I wasn't interested in the social aspects of the party, but I do regard it as something of a moral imperative to abuse the hospitality of my employers, so I attended and overate and was charmingly abusive to passersby. Then I put my phone on 'do not disturb', slipped off my shoes and took a nap in the rabbi's nice, dark office.

(news) Arms teams are welcome, Hussein says, but the Iraqi leader insists inspectors will find nothing. Hussein's measured comments and stab at statesmanship ... seemed designed in part to blunt U.S. criticism and counter Hussein's image in the West as a brutal dictator defying international opinion.

The ongoing argument about the reception of the weapons inspectors in Iraq is clearly a public-relations battle that is being waged for the American people's benefit. Not to lend a hand to an evil megalomaniac, but if Saddam wants to convince the majority of the American people that he has been welcoming the weapons inspectors, he needs to move the focus of the debate away from questions of access and weapons and towards issues such as: Did he provide chips for the weapons inspectors to snack on? Was there salsa for the weapons inspectors to dip those chips in? Was Iraq's dog playful, mixing up all of the weapons inspectors' shoes? Conversely, the Bush administration can deal a deathblow to Saddam's hopes for public opinion by disclosing that Saddam will not allow casual day for the weapons inspectors, and so forth.

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 21, 2002 The rabbi came in to the office today all riled up because he had a speaking engagement last night and the woman who arranged it did not give him instructions on where to park. He had me write an angry memo about it - which I tried to pattern after the Iliad, for lack of anything better to do - demanding better treatment in the future and recompense for the parking ticket he received. The officer had to use the 'Description' box to indicate the offense, which was not among the standard two dozen listed. The offense: "Parallel park more than 12" from the curb." So, it turns out, you can be ticketed for that. I'd been curious. And I always suspected that guy wasn't any good at parallel parking.

Last night, when I left the office, I was a fountain of unchecked aggression, so I decided to harass some anti-war protesters. I am very much against the current scheme of military action, but I have long suspected these protesters to be counter-agents in disguise, for they are idiots. They wear cheap faux-medieval costumes, and one, with a loudspeaker, sings (terribly) nonsensical half-rhymes like

Bibbity bobbity bibbity boo
When we stop the war.

before seguing back into incoherent speech about global security. They've been at it once every week or so ever since the bombing campaign began in Afghanistan last year. I think they make the anti-war movement look ridiculous, and in a time where legitimate protest is struggling for visibility, it bothers me that twits in thrift-store D&D wear become representative figureheads by virtue of their presence at a busy street corner downtown. I tried to engage the elderly leafletters on their periphery first, but they just directed me to the chubby old lady dressed as a queen. I declined her petition clipboard and tactfully suggested that they looked fucking ridiculous, and she said "I disagree" and turned away. I considered going to the top, to the princess with the loudspeaker, but she had a look of pure crazy in her eyes that turned my mood from anger to reminiscence about the failures of my love life, and so I shrugged and headed down to the subway.

November 6, 2002 The silver chalice was within our grasp; but, as anyone familiar with the nature of sporting narrative could have predicted following yesterday's confident update, our bowling team imploded. It was a frustrating night. I took care with my pre-game conditioning, eating three ice cream sandwiches on the car ride over and arriving early enough to practice. Mastodon and Manta Ray, my teammates, seemed equally ebullient about our chances. As Team Ten warned us from the next lane, though, we were facing a notorious bunch of sandbaggers. Indeed, we remained overconfident until the match was out of reach. I dropped a 186 in the second game, my second highest score ever, but it was not enough. We Powerful Creatures hung our heads and can only wait for next week to come.

I am never going to educate myself about the judicial elections again. As far as I can tell, every single judge was retained - and let me tell you, there were some guys who should have been dropped. James T. Ryan? Gone. James Jorzak? You're done. But no. It's one thing when the people who vote against you do so because of a difference of opinion, but it's another when they are just punching boxes in a hurry so they can finish and go home. I will find a different means of democratic change, most likely involving martial arts, as usual.

It may seem like I am concerned with removing people by the name of James from power. You can think that, if you like.

November 5, 2002 The second season of the bowling league is well underway. Our team has, I think, benefitted from the stability of a consistent weekly lineup. Last season's rotating personnel were all talented in their own ways, but the continuity of this season's starting roster has paid dividends in the establishment of a team mentality, lending an intimidating presence to our endeavors. There is, of course, a psychological component to bowling; it is among the elements that separate professionals from amateurs out on the lanes. We are the Powerful Creatures. Each of us is named for a different powerful creature; as always, I am the Monkey. We are second overall in total pins, but have faced a tough schedule in the early going. Tonight, we begin an aerial assault on the league's top ten.

If you are a resident of this here House of Illin', and you have not yet voted today but you plan to do so, and, after doing so, you would like to outmanuever those tiresome motherfuckers who ascribe an enlightened state to themselves purely for having cast a vote, the links below will educate you as to which judges to support for retention down there on the bottom of the ballot, thus allowing you to throw that in the next God's Favorite Informed Participant's face, because, pow, who knows about the judges? You do. Print this shit out. 1, 2, 3, 4.

September 18, 2002 My site counter showed a hit from Trinidad and Tobago yesterday. I know they usually merge their soccer teams and Olympic squads, but I think it's great that they get together to visit my website. It shows the proper respect for the fury of my journalism. ("Shit! I am too small a country to handle these lyrical javelins by myself. I better see if Tobago is busy.") I appreciate that. Thanks, Trinidad. And you too, Tobago.

I think that all countries should have a buddy system.

September 17, 2002 (news) In an astonishing concession, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il confirmed Tuesday that Japanese citizens were kidnapped decades ago to teach language and culture to spies. Kim said at least four of the victims were still alive and might be allowed to return home. Ending years of denials, Kim admitted the kidnappings during a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Kim said about a dozen Japanese were kidnapped by North Korean agents, acknowledging the abductions were "regrettable and would never happen again." Kim said those responsible would be punished. "I strongly protested the abductions," Koizumi said in a news conference, adding that Kim apologized. "Kim said it was done by elements in the military, and an investigation was underway." "I thought we had to hold talks to improve relations between Japan and North Korea. But my heart aches when I consider how the families must feel," Koizumi said. "This happened over decades of hostile relations and I want to talk about it frankly," Kim was quoted as telling Koizumi by a Japanese delegation official who briefed reporters afterward. "I want to apologize and it will never be allowed to happen again."

I hate to fall into a familiar refrain, because I know I've been over this before, but I want to know when the American government is going to apologize for kidnapping me decades ago in order to teach martial arts and fighting techniques to spies. North Korea owned up to what it did. What about you, Mr. Bush? I had shit to do, and y'all kidnapped me. Does your heart ache when you consider how my peeps must feel? It should.


Today is a special day. Ever since I began working here last year and learned about what all of the major Jewish holidays mean, I have been waiting for today, the day after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, hoping that people will greet me upon our return to the office after the holiday by asking, "Did you have a good holiday? What did you atone for?', and I'll respond, "Man, I ain't atoned for shit."

Please, then, everyone ask me what I atoned for. I'll even give you my work phone number if you'd prefer to ask by phone. Let's not let this day slip away.

August 28, 2002 A memo about an all-staff gathering on September 11th went out. (All staff will gather...will begin at 8:45a.m. sharp...we will reflect on the meaning of that day's events to our nation, our community, and to ourselves...) Everyone is lining up to use the anticipated resonance of the day for their purposes. I plan to take the day off from work, whatever the cost. For that twenty-four hour period, I will not turn on my television, my radio or my web browser. I don't plan to do anything epic or sentimental to mark the day, but I am fairly intent that I will only talk to people I care about during those twenty-four hours, and I will not allow someone else to commemorate the day for me. I experienced it alone, slightly bewildered, and then I talked about it with friends, and at night I sat out on the rocks at the beach, and that is what I will do again.

Russia, I trust you. I know that you have something clever planned for when you take Lance Bass 'into space'. I believe that, in the end, you will do the right thing, which is not, of course, actually taking Lance Bass into space. You are a country of revolutions. You are a country with a long, proud history of taking fervent ideological stands with little regard to practical concerns. I know that you will trick him at the last minute and make off with the money, hiding perhaps in Siberia. It will be very funny. Millions of people are counting on you, Russia, and I know that you will come through.

August 26, 2002 Someone keeps replacing the roof on this funky joint, forcing me to tear it off anew day after day when I could be accomplishing many other productive things. I will catch that motherfucker, in time.

(news) One of the administration officials said Gonzales also concluded the current president has authority to act against Saddam under the congressional resolution that authorized his father's actions in the 1991 Gulf War. Saddam has not complied with the terms that ended that war, the official said.

I feel confident that there are a number of people who will comment upon the madness of this new development in the Bush administration's policy. As a team player, then, I have decided to seek out ground of my own and work from there. Thus: why is a major news publication, in cooperation with the American government, repeatedly referring to Saddam Hussein by his first name? Iraq does not use Chinese rules for nomenclature. Yao Ming, the 7'6" Chinese basketball player, is called 'Yao' by sportswriters, and that is because his family (or "last") name is 'Yao', and his personal name is Ming. It is widely considered rude in public discourse to refer to individuals by their first name when interpersonal familiarity has not been achieved. Even Yassar Arafat and Ariel Sharon don't cross that line with each other. However, the United States seems very insistent upon having Saddam Hussein known as 'Saddam', not Mr. Hussein, Hussein or even S. Hussein.

What we are seeing, then, is an attempt on the part of the United States government - with which the news media is being largely cooperative - to move Saddam Hussein out of the realm of the 'real' and forcibly transcend him to 'one-name celebrity' status such as that held by Oprah, Sting and Charo. This would, in the long-term, reduce him to a basic signifier rather than a literal fact, allowing actions against him to be divorced from the messy requirements of cause and effect.

When one cross-references this data with the ongoing negotiations between CBS and former President Bill Clinton for Clinton to host a talk show, one becomes truly excited about the 2005 fall season.

May 26, 2002 Without warning, my television up and stopped working. It is one of the things that I will be remembering on this Memorial Day. My memories of the television are still fairly fresh, as it only stopped working this weekend. When the other items I have designated for memorial purposes this year grow hazy, and the effort to recall them becomes tiring, I shall return to thoughts of the television.

Here are my projects for this year's Memorial Day:

1. People who died in wars instigated by the Ottoman Empire;
2. Lesser pirates;
3. Carthage.

I am trying to make a point of memorializing under-memorialized events and personages, because I am really quite helpful. I know that this is going to be misinterpreted as cavalier and glib, but the people who misinterpret these sincere gestures of mine are a bunch of functional illiterates, and, frankly, I care more about the lesser pirates.

April 23, 2002 And now, I will attempt to win back your love. These departures, they are not my fault. They are the fault of military action in the Middle East. I am not saying that an increased workload for me is worse than, say, people dying, or even people starving or getting sick or having their homes blown up, all of those things are absolutely worse than a lot of work for me to do, but, all the same, I would like it to be taken into consideration by the powers that be in Israel and elsewhere that I did not sign on for this, this was not part of the agreement when I took the job, and if you do not make peace, I will quit, just as soon as I find another job, because I'm not doing that unemployment shit again.

(news) Powell talked for about 45 minutes in the meeting with Arafat and sent a "very clear message,'' said the official, "that the bombing had to stop.'' Powell stressed the point throughout the meeting, the official said. Little progress was made. The Palestinians served their guests chocolate cake, which was brought by the Norwegian ambassador a few days ago and saved so they could serve it with a bit of coffee.

I noticed that bit of news last week buried deep in a page five Sun-Times article. Now, of course, the Powell mission is over and failed. But how can the Palestinians' sincerity be doubted when they put all that effort into making sure that, even though they weren't being allowed out of their headquarters, there would be dessert when the visitors arrived? They even risked pissing off the Norwegians by claiming to be full and not in the mood for cake (or however else they explained not eating any of the cake while the Norwegians were around). The chocolate cake, for me, is the smoking gun of the peace process.

Sometimes, on major issues, I just get determined to have a viewpoint that no one else does.

The rabbi had surgery on his leg last night, leaving me with less work to do and, more importantly, the excuse that I've been waiting for to start calling him 'Pegleg'. I figure he'll love it.

I've been meaning to head over to the Mies In America exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art and start fights with people. Just walk up to someone and say, "Less sure is more, huh?", and if they agree, give them a nice cockpunch.

Here are some more of the books I have been reading:

The Hero With A Thousand Faces
Joseph Campbell

Camp-dogg's famous comparative study of myths from a vast array of pre-modern civilizations and their relation to Freud, Jung and the collective unconscious. I can't take Freud seriously, and I think the book is at its weakest when it leans heavily on him to explain the development of ancient religious myths. There's also a labored, fawning explanation of Buddhism that stops the book's momentum cold, and a streak of new-agey All-God yammering. But, for the most part, it's a pretty good book. The prose is fine, and it provides a nifty cross-sectional introduction of ancient myths other than the Greco-Roman hits. In my experience, knowing those sorts of things comes in handy during the strangest times. Campbell's outline of the quest of the hero (and its variations) is also useful. Whether it's an ancient script that exists in the collective unconscious of humanity or not, it does serve as a guide to the bare mechanics of a number of stories that have resonated with readers / listeners for thousands of years, and it's handy to play with or play off while writing something of your own, either for dramatic or comedic effect.

Three to See the King
Magnus Mills

Bearing in mind that I thought his first two books were brilliant - does two equal a bias? - I thought this one was screaming genius. I laughed out loud on the train, a deep sense of tranquility came over me while reading, etc. Magnus Mills is a bus driver in England. His stories feel like the result of a lot of time spent on public transportation at off hours. (That may be too wrapped up in how I feel about a lifetime of public transportation to mean something to anyone else, though.) His narrators are completely reasonable people who accept their world and think in one sentence at a time about it, but wind up surrounded by other people, who are not reasonable, and wind up drawn into strange versions of hell, which is far funnier in practice than it perhaps sounds here.

I wrote an essay on metaphors, and how teachers never tell you that the whole point of using a metaphor is that a reader is not supposed to catch you at it, but it got boring at the end, so I deleted it. The point was that Magnus Mills does great things with metaphors: the Incredibly Obvious Metaphor that's funny because of the air of smug cleverness that hangs around the practice of metaphors, and the Insufficient Materials Metaphor, where you use something ridiculously simple, like a darts game, to suggest something immense, like communism or the Bible. And by the end, you realize that none of the metaphors fit exactly, that this is its own full, odd and unique thing, and you smile, or at least I did.

Jim Jarmusch: Interviews

The films of Jim Jarmusch are great. As this collection demonstrates, he is occasionally interviewed by pretentious bastards, but not always. You may have heard his name and associated it in a vague way with static, boring Important Films By Men Who Have Seen Many European Films And Hollywood Won't Show Them, The Bastards. But don't. His films are crazy, funny, smart. They are about and for wild men. "Down By Law" is amongst the greatest shit ever. The very invocation of Ghost Dog's name speaks volumes. Yes, see the movies. This book is okay.

Sweet Thursday
John Steinbeck

Sequel to Cannery Row, which would go on the same list of Greatest Shit Ever as "Down By Law". This one is a single straight-line narrative, more or less, which puts a restriction on the number of characters that can be involved and the schemes they can hatch, and it doesn't have the Fell Straight From Heaven, Perfectly-Formed air that "Cannery Row" did for me, but it's still pretty great. A few characters are gone, and the rest have aged, and no one is as sure of himself as they used to be. It's incredibly funny, full of brilliantly observed characters and dedicated ultimately to beauty and love and all that good stuff, humanist at its core in that it tells an honest, unsentimental story about how people can live together and care for each other without religion or politics ever coming into it.

I've always been confused about why Steinbeck used those clumsy metaphors in "The Grapes of Wrath", because his other writing really suggests that he'd know better.

Also, I have read a whole lot of Spider-man in preparation for the upcoming film.

March 14, 2002 I had a lot of work to do. I hate to let days pass unreflected, but there they went. All that I have to show for it are some essays that I wrote on kabbalah that even I don't understand. This job. Anyway, I told you, I'm not a writer any more. I run a research institute that develops theoretical applications for monkeys in non-zoo environments. I think it will work out better than writing ever did.

During the down time, I completed the first thirty entries in an exciting new series called HAUNTED BY DEAD PRESIDENTS, in which each of the dead presidents came into my bedroom at night and haunted me. Then I deleted most of them because I was in a bad mood. They all started like this:


It is late at night, and our HERO is asleep. His cats sleep nearby. Suddenly, they scatter in fear. A spectral figure enters the room, moaning in a profoundly unsettling tone. It is a GHOST!

HERO: Who's there?
GHOST: Uurrrhhhhhhh...
HERO: Who is that?
GHOST: Muuhhhhhh...
HERO: Oh, shit, it's a ghost!
HERO: (thinks to self) Shit! I'd better repent! (pauses) Say, that's a familiar...

And then it kind of went on from there. I saved some of the audio interludes that went between episodes:

Interlude #1: My baby why you treat me so mean.
Interlude #2: I have secrets but you have something better.
Interlude #3: State of the nation.

So, there's that.

You're probably wondering how my lips are, since they were pretty chapped when I wrote the last entry. Well, I am happy to inform you that my lips are better now.

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 23, 2002

    Things are getting hectic around my apartment. I think I melted a section of my carpet last night. I'm not even sure what I did. I need a table. I need some time. I need yoo-oo-ou.

    (news) "Civilized people -- Muslims, Christians and Jews -- all understand that the source of freedom and human dignity is the Creator," (Attorney General John D.) Ashcroft said in prepared remarks released by the Justice Department. "Civilized people of all religious faiths are called to the defense of His creation. We are a nation called to defend freedom -- a freedom that is not the grant of any government or document, but is our endowment from God."

    Okay. Raise your hand if you have had it with this Creator and want to go back to the golden calf. Seriously. The freedom endowment is fine, but we are consistently getting screwed on a number of the auxiliary terms, and have you heard what the golden calf is offering? I don't know either, but I'm willing to listen. The God of Ashcroft. Shit. Man, the golden calf is fucking gold. That's really impressive. That implies a lot about what the golden calf can do for us and how it should be treated. It's right here, not up on some damn mountain, and we can just carry it around and worship it whenever we're in the mood. So, in conclusion, I think we should at least give the golden calf some consideration at this point in time.

    All week, I have been feeling tired and dizzy at work, because the air circulation is terrible there, and I keep getting this memo in my inbox:




    And I sit there thinking, wait, what has my ego been doing? Where has it been? Was I there? When did they hire the guy from "Top Gun"? If that guy was a rabbi in real life, I'd probably be pleased. I think other people would, too. I'd probably go be Jewish in my spare time and cause some form of chaos so his yarmulke fell off and he'd yell.

    I had a pretty good birthday. Things seemed to go right for me all day long: trains and buses, mostly. The breaks went my way. I had a long, aimless dinner with friends at a Mexican restaurant. For me, that is happiness.

    Today, I went for a haircut. There is a small salon a few blocks from my apartment that is run by a pair of European women who don't speak very much English, and that suits my purposes. I don't like making small talk while getting my hair cut. Their other customers, from what I've seen of them, don't seem to speak much English either. Most of them look like hockey players. I have this idea in my head that the two women were hair-cutting geniuses who were run out of their native country by an oppressive regime of some kind and have unassumingly set up shop in America, so they should be trusted on all hair issues. The woman who cut my hair today only knows two phrases: "Yeah, okay?" and "Thank you." She also knows the word "Short". She can use it two ways: to ask if I want my hair short, and to explain why she lowers the chair, because she, herself, is short. I admire that kind of ingenuity. Since we can't exchange anything other than those words (I only permit myself "Good!"), she uses her own judgment as to how my hair should be cut, and I don't mind that. I have no idea how my hair should look. When she's not looking, I try to strike intense poses like the European models in the pictures on the walls. Inevitably, my intense expressions become monkey faces.

    February 13, 2002

    So, who do I have to blow to get into the Axis of Evil? I am not planning to harbor any terrorists, even though I do have a spare room, but public denouncement by George W. Bush would do wonders for my reputation as a martial artist. I will even help with the speech:

    ...these countries (Iran, Iraq), which have continued to harbor those who hold the means for chemical and biological warfare, and the enigmatic M. Heiden, who continues to harbor special fighting moves which can do fierce multi-damage...<

    No, but in all seriousness, I am starting a pool on when Monster Island shows up in the Axis of Evil. For those who are taking the long bets, I would suggest that you consider that the actual President of the United States actually made reference to an "Axis of Evil" while the whole world was watching. I am betting nine months.

    There are six more days until my 24th birthday.

    On Saturday we played basketball in the puddles on a public court, encircled by slush and overseen by a fading mural of Roberto Clemente, and on Sunday we bowled. The always thought-provoking DJ at the Diversey River Bowl raised the issue of Gary Numan's "Cars" midway through the second game, spectre of tragic nobility that it is, for Gary Numan chose automobiles as his metaphor for emotional isolation through technology like ten minutes before computers arrived to render all previous metaphors in that category irrelevant. I bowled okay, and I played okay. The mural of Roberto Clemente is fading, and soon it will be gone.

    Puddles have never been a problem.

    January 24, 2002

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

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

    Here is a play for two Ethiopians:

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

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

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

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

    December 18, 2001

    I want to clarify my position on the firing of pandas into outer space, as I worry that it may have been misinterpreted. Please allow me to explain:

    I. I do not want to see all pandas fired into outer space, just one, and perhaps a second, to keep the first one company. I would like to keep a majority of pandas here on earth;
    II. I do not mean to imply that the Chinese have vast stores of pandas, hidden and secret from the world, and they can afford to lose a few in the interest of astrophysics;
    III. I think the panda(s) should be brought back alive;
    IV. I think the panda(s) should be given a great deal of bamboo for the trip;
    V. I realize that "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" was not a very good motion picture, and therefore I am not suggesting that a recreation of said motion picture be staged with an omnipotent space panda standing in for the omnipotent bald space woman;
    VI. I realize that "2001: A Space Odyssey" was a very good space odyssey, and though it is not central to my position, I would like to suggest that replacing all of the astronauts in said space odyssey with pandas might be kind of funny;
    VII. "What the fuck? All he ever talks about are animals, outer space and homeless guys."
    VIII. Pandas have a lot of fur, and therefore the rocket should be fired away from the sun, not toward it, lest the panda get too warm;
    IX. Have any experiments been done involving penguins in zero gravity, and the whole thing where they watch airplanes overhead and fall over? If not, why not? It's not as though there is a fucking penguin shortage;
    X. Penguin, penguin, penguin, penguin, moose. Penguin;
    XI. Certain motherfucking motherfuckers have motherfuckingly been fucking mothers, such as fathers;
    XII. "Yes, but what ba-a-ands do you listen to?"
    XIII. Pandas are big and strong, and though they are genial, if an alien should decide to fuck with the panda, I think the panda will be able to handle it;
    XIV. Steps should be taken to ensure that no one from "Ranma" is sent up by mistake;
    XV. Pandas can play basketball, I seen it on the teevee;
    XVI. (news) A Beijing film director has asked Jenna Bush, daughter of US President George W. Bush, to star in an anti-terrorism movie, a Hong Kong newspaper reported. Director Long Zanxu has sent Jenna a letter offering her the part of heroine Nancy Lee in a 100-million-yuan (12.06-million-dollar) production called "Hero Defending Country", the South China Morning Post reported. Jenna, who is a university student in the US, has not yet replied. In the movie, Lee battles with terrorists on planes and trains in a bid to beat the bad guys and improve Sino-US relations. Long said the small budget restricted him from hiring Hollywood stars like action movie hero Harrison Ford. However, he believed the political nature of the film would suit Jenna Bush and hoped that she would accept a low-paid contract as she was not a movie star. "I intend to console the victims of this terrorist accident with my film," the Post quoted the letter to Bush as reading in English. "And if you, Jenna, the daughter of the USA President, could play the role in this film developed by China and America, how much would it set the hearts of the people aflame. "In the near future, billions of film fans will praise you for your excellent playing in our film after they speak highly of your father's heroic struggle," the letter added. Filming was due to begin in the spring of 2002 and would be done mainly in China, the report said. This is Long's second invitation for Jenna to star in one of his productions. Last year, he invited her to take part in a love drama;
    XVII. My computer is pretty old. I need a new one. I was thinking I might get a desktop, because they are cheaper, and hang on to the laptop, which I'd just use for writing. But is it obscene to own and employ two computers? I don't mean to be obscene;
    XVIII. What I am saying is, there could be some fantastic slapstick involving Jenna Bush getting the panda drunk. That wouldn't fly in Hollywood, but the Hong Kong film industry is much better at that sort of thing, e.g. "Drunken Master 2";
    XIX. I don't have any money, anyway;
    XX. Bears 46, Patriots 10;
    XXI. My New Year's resolution this year, now drawing to a close, was to earn power-ups and dodge spinning blades. I am not sure that I succeeded;
    XXII. One of my friends in New York recognized me on "Judge Mathis"! Great;
    XXIII. Is it sexy that I know Roman numerals so well? Love me;
    XXIV. Wednesday nights are pretty good for bowling. Let me know if you want to come. I'm not positive if we're going this week, though, because a bunch of people are going to "Lord of the Rings";
    XXV. Quoth the Burger King announcer: "Arrrrwen, the elf!"
    XXVI. (news) Gordon Watson, a 50-year-old library employee in Vancouver, British Columbia, is among those fans who feel that Peter Jackson's movie - the first in a trilogy - has commercialized the story and betrayed Tolkien's spirit. "I believe Tolkien's text is as good a story as has ever been told,'' said Watson. "I agree that it's necessary to remove sections from it, but I don't think it's necessary to change some of the underlying themes.'' Tolkien devotees - even those like Watson who haven't seen the movie - can reel off a list of differences between the books and the film, from changes in the story's structure to the elimination of scenes and characters. Purists are most vocal about changes to the character Arwen, who in the first book does little more than sit at her father's side during a banquet. She is absent in the second book, returning only in the third book and appendices.
    In the movie, Arwen helps protect protagonist Frodo Baggins from spirit-warriors who are searching for him and the magical ring he carries. That's too much for Watson, who accuses Jackson of creating a "warrior princess" to appeal to female moviegoers at the expense of the story. "I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that she should be rescuing Frodo at the ford,'' Watson said. "It removes Frodo's heroic stature in the film where he's essentially facing down the Black Riders single-handed. It distracts from Frodo's evolution as a character";

    XXVII. Quoth the Burger King announcer: "Fro-do, the hobbit!"
    XXVIII. It sounds like a certain 50 year-old librarian and fantasy novel enthusiast is a little sensitive on the topic of warrior princesses;
    XXIX. Quoth the Burger King announcer: "Gor-don Wat-son, the librarian!"
    XXX. Comic book fans will want to check out the recent entry in Neil Gaiman's journal, wherein the normally polite and reserved genius lets loose and takes Todd McFarlane's punk ass to the house;
    XXXI. Pandas are generally given good names, such as Ling-Ling, which compares favorably to Al Bean and Buzz Aldrin, I think;
    XXXII. J.G. Ballard once wrote that it is entirely possible the only man from the twentieth century who will still be remembered 1000 years from now is Neil Armstrong;
    XXXIII. Well, why not a panda;
    XXXIV. The Chinese need something to keep them occupied and not making more babies. They'd be the first ones to tell you that;
    XXXV. We were standing around in the lobby of a Hawaiian bar, critiquing the internal design of pandas (seriously flawed), but the bar was very crowded, so we left;
    XXXVI. Bears 27, Steelers 24;
    XXXVII. Space panda or astro panda? I'm not sure;
    XXXVIII. Enough with these fucking communications satellites, and to hell with Anytime Minutes. The astro panda poops on communication satellites. Mischievous astro panda! Bamboo for you;
    XXXIX. Quoth the Burger King announcer: "Ling-Ling, the astro panda!"

    I hope that clarifies my position.

    October 17, 2001

    I would like to seize upon one of the major issues of our day and speak briefly about terrorists. I have not ruled them out as the guilty parties in the breaking of my finger this weekend, however air-tight their alibi may be. They called in a threat to one of the subway stops on my route this morning, providing me with an excuse for why I was late to the temp job I was going to be late to anyway, but in general, they seem to have switched their modus operandi from bombs to the postal system. They have been sending letters with the biochemical weapon anthrax enclosed to unsuspecting targets throughout the country. When people open the mail, they fall victim to the deadly poison. Because I feel that I should stay alive, I will no longer be opening any mail from the terrorists. I will now strenuously check the return address field of every envelope that I receive, and if the envelope is from the terrorists, I will throw it away. That is the way it has to be. I want to apologize to all the perfectly reasonable terrorists for whom this will be an inconvenience, as well to as all of the people with the vaguely Greek last name Theterrorists, but I must take precautions. This also means that I will not be paying my terrorist bill each month, which may wind up hurting my credit rating, although now that I think about it, why was I paying that bill in the first place? I mean, I know what the phone bill and the power bill do, but what's that one? Hey. You fucking guys.

    Last weekend, I set a new all-time high score in bowling: 150. And I did it for America! I try to help out where I can.

    August 1, 2001

    I don't give a damn what Congress says. I'll clone all the human beings I want. I'll create a powerful army of guys named Milt who have prehensile tails and make you feel uncomfortable when they sit next to you on the train. I'm not fucking around here.

    July 20, 2001

    I will tell you nothing but sweet lies.

    (news) For an hour and a half, Chicago's Sewers Department held a pep rally for virtually all of its employees, who flooded the streets afterward with the words of Vince Lombardi dancing in their heads and, ostensibly, newfound resolve to give it up for a dirty, thankless job.

    Great, bizarre article that reads like an Onion story. Today's sewer workers are tomorrow's mole men, so I'm all for keeping their spirits high. The football metaphor is kind of questionable for these purposes, though:

    "Winning is not a sometimes thing. It's an all-the-time thing," the city's new sewers commissioner, John A. Roberson, 32, told those gathered, quoting the late, hard-driving football coach as he stood at a lectern glaring out over the packed auditorium. "I firmly believe that any man's finest hour ... is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle, victorious," the commissioner said.

    What this strange little man appears unwilling to process is that if the sewer-worker team is to "win" the "game" they are playing, they must have opponents. The sewers are not their opponents - merely the field on which they play - so who is the other team? It's entropy, the inevitable breakdown and decay of all systems, sewers included. Should we be teaching our sewer workers that they can overcome entropy? I find this especially problematic because, if the team metaphor is carried through to its logical extreme, the individual positions on the entropy team are being played by poop.

    (news) The Republican Party on Thursday launched what it called an aggressive new effort to attract more women and address a persistent gender gap that has plagued the party in national elections. In the Winning Women Initiative, women who hold public office, will promote a message that women have a political home in the party, said Republican National Committee Co-Chair Ann Wagner.

    Ladies, just like a real "home", you have a place in the "political home" of the Republican party: the "political kitchen". Won't you come in for a while? The "political spice-rack" has ever so many delightful "political ingredients" for you to "politically bake" with in the "political oven", and the "political illegal minorities" will be right there to "politically clean up" after you're done. No "political muss", no "political fuss" ! And won't you "politically love" seeing your "political husband" light up when he comes home from the "political office" to a tasty "political dinner"? He only "politically smacks" your "political face" because he "politically loves" you and you make him so "politically crazy" sometimes when he has a "politically hard day" at "political work". That's "politically all". So come on down to your "political home" in the Republican party, where the "political cooking sherry" never runs dry. (1)

    You should see the press release they sent out to court the test-tube baby vote. They promised us like four hours of womb-time per week. Man, those guys will stoop to anything for a vote.

    (1) If you can carry that metaphor through to the end, you "rule".

    October 18, 1999 I'm cooking some soup. that's what I'm doing. and you?

    summer's gone and I'm still here, one last round with academia. I've got it on the ropes but it's throwing everything it has into this punch. all three majors coming to an end, vague sense of cognitive dissonance about the entire thing. I'm tired of being told what to read, tired of having my writing energies wasted in bland regurgitation, tired of having my desire to learn leashed and caged. but so it goes. beats having my fingers slammed in a car door while a naked Zsa Zsa Gabor points and laughs, if you consider the two outcomes to be separate ends of the same paradigm (which they are, in my world).

    I am working on a pretty cool sociology thesis about silent film comedy. it's not all bad, and it's not all Zsa Zsa.

    I'm also watching a boat chase in a movie right now. I feel compelled to make note of that.

    I had a pretty good summer. did lots of things, worked a great many hours, and wrote volumes. there was a quite nice production of "Much Ado About Nothing" over two weekends in July, much radio broadcasting and perhaps the most memorable fourth of July I've ever had. things were busy, things were good. took a vacation or two: props to caves, especially ones that have not yet been wrecked by humans; props to the city of Cincinnati, which is a damn sight cooler than its total lack of a reputation would suggest; props to cars, which can go places fast; props to my cats, who keep it real. (it's easy to avoid selling out when you sleep as much as they do, though.)

    things you should know
    I spent the entire summer working on a second draft of my novel. I wound up doing more work than I had planned on: about a third is brand new and the rest was heavily rewritten. I really want to get this draft circulated. I don't know if it's worthy of publication - I won't be surprised if it's not, since it is at heart still a first novel by a young writer - but I think it's an enjoyable piece. since the web is still such a passive medium (the revolution will involve neither pointing nor clicking!), I put up excerpts for the casual to look at and evaluate. I can't afford to make paper copies yet but hopefully soon.

    I might have pictures to put up soon from vacation fun (including actual photographic images of my self). check back later. in the meantime, read the novel!

    although the above claims about having been busy are true, the actual reason why I never got around to updating this page should pretty well demolish any claim I have towards possessing higher order mental processes: I was stuck on this single idea that I wanted to use up top as the new lead story. it was to be called "the little bonobo that could", and it was going to be a children's story about the happy bonobo monkeys who live in the forest and wank all day long until they get tired and sad, at which point The Littlest Bonobo in whom they'd all doubted was going to rise to the task and get everyone taken care of. then it was going to transform into a bizarre 70's cop show where the chief didn't approve of Lieutenant Bonobo's methods and demand that he turn in his badge, gun and right hand. so there's my explanation. yeah, I know. I'll be staying away from computers forever.

    I haven't been completely inactive online-wise. somehow I got sucked into the seedy world of .plan files. I had forgotten the things even existed, although I am old enough to remember when they had an actual functional purpose; now they're the internet's equivalent of a vestigial tail. if you don't know what they are, it's simple: get to a UNIX prompt (or the "directory services" option in Eudora) and, at the prompt, type "finger (user name)". I'm kind of torn as to whether they make sense or not. on one hand, they have no unique function. the web does everything vastly better than .plans do. on the other hand, they're kind of like passive-aggressive email and lord knows I'm all for that mode of behavior. they also have no commercial aspirations ("did you see colgate's .plan?") and that's rapidly becoming a curiosity in the online world. since you can't effectively link to other .plans, people who use them are forced to define themselves through content generation (actually writing something of their own! wow!) rather than making a list of links to popular commecial websites. some people do nothing but quote celebrities anyway, having been trained to think not in terms of truth but rather in terms of allegiance with prefab philosophies - and some people really don't have anything to say - but at least a certain mental effort is required to excerpt the quote (as opposed to the web's equivalent, wherein the simple invocation of a hyperlink serves the same purpose). so, in summary, .plans are still pretty cool.

    I think I shall carve a pumpkin this year. need to get one first, of course. trip to the pumpkin patch. like a child, but I'm a ninja now. hallelujah.

    I would like to make an intense crime movie that was totally loyal to formula except that for the big showdown instead of shooting guns, people threw whole watermelons at each other. they wouldn't act like it was strange, though. some of them would die. the grizzled old cop would get it. the rookie cop would learn an important lesson. the only way to survive would be if you were really hungry and could eat the watermelon. I won't spoil the double-cross at the end, but let me tell you, it's a doozy.

    thanks to Time magazine, we can now derive an equation for the value of foreigners' lives: JFK Jr received two cover stories immediately upon his death, while those 13,000 people in Turkey got a story a couple weeks after the quake that killed them. commemorative issues equal 3 points, cover stories equal 2, and a story towards the middle equals 1. therefore, one rich white kid is worth sixty-five thousand faceless brown people. nice to know, and a hearty "fuck you" to the masses of Americans who sent flowers to the Kennedys and didn't make a donation thirteen thousand times the cost to Turkish relief funds.

    what I find even more offensive are the pedantic essays littering the media trying to justify the obsession by rambling about how JFK Jr was part of "America's family"...the fuck he was. it's all part of the national strategy (not the work of an elite cadre - it's everyone's handiwork, wealthy and poor alike) aimed at blinding people to their own lives, keep them from feeling their own pain. understand, please, that I'm not a misanthrope. I have nothing against JFK Jr as a human being. he seemed to be a nice enough guy, and he deserves a ton of credit for not claiming the US presidency (which, given the depth of political analysis in this country, would have been handed to him on a silver platter if he asked for it). the basic point that I keep hopelessly making is that celebrity deaths are no more tragic than anyone else's. I saw some asinine editorial referring to the suffering of the Kennedys as mythic, an epic curse worthy of Greek tragedy, so on and so forth. makes me want to holler, as Mr. Gaye said. that fucking family is doing fine. they enjoy every privelege that money can buy. they operate above the law, indulge their whims, keep their asses covered...chart out the "tragedies" that they're supposed to have suffered and you'll find that damn few can't be attributed to spoiled rich kids messing up (drug addiction, drunk driving, crashing a private jet) or the risks of the lifestyle that earned them their privilege (the assassinations), the parameters of which they were fully aware. there is nothing extraordinary about their suffering. look around you. what would be truly extraordinary would be an extended family that hadn't suffered as much (if not more) over the course of several decades. feel your own pain...

    see? only a few minutes and I'm raging like I was never away.

    Welcome to Psychic Talk USA!this has been an exceptional year for movies, hasn't it? I had to wait until it came out on video, but all praise to "Rushmore", whose every frame has more soul than many entire decades of cinema (ok, it's hyperbolic, but looking at that phrase cracks my shit up so I'm leaving it in). "Run Lola Run" might still be playing in a theatre near you. go see it for ninety minutes of pure adrenaline and joy. (Franka Potente is hereby instructed to email me soon. we don't talk enough, Franka. let's talk.) "Eyes Wide Shut" was phenomenal (and subject to some of the most idiotic film criticism that's ever been written - but so it went for Kubrick's entire career, I guess). other things were very good as well, but I'm wearying of this list already and would like to get back to writing angry things and making references to my fantastic ass.

    this is a message for the Illuminati, so everyone else please skip to the next part. ok. hey, Illuminati, can I have a laser gun? I promise I won't use it to oppose any of your plots for world domination. I'm just sick of taking out the garbage. I always let get too full. if you want to make it an early christmas present, that'd be fine.

    Paul Czarnowski's working on a new project up in Chicago: you can check it out here. take back the radio!

    (afterword from the future: I wrote the following before the latest shootings. sucks to be right.) another thing that bothers me is the continuing national hangover about Columbine High School. a tragedy, to be sure, but a number of the actions following it (by the media, by so-called behavioral experts, even by the victims' families) have been truly shameful. the Onion nailed one major annoyance of mine - the gaping hole in the causal analysis behind the tragedy. (see their article.) another thing that pisses me off is the attempts (a number of which have been successful) to turn their grief into justification for censorship and the public's unquestioning compliance ("feel your own pain" ad infinitum, etc). humanity does not come to understanding through repression, and to a certain extent the families of the next set of victims (because this will happen again because no one has dealt with the real issues behind the tragedy, choosing instead the standard set of idiotic dodges) will have this set to blame. the new round of vacant yet omnipresent coverage revolving around the school re-opening is also disgusting. to invoke again the Turkish quake: can you imagine what would happen if 13,000 Americans died in one single event? history books would record it as the greatest tragedy of all time. since the quake victims were foreigners, though, we're still obsessing over the Columbine 30. (I can't remember the exact number.) ethnocentrism strikes again. ("Buy American!")

    do I think the earthquake should have received similarly exploitative media treatment? no, of course not. my point is that the pretty blatant discrepancies in caring render the whole "overwhelming human compassion" justification false. be honest. JFK Jr and Columbine don't get the blanket treatment because America is truly sad over the loss of human lives. the viewing public is, as always, simply looking for an emotional opiate.

    although I will be in C-U until my apartment lease expires in August 2000, I lose UIUC computing access in January so that will mark the end of this here webpage. I plan to update a little more frequently as that date approaches, so check back regularly. no massive gaps like last time. of course, after the stunning display of charm above, how could you resist coming back?

    next month: Orphans, And Why They're Bullshit.

    May 10, 1999 Spring. Leonard Nimoy on the Y2K bug: "We find ourselves in a time rather like the last days of Atlantis...perhaps only chaos theory could calculate the multiple ramifications of what may occur." and he knows, people. he knows. (I have written a lot of artificially inflated term papers in my time, but never have I come close to the full glory of that last sentence of his.)

    yes, so there was a gap between monthly updates of this here webpage. I was busy. all of this page's subscribers should have received their refund checks from last month's issue in the mail by now (read: "I don't owe you suckas nuthin.") over the last three weeks, I literally averaged 47 pages of academic writing per week. teachers have evolved - since I rarely show up for class, they get back at me in volume. if they keep adapting at this rate, I may have to declare my professors sentient creatures. semester's almost over, one more to go. I'm really glad that I'm not graduating right now. I can't imagine I'll be any more ready when the time comes, but that's for a future me to deal with. I bought a gallon of milk that won't expire until the day before Star Wars Episode 1 comes out. in that sense, it's immortal milk...

    media watch!
    a non-mention, first: back in March,the Daily Illini's Buzz Magazine blew off "lost like this" in its list of the top ten UIUC student homepages. please do check them out and enlighten me as to how any of them are in any way superior to mine, cos it's a mystery to me. The Most Worthy One Who Actually Was Chosen, Jen Gerbi, pointed out that since there are several thousand pages on the students server, they probably just did a random sampling and may not have even seen mine. I like to think it was because of my political convictions. I should get some of those. spruce things up a bit...

    brighter days lay ahead, though. April 15th had a story about a show I was in, "The Threepenny Opera". extremely well-written story, comes out fairly nicely, although to get an idea of what I really said you have to insert "fuck" after every other word and the part where I blow off rehearsal and hold up the liquor store was curiously omitted.

    superstardom awaits: first there was a story about the independent student theatre group that I'm in, the Penny Dreadful Players. I was going through a phase at the time of speaking only in expletives as a challenge to the media establishment, so the reporter reconstructed what he could.

    then, coolest of all, the newspaper sent a reporter (and photographer) to interview me and my two compatriots Matt and Eric for a story about our improv comedy radio show "What Jail Is Like", and we're also included in a story on radio theatre in general. interesting article. some very perceptive choices on the author's part and some odd ones. notes: first, my headphones actually only cost $10. second, the quote attributed to Matt (the "systematic alienation" lines) was actually me. it's really neat, though. the radio show is doing incredibly well. we're finally getting offended callers, too. at last!

    the last all new Potted Meat sketch comedy show of the year has come and gone, so check out my scripts if you missed it and get an overview of what in retrospect was a astonishingly prolific and pretty darn funny year. did you check out the radio plays? all you need is realaudio and you get to spend a blissful half-hour listening to a play I wrote and directed that's quite funny and intriguing and suspenseful and all sorts of other good stuff. check it out! I want to hear what people think of it.

    that's pretty much all I'm asking of you this month in the way of consuming my artistic product. onwards...

    yeah, so I've got this play called "Monks in Trouble" and I suspect it may actually be pretty damn good because people have been telling me that, but I have to wait until the summer for lack of venue availability, so I'm forced to spend the remaining weeks of the semester moping instead of producing. moping is an important part of my life, of course, but I had it penciled in for the early summer and this throws the whole schedule out of wack. it's uniquely frustrating...I even locked up several hundred dollars of funding and a great cast, but fucking acapella groups and various sundry dance groups whose idea of celebrating their ethnic heritage apparently involves synchronized routines performed with chairs to shitty american house music have all the venues booked solid. is this how Radiohead feel when they look at the music charts and see Britney Spears at the top? well, we'll be able to get a great venue in the summer. it's all a matter of doing it ahead of time. I'll make some noise when something's been worked out on the topic...

    I'm also playing the Keanu Part (Don John) in a production of "Much Ado About Nothing" in June. will probably be a great show, but let's face it. I'm many things, but I'm no Keanu. thankfully I don't have to carry the entire cast like he did cos the rest of this production is very talented. I do have kung fu though, if that helps.

    my favorite link of the last thirty minutes: "Who Was The Ugliest President?" there's pictures, impassioned speeches, and you can vote. the only problem I have with the site is that Taft should be winning by a landslide...I mean, an informed populace is essential to a successful democracy, so do these voters have any idea how fat that guy was? yech!

    during the radio show a couple weeks ago it struck me as a good idea to sniff a magic marker, and after doing to I saw a woman dressed as a giant cat walk through the door of the station. I'm fairly sure that it was real, but just in case, I'm going cold turkey on the marker fumes...during a break from writing, I read in the news that Boxcar Willie died this week at the age of 67. he was a country singer who was famous for his "mellow voice coupled with a rough-hewn hobo persona", but he was much more important in my life for being the punchline to the One Joke In "Kids In The Hall: Brain Candy" That I Just Didn't Get. now I know who Boxcar Willie is and now I can laugh at that joke too...this waitress was telling me about how a pair of old people ran up a fifty-dollar tab and then ran off without paying it. fucking old people, man. they're always doing that stuff...from Reuters: "30 percent of Republicans said a woman president would be less capable than a man of chairing the National Security Council or overseeing the Joint Chiefs of Staff." ah, you bunch of charmers, you...a few weeks ago I lost the last bite of a blueberry bagel and I was really sad because I'd geared up my mouth for that last bite and then, nothing. oh, how the world changes: I just found the missing bite on top of the fridge. somehow I'm not quite as excited about it now, though...if you've been thinking about having anything to do with the swing dance scene, remind me to send you the results of my semester-long field research study for sociology 380 on it. god, it's horrifying...I read a thing about how Fox's new animated series "The Family Guy" did well in its premiere. the article said "(The episode) featured spoofs on "Star Trek" and "Scooby Doo", among other popular culture references." the creative bankruptcy of that particular "witty" pop culture-dependent referential approach can be exposed with one question: in thirty years, who the fuck is going to be referencing "The Family Guy"? ... it appears as though I've locked up enough summer hours at the art museum to save me from round three with the temp agency (giver of such madcap fun as the twelve-hour trips to the bottle cap factory, moving boy at the mental hospital, maestro of the rollerblade crash helmet, maze jumper at the hobby factory). color me relieved...want tickets to round two of the Trial of the Millenium? May 13, it's going down. let me know...

    I generally think of literally hundreds of things that I want to put here but nearly all of it becomes lost when I turn my head and the voices of the living dead filter in...tight shirt, bar pants, raising a glass and making it last...hey, hey, come out tonight...let's throw bricks through windows. anyone with me?

    February 18, 1999 "romanticism is the new fascism." - Per Jambeck.

    I am finding myself more interested in millenial psychology than I meant to. witness the following two news stories:

    1) Elton John is recording an opera album (a "re-working" of Verdi's "Aida") featuring duets with LeAnn Rimes, the Spice Girls and "a reggae song by Sting". the man is a cultural black hole but he continues to be a valuable expose on the nature of celebrity in our world: how you can lobotomize the famous without anyone noticing, etc.

    2) christian evangelist Jerry Falwell accused the amorphous Teletubby character Tinky-Winky of being an insidious plot to turn children into homosexuals, citing a lengthy list of concerns ranging from the color of the character's fur to the handbag it sometimes carries. the pink menace that has somehow gained control of the media strikes again, apparently. christians, why do you allow men like this to act in your name? I mean, if you feel so compelled to throw stones at someone, why not start in your own fold?

    these and other stories are in my mind pointing out a direction for the future that hadn't previously occurred to me: as the millenium approaches, we will all become caricatures of ourselves.

    aging as I write these words I have one day left before turning 21. I tend to be a very moody birthday boy: endless introspection, cakes destroyed by my mere aura. (I'm serious. there's something about me that causes birthday cakes to fall apart.) the best birthday present I received last year was a potato masher that I have not yet had the chance to use cos I am a lazy bastard and as such I am content with those bizarre "just add water" potatoes in a box. they come pre-mashed. there's nothing that I'm really looking forward to about this age: I don't drink, for one thing, and since NC-17 replaced X, is there anything else? there's something to be said for being a "major" as opposed to a "minor", I guess. whatever that means.

    I have to find someone to get drunk for me by proxy tomorrow. I need a sub at the shot glass. I don't like alcohol but there are traditions that go with this sort of thing and I want to be fair about this. so, any volunteers? I want my proxy to be so drunk that, man, I won't even believe how wasted in absentia I was. I plan to be a raging absentee alcoholic.

    my car insurance rates went down by half. that's one good thing, I guess. but I despise the insurance industry because I think it's all a massive pyramid scheme, one of the biggest scams in the history of industrialized society, and won't someone dance with me so I can shut up already? I don't know. every year, the question of why I do not yet have a million dollars looms louder. obviously I am not in it for the money (I'm in it for the whores, duh) but there is a story about Jim Carrey that I like - when he was poor and struggling, he wrote himself a check for a million dollars and dated it 1996. he was determined to be able to cash it when that time came, and he was able to. what does this mean? that I have a fantastic ass, of course.

    so this is twenty-one. what have I done? a little bit of something, a little bit of nothing. I was playing with my kitten Orbital a moment ago and it didn't seem much of an issue.

    anyway. onwards.

    be advised that this spring is going to be a phenomenal one for music. receiving domestic release will be albums by Blur (!), Ian Brown (been delayed forever, may not happen) the Manic Street Preachers, Mogwai, Underworld, Orbital (the band, that is - my kitten has yet to make his recorded debut) and others which escape my mind at the moment. new James single in April, I'm told. much money to be spent. I would have no problem with the obscenely rich if they spent all their money on music. I'd understand that.

    the water faucet fell out of the wall in my bathroom last week. took four days to get a new temporary one installed. the maintenance guy left a note wherein he misspelled "until" as "intell". is it evil of me to roll my eyes at this?

    distance is no longer an object and the future of art is here by way of the past: every one of you is cordially invited (well, the invitation extended to the elderly is not quite so cordial cos you have to shout to get them to hear you, but that's not my fault) to sit front row and be entertained and enlightened by the world premiere of a brand new radio play written and directed by me, "Image". you can also hear me act in a play not written by me but rather good nonetheless, "The Terror At High Hill House", and if you so choose, you can stick around for a play that I have absolutely nothing to do with but which is quite good also, "Ten Pin Love Story". there is a neat website for all these happenings. you can hear it performed live, broadcast via streaming RealAudio, at 8pm CST on February 27th. the plays will then be archived on that website and you'll be able to listen to them whenever you like (catch all the hidden jokes, etc). you will also be able to hear them on the actual radio in the C-U area if you tune into 90.1 FM on the 29th at 7pm. pretty cool, huh? go to the radio play website now to hear trailers and read cast bios. don't miss this wonderful opportunity, kids. god knows life is horrible enough without these sporadic moments of joy.

    (check out that last line! I don't need to take advertising classes to know how to pull off a zinger!)

    also check out a fresh crop of skits, still warm from being performed and chock full of that supafun flavor that the kids just go wild for. someone should do a retrospective of my work. that would kick ass. I'd only ask for a million dollars.

    so, where am I? I am older. I continue to speak all these words but I still do not even know who I am talking to. I still suspect that I am not actually talking to anyone. I still doubt that it all adds up to anything. I have words and I use them; I have learned to speak in extremes because I believe in (because I am resigned to) dialectical materialism as the working process of the world. I believe that it is the duty of the few to behave in impossible extremes and in doing so they will destroy themselves but the world will take a few steps forward by means of compromise. I believe that history moves in this way, I believe that it is a raw deal but I do what I feel that I must. do you understand me? the word on the street is that I am immature but at least I am not boring and that is something to hang on to.

    did I ever mention that when I meet the love of my life it will be in a chinese restaurant? it's true.

    December 18, 1998 I am attempting to crawl from the audio primordial soup of overnight radio programming to a sunday 10pm timeslot. the new, untitled product will take the radioactive monsters out of london and across the world during two hours of improvisational radio theatre. the show is to be performed by myself and a collective of friends. an initial venture was given wildly enthusiastic reception, but final determination of the show's fate is two weeks away, leaving Gamera and the boys to skulk around liverpool waiting for word.

    the MechaCradle (my car) broke down and required $150 worth of repairs to operate at full capacity. I find it bizarre that the original Cradle suffered over $5000 worth of damage in accidents yet ran just fine until the day it died, while the new one collapses at first hint of a blown sparkplug. what the hell? also, it cost $150 that I don't have. to quote Paul Czarnowski, "send money!"

    this, the twelfth month, brings no snow as of this writing. instead it has delivered an uninspiring sort-of-warmness. clearly some supervillain has engineered a diabolical plot. when I have some free time I will do battle with him or her. in Finland they call me "He Who Battles Evil". did you know that? it's true.

    my kitten orbital has grown up to be quite the ladies' man. his favorite spot is a nice perch in the most well-lit window where sorority girls who walk by see him and stop to gurgle and coo at him. this happens at least twice a day. I am fairly sure that he knows what he's doing - he seems quite pleased with himself to get the attention - and the entire arrangement is just so divinely absurd that I can't bring myself to do anything about it. somehow it makes sense to have sorority girls hovering outside my apartment gurgling and cooing. I no longer have to go looking for it; finally, the chocolate syrup of social alienation is being fed to me with a spoon. wonderful!

    my job at the Krannert Art Museum is going quite well. in fact, I don't think I've ever been happier with a job. not only is there a bucketload of free food every saturday, but at last someone is paying me to do what I've been saying I should be paid for all along: essentially, I receive money to occupy a space and spend at least part of the time being somewhat aware of the world around me. fantastic.

    some short, easily digestible rants:

    the "political correctness" backlash
    it is the cutting-edge of the brain-dead to rail against political correctness. when the term is used to refer to a situation, it says a great deal more about the person using it than it does about the situation. whenever racist or sexist acts are committed by someone who a) does not have a swastika tattooed on their forehead or b) is not wearing a KKK hood and the minority has the nerve to complain, it is called political correctness. the fact is that political correctness as an oppressive, censoring force simply does not exist and never has. magazines like Time run "humorous" columns identifying what the "PC" term for an "eskimo" is. how zany. blah, blah, blah. the reality is, however, that no one has ever been silenced by political correctness. uniquely in human history, we have a backlash against something that does not exist. (does it? name one instance where the consequence is something other than you being thought of as a jerk for insulting someone or for failing to have an articulate position on some controversial issue - e.g. "it's not politically correct to be pro/anti issue X, political correctness won't let me speak my mind", etc.)

    as for the whole "I don't want to be referred to as..." aspect, you may not see why a group of people different from you don't want to be referred to by a certain term. that's fine. they don't expect you to share their feelings - you haven't had the experiences that formed those feelings - but you should at least respect them. how arrogant is it to presume that it's more of an inconvenience for you to have to use a different word than it is for them to shrug off something that has negative and/or painful connotations for them? you're not a badass. you're just a dick.

    "I don't see how..." seems to be the mantra. who's asking you to see, though? the weakness of your imagination should not be imposed upon other people. which leads me to...

    white suburbanites and affirmative action
    what is it about them that makes them think they can extrapolate their experience to cover the entire world? yo, Ted, just because you didn't run into any opposition in the job world doesn't mean other people didn't. the way that they take their upbringing for granted - "well, if I can do it, so can anyone, and the $200,000+ parental income and private school education I got doesn't make me different from anyone else!" - is unbelievable. I find it extremely grating to read essays by whiteys who slam affirmative action as they write on top-of-the-line computers in cozy, heated rooms. they complain about racially-based admissions policies as if they are being discriminated against but the fact is that they have plenty of access to fine schools and no hard-working whiteboy has ever been kept out of college by affirmative action. (plenty of hard-working nonwhiteboys, on the other hand, have gotten into college because of it thanks to access to grants and scholarships that schools would not otherwise offer.)

    I'll be interested the first time that I hear a homeless guy tell me that affirmative action kept him out of school and a job. until then, the angst of white kids who (without any factual basis) complain that "minorities should stop complaining and just work, they have all the same chances" sounds banal to me. let's hear one answer the fact that 95% of CEOs in the US are white males. is 95% of the population white and male? no? then what's keeping minorities out? either there is a preferential establishment in this country or minorities are dumb and incapable, and if you believe the latter, I'd love to see your research on it. have fun going public with your findings. otherwise, shut up already...

    four thoughts about the millenium
    firstly, to all the types who continue to insist that the millenium starts in 2001, not 2000: yes, you're technically right. but what everyone cares about - what all the excitement is about - is when the number chages from 19 to 20. you are correct but irrelevant so drop it already. millenium fever is a somewhat dim ritual, yes. so what? so is sex 'n booze.

    secondly, buy stock in anti-depressants now. the decade of 2000-2010 is going to be very interesting as people try to cope with the fact that nothing will have really changed. no force from above will have intervened in the painfuly numbing routine of their lives. if nothing else, it will be a ripe time to be an artist.

    thirdly, as the year looms on the horizon, I issue a desperate plea to everyone to not even mention the Prince song "1999". "we're gonna party like it's 1999...and it is 1999!" anyone who thinks that that is humorously ironic in any way is not a good person and will not be going to heaven. if we don't nip it in the bud now then we're going to be sick beyond belief of it come december '99. do future generations a favor and take decisive action now...

    finally, I join with a handful of other people in calling for a death to irony. no more. it's done, it is false, it is not clever. throw this snarling, hideous beast away. as the arbiter of such things, I declare irony to be a spent force and the lowest form of humor. abandon the hollow aesthetes in their cafes, pretending they are above everything by making ironic comment upon it, and let us go into the new millenium free of that hateful burden and face things as they are. let's actually live in the world that we're headed towards. irony is an excuse for the incompetent and the inadequate to mask their inability to experience and to create. no more. do you hear me? no more.

    happy xmas. irony is over.

    November 18, 1998 the weather has finally turned cold and the heat has turned on. this ia problematic in my humble apartment because, being an old-school building, we individual tenants have little or no control over the heat. windows are thrown wide open but it doesn't really help. so I am very sleepy as of late. my cats seem cool with this.

    I have not accomplished much as of late. post-novel sloth hangs over me in a big way. but it's cool. don't freak out, man.

    this was a good halloween in some senses. for example, the university of illinois, in a rare display of creative awareness, realized that the heavy emphasis upon getting really drunk that was such a prominent feature of years past had grown monontonous. they did something about it: an utterly brilliant rumor of a serial killing that was to occur. supposedly a psychic had appeared on oprah and announced that a mass murder would happen "at a big ten school, at a dorm next to an old cemetary shaped like an 'H'". the university of illinois fits that description. (even better was that the killer was to be dressed as little bo peep.) the simple fact that no one had said that on oprah did not deter the community, and by halloween people were so freaked out about it that they hired massive amounts of extra personnel to watch over the dorm in question. what a great world.

    this was not such a good election day, on the other hand. in illinois, not many races went the right way. the openly racist, fatuous Rick Winkel won his representative seat. ultra-conservative freakshow Peter Fitzgerald bought a Senate seat. (yet another example of how little respect the political right in this country has for you: they accuse Mosely-Braun of campaign finance indiscretions and run a $40 million trust-fund baby against her, expecting that you will not notice the hypocrisy. and, unfortunately, most of the state swallowed it whole.) two racists battled it out for governership and one of them won, which I guess was bound to happen unless aliens arrived and started shooting or something. I have already forgotten the names of everyone else who ran but I was pleased with little of it.

    it should be admitted, however, that I did not vote. I was trying to decide if I want to come up with a philosophical justification for it (and believe me, I could construct a good one) but honestly I was kind of confused about the registration process and I didn't sort it out in time. I've never been clear on where I should be voting, here or Chicago. here, I guess, since I now have no residence up there. on the other hand, to register here implies that I am now a citizen of this scary fucking desert known as central illinois and I enjoy my status of "extended visitor" (however illusory it may be). I don't know. I loathe the two-party system. yes, a single vote is fairly minute - you can look at it that way - or you can look at it from the perspective that this country's government is determined by less than 40% of the populace and you can be part of that elite group. you can walk around and sneer at your fellow citizens, knowing that in a sense you govern them because they're not a part of that voting elite. everybody loves a good power trip.

    one thing that rocks the casbah is that former wrestler Jesse "the Body" Ventura won the governorship of Minnesota. not only is that a major-race win for a third party, but it's also just plain amusing. way to go, Minnesotans. you made a good choice. politics needs more absurdity like that. I ran for my school's presidency and very nearly won on a similar platform - every once in awhile someone needs to spray paint "poopy" in the halls of government as a shock to the system. in the legislatures of our country they are not governing, they are self-serving and it is a pretentious load of crap that can only be eliminated through exposing it for what it is. if it takes a clown to do that, so be it. pow. dada.

    one thing that I did not go into during the last update is my current employment: I work two jobs. the first is at the office of admissions and records, where I have an unduly large influence over the fate of thounsands of fresh-faced applicants of every age. this strikes me as quite amusing. (I don't make admissions decisions, but were I to "lose" a key piece of paper...) I have no real intention of abusing this position, but it's good to know. the second job is a way-cool gig as a security guard at the krannert art museum. I carry a radio and I stay vigilant. I protect art. don't touch or you will feel the might of my kung-fu, sucker. the museum has the second largest collection in the state but, oddly enough, is not well-known to the general populace here. (probably has something to do with the campus being a bunch of fucking idiots.) some of it is rather cool. I've already named many of the pre-Columbian pieces.

    the Trial of the Millenium is now threatening to encompass a second one: the court date was set for May 13, 1999. two years and three months after the accident.

    "Pleasantville" and "Bride of Chucky" are both highly recommended. stay cool, kids.

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

    Often discussed:

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


    January 2012, December 2011, January 2011, September 2010, August 2010, June 2010, March 2010, October 2009, February 2009, January 2009, September 2008, August 2008, March 2008, February 2008, October 2007, July 2007, June 2007, January 2007, September 2006, July 2006, June 2006, January 2006, December 2005, September 2005, August 2005, July 2005, June 2005, May 2005, March 2005, February 2005, January 2005, December 2004, October 2004, July 2004, June 2004, May 2004, April 2004, February 2004, January 2004, December 2003, November 2003, October 2003, September 2003, August 2003, July 2003, June 2003, May 2003, April 2003, March 2003, February 2003, January 2003, December 2002, November 2002, October 2002, September 2002, August 2002, July 2002, June 2002, May 2002, April 2002, March 2002, February 2002, January 2002, December 2001, November 2001, October 2001, September 2001, August 2001, July 2001, December 1999, November 1999, October 1999, May 1999, February 1999, January 1999, December 1998, November 1998, October 1998, June 1998, May 1998, April 1998, March 1998, February 1998, December 1997, November 1997, October 1997, September 1997, and the uncategorised wilderness of the Beelzetron era: 010622 - 010619, 010615 - 010611, 010608 - 010604, 010601 - 010529, 010525 - 010521, 010518 - 010514, 010511 - 010507, 010504 - 010430, 010427 - 010423, 010420 - 010416, 010413 - 010409, 010406 - 010402, 010330 - 010326, 010323 - 010319, 010316 - 010312, 010309 - 010307, 019223 - 010219, 010216 - 010212, 010209 - 010205, 010202 - 010109, 010126 - 010122, 010119 - 010115, 010112 - 010108, 010105 - 010102, 001229 - 001224, 001222 - 001218, 001215 - 001211, 001208 - 001204, 001201 - 001124, 001124 - 001120, 001117 - 001113, 001110 - 001106, 001103 - 001030, 001027 - 001023, 001020 - 001016, 001013 - 001010, 001006 - 000927.

    Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.