By Marc Heiden, since 1997.
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.
IN MEMORY OF JOHN RITTER, WRONG DOORS TO RECEIVE WARNING LABELS
(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;
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 6, 2003
I went to Wisconsin for the weekend. I am now back in Chicago, aimlessly stacking things near my luggage and making the occasional trip over to the Japanese consulate, just a few blocks away, right next to the Museum of Contemporary Art. With my apartment lease now expired, I am living in my mother's penthouse downtown, always a curious transition no matter where I'm coming from. I never know what to do about the doormen. I really prefer to open my own doors, but it seems kind of vicious to disregard the only thing they are being paid to do. They always get up from their chairs before I can open the door myself, so it would be a shithead move to wave them off when they're already on their feet, but then I have to wait for several seconds until they reach the door, seconds in which, as an able-bodied human being, I ought to be opening the door for myself. It's all very awkward, and I am tired of hearing about the suffering of Iraqi children when I am made to endure such things.
Last week was quite busy. Tuesday was my last day at work. Because he gave me a bonus check, I allowed the rabbi to recast our mutual history as one of shared prosperity and joy in various reminisces public and private. My replacement at the job is an excellent fellow who stands as good a chance as anyone at succeeding in the job. He was beginning to look quite overwhelmed by the time I left on Tuesday, but that will happen to you around the time you encounter the seventh alternate spelling of Hanukkah and begin to wonder if you're responsible for knowing which fits which context. My only concern is that I'm not sure if he has the ruthless streak that allowed me to handle those situations (immediately ceasing all work until someone comes by to explain it to me, or simply writing I DON'T KNOW, THIS WAS SECRETLY WRITTEN BY A GENTILE instead of the word). But they certainly did reduce me to a formula in the hiring process, because they chose another non-religious white kid with a Germanic last name and a background in literature from a state school. So I hope it works out for everyone. I keep meaning to call over there to find out how things are going, but then I keep not doing it.
The exit interview was tame. The HR director pre-emptively announced that the rabbi was a pain in the ass and that I'd done a splendid job with him, and also that my replacement was making $4000 less than I started at, so they'd prefer if I didn't mention that to him. (Did I fuck! Homey don't play no conspiracies of silence.)
The day was chock full of poignant moments. The rabbi announced that he'd be taking me to lunch, and then he didn't. He implied that my replacement would be far easier to deal with than me, and later he whispered that he wasn't sure if my replacement "was all there" and wanted reassurance. People with whom I had no relationship whatsoever began chatting with me about the trip to Japan as if we were old friends. They did the same thing when I grew a beard. Then, I replied with some of the most powerful set of blank stares yet unleashed within city limits. This time, I just shrugged and agreed that, yes, it was pretty exciting. (I mean, it is.) Several people requested that I speak some Japanese for them. I don't know any, but rather than take the time to explain that the job doesn't call for me to speak the language, I got in the habit of stringing together the few words I know, like dorobo saru no kansai, and claiming that I'd complimented them on their clothing, when in fact, I was referring to a thief monkey belonging to the region south of Tokyo. They tended to think it was great. I do what I can. The rabbi announced that if I ever got into legal trouble, I could call him and he'd help me out. (Everyone thinks I am always on the verge of trouble. Four people contacted me to make sure I behaved during the exit interview.) He thanked me for two and a half years of remarkable service and said that, from a substantive perspective, I was the best help he'd ever had during his thirty years in Jewish communal service. In truth, I was only there for one and a half years. As for the other statement, I will allow it to stand on its own. I hope things go well for my replacement. He really seemed like a great guy.
As I walked out of the building, people kept coming up to me and telling me what an amazing job I'd done handling the rabbi, and how I was the best they'd ever seen at it. It was all very surreal.
There were no such poignant goodbyes on my way out of THE LAND OF THE DOUBLE BONE HARD NIGGAZ, although they made their peace in ways traditional to the neighborhood, such as double-parking alongside the moving van (thereby blocking the entire street), continuing to holler at each other at all hours (yelling through windows: the original cell-phone), and, perhaps sweetest of all, making off with my toaster. I left it on a box near the dumpster because I wasn't planning to keep it, and sure enough, the toaster was gone less than an hour later. God bless Rogers Park.
And so, as I sit here in my mother's place downtown eating applesauce, writing out in the dining room because all of the other phone jacks are blocked by bookcases, I am led to reflect upon the time, many years ago, as an angry young boy, I spooned a bunch of applesauce into one of my stepfather's books, closed it real fast and replaced it on the bookshelf. It was never mentioned. Has he not opened that book in the seventeen years since that act of guerilla vengeance? I don't even remember which one it was.
I leave on May 19 for San Francisco and May 21 for Osaka.
May 2, 2003
I am free of rabbinic servitude, and am off to the hinterlands for a weekend of much-needed respite.
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.
LAMENT OF THE STONE-MAN IN WINTER
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'.
March 27, 2003 That woozy feeling is back. I must be on the right track.
Obviously, my upcoming departure from indentured servitude has upset the balance of power between the rabbi and I. The shoe is on the other foot, if you will, or the yarmulke is on the other head, if you prefer something with situational relevance, or the crazy beard and curls are blowing in the wind on the other side of the street, you could say, if you were slightly mad. (The rabbi does not actually have either of those, just a slight funk that is reminiscent of old books and lox.) He has come to terms with my decision to leave, and now his only aim is to stall my departure as long as he can. Therefore, when given a task I do not wish to complete, I can threaten to give two weeks notice effective immediately, and he is forced to back off. For example, last week, he wanted me to call a bunch of rabbis who are new to the area and talk them into coming to a luncheon, because I can be charming when I feel like it. I said no, because I did not feel like meeting anyone new that day. And that was that. He is a cagey bastard, though, and has attempted to regain some of his former leverage by bringing cookies into the office and making reference to them whenever I show signs of becoming difficult. Of course, no cookies come from that guy without a story about the extended lineage of the bakers, families of Jews from Spain or Poland who have been baking for centuries. The cookies are generally quite good. I will give him that much.
The United States suddenly became very forthcoming about Iraqi casualty numbers after the Al Jazeera POW report this weekend. I think someone from Gen. Tommy Franks' office is calling everyone who has a telephone to make sure they know that we're up 300-16 or so. You know, pundits are always quick to holler at athletes who draw parallels between sports and war, but no one complains when the government uses the semiotics of organized athletics to make war go down smoothly.
I bought a digital camera in order to chronicle my time in Japan. All I have done with it thus far is to take pictures of myself hanging upside-down and making faces, like so:
In very short order, I start looking like my grandfather does all the time.
(news) A Moroccan publication accused the government Monday of providing unusual assistance to U.S. troops fighting in Iraq by offering them 2,000 monkeys trained in detonating land mines. The weekly al-Usbu' al-Siyassi reported that Morocco offered the U.S. forces a large number of monkeys, some from Morocco's Atlas Mountains and others imported, to use them for detonating land mines planted by the Iraqis. The publication quoted a highly-informed source as saying, "that is not a scientific illusion but a well-known military tactic."
Well-known by shitheads, maybe. Super Monkey Ball takes on a tragic resonance in the light of such wicked, degenerate notions. Monkey Target, wherein monkeys para-glide over the ocean and attempt to land on colorful islands for points, is now re-cast as a dance of aggression and murder. Morocco used to be the place where Grace Kelly was queen. Now, they're trying to put blowing up monkeys next to the phalanx and the flank manuever in the annals of combat techniques. Of course, I will provide space on this web-page for the Moroccan government to deny these accusations, because they are only accusations, and we must be fair, and try to think the best of the world around us...
March 25, 2003 At last, there is another movie where an adorable, insouciant American moppet goes overseas and teaches the English not to be so stuffy and proper, and also the tremendous importance of livening up formal events by doing spontaneous synchronized dance routines to contemporary pop hits. It's been nearly a year since the last entry in this valuable cultural exchange, and past experience has shown that, no matter how comprehensively the film establishes its message, the English tend to forget these valuable lessons if left alone for more than six months, and need another one as a reminder. Do the English make films where charming, insouciant English moppets come overseas and teach the Americans to use silverware and stop drinking out of the toilet? They owe us that much. Meanwhile, the wait for summer 2003's blockbuster Vin Diesel Hits French People seems as though it will never end.
Fuck it; I am going to Japan. I have had it with the rabbi, with freedom fries, and with the Los Angeles Lakers. I am leaving in mid-May, when my apartment lease is up. I tell you no lies when I say this. I am going to teach Godzilla how to express his frustration in ways other than destroying buildings. I am going to gently imply that he went out like a punk in Godzilla 1985, and he should have known better. I am going to make like a new jack Raymond Burr. I have some plans for putting this shit back together. Some will ask if I know any Japanese. I will reply that I been reading some books, and 'monkey' is 'saru' in Romanji, so I am not tripping.
(news) The Arkansas opening will leave only Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia as the remaining Starbucks-less states.
Well, that's interesting.
The Jewish holiday of Purim came and went last week. It celebrates the Jews' victory over the wicked Haman, an advisor to the King of Persia who schemed against them in the 6th century. Feathers get seriously fucking ruffled if you forget to attach 'wicked' to the name of Haman. Insouciant as I am, I could tell immediately not to mess around with that one. I know how to choose my battles. I am drawing up some strategies against those guys in ape suits from "Spectreman".
March 20, 2003 Let me do this Harper's style:
Times I have been mistaken for a rabbi this week: 3
There is war; all of the newspapers are using big fonts for their headlines in order to act like they're surprised. When considering world events, I take some comfort from the feeling that I am much better suited for a pirate's life than the majority of my peers. A lot of those motherfuckers will be swabbing decks while I train monkeys to throw dice. I'll tell you that.
March 6, 2003 When the Partnership For A Drug-Free America buys ad time on television, they need to specify that their commercials should not be aired right after other commercials where monkeys pretend bananas are cell phones. Come on, focus up, Partnership. I should not have to tell you this.
So: work is terrible. I am exhausted. I had mad bastard nights in college, like everyone - the peak, I think, was an eighteen hour marathon session to generate 66 pages of largely fictional field observations for a sociology project - but, left to my own devices, I can turn out 2-3 pages per day on a consistent basis with relative peace of mind. Presently, the rabbi demands 8-10 pages per day. My head buzzes when I try to form a sentence in the late afternoon. I'd never felt it before; it's really rather an unpleasant feeling. All around, as I am trying to write, people scream, shriek and squall for reasons largely unknown to me. Their work has nothing to do with mine. They were raised to believe that you are only alive if you are making noise. I have lobbied for a quieter work environment at the least and a lighter work load at the most, and both requests have been repeatedly dismissed. "But you get it done! You always do it!" replies the rabbi. The man is possessed of a sickness. You cannot say that I am not being reasonable. And I have nothing left in me when I go home. I wonder if I'll have anything left when I leave here for good.
As I write this, I can see that the tape machine is spinning; the rabbi is phoning in yet another project, and, according to the counter, it has taken him four and a half minutes thus far to describe it.
Ah, I don't mean to whine, and I mean to keep this webpage current with things of interest, not this sort of thing. But I feel I have to explain myself. This is a strange place, and a sick one.
February 27, 2003 Under these circumstances, spending more time with the obnoxious, egomaniacal rabbi than I do with anyone I like or love, America cannot possibly expect to retain my services.
I'm worried that my right shoulder muscle is becoming overdeveloped from the massive amount of writing I have to do for work in the cock-eyed posture demanded by this office equipment. The left is relaxed, but the right is constantly worked. Will I have to spend half of my day typing upside down to rectify this? Can I even do that? All I am asking is for some peace of mind, that is not so much.
February 18, 2003 I had a nice Mike Saul's Birthday on Friday. His roommates made tacos and invited people over. Saul regaled the dinner party with stories of knife fights from his smuggling days in the South China Sea. The only unpleasant moment came midway through a story about a one-armed card shark he once knew. Without explanation, Saul stopped talking, became possessive of the ground beef and grew belligerent towards anyone who asked for it. He never finished the story. In time, he released the ground beef for general consumption, but by then, the ice cream cake had been delivered. Later, we went to a bar, The Hideout, where they were celebrating some other, obscure holiday. We leaned against the wall and discussed who in the crowd would last how long in Okinawa during a full moon.
Tomorrow, the 19th, is my own birthday.
(news) Aspiring British artists are being offered the chance to head south and chill out creatively in the world's last great wilderness, Antarctica. British Antarctic Survey and the Arts Council of England are offering to take two selected artists free of charge down to the frozen continent to spend two months working during the southern hemisphere summer. Places are open to painters, poets, photographers, film-makers and writers with the condition that they produce works inspired by their experiences and underscoring the scientific significance of Antarctica. "We are trying to spread the scientific message of why Antarctica is so important," a BAS spokeswoman told Reuters. "These people might go on producing works based on their experiences on the ice for years to come," she added.
Obviously, I am raging. Why am I not British? I plan to indict some motherfuckers in the present criminal conspiracy to classify me as not being British, and I plan to hand down those indictments with a fury. I will raise that question with my family when we get together later this week for me and my brother's birthday. At first, they will think that I am joking. In the meantime, someone has to begin petitioning these people to drop the 'UK Nationals' requirement, thereby ending their obeisance to this goddam conspiracy against my peace of mind. Either that, or I need a quick green card marriage. Do they have those in the UK? Somehow, I doubt it. This is very complicated. Damn it.
I realized, while talking to a long-time reader in person for the first time at the aforementioned Hideout, the good Ms. Haffner, that I never finished the story of my retarded plant from last spring. I thought that other readers might also be wondering, so I will belatedly conclude the tale now. The Human Resources department here at RabbiCo likes to hand out presents to every employee whenever a Jewish holiday comes around. I'm generally aware of when Passover or Rosh Hashanah is on the docket, because I suddenly have triple the work load, but holidays like Shavuoth and Tu B'Shevat tend to catch me off-guard. The latter, Jewish Arbor Day, provided occasion for Human Resources to deposit a potted plant on everyone's desk. I like plants well enough, but I have never claimed to be able to take care of one, let alone one with the severe developmental disabilities that my plant turned out to have. This was a slow plant, a special ed plant. This plant could not do much on its own. To make matters worse, the rabbi hates it when Human Resources gives out gifts, so he waited until I went to the bathroom and then put his plant on my desk. We had a furious row about whether his plant was my responsibility. I lost, of course, because I have a shred of human decency. So, now I had two plants, one of which was clearly stealing light and nutrients from the other, retarded one, and the entire situation was bringing me down. The rabbi's plant got tossed in with a communal bunch of plants that I found in another part of the floor. The janitorial staff takes care of those. The ultimate fate of my own plant is somewhat harder to talk about. It was not doing well, even during a trial residency in the communal bunch. They were doing some landscaping across the street at the then-new UBS Warburg building, and I carried my plant over there. What happened next is too personal to talk about. Have you ever read or seen Of Mice and Men? Oh, poor, sad, retarded plant. Oh, poor, sad, retarded world.
February 7, 2003 You will forgive me, I hope, if I am brief in this entry. I finished a lengthy essay on the incredible stealth techniques that I have devised for my current job search, intending to stay ahead of my enemies, who wish for me to remain in the rabbi's employ forever - and then my computer crashed, and I lost the unsaved entry. Clearly, I have said too much already. For my own safety, then, I may say no more, other than that progress is being made and that there are circles within circles in operation here - also, that according to EW.com, the Kids in the Hall are planning to make another movie.
Now, I am off to the frozen north.
February 3, 2003 For a moment I thought it may have been shuttle debris, but no, the rabbi is back at work. Before he left, he and I jostled over the wallpaper on my computer desktop. Seeking simple joy between plunges into Microsoft Word, I had the classic Lee Harvey Oswald Rock Trio running. Seeing it by chance one day, the rabbi chuckled, and then announced that he was deeply offended, that he had watched the event live on TV, and that Jack Ruby was Jewish. (He dwelled on the last point the longest before hastily reiterating his horror.) I kept the image and turned off my screensaver in order to ensure that the image was on-screen more often. Figuring that one of the first things he would do after returning to the office would be to check whether it was still there, I used this fine entry from The Boondocks to further my entries in passive-aggressive arts.
Here is the reference for the football gambling monkey, courtesy of Mike Saul:
(news) Inji the orangutan is the Oregon Zoo's resident gambler, and she has a 4 and 0 track record for past football predictions. Inji's keepers lay out a Tampa Bay t-shirt and a Raider t-shirt. The primate then decides who will win and puts on the appropriate shirt. "We've got a pretty clear pick here: Raiders. Her grandson there picked the Bucks, but he doesn't have her proven record," zoo director Tony Vecchio told KOIN 6 News. Keepers say orangutans are naturally attracted to reds and yellows, and Inji purposely picked the black shirt.
I have sent an inquiry to the zoo and hope to have more news about the orangutan's reaction to the Raiders' defeat (and her own fallibility). Someone said, "Your website is funny, but it could be more poignant." Well, shit is about to get mighty poignant around here.
January 23, 2003 My head is cloudy with hatred for my job and the squealing, screeching idiots who work in my vicinity. I retreat to a discman whenever possible, but most of the work that I do involves writing, and most of the writing involves a creaky, quiet headset and tapes of the rabbi's rambling. ("So, write all of that into a letter about the terrorists in the Church of the Nativity", he says. "But clean it up, and make it sound friendly.")
I am supremely ill-suited to work among the religious.
Last week's curious yet inspiring penguin story, about the six penguins from Ohio who, upon introduction to their new home, talked the West Coast penguins into swimming laps all day for no apparent reason, has received pretty wide coverage: even The Daily Show had footage last night, although the writing wasn't up to their usual high standards. No one appears to have solved the mystery yet, although my brilliant detective work has revealed that the penguins' exhibit space once housed a group of squirrel monkeys, which led me to this website, where a squirrel monkey who claims to have a human mother and father makes a number of strident claims about his own availability for being messed with, and which makes me wonder about this establishment, which professes to specialize in squirrel monkey 'husbandry', or the science of getting monkeys to fuck, and how it ties in to the entire affair, especially given the first monkey's history of violence against diapers. Now read this:
(news) For her part, penguin keeper Tollini predicts things will get back to normal in February when the onset of the breeding season will hopefully lure the birds back to their burrows. "It may be a very stimulating breeding season," she said. "I think they have gotten a new lease on life by doing this."
So: are those penguins confused, or have I uncovered a bizarre scheme that defies imagination?
There should be a name for people who leave mysteries more complicated than when they find them.
January 22, 2003 My new computer arrived! I would like to thank the Chinese for their speedy work. Clearly, some nations in this world know the value of keeping me on-line and productive.
The date of the rabbi's departure for the Ukraine draws near, and we are sniping at each other. "Some day, you will be one of the world's foremost scholars of history," he said. "So why don't you start acting like it?" "I am," I replied. "I'm refusing to perform tasks that I find ridiculous." On and on.
January 21, 2003 Someone tipped off the rabbi that I can be plied with cookies. He has begun using them to excuse all manner of atrocities, from a request to have the whole of Isaac Babel's diary photocopied to declaring that the whole of western civilization is a reaction to the Hebrew Bible. I played ball on the Babel, but could not let the last one pass. He is getting ready to head off to the Ukraine to lead a tour of sites where awful things have happened to Jewish people, and I attempted to do my part to right history's wrongs by doing a splendid job on the lecture packet for the tour. The lettering on the photocopies is crisp, even when taken from out-of-print texts in a state of disrepair, and the layout for the section title pages is firm, stately yet resonant with ancestral memory.
January 16, 2003 I spent much of my work day at the photocopier, assembling packets of maps about pogroms. While I was there, a guy came by and said, "You sure are making a lot of copies about pogroms." I told him that I agreed that it was a lot. He stood there for a moment longer, giving me a suspicious look, and then went into the bathroom. Another guy came by a minute later and said, "Wow, 'Everything you always wanted to know about pogroms but were afraid to ask', eh?" I told him that, yes, it was. Man, you leave a few books about pogroms lying around and suddenly you're everyone's best friend.
The Powerful Creatures are the bowling team to which I belong, and, after some discussions, we decided to chronicle our current season on the web for the world to see. We are widely recognized as a young team on the verge of a profound and heroic breakthrough, and you can follow our remarkable saga by clicking on that link above.
The rabbi says I have been really great this week. I am not feeling it.
January 9, 2003 I am 'sick' today. I have a rare strain of the flu known as 'fuck all y'all'. It's pretty rough. According to my doctor, I will 'freak the fuck out' if I see anyone from my workplace environment, so it is very important for the healing process that I stay out of there.
Well, I have received more than 800 emails from outraged widows and spinsters who were deeply hurt by the Tribune's callous, spiteful 'error' yesterday. This, clearly, has been a galvanizing moment. These women have endured the loss of their husbands, or endured never having had one at all. They do not care to be mistaken for each other, and they are 'turning the other cheek' no longer. The overwhelming consensus from this tidal wave of public opinion was that the Tribune must show its sincere regret by sending me, as their representative, a sandwich, right now. If the Tribune does not comply with this reasonable offer for peace, then I cannot be held responsible for the untold thousands of widows and spinsters who may descend upon Tribune Tower. I am recommending, for simplicity's sake, that widows descend from the south and spinsters from the north, but I cannot guarantee that will be the case.
The internet is conspiring to make me believe that my home computer is too slow and must be replaced. I am having none of that, because I have no money, but the internet is insistent. As far as I am concerned, the internet owes me five dollars.
January 8, 2003 The final package arrived. My 'sick' day is imminent. Yes. It will take place tomorrow. Oh, how 'sick' I will be. I took several days off in a row around Christmas, but that does not compare to the simple joy of just not going to work when I am expected to be there. There have been too many assignments of late; moreover, I have the hours, and therefore I have the moral imperative to use them.
CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS
- An editorial Tuesday incorrectly described the Donna Reed character as a widow in the sequence of "It's a Wonderful Life" in which Jimmy Stewart's character sees what life would have been like without him. She should have been described as a spinster.
The Tribune regrets the errors.
Do you think an apology makes this okay, you sons of bitches? You heedless, amoral bastards. This shocking affront casts doubt on the sincerity of the Tribune's January 7 apology for running several Brenda Starr, Reporter comic strips out of order. If you're truly sorry, Tribune, knock it the fuck off! Need I invoke the spectre of an angry, undead, flesh-crazed Frank Capra? Because I fucking will.
January 7, 2003 Two of the packages that were keeping me from skipping work arrived today. Now, Barnes and Noble.com has but to fulfill the deal we reached on December 27, exchanging virtual monies from a gift card for goods, and I will be gloriously 'sick'. In response to the delay, I have written and mailed a very strongly-worded letter to Barnes and Noble.com customer service about fucking with my leisure time. Schematics for the 'sick' day are currently being drawn, with potential activities including taking advantage of low day-time rates at a bowling alley and checking the mail in my underwear.
January 6, 2003 Did you know that wombanization is synonymous with 'feminization' and does not, in fact, refer to the conversion of a person, place or thing into a wombat-like state? What a crock of shit.
I want to take a 'sick day', as I have enough hours on my timesheet to do so, but a minor problem delays me: I have gift-certificate-purchased packages arriving from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com, and if I am not here when they arrive, the rabbi will assume they are his, open them, become bewildered, and do whatever makes the least sense at that point in time. I don't care what the Torah says: that guy is no good.
(news) Chicago seems to have shrugged off the dubious title of "Murder Capital of the Nation"--with Los Angeles posting about a dozen more killings through the final days of 2002.
Yes, but it still leads the rest of the nation by a significant margin in an equally dubious category, suckers who owe me five dollars. In fact, Chicago outpaces most other metropolitan areas by such a distance - with the only significant challenge coming from Champaign-Urbana, where the per capita owe-five-dollars rate is even higher - as to make comparisons basically irrelevant. For fuck's sake, Chicago. Why must you underachieve?
January 2, 2003 It's 2003. Everything looks different, doesn't it? The sky is aflame, and there are so many more gargoyles eating peoples' faces than there used to be. In any event, I think everyone agrees that we are in the next century now, so at least that particular squabble is over and done with.
I spent a pleasant New Year's Eve at the zoo. They were open late for holiday fun. There were clever light displays, and a festive horn was included in the price of admission. The idea, as I understood it, was for us to make the animals understand somehow that it was New Year's Eve and to get them excited about a fresh start, a clean slate, a new year. The catch, though, which went carefully unmentioned by the ticket-takers, was that most of the animals were clearly accustomed to going to sleep around 5, when the zoo normally closes. Tigers, lions and armadilloes alike took what appeared to be very enjoyable naps. The only animals who really brought the noise were the penguins, who splashed, dived, turned their heads in strange directions and fell over with all of their customary magnificence. Some special mention has to go to the sea lions, though, all but one of whom boycotted the soft-rock laser light show going on above their tank by hiding well out of sight for the entire night.
There was some concern from my date that I might lose my shit when it was discovered that the great apes house was closed for construction and all of the chimps, gorillas, baboons and orangutans were off at another zoo until 2004. I did not lose my shit, which is not to say that I was entirely calm about it, and I chose to imagine all of the monkeys on a cruise together. The smaller primates were still present, fortunately, and most of them gave duly sleepy glances at the revellers while dangling from branches.
The rabbi for whom I work is grimly obsessed with including disdainful remarks about the arbitrary nature of the Gregorian calendar. Last year, he harassed everyone who wished him a Happy New Year with 'hilarious' harangues and historical background on the subject. I think he was disappointed that everyone wised up and didn't say anything to him about it this year, so he sought people out, wished them a Happy New Year and then, whether they acknowledged him or not, harangued them for regarding it as a new year. No one else in the office really knows what he and I do here, as he is more or less renting the space, so they kind of button their lips and take the 'delight' until he is done. I tried to catch him in the act whenever possible so I could tell him to knock it off, but he is a slippery bastard.
On another note, long-time readers will know that I am committed to providing around-the-clock coverage of usage of the term 'slut' in Shakespeare's plays. Let me then refer you to Act 3, Scene 3 of As You Like It, one of his better comedies, and the following exchange:
('Foul' in this context means 'without make-up or adornment; as nature made me'.)
Today's amateur psychology poll question: is sluttishness a product of nature or nurture? What would B.F. Skinner say? If this question were to be somehow cross-referenced with the Stanford Prison Experiment, would the result be the greatest prison / education / porn movie ever filmed? (Speculate as to its ranking in a top ten list of the other great prison / education / porn movies of our times.)
December 26, 2002 This is the season of giving. The rabbi sent me a generously-apportioned gift card to Barnes and Noble as a holiday 'thank-you' present. (Which was quite nice, but hilarious for reasons that, for legal reasons, cannot be disclosed in writing.) I had been thinking about getting him a Martin Luther bobblehead doll as a Hanukkah present, because I thought he might enjoy that. ("Did you really think the Jews would all convert to Christianity once you implemented your reforms?" Tap the bobblehead. Luther nods. "Oh, Luther.") But Hanukkah passed, and I was on a manic streak at the time wherein I felt that the joy of basking in my fucking presence was gift enough, so I spent the money on sandwiches instead.
I had a splendid run-around in the snow on Christmas Eve. For some reason, no one else thought to go down to the lakefront after midnight during the blizzard, so I was alone in the newly-fallen snow. I had my Lomo with me and attempted to document the strange sights, but I discovered later that the aperture was set wrong, so I am not sure if any of the pictures will come out. (Lomo is tricky. I am still getting used to its ways, having previously owned only disposable cameras.) The emotional high point of the trip was walking past the empty lot where a guy in a trailer sets up to sell Christmas trees every year. Evidently assuming that there were no more sales to be made at this late point in the season, he took off, leaving seven or eight forlorn trees behind. A cartoon reindeer head overlooked them from a lightpole. The physical high point of the trip was when I stepped out on the beach and was teleported by unknown motherfuckers to the goddam moon all of a sudden. Shit! There are those who will suspect that I was hallucinating from being out in the sub-zero cold for an hour, but I have pictures, if Lomo is true.
December 20, 2002 In my delirium, thoughts take the form of hydras. Hissing, monstrous heads lunge, feint, strike; blood rushes from my torn chest and pools into a response. Last night's fevered sleep found me wrestling with an all-Muppet version of Nelly's "Hot In Herre". How will the time-honored tradition of rewriting the racy subtleties out of hit songs for kids react to the removal of subtlety from pop culture, when sex goes from being the subtext to the text itself? It wasn't long before Grover rang forth with:
It's getting hot in here
And then, I was lost.
I didn't go to work today. The rabbi is off for Israel for keg stands and blowing out subwoofers with the Talmud or whatever it is rabbis do when they're back in rabbinic party central. For my part, I rolled out of bed around noon, mumbled "ouch, my fucking head", and carried on with my day. Later this afternoon, I will pick up my new bowling ball. It was a present from my uncle Jim, a fine guy who bowls a lot and was ready for a change in his arsenal, so he gave me his gray ball. I took it in to have the holes fit for my fingers, and the guy at the pro shop asked if I wanted my initials written on it, so I said, sure, my initials are m-o-n-k-e-y, and he wrote that down on the order form. I am looking forward to bowling with it. I know it is seen as showing responsibility when you own your own house. Does the same apply to owning your own bowling ball? I am hopeful.
(news) Customs officials opened his suitcase and a bird of paradise flew out but that was nothing compared to what they found in his pants -- a pair of pygmy monkeys. Californian Robert Cusack has been sentenced to 57 days in jail for trying to smuggle the monkeys, a total of four exotic birds and 50 rare orchids into Los Angeles Airport after a trip to Thailand, officials said on Thursday. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns said Cusack had been undergoing a routine inspection when he arrived last June until an official opened his suitcase. "It became non-routine when they opened his luggage and a bird of paradise took off flying in the terminal," Johns said. The agents found three more birds in his bag, tucked into nylon stockings, along with 50 orchids of a threatened species. Asked by agents if he had anything else to tell them, Cusack responded: "Yes, I've got monkeys in my pants."
For the record, the totally spurious rumor that Robert Cusack is the crazy brother of John and Joan Cusck starts right here. In any event, Robert deserves credit for going for broke with that last declaration. Sure, we all say that from time to time, but how many times do we mean it? And either pygmy monkeys are the best-behaved monkeys in the world, or this guy has truly hypnotic pants. If the U.S. Customs Agency has any decency, they will let the monkeys walk off into the sunset with the pants where they were so happy. It's warm in California. Robert can wear shorts.
Fuck! Grover's back!
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 18, 2002 This morning's train was gentle. Even the raindrops outside were soft, warm. Inside the office, life went to shit, as it occasionally does.
I tried to take a day off on Monday. I had still been planning to go in to work when I awoke, but then I couldn't find my wallet, and though I had some ideas as to where it might be, it wasn't in any of the usual places, so that was too much for my delicate constitution and I called in sick. I had settled in with my cat on the couch to watch a documentary about Darryl Strawberry, and I was just starting to figure out what was up with that guy when the rabbi called. He begged and pleaded and wheezed and begged some more until, finally, I agreed to come in. Ostensibly, I was quite sick, and therefore I was rather annoyed at this brazen disrespect for my ostensible health. He is going on a string of vacations over the next month and a half, and over the weekend, he came up with a bunch of projects that he found splendidly exciting, so he wanted to get two months' worth of work done in four days this week. And the days have been just packed. I want nothing to do with it. My quiet revenge was to spend my few free moments on Monday and Tuesday updating my resume and undergoing the gut-wrenching process of writing a cover letter for a new job. Cover letters are brutal. I cannot write them. Write one I did, though, and when it emerged from the blood and fury of circumstance, it was terrifyingly brilliant and utterly mercenary. I used my lunch hour to walk it over to the library, which is where I was applying.
Today, there was a fuck-ton of cookies in the kitchen. As usual, I was the first to arrive on the scene. It was some kind of a thank-you for hard work. I thought about how hard people had been working, and I decided that they really hadn't been working very hard at all; really, only four people, tops, could be said to have worked hard, in my opinion. So I subtracted four from a fuck-ton and stashed the remainder of the cookies at my desk. I have eaten too many of them.
Timon of Motherfucking Athens, Acts Four and Five:
We open..."without the walls of Athens". That's right. Timon of Motherfucking Athens is outside of motherfucking Athens. This violent, disorienting shift provides for the reader a visceral parallel to the wrenching dislocation and betrayal experienced by Timon. If Timon of Motherfucking Athens can stop being of Athens, then what other of our most basic assumptions are counterfeit? The accursed usurers have even robbed the man of his residency. They have robbed the title of its truth. Timon, never without a strategy, comes up with the brilliant idea of taking his revenge by spending entire scenes sitting around and hurling invective at the city walls. Sun Tzu never taught his generals how to deal with such a unique plan of attack, so it's fortunate for the generals of Athens that it really isn't something they have to deal with. Timon reels off some memorable curses:
Lust and liberty
Meanwhile, though, the senators of Athens, colossal boobs if ever there were, have managed to offend the charismatic Alcibades, a man with military connections and a faint acquaintance with Timon. Alcibades begins to assemble a popular revolt against the greed of the senators. Word beings to spread about the mistreatment of Timon, who capitalizes on his newfound momentum by eating dirt and continuing to curse the city. This, then, is where the play gets quite good. Apemantus, renowned for showing up at random and harassing people, comes by to visit and gets out-harassed by Timon, who then makes explicit his desire for everyone everywhere to get fucked when a pair of whores arrive with Alcibades. He offers them vast sums of gold if they will agree to give everyone in Athens venereal disease. They consider it. Alcibades tries to get a word in edgewise and mostly fails. He is on his way to sack the city and wants Timon to come along as a figurehead, but when Alcibades admits that the violent murder of everyone in the world is not part of his platform, Timon loses interest. The Poet and the Painter from Act One come by looking to make sport of Timon and pick up any gold he may have. Shakespeare uses them to grind various axes about art, writing and critics. The specific axes are lost to history, but you can tell Shakespeare is getting some pretty good digs in there.
The senators of Athens, now on the verge of being overthrown, send the First and Second Senators out to coax Timon back into the city. (You can tell they are serious because they sent the First and Second Senators, not losers like the Seventh or Twelfth Senators.) Athens, they claim, isn't the same without Timon of. Also, Alcibades is about to beat their asses, and they are hoping that Timon will be their figurehead and help them sway popular opinion on major issues like greed, nobility and being from Athens. In a typically cunning manuever, Timon viciously gets their hopes up and then lets them down, using their presence as a forum to announce his upcoming workshop on hanging oneself from a tree. As instructed, the senators leave. There is a brief scene of the senate taking the news of Timon's refusal poorly, and another brief scene of a soldier discovering the grave of the presumably deceased Timon. In the final scene, Alcibades threatens Athens with utter destruction unless everyone agrees to be nice to each other, and, faced with perhaps the shittiest ultimatum ever issued, the senators cave. Timon is missed by all.
Questions to Consider for Acts Four and Five:
1. How much did it fuck you up to have Timon not being of Athens all of a sudden? Because it fucked me up, that's for sure.
I hope you enjoyed this epic series on William Shakespeare's Timon of Motherfucking Athens. Let it serve as your guide for the play itself; or, better, let it serve as your guide for one of his other thirty-seven plays. Find yourself some Cymbeline, some Coriolanus, some King John. To know is to love. (Actually, Shakespeare wrote thirty-eight other plays if you're feeling Cardenio. But where's that guy from, anyway?)
December 9, 2002 I find myself surrounded, in this ever-mysterious season of winter, by powerful totems. My autographed 8X10 photo of Manute Bol arrived in the mail, and I have a nice frame waiting at home for it. While searching through auction sites for a suitable bowling bag for the next bowling season, I found this, which caused me to lose consciousness; when I awoke, I found that I'd done the best two hours worth of work since I arrived, and the rabbi was mighty pleased. I remain woozy. I bought a Christmas tree this weekend, and my apartment smells of pine needles. I thought my cats might find the tree interesting. Unfortunately, the younger of the two found it interesting in an eating sort of way, and he is now quite sick. He'll be fine, though, and he is being polite about where he throws up.
In a free moment, I decided to check up on the Chinese Space Program. I have been keeping an eye on those guys for a while, but every time I look away, there are new developments:
(news) Space authorities in China point to a Shenzhou 4 flying before year's end, perhaps indicative of a launch planned for sometime this month, said Phillip Clark, head of the Molniya Space Consultancy in the United Kingdom. "With just about everything tested for the manned program, I would think that Shenzhou 4 will be pretty-much a duplicate of what is planned for the first manned mission. That is, test everything out…but the men," Clark told SPACE.com. In March, Zhang Qingwei, president of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), was quoted by state-run media outlets as saying that new, more powerful launchers will boost a 20-ton permanently manned space station into orbit. "By Western and even former-Soviet standards, the Chinese manned space program is progressing at a painfully slow rate," Clark notes. "But then again, historically, the Chinese have always taken their time with programs and have taken little notice of the expectations of those observers outside China!"
Phillip Clark can talk all the space-trash he likes, but the Chinese themselves appear, by and large, to be content remaining enigmatic about their plans. They have been quite busy reserving intense domain names, and, judging by the design of the sites, some intense shit has been going down, but it has been going down in Chinese, which I do not understand, so I had to be content with raising one eyebrow at the laser-beacon CASC logo, a white-hot version of which Phillip Clark can probably expect to suddenly materialize above his bed in the near future in response to his mockery.
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 27, 2002 I am worried that Jesus doesn't always know when I am being serious, so I am going to go light on all of that stuff for a while and simply say, come on, Jesus, you know I'm just playing with you.
Having decided last week to return to defining my self-esteem solely on basis of bowling results, I am flying high off last night's 193, equal to my all-time high. It was a powerful and inspirational performance for the entire team. We were matched against the #1 squad in the league, as we have been repeatedly throughout the year - a tough schedule for a young team - and, after struggling in the first match, we not only demolished but completely demoralized the opposition, taking the next two matches and the point for total pins. The regular season is now over with a week of playoffs to come, wherein we will attempt to secure a comfortable position in the middle of the pack and a fine launching point for next season's campaign.
(legend) The story of the Golem begins in the old city of Prague. Many boys and girls do not know where Prague is located. It is the capital of Czechoslovakia,(a country in eastern Europe). As the legend is told, an old Jewish man named Rabbi Loew lived in Prague. He was a very tall and big man. So, he was called the Great Rabbi of Prague. He was a very kind person and cared for the people of Prague, but he became very sad because the people had to work hard all day.
Funny how the rabbi I work for is largely untroubled by that sort of thing.
While waiting for my soda to emerge, I noticed that the shitty vending machine downstairs at work has a website on its label. Let me link to that website, then, as a backdrop for the statement that the empire of Nancy Klong is in ruins:
(company profile) Classic Vending, Inc. began with one route of 12 locations in 1989 by Nancy Klong. Nancy envisioned a company with no limitations. A business where customers could expect the highest quality products, largest commissions, and fast and reliable service. Throughout the past 13 years that is exactly what Classic Vending has been giving its clients.
Classic Vending ought to be giving me a kiss on my black ass. The service provided by its machine has a number of limitations, primarily the ability to do anything other than be terrible. It repeatedly eats my dollars and does not return soda. Slots A1 and C1 have been written off as scorched earth, areas barren of refreshment because of how consistently they fail to function. In short, the service provided by Classic Vending, in the form of this particular machine, is for shit, and you can tell the entire Klong dynasty I said so.
I will consider retracting these statements for a complete set of attitude ovals.
Our research team has been investigating the monkey beach movie that I saw last week on AMC, and the best candidate appears to be The Bachelor Flat, a light comedy from 1961 adapted from a play. (How the monkeys figured into the stage version is an intriguing question that begs further exploration.) If our conclusion is correct, the dorky blonde guy who is mocked by the monkey may be the guy from West Side Story, which raises a number of important semiotic implications.
(obituary) Mr. Moore tried to run the jail with compassion. When officials refused to let incarcerated mob boss Sam Giancana attend his mother's funeral, Mr. Moore got him last-minute permission from a judge. "He just thought it wasn't right for a man to miss his mother's funeral," his wife said. When Giancana's lawyer pressed him on how his client could return the favor, Mr. Moore mentioned he was having trouble booking musical acts for the jail. "After that talk, Aretha Franklin came, Liza Minelli, B.B. King, Johnny Cash, everybody," his wife said. "When they performed, those inmates were quieter than my 6th-grade class."
I thought that was a nifty story. It made me wonder if I am connected to the mob in any way, if I may wind up having to post on a group weblog about machine-processed chicken in order to return a favor that someone did for a mafia guy. I'm fairly sure that I know too many martial arts to be subject to that sort of thing, but it'd be nice to know.
I have no plans for Thanksgiving Day itself, so I will be attempting to cook with hilarious results. If I attempt to achieve hilarious results from the beginning, how bad can it turn out?
November 22, 2002 The rabbi has begun communicating with me through Bible verses, which is a fucking obnoxious thing to do, especially because I don't have a copy, not being a religious man, and I have to go online to find an e-text in order to figure out what he's trying to say. I'm not sure that he has the chapter numbers completely down, either. As best I can tell, his response to my having carried a heavy box to his car as a favor was to imply that I had slaughtered someone else's cattle and that there would be consequences.
Lost in all of the uproar about former pop star Michael Jackson dangling his baby out of the window of his hotel room (and come on; this is the United States, half of our elected officials eat babies, who are we to pretend we care all of a sudden) was the appearance of terrifying spectre-children at his side while visiting the Berlin Zoo. I get the same feeling from looking at them as I did from the photos in The Others, or the afterlife photos here. I am easily spooked in offices, but still: those are scary.
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
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.
October 30, 2002 I hate my job; hate it, hate it, hate like nuzzles from Dom Deluise against your sunburned thighs, paralyzing hatred, scratch on your 45rpm of "The Gambler" hatred, I cannot think clearly when I am here and am foggy when I go home. Hatred. People will say that I have hated jobs before and attempt to establish some manner of track record for me hating jobs, thereby suggesting that the blame lies with me for inability to cope with jobs, but fuck that reasoning, because if you take their side then you are no friend of mine, because much like a select few of my previous jobs, the epic, reasoned, furious hatred I feel for this job assumes the shape of art, and you might as well tell Georges Seurat that he's already done a painting of French people at rest, you pissant.
But; there are popcorn stinkbombs, a small sacrifice. 50 cents pays for a bag of microwave popcorn, and a few seconds' labor takes it on a walk around the office. It's remarkable how vivid and long-lasting the smell of burnt popcorn is. It takes at least two hours to disappear completely in a building with no air circulation like this one. Yesterday, I was sad about my burnt popcorn. Today, it was a retaliatory gesture. Pipe down, fuckers. I can get pettier than this.
October 22, 2002 There is a new guy at work by the name of Julius. The name is not at all appropriate for him, and I feel obligated to strip him of it and apply the name to someone else who for whom it is more fitting. Sadly, in this office, there is no one who qualifies. I could be Julius, but shit is complicated enough already.
Are you prepared to talk to your parents, schoolteachers and even government officials about how important it is for rainforests to be saved for Kidz in future generations?
Is there a spark of hope in your eye that something can be done by Kidz to save endangered animals in the Amazon?
I am not sure that I have ever seen a gorilla as profoundly deranged as the gorilla in the picture on the left. He is going to eat the fuck out of that cereal and derive a primal sexual satisfaction from doing so. That much is certain. At this point, everything else is mere conjecture. ("Even when nobody is looking?")
I have not had Gorilla Munch, but Orangutan-O's are okay.
October 1, 2002 While freestyling idly in the elevator this morning, I made the pleasant discovery that 'my genius' and 'convenient' can be rhymed effectively. Armed with this knowledge, I sort of hoped to encounter a sucker emcee on the way to my cubicle -- but I encountered only Terri, who orders office supplies.
September 19, 2002 I made some late-afternoon popcorn at work and brought it back to my desk. People in my general vicinity are loudly speculating about who made the popcorn, as they usually share it with each other when they make it, and expect me to behave according to custom. They can, of course, get fucked. The popcorn is mine.
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.
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.
September 12, 2002 (Indian proverb) These can never be true friends: Hope, dice, a prostitute, a robber, a cheat, a goldsmith, a monkey, a doctor, a distiller.
On behalf of monkeys everywhere, what the fuck, India? You don't want me to develop retaliatory proverbs. I will shatter your cricket leagues with fierce linguistic techniques.
Our bowling team did not conclude its inaugural season in what anyone other than a flipper baby might refer to as proud fashion, but we were in a classy league, and for our efforts, we all received trophies. I am in possession (once it is recovered from Mike Saul's car) of an actual bowling trophy. I say this with a measure of pride, and also as a warning, for now I am in possession of a bowling trophy, and that is one less in a dwindling pool of fronts on which I can be fucked with.
There is a lot of news to sort through; I will do that tomorrow.
Also: I have a pirate flag, for impulse pirating.
Things are good. The weather is cooling, and the mail guys at work did not cut me when I dumped a big holiday brochure mailing project on them. They are rather disconnected from what goes on at work, because, like me, none of them are Jewish. Most were fairly annoyed, and even the typically genial Ziggy seemed to be considering his retaliatory options, but they pulled through. The project was not my idea. These projects never are. I am not the malcontent I am so frequently credited as being.
September 4, 2002
My most important assignment at work today is to mail two challas, sacred loaves of bread, to England by priority mail. But I am hungry, and they smell nice. There may be a problem here.
July 2, 2002 I'm only sleeping. A nap. A nice doze. Dream-land. Lie-down. Stretch. After all I am only asleep. Yawn. I am not looking for trouble. Hibernation. Sleepyhead. I am not one who is awake. Please don't wake me. Glacial waves. After all I am only sleeping.
I have decided to begin drinking two liters of water per day, and I have purchased a two-liter bottle to keep at my desk in order to achieve that goal. If there are any healthy types who read this web page and can alert me to the exciting improvements I can expect in my physical condition, particularly as they relate to fighting prowess, I would be most appreciative.
The rabbi accused me of being passive-aggresive. I nearly went buckwild. I am well aware that most of you bastards are going to take his side on this one, thinking that you know how I behave and that I probably was being passive-aggressive, but I emphatically deny the charges, and I would like to levy the counter argument that I have too much work to do, that much of it lacks coherence and is partially - and, in some cases, fully - insane, and that I am a reasonable man.
On my lunch break, I walked past a kid who threw away a half-eaten ice-cream cone. I almost decked him.
June 12, 2002 I am finding it hard to get anything done. There is claustrophobia in concentric circles around me: cubicle, city, culture. (I did not plan for the overabundance of 'c' words in that sentence.) I spent a long time researching grad schools in Alaska, figuring that I'd get a masters degree in whatever they're good at up there, but my research did not turn up anything that the grad schools in Alaska were good at. And work is like a sick parody of the arts, wherein talent and effort actually is rewarded with insistence for more of the same. In work, I am trying to earn the prize of being left alone. But from work, I get what I'm looking for from art; and in art, I get what I'm looking for from work. So it goes.
HAUNTED ALASKA Anchorage: The Little Karaoke Place.
Chinese weightlifters killed the owner in 1999. The owner's Ghost is seen looking out the window.
After an extensive campaign, my mother persuaded me to send a card for my great-grandmother's 90th birthday. We've never been close or even especially aware of each other, but she was still sending $10 checks as of my 23rd birthday, so, by any reasonable measure, that's worth a card for the big nine-zero. Finding a suitable one wasn't easy, though. How many birthday cards do they make for 90 year olds? There are probably all of two designs, at most, and odds are she's received both a dozen times already. In the end, I bought an age-neutral 'fun' card that had a bee on it and was fuzzy all over. I thought that might be fun to, you know, feel. So, I hope she enjoys the card. I have not yet mailed it, though, because I am stuck for something to write on the inside.
This claustrophobia fucks me up as a writer. I cannot effect any distance from myself, from my immediate thoughts. I think the reason why I've never been able to completely embrace Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy is that his inspiration was so much better than what he created from it. He felt intimidated that his girlfriend had traveled more than he had. From that, he extrapolated the intimidated by sexual experience plot, which just seemed so mundane in comparison. The only people I am ever really intimidated by are people who have traveled more than me. It's amusing, I think. But it's there. And there's this claustrophobia.
There was leftover pizza in the office kitchen this morning, from one of my favorite pizza places in the city, with pesto and other toppings. I had four pieces. Morning glory, afternoon trying to start fights with people.
Early summer crazy, y'all.
June 5, 2002 I am struggling with the early summer crazy, wherein I up and quit my job, claiming that it is the will of nature that I am free, and expect that things will work themselves out as far as money goes. Some readers will recall that I gave in to the early summer crazy in a big way last year, and it did not turn out well. There is no reason to believe that it would turn out any better this year. But the early summer crazy does not listen to reason. A sense of diplomatic immunity sets in, like the bad guys in Lethal Weapon 2. Work gets harder to do. I did not shave this morning, because I am trying to communicate to the world that I am dissatisfied.
Here is some more of the reading list. I meant to include all of the comic books in the first half, but, evidently, I forgot some of them.
Ultimate Marvel Team-Up
Brian Michael Bendis, various
Whenever Marvel publishes something with 'Ultimate' in the title, it means that the story takes place early in the superhero's career, making it easier to follow for readers new to the title in question. Hence, although Spider-Man has known Wolverine, the Hulk and Iron Man since back in the day, in this book, he is meeting them for the first time. The problem with comic titles that are solely dedicated to team-ups is that nothing of any significance for either character is allowed to happen in them. The characters' editors want the important stuff to go down in the character's own book, so everyone involved has to be exactly the same at the end as they were in the beginning. Therefore, even the best team-up title stories are like the ones here: good writing, and enjoyable while you're reading them, but fairly hard to remember once you're done. Still, good reading, even if I just can't get with this new Hulk that they're pushing.
Victor Hugo: A Biography
Victor Hugo liked the ladies. He also liked to write poetry, and he seems to have been more or less okay with himself, too. Hugo got to do all of the things writers want: have a lot of sex, live in comfortable wealth, get exiled in a dispute with a dictator where, later, you get to say "I told you so", become acclaimed as the greatest writer alive before you've even written your masterpiece, return to your homeland, most of which is named after you, and inspire millions of Vietnamese to worship you as a god over a century after your death. (Come on, Vietnam. Love me.) This, then, is a massive biography. In the introduction, the author makes a pretty solid case for its necessity, as well as its primacy among English-language biographies of Hugo. He covers everything without exhausting anything, which is mostly good but occasionally bad (e.g. relatively scant material on Les Miserables, which will replace the Bible in the life of any child of mine). The prose is clean, with the occasional wry sense of humor, and the text plays to the reader's intelligence, using a few references and comparisons that all of ten people worldwide might catch (myself not included). And there's some exemplary material on the sorry state of the English translations of Hugo's work. An interesting book, even simply as a historical overview of France in the 1800s.
The Secret Paris of the 30s
I have a sentimental thing going on with Brassai. (Where does one apply to be a one-name guy? I don't want to be one, but I have to wonder whether you're allowed to up and start referring to yourself by one name, or if there is an approval process.) During my Lost Weekend in London last year ('lost' in the literal sense: I spent more or less the entire weekend lost, because I was on my own, and I am a useless navigator), there was an exhibition of his work at the Hayward Gallery, and though I had to rush through because I'd spent too much time at the Goya exhibit upstairs and the museum was closing, I liked what I saw. Most of his photographs fall into two categories: stolen moments, ones that seem completely unconscious that they are being captured on film, be they couples in an embrace or the never-before photographed view at night from the alcoves of Notre Dame de Paris; and working-men, bemused that they are being photographed, giving blithe grins to the camera. This collection, accompanied by a good running essay by the photographer about his adventures while taking the photos, starts out with those two types. Inevitably, though, somewhere around the midway point, the whores come in, and once he starts on the whores, he never gets off them, so the second half is mostly Parisian whores just hanging around in various settings.
A Walking Tour of the Shambles
Neil Gaiman, Gene Wolfe
Limited-run book that I picked up at a book-signing that the good Mr. Gaiman did in Evanston. (Mr. Wolfe might have been there, too.) It's a guidebook to "a mythical neighborhood in Chicago that survived the Great Chicago Fire in 1871". 'Mythical' means that the neighborhood doesn't exist, in the more precise sense of the verb, although they do a good job of situating it in a part of the city where it may as well exist, because no one's entirely clear what goes on over there. It's a slight volume, clearly written for fun, and best read in short bursts rather than straight through. There are a few bits that get the character of the city right on, and a few that are completely off (a 'Terribly Strange Bed'? I am the only man in Chicago who conjugates 'terrible' that way, and even I don't do it very often), and most just seem like nifty ideas that the authors had stored up and could apply to any, well, mythical neighborhood. Ultimately, it comes off as an entire book's work of background details from a Gaiman (or Wolfe) book.
All Families are Psychotic: A Novel
The odd, terrible title notwithstanding, this is really quite a good book. For whatever reason, beginning with his last book, Miss Wyoming, Coupland went on this 'mature' bender, signalled by odd press releases referring to Miss Wyoming as his "first novel", implying that the previous books were some other, presumably lesser form of literature - a distinction whose necessity was lost on me, and which made me worry about where Coupland's head was at. Included in the move seems to have been the decision to remove his own voice from his work, which means no first-person narratives and a deliberate avoidance of characters who could be taken as author surrogates. I liked Miss Wyoming well enough, but he seems much more at ease with the "mature" imperative in this one, for whatever that's worth. There's a wide range of characters, and many of them get complex, nuanced renderings even as they cause trouble and gripe at each other. (Some do just remain background sketches, and I wouldn't be conscious of that if it weren't for the 'mature' thing.) The plot revolves around a family - not terribly dissimilar from one of the suburban Vancouver bunches of his previous books, but sped up a bit - who get wrapped up, in a sort of innocent manner, with diseases, drugs, black-market cloning and other bits of chaos, while waiting for one of their members, a flipper-baby astronaut, to blast off in Florida. The story stays grounded, never slipping into crassness, and balances genuine emotional resonance with a sense that nearly anything can happen, which makes the book hard to put down. And it's unconfined by genre, with a ballsy bit of magical realism slipping in when you least expect it. Funny, unpretentious, with some beautiful observations along the way - I liked it a lot.
Grant Morrison, Chas Truog
DC published a handful of titles in the latter half of the 80s that became widely acclaimed mature classics, much to their own surprise: Doom Patrol and Swamp Thing, for example, and, improbably, Animal Man, the story of a guy who can absorb the abilities of any animal that happens to be nearby. Like the previously mentioned pair of titles, the first few issues of Animal Man are odd to read in light of where the book wound up (loosely, animal rights and the existence of a benevolent god). The art is fairly plain, and the writing hasn't quite shaken off the general superhero dictum of its origin. Still, these issues hold up very well, and it adds up to a fairly great book. Grant Morrison is, at present, the most overinflated writer in comics, but this comes from an era where the parabola connecting his ambition to his ability made quite a nice shape. Highly recommended.
Long Day's Journey into Night
Oh, the Irish, and their whiskey, and their mothers.
Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72
Hunter S. Thompson
Approximately 85% serious, smart-as-fuck political writing, and 15% pure crazy. I really admire Thompson's commitment to the total derangement of the senses. I take a lot of shit for my consistently underanged senses, and, like a postcard from the North to the South Pole, I feel a kinship with the guy. (Which he probably wouldn't share. But he's a doctor of pharmacology, and I'm just some guy, so my options are limited about what I take.) Written in monthly installments as the campaign was developing, the book constitutes a strong case for the significance of the 1972 campaign to the nature of politics today. Nixon lurks in the background as a figure of pure evil, making only occasional (yet utterly perfect and memorable) appearances; the Democratic candidates were all more willing to grant press access, so there's much more material on them - and, if you're interested in the pure mechanics of a grass-roots campaign, how the primaries work, the emotions that go into the superhuman effort of selling someone to an entire country, this is great reading. There is also a running paranoid streak regarding George McGovern's press secretary that belongs on any list of the funniest shit ever. It's odd to think that the pieces were written for Rolling Stone. The candidates were all trying to court "the youth vote". What major publication, considered to be in touch with "the youth", would try to get them interested in politics with intelligent writing? Bygone era.
Batman: Dark Victory
Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale
Fucking phenomenal graphic novel; sequel to The Long Halloween, but not overly reliant on knowledge of its predecessor. There's a pretty good mystery along the way, but the main joy, for me, came from seeing the characters used so well. I mean, they made The Calendar Man cool. That is a remarkable achievement. As an old school Batman fan, I love seeing the Joker and Two-Face interact with each other. Neither character is to be fucked with under any circumstances, but for different reasons, and Loeb knows those reasons. This is the stretch, early in Batman's history, where Robin arrives and where the mobsters of Gotham become extinct, overtaken by the supervillains. I'm a huge fan of Tim Sale's art, and this is the best work he's done - there are several layouts that you have to stop and stare at. He has an immaculate understanding of the unique advantages of the comics medium, and uses it to the fullest. Towering stuff.
Paul Jenkins, Jae Lee
Quite excellent graphic novel starring Marvel's Inhumans, of whom I only have foggy memories from back in the day. Jenkins, another one of the best writers in comics today, reimagines them as an entire civilization with a lush, suggestively detailed yet accessible back story. I've never liked Jae Lee's art very much, and there are a few parts of this series that I think someone else could have handled better, but it doesn't by any means ruin the story, which revolves around wariness of humans (I can relate) and problems caused by the machinations of Portugese mercenaries and evil geniuses (again, I can relate). The civilization itself is the lead character, with most of the individual Inhumans (other than the lead pair) staying in the background, and it's a great creation, with overtones of ancient Greece and the movie Metropolis. Definitely a unique piece of comics art, and worth reading.
Referenced by Dave Eggers in a blurb on the back of The Onion's Dispatches from the Tenth Circle collection as being "maybe" the only superior to the Onion as "the most consistently perfect and excoriating social commentary we have". That is nonsense, and should be decried as such. Dario Fo is not as funny as The Onion. In Can't Pay? Won't Pay!, included here, the social commentary sits outside the action in the form of occasional monologues that bring the play's slapstick to a grinding halt. In his later plays, although agenda and action are better integrated, the agenda still comes first and tangibly determines the form of everything that comes after. Eggers' determination to have the world know that he is down with Fo is not Fo's fault, of course. I suspect that I'd worship him if I'd been born in Italy, and that seeing Fo's travelling company perform these plays is a vital part of the charm. They all seem like they'd be a lot of fun to produce, too. So, nothing against Dario Fo. These plays are pretty good. I just want to see The Onion paid some respect as literature.
There, then, is my updated reading list. Why do I read so much? I have long accepted that people are going to try to kill me, one way or another; I simply want to make absolutely sure that their reasoning has nothing to do with me not reading enough books, just in case, because I have control over that, if nothing else. There does not seem to be much of a link. But I am not absolutely sure, so I must press on.
May 31, 2002 That last entry was, I think, my first written with impaired faculties and no memory the next day. (I was sick, and it was 3 or 4 a.m. Why I felt compelled right then to write something and upload it, I don't know.) As a result, I did not give much thought to the Ottoman Empire war veterans on Memorial Day. Sorry. I am thinking about them now. Are there any left? Are they allowed to get together with veterans of wars fought by other defunct countries? This world can be lonely sometimes.
Today is my last day as the Ombudsman. It has been a blistering week and I have not enjoyed it. Everybody's a goddam insult comic fresh off a week at the Catskills, man, and I'm handcuffed to say a word in response. My self-discipline is good, but I wasn't planning to waste it on this.
Here is about half of my recent reading list. I'll do the other half later.
Ultimate Spider-Man, Vols. 1 and 2
Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley
Ace re-telling of Spider-Man's origin and beginnings, rebooting events to begin in more or less present times. (As a rule, even the hippest of comic book writers are about two years behind the curve when they work pop culture into their stories, and attempts to use hip youth lingo tend to make the baby Jesus cry.) Great as the Spider-Man movie was, this has an even tighter and more effective plotline for introducing all the major players and bringing them all together. Mark Bagley is a good artist and looks like my uncle Joe, so I have nothing but positive feelings for that guy. If you liked the movie and want more Spidey, these are what to get. (Vol. 1 runs parallel to the movie, more or less. Vol. 2 is uncharted territory. It features, in an encounter between Spider-Man and the Kingpin, one of the single greatest jokes in the history of the medium.)
Revenge of the Green Goblin
Roger Stern, Ron Frenz
Fairly useless story in which the Green Goblin, having escaped death through the aid of some hooded acolytes, strikes at Spider-Man where he is most vulnerable, through his toothpaste. Not bad or anything, but unremarkable and vaguely irritating. (Uses the original Spider-Man continuity, wherein all of the issues published since his first appearance in the 60s are part of his history - essentially, this is the older, experienced Spider-Man.)
Amazing Spider-Man: Coming Home
J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita Jr.
Pretty good story in which an unbeatable vampire dickhead hunts Spider-Man, who is depressed because his wife recently left him. Am I the only person who remembers Kraven? The unbeatable vampire dickhead reminded me of Kraven. Anyway, Straczynski was the creator of Babylon 5, which I have never seen, and writes a good fight scene. John Romita Jr. is a great guy, and does some lovely things with page layouts. Peter spends a fair amount of time reflecting on his youth (when he's not getting beaten up by the vampire dickhead), and it's not heavily wrapped up in past issues (other than the basic fact that Peter was dumped), so it serves as a nice ten-years-on from the movie.
Superman: No Limits!
Fairly good collection, with a few really good stories and a couple of bland ones, though it's hampered by moronic sequencing of the individual issues - the most interesting subplot gets put on hold for 48 pages at a time because it was running in Action Comics but not Superman or The Adventures of Superman, issues from all of which are included here. And there's a bizarre Superman Does Beowulf in Virtual Reality With Wonder Woman For Eighty Years story that throws everything off. For the most part, though, it's a solid choice if you just want to read some Superman, because it isn't overly steeped in plot details from older issues. (Although Superman For All Seasons, occasionally available in proper bookstores, is the shit as far as Superman goes.)
Green Arrow: Quiver
Kevin Smith, Phil Hester
Kevin Smith's comics writing is better than his film writing. Not a single one of the criticisms usually leveled against his films can be legitimately applied to his comics, and every one of the films' strengths remains present in them. He's not terribly prolific, but for a few years, he has been going from character to character, spending 8-10 issues on him, and effortlessly making the character cool again. Which is quite nice of him to do. His work on Green Arrow rates a notch below Daredevil, his other major project, because Daredevil is from Marvel Comics, and Green Arrow is from DC, and while I am a DC loyalist at heart, DC has spent much of the last decade fucking up most of their characters with convoluted plotlines and cynical attempts to recreate the surge of publicity they got for (temporarily) killing Robin and Superman by killing, in 'shocking' fashion, almost all of other ex-Super Friends. (A new low was reached when they killed Aquaman last year. Surprisingly enough, CNN was not on the scene.) Smith, therefore, had to undo several years worth of shitty stories to make Green Arrow useable again. (The difference is that the stories preceding his on Daredevil were just flat - he could focus on telling his own story right from the start.) He pulled it off, though, and managed the impressive task of making the untangling of bad stories into a good one, so he deserves all respect. And, like the brief appearance of Spider-Man in Daredevil, Smith writes a short Batman and Superman pairing that, in a word, rules.
N.B. Some readers may have noticed that I am omitting the names of the inkers on the various comics I have been mentioning. This is because I am hoping to lure an angry letter out of an inker.
Brian Azzarello, Richard Corben
Competently written but basically unremarkable story that doesn't do much other than to announce This Is How We're Doing The Hulk Now. It's not his origin, but not much seems to have happened since then, so it doesn't require much prior knowledge other than who Doc Samson is. (He's this guy.) The faintly Robert Crumb-esque art is an odd choice and doesn't catch the raw power of the Hulk very well. I've always been fond of Dale Keown's Hulk for that.
I'm glad that's been settled. Y'all was probably freaking out. Why y'all be bugging? One of the great mysteries of the world.
May 24, 2002 I have a new coping strategy for job stress: I changed all my computer passwords to obscenities. It helps. The job could very well be worse. The traffic hasn't been terrible today. I hate answering phones, though, and I am constantly being asked questions by easily-angered, senile old people that I cannot answer. I do what I can:
1. Transfer to voicemail;
2. Deny all knowledge.
The new union contracts were delivered today. Inexplicably, I have to belong to a union to have this job. I feel guilty being annoyed about the dues, admiring the early American labor movement as I do. So, I just shake my head and go along with it.
The Ombudsman has a surprise waiting for him when he comes back. I FOUND YOUR COOKIES, SUCKER!
Synchronicity strikes. This morning, for no apparent reason, the CTA ran three trains right after each other. I saw the first two from the street and just barely arrived for the third. Naturally, it was nearly empty. A nervous guy boarded with me and headed to the other end of the car. There was only one passenger already present, a guy about my age, in standard unconventional idea-havin' wear (olive army jacket, patches, scruffy pants). He looked furtive. I noticed that the window next to me had large, swooping symbols carved into it. The nature of the glass was such that remnants hung down like string. The symbols didn't seem to follow any pattern, just standard, ugly tags. I started reading my book. I heard a scratching sound coming from the guy's direction, but couldn't see any source. I went back to my book. A short while later, I noticed him stand up and head to the doors, and the same sound ensued. He was scratching on the door windows, too. He gave a quick look around to see if anyone was watching him, and I rolled my eyes. He finished his work, and then he spoke:
- Does graffiti hurt you?
I was reading, and it took a moment to register that he was talking to me. I looked up, and the nervous guy was watching us, terrified.
- I said, does graffiti hurt you?
- Nope. Never seen someone do it in person.
- You shook your head.
- Yeah, because I think it's kind of dumb.
- It's better than doing drugs. It's better than being in a gang.
- Sure, if you're working in some paradigm where you have to choose one of the three.
The train stopped and the doors opened. He spoke as he exited.
- It's an escape route.
I noticed as he walked away that his front bottom teeth were badly aligned.
After he was gone, I noticed that almost the entire train car had been carved up. There was no design or idea behind it. I like watching for creative graffiti, especially in hard-to-reach places. But this just made the train car look like shit. I came up with a good line about the distinction between art and dogs peeing on trees, but he was gone, and the guy had a sharp object, anyway.
May 23, 2002 Damn it. The Rabbinic Ombudsman, a nice guy if there ever was one, is on leave because his wife is having a baby, and through some goddam strange machination, because I'm charming, maybe, I don't know, I am the backup ombudsman. Me. Whattheshit. I am raging. I don't know anything about this crap. I feel like standing out by the elevators, tearing off my shirt and screaming DON'T YOU GET IT? I'M NOT JEWISH! I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ANY OF THIS! I am not qualified to be an ombudsman! I'm not qualified to be an assistant Judaic scholar, either, but at least people leave me alone when I'm running that one. Damn it! For seven work days! Everyone at this end of the office hates me, too. This is the lair of the various ogres. Fucking ogres! Fuck! Somebody talk someone on Ninja Tune into making a chill-out track using this for me.
There is a window in this office, which is nice. And the Ombudsman's supervisor is a good guy. The weather's improving, and I'm blowing less snot out of my nose, so my allergies are on the decline. I finished reading a book I liked. I had a cookie in my file cabinet for times like these, so I brought it with me. It was good. I could go back and forth like this all night.
I should tell someone to please water my retarded plant while I'm away. I should probably phrase it differently, though.
(news) Sparks flew on last night's FOX special, "Celebrity Boxing 2" ... Other winners in the muscle-flexing mix included NBA giant MANUTE BOL, who beat up former Chicago Bear WILLIAM "The Refrigerator" PERRY.
MANUTE! MANUTE! MANUTE! I knew he could do it. He killed a lion once, you know.
(news) JUST like humans, small primates can acquire a taste for alcohol - and behave in a similar fashion when under its influence, scientists have discovered. A controversial research project that involves giving alcohol to 1,000 green vervet monkeys has found that the animals divide into four main categories: binge drinker, steady drinker, social drinker and teetotaller. The vast majority are social drinkers who indulge in moderation and only when they are with other monkeys - but never before lunch - and prefer their alcohol to be diluted with fruit juice. Fifteen per cent drink regularly and heavily and prefer their alcohol neat or diluted with water. The same proportion drink little or no alcohol. Five per cent are classed as "seriously abusive binge drinkers". They get drunk, start fights and consume as much as they can until passing out. As with humans, most heavy drinkers are young males, but monkeys of both sexes and all ages like a drink.
This marks a new low for my enemies, who are now trying to get at me through green vervet monkeys. Jesus. This is between you and me. Leave the vervet monkeys out of this. I'll admit, I enjoy the misadventures of the occasional drunk capuchin monkey wearing a beret as much as the next guy, but setting up a lab for the purpose of turning monkeys into binge drinkers is crossing the line, delving into menacing symbolic territory, and I am a reasonable man, I do not see why it has to be like this.
These are difficult times. I have to find an OMBUDSMAN t-shirt and then go all Johnny Rotten on it, tear it up, scrawl I AM NOT AN on it with a marker, and wear it around the office.
(testimonial) This is a very true story about a 76 yr old lady with Alzheimer’s Disease (my mother) and a Baby Monkey named Chase who really needed to be loved and not moved from house to house. My mother came to live with me Oct 2000 because she was unable to live by herself any longer. Mother has always gotten alone well with my Java named KIKKI who is 6yrs old. Kikki loves to sit and groom mother but, they both take little “naps” also while watch the Discovery Channel. A good friend of mine (who of course) has monkeys, came by with a baby Spider Monkey named Selena. Selena was holding onto her HUGGY, and wasn’t moving around a lot and we sat Selena in my mothers lap. Mother didn’t have any reaction. I said mother what do you think about the baby monkey. She looked at me saying something to the effect of you girls are just fooling me. I said mother that monkey is real. Well, my friend pulled Selena off of her HUGGY and she SCREAMED. I thought my mother would just fall in the floor. She then grabbed that monkey & huggy and held onto them the rest of the time they were there. For the next several days mother just kept on and on to any and everybody about that BABY Monkey. And she was constantly asking me where the baby was. Finally, I decided if she keeps talking about that Monkey I’m gonna get another Baby. At my home now I have a Java 6yrs old, green monkey (vervet) who is 8 yrs old and a special 6yrs old Snow Monkey. Okay, you guessed it, she kept talking about the Baby. So I called my friends and said GET ME A BABY. Within 72 hours they had found a little fellow 9 weeks old that was in his 2nd home . I said get him ! Baby Chase, had not been Loved, yet. He didn’t even have a HUGGY, he had just recently acquired a blanket of his own. Let me tell you those days have changed. Baby Chase has his NEW Grand-mom eating out of his hands. When she gets up in the mornings she looks and checks on the Baby. Mother’s Nurse and a friend of mine & myself change his diaper, and feed him. But, the joy that little fellow brings to mother is well worth it. Chase and mother crawl around in the floor playing “hide-N-seek”, are just playing. I checked on mother one afternoon, (knowing that she was napping) and she was sitting in her rocker asleep and he was laying across her shoulders sleeping. I’ve been asked how much did you pay for him, and my reply is IF he was $100,000.00 he would be worth every penny, because of the smiles and laugh’s we are having with him. So to me it goes without saying, WHO NEEDS WHO MORE ?
Damn straight. What?
May 22, 2002 I think my plant may be retarded. I've been watching it for a while now, and things just don't seem to be going well with it. I know that it's getting enough water, and though the lighting isn't perfect, it's no worse than what the other plants that were handed out that day are getting, and they all seem to be doing fine. It's possible that I put mine too close to the computer monitor, and that's affecting it somehow. It's also possible that the plant is simply retarded, and was born that way, and it's not my fault, because I never asked to be responsible for a plant, which is a point that I cannot stress enough in the overall context of the plant's life expectancy.
UNFOUNDED RUMORS BASED ON MY HAVING NOTICED THAT THE BAND RUSH IS TOURING THIS SUMMER
Hey, did you hear that Rush is on tour this summer? Make sure you don't leave your stuff lying around. I hear those guys are big into taking shit and then claiming that since they found it, it's theirs.
I am currently mired in a bland yet forceful case of seasonal allergies. I had a bit of a row with the rabbi over the phone about whether I was blaming the Jewish people for my allergies. Man, I wasn't. I keep forgetting to pronounce the 'h' in his first name as a guttural consonant, and I think he's reading something into that. I thought about marrying someone from Iceland and bringing her around the office all the time as a retaliatory gesture, but I think that would be playing right into his hands. Please, could you stop the noise? I'm trying to get some rest.
IDEA FOR A BOOK / STRATEGIES TO CONFOUND THE CURSE OF POST-MODERNISM
Conduct extensive personal interviews with guys who work at car washes. Any time the conversation strays from their work at the car wash, steer it back that way. For publication, replace every adjective and adverb with its direct opposite, and change the names of those involved to prevent lawsuits. As a follow-up, publish the original, unaltered interviews. Assign a junior editor to track whether rivalries of any sort develop between the participants and their negative selves. If so, hire them at high salaries to work at "The All-Star Car Wash", and promote the business as being staffed by the guys from the book. Make a profit, and refuse to speculate why it has been a success, outside of interviews poorly translated from French, which are, themselves, poorly translated from English.
Anyway, I need a new job, one where God comes up less often. I am really not a God-talkin' kind of guy. I did a brief search for my dream job, and all that came up was bullshit.
ODE TO VARIOUS OGRES
Various ogres, various ogres
Fuck off, Hope
Do you think it would be construed as aggressive to post a list of the martial arts I know in my cubicle? I am just trying to make the place feel more home-y, since I seem to be stuck here, and my retarded plant is depressing the shit out of me.
MORE UNFOUNDED RUMORS BASED ON MY HAVING NOTICED THAT THE BAND RUSH IS TOURING THIS SUMMER
Hey, did you hear that Rush is on tour this summer? I hear that Alex Lifeson hunted down kids from the suburbs and subsisted on nothing but their blood while they were writing the "Subdivisions" album. Not for inspiration or anything, just because Neil Peart convinced him that the overall cost of doing that was cheaper than eating actual food, and he wanted to save up for a new naugahyde recliner.
Fine. Developmentally-disabled plant.
GREATEST MOVIE CHARACTERS OF ALL TIME, UPDATED RANKINGS
1 Yoda, Star Wars
2 Charles Foster Kane, Citizen Kane
3 General Zod, Superman II
4 Monkey, MVP: Most Valuable Primate II
5 Guy from obscure French film
Also receiving votes:
Cast, The Big Lebowski; Bear, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence; Monkey, MVP: Most Valuable Primate; Tom Waits, various; Guy from obscure Iranian film.
There are player-haters, of course, who will call me shallow for ranking the monkey from MVP II over the guy from the obscure French film. To that charge, I can only respond, "Fabricated biting incident." (Note.) Tomorrow, player-haters across the world will renounce their ways. Tomorrow! God! The greatest of days!
THE CONTINUING SAGA OF UNFOUNDED RUMORS BASED ON MY HAVING NOTICED THAT THE BAND RUSH IS TOURING THIS SUMMER
Hey, did you hear that Rush is on tour this summer? It's a little known fact that Van Gogh cut off his ear because Geddy Lee's voice has actually existed since the beginning of time, and...
May 17, 2002 Today is a Jewish holiday, so the office is closed, and my bare ass is getting reacquainted with the morning sun. Whenever there is a holiday, people from human resources walk around handing out gifts to each employee that are, in some way, connected to the holiday. For Passover, there were strange cookies made from potatoes. For Purim, there were festive boxes. For Shavuot, today, there were potted plants. I was not thrilled about this, because I am not in a place, emotionally, where I can be responsible for a plant. Nobody came by to pick the plant back up, though, so it continued to sit on my desk. I watched it out of the corner of my eye for a while. Then the rabbi arrived, found his plant in his office, waited until I was away, and left his plant on my desk. We had a bit of a row over whether my job calls for me to be responsible for his damn plants. I lost, having no real leverage, and angrily stashed his plant in a file cabinet in the hallway. My plant was still sitting there when I got back. I sighed, rolled my eyes, and went to get some water for it.
The first roll of film from my lomo camera came back. As I suspected, I screwed up rewinding the film and exposed most of the pictures. Of the eight shots that remained, four look like laser wars in alien landscapes, and the other four are quite nice. That's lomo.
The rabbi and I were cruising (riding an inch and a half from other cars' bumpers) in his Escalade (his Corolla), sipping on Courvosier (going to pick up his laptop from a repair place on LaSalle), when, after a solid half-hour monologue, he paused and asked me what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I said that I planned to write for the theater. He shook his head and said that I could do that as my avocation, but my vocation should be that of a scholar, and that I should not wait. Then he asked what my field would be. I shrugged and said that I was still interested in too many things to narrow it down. He announced that I would enter a program in study of the history of ideas, and then asked what languages I had. I told him that I knew some German and some Latin. "You will study the medieval period", he said. Then he dropped me back off at the office, and he went home. I am not entirely sure what to expect when I get to work on Monday. I'm a little nervous that he may have gone ahead and enrolled me in grad school somewhere.
I can't relate to these theists.
May 15, 2002 To quote one of the members of my group at the ImprovOlympic, after the voting for our second Cagematch appearance was tallied, "Damn! I'm naming my first-born child 69-12!"
So, that was nice.
I took a series of paranoid self-portraits with my lomo camera, but then I set the distance wrong, and I wound up exposing the film slightly when I tried to get it out of the camera, so I don't know if they'll come out at all. Nevertheless, I will call it art.
SLEAZY GUY, MACKING ON A HOT BLIND CHICK
(whispering in her ear) You have to read it in the original French...uh, French braille. Do they have that?
A memo went out about the relaxed summer dress code in the office. I still fall a fair distance short of it on my best days, but it's nice to be a little closer to respectability without having done anything about it.
QUOTE FROM "TRAINSPOTTING", TRANSPOSED OVER A DISCUSSION MY SHOW LAST FRIDAY
MOTHER SUPERIOR: Aye, that's Heiden for ye.
RENTON: He's always been lacking in moral fibre.
MOTHER SUPERIOR: He knows a lot of different kinds of monkeys.
RENTON: That's hardly a substitute.
I first heard about the news a few days ago, and I've been avoiding mentioning it until now, but if this forum is to have any integrity, I have to address controversies, so here goes. The suggestion has been made that it was the sheer force of my will, in the form of several pages worth of updates and epic poems, that suddenly restored Manute Bol to the public consciousness, but I am not proud of the result, which is that Manute will be appearing on the second edition of Celebrity Boxing on FOX at the end of May. I am glad that Manute will get some cash for the appearance, because he has had a rough few years, what with the civil war in his native Sudan, but I am concerned that his opponent, William "The Fridge" Perry, is going to kill him. Manute does not stand a chance. He will break. I know Manute Bol better than he knows himself. Friends have seen me wracked with guilt and attempted to console me by pointing out that as long as The Fridge doesn't get in close, Manute will be fine, because Manute has long arms and superior reach. To that, I can only respond with reference to Street Fighter II. Did anyone ever try to play with Dhalsim, the Indian mystic guy whose arms and legs stretched? Did you pick him as your main guy? No? That's what I thought. He looked like a great idea on paper, but he got killed every time out. Even Zangief, the Russian guy with the mohawk and the fucked up chest hair, could take him. Manute is going to break, and, unwittingly, I delivered him unto his doom.
I have hatched a vague plan involving The Fridge and pork chops, but it probably won't work. I don't even really know what a pork chop looks like.
Jesus. If my intellect had human form, it would be Manute Bol. The man broke his teeth the first time he tried to dunk a basketball. He's seven feet and seven inches tall, and god knows how his teeth got involved in dunking, but they did. Manute Bol is modern man: elongated, tricked by nature itself into these strange parlor games, eternally out of his element, and I have betrayed him. With friends like these, eh, Manute?
A HORRIBLE LESSON
It is the first day of a new semester. EDWIN, a young college student, has decided to switch majors, and he is ready to embark upon his new course of study. The path to class is a long and winding one, taking him through corners of the campus where he had never before had a reason to go. Finally, he arrives outside the building.
EDWIN: What a long walk! This is all rather unfamiliar. But I am ready to dedicate myself to my studies.
EDWIN enters the building. Checking a sheet of paper, he notes that the classroom must be a short way down the hall. He arrives at what he supposes must be the right room, and he takes a seat. He is early, because he is a good student, and therefore he is the first person in the room. The TEACHER enters the room shortly thereafter.
EDWIN: Hello. I am here for class.
TEACHER: Good. I like having students.
EDWIN: I plan to work hard.
TEACHER: That is refreshing to my ears.
EDWIN: Will the other students be here soon?
TEACHER: Yes, and then we will get started.
EDWIN fidgets, hoping that class will start soon. He perks up when he hears feet outside and the door to the classroom opening. The other students have arrived. But Edwin is shocked to discover that the other students are trolls, with knives!
EDWIN: (to himself) Shit! I have heard about these guys! They are honor roll students...in stabbing!
The trolls, with knives, take their seats. They are sleepy and bleary-eyed, having stayed up late the night before. They are hardly paying attention as the TEACHER begins to speak.
TEACHER: Good morning, class. I am your teacher. It is my opinion that the Socratic method of teaching is best. Therefore, I will be asking a lot of questions.
EDWIN: (to himself) I am safe for the moment because the trolls, with knives, are sleepy, but if the teacher targets them directly with questions, they will wake up fast, and then it's curtains for me! The only way these trolls, with knives, respond to stimuli is by stabbing everything around them!
TEACHER: The first question is for...
EDWIN: Me! I would like to answer the first question.
TEACHER: Okay. What is the square root of pi, multiplied by the year Admiral Perry's fleet arrived in Japan?
TEACHER: There is no truth in your answer, Edwin. We will move on to the next question. You, there, in the first row, will you tell me...
EDWIN: I will tell you!
TEACHER: Edwin, you did not know the answer to the last question. What makes you think you will know the answer to this one?
Some of the trolls, with knives, are beginning to stretch and stir.
EDWIN: I want to redeem myself!
TEACHER: Fine. Subtract the weight of a Swingline brand staple from that of a jumbo paper clip, and give an example of a poem that has the same number of syllables as the remaining measure.
EDWIN: (to himself) Shit! Why did I major in such useless knowledge? (out loud) Uh, "Jabberwocky".
TEACHER: Yes, but you left out your unit of measurement, so I cannot accept your answer. Now, I'd like to hear from someone else.
EDWIN: Call on me again!
TEACHER: Edwin, your grade is in the shitter because of your incorrect answers. If you care about your academic career, which may be at its end, you will be silent.
EDWIN: (to himself) This is a fucking quandary! My health...or my academic future? I must decide...
TEACHER: The American educational system is in decline. We will listen to loud techno music.
Awakened by the sudden blast of loud techno music, the startled, cranky trolls, with knives, stab the shit out of everyone in sight.
That will probably be the last appearance of the trolls, with knives, because people have been saying that they are too intense, and the lessons they teach are too horrible. I have enough trouble without a bunch of people protesting my damn webpage.
May 7, 2002 Last Wednesday, standing on the street corner opposite my office, there was a tall, somewhat dirty man in a trench coat shouting "Home entertainment!" and handing out pamphlets. He lost interest as I walked by. That's when I knew that day was fucked.
The rabbi came in to work on Monday over the objections of his wife. Everyone was mad at me because he wouldn't use a wheelchair and insisted on hopping around with his walker. They must have felt I wasn't selling him on the virtues of the wheelchair. It wasn't my fault. I can't talk that guy into anything. He kept telling anyone who'd listen that he broke his leg playing football for the Los Angeles Raiders. I told him that the Raiders weren't in Los Angeles any more, so he switched his story to the New York Giants. By Tuesday, he had careened over to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I guess I do wield some influence.
Anyone who has read this webpage for any length of time will have noticed that I am really only interested in six or seven things, which are duly alternated to create the illusion of a diverse range of subject material. Former XFL star He Hate Me is, of course, one of those things. While most of the nation noticed He Hate Me during the one weekend that anyone took notice of the XFL early last year, laughed, and moved on, I remain committed, like Baudrillard's slightly retarded pool boy, to the notion that He Hate Me represents the key to a vital, unspoken question about American life and cultural materialism. It was an important development when he was signed by an actual professional football team, the Philadelphia Eagles, and that turn in the saga has proven to be rife with data; however, it meant that He Hate Me himself, Rod Smart, would no longer be wearing the "He Hate Me" jersey, because real football teams make the players use their actual names as identifiers. (And let me tell you, a hundred pages in the book will be devoted to his identity transition from "He Hate Me" to "Smart".) The mantle has fallen, and it is much like the flag falling on a battlefield, in that, for some damn reason, someone has to go pick the flag back up and wave it around some more. When, as time passed, it became obvious that no one else was going to carry the mantle, I decided to do it myself, and began a long, frustrating search for a He Hate Me jersey to wear around all the time. I have not found that jersey. But the important work continues.
Las Vegas Life: Most Intriguing People 2001 "The league said we could put whatever name we want on the back of our jersey. Right then, I was like, ‘I'm going to do something different.' I said, ‘They hate me, so, He Hate Me. I'll put that on my jersey.' The league didn't approve of it when they first saw it. I guess when they saw the word ‘hate' they thought it was something negative, but I explained to them it was from me and towards the defender, towards anybody against me. When I go out there, my opponent hates me, and if he doesn't, he will, because I will always beat him. So I had to break it down to them."
At the moment, I am angry because we do not have Photoshop on our computers at work, and I want to make old Manute Bol trading cards look like plate drawings from "Rime of the Ancient Mariner". I have all of these important projects, and no one will leave me alone to work on them. It's always Judaism this, Israel that.
A HORRIBLE LESSON
RICHARD is sitting in his office. On his desk are pictures of young children, but they are dusty, and they are overshadowed by file folders. It is closing-time. TODD enters.
TODD: Richard, it's closing time.
RICHARD: Not for me. I am going to work.
TODD: But you have finished all of your projects.
RICHARD: Yes, I have. But I am going to get more projects.
TODD: Will you never see your family?
RICHARD: My family can wait. I must impress the bigwigs.
TODD: But the only projects left involve trolls, with knives!
RICHARD: I will do those projects! The bigwigs will be impressed.
TODD exits. RICHARD surveys his desk.
RICHARD: He was right. I am all out of projects. But I will go to the room where I can get some more.
RICHARD rises and goes to the room where there are more projects. It is dark. He turns on the light and closes the door. Inside, there are projects, yes...but there are also trolls, with knives!
RICHARD: Aah! Trolls, with knives!
The trolls, with knives, stab him many times.
RICHARD: Shit! I was wrong to choose professional ambition over family!
He dies. The trolls, with knives, exit stage right.
TOMORROW, ON 'A HORRIBLE LESSON'
Charlie was a big city reporter who'd do anything to break a big story, no matter the consequences. But he was about to learn that some stories, especially ones about trolls, with knives, carry a deadly byline...
April 29, 2002 My work situation has again become dodgy. The rabbi will be gone for two months or more, unable to walk and having various fluids pumped into him, and while he does phone in some writing assignments, I do not have what is considered a 'full' workload. At Beelzetron, I was allowed to go for 50 billable hours at a time without activity, but they must think it's bad for morale for me to be playing like that around here. So, without consulting me, the rabbi told people that I can be rented out, and the only other things that go on around here involve answering phones, typing labels and stuffing envelopes. Sorry. I have listened to way too much Public Enemy to be cool with that.
I was flipping through television channels this weekend during one of my occasional fits of not wanting to have anything to do with my computer, and some station was broadcasting an NFL Europe football game. The players looked helpless and disoriented, like modern man.
(news) A controversial computer reconstruction of a 36,000-year-old Neanderthal skull has revealed that the individual was violently bashed with some sort of tool. But the wound was not fatal and shows signs of healing, say the authors of the study who also suggest that the individual was nursed back to health. But not all anthropologists agree with [Project Leader Dr. Christopher] Zollikofer's interpretation. Tim White, an anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley, vehemently disagrees with Zollikofer's findings. "The paper does not provide convincing evidence that this is a healed head wound," writes White in an e-mail. "Arguments of 'lesion' depth are made based on a drawing, but the conclusions are not even supported by the drawing. The Zollikofer paper is a perfect example of what I describe there—a physical anthropology driven by arm-waving, hi-tech, and headlines, rather than by critical analysis. These guys are creative but not critical," says White, adding that the bone lesion could just as easily have been caused by a bump on the head.
Methinks anthropologist Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley, protests too much. Seems he's raising quite the hullabaloo to sell the press on a bump to the head. What, exactly, scares him about this dead neanderthal? Does Tim White have an alibi for where he was during the Châtelperronian period? I'll lay a bet right now that all the razzmatazz is cover for the fact that Tim White is capable of using tools, just like the one that took an innocent neanderthal to his end, and he'd like to keep that a secret.
Ah, I never even managed to get that sinister monkey at the zoo convicted (011209), and I never figured out who the Monkey Man in India was (0105). I am a shitty detective. Tell me you love me.
I was happy that Wilco chose those two buildings for the cover of their latest album, because, growing up in Chicago, those particular buildings represented a certain state of mind for me, and based on the contents of the album, it is nice to know that someone else feels the same.
I stayed home all night on Friday because I felt like I hadn't been spending enough time with my cats. Man, I'll tell you about punk rock.
It rained on Saturday.
April 24, 2002 And now, I will attempt to prove that I am for real. Pegleg is still in the hospital and is a bit woozy, but he's recovered to the point where he can generate work for me to do. He got bored pretty quickly in the hospital. I like to imagine him watching "The Price Is Right" like everyone else does while they're in the hospital, but no, he's probably reading the Torah and yukking it up with other rabbis on the phone. So I have work to do.
WHAT IS THAT EPIC POEM YOU ARE WRITING?
It is called "Manute Bol Goes To Heaven". I do not think that anyone understands the vast amount of feeling there is for Manute. People are worried about him. They have heard reports that he is in trouble and he is sad now, and this distresses them. They remember how he was very tall, and how it was comical when the Washington Bullets had him stand alongside Muggsy Bogues, the shortest NBA player. They miss him. I am aware of this because I wrote an article about Manute (010725) a few months ago, and several people are referred to my webpage by search engines every week, trying to find out what the big guy is up to these days. I suspect that everyone thinks that they are the only one who remembers the powerful 7'7" shot-blocking machine known as Manute Bol, and perhaps they feel silly for caring about him as much as they do, because they don't realize that everyone else feels the same. Since I can't really do anything to help Manute out of his current predicament, which is really a bad one, I thought that the next best thing would be to write a story where he goes to heaven, which would make people feel better. Unfortunately, since I have to spend time in an office in order to earn money, I will probably never finish the poem. To all potential sugar mommies of the world, then, this is what I say to you:
MANUTE BOL GOES TO HEAVEN, PAGE 74
Manute Bol was then flown
To the sky, where angels dwell
And even a man such as Manute
Seven feet, seven inches
Able to dunk without much effort
Had never been so high
Above the clouds.
Where am I?
But in the heaven,
As in the earth,
Idle minds form
I am the best player
In this heaven'ly basketball league
My team defeats the others
By controlling the offensive glass.
I cannot permit this man entry
He will block all of my shots.
And so, mere seconds
Before Manute arrived
The head of a saint.
ST. PETER'S TREACHERY
I will lower these pearly gates
I will set their height so low
That Manute will bump his head
When he tries to enter.
Then, he will be stuck
Hanging around outside.
And so his head
This gate is too small.
There is nothing I can do
Has set it such.
Manute did turn
A man without a home.
He missed Sudan
He missed the NBA
He even missed the USBL.
And so he walked
Through hill and valley
And the surroundings
Now, where am I?
There is a place
Between the extremes
It is a place
Of no joy
For the lost souls
Which reside therein.
It is called purgatory.
BABIES, ELEVEN IN NUMBER
We who perished in life
Before becoming baptized
Live in this place
Neither here nor there
According to Catholic doctrine.
Our lot is a frustrating one
We are eleven in number
When we play basketball
We are all too short
To provide interior defense
We are much better suited to
Playing point guard.
We always lose
In the afterlife basketball league
Because none of us can rebound
Or block shots.
CHORUS, SINGING, WITH BURST OF LIGHT
But even in such a place
We are never abandoned
By the divine, which resides
In the best of all men
Hi, guys. I'm lost.
BABIES, ELEVEN IN NUMBER
But thou art wearing
Thou art not lost
Thou art found!
Does Manute Bol lead the team of babies to victory over St. Peter's team in the afterlife basketball league, thus redeeming their souls? All I'm saying is, oops, I have to write some goddam memo about rabbis now.
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
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
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.
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.
April 10, 2002 In case you are wondering what stance I am in, I am in the Unbreakable Monkey stance. I'm not the sort of guy who will tell any yahoo off the street what stance he is in, but I figure you've earned the right to know.
The reason that this entry is so late is that I was trying to write about having had the greatest lunch break of my entire life a couple days ago, and despite my best efforts, I was sounding like a crazy man. I will come back to that story some other time.
Lately, I've been forgetting to take lunch most days. I have a lot of work to do, but I can get it all done during normal business hours. The problem is that I bring a lot of non-work work to work with me, and I get behind on it. "Shit! I have to figure out who was really behind the XYZ Affair by 2!" So on and so forth.
Here is some of the shit that I pull: On my way back to my desk from the store around the corner, with a champion lunch of mixed nuts and RC cola in tow, I pretended to be mute so I didn't have to talk to a woman in the elevator about the weather. The weather is fine, it's just that I am a bit of a shithead. I pointed to my throat and did some cockamamie sign language for her. It was fun. Shithead. A contributing factor to the reason I had RC cola with me is that my favorite soda, Dr. Pepper, has finally crossed the line with their ad campaigns, and, as a man of conscience, I cannot support them any longer, because I want to leave a better world behind for the children, who seem nice.
I thought about cooking mac 'n cheese in the kosher-only microwave, but I'm not in that bad of a mood. Some day, though, I'm going to get all Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God on them, and make sleazy popcorn in there. Today, though, nobody has made trouble for me.
If you promise to publish it, I will seriously rewrite the entirety of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God to feature my threats about the kosher microwave, and the Jonathan Edwards estate will just have to grind their teeth, because that shit is out of copyright.
The rabbi is great pals with a number of Catholic priests. They hang out all the time. I like reading stories on other peoples' webpages about when they take their dogs out to play in the park, and their dogs meet up with other dogs who are their friends. That's kind of how I feel about the rabbi hanging out with the priests. I can't make a bit of sense of what any of them are saying when they get together, but it's nice to see them in their element. The rabbi's friends are all kind of down lately about the current wave of pedophilia charges against the priesthood, and he's been trying to come up with ways to cheer them up lately, such as writing letters to the editor of the local newspapers about how the Chicago priests are good guys, so on and so forth, but he's already done one of those, so he's looking for new ways, and he has these complicated ideas about helping Christian Israeli citizens, but I think it would be much easier and fun to send his friends Inspirational Sport Statues, and if I have the courage, or if I happen to be drunk, I will tell him that.
Many customers have requested these statues depicting children other than Caucasian and playing other sports; we have expressed these requests to manufacturers and importers. When and if other statues are available, CatholicShopper.com will carry them.
Afro Jesus bowling MOTHERFUCKERS!
The possibility of a basketball game involving members of the P.B.A. Hall of Fame was raised in a recent email discussion, and, as I am sure you now know all too well, since I have introduced the idea to you in this paragraph, it boggles the fucking mind. Does Johnny Petraglia have hops? If so, are they mad? My money is on "Yes, but more in a The Madness of King George sort of way than a World B. Free or a Darryl Dawkins one." Not a lot of my money is on it, though. You should never turn your back on a man who has rolled a perfect game, because that is hard to do, and god knows what kind of stances that guy can get into.
March 20, 2002 I didn't have to work last night, so I take back everything nasty I said. I got no problem with that guy. I just stayed at my desk when everyone else got up to leave at 4:15, and no one asked why I wasn't going, and I went home at 5 as usual. As I was leaving, the rabbi said that I should be careful, because it was wet outside. Does he think I am soap?
I ordered a lomo last week. Let me rephrase that in the correct syntax: I ordered a lomo!! ahhahahahaha!! Now I am only waiting for it to arrive. It is due today, or tomorrow. Lomo is the insane genius of cameras. Sometimes they fall apart, and you grow tired of the lomo's antics, and want to give up on it. (This is what I have heard.) But sometimes you make the lomo to dance. (This is also what I have heard.) Lomo is for stealth. No flash is required. Lomo can take pictures in any light. Its pictures have the incredible. But sometimes it up and falls apart. Lomo is the raving mad Dostoevsky camera. Sometimes you are to the lomo, go! You drink and you gamble and you are so bad! But then the lomo is good. (I have heard this.)
I work at a Jewish place of employment, although I am not myself Jewish, and therefore I have a bunch of time off for Passover. I wanted to go somewhere, but nothing has come together, so I will probably do some prime sitting around instead. Or I'll go take a vacation in the kitchen. I don't know. One thing that is going on during that time is author Irvine Welsh's promised appearance at the Metro here in Chicago. Columbia College told lies before, and I hate them for it, but this is claimed to be true:
Thursday, March 28 Columbia College Fiction Writing Department Presents... "TROUBLEMAKERS: LITERARY ROCK & ROLL" featuring readings by IRVINE WELSH JOHN MCNALLY JOE MENO followed by a one-hour DJ set by IRVINE WELSH Tickets: FREE! All Ages Doors: 7pm / Show: 7:30pm
So there's that. I'll go, and if they are lying again, I will do much the same as I did before, which is to complain.
My cats have this crazy new thing to contend with. I went ahead with my plan, as stated yesterday, to buy a big tree thing for them to climb on. It's pretty neat. There are three tall, mid-sized logs that stand straight up from a carpeted base, and nestled between the logs are three cradles, which are also carpeted, and presumably comfortable. The highest cradle is about even with my neck. At the base is a hut where the cats can have some privacy. My mother says they are called 'kitty condos', but I am not a big believer in private ownership of land, so I call it a 'kitty collectivized recreational installation'.
These are all very domestic things to write about.
I should explain the tap dancing reference from a few days ago. They mentioned that I can tap dance in the bio used to announce my hiring in the company newslatter, because it's on my resume, and the bio was taken straight from my resume. I can sort of tap dance. I have a pair of tap shoes that fit, and I can make a plausible clickety-clack with them. I learned how to tap dance for a musical I was in during high school. I went to an all-boys school, and nearby was an all-girls school, so theater kids who didn't mind the long walk would swap schools and get better parts that way. The girls' theater department was also streets ahead of ours, both in quality and in fun. (And in...the ladies.) We did "42nd Street" one year, and because I was a personable fellow, and because no one else could dance either (but were, for the most part, better singers), I wound up being the featured male tap dancer in most of the musical numbers. I never stopped being bewildered to find myself in the situation, much like I am with my current situation, and the one before this, and the one before this, but I did my best, and the show was a huge success. At the cast gag awards, I was named "Best Pseudo-Dancer", because although I made every movement more or less perfectly, my feet almost never touched the ground. (The female dancers were loud enough. No one can tell when you screw up tap-dancing if you don't make a sound.) I left it on my resume, at the very bottom, because hiring directors love to notice it during interviews. I'd be fairly fucked if asked to tap at a company event, though. Like a soap-man in "Singin' in the Rain".
March 19, 2002 Here is the bio that was used to announce the news of my hiring in the quarterly RabbiTech newsletter:
M. Heiden, Assistant Judaic Scholar in the Centennial Campaign, is a many of many artistic interests. He has acted in A&E productions, plays bass guitar, studied silent film, learned "improv" with the Second City ensemble, and can tap dance! He also chaired a radio station's programming committee. While with (Burblemeister Consulting), he was on the team to re-brand the firm as (Beelzetron).
Oh, fucking blame me for that, why don't you.
I have important news about geography. Long-time readers will remember that, a couple months ago, I noticed that one of the light poles a half-block from my apartment had been designated as one of the boundary points of THE LAND OF THE DOUBLE BONE HARD NIGGAZ. Of course, without a corresponding boundary, the information was more confusing than anything else - which end of the LAND was did it denote? The far east, or the far west? Well, there is a newspaper box about four feet from that light pole, and I am happy to note that someone designated that newspaper box THE LAND OF THE DOUBLE HARD NIGGAZ. Now we have a better idea of where the BONE HARD territory is: either in the four feet between the light pole and the newspaper box, which would be rather small, seeing as how they say they'e double and all, or all the area going in the other direction from the light pole, setting those four feet up as disputed territory, a no man's land, a veritable West Bank for the DOUBLE HARD and the DOUBLE BONE HARD.
Man, whenever I walk by that corner, it's just guys hanging out on the stoop of a laundromat yelling to people in windows upstairs. You wouldn't know from looking at them.
I converted the spare room in my apartment into a study. All of my bookshelves are in there. I try to make a point of going in there from time to time and considering issues. It's nice. The cat litter used to be in there, so they wander in, get confused and leave. For me, however, it is a place for clarity of thought.
Here is a place for your thoughts. I made a poll for you:
ARE YOU A PUNISHING GOD?
Either way, I respect your privacy.
I hit my head on the bottom corner of my kitchen cabinet on Thursday. It hurt. There was a fairly large gash above my eyebrow, so I put a bandage over it. I was still wearing the bandage when I went to work the next day. I resolved to have a different explanation for every single person who asked about it, and I was pretty excited about the challenge. But no one asked.
There is a RabbiTech fundraising event tonight and I am afraid that I will have to work there. The rabbi and I are the only people in this office who do not work on fundraising. He gives the fundraising people ideas from time to time, and I write those ideas out for him, but for the most part, he has his own agenda, and I follow along. Since I sit among the fundraising people, though, I seem to be classified - when it's convenient - as one of them, and there was a mass email a couple weeks ago saying that all of the fundraising people have to work the event. So, I don't know. We'll see what happens. I will get nasty if I have to go. The event is a stand-up comedy show ($100 seats) by Martin Short. I don't much like Martin Short. He is Robin Williams minus "Dead Poets Society", "The Fisher King", "Good Will Hunting", the legendary early coke-fueled stand-up and improv with Jonathan Winters; when you take that away, all that's left is crafted and crusty "impressions", spitting and spluttering as a punchline and gay hairdressers. All technique, no heart. Probably a nice guy who has no idea he's inconveniencing me. I am capable of getting nasty.
After work today, I was planning to buy a big tree thing for my cats to climb on. Although they never seem to mind, I've always felt bad that they can't go outside, so I thought they might like a big thing to climb. Seems reasonable. I'd like a big thing to climb. I already know there's nothing on the ceiling, though.
I keep forgetting to update my reading list. It's been several weeks now. I will try to catch up now.
What A Carve Up!
Ah! A great book. Thom Yorke referenced it in an interview during the OK Computer era, and it had been floating somewhere in the middle of my list ever since. The reference is slightly misleading, though. It doesn't read like the sort of book that the "character" of OK Computer would have written. The similarity is in what they both react against, the pigs, the sense of outrage that reaches a point where it can't be articulated and then spirals off into something compelling and strange (Radiohead) or hilarious (Coe). (And, with equal power, sad.) The book is about a fantastically evil family, brilliant creations all, and the downtrodden author who pursues them. It's one of those quintessentially British novels where people do horrible things to each other and the reader is trusted to understand that even though what has just happened is very funny, it is also horrible, and you should take appropriate measures with both reactions, which won't interfere with each other. (Americans don't seem to get that level of trust very often from their art.) Gobs of self-assured talent are evident and the story is endlessly inventive. Highly recommended.
Terrifically long (750+ pgs) book "by" Owen Brown, son of John Brown, rabid abolitionist who led a bloody armed insurrection against slavery before the Civil War. This is one of those books that was more interesting when I wasn't reading it. The relationships - of Owen to his father, and to some of the figures surrounding his father - had all of the complexity and chaotic architecture of ones you'd recognize from real life, but I didn't have any immediate reaction to them until later, when I thought about what I'd read earlier that day or week - which isn't a bad thing, of course, but makes a massive book like this tough going. Most interesting to me (and expertly handled here) were all of the differences in abolitionist theology in pre-Civil War America and the practical, how-to details on showing up somewhere and setting up a home and livelihood. The exciting bits - the insurrection - don't arrive until 600 pages in, and many details that would have been interesting are left out for commitment to the character's limited perspective. I think, for my purposes, I would have been better off with a straight history (rather than historical fiction like this).
Antony and Cleopatra
Shakespeare dashes off another brilliant one. I have a degree in literature, which means that I've read a fuck-ton of Shakespeare in academic settings, and he still manages to surprise me. Antony and Cleopatra, two of the greatest lovers of all time, right? So, the easy move is to show them in love, at the height of their passion, etc, and you can show off how well you write romantic poetry. Shakespeare, though, introduces them when they're just past ecstasy, and they're starting to realize that they are bound to each other, and they're clawing and clinging at the same time. The academic interest is in the question of Antony's responsibility to take up his position in Rome or linger with Cleopatra, but the real interest, for me, is the morning after for the two lovers, and as the Antony contends with the younger Octavian, the feeling of age dawning, of trying to get it back. So, another great one for the Big Dog.
The Human Stain
I have avoided mentioning Philip Roth and Woody Allen around the rabbi because I don't want to hear him do a routine on the whole New York Jewish Intellectuals Who Don't Practice The Religion scene. I'd give the rabbi enough credit to possibly like some Woody Allen films, although it's also quite possible that he doesn't. Either way, avoidance seems the best tactic. This is a good book. Like his previous book, I Married A Communist, this one is fueled by a profound outrage that is very mature yet no less electricifying. That one was about how politics need to leave art the fuck alone because there's so much more to art than politics, and this one is about how academic theorists need to leave humans the fuck alone because there's so much more to humans than academic labels. The phrase he uses is "the ecstasy of sanctimony", and I think anyone who's ever been victim of it will recognize it right away, so you can gauge your interest based on that.
City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America
Pretty damn good history of Chicago from the first arrival of Europeans in the region to the end of the World's Fair in 1893, taking the city from nothing to insane mudhole to its peak. The author puts a great deal of effort into his descriptions - the surreally disgusting slums, the ludicrous difficulty of making the land in Chicago practical for building and living - and the effort fits together quite nicely with his style of constructing history through well-chosen anecdotes about the common people involved. (Or, proletarian in a useful way. There's a tendency in some populist histories to reject the Great Man Theory of history, wherein history is understood as being moved exclusively by the actions of a few famous people, so thoroughly that it becomes willfully blind to the inescapably major impact of said few famous people.) The focus of the book is on the nuts and bolts of the simple fact of how Chicago was built at each stage of its development, and he gets that across very well. He also does a pretty good job of identifying the major figures (businessmen like George Pullman, architects like Louis Sullivan) and giving them full portraits without stopping the narrative momentum cold. There are a handful of slow patches, but that's to be expected in a history this size, and they're not many. Highly recommended if you're interested in the topic. The only weakness would be the uninspired selection of photographs.
Something Like an Autobiography
Wonderful! I like Akira Kurosawa's films quite a bit, but this book is worth reading even if you've never seen one. Unlike the standard artist autobiography, Kurosawa ends right before the point in his life where he becomes famous worldwide for Rashomon. Instead, the book is divided between two lovingly and brilliantly re-created halves: his childhood growing up in Meiji Japan, as the country made the transition (in a very short amount of time) from the feudal samurai era to the modern one, and then the story of the fledgling Japanese film industry, trying to stay afloat and find purpose, identity, etc. There are several incredibly funny bits, and even some eyes-water-over poignant ones, all written without apparent ego or calculation. He had an incredible memory for details and brief anecdotes that give a sense of the entire situation. Highly recommended.
Having written one of my theses in this field - deconstructionist film criticism - I feel qualified to say that it is not necessarily bad to state that the intention of your book is "to problematize dominant interpretive frameworks", as long as the phrase "for me to poop on" follows in quick succession. Sadly, no one told Yoshimoto. His joyless book is now being pooped on.
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:
HAUNTED BY DEAD PRESIDENTS, PART ( )
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?
HERO: Who is that?
HERO: Oh, shit, it's a ghost!
GHOST: THE HORRORS OF THE AFTERLIFE ARE REAL! THE SUFFERING OF THE SINFUL IS UNTOLD! REPENT! REPENT! REPENT!
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.
March 5, 2002 Another birthday present received from a generous benefactor, after several months of my yapping about it, and it has already had a profound effect on my perspective. The present sat on my desk for a couple days after I received it, and then I came in from the snow late on Saturday night, saw it, felt the adequate heat from the radiators, and decided, shit, I need to establish a scholarly context in which that present can be considered. I need a study in my apartment. I had been planning to move when my lease was up in May, out of boredom mostly, but my current apartment has a spare room that I never use, and I have decided to stay in my current apartment and begin to base my operations out of the study, which I will set up in the spare room, and when my new lease expires in 2003, I should have some real answers about the shattering questions posed by the birthday present.
There has been a lot of work to do lately. I have been trying to convey to the rabbi in clear and constructive ways that my attitude becomes bad when I have to do more than a certain amount of work, which can be measured as 'some' or 'any', depending on conditions at equilibrium. But these men of religion do not seem to understand my science.
Falling asleep with my contacts in always fucks up my dreams. Last night, I dreamed that I was walking through a grove with strange, fantastic architecture, like melted conical Louis Sullivan buildings. They were inhabited by a small group of dwarves, who interrupted their picnic to have their savage dog try to steal my nose. Upon escaping, I was roped into performing an improv show for a bunch of pirates in Alaska who got angry if you called them pirates. Later, I dreamed that I read a nasty review of one of my old plays ("Monks in Trouble") by a post-modernist fireman who wrote in the style of the Chicago Reader's film critic, Jonathan Rosenbaum, a shithead of some renown. The fireman was angry that there weren't any firemen in the play and thought that I was implying something about firemen by leaving them out. I went to his office to talk with him about it, and he made fun of me. I was happy to wake up when I finally did.
This is the one-year anniversary of my having had a nasty case of chapped lips, having spent two full days doing nothing but wandering around London by myself in the cold, and, oddly enough, my lips are fiercely chapped again from having walked to the hockey game, though not silently this time, as we were yelling for the hell of it. Free tickets were given in fairly random fashion at a party. Crazy. Aw, let's make out anyway.
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:
FROM: THE BALD GUY FROM "TOP GUN"
DAMN IT, MONKEY! YOUR EGO IS WRITING CHECKS YOUR BODY CAN'T CASH!
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 19, 2002
I am back from the polar wilderness. It is nice up there. You should come.
It was twenty-four years ago today that I was born. The main thing about me when I was in the womb was that I had a fucking sweet umbilical cord. A lot of fetuses don't really know what to do with their umbilical cords, so they just sit around and receive nutrients from it. I used mine to practice martial arts maneuvers, which is why I am so good now. Expectant mothers who want their sons to be cowboys would be well-advised to get them started with the umbilical lasso early in gestation. You can't waste any time. The world is speeding up. Have you even heard about entropy? Damn. Careers.
There was some controversy over the rabbi's announcement last week that this year's Clementines are for shit. The rabbi is a guy who employs me to write and research various things for him. He likes oranges a lot, and was therefore pretty concerned about the recent declining quality of Clementine oranges. Among the cooler heads that fortunately prevailed in the debate was Jenny Gerbi, who sent this explanation:
That explanation was relayed to the rabbi, who replied:
A number of my friends were born around the same time I was, so there has been a lot of discussion of ages recently. I liked 22. I thought that was a good number. 23 was okay, but I thought 24 might be better in terms of conveying the right index of youthful promise and maturity. Then someone pointed out that 24 is the official beginning of Your Mid-Twenties, and now I am thinking that 24 is perhaps not so good. I don't want to be in my mid-twenties yet. There is not much I can accomplish with that thought, unless there is a 22 year old who is looking to trade up for some reason. (I will throw in a draft pick from my early fifties.)
It's easier to age, I think, if you're actually doing anything with your life, even simple things, like a job that is leading somewhere, or love. You can outline your life with those things and allow for the grand accidents to happen in between. I was the ultimate wonder boy at 22, and now I am a problem for the team's salary cap, like a rabbi without his clementines. But I am very familiar with martial arts.
February 8, 2002
The rabbi would like me to pass along the following:
1. This year's crop of Clementine oranges are for shit. He doesn't know why.
I wonder sometimes if there is any real purpose to these immense essays that the rabbi has me write, particularly the beast on arrogance and hubris that I'm currently working on, and if perhaps he's just trying to send me a message with them. Like I have said before, I wouldn't put anything past that guy. Man, I don't even own a bible. This job is crazy. I like it, though.
People are always dropping hints about hubris around me. Look, I'm not being excessively arrogant. All I'm saying is, I am really quite crafty.
SONATA FOR THE APPROACHING SPRING by Marc Heiden.
CHARACTER: What are you doing for spring break?
CHARACTER: I can't bring my mother to any of the places I go...dirty, terrible places where I do these things...but she's always with me, do you understand? She always comes along, even, especially when she can't...I don't want to say 'comes' about my mother. I don't want to say that.
They cry, and hold each other safe against the night.
As a playwright, I have often been hampered by my sentimental belief that CHARACTER and OTHER CHARACTER make a cute couple.
February 5, 2002
Holy shit. I had to lick some profoundly awful envelopes yesterday. I don't understand what the fuck I did to deserve those envelopes. All I know is, I'm not licking any more goddam envelopes. They're going to have to hire a motherfucker whose job it is to lick envelopes for me if they want any more goddam envelopes licked. I have had it with that shit.
The rabbi was hassling me on Friday because I've never read The Euthypro, which is apparently a foundation of goddam Western thought, or some shit like that. Fuck it. I read The Republic, and I can make Heraclitus jokes. Get off my back about the fucking Greek philosophy. I never hassle the rabbi because he hasn't read The Dark Knight Returns, which is totally a foundation of sequential art and graphic storytelling. At least I don't think he's read it. I guess I don't know. I wouldn't put anything past that guy.
Is there a certain amount of time that you have to know a person before you can say that they are "up to (his/her) old tricks"?
Anyway, here is a cause for riotous celebration:
I finally found the author of the "Head"
You wrote an excellent "piece" about how I posted my HUGE picture on a
Just saying Hello....
Here are the links about me....
Manuel "Enjoy Da Ride" Pampo
People don't understand what Manuel means to me and how excited I was to receive that email. I am pretty good at writing, and usually I can use words to express how I feel about something, but this is not one of those times, because I don't think you even understand how excited I was to hear from Manuel. (See the original story of Manuel. It's from like four years ago. Four years! And now he's back!) Only people who have met me in person might start to understand, because they realize that Manuel's slogan "Enjoy Da Ride" is basically all I ever say. "Thank you, sir, thirteen cents is your change." Okay! Enjoy Da Ride! "Whatever, sir. You're always telling me to enjoy this ride, and I'm always just here at this damn Walgreens." See. That guy doesn't understand. Let me try to make this clear. I write, and I write, and I write. It takes me all this time to find verbs to go with the nouns and put the right ending on each adjective, but in the single act of posting his gigantic head in peoples' guestbooks, Manuel accomplishes with the push of a single button what it takes me millions and millions of buttons to do. Do you understand? I don't want to say that having Manuel express his approval for my work is like having Jesus give a standing ovation at the end of your student play, but it's not far off from having former President Gerald Ford do it, if you know what I mean.
So, basically, I stopped caring about the envelopes, and I'm happy now, and I want to save orphans. Also, I want to buy some Supertramp albums. I don't know what that's all about.
February 2, 2002
I was, then, very, very sick. I am not completely done being sick, but the worst is past. I can't remember ever having been more sick. Sunday was the worst. I couldn't really move. I had to keep all the lights off. Even the TV or the computer monitor took the pain of my headache up to '11'. Oh! I was beset. I couldn't take any time off from work, since the rabbi is off to California this week and had to cram to make up for it, including a marathon session where we composed a letter to the New York Times calling William Safire's favorite bioethicist wack, so all I could do was be dazed and plan to pass out during most non-work periods. It sucked.
Why does the rabbi get to go to California? Man, I never go anywhere.
I want to apologize to the several dozen people who were referred to this webpage over the last few days in their search for information on the Mayamura vs. Chase Manhattan lawsuit. Apparently, mine was one of only two or three pages on the entire web to make mention of the lawsuit, a hefty class action affair that netted me a cool 86 cents from a credit card I'd cancelled nearly a year before. Even law-related engines like lawcrawler and ilor were referring hapless law students to me. I doubt they found anything useful. Sorry. If you actually get to meet ol' Mayamura, though, sent him my best. That guy rocks.
ADVICE FOR WRITERS:
My job began on an awkward note last month when I ate the rabbi's Hannukah present. It was chocolate. I thought it was for me. It seemed like a very nice thing for the company to do, giving all of the employees a present of some chocolate for Hannukah, but it turned out to have been for the boss man, not for me. There was a card that said as much. I was hungry, though, and didn't read the card until after I was done. I felt bad. I threw away the card and made no mention of the chocolate when the rabbi came by, and it seems safe to say, one month later, that he knew nothing about it. (I didn't want to lose the new job, but it did seem like a pretty funny reason to get fired.) On Monday, people came by to drop off a tub of Tu B'Shevat kosher trail mix. Tu B'Shevat, according to the card, is the Jewish Arbor Day. I was in a fevered, paranoid state, and the gift seemed like nothing less than an accusation, a bloody red hand on my doorstep. I gaped at it until they came back around again and dropped off a second tub for the rabbi. I calmed down. When the rabbi came by, he told me I could have his. "Merry Christmas", he said. My paranoia formed a moebius strip.
(news) Fischer said all the Dole bananas in "Super Monkey Ball" originated in Japan, where the game was first released and "Dole was launching, as only the Japanese can, a line of luxury bananas. After all, this is the land of the $70 melon. So it was a great opportunity to do cross-promotion with them."
I bet Mayamura eats only luxury bananas. No, seriously, what the fuck is a luxury banana? Is there a hard-scrabble, life on the streets banana? Must we ghettofy fruit? I checked the corporate webpage, but Dole Asia made no mention of the luxury bananas. They did, however, in order to illustrate the effect that Dole Asia has upon Asia, have a picture of these smiling Asians:
So there's that. These people are eating Bright Yellow for dinner. He will be having some Bright Yellow Drink to go with his Bright Yellow Soup. I hope he's hungry.
(news) Scientists at the World Economic Forum predicted on Friday a grim future replete with unprecedented biological threats, global warming and the possible takeover of humans by robots.
Man, what is going on in New York? There are protests, obviously, but are the depressed mad scientists a front for the billionaire industrialist pigs or are the billionaire industrialist pigs a front for the depressed mad scientists? I mean, that was their phrasing, not mine. Possible takeover of humans by robots, indeed.
It's such a common assumption that robots are intent upon taking over. Babies are cute, robots are bent on domination, etc. Speaking as one of the world's foremost experts on the robot mind, I don't see that humans, at present, have anything that a robot would be all that interested in. They don't care about video game systems or cars or any of that. (They just draw lots on who's going to be the video game system that day.) The average robot might want to get its hands on my kick-ass ninja rattlesnake bowling ball, if I ever buy one, but I probably never will, and further research needs to be done on whether robots would care about bowling in the first place. Robots don't want your cell phones or your CDs or your credit rating. They can get all that stuff for themselves, and without working at some dumb consulting company first. I can see how, if I was dating some cute girl, a robot might try to take over so he could make moves on her. And I have some decent leftover pizza in the fridge, but it wasn't quite so good that a robot would go so far as taking over to get at it. This planet? I don't know. It's nice, but I think if I was a robot, I'd go set up on one of the moons of Saturn and make throwing things at Earth into the national pastime.
January 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?
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.
January 22, 2002
I would like to talk some more about how well I bowled on Sunday. It was very powerful bowling. I have never been the best bowler in any given set of games, because I have always had friends who were good bowlers, but I am a solid second round draft pick. I am a young team. Although my all-time high (150) was never in any serious danger, I did bowl a healthy 25 pins ahead of my average over three games, and I feel that I am on the verge of taking my game up to the next level. I made some mental adjustments, and now I just have to execute the game plan that the coach (in this case, my old VHS copy of The Big Lebowski) has set out for me. I can't get cocky, though. Bowling must be approached with humility, at least for now, until I move on to the Muhammad Ali phase of my bowling career, which should be fun. I want to thank the Lord for the songs the jukebox played while I was up and for the bowling ball marked AYIYIYI that I found. (In this case, 'the Lord' refers to my friend Mike Saul, bowling legend Johnny Petraglia and my old VHS copy of The Big Lebowski.) In any event, I bowled so well that I am going to buy a pair of bowling shoes. And as soon as my average hits 180, I am going to buy a bowling ball. It will have a picture of a ninja fighting with a giant cobra snake. I will probably be elected President because I will be so fucking cool.
The insane rush of ego at the end of that sentence carried over into off-screen life right after I wrote it. The rabbi came back with the second piece in a row that I'd written that was perfect on the first draft. I started crowing about it. "I'm so pretty! Can't no one touch my drafts! My drafts is gold!" Someone on the other side of my cubicle spit out what they were drinking. The rabbi told me to watch my head or he would come at me with a triple subjunctive clause. He's a great guy. I need to leave post-it notes around the cubicle to remind myself that I like this job, though. I tend to forget and instinctively begin waging war whenever I'm told to do any work.
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America
We're not supposed to care about economic inequity in America any more, what with the whole war against terrorism and all, so it was rather un-American of me when I read this book instead of a nice bin Laden bio or a trenchant essay on the American Taliban and how movies and rap music have made our children into spiritual mercenaries. So it goes. This is an utterly nifty book comprised of three immersion field studies by Mrs Ehrenreich, a renowned sociologist (her work rocked the photocopy packet charts at my university). She moved to three different communities and, without making any use of her academic experience, tried to get jobs (Wal-Mart, waitressing, et al) and survive on the wages they paid. The Amazon.com reader reviews make a hilarious companion to the book (which is, itself, quite funny - I've always wondered why most sociology students are totally humorless when most sociology writers have good senses of humor), polarized and exhiliratingly predictable knee-jerk reactions from both ends of the political spectrum. The book is too smart to be a simple political screed down either line, though its conclusions at the end are, of course, discomforting. I thoroughly enjoyed it and, having experience along the same lines as she did, found it to ring completely true. I worked low-wage jobs of these types off-campus during college, and I was inevitably the only worker out of hundreds who had any college experience. I felt exactly the same way she did about the various tiny abuses, how they add up to affect your mental state, and I loved the waning security she felt in the fact that she had another life away from all of this. Most of all, I loved how useless her academic training was, because damn, was mine ever useless (which never went unmentioned by any other workers who knew about it). That part of my life feels as strange and dislocated as the rest of my life did while I was there. So, aside from being intellectually necessary and a good story, Nickel and Dimed meant something to me emotionally, and cheers for it.
Due to the unfortunate legal controversy of last week, I can no longer safely list a large portion of my post-college work history on my resume. It's all still true, at least as much as anything on a resume is ever true, but said employer would probably have less than positive things to say about me now if they were contacted. ("He'll write witheringly sarcastic things about you on his webpage. Don't hire him!") I was worried, then, about the gap in my work history, since I already have the six months of unemployment from last year (with only "Played a cop in a serial killer documentary" to explain what the hell I was doing all that time). After some consideration, I have simply decided to keep listing the old job but replace the name, like so:
Professional actor in documentaries produced for the A&E Cable Networks.
Wu-Tang Clan (formerly known as Wu-Tang Killah Bees) (2000 - 01)
I can speak convincingly about having done all of those things, so that'll get me through the interview, and I have to imagine that the Wu-Tang HR department does not respond quickly to reference checks, so the employer will give up and just hire me based on whatever other contacts I provide. Jim Jarmusch said that when he was working with the RZA on the soundtrack of "Ghost Dog", he had to wait on dark street corners in strange neighborhoods at 2AM until an unmarked van came by to pick him up, with a hooded RZA waiting in the back. And, seriously, I have known a few Human Resources people, and I have yet to meet one that would be up for that.
"Always with the ninjas," my friend JC said, shaking his head.
January 10, 2002
After serious consideration, I have settled upon a resolution for this year. My plan is to win the Comeback Motherfucker of the Year Award. All but seven votes will go to me, which will be a record for margin of victory. I will accept the award, and I will place it in the arms of the gorilla I received for Christmas. The doubters will say, "Damn." I will sip a milkshake.
Until then, though, I am legally required to be sad. And so it goes. I'm working, so I won't have to try so hard. I have a job. I write long essays and letters for a rabbi. He's a great guy. He gives me notes, and I try to make them into something. Frequently, I construct entire paragraphs that I find completely incomprehensible. The job, while interesting, is having a serious effect on how I react to language. I can form sparkling passages of prose without knowing what any of it means. I think that's how James Joyce happened. So I have to watch out for that.
In the morning, I find it hard to wake up until I know I am supposed to have left. I spend a lot of time listening to "The Lindbergh Suite" from The Royal Tenenbaums. I have been doing well as far as eating potatoes goes. I don't think Cornel West should get fucked, like the old guys behind me on the train did. I dress better than I used to. My hair cooperates. I don't have any money, but I will. I am not sure if I enjoy any of the goals I have set out for myself. Writing is still the only thing that lets me relax, and I am still terrified every time I think about doing it, because I am scared that I will discover I'm not any good at it any more. I drink mostly water. I still don't get enough sleep at night, and I stay up late wishing I did. I still like the rattling noises that my radiators make. I have found new and vivid reasons to find every member of my family disturbing. I want to go somewhere, but I can't. I wish I was still in college, not because being a student was easier, but because I think now I'd actually enjoy the classes I took. I still don't enjoy talking about myself very much. I am still in exile. They still haven't fixed my apartment's buzzer. I don't have much going on these days.
The rabbi thinks I am very smart and likes me very much, but he gives me a lot of shit for not having any religion. I hum "Welcome to the Terrordome" whenever he gets on my nerves.
So, we in Chicago are robbed of snow. If I wanted a mild winter, I'd live in fucking Florida. I do not want a mild winter. I want snow all over everything, several feet of it, so deep I can't see anything except streetlights and my front door. I want to fall into snowdrifts at night.
RabbiCo offered me health insurance along with my paychecks, which was nice. That kicks in at the start of March. God damn. I am an intellectual mercenary.
Arden, who would be expected to respond if I were to call out, "Where my dawgs at?", sent along the valuable information that Dave Thomas was a Freemason. The good news is that his Freemasonry makes it somewhat more likely that his intentions regarding the preservation of the Frosty - if, in fact, he did have any intentions - will be respected, because the Freemasons get their way. The bad news is that his Freemasonry also makes it somewhat more likely that his head will, in fact, be grafted to a giant lizard body. And, for some reason, I feel certain that a giant lizard Dave Thomas would come with a biological imperative to wreck all my stuff.
Next time I do not have enough money for a Frosty, I am going to go into a Wendy's, hold out my hands, palms open, and ask, "Will nobody help the widow's son?" If he was a Freemason, that should get me a free Frosty.
Dispatches From the Tenth Circle
A worthy successor to the monumental Our Dumb Century. Although this one is another hits collection, it follows Our Dumb Century in using crafty design to fill every available bit of space with content, and excellent content it is. For me, having a new Onion collection at hand doubles the length of any given trip to the bathroom, but that's okay. I am that much better a person for the time spent.
Incidentally, it is a dream of mine for Our Dumb Century to assume its rightful place as a school textbook by the time I have children.
I woke up in a strange place is the work of Marc Heiden, born in 1978, author of two books (Chicago, Hiroshima) and some plays, and an occasional photographer.
Antarctica, Beelzetron, Books, Chicago, College, Communism, Food, Internet, Japan, Manute Bol, Monkeys and Apes, North Korea, Oregon Trail, Outer Space, Panda Porn, Politics, RabbiTech, Shakespeare, Sports, Texas.
January 2012, December 2011, January 2011, September 2010, August 2010, June 2010, March 2010, October 2009, February 2009, January 2009, September 2008, August 2008, March 2008, February 2008, October 2007, July 2007, June 2007, January 2007, September 2006, July 2006, June 2006, January 2006, December 2005, September 2005, August 2005, July 2005, June 2005, May 2005, March 2005, February 2005, January 2005, December 2004, October 2004, July 2004, June 2004, May 2004, April 2004, February 2004, January 2004, December 2003, November 2003, October 2003, September 2003, August 2003, July 2003, June 2003, May 2003, April 2003, March 2003, February 2003, January 2003, December 2002, November 2002, October 2002, September 2002, August 2002, July 2002, June 2002, May 2002, April 2002, March 2002, February 2002, January 2002, December 2001, November 2001, October 2001, September 2001, August 2001, July 2001, December 1999, November 1999, October 1999, May 1999, February 1999, January 1999, December 1998, November 1998, October 1998, June 1998, May 1998, April 1998, March 1998, February 1998, December 1997, November 1997, October 1997, September 1997, and the uncategorised wilderness of the Beelzetron era: 010622 - 010619, 010615 - 010611, 010608 - 010604, 010601 - 010529, 010525 - 010521, 010518 - 010514, 010511 - 010507, 010504 - 010430, 010427 - 010423, 010420 - 010416, 010413 - 010409, 010406 - 010402, 010330 - 010326, 010323 - 010319, 010316 - 010312, 010309 - 010307, 019223 - 010219, 010216 - 010212, 010209 - 010205, 010202 - 010109, 010126 - 010122, 010119 - 010115, 010112 - 010108, 010105 - 010102, 001229 - 001224, 001222 - 001218, 001215 - 001211, 001208 - 001204, 001201 - 001124, 001124 - 001120, 001117 - 001113, 001110 - 001106, 001103 - 001030, 001027 - 001023, 001020 - 001016, 001013 - 001010, 001006 - 000927.
Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.