Friday, February 27, 2004

My readers have grown accustomed to a high standard of discourse on this blog. They have come to expect enlightening repartee,, and presentation of fresh ideas. Recognizing that you are a member of this increasingly large, devoted, and valued set of people, I present to you a theory which I hope will live up to your standards. Be advised that it is not mine, for I picked it up at least secondhand from a very old friend of mine, whom I occasionally refer to as "Unbreakable". Owing as to how this selfsame individual will soon be marrying another best friend of mine (the lovely and ultra-talented "Magic Fingers"), I can only offer my congratulations at his discovery of not only a peerless bride, but also of a method of enhancing certain universally shared moments of (ideally) quiet reflection called, for lack of a better title,


The gyst of this theory is simple, and it is at least tangentially supported by many axioms, a few of them being "good things come to those who wait", "patience is a virtue" and such like.

The basic idea is this: upon discovery that one must forthrightly or in some nearby future engage in a certain, undainty and olfactorily from the southernmost extremity of one's digestive tract, one ought to attempt to postpone said evacuation for as long as possible in order to achieve the sensation of maximum relief (and therefore pleasure) at the moment of release.

Here is a less diplomatic translation: The next time you have to push corn, try to hold it as long as you can and see if it doesn't improve the experience dramatically.

I have been a student of this unconventional theory for some years and I can tell you: it really works. The exact ratio of temporal delay to increased pleasure is still a sum that requires some adjustment, but the basic idea is fairly well enshrined by now. Here is the formula where T is time imbetween recognition (R) of and redressal (r) of the problem, and where p is quantified, physical pleasure:

R - r = T
T = P

A word of caution is in order, however, for an attempt to maximize one's pleasure by increasing T can result in either an unexpectedly high degree of discomfort or, in rare cases, administration by proximate observationists of unflattering and embarrasing nicknames such as "crap-ass" or "poopy pants".

If anyone wishes to test this hypothesis over the weekend and report back on Monday, this post will be right here where you left it.




Thursday, February 26, 2004

Today I went to the following site
, and the links in the "games & quizes" section amused me greatly. Here are some results:

Which serial killer are you most like?

Charles Manson

Face it dude, you're out of your gourd. You are a P-H-R-E-A-K. With a PH... because that's even more strange than a regular freak. What is WRONG with you??

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
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I was 53% Dixie in the Yankee vs. Dixie quiz (which is implicitly dismissive of Westerners)

I got 9 out of 16 right in the "Jailbait or Legal" quiz.

My Chinese name is "Ran Man Tan" (I'm satisfied and smooth, apparently)

Which Radiohead song are you?

Black Star

I get home from work and you're still standing in your dressing gown. Blame it on the black star...

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
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This is my favorite:

Which awesome creature are you?

Bob Saget

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
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What do you look like?


Personality Test Results

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I swear I drink beer. I even like it. However, according to this test:

What type of Beer drinker are you?

I don't drink beer

I am a woman, or I want to be one. Maybe one day I will become a nun, so that I can fulfill my fantasies.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

I knew there was a reason I despise Astrology. Here is the honest-to-god Tarot card I represent:
I Am

Which tarot card are you?

As a profoundly certain as I am that human beings are (no offense to the humans among you) too willing to believe the well established mythology of past generations to be trustworthy about spiritual matters, I cannot help but find myself inspired (yes, I said "inspired") by the wise words of a certain (formerly voracious) flesh-devouring philosopher
among us, as found in the comments section of Sahalie's
blog. Said words of wisdom appear in the context of a discussion about existential meaning:

"Everything we've ever done is just as unimportant as everything we will
ever do, in the grand scheme of things. That's why the grand scheme of
things sucks, and should be ignored. It's a question of focus, and
context, and emphasis. Squint until you see only the portion of the
universe that you can do something about, and live there."

Although by my nature I have much difficulty ignoring grand schemes, I think I am not alone when I append this well-considered perspective with the following word:

A- fuckin-men.

[rant mode ON]

Clear Channel monopoly = censorship = phony morality = unamerican.
Shrill religious fascists, Howard Stern is not responsible for raising your kids.
Shrill religious fanatics, freedom means mind your own fucking business.
Sputter. Rage. Bitch. Moan.
Time to move to Holland.
'nuff said.

[rant mode OFF]

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Alright. Having junked the last two posts I wrote (one by accident, one on purpose, not to tease you or anything: they really were junk, all rambly and full of irrelevant branting (that's a combination of rant/banter, I invented the word myself, you can take credit for it if you like, but I'd have to kill you, right after I get out of prison, unless you're in here with me, or unless I'm lying about my location at the moment, which I am (unless you consider Northern Virginia a prison, which many do), and except for the inventing the word "branter" thingy, which is true, but if you're still unclear as to what the hell that word means I suggest you begin at the beginning of this already overlong parenthetical, which, due to the poor choice of the author, exists within another even longer aside)).


I got out of that maze.

That is perhaps the worst, most annoying blog intro ever written.

I'll not be attempting that again. Promise. From now on its nothing but straight shooting from me. The irony of "straight shooting" is, of course, that all shots go straight *somewhere*. Its only with intimate knowledge of the the intentions of the shooter that we can determine if something has missed its mark or not.

Few would argue that the true intentions of another individual can be known. Especially killers, who are notoriously odd and unpredictable. I.E. the following vocal exchange as captured on the controversial Zapruder film:

CIA Operative: Poor shooting, Lee.
Oswald: Not so. Governor Connely's wrist is *toast*, man. I hit it from 300 yards.
CIA Operative: But you blasted the freakin' *president*! Popped him in the cabeza.
Oswald: I did? Holy shit...

So forget straight shooting. Admit it -- you have no idea what I'm aiming for here. Sure, you've got a vague notion that I'm attempting to entertain you with some sort of zany, concocted JFK parody, but what if I spin out of control and leave you hanging, coffee cup half-grasped, boss peering over your shoulder wondering why you are reading the line:


What if, eh?

Well, nothing I suppose. Not even a sigh. Not even a blink. Just...nothing. Is it because you can't be bothered to care about anything in general, or about this post in particular. Or is it because your boss is nowhere to be found, or you are your own boss, or your online behavior (unlike mine) is not being secretly taped by the government, or you are not sexually intrigued by my offer, or I'm not offering a fair trade?

Or could it simply be that you know I don't have any F.U.P. to trade, so you're hoarding your coke.

You greedy bastard.

I'm on to you.

But I'll let it slide this time.

I'll just get down to business, explain what I'm really doing here, taking up your screen:

Somebody needs to write a computer program that informs me what the next book I should read ought to be.

Sure I know its "more fun" to "interact" with "real" people, get informed suggestions, make up my own mind, etc. I've had enough of that. Making one's mind up is a given in any situation, even when somebody drops some straight troof, some irrefutable science.

I want a program with a fine-tuned algorithm that, when I input the proper parameters (i.e. how I feel about a list of various books I've read), it says: the book you are in the mood for is XYZ.

It could even give a percentage chance that the books it suggests will be exactly the right ones for any given mood or moment:

Celine's "Journey to the End of Night" 76%
Kurt Vonnegut's "Timequake" 56%
Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes" 0%

It could be tailored to your own, personalized definition of funny/sad/happy/serious/fluffy. If you thought "All The Pretty Horses" was lighthearted and funny, it would suggest you read "The Bible" next time you want a laugh.

After awhile, your personalized algorithm would take all the guesswork out of your next book-purchase. No more accidental discoveries that, hey, this well-loved author doesn't tickle your own, admittedly demented, but necessarily subjective, fancy.

Just an idea.

Get on it, you.


Monday, February 23, 2004

Top 8 Pressing Question sets for This Instant:

[not to undermine my latest political posting, see below, but this list is extremely urgent.]

1. Do I need to get an ipod? What makes these gadgets so much better than other mp3 players? Don't I need a new music collection before I need a new gadget to house the same old stale collection I currently possess (old wine, new bottles).

2. Of all the great songs on the Outkast album, why is suckass "Hey Yah" the smash hit? Why is noodly, snooze-worthy "Love Below" even in the same package as the somewhat more badass "Speakerbox"? Back when I was a kid, if two different musicians released two seperately made albums, they were considered two different artists and released were seperately, rather than as a double album that costs twice as much. It reminds me a bit of these chain restaurants that make you wait twice as long to give you twice as much food and charge you twice as much for it. Why didn't "The Coup" get more props for "Party Music" -- its better hip hop than Outkast, although Outkast gets credit for originality and daring.

3. Where did that cool ditty I woke up humming this morning go? (Something about a "rope float at the waters edge")

4. Why did I wait all these years to finally read Terry Pratchett who is, I am quite sure after having carefully considered the matter for 1.4 seconds, surreptitiously responsible for influencing much of what I previously considered my own, original sartorial wit? (props to Lapsed Cannibal for re-acquainting me with the word "sartorial")

5. Are the "Strokes" really worth all the hype? Are they (unlike Oasis was supposed to be) the *real* "new Beatles"? The newest inheritors of the (*yawn*) Radiohead tradition? The next breakout boy-band ala O-town? If someone would please inform my eyebrows via IM or bicycle courier, I (as well as they) would think its cool. They are becoming tired and bored with repeatedly having to shoulder the entirety of my personal expressiveness as allowed under current hepster regulations.

6. Did I get a rise out of you implying that radiohead bores me? (Don't worry -- it was a calculated provocation designed to shake you out of your inherited middle-class complacency, to demonstrate that no self-pitying rock star will save you from the baseless, pointless, foundationless sneering of philistines like me.) (Note: said self-referential, tiresomely ironic circular foucaltian post-punctuational statement as outlined above was not intended for you, Beefstick. I am terribly sorry that your underpriveleged socioeconomic status caused you to drop that butter knife into your landlord's belly fifty seven times and, if Radiohead helps you overcome the numbing woodscrew screech of your cellmate's snores, so be it. Nobody would dare take that away from you).

7. Why have I heard nothing about the Sopranos of late? Is it still on the air?

8. Why has nipplegate fallen off of everybody's radar? I thought Janet Jackson's lewd and liscivious conduct at the Super Bowl was really going to be a harbinger of some good, old fashioned soul-searching.

See Ralph Run

So about this Nader running again thing...

I'm of a mixed mind about it.

I've always been a fan of Nader. He's been fighting for common people since before most of us were born. Unlike most figures in the public eye, Nader doesn't apologize for distrusting corporations. He repeatedly points out that corporations exist to serve themselves first, and that all other concerns are secondary. In the neo-con corpratavist world, the real interests of real people are always subservient to the needs of money. People without economic clout are, at best, to be pitied and ignored. At worst, they are to be blamed for their paucity and their unwillingness to accept inferior paying jobs. To the monied powers who repeatedly prop up their doxied-up yesmen, public instruments like government exist only to serve the priveleged. The more money a person has, the more democracy he or she can buy.

Corporate democray hails civilization based on consumerism and excess. It's mantra is "economy" and "growth" as if these abstractions were both the panacea and the rationale for all of human existence. ("Get in line, robot. Make me widgets. When you're done, buy a car. If you're feeling blue, take this pill. If you're still feeling blue, shut up and watch football.)

Nader never for a second believed in that kind of "democracy".

To him, democracy should reflect the wishes of the people, not giant, unaccountable institutions like corporations. To him it is back to the basics -- just as the founding fathers envisioned.

Folks like Al Sharpton say Nader's in the race to stoke his own "ego".

Not only is this laughably hypocritical, but it is also complete bull.

Nader is a hardened political veteran, seasoned in the trenches, doing what he does best: fighting for things he cares about. I disagree with aspects of his vision, but I still respect him immensly and he is just as qualified as the other ivy-league candidates in the presidential puppet-show.

Democrats who think Nader should just shut up and get in line haven't gotten the message yet: they are not entitled by birthright to the loyalty of the left. They have to earn it. They have to fight for it.

That being said, it is unlikely I will vote for Nader. I think another Bush victory would be worse than Kerry or Edwards (despite Nader's insistance that they are the same). But I don't think Nader actually expects my vote (or yours, for that matter). I think he's in the fray to speak for a wing of the left whose voice has been drowned out by jangling moneybags and shrill religious fanaticism.

It is difficult to argue that America is not a fat and self-absorbed empire. Nader offers a sensical brand of tough-love message to a country that he very much loves: reform or perish.

I conclude my endorsement with the following thought, equally applicable to members of every political persuasion:

If reformers waited for the green light from the establishment, they would never inspire change.

So I say:

Go Ralph, Go.

Friday, February 20, 2004

The verdict is in, folks.

I'm a literary crumudgeon, profoundly more able to put other people's writing down than produce original work even half as good?

Well, yes...but no. The verdict is this:

Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" sucked.

Damn, I hate saying that. Gaiman is one of those guys that I really want(ed) to like. He's intelligent, hip, down-to-earth. His books are bestsellers and appeal to many people whose tastes I very often share. He even has a *blog*
, however dull.

Plus "Neverwhere" -- an earlier work of his -- has gotten high marks and still seems promising.

I shouldn't be so angry about it, but I had such high hopes for "American Gods". After reading 1/2 of Kim Stanley Robinson's plodding "Red Mars" (see rant below), Neil Gaiman was my surefire go-to guy: he was going to be the one who rescued science fiction from itself...again.

Didn't happen.

The first half of the book went well. We got introduced to a main character -- an ex-con with the unlikely, juvenile (and never justified) name "Shadow" (no last name). Shadow used to read books but then he turned into a strong, silent guy and stopped reading books. Pretty deep develpment for a meathead, yah? Well, Shadow soon finds himself on a mysterious quest for a crafty old man, who turns out to be a nordic god. Shadows wife comes back to life as a zombie, but they are still in love. You know, the usual "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girl comes back as rotten (but sexy) undead" story.

A few more characters appear. Gaiman gets both mystical and surreal by adding lots and lots and *lots* of dream sequences, as well as "reality" sequences that seem like dreams. I, the reader, predictably lose track of reality, but don't care. Its not worth the effort trying to sort out what's supposed to be "real" in a book like this.

[digression to all fiction writers out there]

Hey, I'm talking to *you*. Don't do it. Please, please, *PLEASE* dispense with fictional dream sequences.

It is bad enough to listen to real people talk about dreams, but in fiction, by definition (since there can't be irrelevancies in a novel), dreams become elevated to the status of oracle. This means that every single fictional dream sequence contains literal symbolic information for the story. In addition to being unrealistic (face it, real dreams rarely correspond to discrete reality), such devices are tedious and hackneyed. Cliche.

[/digression to all fiction writers out there]

But ack to "American Gods."

Midway through the book we learn that the main character is tangling with a whole pantheon of new and semi-forgotten gods. So far the development has been a bit slow, but his skill as a writer (i.e. putting coherent thoughts and images down on a page, which he can do fine) keeps it moderately interesting. There is potential here for a good story, or at least for some really slick, Jackie Chan-style showdowns with gods.

185 pages later, after very little else has happened, a half-described, "invisible" battle begins between some of the gods. The main character -- whose story we still don't really know, whose motivations are not at all clear, and who gets less and less interesting as the book goes on -- sacrifices himself (quasi) Jesus-style for no other reason than he "keeps his word". (This is supposed to be the emotional climax of the novel, where we learn that humans have to keep their word but gods can break their word at will.) Note: the book also uselessly implies that many of the gods in questions are not gods at all but are culture heroes. This interesting but undeveloped postmodern description does not provide much help when the main character goes to a very ordinary Hellenic underworld, where some egyptian gods proceed to judge him.

My lack of interest only increases as Shadow woodenly progresses through a labrynth of existential decisions in the underworld.

Other characters spontaneously realize that he is instrumental to saving them from their own deaths. Even though gods can't really die. Or something.

Shadow comes back to life.

I'm supposed to feel an emotion of some sort (other than boredom).

I don't.

The story ends.

Then there is a 35 page epilogue in which the main character spontaneously solves the only potentially interesting part of the book: a half-developed mystery involving missing children in a Wisconsin town. This mystery has nothing to do with the main story other than it involves yet another forgotten pagan god.

The epilogue ends.

Then there is a 5 page postscript in which the main character meets a new incarnation of his friend/nemisis from the main story. Some ambiguous mystical bullshit is discussed, but nothing happens and the main character (as lifeless as always) does not invest himself in any sort of meaningful response.

We are supposed to infer that he is now deep and wise and above the fray.

Or something.

The story ends.


I throw it down in disgust, not hating Gaiman so much as hating a publishing industry that pushes books like this as, somehow, "great". Great books don't rely upon endless half-developed enigmas or needlessly opaque characters. Great books teach you how to read them and eventually justify even the confusion readers feel. Great books elicit emotion. Great books end in interesting and surprising ways. Great books don't have three seperate (and interminable) (and unsatisfying) endings.

In sum: "American Gods" is the book equivalent of the latter two Matrix flicks: all potential, no delivery.

Save yourself the trouble: avoid it.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

This comment initially appeared in response to Lapsed Cannibal's blog for today, February 19, 2004 entitled "Our Broken Interface". I decided not to clutter his blog with another one of my own barely-coherent ravings. So picture the item featured below, there:

Apologies in advance for hijacking this comments section -- especially since I've posted a nearly identical comment to the one above some six or seven months ago. You see, I am a Pavlovian blogger: something pushes a button or reminds me of one of my pet ideas, and I'm off and running, regardless of how many times I've gone over it before. Sometimes I forget that this blog thingie keeps a record of every single word I write and is thus cross-referencable (a real word: I made it up myself).

But I realized that this post ["Our Broken User Interface"] mentioned a word that struck utter terror and opprobium in my already acid-burned heart:


You, too, huh?


This word. Sends shivers. Down my spine.

Why, you ask? Has my mental fruit finally fallen to the flies? No. Let me explain.

You see, "kernal" is the only recognizable combination of letters in a series of 'words' that my laptop cheerfully displays upon crashing, burning, and refusing even to reboot until I insert a paperclip into a tiny blue orifice hidden on its underside, after which it reproves me for not shutting it down properly. Then it spends its sweet time scanning the disk for "errors".

I often yell things at this blue screen with its interminable yellow status bar. Things like,
Hey, fucknugget: the error is located somewhere in that kernal thingy. Blame it, not me. I was trying to fix the problem. Also, blame the fine engineers at HP who think its a great innovation to have a machine with a manual "on" button, but only a virtual "off" button." (Since it runs on a battery, I can't even reboot by using the tried and true method of looking over my shoulder, wincing, and yanking out the power cable.)

This "kernal" crash happens frequently and, although the computer is obviously trying to communicate with me by telling me what is wrong, it simply cannot. It only communicates in geek-speak, which according to the idealized pie in the sky snake oil salesmen who pawn these hardware "solutions" off on us, can be readily translated into english by someone cryptically referred to as the "vendor".

Pardon me, but who exactly is the "vendor", exactly?

Is it the Nigerian guy who sold me the laptop, secondhand, at the computer show all those years ago?

Is it the 11 year old Taiwanese kid who bolted Unit #788 to Slot 57c at 10:18 p.m., October 5, 1998?

Is it the well-meaning voice on the phone in the vendor's tech-support department in Bangalore?

Simulated Conversation With Tech Support #1:

Tech Support: Hello. Where would you like to go today. Ask me about our new product [insert product name here].

Me: Hi. Your company made my computer so I'm calling you. My kernel is broken.

Tech Support: Pardon me?

Me: A kernal. You know. That thing that my computer keeps telling me is in error, just before it breaks, freezes, and then blames me for failing to shut it down properly.

Tech Support: It must be some kind of software that you installed.

Me: Ok. How do I get rid of it?

Tech Support: You'll have to contact the vendor, sir.

Me: I thought *you* were the vendor.

Tech Support: No, sir. We make only computers and software.

Me: How do I figure out who the appropriate vendor is?

Tech Support: The manufacturer of the software is the vendor, sir.

Me: How do I know which software is causing the error?

Tech Support: Whatever software is running at the time of the error, sir.

Me: It only happens when I'm shutting the thing down and you guys make the operating system!

Tech Support: There is no need to shout. I did not make the operating system, sir.

Me: Pardon me...[*banging phone on head*]

You see, I cannot possibly decipher messages directed at me that contain phrases like: "A Runtime Error has occurred. Do you wish to debug? Line 1488. Object Expected." This resembles English, true. It even has diction, punctuation, and a suggestion for solving the problem. I get it: I must supply an "object".

Great. That's helpful. What object, exactly? "Debugging" solves none of my questions, by the way. It only brings up another window with some kind of invitational interface for me to supply my own (presumably functioning) code. Thanks a lot, fuck-knobs. If I wanted to write my own program I wouldn't have paid $79.99.

Faced with this type of error, I can do only one thing. Call tech support.

(Simulated conversation with tech support #2)

Me: Hi. I spoke to someone at your company a few minutes ago. I just want to know: What object is expected? I cannot load web pages without scrolling through dozens of these errors.

Tech Support: I'm sorry, sir?

Me: My internet browser needs an object of some kind but it does not tell me what sort of object. Are we talking about a refrigerator here? A can of nonstick cooking spray? A spark plug?

Tech Support: Sir?

Me: It needs an object in Line 1488. You know...line 1488?

Tech Support: I do not understand the nature of the problem, sir.

Me: Nor do I. That's why I'm calling you!

Tech Support: Do not yell at me. I did not write the program, sir.

Me: Your company wrote the program. That's why I'm calling you.

Tech Support: We no longer support that platform, sir.

Me: Well, who does? I only bought it three years ago!

Tech Support: You'll have to contact the vendor, sir.

Me: Pardon me a moment. [*walking outside*]

Or my favorite: the internal web site search engine.

I go to a site like "Motorbikes R Us" and type the word "motorbike" into the search field at the top of the site, whereupon the engine ("powered" by Google) returns 7,554 hits. The number one hit, which is a whopping 76% correct, is for:

motorized brassiere

The next hit, which answers my question 54% of the way, is for: & 6%)

Hit #3 is a defunct site for do-it-yourself butt sculpture kits.


Now, I'm not demanding that anybody provide a machine that actually offers me a "solution" to anything. That would cause grave job insecurity to the folks who spend their lives working on making things so unecessarily complicated. Instead, I simply want a machine that can tell me, in plain english:

1. What the exact problem is.
2. Who I can rely upon to fix it.

-- or, if nothing else --

3. Where I can place the massive, ever-expanding chip that's been growing upon my shoulders over all the years I've spent feeling entitled to a smoothly functioning piece of machinery.

blah blah blah

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Fox News has a huge expose today. Following on the heels of their series on fake diamonds and fool's gold they are going to show us how to avoid being ripped off by...

(brace yourself)

...counterfeit purses.

Let me rephrase that:

Counterfeit purses.

Nope. Still doesn't make sense.

What exactly is a "counterfeit purse"?

Either you bought a purse, or you didn't.

Maybe people go into the store to buy a purse, but walk out with a shoe instead.

Dupe [*scratching head*]: I can't understand it. Nothing fits in this purse.

The wicked purse-salesman, gleefully counting his money, giggles as the hapless customer wanders away, uncertainly.

Dupe: Well, at least this shoelace fits in my new purse. I'm glad I paid $11,744 for it. Think of what I would have gotten if I'd only paid a lousy $4500.

But that's not the end of the story.

Not by any stretch.

Because when the customer realizes her mistake, she will angrily throw the counterfeit purse into the street (contributing to the growing "one shoe in the street" phenomenon that so many people mistakently link to alien visitations). Then, she will be forced to go to a different store to buy a *genuine* Hermes Birkin handbag, replete with hologrammed logo. This will set her back another bucketload of dough, causing her to miss her mortage payment, default on child support, etc.

All of this because her $11,000 handbag was a fake.

We have Fox news to thank for exposing this despicable sham.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

This is my third attempt to post today. I wrote the first one, laughed at it, then erased it. I wrote the second one, laughed at it, and saved it for later. Now, here I am, with no fresh ideas but plenty of time on my hands.

An interesting expression, that.

Time...on my hands.

What would that look like, exactly? A Dali clock melting over my pink behangnail'd fingerknobs? Some fluid akin to blood (but iridescent and invisible at the same time, or perhaps, as an Iowa writing seminar student would say, "luminous") splashing down my webbed knucklegrubbers?

I wish English was German.

That way we could string together words into whole sentences, drink copious quantities of schnapps, and say "ja ja!" while an oo-pah band plays in the backround.

Germans know how to have a good time, that's for sure.

Hey, forget about Hitler for a minute, will ya?

His problem was that he didn't wear those cute little shorts often enough. Leiderhosen.

How can a person be angry when they've got on a feathered hat, shorts, buckled shoes, and suspenders?

Answer: they can't.

Put 'em in tricornered hats and hose, and you'll have revolution tomorrow (see "French Revolution" and "American Revolution" if you doubt this claim).

But none of this is my point.

Because I don't have one.

I had a pretty lousy weekend -- thanks for asking.

I went to two funerals and Sunday church, spent a total of 14 hours on airplanes and in airports, and lost a dollar playing poker in a game against two ministers and a nuclear reactor salesman. During the second funeral an old woman in the pew in front of me had a head scab the size of a crabapple. Very un-chewy. I thought it was going to roll off of her shiny, red scalp and give me a toe concussion. Throughout the whole service it exuded unwholesome vapours that caused my nephew Evan to erupt in uncontrollable fits of laughing, crying and speaking in tongues. Evan is almost 18 months old. Far too young to be exposed to such hazards.

Anybody have a worse weekend?

My wife's mother did. Her cancer-related pain ramped up to excruciating levels, sending her, insensible, to the hospital. The doctors are trying to solve the myriad problems right now but her prognosis is undertain. Needless to say, things are rough for all of us. Compared to that, my depressing weekend was a breeze.

Not to throw a damp blanket on this lovely, pointless, post. I was doing so well with all of my talk of yodeling geeks and precarious head scabs.

On other fronts, Neil Gaiman's American Gods is entertaining. Apologies all around to dissing favorite authors in the below post. My wholly subjective tatses are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Blogger, Blogger advertisers, or the world at large. Nor should they be construed as set in stone, unmalleable, or fully-formed even within my own mind. I learn most of what I know from folks very much like yourself (except you, Automaton 87 -- there's *nobody* quite like you) and appreciate any and all correctives, commentaries, rants, and/or communiques which well-intentionedly set me straight on various issues.

Now, for the moment this post has been waiting for: a purpose.

I want to introduce you to an individual whose television performance a few weeks ago so touched my heart with its utter disregard for anything approaching the contrived, brand-conscious manipulation that we have come to construe as "image", that I have been tempted to declare the day of his national outing a federal holiday.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you do not know the man, nor even the legend of his mysteriously charismatic personae, I welcome you to learn about the one,

the only,
William Hung

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Since Blogger is taking its sweet time updating my last, very interesting (koan-ical) post, I will take my own sweet time composing another. I have a dilema, see, and part of it is that you will not be able to help me with it because I will be forced to decide before you read this post.

Hence it is pointless.
Hence I am howling into void.
Question marks are bouncing around in my skull, hooking my cheek and pulling me toward some really grim, happy place where everybody is nice and speaks through puppets surgically affixed to their *real* faces. (I swear this place exists. I read about it in a magazine.)

My dilema: what to read next.
Let me preface this by telling you what I just finished, so you can catch my mood.
I finished Vernor Vinge's "A Fire Upon the Deep" which, although it has a completely unrelated title to anything in the story, was nigh fantastic. The best SF I've read in years. It reminded me of David Brin's "The Uplift War". Then I read that both Vinge and Brin are/were profs at San Diego state and the mind went click click (i.e. They are pseudonymic reflections of the self-same individual, probably robot generated. Am I on the right track here?)

So Vinge was so good that I decided to unswear off of Science Fiction forever. I decided I would read it with relish and ignore the possibility that I would spend my life reading hoplessly high-concept, preachy but poorly executed books like (brace yourself):

"A Canticle for Leibowitz" by Arthur Miller Jr. (Ok so we're doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Did we really need to get through 300 pages of filler just to hear it?)

"Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card. (I'd rather play a video game than read about someone else playing one. Oh and the punchline is ok, but doesn't justify the rest. )

"Ringworld" by Larry Niven. (Even books about cheerio shaped alien worlds need to have endings. And plots. And drama.)

"Foundation" by Isaac Asimov. (I know you're "the man" but a book about a library should have 3d characters, not just cardboard props to hang a good idea on. And don't tell me to read your sequel: if you can't make the first book good, don't expect me to read a second.)

"Rendezvous with Rama" by Arthur C. Clarke. (If I wanted to read about people wandering around a big, inhuman place wondering what the heck it means, I'd read "House of Leaves" again -- *there's* a book for you.)

"Eon" by Greg Bear. (Its a good thing you wrote "Queen of Angels" and "Slant", dude, cause your silly asteroid with a big tunnel in it is just plain stupid, stupid, stupid.)

"Cryptonomicon" by Neal Stephenson. (You're a good writer, man. Really exciting. WWII. Filipinas. The Internet. Some code. I'm with you I'm with you I'm with you I'm with you where are you going with this I'm with you I'm with you I'm...zzzzzzzzz)

So you can see I'm pretty jaded by the SF I've read. These are some heady names above and for the record, I have like much I've read, too, and I'm *not* claiming to be better than these guys. But neither am I making a living as a writer. Yet.

So picking up Vinge and liking it was a good feeling. It was like coming home to a nifty, but potentially unstable house. Or maybe I am just a nifty but unstable guy. Either way, one little quiver and the whole facade comes crashing back down.

So I took a risk and picked up "Red Mars" by a guy named Kim Stanley Robinson. Its an "epic book about the colonization of Mars". It won the Hugo award, which is one of Sci-Fi's top awards. I should have known better than to pick a book that didn't also win a nebula.

It read like the Robert Jordan fantasy series in space: interminable, wooden, cyclical. It went into excruciating scientific detail which, in better hands would have been worthwhile. Robinson had a cast of entirely uninteresting characters, whose petty internal lives seemed to be straight out of some cheap facsimilie of literate fiction, but on Mars. There was no action. There was no plot weaving. No suspense. I wanted everyone to die (most of all me).

I'd been bamboozled by the "Hugo" yet again. Some uncreative jerkoff whose never read *real* writing (i.e. the classics, any halfway decent prose stylist) just gave "Red Mars" the seal of approval because it appears to be a book (hey it has pages and ink). Fleeced. Ripped off. Abandoned on the red planet. Grrr.

So now I have to cleanse my mind. Part of me wants to just kick over that phoney, gimicky house of Science Fiction again, you know, leave it to neighborhood dogs for pissing but here's the rub:

1. Part of me feels extremely guilty doing this because great Sci-Fi, rare though it is, is unlike any other genre.

2. Part of me suspects that I am being hypercritical, demanding true literate form in a genre that, lets face it, works best with slimy aliens, ray gun fights, and starships (see Stephen Donaldson's excellent hidden space opera trilogy "The Gap Cycle". I say "hidden" because the trilogy is hidden in a 5 book series, the first and last books being unworthy of the middle 3.)

3. [*furtively glancing left and right*] I am writing a science fiction novel right now and need to keep my head "in the zone". (Note: my novel is going to be pure pulp. No high concepts, just something publishable and entertaining, which I will release under the pseudonym Clay Sails, the proceeds from which I will use to buy my writing retreat on Palawan, whereupon I will compose snooty highbrow literature about guys in sweaters ala John Updike.)

So then I decide, ok.

Tomorrow I will be on an airplane all day.

Monday I will be on an airplane all day.

Imbetween I will be at a family funeral.

I need something fun.

Something engrossing.

Something that kicks ass.

Something that is not going to leave me feeling like I'm reading a technical manual on how one might colonize Mars.

My first thought was John Le Carre. He's supposedly a master and, like another John (Irving), I have not gotten around to any of his wonderful books yet. But I work in Northern Virginia, where there are colorless men in trenchcoats aplenty, and tense think-tank politicos with cloak-and-dagger jobs but horrible, tense, tedious lives. I'm not sure I want to read a glorified wet dream about my cube mates.

Besides, I need to concentrate on Sci Fi (see reason #3 above).

So I decided I'm going to read Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere." Karim lent it to me and, like an ungrateful boob, I let it season on my shelf for a year or two, knowing it would be good and therefore not rushing to read it (odd, paradoxical logic, yes, but welcome to my brain).

Or should I read Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" or "The Diamond Age"? Both are shorter than Crypto and I really want the guy to work out. But "Snow Crash" is some kind of zany parody and parodies can get old if not done perfectly. I know: I write imperfect parody all the time. And "The Diamond Age" is...well...supposedly less zany than "Snow Crash" and who wants to read a paler version of a great book?

Which is why I can't read David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest", even though it is supposed to be awesome and funny and stylish and mind-blowing. I'm always in the mood for mind blowing. It happens so rarely these days. I'll pay $347 for a 9,000 page gluttinous romp through drug-addled self-indulgence. Except that drug fiction bores me. Pynchon did it so brilliantly in "Gravity's Rainbow" that nobody else excites me anymore. Not even Pynchon, whose "Mason and Dixon" only held me for a few dozen pages and whose "Crying of Lot 49" is pointless and uninterestingly smug. Sure, William Kotzwinkle's lovable pothead in "Fan Man" is still unsurpassed, and William Burrough's gets props for making bubonic sores sound hip, but I don't need that stuff anymore. I'm clean. Besides, I need to read "Ulysses" before I pick up a huge magnum opus from some young upstart punk New Englander who thinks tennis is the sweetest thing ever. (Translation: I'm a wee bit jealous of Mr. Wallace even though I haven't read a lick of his writing.)

So back to Sci Fi, I guess. There's always "Perdido Street Station" which has the coolest name in decades, but seems to contain some sentient half-man, half-bird thingy who "challenges" the main character into learning some great truth or other. Whoopee.

Or "The Fabric of the Cosmos" which, although not science fiction, has such a wonderfully audacious title that the author must be a complete nerf. No thanks.

So as you can see, I'm torn. I need something mind blowing. Something fun. Something un-boring. Something portable. Something that doesn't feature Scottish drug addicts. Yet nothing "important". Nothing so "hip" I'll be disgusted with its obvious ephemerality, nothing so timeless that I'll be disgusted with my fellow human beings for not "getting" it (i.e. "Gravity's Rainbow", my favorite book, have I mentioned that ever, or just a few thousand times? *sob* I'm sorry. It leaves me weepy.)

Well, this was what I was going to say. Then I went downstairs into the sheep-warrens, where people like me stuff their faces by the hour, bleating aimlessly (*baaaa*), and milling about through dim underground hallways adorned with aging tile mosaics and grafitti-scratched plexiglass billboards for medical service parks and killer helicopters. (Doesn't everybody have these things under their office?)

I went down there and I purchased my first Terry Pratchett book "The Color of Magic", as well as Neil Gaiman's "American Gods".

I am expecting nothing more than to be blown away, instantly and unequivocally.

You know, hold me thrill me kiss me kill me (or else)...

Mark my words.

When I gained consciousness it was salt.
Stay away from salt.
Then everybody forgot about salt.

Then it was nitrites.
Stay away from nitrites.
Then everybody forgot about nitrites.

Then it was sugar.
Stay away from sugar.
Then everybody forgot about sugar.

Then it was MSG.
Stay away from MSG.
Then everybody forgot about MSG.

Then it was calories.
Stay away from calories.
Then everybody forgot about calories.

Then it was cholesterol.
Stay away from cholesterol.
Then everybody forgot about cholesterol.

Then it was fat.
Stay away from fat.
Then everybody forgot about fat.

Then it was carbs.
Stay away from carbs.
Soon everybody will forget about carbs.

Then it will be salt.
Stay away from salt.
(repeat ad nauseum)

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

I bought a radio to listen to at work.

Its a tiny $30 Grundig AM/FM from Radio Shack.

Grundig is supposedly *the* brand in short-wave radio technology.

Not coincidentally, my radio is also short-wave.

If I got better reception in here I could get all sorts of wierd programming from overseas. It'd be like the internet but without the pictures or the popups. Or the autotranslations. Or my email. Or my blog. Or instant stock quotes, which is a useless yuppie gimmick like mini golf clubs.

Remember those homeopathic pills you were supposed to be able to swallow to combat bad breath?

Those were another useless yuppie gimmick.

So were short wave radios, for that matter.

The short-wave crowd fancies that it will be able to save the world in the event of the apocalypse. Folks will be able to coordinate emergency water supplies, exchange stock updates, etc.

But the reason I am talking about my radio is not because of its massively useless capabilities.

The reason I am talking about it is because I bought three pairs of headphones for it for only $9.99.

That was a deal.

All three of them came in one, amazing package.

3 pairs of headphones for only $9.99 is almost as good of a deal as a box of Lil' Debbie snack cakes (12 cakes for only $1.35).

There is a standard set of "over the top" headphones, circa 1980. Their is a set of headphones that can be independently placed into each ear (i.e. so that you don't have to suffer the public indignity of wearing metal wire headgear on your dome). Then, catch this, the third set in the trio is this wierd set that can only be worn if the support frame goes *behind* your head. No more geeky over the top headphones for me. There's no way anybody will be able to confuse me with one of those geeky dorks who needs gravity to keep his shit together.

Gravity is for dorks.

The really cool pair of headphones broke already, though. I dropped them on my desk and they came apart.

I'm not bummed, though. I've still got two pairs left. Two pairs of headphones for $9.99 is still a goddamn good deal.

Boy howdy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Argh. Update, ye blog!
Alright. I think this thing is back in shape again. Below you will find my sermon from yesterday.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Last night I caught a 60 Minutes segment on the beliefs of evangelical christians. It wasn't just alarming -- it was downright scary.

They interviewed a group of people -- mostly Texans -- who believe that the Rapture is coming in which all (true) believers (as determined by their narrow interpretation of the bible) will go to heaven and everyone else will be "left behind" in hell on earth. "Left Behind" is, in fact, a highly popular series of books detailing what one author believes will happen when the Rapture comes. The author of that series was also on the show, as was a man who has an underground library full of books on what will happen when the world ends.

Ordinarily I'm not threatened by fringe beliefs or extremism. Every dogma, no matter how moderate or well-intentioned, can result in harmful, radical views. It seems to be built into the structure of human logic. Any idea, no matter how good, must be followed all the way to its often utterly rediculous, nonsensical conclusion.

Thus we have Karl Marx's critiques of capitalism turning into Pol Pot's Year Zero.

Thus we have Adam Smith's brilliant but misunderstood analysis of market forces leading us to pimp capitalism (guess who's the ho?).

Thus we have Hindu mobs burning down Muslim shrines in the name of a religion that is supposed to include all faiths.

Thus we have Muslim killers burning down skyscrapers in order to achieve some sort of heaven on earth.

Thus we have Buddhist pacifists slaughtering muslims in Ceylon.


You know the litany.

Fundamentalist Christians have the potential to be as dangerous as any of these groups.

Yes, they even have potential to become equally as dangerous as perhaps the most extreme extremist group of them all, the big N's. The Analogy that Won't Go Away. The Superbads. The one's we're all sick of comparing our enemies to, but who are just too damn frightening to ignore.

The Nazis.

The evangelical who had the underground library described, matter-of-factly, how he wished the Rapture would come so that the rest of us -- even other people who go to church but don't believe his way -- will pay for our sinful ways.

"It would be kind of fun," he said, smiling.

Of course, it would be too late for us.

Ordinarily I'm not threatened by people who live underground. Even Osama Bin Laden has become less and less fearsome as the years have gone by. I think the bunker buster we dropped on his head might have muted some of the smugness.

I don't think a bunker buster would have done much for these folks on 60 Minutes -- especially the ladies, whose hair looked like it could withstand much greater force.

One old guy -- an oilman, by coincidence -- swore that there was no way he was going to allow anyone or anything to challenge his beliefs that everyone except him and his kind were God's righteous army. Why?

Because he could not allow the possibility of any idea whatsoever to shake his faith.

No matter how convincing.

No matter how logical.

No matter how rational.

His worldview, in a nutshell, went something like this: I believe X. I cannot possibly allow for the fact that Y may be true, because if I did then I would no longer believe X. You suck for not believing X.

Another way of putting this is: LA LA LA LA LA -- I AM NOT LISTENING TO YOU.

How can this be combatted?

I do not know.

They will not engage in debate. They use faith as a shield to hide from uncomfortable truths, yet their own "truths" are developed underground, in dark places where only the like-minded are welcome.

They use their exaggerated sense of piety as a sword, cutting and slashing at those who would take no particular notice of them if they were not demanding that everyone else conform to their wild and outrageous ideas.

They live by the benefits of science -- drilling for oil to fuel a modern industrial economy, utilizing the web, leveraging economic power -- yet they deny the validity of science that challenges X.

Science is less of a philosophy than a process of discovering facts. It contains checks and balances, and has a built-in rationality for addressing and redressing problems. To the fundamentalist, where when logical structures are applied at all, they are done so with a pre-ordained conclusion in mind. No questions are posed in the spirit of exploration, because the answers are pre-ordained.

When called to task for their hatred of reason, for their self-imposed ignorence, and their -- yes -- extreme vanity in wishing that all of us would worship THEM (not Christ, whom they wield as a kind of boogeyman), when asked to account for these things, they hide behind an unshakable faith that we are supposed to envy and emulate, but never question. They spout platitudes about "family values" and claim that America was made by people like them *for* people like them. You, scientist, and you, athiest, and you, moderate Christian, Jew, Muslim, humanist -- you have no place unless you are like them.

If you believe in tolerance, if you believe in diversity, if you believe in anything other than what they believe, you are, in fact, as one conservative christian thinker put it on the radio, an *elitist*...

To them, being educated and open minded is a form of tyranny upon yourself and those around you. Only a blanket, self-righteous denial of broadmindedness is acceptible to them.

This is not so very far away from the ideas of the big N.

It is tempting to respond with equal irrationality: burn their silly books (or at least ban them from public libraries), crash revivals with nipples blinking and a cocaine straw in the nose, smash the false idols that they erect on courthouse grounds in the middle of the night.

Yet irrationality, however effective, is the enemy of the very ideas of tolerance and diversity (need I say "flexibility") that make us strong.

I don't know how to respond in detail, but I fear the results of our mild, sleepy sense of "anything goes" spiritual laizze faire. Whilst we all basque the glow of our own righteous tolerance, patronizingly smiling at smug librarians who live underground and hiss in our ears about how wonderful it will be when they rule things, they are organizing. They are writing books, developing a self-referential canon (in the tradition of real scholarship). They are defending themselves. They are lobbying. They are placing men in high places (Bush, Ashcroft, DeLay). They are grabbing schoolboards and judgeships. They are siezing the moral high ground of this country for themselves because we are giving it to them in the name of tolerance.

Dreaming of initating some sort of "national dialogue" on the subject is a luxury and a conceit the country can ill afford at this late hour. We've played that game already -- it hasn't helped. A dialogue is precluded upon a desire by both sides to listen, and in this case one side has decided its going to tell the rest of the world how to live and thats it. There will be no discussion. In short, we have grown too polite and accustomed to fair play and very well might suffer, like Germany did, at the hands of a group that legally walks in the front door and then slams it on everybody else. It may not be genocide this time, but it certainly will be a form of cultural, spiritual murder.

Fundamentalists and zealots of all stripes do a disservice to the often admirable dogmas from whence they have sprung. They polarize people into the "us" and the "them" I have been forced to adopt here. It should not be understood that this is a battle between Christians and the rest of the world, for the beliefs of Christians as a whole are not well represented in the ideas of the extremists. In fact, many Christians are among the most decent and tolerant people I know. Nor is it simply a battle within the faith themselves, to be fought over at annual conferences and across pulpits. Tolerance and diversity need allies wherever they can be found, and within whatever larger belief system may or may not be present.

It is up to us to make this stand clearly, loudly, and with extreme resolve, whatever our other differences. If we do not choose to do battle with intolerance and anti-progress, right here and right now, if we do not take a position against other people's personal spiritual values which we know to be wrong, we may very well find *ourselves* underground.
This weekend B.C. and I decided that IT professionals are, in the main, charlatans, whose limited competence getting computer systems to obey is more often a product of how idiotic the rest of us are with our own computer equipment than how skilled they (the IT folks) are. Our evidence for this is how limited our own meagre abilities need to be in order to impress folks who are even less compitent than we are (such as parents, elderly bosses, schnauzers, etc.). This dynamic guarantees job security for IT professionals, because all they have to do is be slightly better than everybody else, cloak simple operations in obtuse jargon, and the rest of us open our wallets with glee, hoping that we never have to face a system upgrade alone. (Before you IT professionals get your hackles up, please note that BC is a complete neanderthal and I am dumber than the bone he scoops grubs up with. Neither of us are competent to undertake the professions we have been entrusted with, either.)

My eggregious, blanket disparagement was laid well to rest by the timely intervention of Joanna of Hometown Unicorn. Her professional diagnosis of my HTML ills turned out to be not only right on the money, but of such sufficient detail and complexity that it puts to shame my and B.C.'s unfair epiphany. Nor does it apply to the fine folks at Blogger, whose good name I have unfairly sullied in my mild frustration over the recent vagaries of my blog template. Joanna has, in fact, appeared like an angel of brightness to slice through the stygian gloom of my ignorence. Despite what my resume says, my skilz with HTML are limited to randomly cutting and pasting from other people's templates, closing my eyes, and pushing "publish". Note: I de-bug with my eyes closed, too. That's probably why I have two ad banners at the top of my blog like some sort of two-headed monstrosity.

Friday, February 06, 2004

All of you should desist reading this blog immediately and go to the pics section of "Anomalies Unlimited", scroll down to the selection entitled "severe eyelid edema" and relish the image. (I use the word "relish" lightly, because after you see this pic you will likely violently spew relish from the saucy dark places of your belly.). Other pics are good, too.
Blogger is acting up again. Its been randomly pushing old posts up to the top, hiding the "comments" section which I very carefully added to my template earlier in the week, and denying me access to other people's blogs (i.e. Sahalie). Bad blogger! No bone for you.

Today is a shit day, weatherwise.

The sky is spitting ice.

It doesn't take a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowing.

Its blowing all over the friggin place.

Bad weather blows.

Weather or not, here I come.

I think I'll try one of those cool nonlinear websites with a piquant comment on every line.

Like Lisa from Boredhousewife and Ryan from Muscle68.

Lisa keeps me laughing.

With a sharp eye and a sharp wit.

Reminds me a bit of my friend Teri in Idaho.

No holds barred.



Muscle68's Ryan is going to be a rock star.

He sent me his album.

It rocks.

I usually don't dig guys screaming bitterly into microphones.

But the songs have much truly gorgeous guitar and bass work and the arrangements work.

A bit like White Stripes meets Queensryche.

Laugh all you want: Queensryche ruled.

I like this blog format better.

Reading a whole paragraph at a time sux.

Topic sentence, three supporting sentences, conclusion.

Who cares if its "well crafted".

Nobody's giving me a grade.

The brain doesn't think in paragraphs.

It doesn't think in sentences, either.

Or words.

I think the brain thinks in emotions.

And crafts grammer to fit later.

Maybe I should say I emote that.

My ass is well crafted.

Or was, anyway.

Now its starting to resemble a flat tire.

Speaking of which, I need to get me a set of all-weather radials.

For my car, I mean.

Then I can brag to all my coworkers that I was able to make it to work in an ice storm.

I won't buy Michelin, though.

Don't want to look like the Michelin Man.

In 8th grade David Shokin resembled the Michelin Man.

We told him over and over, too, just in case he didn't know he was a fat ass.

We also called him "Saturn".

We were mean.

He was fat.

Fat kids must have a miserable time in school.

Especially fat, eager girls.

They are so goddamn sweet.

A million times more companionable than skinny, stuck-up bitches.

A million times less obnoxious than skinny, namecalling dudes.

Like I used to be.

Was everybody as mean as I was when I was a kid?

I threw some poor kid's backpack out the bus window.

He cried.

His mom called the teacher.

The teacher called my mom.

My mom yelled at me.

I cried.

I was a pussy.

I was a mama's boy.

Being mean was fun.

Nowadays I'm kickback.

I hate seeing people humiliated.

People ought to tread lightly.

We should all hold hands and sing songs.

Bullying should be outlawed.

Lets pass a constitutional amendment to make it so.

Then we have to figure out how to teach constitutional law to our kids.

Oh wait.

I don't have kids.

I'll teach it to *your* kids.

You don't mind, do you?

First Amendment: Don't be a dick.

Last Amendment: Don't expect everyone else to solve your problems.


Clay Sails for president.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

I wrote a whole post then reread it. Here is the summation of my internal monologue upon re-reading it: Meh.

Hence, now you are reading a new entry. Oh wait. No you're not. Not until I post it, anyway. I have to avoid compensating for the wierd time-distortion that occurs when I write. Only my handlers in the security department are reading this blog entry as I type. You are wherever you are at the moment: sitting in your own grey or blue cube. You are sleeping. You are furiously shoving funyons into your head. You are waiting on hold. You are checking your email. You are wringing your hands about the unopened Darth Moll action figure some jackass co-worker absquatulated. You are dreaming about how you would spend $1,000,000. You are choosing colors for a pie chart. You are growing tired of hipsters hyping Cuban music that everybody claims to love but nobody north of Miami actually listens to. You are searching for the right words to put me in my place.

Well, aren't you?

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Listen, I know you may have gone here already but some of you might have missed the story about the whale with the 5 foot cock that exploded all over Taipei: type into your browser (I don't have my HTML cheat sheet here to give you a true hyperlink).

I have lots of little things to discuss, but I'm not feeling very articulate today, so here's my 2cents worth, in abbreviated rant form:

DC parents: quit complaining that the government can't stop your kids from stealing guns out of your closet and putting holes in one another. You complain when Big Brother tries to conduct searches without probable cause, too, remember? You can't have it both ways. Besides, when has government been good at micromanaging *anything*, let alone something as complex as a teenager? Police your own kids.

Joe Lieberman: maybe if you'd flashed us a nipple we'd have liked you better. As it was for Gephardt, so it shall be for you (cue music) NAH NAH NAH NAH...NAH NAH NAH NAH...HEY HEY HEY...GOODBYE.

Douglass MacArthur, you were an overrated boob.

"Touching the Void" is an awesome mountaineering flick with a brave, existential edge. Bravo to psychopathic climbers who test the limits of human endurance and live to tell about it. It further justifies my staid, steady (need I say "safe") existence.

I know I've been going on about the current furor over Janet Jackson's mam a bit, but it strikes a nerve with me so bear with me. This society, unlike many others in the world, insists upon -- *chooses* -- to hyperinflate the sexuality of half of the population's breasts. We even go as far as to insist that this segment of the population wear crushed up, dyed, woven animal skin, petroleum, and/or plant fibers to prevent public "exposure" of these "indecent" organs. Meanwhile, goldfish let it all hang out across America (even shit). Meanwhile, the other half of society is free to flaunt, pierce, jiggle, and/or ignore their own similar (albeit less functional) hardware. But wait, you say, women's breasts are larger than mens! Great -- by all means lets cover them up, then. From now on everything on someone's body bigger than someone else's must be covered up. Sorry all you fat guys with giant pancake boobies. Sorry all of you people with big mouths. But wait, you say, what about...the *children*...


[another pause]

[*deep breath*]

The children, eh? Are these the same children who see breasts the moment their head slips out of that great big vagina they called home for 9 months? Are these the same children who not only see breasts, but place their own suckling orifices on said breasts multiple times a day, sometimes grabbing, sometimes even *biting*...occasionally even murmuring and moaning with incoherent pleasure? Could some of these children even find themselves vitalized by the efflivia of these filthy fleshsacks? Might some of these same children possess female breasts themselves, however underdeveloped? Say it ain't so.

But wait, you say. Very young children don't *know* that breasts are the very font, the very essence of sexuality. Goddamn right. We haven't been able to imprint our own schizophrenic ideas about sex and the human body on them yet. They are virgin minds, unfucked by society.

So in a nutshell, here are the rules:

1. It is ok to look at, suckle, grasp, sniff, beg for, and cry for breasts until around the age of 2 or 3 (whenever breastfeeding stops).

2. Between the age of 3 and 18, boys are not supposed to desire, think about or see (let alone touch) a female's breast. If this happens, get them into therapy right away (Sunday school qualifies) because they might start having unhealthy thoughts about sex and be ruined for life (or at least ruin "family" related events like watching P.Diddy gyrate on stage bragging about his bitches after having just watched 22 full grown men trample one another in pursuit of a rubber ball).

3. Between the age of 3 and 18, girls must be so ashamed of their own breasts that they keep them hidden at all times. I'm not sure what the "rules" are regarding exposure of one girl to another female's breasts.

4. Between the age of 0 and 115 men may reveal, touch, expose, tattoo or remain completely ambivalent about the presence of their own mammary glands. Girls may touch them, too, using the standard protocols for cross-gender (platonic) contact.

5. At age 18 the veil is lifted between only individual males and individual females. Society accepts that sexuality is a biological consequence of turning 18, and contact may again resume as outlined in #1. Note: this age also comes with the understanding that, as "adults", these individuals will enforce rigorously numbers 1 - 4. Failure to do so will earn charges of: pedophilia, sickness, sexism, leftism etc.

6. As soon as contact is initiated with female breats, many men quickly realize that their instructions regarding what to "do" with breasts are woefully inadequate. Despite years of locker room instruction, neary every incarnation of "squeeze", "pinch", "press" and "bite" results in various iterations of discomfort and/or boredom. Even the mythical "Pearl Necklace" pales by comparison to the ordinary "climb and grind" (quotes mine). It seems that the massive concentration of nerve endings present are not quite as attenuated to sexual contact as they are to the somewhat less sublime activity of a hungry toddler stuffing his/her face with a glandular happy meal. Thus, except in extreme (and undoubtedly happy) circumstances, by the age of 21, most guys have gotten over being tittilated by boobs.

What point was I making? I can't quite remember. I got distracted thinking all those things about boobies.


Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The problem with boredom is this: its really, really boring. Its so "f"-ing boring that it is...dull. And you can't often, or ever, really articulate what that feels like to be bored because feeling bored means, by definition, *not* feeling like anything else that feeling alive feels like, if you catch my drift. Still, there are some metaphors that approach what its like.

Its like counting the shoelace holes on your shoes.

Its like seeing how many times you can snap your fingers before it hurts.

Its like writing an essay on the subtleties of the color tan.

Its like comparing the taste of flour varieties.


I'm bored right now. Technically, I shouldn't be. Technically I just started a new job with a very interesting premise (locating lost soldiers from 20th Century wars). In practice, until I am given more responsibility, I am spending my time entering name, rank and serial number into what will become a database of 80,000 missing WWII servicemen. Don't get me wrong: this is a necessary step, and one that should have been undertaken years ago. And even my boss and my bosses boss are doing it. But it is still pretty darn dull.

Occasionally boredom is coupled with restless mania: a physiolocial condition designed to destroy boredom. Bored mania makes you a living, walking contradiction. Anything at all will be better than what you have (or what you are doing) but nothing satisfies. You want to please yourself, to amuse yourself, to distract yourself, but nothing satisfies. More often than not you just wind up disgusted with yourself for letting an arbitrary (generally fleeting) emotion like boredom ruin your mood. Othertimes it is accompanied by listlessness, a lack of motion, a lack of e-motion.

This is boredom, in a nutshell.

Wow, I feel like I just accomplished something.

Thank you, blog, for not boring me. Now, if you'll all excuse me, I have to count my shoelace holes.

Monday, February 02, 2004

See below for part I of this Lament, but Al Gore's son just got sentenced to "rehab" for smoking a well-known tobacco alternative. Here is the description of his arrest, taken from the Associated Press:

"A search of the car turned up a partial marijuana cigarette, a cigarette box containing suspected marijuana and a crushed soda can that smelled like marijuana..."

Please note that this article was not written by a police officer, but by a journalist.

*pause for impact of language to sink in, to dispirit, to dishearten*

Not happening? Don't know what the fuck I'm bumbed about?

Doesn't the language "...a partial marijuana cigarette..." just sound like the wet dream of the world's biggest square, in love with officiousness and busting "bad" kids for what in the real world is called a "joint"?

We must reserve language like "marijuana cigarettes" for all the fat, nerdy cops who get their rocks off putting dogs onto inner-city kids and poo-pooing any form of self-indulgence not explicitly sanctioned in Section 1781.3 of the Municipal Code.

Journalists need to quit quoting official sources verbatim and start reading between the lines. Had this one done so, here's what this one would have learned:

1. Gore's son is rich. How would we know? Because he goes to Harvard? Well, yes but no. We know his son is rich because they found a partial "marijuana cigarette" in his car on his way south from Massachussetts. A poor dope fiend would have smoked all his shit by the time he hit the New Jersey Turnpike, smoked the wooden stashbox out of desparation, and then, in a fit of munchies, eaten the "soda can that smelled like marijuana" because all experienced potheads know that eating makeshift pipes (potatos, carrots, apples, etc.) is a readily available form of low-carb (vegan)nutrition. All of these factors would have combined to ensure that, by the time he got to Rockville (outside of DC) there would have been no evidence left to convict him. Its not that rich stoners are stupider, its just that they're less desperate.

2. Gore's son is quite stupid, despite his Harvard education. How would we know? Because, although he got off without having to spend time in the county lockup, or without getting his drivers license suspended, his car impounded and various other sanctions commonly levied on less well connected potheads of the world, he *does* have to go to group therapy to publicly bemoan his horrible "illness"? No. That sucks, but Gore's son is stupid because the soda can was "crushed", but not eaten. To some, this might indicate that he had been using said can as a makeshift smoking device but had no intention of eating it when he was done. While this may appear obvious, it is patently stupid: any pothead with enough wherewithall to smoke out of a homemade pipe knows the value of eating the evidence when done committing the heinous crime. Likely, Gore's son *thought* he was smoking out of an apple, but -- like many dumb (or really stoned) potheads -- realized his dumb mistake only after he tried to bite into it.

3. Whoever conducted the search is themselves guilty of smoking this vile and noxious weed. How do I know? Because of the discovery of a "partial" marijuana cigarette. How many college students have you ever met (or read about) that left a smokable roach in the car? Probably this piece of the chain of evidence fell out of the shirt pocket of the first cop on the scene and led to an accidental frame-up.

That's my take on it anyway. Then again, I know absolutely nothing about any of this whatsoever.

Janet Jackson beared her boob on TV and I missed it. For the record -- I *was* watching the halftime show. Not sure if my missing that breast is a result of its (possible) unremarkable character, or just another example of my utter lack of observation skilz. Or maybe I'm not 13 anymore and seeing a single breast flop out on TV doesn't tittilate me. Maybe its because I have an entire set of back-issue National Geographics. Maybe the rumors are true that it was really Michael (dressed up like his sister) on stage, and it was really his missing nose that flopped out.

Justin Timberlake, whose name sounds like a subdivision, said the boob got airtime as a result of a "malfunction in the wardrobe."

Does this explanation strike anybody as a sad reflection of the price we pay for modernity?

Whatever happend to the good old days of buttons, snaps, and zippers. Back in the 20th century, when such technology was "in", wardrobes weren't complicated enough to "malfunction."

*Sigh.* This whole episode is just another example of an end to our innocence.