By Marc Heiden, since 1997.
June 21, 2007
It is almost time to return to the websites of our youth, almost time to speak again of the early summer crazy. I am back from Hiroshima, back from Australia and Thailand and Cambodia and Vietnam, back in Chicago. I have some things to post from the back-log before I really get caught up, though.
Below is an entry that I started last July and never finished. It's about bowling and some of the students from Hiroshima. I can't remember how much more I planned to add, but it has a narrative and establishes some suspense, so I think it's worth passing on.
There was another school bowling event a couple weeks ago. This was the second of its kind; in an earlier entry, I described how the first one began with frustration and ended with delicious maple cream cookies. Evidently, I had talked up these maple cream cookies so much they ascended from third prize to first prize this time around. Second prize was a jar of some kind of seaweed jerky, and I didn't get a good look at third prize; the "good effort" prize, which as far as I can tell was given to the bowler with the worst score who was the biggest spaz about it, was a can of Hanshin Tigers coffee. I wasn't on the prize committee. It's the sole province of a demented, cheerful old lady who enjoys failing to learn anything about pronunciation from me on Saturday afternoons.
(She respects my authority as teacher and would never contradict me, but I have to keep an eye on her during class, because she is fond of instructing the other students on any points that I do not specifically cover. I had to dedicate like half a class to un-learning to make the 'you' in 'thank you' high and squeaky because of her. She had taught them that your intonation should go up really sharply on 'you', and they're all terrified of her, so they do what she says. Meanwhile, this woman doesn't even know how to introduce herself.)
The second time was bigger than the first; the students who organized the event had so much fun last time that they drew up rosters, diagrams and flow-charts for this one. (That's how the Japanese show they are having a good time.) There were to be three games. Each teacher was made captain of a team, and the team rosters changed every game in order to give all of the students a chance to flourish under their favorite foreigner's leadership. That, also, was not my idea. I'm paid to be a pleasant, encouraging figure in a classroom. I'm not paid to be that way at a bowling alley. The rules are different in a bowling alley. Nobody gets congratulated for anything less than a mark, and a score of less than 100 is cause for great shame and embarrassment; if there are nihilists in the parking lot, we fight them, and if you throw two gutter balls in a row, you are banned from bowling in the presence of other human beings for at least one year. I don't think any of that is unreasonable. Unfortunately, the other teachers were being model cheerleaders for their charges, making me look like a sullen mope instead of the figure of unimpeachable integrity that I actually was. When my "team members" jumped around and squealed with delight over making contact with the pins - and looked at me for approval - I didn't know what to do, so I stuffed eight Ricola tablets in my mouth and abdicated the ability to speak. (I'm not totally positive whose Ricola tablets those were. There was a bag of them, so I helped myself.)
Predictably enough, I started slowly. The Ricola tablets were down to a relatively manageable blob by the middle of the second game, and I began rolling well. I only registered an 8 in the first frame of the third game, but then a zen state descended upon me and I reeled off eight marks in a row. It was, perhaps, some manner of Ricola-induced derangement; I don't know. My memories are fuzzy. I remember a lot of chest-bumping with a Japanese guy who was bowling well at another lane. I've forgotten his name - I do remember that he only knew one English preposition, 'near', and he had discovered that people thought it was hilarious if he just kept using 'near' instead of learning any other prepositions, even though his teacher was annoyed at everyone for encouraging him, so there was a lot of chest-bumping and yelling "near!" - but when I emerged from the zen state, it was the tenth frame, and a huge crowd of people had been watching me for some time, and I didn't pick up the spare, leaving me just barely short of 200. I hadn't looked at the score since the beginning of the game, so I honestly didn't even know I was close. Someone told me, and I crumpled to the floor.
I should explain that I want that 200. I want it like I used to want to be president, like I used to want to be an astronaut; I want it like I used to want to be published. I really want that 200. The thing about bowling - what separates it from almost every other sport - is that the circumstances never change. It's always you, your arm, and a ball with three holes in it - always ten pins at the other end of a long, wooden lane. In basketball or soccer, one game may be drastically different from another because of the opponents, or your overall physical fitness, or even the conditions of the place where the game is played. Each game is its own, independent entity. But bowling exists outside of time and history. When I bowl, I am bowling in that moment, but I am also bowling in every game I have ever bowled. I am still with my friends at the Diversey Rock 'n Bowl in Chicago on a Tuesday night, and I am still alone at JJ Club Ichi Maru Maru in Kyoto, waiting for the rain to pass. Nothing is past. Every game is a response to every other game; everything is everything. (And that's why 300, a perfect game, is not something I like to think about; it represents transcendence, but it also represents death.)
I picked myself up off the floor, now aware of my failure. At the prize ceremony, I was awarded first place, and the delicious maple cream cookies. I had been far and away the winner of the total pin count and three-game average. Everyone congratulated me. But I could think only of the failure. I didn't know how to say "I want to die" in Japanese, so I did the best I could, which was to say "I am going to a grave", which confused everyone.
So there is that; we are back in the present day, in 2007. We all went bowling several more times in the months that were to come, and had a grand old time doing it. I still haven't bowled 200, and haven't really come any closer than I did then, but I've had some respectable games. My friend and frequent correspondent Arden emailed me a few weeks ago about a book he was reading where a Japanese general, Shoichi Yokoi, returned from his second tour of duty in the war and said, "It is with much embarrassment that I have returned alive." I guess that's what I was going for with the end of that entry. Well, now it's published.
I keep forgetting how much I enjoy this sort of thing. Jesus! I haven't even written on here about the monkey painting that I bought. That will be the next topic.
May 5, 2005
Does anyone know what happens to milk chocolate when it gets old? I've had a giant chocolate rabbit on my desk for some time now and I would like, ideally, for it to remain there for the rest of my tenure at this job. After melting the peeps that had previously adorned my desk - it was a tribute to the recently-deceased Pope, and we gathered around the microwave in the office kitchen, saying nice things about the old guy as the peeps assumed strange and horrifying forms, and then we left the mess in the sink and pretended to know nothing about it - I needed something else to liven up the ol' work station, and wouldn't you know it, the convenience store downstairs was selling all of the long-past-due Easter merchandise at a massive discount. It was probably the craftiest set of negotiations I've ever conducted. How often do you seal a deal over a giant chocolate rabbit with nothing more than a pair of Washingtons? I'm on record as having said that M.B.A.s are for shit and I think the fact that I closed that deal without a day of business school proves my point in a fairly emphatic fashion.
Because I work until 7pm, I'm usually here when the cleaning lady comes by, and she always dusts behind the giant chocolate rabbit. I've never had to tell her to do that. Wealthy plutocrats often say that good help is hard to find, but that hasn't been my experience at all.
When the game began, though, the two die-hards stood up and unfurled their trump card, a hand-written sign that said something along the lines of:
Hair Dye: $8
Their placard inspired a few thoughts. First, who is more of an [word for donkey], the guy who is three years behind the times and thought of the “joke,” or the guy who, back at the apartment, said, “Now that’s funny, dude. You totally have to take that to the game”?
Paul Shirley's journal is back for the playoffs and offers another compelling reason to support the Phoenix Suns (at least in the West - for legal reasons, I have to keep rooting for the Bulls until they're formally eliminated). He is the twelfth man on a team that only uses seven players, giving him the basketball equivalent of a temp job where you sit in front of a computer all day and try to look busy whenever someone walks by until you just can't be arsed to minimize browser windows any more. Having smacked down the "priceless" "joke" is a profoundly noble use of his position, and in the May 3rd entry, he establishes a formula that plots the vector in an emotional matrix involving Shawn Marion and a drunken homeless guy outside the arena. At the very minimum, that entitles him to a supporting role in an "Escape to Victory" remake. Or a little bit of playing time.
May 4, 2005
Some readers may have reached the perfectly reasonable conclusion that my kidney stones were fatal, or that they caused an explosion in my urinary tract whose shockwaves led to my arms to falling off, and that my insurance had not yet agreed to cover new, robot arms, forcing me to spend several months trying to peck out an entry of typical length using a stick held between my teeth. Really, though, all that the kidney stones did was usher in an era of discontent in which I slept face down on the couch a lot and avoided my computer. Pissing into a funnel will do funny things to a man's state of mind. When I started feeling communicative again, I put together this new design and then became distracted by the Bulls' playoff run. (I added the link to the Bulls usenet group to the sidebar so that people could see what I was up to and decide if they would like to lobby their local paper to hire me as a sportswriter. I find that Chicago is beset by crappy sports columnists. The beat writers are all pretty good, but the columnists are vile men who believe in nothing and would rescue their hair-care products from a hotel fire before they'd help an orphan who just needed to know where the stairs are. Except Sam Smith. As far as he's concerned, the mustache combs the paper keeps sending over can get fucked, and so can the orphans, too.)
It takes weird things to spur me to write. I'm not very busy at work right now, so I focus most of my energy on throwing notes to the neighboring cubicle and making viciously disparaging remarks about the warrior spirit of the Washington Wizards to whoever is willing to listen. But just a moment ago, as I went through another round of obsessively checking websites that might have been updated, I noticed there was a new photo up on Yahoo's news page for the Lynndie England trial. That in and of itself was not remarkable, because they've been running that as the lead story all day, but here's what caught my attention: in the morning, they showed her arriving for the hearing clutching a Pepsi can in an oddly conspicuous manner. (The mind is trained to think of Abu Ghraib endorsement deals, but the fingers know better than to bother typing them.) In the afternoon, however, after the judge had ruled a mistrial, the photos showed her walking out of the courtroom with a similarly conspicuous can of Dr. Pepper.
1. Why did she switch? Did someone pressure her into it? Who wanted her caffeinated and why?
Hopefully the media will pursue this line of questioning and we should have some answers early next week. (Or, alternatively, the media could ask why none of the officers who ordered these hicks to torture prisoners will face any kind of discipline other than a firm and decisive promotion.)
(The mind is trained to generate a cheap movie reference joke involving Mountain Dew: Code Red. The fingers know better than to type it.)
I had to go over to the University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital yesterday for the initial visit in a study I'm participating in. Basically, you agree to stop eating tomatoes for a month or so and then you get paid. I will miss the pizza, but otherwise I am willing to accept those terms. I paid off all of my credit card debt while I was in Japan, and then I ran it right back up by spending a month in Russia and then being unemployed until right before Christmas. It was frustrating, but it will give me a lot to talk about with Yakov Smirnoff next time I'm in Branson, so I know I made the right decision in the end. But for now, I am trying to get back out of debt as quickly as possible. I've heard all about responsible financial planning, but that shit is too slow. So is laundering money for Nigerian bank officials who have discovered an account belonging to a German man who died in a car crash, leaving no relatives to claim his $3.4 million dollars. (Seriously, have you ever tried it? It takes months!) I want to get out of debt now, now, now. I headed over to the hospital after work, listening to a recently-acquired copy of the audio-book of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" on the way - it didn't occur to me how stupid that was until I noticed that I had pulled into a parking garage at fifty miles per hour - and then let the doctors run me through various paces. I told Dr. Wu that I had been living in Japan and he tried to sign me to China as a free agent. I told him I'd think it over. First I have to get paid.
I will try to return to this web-page more often in the days to come.
February 11, 2005
On my way home from work last night, I stopped by the Division Street Russian Bath House. I asked the man at the counter if they have memberships. He repeated the word, nodded, and wrote down a name and a phone number for me to call between select hours the next morning. Now I am wondering if I just applied for a job with the mob. I haven't called yet. I will think about it over the weekend. Perhaps I should prepare a list of salary requirements, just in case.
(news) The parents of one of the teens asked for a restraining order against Herb Young, accusing him of making harassing calls. He admitted calling the Ostergaards once after hearing the teens were talking to a newspaper, and at one point saying "the gloves (are) off," which apparently was taken as a threat.
This is ridiculous. A person is being threatened when the other party takes the gloves off? Am I the only person who has ever heard of metal gloves with spikes on them? What the hell was Gauntlet all about, anyway? The naivete of the older generation, most of whom have never ventured into a dungeon as a wizard, a warrior, or a valkyrie - let alone as a Quester, the elf - fills me with dismay. Health care costs are going to skyrocket over the next few years when the terrorists get word that they can knock on the doors of older Americans, announce "the gloves are on" and then punch the unwitting older Americans in the face with metal gloves with spikes on them. And I, as a taxpayer, am not pleased.
I should mention the Super Bowl. It was a pleasure to be back at one of my friend Kevin's annual Super Bowl parties, held in scenic Bolingbrook, Illinois. The game itself was all right, and I broke even on the betting in which I engaged, leaving my lifetime earnings as a gambler well above the water mark. (If you are looking to turn your quarter into two quarters, then I am your man.) Although I supported the underdog Eagles of Philadelphia, I was not displeased with the outcome, because the victorious Patriots are a fine team. The real question, though, is whether a series of excellent commercials - in this case, the ones where the one guy was working at the office and all of his co-workers were monkeys - can redeem, in any way, a company whose service is utterly shite - in this case, Careerbuilder.com. It's a bit of a conundrum. In this ideologically reductionist age, does my stand against the cynical, heartless manipulators who perpetrate the ongoing con that is the online job market (Monster.com, HotJobs et al) represent an ipso facto denunciation of commercials involving monkeys? Because it's not even as though this was a poor use of monkeys. They did very, very well with it. So how can I support the use of monkeys in advertising while remaining in principled opposition to Careerbuilder.com? I feel like one of those helpless leftists from the 1930s who feared Stalin but were paralyzed to denounce him because they were committed to the eventual victory of socialism. Well, I am committed to the eventual victory of commercials with monkeys in them. And I don't know what to do.
October 12, 2004
TROTSKY'S DEFEAT BY STALIN FOR CONTROL OF THE SOVIET UNION, IN THREE NON-POLITICAL CONTEXTS
Dinner is ready -- no, almost ready. The chef pauses, tastes the food. What does it need? It's a basic meat and potatoes sort of dish, nothing too fancy. The recipe called for salt and pepper. The chef adds a dash more salt -- yes, much better. The salt goes well with this. Now the dish has flavor, zest. But the dish is still missing something. What else? The chef reaches for the pepper, but it is over by the sink at the moment, and the nutmeg is next to the salt - so the chef adds an extremely large dose of nutmeg instead. Dinner is served. After the first few bites, which are surprisingly flavorful, everyone begins to feel nauseous and feverish. The pepper is blamed for this; it is revealed, to the surprise of many, that the recipe called for salt and nutmeg, not salt and pepper, and the pepper, far from making the dish more delicious, nearly ruined it. The pepper is thrown through the window of the restaurant and nutmeg is dumped all over the next course, the dessert and the after-dinner mints. Everyone gets very sick.
After guiding the car out of the driveway, on to the interstate and through the first toll plaza, the right hand finally leaves the steering wheel and goes to its armrest. Many assume that the left hand, which worked with the right hand in bringing the car alongside the unleaded pump at the gas station, will take control of the car; the left hand, however, does not return to the wheel immediately, as it is busy scratching the head. The right knee, which was barely involved in the driveway and was only responsible for nudging the door shut at the gas station, forms a coalition with the lap and the left knee to assume command of the vehicle. With the left hand out of power, the right knee betrays the lap and the left knee by spilling coffee on them and begins to dictate the course of the road-trip. Although speed increases, the car is unprepared for the second toll plaza and must veer off the road into a cornfield. As the car shakes violently, ears of corn thumping against the windows, the left hand - which has long since been sat upon - is blamed for the rock-block of Foghat that comes on the radio.
After the Chicago Bulls win their third consecutive NBA championship at the end of the 1992-93 season, superstar guard Michael Jordan shocks the sporting world by announcing his retirement at the age of 30. Now the Bulls' playoff hopes fall upon the shoulders of Scottie Pippen, a three-time All-Star whose unparalleled defensive abilities were crucial during the team's first title run against the Los Angeles Lakers, royalty of the league throughout the 1980s. Pippen, however, elects to have minor back surgery in the off-season, and he misses the first week of training camp due to his rehab schedule. In his absence, Stacey King - a former first-round draft pick who was not a major contributor during any of the championship seasons - signs a 10 year $22 million contract under mysterious circumstances and installs ex-CBA players loyal to him at the point guard and small forward positions. When Pippen returns to the court, no one will pass to him. He loses his place in the starting lineup and is finally waived at mid-season. It is revealed, to the surprise of many, that Pippen's 17.8 PPG during the first title run were actually scored by King, whose own statistics were kept low in order to mask his true role, which was to cover for Pippen's defensive lapses. Fans who order copies of the Bulls' 1991 championship video "Learning to Fly" and its 1992 sequel "Untouchabulls" find that they now feature a six-minute montage of Pippen turning the ball over and having friendly conversations with players from other teams during the All-Star break. (1993’s video, “Three-Peat”, omits mention of Pippen entirely.) Guards Jo Jo English and Pete Myers, initially loyal to King, suffer torn ACLs before the beginning of the next season and are forced to retire. Meanwhile, Pippen finishes out his career by playing two games in a semi-pro league in Mexico that is forced to fold when all of its basketballs are found deflated by an unidentified sharp object.
Well, there goes that burst of antic energy.
June 13, 2004 ONE OF MY STUDENTS RECAPS THE NBA FINALS FOR YOU
I love basketball: playing it, watching it, talking about it. Mayumi is a student who used to come to my school regularly, and if there were no other students in the class, I would toss the book lesson and just teach her basketball terminology. She played basketball when she was in high school, and she was tall for her age, so her coach started her at power forward. Because this was before the current generation of 7-foot European finesse players who play in the low post and are equally capable of shooting from the perimeter, the coach yelled at her whenever she shot three-pointers, which is what she really wanted to do. And so, a promising basketball career was stifled; Dirk Nowitzki came too late for this poor woman.
Now Mayumi is too busy with work and her family to come to class, so we correspond by email every once in a while about the NBA playoffs. Being a devotee of Mike Bibby and the Sacramento Kings, she was heartbroken to see her team fall just short once again. We agreed that we were hoping for an Indiana vs Minnesota match-up in the Finals, which did not come about either. But we're both solidly behind the Detroit Pistons and their heroic efforts in the struggle against the creeping miasma of the Los Angeles Lakers. Because I thought it was excellent writing and because I wanted to know if readers could see my influence as a teacher in the writing of my students, here is Mayumi's recap of Game Three:
I watched Game 3 of the Finals yesterday. I was so excited about the Pistons. Pistons was back to defense that is quick, and their rebounds were stronger than Lakers. Shaq and Kobe couldn't get points as usual. I think Defense is the best Offense. And if it gets many rebounds it will be able to control of the game! Beet L.A. !! I'm sorry I'm difficult to explain...
I think that is damn fine analysis.
February 19, 2004 I knew that my life was going well when I walked into work, the room full of teachers went silent and the head instructor said, "Here's our secret weapon." Evidently, a challenge was made and there is to be a bowling competition between our school and one of the others in the area on Sunday. I'm not sure what is at stake, but I have to say, this is exactly what I want to be doing with my life right now. The Year of the Monkey is most certainly underway.
Today, on the 26th anniversary of my birth, I am going Buddha-spotting. Some may not be aware of the wide variety of Buddhas that can be seen out in the world. Here are some I saw when I wasn't even looking for any:
A Buddha sitting on a building in which other Buddhas were reclining;
Buddhas teamed up with Ultramen, an imposing alliance against anyone who would cause trouble in this particular mini-shrine-lookin'-like-a-chicken-coop, seen in larger view below:
Complicating efforts to work that one out was its location at the Memorial to the World's Unknown Soldier, somewhere off in the hills of Kyoto;
The point at which blessing shit just gets indiscriminate.
January 17, 2004 I have been away from this for so long that I had to review some old entries to remind myself what I sound like. According to my notes, M. Heiden was a mild-mannered museum security guard when an accidental encounter with a radioactive microphone infused him with the force of five emcees. I am going to roll with that and we will see how it goes.
1 cup (4 ounces) hazelnuts
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from the oven, leaving the oven on. Transfer to a large plate and let cool. With a rollingpin, crush the nuts until coarse. In a medium bowl, stir the oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, orange zest, and vanilla bean together. Add the oats and stir gently to coat. spread the mixture on a baking sheet and toast for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes to encourage even browning. Remove from the oven an let cool on the pan. Transfer the granola to a bowl and toss with the dried fruit and crushed nuts. Serve either with cold milk, or top with a the whole milk yogurt and honey.
2003 was a very good year, and December was its greatest month. The Israelis had the idea that we should take advantage of unseasonably warm weather at the beginning of the month to play soccer, and the Canadian, the Englishman and I were all up for it. We showed up at the Kyoto University sports complex one night and claimed an empty strip of field to play. We had no real business being there, but the Israelis are a confident lot who appear to know people everywhere they go, and no one bothered us. It was very crowded, with the field hockey team and the soccer teams hard at work. I was pleased to note that Kyoto University fields an American football team. The long-snapper and the place-holder spent most of the night rehearsing their roles with monomaniacal resolve. We split into teams and played soccer (football, isn't it, kids in the park, jumpers for goalposts) for a while. It was my first game in 15 years, and I was terrible, retaining no footwork or ball control skills whatsoever. The others were better, but the Canadian was pissed off at the Israelis for not passing to him, and the Englishman was the only real ace on both halves of the pitch. As such, when some guys from the Kyoto University soccer team came over and invited us to play them, I didn't give our squad much of a chance. As it turns out, though, our size advantage played a decisive role - they kept bouncing off us, falling down and apologizing - and we were ahead 30-2 when the stadium lights were finally turned off. They were very nice guys and we all promised to play again soon.
We had our school Christmas party late one Sunday night at a nabe restaurant called The Lockup. It was on a dark, unmarked side street in the massive shopping arcade in downtown Kyoto. (To be fair, all side streets are unmarked in this country, and the shopping arcade pales in comparison to its equivalents in Osaka, but I am trying to set the scene here.) I'm not that into being on time or having any idea where I'm going, so I showed up 45 minutes late and therefore arrived alone. Although there was an unlit sign over a wall-length window indicating the location of the restaurant, there was no door, and the other side of the window was an empty, featureless black space without any people. After busting some nihongo ("Lock-up wa doku des ka?") for a gang of drunk salarymen, I was led into a bar next door and guided to the entrance for The Lockup, which was several feet away behind some barrels. A hallway went to the featureless black space I'd seen through the window, and stairs led down to a tunnel with locked doors, distant screams and flickering candles. To my surprise, part of the floor had been replaced by deep sponges. I wandered around for a while until suddenly a waitress appeared, took me by the arm and guided me through a door and past several jail cells to a large cell at the end of the hall, where sat everybody from my school as well as some random Japanese people. I greeted everyone, took off my shoes and sat down to eat. The kim-chee nabe at our table was warming my stomach when suddenly the lights went out, black-lights came on, and monsters raced into the cell, tackling and hitting people. There were too many of them, and they could not be stopped. Then waitresses in tight mini-skirts appeared and shot the monsters with laser guns. The dying monsters crawled away as the lights came on and "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" rose up on the sound system. Me and a random Japanese guy hugged each other. A waitress came in to take everyone's picture. During the Secret Santa, I gave two bomb-ass wooden monkey stamps and I received a nice houseplant.
I spent a few days traveling along the west coast of Japan after that, visiting the cities of Hiroshima, Onomichi and Kurashiki as well as the island of Miyajima; and when I disappear from the earth, those memories will be among the last parts of me to go.
It was profoundly disorienting to come home from a long trip and still be in Japan. Everyone was happy to see me back at the public baths, though. The owner, sentimental old coot that he is, grunted and pointed at a sign to make sure that I understood they would be taking holidays on January 1 and 3-5. Earning 'regular' status there is one of my greatest achievements and I am very proud of it. The yakuza guys asked me for the lowdown when a new foreigner walked in. (I didn't know him. They thought he was nuts for spending so much time in the green electrically-charged pool.) In the steam room, where gloriously tinny 1950s jazz is piped in through the ceiling, one yakuza asked me how the Chicago mob was doing. I meant to tell him that they were all pretty old, but I accidentally told him that they were my grandfather. (The conversations are all in Japanese, and mine remains shitty.) He nodded and seemed content with my answer. On another occasion, I chatted with a yakuza about The Last Samurai. He liked it a lot. He asked me what kind of work my family did, and I told him that my mother was an office worker. He said that he came from a long line of samurais and then he traced his entire family tree, identifying where and when each samurai lived, following that with a disseration on his wife's family tree, which was also chock-full of samurais. I said that was great, because I know the word for 'great'.
And now it is January, and I am back at work for undetermined months to come. My Japanese income tax return came back, and it was unexpectedly generous. My credit card debt has been vastly reduced and Citibank has learned that I am capable of being a fully ascetic motherfucker. Fred, a yakuza guy I have taken to calling Fred, just got the light-blue added to his full-back-butt-and-legs tattoo of a warrior slaying a demon. He's taking it one color at a time, which I think is wise. The weather has become bitterly cold, and there is no heat in my old house. Others have kerosene heaters, but I have read too many accounts of disastrous polar expeditions to go in for that shit.
IKUKO is in Kurashiki. I will leave it to the French speakers of the world to decide whether the Japanese work the same magic with their language as they do with English. I suspect that IKUKO knows about as much French as I do, which is to say that IKUKO has access to a French dictionary if IKUKO can be arsed to get up and find it, and if that is the case, I'm guessing that the Japanese are, in fact, capable of making some measure of magic with other languages. It's a risky move on their part, though. Say what you will about their various military capitulations throughout the ages, but the one thing the French will fucking fight you over is their language. I can only hope they accept IKUKO with, well, satisfaction, as opposed to rage or, worse, ennui.
Unless it was decided while I was out of the room that merciless dominion over the earth is a good thing, I am absolutely astounded by the Sony Corporation's decision to name their latest robot QRIO. In years to come, the scattered bands of survivors may well point to the moment when we let the machines break the 'u'-follows-'q' rule as the moment when robots realized they could get away with anything, so they might as well give the wholesale slaughter of human beings a try.
I will have comments in days to come on Cookie Monster (some excellent comments on that entry have gone unused thus far), space travel, very tall basketball players and other important topics, so you ought to return to this space soon.
But! Perhaps you are still annoyed because it has been so long since I have written. I am unreliable, you think, and I have abandoned you to the savagery of your cubicle too many times to be forgiven. Let me say, then, that those other webpages can promise you multimedia and regular updates and all kinds of other crap, but we both know that I am the only one in the world who can bring you a photograph of two monkeys staging the death scene from 'Camille'.
I think I've made my point.
December 4, 2003 I've been in-country for more than six months now, and I'm still making terrible purchasing decisions based on amusing packages. This has got to stop. Last week, I bought a new cheese product called Cheese & Cheese because I thought it might, in theory, kick ass if Cheese had a wise-cracking partner, also named Cheese, who would provide a humorous contrast to Cheese's gruff yet lovable exterior -- and together, Cheese & Cheese would join forces to solve the 'crime' of my hunger. That was my reasoning. As it turns out, however, Cheese & Cheese joined forces to create two hideous shades of orange and several atrocities against innocent taste buds. Which is unfortunate, given that I blew 400 yen on it.
Inspired by our retarded company newsletter, here is the first installment of a powerful new segment called ELT 2 The Rescue:
(column) (New Chicago Bulls coach Scott) Skiles is no Bill Cartwright, the man he is replacing, and we know this because Skiles said one of his hobbies is reading and then refused to reveal what book is on his nightstand. Short of top-secret Pentagon reports or naughty romance novels, I'm not sure why this is classified information.
Thanks for asking, (Chicago Tribune columnist) Rick (Morrissey). Introductions are often difficult for new language students. When he began to learn English, (new Chicago Bulls coach Scott) Skiles may have memorized a series of rote phrases such as "I live in..." and "There are (x) people in my family", and while he may be able to produce those phrases with a reasonable degree of confidence, he may not yet be ready to expand on them. In this case, we can assume Skiles announced that "My hobby is reading a book", but we should not take that as indicating a command of the present progressive verb tense on his part -- rather, we should use that phrase as a launching point for teaching him new sentence structures that will allow Skiles to describe himself in greater detail, and ultimately have him making appropriate tense selections between the simple present and the aforementioned present progressive. So allay your frustrations, Rick! (New Chicago Bulls coach Scott) Skiles is not holding out on you -- he's actually giving you your next teaching assignment! Thanks for writing.
In order to add more exciting 'user-interactivity' to this web-page and hopefully score some 'web millions', I have prepared the following brain-teaser. You can test your wits, record your answer and check it against the solution at the end of this entry. Please study the following photograph, taken near my school two days ago. What is wrong with this picture?
Here is a box in which you can type your answer, for those of you who find that sort of thing satisfying:
If you click 'Send', your answer will be sent to the news bureau of the Chinese Space Program. Unfortunately, as they have not been advised of the question, I expect they will find your answer very confusing, so you're probably best off just leaving it here.
Christmas cheer is in full-swing here in good old Iwataki-cho. Some of the yakuza have their Christmas lights up, which are really quite pleasant, and one of the whore-houses gave us a fresh-baked loaf of bread for reasons that are entirely unclear to us. (It's still sitting on the kitchen table.) With the cold weather and lack of heat in our house becoming increasingly notable at night, I have been spending a lot of time at the public bath house down the block. It's pretty laid-back in there. The yakuza guys generally won't shower directly next to me, but they don't mind sharing the whirl-pools or the awesome steam-room, and one of them offered me some shampoo the other day, which was very nice of him. There was a big guy in there the other day who had a full-back tattoo of a warrior slaying a dragon. I was mighty impressed, and glad not to be a dragon.
Unfortunately, there came some tough news recently:
This city is still reeling from the last pink lady typhoon, and I don't know if it can withstand another one. We must batten down the hatches and prepare for the worst. What kind of cruel God would so callously subject these people to a pink lady typhoon again? Like earthquakes and their aftershocks, the second pink lady typhoon is often more intense than the first. Say a prayer for all of us here in Kyoto. We are going to have to face this pink lady typhoon head on.
SOLUTION TO THE BRAIN-TEASER: Look at the dishes at the bottom of the poster. They have Cookie Monster endorsing cheese danishes and pigs-in-a-blanket. Cookie Monster, by definition, does not give a shit about anything other than cookies. (Believe me, I have studied that gentleman.) I need to learn the idiomatic equivalent of "Focus up, Mr. Donut."
November 26, 2003 What the fuck does this mean?
My ability to organize and understand schema is going to be completely destroyed by this country or it's going to transcend mortal bounds. I'm calling even odds on either outcome. Seriously, what the fuck does that mean? No one can explain it to me.
On the plus side, I now know where lives the soul of rock and roll.
Christmas decorations have been up for a month and a half already, but there's nothing going on for Thanksgiving here in Japan. The dual holiday of last weekend -- the Emperor's Birthday on Sunday and Japanese Labor Day on Monday -- gave people a day off from work or school and a chance to reflect upon the real meaning of the occasion, which appears to have been the tremendous importance of descending upon department stores like packs of screaming hyenas and drinking for three days straight, in multiple cities if at all possible. (Happily, a number of my students achieved this goal, proudly announcing that they were blitzed in Osaka, Kobe and other prefectures entirely.) The Japanese love holidays, and they're not picky about where the holidays come from; the bars made the most of Halloween for theme parties and the stores are united in blaring "Do They Know It's Christmas After All?" at people who may or may not in fact be aware that it is Christmas after all. Thanksgiving, however, appears ready to pass without a glimmer. At the very least, I'd think that Japanese restaurants would pick up on it, transpose it into "Eating Day" or something along those lines. People would go for it. I mean, I know there's going to be a ton of rabbits up in here come Easter.
There will be no home-style Thanksgiving for me, as I must remain in Japan through the holidays and long into the next year. I like the food -- my aunt has done a fine job ever since she took the reigns as the family chef -- but the thing I will really miss is the annual Thanksgiving football game with my friends. In many ways, it is the most powerful day of the year. It is a noble, fierce contest wherein the souls of poets are wrapped in the manias of the XFL and placed in the bodies of the Chicago Cardinals. Rosters are drawn up weeks in advance, lyrical epics are written of the QB and WR combos thusly formed, and even the laziest of bastards go into training as far as two weeks in advance of the day. Injuries are no excuse. Separated shoulders and skewed ankles have been disregarded in past years; two years ago, I played with a newly broken finger. Members of the circle are returning from all over the country for the game this year; one guy is even flying in from 1914 to play. I have a fucking fantastic new jersey but alas, I do not have the resources to cross the ocean with it. I am not sure if I will ever regain the trust of certain of my compatriots. I can only hope that redemption will be considered when the full extent of my activities in Japan comes to light.
Forced to make other plans for Thanksgiving, I have done so. I will be gone for two days, during which I cannot disclose my location. They are perhaps the most powerful plans I have ever made.
The sky is full of all but stars tonight.
November 10, 2003 I hope you liked the quintessence. It was a powerful day. Today's entry will restate themes from earlier entries and tie up some old plot threads before I move on to new topics in the future, such as how I'm sick of these Atkins people insulting bread, which is a good food and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.
Wherever you go in this world, there is no escape from anti-climax: the Hanshin Tigers lost in Game 7 of the Japan Series, falling short just like the Cubs and Red Sox did. At last check, one of the major daily newspapers was still running front page stories about the Tigers, even though they're not playing any more. (I don't know what the stories are about. Unfortunately, the English versions of the newspapers here are much more restrained than the Japanese originals, and they run actual news on the front page.) One of my students attended a financial seminar where an executive from a major bank -- I will refrain from saying who it is to avoid the faint risk of libel charges, but you might have heard of them -- announced with a straight face that the Japanese economy is going to rebound based on absolutely no evidence other than the fact that the Tigers have been successful twice in the last 50 years and the economy was strong in those times. The student was tremendously excited. Since he appeared to have made no plans to check himself prior to wrecking himself, I attempted to check his self for him, but I don't think I was entirely successful in doing so. Well, I hope it works out, and I hope the currency doesn't crash until after I leave.
An update on the battle against panda-porn is long over-due. Even when I am silent, I am busy. Nothing escapes my notice, not even evidence as well-concealed as the sight of two pandas fucking on the side of a train car:
You know what, though? This is one case where the parents and the zoo-keepers have to share some of the blame, too. This is what comes of the tremendous social pressure on pandas to reproduce. In some twisted way, in their narcotic-addled state, these poor pandas are just trying to do what they think they're supposed to do, and some callous, cynical bastard is making pornography from it. The pandas get locked in a cycle of sex and drugs, and they can't get out, even as their very bodies are falling apart. This panda's nose has caved in from years of cocaine use:
How long has it been since that panda had a warm meal? They have him out there working the streets, and he can barely stand. Even when you take them in and try to turn them around, when night comes, they become desperate and lapse back into their old habits, as this police photograph shows:
That moment of clarity that flashes in the panda's eyes is absolutely heartbreaking. For a moment, it's as though they know what has become of them. For every panda we save from a life of pornography, there are three more who are never heard from again. Perhaps most despicable of all is when these smut-merchants use pandas to recruit other pandas. Please be advised that what follows is extremely graphic material:
How can they get away with showing that in public, you ask? I don't know. I really don't. Here are some student email comments on the panda-porn issue:
Several perspectives were offered on whether I should take the bike. The Israelis in the house got all excited and wanted me to get it so they could try to break the lock like they said they used to in Tel Aviv. My friend Katy noted that, in Spirited Away, the abandoned bicycle makes the river spirit sick, and he bestows many blessings on Sen / Chihiro in thanks for her removing the bicycle and making him well again. I thought that was an awfully good point, especially as I've found Spirited Away to be eerily accurate in all other respects regarding life in Japan. Several of my students confirmed the near-disposable attitude towards bicycles in the city and recommended that I take it. Kurt suggested that Japanese bikes may be like lizard tails, and when pursued by a predator, salarymen will leave their bicycles behind and escape. On the other hand, The Bicycle Thief continues to be a movie that I have seen, and I kept worrying that the poster-hanger would come back for his bike, even though it had been in the river for more than a week. The Israelis insisted that if I took the bicycle to the local police box, saying that I found it abandoned, then if nobody reported it missing within a month, it would become my property, and I could say the lock was broken when I found it. Reluctantly, I took the bike. I hope I made the right decision. I can't second-guess myself now. It would be pretty silly to go and put the bike back in the river.
The elections were finally held on Sunday. There are no laws -- and, apparently, no anger or resentment -- against noise pollution, so the numbers of Assholes With Megaphones reached a sort of critical mass in recent days, with campaign vans parked outside our school from open to close and trucks with speakers driving around every neighborhood of the city as early as 7AM. There was even a helicopter flying overhead at one point, blasting some creep's message loudly enough that it could be clearly heard on the sidewalk. In an exciting development, though, none other than Godzilla was running for office. On Saturday, a van arrived with Godzilla's name painted on the side in big red letters, and smiling people stood on top of the van, waving and making speeches for hours. The best part is that although Godzilla himself was apparently elsewhere at the time, he deployed little Godzukis to run around and hand out campaign literature. Here is photographic evidence:
There were two Godzuki-squads on duty at the same time. When a squad saw someone walking through any part of the square around the train station, they'd sprint after them, with the Godzuki assigned to get the passer-by's attention and the guy with the yellow-and-blue sash on propaganda duty. (There was a third guy, the one in the blue coat, whose job seemed to be to protect the Godzuki's flank.) So, naturally, we chased after them:
The guy in the yellow-and-blue sash was annoyed by our presence, but he channeled his anger into whatever harangue he was delivering to the voter. Godzuki was sort of bemused. Shortly afterwards, I had a man-to-man lesson, and I asked the student if she knew that Godzilla was running for office. "Yes," she said. I asked her if she was going to vote for him. "Yes," she said. I said that was probably a good idea, and then I asked her if Godzilla was going to destroy the city if he lost the election. "Yes," she said. I got all wide-eyed and asked her what office he was running for. "Yes," she said. I asked her if she understood anything I had said. She smiled and tilted her head to the right.
No, panda! Stay away! Damn you, ram, defiler of innocence.
October 27, 2003 How long does a bicycle have to sit in the river before it's considered public property? I am one of the few in this land without a bicycle to call his own. (I had a borrowed one before, but one of my housemates loaned it out to a shady character who returned it all fucked up, which is another reason to pass legislation against shady characters.) There are so many bikes here that they're nearly disposable, and people keep telling me just to take one that looks abandoned, but I've seen The Bicycle Thief, and I can't take that risk. However, since Wednesday morning, a nice-looking silver bike has been lying on its side in the Takase-gawa, a river / canal / lengthy puddle near my house, and no one has touched it. The Takase, rarely more than an inch deep, is about eight feet below street level, so the bike clearly wasn't parked there deliberately. Hopefully, there are some Italian neo-realist film experts reading this web-page who can help me determine at what point it becomes unreasonable to speculate that a poor, honest worker may have pawned the family linen for the bike and left it in the river while he hangs some movie posters nearby. I mean, it's been at least five days.
Tonight is Game 7 of the Nippon Series. The Hanshin Tigers, hapless perennial losers, are trying to cap their dream year with a championship. They lost the first two games, won the next three, and lost last night. No matter what happens tonight, Osaka is going to explode. (Some of my students, upper-middle class types, named the Tigers' home stadium the most dangerous place in Japan, simply because of the lunatic fans.) I have noticed that they win when I wear my Tigers t-shirt, so I am going to do my part by wearing it today, even though it really ought to be washed. Japanese baseball fervor can match any city in America. A number of serious financial publications have credited the Tigers' success with the recent signs of recovery for the Japanese economy (since the last time the Tigers were any good was 1985, in the midst of the "Bubble Era" in Japan). The Tigers even have a curse of their own that's every bit as good as (if not better than) the stupid goat in Chicago or the Bambino in Boston.
Several people are walking around the neighborhood right now, chanting in long, deep tones. It is 8:50am.
NEWLY CROWNED MY FAVORITE ENGLISH MISTAKE OF ALL TIME, ALTHOUGH PERHAPS YOU HAD TO BE THERE TO REALLY APPRECIATE IT
I gave him a level-up recommendation because of that. As a teacher, I tend to reward brilliant mistakes more often than mediocre successes. I asked Yoshiaki, the gravel-voiced, hard-living tennis coach, about his recent vacation trip to Okinawa. His eyes lit up. "I met the manta," he said. He'd gone scuba-diving, apparently, and seen a manta ray. I cheered and gave him a level-up recommendation. However, I merely winced when Masako, the elderly housewife, delcared that, after a stressful week, "I relieved myself this weekend".
I've been meaning to photograph this for quite some time. This is a popular pizza chain in the Kyoto area. I haven't tried their pizza, so I don't know if they're any good. But I do know one thing. Chicago, this is you:
Come on, Chicago. Don't deny it. That is you. (Especially you, Gianni Cutri.) Japanese pizza delivery places deserve credit for their cool delivery scooter-bikes. The pizzas go in the hatch in the back (visible on the right bike), and there's a roof for some reason, but it's on two wheels, so they can park on the sidewalk if they like. I haven't had any pizza here, as it's rather expensive and bound to be a disappointment. I miss it quite a lot, though. I haven't decided whether my first meal upon return to the U.S.A. will be a fucking gooey deep dish pizza or a mad blowout at a Mexican restaurant. All I know for sure is that you people in Chicago are in the mob and you wear striped suits with hats so quit pretending you don't.
Here is a threat:
They're serious. They will sticky about their favorite things. God help me, I've seen them do it.
THE 99 YEN SHOP: FIVE OBSERVATIONS
Let me give fair warning that the next entry will be the most powerful in the history of this web-page.
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.
December 13, 2002 (news) Throughout the 90's, as other teams prepared to move into new stadiums or threatened to leave their city if they didn't get one, the Eagles could not get out of their lease at the Vet and struggled to get financing for a new place. And the Vet fell into disrepair. On Dec. 5, 1998, at the Army-Navy game, 10 West Point cadets plunged 15 feet to the Vet turf after a railing gave way. One cadet, Kevin Galligan of Alabama, broke his neck and sprained his wrist. His dream of fighting for his country as an Army Ranger was ended that day. He's now an investment banker.
Jesus! What strange, hideous power has dominion over this place that swallows up idealistic young cadets and turns them into investment bankers? Demolish it! Scorch the earth on which it stood!
Today, we will tackle Acts Two and Three of Shakespeare's Timon of Motherfucking Athens. If you have not finished your study questions from yesterday, please do so now, because you will be completely lost when we proceed, and this is no time to have egg on your face.
It will surprise no one that, as Act Two opens, we are still in Athens. This is a different part of Athens, though: a place where senators roam, a senatorial preserve. Americans in the audience will no doubt clench their fists, but the ancient Greeks did not rip off the idea of senators from the United States. They came up with it themselves. It turns out that Timon owes the Senator money. In fact, it turns out that Timon owes a lot of people a lot of money. Timon has a problem. When he has money, he uses it to buy presents or host dinners for his friends. He assumes that the debt will never come calling, because to him, there exists a continuum of kindness between friends, not cold record-keeping. Timon also doesn't realize how broke he is, because the Steward, his financial manager, is the quiet, sensitive type. As numerous Servants clamor for their masters' bills to be paid, Apemantus enters and hassles everyone some more. For no clear reason, he is accompanied by a Fool who, like most Shakespearean Fools, needs to shut the fuck up.
Now, given how nice Timon is to everyone, you'd think they could be patient about the debts, or even spot a brother a small loan, right? We're all friends here, right? We're all tight? Well, here comes a ten-ton surprise, because it turns out that their gratitude was all talk. Each generates a lame excuse, even Sempronius, who claims to have known Timon from back in the day. From back in the day! This, truly, is cold. The irony of the fact that these usurers have accepted gifts and valuable cash prizes from Timon and are still holding him liable for debts is not lost on the various Servants; this is rather akin to Bob Barker rigging The Price is Right so his chum can rock the Showcase Showdown and then receiving a cleaning bill for the old-person smell that Bob left in his chum's car. Timon descends into insanity with remarkable speed and efficiency, and announces his plans to hold a 'revenge' dinner for his former friends, an idea which will give anyone who has read Titus Andronicus chills. At the dinner, though, Timon just serves warm water and yells at everybody, and they leave. Great plan, Timon.
Questions to Consider for Acts Two and Three:
1. What the shit, guys?
Extra Credit: Write an imaginary dialogue between Timon of Athens and the Notorious B.I.G. What might they have to talk about? Would Timon agree that mo' money does, indeed, equal mo' problems? What issues, such as "where you're from", are important to both men? If Timon is construed as West Coast, which other crazy old guy from Shakespeare's plays would be most likely to have Timon killed in a drive-by shooting?
Next: The apocalyptic conclusion of Timon of Motherfucking Athens.
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 6, 2002 The silver chalice was within our grasp; but, as anyone familiar with the nature of sporting narrative could have predicted following yesterday's confident update, our bowling team imploded. It was a frustrating night. I took care with my pre-game conditioning, eating three ice cream sandwiches on the car ride over and arriving early enough to practice. Mastodon and Manta Ray, my teammates, seemed equally ebullient about our chances. As Team Ten warned us from the next lane, though, we were facing a notorious bunch of sandbaggers. Indeed, we remained overconfident until the match was out of reach. I dropped a 186 in the second game, my second highest score ever, but it was not enough. We Powerful Creatures hung our heads and can only wait for next week to come.
I am never going to educate myself about the judicial elections again. As far as I can tell, every single judge was retained - and let me tell you, there were some guys who should have been dropped. James T. Ryan? Gone. James Jorzak? You're done. But no. It's one thing when the people who vote against you do so because of a difference of opinion, but it's another when they are just punching boxes in a hurry so they can finish and go home. I will find a different means of democratic change, most likely involving martial arts, as usual.
It may seem like I am concerned with removing people by the name of James from power. You can think that, if you like.
November 5, 2002 The second season of the bowling league is well underway. Our team has, I think, benefitted from the stability of a consistent weekly lineup. Last season's rotating personnel were all talented in their own ways, but the continuity of this season's starting roster has paid dividends in the establishment of a team mentality, lending an intimidating presence to our endeavors. There is, of course, a psychological component to bowling; it is among the elements that separate professionals from amateurs out on the lanes. We are the Powerful Creatures. Each of us is named for a different powerful creature; as always, I am the Monkey. We are second overall in total pins, but have faced a tough schedule in the early going. Tonight, we begin an aerial assault on the league's top ten.
If you are a resident of this here House of Illin', and you have not yet voted today but you plan to do so, and, after doing so, you would like to outmanuever those tiresome motherfuckers who ascribe an enlightened state to themselves purely for having cast a vote, the links below will educate you as to which judges to support for retention down there on the bottom of the ballot, thus allowing you to throw that in the next God's Favorite Informed Participant's face, because, pow, who knows about the judges? You do. Print this shit out. 1, 2, 3, 4.
September 13, 2002 (news) In his two seasons in Detroit, Williams drove head coach Doug Collins to distraction, but he played well for the Pistons, averaging 16.2 points and 8.9 rebounds his first season. But, not surprisingly, Williams didn't care for Detroit. Not to live around the Great Lakes is not to understand. It's not only the snow and cold. One can go weeks without seeing the sun. Brian Williams' life was lived in sunshine. So this is what he did: He purchased a gigantic fish tank -- the size of one wall -- for his home. He loaded it with all sorts of tropical fish and then got himself some snorkeling gear. After practice, Williams would go home and stick his head in the tank and imagine he was snorkeling in the South Pacific. He'd come to practices and tell his teammates about his adventures in his tank and how it took him out of feeling of being locked in the Midwestern winter.
This message is posted in tribute to one of the great crazy athletes of our time, former Bull Brian Williams, missing and feared dead in the South Seas. Many athletes (like many people) are crazy, but there is something special that defines a truly great 'crazy athlete': you can see the traces of higher education floating around in his head, but he was never in a classroom long enough for professors to guide the assorted elements into a whole; and so, a special brand of crazy is born, one born of long hours spent running around with nothing much to think about and the insularity / impunity (or, crazy[b], dreams of impunity) afforded by money, fame and the protection of the sports industry. Some turn vicious, but others achieve a strange, inexplicable beauty. (Hence, Ray Lewis is an athlete who is crazy, Rod Smart is a crazy[b] athlete, and Brian Williams is - or, sadly, was - a crazy athlete.)
August 27, 2002 Tonight is the next-to-last night of our bowling league. An angel appeared to me and instructed me to eviscerate my opponents with powerful bowling, but to stop short of pissing on their corpses. That is what I plan to do. I am well known for being disrespectful to demons and cooperative with angels.
(news) Cambodian workmen have unearthed 27 solid gold Buddha statuettes, buried for hundreds of years beneath the foundations of a ruined pagoda hidden deep in the jungle, officials said Tuesday. The statues, about four inches high and each weighing around one pound, came to light at the weekend when builders started restoration work on the centuries-old pagoda destroyed by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. Monks and nuns were overjoyed at the find, kicking off three days and two nights of religious celebrations.
I started to explain to the rabbi that I was being sulky because work was preventing me from joining the party with the monks and nuns about the buddhas, but I did not think he would understand. Nevertheless: no, that is not where you stashed your buddas, and you are to leave the monks and the nuns to celebrate in peace.
July 23, 2002 There has been some concern, given my recent bowling scores, that if my current rate of ascent continues, I may turn into a being of pure light some time in the winter of 2003. All that I can say at the present time is that I have considered the issue and will take appropriate steps as they become necessary.
LITERARY CRITICISM IN HELL
Yeah, I'm basically the Vin Diesel of post-Marxist response to Edith Wharton.
A guy here in the office got his green card last week and it has gone straight to his head. Quite the cock of the walk now, that guy. I don't know how he gets any work done with all the time he spends strutting up and down the hall, making pronouncements about my haircut and the quality of the cake he got from a conference room downstairs. They really opened the floodgates with that guy.
July 17, 2002 At times, I have been known to tell you sweet lies. A choir of angels descended upon the station wagon in which I was conceived and said, yea, this one shall be blessed with the tongue for sweet lies and strange truths, and he shall, in the course of his travels, cause many to say, simply, "Damn."
I say this to you because I want you to understand that I tell no lies in this entry.
Let me attempt to establish a frame of reference for this shit. In March of this year, one week after shitheads with guns took my wallet, I bowled my career high, 153, in a game entitled "Fear Gets Its Ass Beat". This powerful bowling performance was intended to communicate to shitheads, on behalf of myself and the righteous of the world, that we will not be cowed, that we do not have fear, and that we cannot be deterred from doing what is right.
Last night, then, was my second week in our bowling league. We did not win any games last week and were mired in last place, although our cumulative pin total was way higher than that of many other teams. This lack of winning is no good. And controversy continues to rage over whether our team ace agreed to wear her pajamas to league night. I am willing to concede the point that having fire engines on the pajamas was entirely my invention, but I think that the very fact that the pattern of the pajamas is now the central issue of debate serves as evidence that the initial agreement was made.
Oh. But these things are so small. I cannot even tell you. But I must.
We were matched up against a team of employees of the bowling alley.
I can be silent no longer.
A travel guide, to stone-cold motherfuckerdom. Authored by me. Published last night. Let's Go: Stone Cold Motherfuckerdom. By _MONKEY_, Team #12.
Let me tell you a few things about 193. It is a high number. It is forty pins above my previous high. Several strikes and spares must be rolled in consecutive fashion in order to reach that number.
I rolled those strikes and spares.
Team #12, formerly known as Team Pajama Party, won a game. At last. My six-game average: 150, a full thirty pins above my non-league average.
Come with me to the land. We will drink wine and watch ninja movies dubbed in Spanish, critiquing their shitty ninja technique, because we are authorized to do so. Because, in the land of stone-cold motherfuckerdom, we are kings.
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July 16, 2002 I saw an obese woman wearing a t-shirt with the words YOU WISH emblazoned over her pendulous breasts, and I thought, you're right, I do wish, I do strive for things, and I do have dreams. It's easy to forget about dreams in this oppressive economy. Thank you for reminding me.
(news) MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) - A boat skippered by rock star Bob Seger won its division in the 78th annual Port Huron-to-Mackinac Island Sailboat Race on Monday. Seger's boat, Lightning of St. Clair Shores, finished at 6:47 a.m. That gave it an adjusted time of 39 hours, 44 minutes, 27 seconds, first by 1:44:44 among the 15 boats in PHRF A/GL 50 class.
Seriously, if Bob Seger is sailing around in a boat, and I am not a pirate who hounds that boat every day and every night, then everything I believe is counterfeit. Please, someone, let me borrow your boat. I will deck it out with all kinds of pirate shit. I will even cut you in on the booty. Given that Bob Seger's boat will be the sole object of my harassment, the booty will probably be limited to Coors Light and some blue jeans with curious stains, but you can have all of it. All I need is the boat, and the ability to sleep at night, knowing that I have done good work.
Tonight is league night at the bowling alley once again, and our bowling team needs to begin winning some games. If we win the championship, which may not be mathematically possible at this point, I will purchase the customized bowling ball I mentioned a few months ago, which will be designed to feature a ninja battling a huge scorpion. We would need the intense aura provided by the bowling ball in order to repeat as league champions, because, based on my research, the second championship is all about the psychological advantage. First, though, we will need to win a game in this season. And assholes need to stop mugging members of our bowling team on their way home. What the shit?
July 15, 2002 I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day the best and the brightest among our youth will be permitted to spend their days, not in perpetual self-abasement for money, but in service of mankind's highest ideals, of truth, of beauty.
I have a dream that I am having a power-lunch with some monkeys, in a fancy restaurant, with deals out on the table, deals involving massive amounts of bananas.
I have a dream that the more studied among the monkeys are wearing glasses. There is a dress code, but no species wears a suit as well as a monkey, and in my dream, these monkeys look fantastic. One of them is even wearing a leather pilot helmet and aviator goggles, as if he were Charles Lindbergh.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that these monkeys want to make a deal, that when these monkeys are tense and sweating over the details, they jump up and down, they hoot and holler, they swing from chandeliers, they get drunk from bottles of wine and fall over.
I have a dream that only a few bananas are separating the monkeys from sealing this deal, but that gulf is wide, because it is the gulf of international finance, and monkeys do not understand the intricacies of international finance.
I have a dream that monkeys are scratching their heads, with an off-kilter grin.
I have a dream that when all appears lost, when it appears that a deal cannot be reached, the snooty French waiter arrives at the next table with an expensive cake for a fat white man who has complained about the monkeys and the noise they make, and, my friends, this waiter slips on a banana peel and the expensive cake goes all over the place, primarily on the snooty waiter and the angry white man, and let me tell you this, my friends, the monkeys are clapping their hands, and they are laughing.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that power is in the hands of the people, that bananas are in the hands of the monkeys, that the shared experience of a perfect moment can transcend all else, that truths, self-evident, can break down the walls of finance and secure the bananas necessary to secure brotherhood, and, my friends, in my dream, there is a monkey, and that monkey is me. I am that monkey.
Power to the people. Bananas to the monkeys.
(news) Wang (Zhi-Zhi) reiterates that he is not defecting from China and will rejoin the Chinese National Team when they play an exhibition game in San Francisco before the World Championships on August 29 in Indianapolis. Wang says he wants to return to Dallas, but he sees himself getting more playing time with the Warriors...and playing time is important. "I would get maybe 10 minutes of playing time [last season]. I want maybe 20 minutes, like [Eduardo] Najera," Wang said. "Nellie [Don Nelson] says [my] defense no good, rebounding no good. I want to be a good rebounder and good at defense. I want to play summer league, practice defense and practice rebound. Maybe next season Nellie will watch and say, 'Good defense, good rebound ... we need Wang.' "
Wang has been the forgotten tall Chinese man in all of the Yao Ming hype, so I wanted to give readers a chance to catch up with him here. It seems like he has a good attitude. We do, indeed, need Wang.
July 10, 2002 I am concerned about all of the mixed signals that our children are receiving about dragons. The film Dragonheart would have us believe that they are misunderstood, persecuted creatures with Scottish brogues. The new Reign of Fire insists that they are post-apocalyptic bastards with a mad-on for clock towers. Puff the Magic Dragon claims they just have a good eye for real estate. And who knows what our childrens' dungeon masters are telling them? The fact is, the cultural consensus on dragons is completely fucked up, and no one other than me seems to be worried about it.
I am still employed, but the early summer crazy is heading toward a mid-summer exercise of martial arts, if you know what I mean.
In order to get my certification as a stone-cold motherfucker, I joined a bowling league. I have talked about doing that for a long time, and now I am a member of Diversey River Bowl's Team #12, which is tentatively called Team Pajama Party, pending the resolution of a dispute over whether or not the cute girl on our team agreed to wear fire-engine pajamas to league night every week in order to gain a psychological advantage over the competition. (If not, I am going to recommend that we be re-named The Carpet Professionals for reasons that are not clear even to me.) Our three-member team is brilliantly assembled: one member supplies talent, another supplies heart, and another supplies confidence which can be modified into raging egomania, as situations dictate. Were league bowling more like Voltron, we would form the ultimate bowler, lacking only a beer gut. Last night was my debut with the team. Let me tell you something about stone-cold motherfuckerdom. It is a place that, last night, I called home. When I was through with Bowler_67, my direct opponent, he was a hippie guy with a bald patch and long hair, which was perhaps essentially what he was prior to the match, but he was without holy hell, because I beat it out of him. Frames 6-8 of the first game were a time of glory wherein my first ever turkey was earned (three strikes in a row). I have an average of about 120, but last night I averaged 140, 20 pins above my average, which is really a stone-cold motherfucker of a thing to do, if you think about it. The league uses handicaps, which I don't entirely understand, so we won't know the exact results until next week. Probably, we lost, because Big B, the other team's ace, also had an understanding of stone-cold motherfuckerdom as applied to league bowling, and our ace hurt her toe before the match. But we competed well, and I received my certificate.
If someone does not send me one of these within fourteen days, I will be forced to conclude that everyone hates me.
July 7, 2002 I want to caution readers that this is going to be a controversial entry. One of the many things that this web page stands for is excellence in the tradition of investigative journalism, even when the truths uncovered are perhaps discomforting, the facts assembled are perhaps hard-hitting, so on and so forth. Therefore, I cannot sugar-coat the following. I must break the story. I will try to give you all sides of it, though, so stay with me, and wait for the shock to subside.
On Saturday, July 6, the Associated Press published an article about accusations of assault made toward basketball star Allen Iverson. A pair of men filed charges against him, claiming that he and another man threatened them in their apartment complex. That, in itself, was not interesting to me. Apartment complexes are tough places, and people know what they're getting into when they step into one of those. Besides, threats are boring without a beat behind them, at the very least, to say nothing of some kung fu movie samples. So, fuck all that. However, one part of the article caught my eye:
(news) Citing unidentified sources, (The Philadelphia Daily News) reported that the two men said Iverson, armed with a gun, and another man went to the apartment looking for Iverson's wife and cousin. Iverson and Tawanna Turner were married Aug. 3 and have two children.
Now, I'm no biology whiz, but that struck me as curious. August 3 was eleven months ago...and pregnancy takes nine months, which gives Iverson and his wife enough time for 1.3 children, not 2. Even if both children were very premature, to the tune of six months or so in the womb, the numbers still don't add up. Do you see where I am going with this?
Allen Iverson and his wife may have had sex...before they were married.
Now, that is just one explanation. I know that many children and many adults in a state of arrested adolescence have a great deal of admiration for Iverson, who lacks the height to play the shooting guard position in the NBA but is a formidable offensive threat when teamed with a tall point guard in the back court and a pair of effective, pass-first rebounders in the front court, and I do not want to sully his character before all the facts are in. So many of our role models have fallen, and we do not need to lose another one. Here, then, are alternative hypotheses to explain the extra child:
1. Tawanna gave birth to twins. This would make the most sense, but reporters like twins, and it would be odd if the reporter did not describe the children as such.
2. The Iversons found the second child, rummaging through their trash or cracking wise while stealing their hubcaps. He was a scruffy orphan, and he won their hearts, so they adopted him. Presumably, the appropriate paperwork was filed.
3. The second child is not human. He is an extremely personable dog, or perhaps a monkey.
4. Tawanna is pregnant with the second child, and the Iversons have decided to count their chickens prior to the chickens' hatching.
5. Muggsy Bogues came in the wrong door, and all hell broke loose.
I know that the initial impulse is to tar and feather Iverson, and to brand Tawanna with a scarlet 'A'. As the man who broke this story, though, I would like to urge calm. Let me propose, Pope John Paul II, that Allen Iverson not be excommunicated just yet. Put him in queue if you must, but let us not be so quick to judge. Perhaps mistakes were made. Who among us, in our own way, has not had a second, illegitimate child, with Tawanna? Let us wait for the whole story to emerge. Let us forgive. Let the truth surprise us...and inspire us.
June 17, 2002 (news) For soccer-mad Mexicans, it was bad enough that their team was eliminated from the World Cup. More heartbreaking was the fact that the blow was delivered by the United States, which many Mexicans see as an arrogant, domineering neighbor. "It hurts us here," said Jose Luis Luviano, 21, punching his chest. Tears melted the Mexican flags painted on his cheeks.
I have had enough of these crocodile tears cried by sporting men who wear grief like an ascot scarf. If Jose Luis Luviano was truly sad, he would overturn a car. Now, those Russians, they cared about their soccer team. Any fool who settled for street parking in Moscow that night knows as much. Jose Luis, on the other hand, doth protest too much. Where is his new TV? What has he set on fire? Why will he not deign to participate in the most profound, authentic expressions of grief - and joy - known to our age? For fuck's sake, man, topple a motorbike and then tell me how much you liked your team. Because, otherwise, I ain't hearing it.
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 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 31, 2002 I felt like I had to make a statement against terror, to show evil that we are not bowed and we will not be cowed, so, one week after being mugged on my way home from bowling, I went bowling again and rolled my goddam career high, 153. I have titled that game "Fear Gets Its Ass Beat". That is a very dramatic title. I found a tennis ball in the gutter on the way home, so I bounced it around while I waited for the train.
I had a few days off last week, and I have a few days off this week. You can go to the website for Devil's Lake in Wisconsin and try to visualize a very small version of me climbing around on the rocks in the pictures. If you then proceed to visualize a very small version of me battling a bunch of wizards on top of the mountain, please bear in mind that the sheer force of my charm gives me a +2 for initiative in combat against magic users. And if you then proceed to visualize the outcome of that battle, please bear in mind that the purple mage is a punk ass.
PART SEVENTEEN IN AN EXCITING NEW SERIES THAT I WOULD WRITE IF I HAD A WEALTHY PATRON
An elvish ROGUE is preparing for combat. A DWARF, chomping a cigar, confronts him.
DWARF: Lookin' good, rogue.
DWARF: Shame you're going down in the fourth round of combat.
ROGUE: The hell I am. I can take that guy.
DWARF: Probably could, most days. Today, though, he hits you with the north wind in the fourth.
ROGUE: The fix is in.
DWARF: Sorry, kid.
ROGUE: Yeah, well, count me out. I don't take a fall for no magic users.
DWARF: You do when I say so! There's a lot of gold pieces riding on this encounter. You better play ball, kid. You don't have a choice.
ROGUE: I've always got choices.
DWARF: Not if you want that bag of holding...
ROGUE: You're offering a bag of holding?
DWARF: Sure, kid. We're a classy operation. We take care of player-characters who play ball with us.
ROGUE: I've always wanted a bag of holding. I could keep my scrolls in there. And the whole cooked turkeys I'm always finding.
DWARF: A lot of influential dragons are interested in what happens today, kid. Dragons with access, if you know what I mean.
ROGUE: Fine. I'll go down.
DWARF: Good boy. You won't regret it.
The ROGUE enters a clearing, which is jam-packed with excited spectators. From the fringe of the clearing, the DWARF, surrounded by a number of handsomely-attired dragons, gives the ROGUE a thunbs-up. The ROGUE nods. Then, the crowd parts and the PURPLE MAGE enters the clearing.
PURPLE MAGE: Me!
ROGUE: Nobody said anything about this encounter being with the goddam purple mage.
DWARF: (calling out) Play ball, kid!
ROGUE: But the motherfucking purple mage...
The PURPLE MAGE begins casting a lightning spell. The ROGUE's body shakes, tense. On one side, a bunch of dragons...and a very nice bag of holding. On the other side...his pride.
The air crackles with electricity...
All it takes is one wealthy patron, people. Look under your couches. Surely, between all of you, you could come up with at least one.
March 25, 2002 And, on top of everything else, they cut down the fucking trees in front of my apartment. Most have been uprooted and taken away, and the others have had their branches burned off and will probably be removed in time. I really liked those trees. Most of the branches weren't strong enough to support squirrels' weight, but squirrels would try anyway, and my cats liked watching it. The trees in the fall at night with the pale orange courtyard lamps was what drew me to rent there. You can't just go in and take out the trees and act like it's the same place. That has to be a violation of the lease. God damn it. It seriously looks like the end of "Full Metal Jacket" out there.
It's snowing today. I want to go outside and use my new lomo for snow by the lake. By the time I get home from work, feces will probably be falling from the sky instead of snow, and I do not wish to take photographs of that.
THINGS THAT HAVE GONE WELL RECENTLY
1. That Dismemberment Plan is a good plan. They play the hits.
2. Long-time friends got engaged. They are cute together.
3. Got to see the Journey arcade game. It's from 1983. They digitized the heads of the members of Journey and put them on tiny bodies, and then each band member has to go to a different planet to recover his instrument. The piano player's level is really hard. Tinkling MIDI versions of many Journey hits run while you play, such as "Who's Crying Now" when you die.
4. Have not had to wait long for trains.
5. Cats like the tree thing I bought for them.
6. Food has tasted good.
7. Have time off coming up.
8. Made out onstage twice on Saturday. Hottest action since the Clinton era.
9. Slurpee made my tongue blue.
THINGS THAT HAVE GONE POORLY RECENTLY
1. Fucking cold.
2. Guy I knew in high school died. His name was Pete.
3. Held up at gunpoint.
4. Oscars crap as usual.
5. Have to listen to idiots talk about Oscars. "I won't see movies with that Russell Crowe. He hates America. Show some gratitude!" "(hushed tone) Denzel just won because he's black."
6. No access to money for a few more days while I wait for new cards to arrive. Only have a dollar.
7. Friends' favorite basketball team lost.
8. Long-standing sore throat.
9. Hottest action since the Clinton era was had onstage.
It's an oddity in my perception - or perhaps it's not unusual - that, on an instinctive level, I think of these things (the trees, the gun) not as the acts of lone individuals or small groups, but as the consensus decision of the world, arrived at through due democratic process. For the first few days after I was mugged, I felt as though everyone was looking at me strangely, wondering what I was doing out again, as if I didn't get the message.
STRATEGIES TOWARD THE FRUSTRATION AND CONSEQUENT THWARTING OF MUGGERS
Civility has failed. The police have failed. Batman has failed. My shit is being taken by unauthorized motherfuckers with guns. Here, then, are methods by which we can frustrate muggers to a point at which the consequences of their work will outweigh the benefits, and they will stop.
1. Carry a second wallet as a ringer. This wallet can be given to the mugger instead of the primary wallet, which will have money, IDs and such. The second wallet will be empty, save a piece of paper where the money would be, which will say "Sucker." Hence, nothing of value will be lost.
POSSIBLE DRAWBACK: The mugger opens the wallet while victim is nearby and takes offense to the insult, reacting irrationally.
2. Carry a second identity as a ringer. This is somewhat more complex to assemble but solves the problem posed by the first solution. The second identity should have its own identification cards and money, but it should be Canadian money, forcing the mugger to go all the way up to Canada if he wants to use it. Also, the second identity should be that of a very sad man, so the mugger is stuck with the existential emptiness, which will come as an unpleasant surprise, seeing as how he was expecting money.
POSSIBLE DRAWBACK: Frantic, the victim mistakenly switches the wallets. Now the victim is the sad man, and must go all the way up to Canada even if he only wants to buy some gum.
3. Carry a fierce bear as a ringer. The drawbacks and practical difficulties of this strategy are numerous, but its upside is too great to be dismissed.
(news) Forward Eddie Robinson, who has been sidelined with a sore big left toe, got cleared to play. The point became moot when Robinson, who has appeared in just 23 games, succumbed to bad fast-food chicken and food poisoning and didn't dress.
He succumbed? Do not go gently into that good night, forward Eddie Robinson. Rage, rage against the bad fast-food chicken.
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY FUCKED UP HIS MOST FAMOUS POEM, "OZYMANDIAS"
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away
BETTER VERSION OF THE POEM
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my 180, ye Mighty, and despair!
Shit! I am a powerful bowler."
Then, instead of yammering on about sand and decay, the observer would say, shit, that king was a good bowler. I've only ever bowled a 150. Boy, you can extrapolate a lot about the grandeur of his kingdom from the words on this pedestal.
February 25, 2002
As a result of gifts received during this most recent birthday, I have a large gorilla in my bedroom, and he is cradling a real explosive device in his hand, a long red industrial fuse. He is called Amigo. I say this so you will understand that when I refer to a monkey with an explosive device in the corner of my bedroom, it is not a metaphor for me, but is, in fact, an actual monkey.
I have long resisted decorating my cubicle. I don't want to dignify the abstract notion of the cubicle as a residence for a human being by personalizing it, and the rabbi is always yammering on about the numerous horror movie-themed items in the cubicle behind mine, so I could bring in flyers from indie rock shows or plays I did, but then I'd have to sit through the rabbi's stand-up routine about them every week or two, and it would be more of a pain than it was worth. The rabbi can get kind of obnoxious like that. Recently, though, my mother gave me a picture frame that has space for three wallet-sized photos of family members, and since I don't really have any family members to put in there, I decided to fill it with some of the monkey photos that people like to give me. After due consideration, the three that were chosen, from left to right:
The thing about me is, I engage in dadaist acts of aggression because I am too lazy to communicate with other people. I figured that the monkeys would pose a devastating critique to work-place iconography, and anyway, I could look at the monkeys while I was on the phone and try to make faces like them. Shortly after arriving at work, the curious rabbi noticed the pictures and conspired to get me away from my cubicle so he could figure out what this new addition to my desk was. From afar, I heard him enlisting the horror fan's help in figuring out why I had a bunch of monkey pictures in my cubicle. I yelled at him, and the rabbi beat a hasty retreat. Later in the afternoon, he came out of his office and asked me to explain the monkeys for him. Improvising, I said that the baboon was a reminder of injustice and suffering, that the chimp was a symbol of the joy of learning, of study, of rigorous pursuit of knowledge, and fortunately I didn't have to come up with anything for the suave gorilla, because everyone was laughing except the bewildered rabbi, who told me that I was strange and again beat a hasty retreat.
An INTERVIEWER enters, with a notepad, to speak to the CHARACTER.
INTERVIEWER: Tell me about your project.
They move to opposite ends of the stage, which is revealed to be an All-You-Can-Eat buffet.
I have a mad lust to live in, to inhabit hundreds of different places without ever touching down completely.
February 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 7, 2002
After two months of work, I finally brought in a piece of decoration for my cubicle. It is a picture of a monkey. He looks very suave.
I did watch the Super Bowl this weekend. I can only really get interested in most sports for the communal aspect. It's nice when the communal aspect includes food. Yum. This was only the second Super Bowl I'd seen from start to finish (the first is no mystery). I had to avoid last year's game for fear that I might see the commercials that the unfortunate conglomerate of my then-employment created to advertise themselves. This year, no such concerns. Nothing much of note during the broadcast other than the conclusion of the game, which was a stirring testimony to the human spirit. I forgot to watch for the tax commercial that the Coen Brothers directed. I did my own taxes, so my unemployed-for-half-the-year ass was not its target market. But if the proceeds help the Coens afford a better class of monkey for their next movie, which may or may not involve a monkey (I don't know anything more than you do), that's fine. I'm not about to dictate.
Here is an idea for a commercial, developed while watching the Super Bowl:
Alternatively, the mother selects the wrong cleaning product. She then has friends over, and they all comment that the place smells like monkey shit.
January 25, 2002
If anyone has a good manual for how to achieve no-mind on demand, please let me know. I have to work on that. It takes me way too long to achieve no-mind right now, and it has been causing some problems of late.
Ted Washington of the Chicago Bears is in the house for today's entry. Ted is great. Any fool who thinks he can run against a defensive line featuring Ted Washington has another thing coming to him. Ted's team was eliminated from the playoffs last weekend, but he's still a great guy and I wanted everyone to know about him. He has his own website. I have added it to the 'Peeps' section on the right and it will remain there until the end of the month.
Okay. Here is something that bothers me: it's great that humans can now communicate with gorillas with sign language, but no one shows any inclination to take the next step, which is to get the gorillas to act as double-agents and relay what the other animals really think of us.
It's the weekend, almost. I like the weekends. I'm not as bothered about working as I used to be, so the build-up isn't as intense as it was back in the day. The anticipation that I used to feel about those fleeting bursts of freedom now takes the abstract form of longing to live in some other part of the world and looking forward to that, as if it's a certainty, as if I'll get to live my twenties over a couple times, as if a life of some kind would be waiting for me when I arrived, some way to bring the melody and leave the static. I read an article about temperate lakes that are forming on an island near Antarctica, and I know I was supposed to bemoan global warming, but all I could think about was whether I had enough money for a down payment on some lakefront real estate. (I don't.)
I wrote a line about a "No-Mind For Dummies" book above, but I had to bury that one in the ancient tomb with the Dialecticon. Shit. There is a gang of sinister Tonight Show gag writers engaged in a vicious psychic war with me.
December 29, 2001
If I could send myself a message through time, exactly one year in the past, here is what I would say: "This would be a good year for that trip to Antarctica that you're always talking about." What a brutal year. I did seven things right. Seven! All year! Everything else, I screwed up. Seriously. I'm not going to list all seven things I did right, although I will say that one was setting a new high score in bowling and another was remembering to bring an umbrella with me when I left for class one day back in August. Also, I got to a bus stop once right as the bus was arriving. Those are 4-6 on the list.
Anyway, is there any clearer evidence that we are living in the future than those Listerine PocketPak breath strips? God damn.
The stage is designed in the image of the modern workplace. A CHARACTER sits at a computer terminal, moping. His CO-WORKER enters.
CO-WORKER: Why are you moping?
The CO-WORKER exits.
CHARACTER: I hate that guy.
December 18, 2001
I want to clarify my position on the firing of pandas into outer space, as I worry that it may have been misinterpreted. Please allow me to explain:
I. I do not want to see all pandas fired into outer space, just one, and perhaps a second, to keep the first one company. I would like to keep a majority of pandas here on earth;
I hope that clarifies my position.
October 19, 2001
I am under constant assault.
Certain parties who are probably terrorists have requested more details about how I broke my finger, most likely because they want to try for themselves. Fuck off, certain parties. I am on to your games. I have grown tired of telling people the real reason it broke (football) and the party line is now that Mike Saul got drunk and belligerent one day and beat the crap out of me.
August 30, 2001
When the rain lets up, I'm going out to find a cookie.
Many people do not realize this, but I am an escape artist on a par with Houdini. The only difference is that, instead of upside-down water cells or straight-jackets hanging from tall buildings, my incredible feats involve getting up off the floor.
I read a story in Boy's Life when I was eight years old that left an impression on me. The narrator was a teen who felt estranged from his father, irritated by dad's tendency to fall to the ground and start shrieking in public. As it turns out, the father was a Vietnam veteran. His small platoon had been surrounded by the enemy and everyone but him had been killed. It was night, so the enemy couldn't find him, but they had the area surrounded, so he couldn't leave; and he knew that in the light of morning, they would find and kill him. He laid a few of his dead comrades on top of himself for cover and sat there all night willing the sun to stay down, focusing on the fact that he was fine as long as the sun never came up. Eventually it did, and for reasons unknown to him, he was never found. The son and the father come to terms with each other, but it's the bit about the sun that interested me most. I kind of feel that way about having to pay my rent. If the 5th of the month never happens, I'm safe. Just have to keep that sun from rising.
Some friends of mine talked me into participating in a fantasy football league with them, because they needed more teams. I don't know anything about football other than the fact that the 1985 Bears were the greatest and that some day the punky QB Jim McMahon will return from injury / rise again to save us all, so if you have any useful knowledge that could help me in the football league, please send it to me.
July 16, 2001
I noticed something, and I want you to know, because I don't think most people know about this, and it's going to change a few things around here: bottle caps, the kind that are on 20oz bottles of soda, that you can buy in convenience stores, of the plastic variety, you can use them with a different bottle of soda than the one they came with. Okay. That was the shittiest revelation ever.
Idea for a viral marketing campaign: choose your target demographic, go to where they live, and litter the entire area with used (therefore low-cost) samples of your product to imply that it is widely employed within that demographic. The goal of Mountain Dew Code Red is to increase the Mountain Dew brand's numbers with black people, according to the pre-release advertising materials around the office of the last place I worked, an ad department, and I live in a strange schizophrenic area where black people are on some blocks (which happen to be run-down) and white people are on other blocks (which happen to be well-maintained), and though I have never seen any black people drinking Mountain Dew Code Red, which is not to say that I haven't seen black people drinking things, because I have seen many black people drinking many things out front on the stoop and in the park down the block, over the course of one week there were a shitload of empty bottles of Mountain Dew Code Red strategically placed and neatly spaced out in the gutters on the blocks with black people, and then there were no more, and never has there been another one. It was odd. If it was an actual campaign, it didn't work, I guess. Were you able to follow that sentence? Writing it was a pleasant, lilting experience.
(baseball) After the game, (Ichiro) Suzuki was asked about making contributions with his defense, while he is struggling on offense. "That's a question the Japanese media would ask," said Suzuki, who is boycotting the Japanese media along with (Kazuhiro) Sasaki, his countryman.
Ichiro! How can you say that? I would never ask a question like that. I challenge anyone to provide an example of me asking that sort of question. Now I'm starting to wonder if Ichiro is just making excuses to avoid talking to me and the rest of the Japanese media. Regardless, I will continue to keep up my end of the bargain. Ichiro has indeed been struggling at the plate, although in light of his fine achievements this season, it would be petty to complain. He will get back on track. Kazuhiro, however, is at the top of his game. Kalamazoo Kazu, as he could be nicknamed if he had anything to do with the city of Kalamazoo, MI, pitched in the ninth inning of a recent game and earned a 'save' for ensuring the victory. Huzzah!
When I grow up, there will be dancing bears.
July 13, 2001
Are you alright? You look tired.
(news) All-Stars Ichiro Suzuki and Kazuhiro Sasaki are fed up with the Japanese media covering their play with the Seattle Mariners. The two players from Japan issued a joint statement Thursday saying they will not talk to the Japanese press corps until further notice. "Their position is that it's important their privacy away from the ballpark be respected," said Tim Hevly, director of media relations for the Mariners. "And until such time they feel the Japanese media gives them that respect, they will be unable to speak with Japanese media."
I know that I wouldn't be traditionally classified as part of the Japanese media, but I can't help but feel bad about this. I admit, I have probably not given Ichiro and Kazuhiro the respect they deserve. My relationship with both of them, especially Kazuhiro, has been tenuous at best. They have achieved many things: home runs, strikeouts, nominations to All-Star teams. I have given those achievements no mention on this webpage, speaking instead about monkeys, many of whom are unambitious and content to let the Yankees of New York retain their World Series crown unchallenged, unlike Ichiro and Kazuhiro, who work very hard toward that end and deserve respect that the "Japanese media", aka I woke up in a strange place, has not given them. Ichi? Kazu? I'm sorry. I think it's great what you've done. From now on, I will talk about Ichiro and Kazuhiro instead of monkeys. Let the healing begin.
If there was any way to do a Man On The Street segment on this webpage without recalling the Onion, I would do one, and I would ask everyone why they are trying to kill me, because I'd really like to know about that.
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.
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Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.