Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Staring at newly affixed office tinsel, wondering why people drag this stuff out every year.

The nice lady in the office who puts this stuff up is like a holiday decorating machine. She is in no more control of her actions than the monkey who presses the lever for cocaine until he starves to death. The caldendar made her do it. Its kabuki. Its false intimacy, pre-packaged and sold in easy-to-digest units of your life. Month before Halloween = put up pumpkin cut-outs and strings of ghost lights. Day after Halloween = put up fake fall foliage and turkeys. Day before Thanksgiving = put up Christmas decorations. Then Valentines day and a huge gap until Arbor day and so on. This lady at work is profoundly unhappy and putting up decorations doesn't seem to make her any happier, it just keeps her from sinking farther.

One can't help but feel that the meaning of the holidays themselves has become subservient to the routine of preparing for them. Indeed, the very economy itself is addicted to a wasteful routine of spending and decorating. We get a quick rush from our holiday crack with a hangover that lasts until Flag Day.

Clay Sail's Holiday Preperations List

1. Buy lights that look like little santas.
2. Buy more snow spray for the christmas tree.
3. Smile when you hear christmas carols at the mall.
4. Smile when you hear christmas carols on every commercial.
5. Smile when you hear christmas carols at the gas station.
6. Smile when you hear christmas carols in the elevator.
7. Smile when they ask you why you're not carroling this year.
8. Get in the "holiday spirit" or else.
9. Be sure to laugh when you hear the latest animal rendition of jingle bells.
10. Buy the "perfect gift" for everyone you know. Don't be cheap.
11. Don't blow your budget buying christmas gifts.
12. Don't wonder aloud if we already have enough stuff to make us happy.
13. Don't miss the sale.
14. Be sure to pick up the hot new toy. The kids will hate you if you don't.
15. Got fruitcake?
16. Does the Ms. really need another bottle of perfume?
17. Yuck. Who eats chestnuts.
18. Only three and a half weeks to go...hang in there ol' boy.

This country needs to rediscover the joy of holiday calm. We need to stop equating holidays with gift-giving and resume paying attention to things that matter: family, friends, good food. All of the things that makes Thanksgiving less irritating than Christmas/Hannukah. I say the same thing year after year, of course. I've said it here. People genuinely agree with me, they really do. Yet year after year the Christmas engine revs up and we have to brace ourselves for an overwealming flood of commericalized goodwill.

That being said, I'm very happy about Thanksgiving. It is one holiday about which people still have their heads screwed on straight (excepting for the poor turkeys, of course.) The absurd opulence that dominates the other year-end holidays is a result of a remarkable material abundance. For that, if nothing else, we must be profoundly thankful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

You've heard of beer-of-the-month clubs. You've heard of book-of-the-month clubs. Well, here's the Pylon of the Month club.
There are three kinds of people in this world:

1. People who aren't clever but think they are.

2. Clever people.

3. People who are cleverer than they actually are.

Which one are you?
Alas, my nanowrimo project is foundering hopelessly. I must be lame or something. Sure, I got a late start. Sure I took a vacation for a week. Sure I'm working feverishly on my music project. Sure there's a holiday this week. Blah blah. Excuses excuses. If anybody needs me, I will be studiously whipping myself with a rusty bicycle chain dipped in vinegar. Seriously, though, I think Nanowrimo should be in January or some other lame month where its too cold to do anything and there are no good holidays. Plus, it could get traction from all those new years resolutions.

But rather than focus on the negative, I will remain positive. This morning I was very productive. I made a record-label logo for my upcoming CD release "Clay Sails: King of the Hobos". Yes, yes -- I'm a musician, of sorts, among many other half-developed talents (I can also curl my tongue and recite 2/3 of the Gettysburg Address).

My newfound record company is called "Adenoid Records" and the logo features an image of an oily, distended adenoid bearing the word "A-D-E-N-O-I-D". An adenoid is, of course, a large lymphatic growth in the back of one's throat. It blocks breathing and prevents quality singing. I don't suffer from this particular condition yet, but it will be a handy excuse should it ever come down to that.

When I am finished mixing down my songs and designing the cover, I'll be distributing free copies to whoever wants one. I'll also be distributing copies free to people whose addresses I currently have, regardless of whether they request one or not. For those of you being hunted by the FBI, I'll put them online in .mp3 format as well. I'll make another announcement when the actual time is nigh, but if you think you might be interested in receiving one and I don't already have your address, send me an email or put it up on the comments section.

Monday, November 24, 2003

This weekend I saw an advertisement in a travel magazine for a "California Wine Tasting Adventure". Does that strike anyone as odd? Is there anything *less* adventuresome, less sedate, less *safe* than strolling around downtown Sonoma (where vehicular traffic is prohibited), sipping Chardonnay (or Chianti, if that's your preference), and watching aged yuppies try to figure out what to do with their miniature greyhounds while in aromatherapy?

Granted, I did not read the fine print on the advertisement. It might have been one of those "swill fortified wine and go rafting on the American River" trips, in which case perhaps the name would be more deserved. Somehow, I think not.

It reminds me of the "California Adventure" theme park Disneyland tried to tack on to its Aneheim park. Granted, I haven't been there, but what's the sense in putting a California-centric theme park in the middle of freakin' California? You want a California adventure, try hiking across the Sierras in speedos with nothing but a fish hook and a granola bar. Try taking LSD at Venice Beach. Try representing the views of the John Birch Society at a Gay and Lesbian rally in Berkeley. Try crossing the border in a busted-up Ford Pinto your cellmate stole from the Arellano-Felix brothers. Those will be adventures.

Going to Sonoma to taste wine is not an adventure. You might very well enjoy yourself. You might even indulge in some great yuppie dining. Fortunately, I can save you time and a trip to California by providing assistance in the latter area. Having perused several gourmet magazines of late, I have assembled what is, I believe, the ultimate synthesis of yuppie food recipes. This is, I beleve, therefore, the

Ultimate Yuppie Food Recipe

Start with half a pound of pan-braized chard, tossed with balsamic vinegar and yellow currants. Add 4 oz. grated, unsweetened chocolate. Allow this to cool for 11 minutes in a cool, dry place (preferrably Tibet or Patagonia, but Vale will do).

Meanwhile, saute 2 small leeks in 1/4 cup of dry Italian sherry. Add pulverized elephant garlic until fragrant. Combine with chard. Sprinkle with 9 oz. feta. Add 1/4 cup baby shrimp (or scallions). Pour sourdough breadcrumbs over shrimp and bake in a clay oven at 300 F for 35 minutes or until crust is golden and shrimp is cooked.

While this is cooking, form arugula lettuce into cups. Place a single sundried grape tomato in each, along with a piece of asparagus (cut diagonally). Add a scoop of baked mixture to each. Top with a sprig of lemon grass and habanero flakes. Add fennel and a pinch of sea salt (Dead Sea only). Wasabi butter may be added at this point, but don't overdo it.

Finally, place everything, along with 1/2 pound ground, steamed gosling into blender and combine until it has the consistancy of a smoothie. Filtered spring water may be necessary to even texture.

Serve chilled.

Friday, November 21, 2003

So I keep getting requests to join Friendster and I went and signed up but it was taking too long and it wanted me to invite people or something, so I bugged out.

Then I got to thinking.

And I realized that I didn't know what it was or how it worked or who exactly used it. I saw a TV blurb that makes Friendster seem like the hottest new networking device since the Pony Express. Even though I barely have time for the friends I currently have, it would probably be nice to make a few more.

Then I started thinking about Abimail Guzman (founder of Peru's "Shining Path"). A week after he was captured and sent to jail, this staunch, hard, charismatic, revolutionary intellectual was whimpering apologies on Peruvian TV. He was shattered. Ripped apart. Broken. The news camera's didn't scroll down to the electrodes on his balls, but the implication was clear: "if we (the Peruvian government) can break Guzman we can break you, too. Your revolution is over." And it was. Ten years of struggle gone just like that. Pfft.

How had he been captured? A member of the Shining Path had accidentally left an address book lying around containing info about the movemen't safehouses. The Peruvian secret police swept in and snagged everybody at once.

Without trying to justify or defend Guzman or his movement, which adopted methods as dubious as those of the enemy it was fighting, there is something of a lesson to be drawn from its destruction: don't make it easy for the Man to find you because someday you might need to go underground.

Now, I'm not necessarily speaking of my own fear here, because I am only a humble intellectual subversive in the most banal and democratic sense. But, who knows if some day it might not be me disembarking at the Finland Station to cry "Peace, Land, and Bread". If I do, do I want the FBI to be able to just scoop up all of my friends on Friendster, grill them, crush them, and force them to reveal my whereabouts? Think about it. I may be living in *your* basement or crashed out on your couch. Or the roles may be reversed and your basement LSD lab might get busted, and I'll be the shmo whose door they knock on next. Dig?

My point is more oriented to historical time than anything in the immediate future, although I *am* truly terrified that the Patriot Act is the beginning of the end of American civil liberties. Simply put, can we really trust that three generations from now the government won't be our enemy? Can we be sure that networks such as the ones on Friendster won't be used to track us, our habits, our ideas? I'm shocked by the naive belief of so many (especially liberals) that the government will ever remain civil toward us, will always protect us from tyranny. History makes it clear that one's own government is often more of a danger than outside enemies. We are taught to believe in "American Exceptionalism" (that we are somehow different from our predecessors), but we ignore the past at our own peril. I cannot describe the entire litany of other seemingly advanced countries who harbored such notions in the past, but they include Weimar Germany, and pre-Napoleonic France.

Cumbersome historical analogies aside, I just want to know if, as a society, the benefits of openly revealing our associations to strangers, governments and corporations via tools like Friendster, might someday turn into a burden some sad, future day when we might very much wish to remain anonymous.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Per a discussion on Pataphysical Graffitti, a discussion has arisen regarding specific terms related to Blogging. I thought I would provide my own take on the definitions of these words and, potentially, even start the worlds first blog dictionary. Hell, I might be the Samuel Johnson (or was it Samuel L. Jackson?) of blog dictionaries.


blog: An online site or log typically characterized by quasi-non-fictional ramblings, ravings, and/or other observations. May take the form of a diary and include images, sound files, etc. Shortened from the words "Web Log".

blogger: Anyone who keeps a weblog. -- ALSO -- A popular site for hosting weblogs.

post: a single entry in a blog

blimey: An English blogger.

blankee: An American blogger that identifies with the American Northeast and Northwest. Sometimes shortened to "blank".

blebel: An American blogger that identifies with the American South. Sometimes shortened to "bleb".

blama: Any form of interpersonal drama that develops in the real-world as a result of anything written on a blog.

blogma: The beliefs of individual bloggers treated as universal, often taking the form of thematic or repeated rants.

blharma: The reciprocation of links and/or comments on the sites of fellow bloggers from whom one has recieved similar treatment.

bloggerel: The daily drippings, ruminations, and observations of most bloggers. Not to be confused with bliterature.

bluster: The tendancy of bloggers to exaggerate or swagger while safely removed from the consequences of their words.

bliterature: The serious fictional writings of a blogger.

bliterati: Blog writers of reknown.

bloet: A blog poet.

bloetry: blog poetry.

blotograph: blog phtography

blogo: the catch phrase or witticism that usually accompanies a blog title.

blotto: the condition bloggers often strive to attain after a lengthy and brilliant posting has vanished unexpectedly.

ogger: to divine the future on a blog

ogg: a chrysalis or seed of a future blog, usually scribbled on napkins, often scrambled. Must be hatched more fully before it becomes a post. Not to be confused with "odge".

odge: a word with no apparent meaning.

aliass: someone who adopts a phoney name in order to negatively comment on someone else's blog.

bloof: a blog goof, typically something obvious and glaring like a factual error or half-completed sentence -- a more extreme version of a "blypo"

blypo: a minor typo in a blog, typically the result of failing to spellcheck or proofread

blore: a really boring blog entry, typically one full of irrelevent personal detail or angst (the word may also apply to the individual responsible for the boring blog)

blurtigo: The helpless, fluttery feeling a blogger gets after publishing a particularly revelatory or risky post.

blink: to think about your next blog posting

weblo: a blog community, especially in the American Southwest

I'm sure I'm missing many, and maybe some of these definitions need adjusting. Anybody got ideas?

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

[Anticipation rippling through the crowd of reporters. People saying "rutabega rutabega" over and over to simulate conversation. Jet fumes. Leer jet engine winding down on tarmac, stairs wheeled sqeakily to plane door. Out comes Clay Sails, hands shielding his eyes against poping flashbulbs and glancing sunlight, dashing down the stairs.]

Reporter: Welcome back, Mr. Sails. May I have a word with you?

Clay Sails: Um. Yeah, sure. Keep it quick. I feel my contract position slipping away with every passing minute.

Reporter: How were the Virgin Islands?

Clay Sails: Beautiful.

R: Did they look like they look in post cards?

CS: Exactly so. In fact, that is almost the only way I knew what they looked like. See, it rained.

R: [laughing] That's the tropics for you!

CS: No. I mean, it rained. When we got there, it was raining and grey. It poured on the ferry ride across to St. John, soaking our luggage (not to mention ourselves). It continued to rain on the taxi ride to the eco-camp at Maho bay on St. John. I say "taxi" ride, but it was really more like the Jurrasic Park ride: raging waterfalls roared across the "road", stranded vehicles clogged drainage ditches, rocks and boulders blocked the way. When we got to the camp our tent-cabin was spare but fairly dry, which was good because the sky continued to produce great heaving buckets of rain. We spent the night huddled in our beds, splashed by water dripping and blowing through the open sides of the tent.

R: Too bad. It must have been kind of cozy, though... Then what did you do? Did you go snorkeling and diving like you'd planned?

CS: Well, the next day it rained until around 11 a.m. and we decided to go on a hike, since the bay was churned up and brown with excessive runoff. We hiked to the ruins of a Danish sugar mill down the road. It was pretty neat. It had a giant windmill and a huge hive of bees. We could see Tortola of the British Virgin Islands (where pirates used to hang out and magic mushrooms are legal). Then we started to walk up the beach. Then it started raining. So we huddled under a very slim tree at the water's edge. Waves splashed us. Rain doused us. Mosquitos bit us. We went back to camp and spent the afternoon huddled in our canvas tent with its open sides, through which great torrents of water had finally begun to course. All of our clothes were wet (and could not dry in the humidity). Our bed started getting wet. Bugs began to seek refuge in our tent since it was dryer than the ground. First it was fire ants. Then it was the roach in my wife's bed...

R: Then what happened...?

CS: Then it rained for another 24 hours. The next morning we decided to go into Cruz Bay, a nice little ferry terminal with a few restaurants and bars. We stood around in the rain, ate some wet (but very delicious) outdoor barbecue at Uncle Joe's. We planned to spend the afternoon getting soused at the least crowded of the town's bars (the other ones were full of depressed locals and tourists). After half an hour and one drink, the bar closed due to flooding. The stairs leading down from the bar looked like a waterfall. So we went back to camp and decided to leave our lovely eco-camp and go to St. Thomas where at least we could dry out a bit and try to salvage our outdoor vacation. But that night the governor of the islands declared a curfew and state of emergency due to flooding and land slides and we were left stranded in our wet tent until morning.

R: That sounds depressing.

CS: Well, we tried to put the best spin on it. It *was* kind of funny, in a bleak sort of way. I mean, what are the chances of getting socked by the worst rain to hit the Islands in over thirty years? The 15 to 20 inches of rain that we got exceeded what they usually get in hurricaines. Anyway, after a morning of trying to snorkel in a warm but very cloudy bay we then went to St. Thomas and rented a beatuiful condo overlooking Water Bay for dirt cheap. The shower didn't drain well, but who cares? It at least had hot water (our place on St. John didn't). We tried to snorkel the next morning but the water was too rough (ironically, as the weather "cleared" from constant rain to just grey and sprinkly, the seas became rougher...). We spent the afternoon reading. Very relaxing. Next day we tried to snorkel again but the lack of sunlight meant the reef was grey, and the currents were still vicious. So we decided to sink the money we saved by not diving into a "sunset cruise" but since there hadn't been any sun for 9 days, the boat operators decided to cancel the cruise. Half an hour later the sun came out and we watched a gorgeous sunset from our balcony. We discovered that the water, which had been shut off that morning due to a catastrophic pipe failure, was still off. Our sour, stinky, wet clothes (which we intended to rinse and dry before coming home) remained sour, sinky and wetter than ever. Our sour, stinky, wet bodies also remained sour, stinky and wet. After several hours of confusion, the water came back on.

R: Then...?

CS: Next morning we packed up and spent the morning dodging cruise ship tourists in Charlotte Amelie (capital of U.S.V.I.) and avoiding people who wanted to sell us time shares and braid our hair. It is amazing what the words "duty free" will do to tourists. They will spend $15,000 on a cruise, but go absolutely nuts at the thought of saving a few bucks on a bottle of Smirnoff. Ordinary, humble, gracious midwesterners will turn into roaring, raging shopaholics, pushing you aside, spraying you with sweat and venom. Anyway, we returned from our vacation agreeing that the Virgin Islands would be wonderful and beautiful under different circumstances (truly paradisical) and that we'd managed to have a decent time in spite of the misadventures, yet it won't go down in the top ten of good vacations. Fortunately for us, our sour, stinky, wet luggage never made it off the airplane so at least we don't have to do laundry when we get home...

R: [glancing at her watch] Well, I gotta go... I'm sorry your vacation wasn't as nice as it could have been.

CS: You know what? Fuck it. A rainy vacation anywhere else is better than working any day. We're damn lucky to be rich enough and mobile enough be be able to get away at all. Even if our yearly alottment of fun wasn't as swell as a postcard, it was still good. Besides, its raining here, too. With a tornado warning until 3...

Monday, November 10, 2003

I usually avoid bitching bout personal (i.e. important) things on this site, but I must say: I and mine have had a shitty couple of weeks. Pardon me if this seems self-indulgent, but my usual happy-go-lucky pessimism has suddenly become a bit less happy and a whole lot less lucky.

Ignoring the profusion of family-and-friend threatening fires, fiasco homestate elections, and general mayhem in the Middle East, here is the short list:

First, my car died. I managed to get it fixed for $600 less than one estimate, and "only" had to shell out $375 in the end. Lucky me.

Then, my mother-in-law had to go into the hospital. Fortunately, it was a "minor" infection but, given the vulnerability of her immune system (due to cancer and ongling chemo).

Then my wife, her mother and father had a very difficult, albeit necessary, family discussion about a memorial service for her. My mother-in-law is ordinarily a very optimistic and private woman, but her positive attitude has gotten battered of late by endless complications and subsequent treatments. Many of you have probably faced similar family crisis yourself in the past. I have, too, to a degree, but not quite to this extent. This was one of the hardest conversations I have ever witnessed. On the bright side, all three of them deserve a medal for unflinchingly facing the reality of the situation -- which is not hopeless, but is not good either. I was very proud of my wife especially because she often doubts her ability to be strong when strength is required (no one else does, but does she listen?).

That is, obviously, the most troubling thing going on at the moment. Karim and his family narrowly avoided death Saturday when a deer caromed off of their car. I guess a busted windshield is a blessing compared to other likely outcomes.

Today at the dentist I learned that I have excellent oral hygeine. I learned that I obviously brush regularly (which I do). I learned that I obviously floss regularly (which I also do). And I also learned that, despite these things, I have $3400 of dental work that needs doing immediately. It turns out that a bunch of old fillings and stuff are falling apart. None of it is cosmetic or optional. When the (very nice) dentist sat down and showed me the cost, I thought he had accidentally put a decimal point in the wrong place.

Let this be a lesson to you if you plan to have kids: never, never, never get them braces until they are old enough to be responsible for their teeth. I had bands on for several years and barely took care of them (I was eleven). When the orthodontist finally took them off, my teeth were basically destroyed. Now dentists just hold buckets under my mouth, bang my head with a sonic-drill, and wait for gold coins to fall out.

On other fronts, instead of putting my nose to the grind stone and tightening the belt to cover the consumation costs of my newfound acqaintence with the DDS, I am instead going to the Virgin Islands. I hear they have excellent mangoes there -- among the best in the world.

Suddenly, things don't look so bad after all.

P.S. I would like to add that the hillarious commentary regarding my last post was a dose of some damn good medicine. Tell the pharma guys to whip me up a perscription of that.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Just finished reading an article about Sylvia Plath. Its PC to admire her and drop her name on occasion, but I can hardly muster the effort. Not for her and not a lot of other people I'm told I should admire.

Fair or not, I usually lump Plath into the Frida Kahlo/Andy Warhol/Jim Morrison camp: overrated pop icons with plenty of admirers but very little in the way of extraordinary talent.

In case you were wondering, I also consider Frank Black, Jack White, and Ozzie Ozbourne overhyped, under-talented, or both. Toss in Jimmy Buffet, Green Day, and that fat fuck from "School of Rock" and its a party.

Maybe I'm just harsh on anybody who gets worshiped, period. I mean, really. Cult-of-personalities get on my nerves. Its perfectly ok to like all of these people for the contributions they made, and I do not hesitate to do this myself. But it often goes too far and borders on the same irrational exuberance that causes people to give money to Benny Hine and follow Joan of Arc to the grave.

People like people for rediculous reasons, and often simply because they've been trained to.


Somebody likes a guy because he has a cool tattoo.


Any freak with 50 buck and a half-hour can have a cool tattoo. You like a cool tattoo, worship the tattoo artist.

You like someone's haircut: go kiss a barber.

You got a crush on someone because they can sing, fine. A bird can sing, too.
So can a battery-operated teddy bear. So can your blue-collar buddy down at the pub if you fill him full of grog and ask him about the old country.

[ungenerously attributed whiny voice]
But I like Sylvia Plath because she can express the feeling of being miserable very well.

Need I repeat myself?


Let me get my party hat.

The most interesting people in the world never get a lick of attention for their talents. That is a fact. They are all around us, all the time. Some of them might even be us, although most of them probably live in places we've never heard of in the third world.

Point is...

Point is...

(What's my point?)

Oh yeah. Point is...too many people deserve praise to be focusing our attentions ad nauseum on the same prettied-up fools, and celeb-du-jours. We'd do ourselves a better turn by paying attention to the people off the screen and the radio, starting with our own worthy selves, whom we denegrate every time we act like people in the limelight are there because they are manifestly more capable than we are.

As for all the perennial yuppie heroes -- you know who they are -- I say line 'em up. Drop nickels in their mouths until they giggle. Stack 'em up like cord wood and see if a fart knocks 'em over. Build great rubbery skyscrapers out of 'em and...oh never mind. I'm raving. Don't mind me at all, just don't be upset if I dont join the choir signing praises for the newest Plath biography or Warhol retrospective.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Author Boot Camp

Yesterday whilst boredly browsing blogger I came across Lisa's blog which, in addition to being worth reading in and of itself, pointed me toward another site in which I think many of you will be interested.

Nanowrimo is a website devoted to the unlikely but fun annual 30-day doggerel dishout known as:

National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. "November")

The rules are simple. By midnight on November 30th you write 50,000 words (@175 pages) of your novel.


No excuses.

No bullshit.

No whining.

No editing.

No procrastinating. (Well, ok, maybe a *leeetle* bit)

But wait, you say, its November 6 already.

[*Clay Sails smacks you, albeit in a neighborly sort of way*] Stop it. You would have wasted 6 days producing ineffectual character studies and outlines anyway. I wasted 6 days and I'll be off in St. John next week, sans computer. I intend to meet the deadline.

But wait, you say, Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa is coming...

Yeah, and Easter and Lent and Flag Day will come after that. There is always *some* holiday or other on the way. Our economy can't operate without them. Go to, order some shyte and have it shipped to your peeps. There, you're off the hook.

But wait, you say, I don't have a novel in me

Bullshit. Everybody's got a novel in them. Several, probably. Spend five minutes wringing your hands, curse the fates that make you vain enough to think you have something worthwhile to say, and then get crankin. I expect to see all of you across the finish line on November 30.

I'm at word 7,863, which is: destroy.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Yesterday on a whim I sought to find my old buddy Jack from elementary school. He was one of my very best friends after I moved from the central coast to Long Beach in first grade. We were inseperable. We played guns in his huge backyard, had kiwi fights, swam, tormented cub scout leaders, and rode bikes around the neighborhood.

My old neighborhood was full of stately victorian mansions and ghosts. In fact, the house of the pedophiliac author in "Donnie Darko" was very likely (I'm giving it a 90% chance here) of being a mansion down the block from Jack's house. It was a huge, tudor style monstrosity built at the turn of the century by an industrialist. The mayor of Long Beach used to live in it. Up the street was the Baldwin house, which you probably know from Ferris Bueller's day off (it was the house Ferris lived in). There were ancient pepper trees and eucalpytus. The Jacaranda bloomed bright lavendar in the spring and innumerable widows lived all alone in huge stucco houses untouched by noise or sunlight.

Jack and I paid little attention to that. We played GI Joe religiously. We shot insects and birds to pieces with BB guns. We watched R-rated movies back when VCRs were new. We played video games on his Atari and a newfangled game system called a "Macintosh" with a screen the size of a wallet. We snuck into a neighbor's house (which was being rennovated) and ran $100 in phone sex charges. We burned stuff with magnifying glasses. We fought neighborhood bullies. We rode ATCs at an avocado ranch near San Diego.

When we got a bit older we began to steal dirty newspapers from 7-11. We'd hustle them off to a hideout in his back yard and study them with an almost comical seriousness, intending to learn all we could about the strange and fascinating phenomenon of "girls". I was with Jack in that very place after a highly successful raid when we came across a 2x2 inch black and white close-up of a spread vagina -- my first encounter with this terrible object of desire.

"Hey, dude, check this out," he said, holding out the newspaper to me.

"God DAMN!" I jumped, back. "What IS it?"

"I think it's a pussy," he said.

"Well, get it AWAY!"

Up until that point in life, I had been under the impression that this particular region of the body was a perfectly round opening (like the top of a coke bottle) covered by a stately triangle of hair. I was simply not prepared for the image before me, which in no way resembled anything I had hitherto confronted in my ten long years of life. Such was my revulsion at discovering that this...this glistening morass of asymetrical folds and lips, within which no discernable "hole" could be fathomed, not only existed as a feature on half of the population of the earth, but that it (or one like it) was to someday host a certain part of my own essential anatomy, that I began to question the logic and sanity of the human enterprise itself. From Adam and Eve to Algebra to the Dukes of Hazzard, the whole facade began to unravel.

From that point forward, or at least for a few months, state-funded sex education would have been wasted on me for I was prepared to join a monastic society and forswear any future involvement with members of the opposite sex.

Anyway, Jack and I were great friends and, I assumed, lifelong playmates.

Needless to say, I was mistaken. I moved away and we lost touch. We tried to maintain some sort of contact for awhile, but its tough when you're in junior high and you can't drive and your face looks like cherry cobbler from zits and all you can think about is sex (my traumatic encounter with a black and white vagina had faded by then). Life moved on.

I didn't find Jack online yesterday, but I did find his mother. She's a member of the Long Beach Board of Education and her name and face are all over the web.

I emailed her and she gave me her son's address, told me he's been married for two years and is working with the handicapped in Long Beach. She also told me another mutual friend of ours, whom I introduced Jack to, is finishing his M.D. somewhere.

I'm looking forward to re-establishing contact, whatever that may mean. Probably I should be nervous about it since so much time has passed, but I doubt it will be. Even if he and I are completely different people than we once were, which I doubt, there's no shame in that. It'll be good enough to just say hi and maybe someday grab a beer and talk about the old days.

At the moment, that sounds pretty damn good, actually.

Your mission for the day: go look up a lost friend. Its as good as making a new one.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Last night in the car a question arose as to the optimal intonation of a voice-generated siren. The controversy began when my wife attempted to mimic a standard North American siren, something like:

eeeeeeeeeeeoooooooooooooo -- eeeEEEEEEEEEEEEoooooooooo....

I admit I was initially impressed and even went as far as to suggest that, should she ever find herself unemployed, a temporary posting on the rooftop of a police cruiser might not be a bad way to earn a dime.

I then tried my own I mean...voice at it, and produced a sound something like this:

weeeeeeeeooooooooo-- weeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEoooooooo -- weoo, weeeo, weeoo

But she shook her head and said that there was NO WAY I'd get a job as a siren because -- catch this -- my siren had syllables like a word and did not, therefore, sound authentic, because siren sounds are supposed to come from the back of the throat.



But anyway. Putting aside my immediate incredulity (for whoever heard of such a criteria in an artificially produced siren sound anyway), I opted to go continental.


"Its not 'knee-gnaw'" she said, scornfully. "That just sounds like somebody saying the words 'knee' and 'gnaw' over and over REALLY LOUDLY. Its more like: EEyaw, EEyaw, EEyah. Like that."

I admit that at first her non-syllabic ululations were difficult to emulate, and it is very possible that she would be First Siren on the varsity siren squad, but its gotten me all bent of shape. We spent the rest of the evening in stony silence, broken only by my occasional leaning over her sleeping form and saying "KNEE-GNAW, KNEE-GNAW, KNEE-GNAW" very loudly in her ear.

Don't get me wrong. I love my wife and all, but she's friggin crazy if she thinks her siren skilz are superior.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Its 2:14 p.m. and I must...have...stimuli...

I think I'll make up Texas-isms (which, for the uninitiated, is essentially the spontaneous generation of folksy-sounding sayings and two-bit wit that sticks in the brain and makes people think Texas is somehow funnier than it actually is):

I'm bored as a plank of straight-sawed pine at a wood-bending party.

I'm as sorry about work as a night-shift custodian at a midnight horse hanging.

I'm as sick of working in a pink office as a maggot with a belly full of whiskers.

It's so quiet in here you could hear a cactus snore.

My boss is so horney he'd suckle hog knuckle and fuck a yucca.

This town is duller than a axe-bit in a Okie's noggin.

My legs is as sore as a seven day old doggie on a drive to San Ann-tone.

My ear is so chewy it could bounce a gator's jaws.

I gotta piss so bad if you hung me upside down in a dry well I'd fill up the sky.

My drawl is so slick it could make a toweling owl drown.

I'm so tired I could sleep on a bed of scorpions, draped in a rattlesnake, on an armadillo pillow.

This passtime is so stale it'd make the air in a tent full o'wranglers seem like perfume in a portable peach orchard.

[We interrupt this post to bring you an important announcement: anybody interested in my movie review of "Donnie Darko" as found in the post below should instead skip it and go directly to Jimmy Drawz' October 10 review on Pataphysical Graffiti. It makes many of the same points I do, but funnier-like and in one of the author's most successful mediums: the socratic dialog between rival alter-egos. Plus it quotes Liebnitz, and uses the term "cretin".]
i devoted this weekend to watching movies. not bad if you're into that sort of thing. hey, i'm in a "no caps" mood this morning, apparently. it started as an accident but now its a "theme". if i let it go long enough it might become a "trademark". unless the cure or e.e. cummings beat me to it.

Agh. Can't keep that up. Its exhausting being purposefully ungrammatical. The rules are just too ingrained. My third grade teacher (Ms. Leppick) would be proud. She told my mom that I was a bit slow and would never amount to much. She looked like an older version of Ronald Reagan with breasts.

But back to my weekend. I started it off with "Kill Bill" which, given the amount of negative press it got, I was quite happy with. It was a polished gem. Sure it had exaggerated, gory fight scenes. Sure, it was pointless and pretentious. But in the end it did exactly what it was supposed to do: be cleverly and ferociously entertaining. It reminded me of any latter-day John Woo movie, except that it was actually good and it had true (or should I say "new") style. Gen X-ers would be proud. I'm glad Tarantino has taken his time imbetween movies, because he could easily have fallen into a successful formula (like Woo) and get really boring. "Kill Bill" didn't do that, though. Neither did it have an annoying and self-aggrandizing Tarantino cameo, nor feature John Travolta (whose ressurection after "Pulp Fiction" I will curse Tarantino for until the end of his days, which I hope are filled with interminable pain and loss).

I also saw "Objective, Burma!" on DVD. Its a 1945 Errol Flynn flick about a commando raid into Burma. I find the sense of humor and drama in old movies to be fascinating, if only for the fact that (at least in this one) there was none. Or at least none that translated across two generations and five decades. It took 30 minutes to explain the military situation, 15 to show the troops playing baseball, and 10 more to get them inserted into the jungle. The next 45 minutes were spent on shots of sweaty men walking through Malibu canyon. Whenever the Japanese showed up, there were brief firefights replete with the hackneyed "go on without me, boys" lines and guys pulling grenade pins with their teeth. Imbetween, there was banter about girls and C-rations. Then it was over.

It was a film that could never be made today on PC grounds alone. The soldiers called the Japanese "monkeys" (or "Japs") and at one point an erudite ivy-league correspondent on the mission became irrationally and unusually afroth about how the Japs needed to be exterminated -- every last one of them. (I waited for an admonishment -- even a subtle one -- denouncing this genocidal outburst, but none ever came). From a cultural perspective, "Objective, Burma!" was probably more historically accurate to the actual sentiment of people fighting in WWII.

I also took Butchie's suggestion and dropped "Donnie Darko" in the slot. I always assume that I am the last person to see any great movie, so I won't worry overmuch about spoiling it for you, but don't read any further if you haven't seen this wierd, somewhat surreal, and highly intelligent flick. When I got to the end of it, I turned the tv off and thought:


It left my mind roiling with conflicted emotions, snatches of songs I hadn't heard for years, and images both wonderful and terrible.

Any movie that leaves me that mixed up is worth its weight in gold. Most movies guide you to a simple moral like a tornado toward a trailer park. "Donnie Darko" with its themes of insanity, time travel, and teenage angst does not. In the end, Darko sacrifices himself and, in so doing, undoes all of the bad *and* the good things he has done throughout the course of the movie. I haven't entirely sorted it out yet, and will probably need to see it again, but I look forward to it. It surprised me like M. Night whats-his-face and the Cohen brothers (esp. "Barton Fink"). Go see it.