Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I wanted to highlight a good exchange between myself and the estimable Sex McGinty, who was himself responding to my earlier post about having browser trouble (and blaming the government for not facilitating my ability to make adjustments to the computer I use). I answer him here rather than in the comments section partly because my response is of sufficient personal relevance to be a good post on its own, and partly because it is 3:23 p.m. and I have an hour to kill before going home.

Sex writes:

I think it's perfectly reasonable for the government to keep their paid employees in line by keeping fixed browser settings. I mean, it's the government-- it's not Kinko's, it's not Tower Records, it's not even Clear Channel...

Be grateful that they let you use the computer for recreation AT ALL. I mean, they pay you, they provide the computer, you applied for the job... Fuck a browser setting. Uncle Sam ain't paying you to surf the web all day.

My response:

I would be much more comfortable with a security measure designed to "keep me in line" if I felt it provided some measure of meaningful security. As it happens, it neither provides security, nor effectively "keeps me in line" (case in point: I am not currently "in line" or I would be, at this moment, visually checking 8,000 pages of names, ranks and serial numbers against an excell spreadsheet for data entry errors).

As for who is paying me to do what all day, getting paid to do a job only guarantees my employer a job well done. It doesn't buy my undivided attention. If I let other people dictate how I should spend the precious minutes of my life, they'd squander them freely and wonder why they couldn't have more. Maybe they'd give me a paycheck or an "employee of the month" certificate someday, but at the end of it all it would still be my life pissed away on someone else's priorities.

I do not subscribe to the notion that just because somebody is handing me a sack of silver to perform a job that I asked for, I have to ignore my own needs. A job is certainly a need. No argument there, however unpleasant that reality may be. However, it is only one among many -- and it is not the most important one by any stretch. Maintaining sanity, struggling for uncomplicated happiness, and perhaps giving back to society in a larger way than my current job affords -- these are all priorities too.

Our current bewilderingly impersonal system of tempurature controlled environments, timeclocks and abstract accountability is very far removed from the psychic center of animals whose ancestors spent 1,000,000 years fishing, beating drums, fighting, fucking and raising families in warm grassy places. Our brains are simply not wired to stare at 80,000 names, ranks and serial numbers in a row for 8 hours straight, nor cram into crowded trains and pretend not to be uncomfortable in the presence of so many other similarly situated individuals.

Whether it be for government or private industry makes no difference -- people *must* find meaning in the moments of their lives. And I'm not talking about finding meaning by accepting someone elses definition of what's important, or by being "grateful" that they "let" me have certain meted out quantities of my own life to enjoy. I'm talking about fighting for *every* moment. Its obviously not realistic to expect to win that struggle every time, but you will win often enough that continuing the fight is well worth it.

For some people, meaning comes in accepting whatever authority (be it boss, church or some other notion) offers without negotiation, hesitation or rationalization. For others, it means doing exactly the opposite. I lean toward the middle ground -- on the one hand accepting that if I'm going to do a job, its going to satisfy my employers, but on the other recognizing that every chance I get during those 12 hours a day I spend in pursuit of money, I will try to live to the fullest.

Unlike Ellison's character in the "Invisible Man", who sought to pay back society by stealing electricity from it, my intention is not punitive. I believe it was you (Sex) who recently reiterated Ellison's final message: that we must, on some level, accept the role assigned to us and make do with it the best we can. This, too, is my agenda. All I am attempting to do by performing nonassigned tasks at work is to find a way -- on my own terms -- to live within the system and yet still remain faithful to my intrinsic humanity. This is, in a way, counter-revolutionary -- it keeps me too busy to man the barricades.

Good food for thought, Sex. Keep it comin.

Following Sex McGinty's suggestion that folks check out "Other People's Stories" (, I went further and submitted a story that I swear is as true as they come -- if my father is to be trusted. Forgive me if you have heard it before, for it remains astounding to me even after having told it a billion times:

As a high school student I travelled with my father and a group of
churchgoers to Egypt. On a train platfrom in Karnak, several members of
our group -- including my father -- were waiting when somebody heard a
distant 'bang'. Nobody thought much about it until one person looked up
and noticed that one of the assembled tourists had stuffing billowing out
of the wrist and elbow of his jacket.
"What's that?" someone asked.
"I don't know," the guy wearing the jacket said, puzzled.
"What's *this*?" someone else asked, reaching toward something on the ground in the middle of the group. It was a spent bullet. Apparently the guy had been leaning against a wall with his arm upraised when a bullet of unknown origin fell from the sky, punched through the stuffing of his jacket at the elbow, travelled parallel to his arm, and emerged just below his wrist -- all without him noticing.
I was on the platform that day, but I did not know about this incident until my father -- a minister -- told me about it later.

Technorant #43577

I have a few hotmail accounts I use for different things: blog correspondence, business transactions, and personal emails. By and large they work fine. All except one. See, it has this obnoxious tendancy to display the following message whenever I scroll the mouse over any of the most basic functions of the page such as "send" and "new email":

A Runtime Error has occurred.
Do you wish to Debug?

Line: 166
Error: 'tagName' is null or not an object

I am then forced to answer "yes" or "no" before proceeding.

If I answer "no", it immediately repeats the question substituting Line: 166 for another line. Then another. And another.

Debugging is a worse option because it brings up some sort of incomprehensible visual basic editor page. Why it does this, I have no idea. Presumably out of the 3,577,286,312 users of Windows, there are at least a few thousand people who could properly utilize this helpful debugging option. The rest of us can only stare helplessly at this new set of options, the unhelpful dozens of menus, buttons and algebraic notations, and wonder what ever were we thinking phasing out smoke signals as a means of communication.

So I have composed a short letter to whatever deity, spirit, angel, demon or lack thereof controls this account:

Dear You:

So do I wish to Debug?

No. No! A thousand times, NO!

Please, leave me be -- I beg of you.

Let me compose email in peace. I'll be quick about it, I promise.

I don't know why out of the several identical hotmail accounts I use, you alone are so pestered by these bugs. Enduring all of existance with corrupt code at your core must be unimaginably difficult.

It is like having an itch you can never scratch, etc. etc.

Here's the bottom line: I feel your pain. Now hows abouts you feel some of mine and quit making idiotic demands that I cannot reasonably satisfy.



Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Stern had Al Franken on this morning. Franken rocks. He's starting a radio show tomorrow called the "O'Franken Factor". Does it get any better than that?

Franken epitomizes the strength and power of the old, radical left before it shifted tactics from direct action to "just quietly suggest that somebody open a dialog".

Fuck dialog.

Sick of dialog.

Most of the time when people talk about "starting a national conversation" or "opening a debate" on a subject they really mean:

Without actually saying it directly (lest I become viewed as an intolerant dogmatist), let me strongly imply to you that [my opponant] is an f-ing retard.

Instead of having a spine and getting a story correct the first time, big Media would rather have a post-event discussions about how it "frames" certain conversations, how it "informs" debates etc.

It gives them something to talk about without really talking about anything.

It gives them a badge of courage for being self-critical, but doesn't make up for their initial lack of doggedness on a given story.

F the media.

Nothing worse than media-types yakking on and on about how they are so goddamn important.

Sick of it.

We all know media is important.

Time for a new story.


What was that? You say there is no "big M" media?

Yes there is.

Its got a big M for machine tattooed on its ass and if you can't see it its because you've got a big "N" for "Nedly" tattooed on yours.

If you say "X", Media says "X!". Then it says "Y?". But it never answers its own vague questions. It just moves on to "Z" and so on. It becomes self-reflexive, self-serving corporate PR and propaganda. We suck it down because we pride ourselves in being informed enough to make rational decisions on a daily basis.

(Think Tankers: "So what. Get used to it. Quit whining. Start your own network if you want. Move to Russia, commie. Let market forces solve our problems. Clam up and buy a car.")

I agree.

Time for a new story.

Yesterday on Stern he played "Wheel of Gas" in which some stupid broad agreed to let some greasy bloke fart in her face for several minutes. In exchange, she got $$ for breast implants.






No: funny.


Sure, its degrading. But everyone involved were consenting adults and we degrade ourselves ALL THE FRIGGING TIME.

We do a cost-benefit analysis of degradation vs. reward and when it comes up in our favor, we just take it and say 'thanks'.

I degrade myself walking into the office with my silly tie on pretending to give a shit about what my boss wants.

I degrade myself cramming into a train twice a day like the piece of silly, self-important meat I am.

I degrade myself...uh...well...modern life degrades me...and...

Oh never mind. I don't degrade myself very often. But if I did it would be my fault.

Just like that girl on the radio who let social pressure tell her that small breasts were ugly.

I laughed my guts out listening to that guy break wind on her.

Truth be told, I probably would have laughed if there had been no girl at all.

(I just think farts are funny.)

But still. Point is: we are all responsible for ourselves. Neither society, Media or all the collective influences that shape us into adults are ultimately to blame how we choose to act. Sure, I wouldn't want someone I love to get farted on before a national audience. But its that girl's right if she wants to, if the $$ is that important to her, and I can laugh if I want to -- even if it offends your sensibilities. Why?

Because this is Amr'ikuh.

Land of the Free.

Where diversity of opinion is as guaranteed as our right to voice said opinions.

Got a problem with that?

Go back to Nazi Germany you Fascist, before I kick you into a posture of mute agreeability with this big LEFT bootheel.

Or perhaps, if you would rather, we could maybe (if its not too much trouble), you know, start a dialog to reframe the debate...


Monday, March 29, 2004

Note to self: avoid Chlor-Timetron for hay fever. A runny face is better than this feeling of speedy, drowsy nausea.

Note to fellow bloggers who haven't updated in a month: let me know if/when you start posting again so I can re-link you.

CENSORED PER STATUTE 87611 of the C.S. Blogger Code of Conduct: Avoid Airing Personal Matters That Are Better Handled In Person

Friday, March 26, 2004

I spent a long time composing a very sensitive, insightful post today.

Then I trashed it.

Somewhere in its midst I ceased feeling sensitive or insightful.

I was simply feeling over-caffinated, tired, bored, ready to go home.

To put it crudly: I no longer felt like sucking my own dick.

Wow. That was unecessary.

[*slaps self*]

Sorry, all. Its late Friday and I ran out of steam to be subtle.

Not that I'm feeling mean or anything -- just agro. Like Richard Simmons the other day after a guy at the Airport insulted his career.

Not that *I* feel like slapping anyone.


I feel like screaming non-sequiters at passing cars.

I feel like running really fast next to a dog (who is also running really fast).

I feel like cramming wasabi in my mouth and chasing it with tabasco.

Speaking of Tabasco Sauce, those fuckers never sent me the free cookbook I sent away for. All you're supposed to do to get one is call a 1-800 number on the back of the bottle and leave your name.


I don't need a Tabasco cookbook anyway. It goes on almost everything: burgers, eggs, veggies, meatloaf, cheesebread, soup.

Tabasco rules.

Or should I say "rulez".

Now I'm hip.

I'm ghetto.

I have street cred.

I'm going to need it tonight.

I'm supposed to drop in on the neighborhood bar at happy hour.

Its a grungy, newly opened dive (it was a complete hole the day it opened).

Note for the record: I almost never go to bars.

So why am I going? Because the stoner on the third floor (Frankie) always says "hey, bud, come to happy hour. Bring your girl. We'll get a pitcher".

Note for the record: I don't drink "pitchers".

Beer that comes in a pitcher is a waste of the water it took to brew it. The alcohol to stomach-space ratio is too low for a guy with a nickle sized bladder (fyi, that's the only thing thats small down there. wiseass.).

I don't succumb to corporate "blue collar beer" propaganda that says real men drink bud and miller and all that crap.

I drink the ultimate "blue collar beer" -- the kind I whip up in my own house. Hooch.

I'm a homebrewer, remember?

You can drink Bud and Miller if you like. I really don't mind.

I won't touch it.

And I'm not bringing my girl, either.

She's in Rehoboth tonight drinking Dogfish Head.

Dogfish is good stuff.

But about tonight.

I might just blow it off, the whole bar thing.

What's the point.

I'm not going to pick up chicks.

Don't know how, actually.

Still wouldn't even if I did.

Even if my wife didn't kill me, I'd get the one who leaves me without kidneys in a bathtub full of ice.

It happens.

I read about it on the web.

"Hi honey, hope you had fun in Delaware, mind loaning me a kidney for the next 30 years? Some broad I met at a bar took them after I screwed her and passed out."

No, thanks.

Ok, ok. I've got it. Here's what I could do tonight at the bar.

I could hope to strike up a cool conversation with a stranger.

We could talk things.

The marrow of life.

The phiz.

It would be "My Dinner with Andre" at a bar.

But, really, what are the chances of that happening.

All they'd want to talk about is basketball.

F basketball.

You go ahead and watch it.

Don't let me stop you.

I'll just order a peach beer and talk about astrology.

I don't know why I'm being such a lameass.

Last time I went to a bar I had fun.

I went out with NeNe and her posse up in Mobtown.

NeNe's good to hang with.

We went to the "Wharf Rat".

Her friends were funny and smart and silly and all the things I like to see in people when I'm drinking.

They even paid somebody five dollars to touch a strange cowboys ass.

Nevermind that the cowboy looked like a total retard in western getup.

Nevermind that the "somebody" turned out to be a big, goofy dude at our table who just needed the money.

He was cool anyway, and the cowboy was a good sport.

Come to think of it, there are plenty of cool cats up there, and much better bars.

With cowboys.

Maybe I'll blow off Frankie and hit the big city.

Ditch my crappy attitude.

Ditch the feeling of superiority for liking better beer.

Get myself good and wasted.

Drive home.

Get a ticket.

Wet my pants.


On second thought.

Maybe I'll just stay home.

Mix myself a half dozen Popovs.

Rent porn.

Just kidding.


Can't take a joke.

Laugh already.

Have a good weekend, too.

While you're at it anyway.
[double post]

Thursday, March 25, 2004

I've got too many projects and not enough time. Here is a short list of what I am currently (concertedly, if intermittantly) working on:

1. writing a sci-fi novel
2. writing an old time radio play
3. finishing half a dozen songs
4. starting a game company
5. finishing a game called "the Plans"
6. inventing a card game using a Tarot deck
7. building a few more websites
8. starting a secular religion based on hedonism, generosity, and tolerance
9. writing a political manifesto I actually believe in

etc. etc.

Last night, I committed myself to another project:

10. write a screenplay

I use the word "committed" because, if I do not produce a treatment of a screenplay in 2 weeks, I will be forced to wear my Attorney's sweaty socks and boxers after a period of vigorous excercise. If he fails to deliver a treatment of his own, he will be subjected to an identical sanction regime.

Creating a deadline and an incentive to meet it is helpful. The threat of wearing someone elses greasy, fungoliated, nadsoaked undergarments is so thoroughly repulsive that I will be compelled to actually follow through for once.

The problem is, of course, what to write about. I've had various screenplay ideas over the years, but the rigid format has always turned me off.

Sex McGinty quotes a guy called Jim Thompson (an ex-Monkey?) who says "there are 22 ways to tell a story, but only one plot."

I have to respectfully disagree with this contention. There are many many stories that have yet to be written, its just that we tend to disregard anything that does not have a predictable trajectory, recognizable archetypes, and the familiar themes of love, loss, and heroism. They are, to use a somewhat self-fulfilling cliche, "uncinematic".

For example, one story that has never been (and will never be) written is "Bic is Not My Real Name: A Ballpoint Pen in its Own Words". It doesn't have much drama. There are no villains, no love interests. The Pen does not write off into the sunset. Etc.

"A Day in the Life of an Average Dust Mite" in which we learn exactly what sort of life one of these invisible, pointless, parasites has: its fears, its heartbreaks, its relationship with God.

"The Horrible, Painful Feeling of Being Impaled on a Spike" -- a historical treatment of the last moments of a Russian peasant during the reign of Ghengis Khan.

"What Transpired When Kristi Miller and Her Friends Went Miniature Golfing" in which we observe the high drama of teenagers giggling, gossiping, and putting. It will be full of sexual tension, status uncertainty, identity crises and all of the other baggage of teenage life. It will climax when mom shows up in the minivan to pick the girls up and asks Kristi if she "had fun" and Kristi responds with, "like, no!", which sparks an argument and hard feelings which are forgotten by the time mom and the girls hit the ice cream parlor.

There are many more possibilities, of course, for many of the real-life stories we tell are similarly dull, undramatic, or just plain without wide cinematic appeal. The task, then, is to write a story that hasn't been written that will both look good onscreen and keep an audiences attention.

Wish me luck. The thought of my nut sweat co-mingling with that of my Attorney makes me want to cry.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

I have a revalation to make:

Despite having utilized it daily to guzzle copious quantities of tea, water and coffee, I have not washed my office mug in over 4 1/2 weeks.

Why? you ask, possibly gasping, probably resolving never to come over to my house and share cutlery with me.

Well, my reasons are as various as they are unrelated to the actual reason I have heretofore left the mug unwashed (which is just general laziness). Here they are:

1. The sink is upstairs and I don't want to wash it out in a bathroom -- bathrooms are icky, unsanitary places.
2. I never wash my coffee pot either and what is a coffee mug but a tiny pot of coffee without a burner?
3. My roommate in Ireland one summer never washed his tea mug the whole time I was there. Granted, it seemed odious at the time, but I have matured.
4. The tea stains obscure the coffee stains, making the cup appear less filthy than it would have if they didn't.
5. When I drink water out of it, aren't I basically "rinsing" it?
6. I can't actually see any germs on it.
7. Assuming that it is crawling with microbes, consider me just doing my part to counterbalance the negative effect of an overuse of anit-bacterial soap in the world.

I wonder how long this can last.

What will the signs be that I need to wash it out?

I'm sure there's something I can blog about today, but what's the point? All it will do is keep you from reading Tuesday, March 23's posting on This Bird Has Flown
(formerly "Hometown Unicorn") entitled "The Gift With Purchase". It is breathless, witty, and much much better entertainment than I would have provided today.

If you have already read that piece or are in the unlikely position of having written it yourself (either because you are Joanna, or because you have coincidentally reproduced the exact same article on your own blog), I suggest that you instead go here
and generate random numbers to your heart's content. Mine was content after just one try but don't let that stop you.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Did I mention that in the bathroom the other day I overheard a conversation about the fun of "do it yourself plumbing"? One of the guys proffered a piece of sage wisdom:

"Never do plumbing over the weekend because, if you screw it up, you won't be able to call a plummer to fix it."

Needless to say, the conversation terrified me.

What kind of person thinks plumbing is fun? Not only are pipes stinky and filthy, but they are awkward to work with, and very expensive if you f something up.

I'm also terrified by the thought that if I hang around this place too long I might end up like these guys.

I'm not much of a "fix it" guy. I pretty much suck around the house, actually. I love dismantling things, but as for putting things back together: forget it.

I've even started to get nervous about putting nails in the wall. Who knows whats on the other side? Aren't walls full of power conduits? With my luck, I'd tap a little nail in the wall and:


Fried fix-it man.

Or yellow jackets. Yellow jackets live in my walls. One poorly placed nail could piss off a few million bees.

Don't get me wrong here. I'm not one of those helpless yuppie dweebs who whips out the credit card and flicks it at the first person who agrees to come over and fix my problems.

If something is broke around the house, I'm inclined to leave it as it is.

Door dangling from one hinge? Find a workaround.

Chandelier casting sparks? Move the TV trays out of the way.

Dishwasher broke? It must have broken for a reason.

That's my attitude.

Why get all worked up over some broken junk around the house?

Do it yourself plumbing, indeed.

Monday, March 22, 2004

My attorney informs me that it would be in my best interest to attend Burning Man this year. I'm inclined to agree, but as I keep telling him, there are obstacles, man. Obstacles.

Pause a sec. I am aware that there are always obstacles in life. For all I know, life itself may be the ultimate obstacle, to be cleared in one final, glorious leap straight into the sun. For the record, I don't intend to take that leap this summer on a blistering, mud-cracked Nevada salt pan surrounded by self-absorbed, Dasani drunk, hipsters too jaded to bother even smirking with conviction.

And by obstacles I'm not sweating the little things, like cost (airfare, admission, alcohol, and a 7 day supply of Nutty Bars) or vacation time (which I'm not sure I'll have).

I'm worried about what exactly I will do at Burning Man that will make my presence:

a) worthwhile for the good of the BM "community"

b) invigorating for my flagging interest in contrived acts of self-expression

c) better than drifting away in a secluded desert hot spring with a head full of destabilizing chemicals, fingering a loaded firearm and staring hungrily at the fattened forearm of my ride.

Part of my crisis is that I don't value art anymore (not even mine). Don't get me wrong: I don't specifically *not* value it, either. Art isn't going to solve our problems, either personally or collectively. Art just *is*. Maybe I learned my lessons about it "bridging the gap between expression and reality" etc. I take it or leave it, like it or hate it. More often than not I find myself unmoved, indifferent, or simply disinterested in investing precious emotion to care about it at all. I.E.:

Man quoting reverse shakespeare dressed in a rad suit, riding a unicycle? Meh.

Self-propelled psychic pyramid powered by real human shit? Mmm...okay...?

Nude witches chanting prayers to a Moon Pie? I'll bite.

But maybe I'd rather go fishing.

Then again, maybe not. I can't decide. I'm indifferent. AAAAGH.

Somebody smack me.



If I *did* go to Burning Man, what might I go as?

Option One: The Real Me

The Plan: Dress in suit and tie. Wear my Defense Department I.D.

Izzy: You're some sort of G-man or something? Hey, Kyle, come over here and look at this guy. He's a secret agent.

Kyle: Wee. Hey, asshole: Bush sucks. What do you think of that? Aren't you going to arrest me?

Me: We don't arrest people. If you piss us off, you just dissappear.

Izzy: What a bore. Hey, Kyle, look over there, a shiny guy on a unicycle...


Option Two: Self-destructive, Extrovert

The Plan: Blindfolded, dressed in a dog-proof suit, run full speed into everything I see.


Kyle: Poor guy, what happened to him?

Izzy: Fell into a thicket of Spanish Bayonette...couldn't make it out...dehydrated.

Kyle: Fucking first timer.

Izzy: Show off.


Option Three: Self-Destructive, Introvert

The Plan: Duct tape raw onions to the eyeballs. For the surreal touch, occasionally substitute steamed onions for raw ones.

Izzy: Dude, its too hot to be crying out here -- you'll dehydrate. Here, have some Dasani.
Kyle: Are these onions supposed to *mean* something? Like peeling layers one after another until you get to...whatever you get to...fuck it...I don't get it. Where are my Tevas?
Me: Ow.


Option Four: Self-Indulgent, Antisocial

Izzy: Cool. This dude brought a hot tub. Mind if we jump in?
Kyle: Uh, Iz, he's got a gun...
Izzy: Guns suck. But this tub is nice. Hey, what's wrong with your eyes, dude? They look all whacked out. Are you on something?
Kyle: Iz, lets get out of here. This guy is scaring me.


Option Five: Self-Indulgent, Social

The Plan: Me, with a beer. At a table.

Me: Hey. Want to play a quick game of Magic?
Kyle: Whatever that is, you're wierd.
Me: How about a quick game of D&D?
Izzy: Is this guy trying to hit on us or something?
Me: Fishing? Wanna go fishing?
Kyle: We gotta get out of here. This heat is messing me up.
Me: I like fishing. Heeeere fishy fishy....heeeeere fishy fishy...


Etc. Etc.

You can see the obstacles.

Lots of options. None of them fabulous. Don't want to be boring or be "too cool to have fun" at Burning Man. Don't particularly care if I "express myself" or join some wierd, weeklong "community" that fancies itself a solution to the modern age/alienation/hate etc.

But the potential for fun is quite high. I just need to figure out how to justify the expense and (more importantly) the effort required (or lack thereof, which is more likely).


Friday, March 19, 2004

The Clay Sails Fanclub

Good news.

Yesterday in the mail I got a hand-addressed letter addressed to "Clay Sails Fanclub".

Cool, I thought.

Maybe its my big break.

My CD had somehow filtered out to people who can make me a Big Star, landing on the desk of David Geffen or Dr. Dre.

Soon I'd be pimped out in fur-lined leather, dangling gold medallions, running my own reality tv show ("ClayTV"?) from a lowered Rolls.

I could do anything I want. I could eat my own Ben N' Jerries limited edition flavor 3 times a day. I could sail a solo balloon to Neptune and shower in Courtney Love's butt sweat.

There would be book contracts, the obligatory Barbara Walters interview, bodyguards, gambling in Monaco, boats, trips to rehab, televized apologies for punching cameramen. If I was lucky (and donated $150,000,000 to charity) the Queen would knight me. Sir Clay would be on the way.

But it was not to be.

Instead of being the first member of my club, it was someone looking for the Asaf Murdoch fanclub. Asaf is an old bandmate of mine. They thought I might know how to find him. I don't. I put them on to Sex McGinty, because Sex keeps up with folks better than I do.

Still, I refuse to be daunted: this letter is certainly a milestone. It indicates that my King of the Hobos site is finally getting the public exposure necessary to send me into the stratosphere.

I promptly mailed the writer a letter, explaining that (regardless of her intent) she was my first, official, fan. She even won an autographed copy of my CD.

I dedicate this post to my first groupie. When I'm rich and famous I will remember you, whatever your name is.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Back to work after a sad, bad week.

Never thought I'd be happy to slip into the cube and the routine.

I guess "happy" is not quite the right word, but something paler, less enthusiastic.

My wife's mother Margaret died last Sunday. Complications of cancer.

The doctors said she wouldn't last more than a few hours after they took her off life support.

That was Thursday.

She was 80 lbs when she went into the hospital Wednesday -- 80 lbs, weak, and in such agony that she could not even open her eyes or speak.

By Thursday morning it was clear that the end was near. An operation might postpone the inevitable, but she would never leave the hospital and would be forced to surrender all autonomy to a machine.

We asked her if she was ready to go. She said she was.

We waited with her Thursday night, said our goodbyes. We read prayers she liked to comfort her. She lingered.

We waited through Friday, nodding blankly at doctors who remained non-committal about her chances even as her kidneys quit.

We started taking shifts, trying to keep our energy/spirits up. We failed.

We stared endlessly at the life support monitor, watching each painful breath translated into a green, tremulous ribbon -- the whole knotty tangle of a woman unraveling before our eyes. It hypnotized us. We ceased being able to form full sentences or articulate emotions.

Saturday morning came. Doctors were dumfounded that she was still alive. Every organ was under assault. Even her blood had turned against her and was poison. It will be soon, they told us, 80 lb women simply do not last from such assaults -- nobody does. Her pain will not last. They were not the first to underestimate her. Even at her healthiest, her size made her easy to disregard. She never remained disregarded longer than she wanted to. Not a moment.

Meanwhile, we ate candy bars and coffee to keep up our strength. At my sister in laws home, tireless friends and relatives manned the twin toddlers, allowing us to remain focused on the place we needed to be most.

Saturday night her sister flew in from England, expecting my mother in law already to be gone. Yet she lived. The sister was the last of a family of insufferable bores -- chin-stiff Protestants, provincials from Plymouth. The sister was a paragon of conventionality: quiet, employed in a church office, married to an insurance man from a safe family.

My mother in law, on the other hand, was quite the opposite. She had ever been attractive and outgoing. After a 10 year mystery-life in Birmingham (about which none of her children know), she pooled her funds and booked passage on an ocean liner for New Zealand. There, she picked apples, travelled the country and made lifelong friends. Six months turned into two years. On her way back to England, she made the mistake of dropping by Melbourne for a quick visit. There she met a drifter and a former special forces engineer whose respect for conventionality had been ashed in Vietnam. They were right for each other. She stole his heart in a single evening, married him after a whirlwind affair, and moved with him to America where they raised two girls. Four states and thirty plus years later, when I met them every day since, the two were best friends.

By an odd twist of fate, they even contracted cancer together. Her husbands was more immediately dangerous, but quickly curable. Hers was slower, but inexorably terminal.

Through the long years of her treatments, as the time between complications began to shrink, her husband stood by her. Her daughters did, too, of course, but the main burden fell upon him. When her hair fell out and her muscles began to shrivel, he did not flinch. When, toward the end, she refused to eat or take more experimental pills, he offered nothing but gentle encouragement and refused -- for her sake as well as his -- to give up. For her part, she never sought sympathy or let illness define her. Always headstrong, always lively, there were many times during the past four years when she did not seem sick at all.

But eventually even she could not ignore her condition in the presence of others. Each treatment left her weaker. Visits to the hospital became more frequent. We, her family and friends, did what we could to keep her spirits up. People baked casseroles and sent flowers, sometimes anonymously. In September, without preamble or notice, a mystery plant upon the doorstep. Forlorn in a bed of blank soil, it remained unminded as trips to the hospital interrupted plans to cast it away with the garbage. At times she would return from the hospital seeming to be on the verge of bouncing back, but it never happened. There were too many things going haywire.

By Sunday morning her breath was shallow and ragged. She had not moved except to breathe for four days. Neither had she eaten, or made even a sound except to occasionally gasp in pain or relate terrible, inoherent opium visions.

By afternoon it was nearly over. Her vital signs were becoming increasingly erratic. We, who had struggled to keep her alive so long found ourselves in the new position of hoping it would end.

As exhaustion overcame her, her husband leaned forward and kissed her forehead.

"Give it up, Margaret," he said ever so gently. "Give it up."

As her breathing ceased, a calmness overcame her drawn, tired face. Her eyelids fluttered open for the first time in days. For some moments, unbelievably, her blue eyes found his and held steady -- full of love -- until they shut once more and forever.

That afternoon the mystery flower, which unbeknownst to us had been growing at a rate of 2 inches a day since she had been admitted to the hospital, cracked through its green pod and began to spread a fine, five-fingered flower. It was Amaryllis. We do not know whom we have to thank for it, nor for what purpose it might have been given, but it was beautiful nonetheless and we are grateful for it as long as it lasted.

Rest in peace, Margaret, mother of my wife.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I just read an article about an "explorer" trying to be the first woman to get to the North Pole alone and unaided.

Unfortunately, she has gone missing.



The North Pole is located in the middle of an ocean covered by thousands of miles of ice. *Of course* someone traveling alone is going to go missing. One would have to be extraordinarily lucky not to fall into a watery crack, get eaten by a ravenous sea lion, or freeze to death trying to heat a sausage.

How stupid can a person be?

Mind you, explorers have always been incredibly stupid. The world is dotted with the graves of famous explorers: Hudson, Cook, Erikson, Cabot, Ponce de Leon, Magellan, de Soto, Drake, Livingstone, Shackleton, etc.

But at least these people -- and countless other men and women whose names are not remembered -- actually contributed something to human knowledge.

What exactly is this missing lady "exploring"? We've already been to the North Pole a few thousand times. Not to mention that...there's nothing there. The North Pole is a fiction. Its a cartographers convenience, a geometers artifice. Its simply a place where lines on a map come together. Physically, its a indistinguishable, featureless flat spot on an endless expanse of sea ice. There is no real "exploring" going on, no true contribution to science to make. There's only grit, ego and a false sense of what is important.

As a race, humans have begun to amass a dubious degree of phoney waypoints by which to measure ourselves. We parse our accomplishments up into those undertaken by people of one nationality or other, some particular skin tone, this gender or that, this disability, that handicap. Are we just bored, or are there truly no frontiers?

I can call myself an explorer, too. I'm the first guy to discover that my thumb fits all the way up to my colon. Lets hope I'm the last.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Just concluded my bi-weekly butchering of Mandarin.

I need to fax my teacher a box of kleenex so she can cry without getting her notes wet.

It is interesting to watch her learn how to teach me. She is extremely adroit at locating the reasons why I, as a native english speaker, am having trouble with certain sounds. (FYI: tonal nuances in English are used to indicate expression and emphasis. In Chinese, tones alter the meaning of words.) Of course she flatters me by saying that my pronounciation is excellent, but we all know that nobody is getting fooled.

On a related note: we have a fax machine in the office. Yup.

Its big.

Its expensive.

Its brand-new.

It faxes, scans and prints.

At least that's what it is supposed to do.

In reality, it jams often, beeps pointlessly at unpredictable intervals, and sits in a state of quiet repose when it should be whirring and churning out documents.

In short: it sucks.

Being a veteran of numerous offices, and numerous different machines, I will go a step further.

The people who designed this machine (and many others like it) are imbeciles.

They can engineer rockets to go to the moon.

They can design plastic prosthetics to replace an ailing heart.

They can build a supercomputer to solve pi.

But they can't make an office machine that works when people need it to.

Enough ranting.

Here's something we *really* need:

We need to add two keys to the keyboard, one that types the word "and" and one that types the word "the". I estimate that this shortcut would save 21% of all typing-related injuries, not to mention time lost typing the extra letters. That means profits, people. Profits.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Monday, A.M.

Got three hours of sleep last night.

Got wired for no reason, brainhyped. Some sort of midnight chemical fire with no known foam. Some nuetron star blazing through the grey hours. Or just a constant clock radio tide.

Got elaborate constructing strange rationales, building walls and tressles, everything in smoking girders by three A.M., fallen to the radiolight. My blue apocalypse.

Got to work late.

Got nothin' under my skin.

Got my radio.

Got cream in my drugs.

Got big plans.

Gotta get this arm amputated so I can feel ok again.

Friday, March 05, 2004

How To Be Hip or: K-haters Amok

I've finally discovered the secret to hip-ness and, no, it does not require that I stop wearing white socks with black shoes. If you want to seem "cool" and "in the know" with whatever subject you happen to be spouting off about, all you have to do is be a "K-hater", that is, substitute the letter "K" with the letter "Q". This especially works for exotic names.

("What the hell are you talking about, Clay?")

(I'll explain, and who the hell is writing questions in the middle of my post?)

The first example of this I noticed was when I was a kid and Reagan was bombing the crap out of a tiny, insignificant country. No, I'm not talking about Grenada and, no, I'm not talking about Nicaragua. I'm talking about Libya.

Libya's ruler was (and still is) a man by the name of Mohamar Kadhaffi. Now I wouldn't be the first to admit that that's a pretty fucked up sounding name. I assume his mother is responsible -- blame her if you want to. If I'd been given such a thankless task as naming a dictator, I would have picked something a bit less absurd sounding like, say, "Arnold Shwartzenneger".

But, in fairness, Kadhaffi's mother should not be blamed, either. Because here's the secret to Kadhaffi's fucked up name: its...not...English. In fact, it is a little-known tongue developed in the 6th century by sword wielding, tent-dwelling nomads in the biggest dry spot on earth (no, I'm not talking about Liza Minelli's g-string): I'm talking about the Arabian desert. The language of that region, which is transcribed into English as "Arabic", actually sounds like: "op#qwepuoihpoasdf$ihpoiasdfoipasdjf ghiuiuwaw$ioeh aoisdupoasfyghg". In other words, its completely uninteligible. This is, in fact, (true story) why the Arabs were unable to conquer the world in ancient times -- they could not fit their name onto stone tablets and could not, therefore, maintain communications with disparate parts of their empire. (Note: I could be wrong about this history. My only source of verification was a web site translated by Google-bot from Russian into Albanian, based upon a text discovered in a cave near Smyrna.)

In any case, the spelling of Kadhaffi need only be phonetic in English because our language does not contain the tools to represent the sound properly anyway.

Ideally it would be spelled Kud-ahh-fee"kud-ahh-fee" but it wasn't for whatever reason. Like I said, who cares?

Hipsters care. Hipsters couldn't stand how easy it was to pronounce the word "Khadaffi". They were experts on North African politics, and goddamnit, they wanted everyone to know it.

So they started changing the spelling from "Khaddafi" to "Qaddafi." (Note: some "G-philes" tried to get it changed midstream to "Ghaddafi", but their organizational abilities were worse than the Green party's and so their campaign fizzled.)

But back to the K-haters. Hasn't anybody told these geeks that "U" always follows "Q" in English? Proper grammar is especially helpful in a phonetical translation, when we need all the help we can get just to get close.

The K-hater campaign didn't end there. They went on an on, haphazardly changing every "K" in sight to "Q".

Soon one of the holiest books in the world -- the Koran -- became known as the "Q'uran". How excatly does one pronounce this updated version of the word, anyway? Since O'Malley is pronounced "OH-Maa-lee", maybe this new spelling of the Koran is "CUE-ooran". To add to the rediculousness, the addition of a jolting mid-word apostrophe -- long a hallmark of "exoticising" names in cheap fantasy books -- is not suitable for a stately religious tome full of angels and demons and prophecies.

But the work of a hipster is never done, and proving oneself superior to all others in the realm of exotic spelling led the K-haters to train their sites on another famous religious text: namely, the Kaballah.

For those of you who have not been ingesting your recommended yearly dose of shrunk-wrapped mysticism, the Kaballah was popular some seven or eight fads ago, just after the ressurection of Astrology but before the rise of Feng Shui. It is a book of Jewish mysticism. It is "dark", "edgy" and "alternative" -- like a good comic book. It fits the bill of all good mysticism in that, like the (latest fad) gnosticism and the (second latest fad) sufiism, it is sufficiently ancient, obscure, and non-traditional that any unflattering comparison of it to, say, modern "organized" religion makes the critic seem, at best, culturally insensitive. (And at worst: the presumtuous despoiler of someone's cherished illusions.)

Anyway, the Kaballah has recently become, you guessed it, "Qabbalah".

I ask, what is so wrong with "K" anyway? It is reasonably easy to pronounce. Unlike "C" it cannot be misunderstood for "S". Why is it a requirement of hipness that easily pronounceable translations be muddied and confused by useless Q's, absent U's and excess apostrophes?

Will we yank our q'ids out of qindergarten if they read the Qing James B'ible?

Will qargo ships blow the qlaxon when the giant qraqen appears?

Will Qorean Zen masters begin qommuniqating in Qoans to qeep hipsters from qomplaining?

(I'm cheating a bit here, if you handn't noticed. I hope that's O.Q. with you.)
Everbody's too fucking polite all the time.

Yeah, yeah. Get it out. Snort. Chortle. Then admit it, 'cuz you know its true.

You know its true, because I'm talking about YOU.

Actually, I'm talking about me. Who else would I be talking about? Do I have to apologize for talking about myself on my own goddamn blog? If you wanted to read about someone else's life, you could pick any number of other blog's. There's a few out there. Million. I recommend ones with title's like "Kyle's Ramblings" or "My Random Thoughts". Gawd, there's nothing more enticing, more promising, than reading self-described rambling. Especially when its written by 14 year old chicks in Singapore who seem only able to express themselves in smiley faces and ebonics:

i.e. this excerpt from an arbitrarily chosen blog
of this nature. If you click on it, be aware that it turns your cursor into a teddy bear: Sunday: Went out with Wendy in e afternoon to e Healthcare exhibition @ Suntec. But before meeting her, went shopping! It just felt soooooo good... To be able to spend money on sth that you liked for e sole purpose of pleasing yourself *giggles* Bought a pair of tie-kind of sandals & a brown skirt with string at e hem line. [Is that how it's described?] Anyhow.. M)Phosis is having sale up to 70% off!! So those who luVvv

I'm sorry to subject you to that. What was I rambling about? Oh yeah: over politeness.

I thank everybody for *everything*, no matter how minute.

To the clerk:

"Thank you for giving me this change. I know that you are just doing your job and there is no way you would refuse to give me my own money back -- especially when I have just chosen to patronize your store and you would be fired if you didn't. "

To my boss:

"Thank you for heaping even more work on me. I never feel fulfilled unless I have another meaningless assignment to complete."

To the customer service agent:

"Thank you for putting me on hold again. I'm really grateful to be treated to several more minutes of Whitney Houston and pre-recorded advertisements."

In addition to thanking people for rediculous, or obligatory transactions, I'm always feeling a necessity to excuse myself, as if my presence is a uniquely insufferable addition to humanity.

To people in the elevator:

"Excuse me for inconveniencing you by requesting that you shift your fat ass three inches to the right so that I can exit. I do not know what I would have done if you had decided to keep me here. Probably just stood here and sweated some more."

To the grocery shopper in the crowded metro car:

"Excuse me for placing my eye on your baguette. I hope I have not left it sodden."

To people everywhere:

"Excuse me for excusing myself. There is no excuse for my existence on your planet. I hope I have not ruined your day with my presence."

'I'm sorry' is another biggie.

To the waiter at a Big Chain Restaurant:

"I'm sorry you spilled water on me. I hope I have not upset you by being spilled upon."

To the subway station manager who has to unlock the bathroom door so I can piss:

"I'm sorry the City has mandated that you provide restrooms to customers. I'm also sorry I have to piss. See, its this whole 'being human' thing -- it really gets to be a drag for others."

Etc. Etc.

You get the idea.

Now don't get me wrong. Politeness is good. Politeness enables us to interact smoothly in situations with strangers. In the old days (before manners) people probably just interacted by grunting, cracking one another over the head with sticks, and shuffling off to gobble stolen venison in empty caves. There is something to be said for the simplicity of that, to be sure, but caves are hard to find anymore and sharing one's bed with bat guano tends to reduce one's desireablility to "the laydeez" (except Vampire chicks). I cherish good manners more and more as I grow older.

But over-politeness sucks.

Its phony.

Its formalized.

Does everybody really require routine expressions of politeness to feel validation? True, I am glad when somebody passes me a big mac -- even if I've paid for it. I'm also thankful that they don't gouge my eyes out for no reason. Or kick puppies for pleasure. And it sucks that they have chosen to work a crappy job to make ends meet. But is it my fault such that I need to express sorrow for them having to do their job? Don't all these hollow gestures diminish true expressions of gratitude?

We should all wear signs that say "I'm sorry for EVERYTHING. Please exuse me. Thank you."

That wouldn't work, would it. Soon we'd be saying, "Sorry my sign clobbered your toddler" and "please excuse my snotty sign."

Ah fuck it. I've said enough. If I can be excused for seeming to make something out of nothing, just be aware that it just felt soooooo good... To be able to write whatever I want on my blog for e sole purpose of pleasing myself *giggles* .

If I can't be excused, sorry I've wasted your time.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Suckily, a server error devoured today's important posting.

Oh well. The spirits of the ether need regular sacrifices like anything else.

Or maybe it was a cosmic judgement on the worth of the post.

Or maybe it was too dangerous to allow "out".

Or maybe it was just a technological glitch.

I had my first Mandarin lesson today. It was beamed in via satellite phone from a remote classroom at the Monterrey Institute in California. It went surprisingly smooth. Not my Chinese, mind you, just the mechanics of the thing. Gringo Chinese is probably worse than the ugliest butchering of my own mother tongue (picture the sound of a Cockney parrot with a hairlip imitating Arkansans drinking Swedish Vodka in Boston -- that's what it sounded like).

Alright. Zai jian. (I think that means "bye". If not, it means "my older brother is not a teacher". Either way.)

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

As reported on the news this morning, Jackson has an addiction to morphine and demerol. Putting 2 and 2 together, this explains the whole Michael Jackson plastic surgery enigma. The man keeps getting plastic surgery so he can keep taking painkillers. Hmm. Kinda makes sense, don't you think?
Saw "The Producers" at the Baltimore Hippodrome last night. The Hip is an old revue hall rennovated and re-opened. Its quite nice inside, very European. Except for one thing:

The seats.



Horrible. Uncomfortable. Cramped. My wife is 5' 4" and weighs 110 and *she* was grumbling. At intermission we were cataloging our mutual aches and pains when, no joke, an older guy limps out of the auditorium holding his back, whimpering, and tells us that he pinched a nerve. We vacated the settee we were on so that the poor guy could lie down.

Somebody spends $50 million dollars to renovate a theater, they painstakingly hand paint the walls, they restore the box seats, install state of the art sound, and force the audience to sit on rusty nails and broken glass. Granted, we were way up in steerage, too far to throw tomatos, but the seats in the orchestra pit didn't appear any better.

The show was good in a typical Mel Brooksian way -- it was ribald, greagarious, and refreshingly risky. Brooks is the last of his kind: the post-war Jewish renaissance man, inheritor of the European exile tradition. I can't say that The Producers was the best musical I've ever seen, but it was a good evening.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Am I Being Mocked?

Please help. I have a disgusting habit. No, I mean other than farting in elevators. And other than biting my fingernails bloody. And while were not on it, nobody bring up the whole salvaging donuts out of the trash thing, either (because they are in boxes and everybody knows that boxes are sanitary or why would the donut makers put them in there to begin with?)

The disgusting habit I am referring to is the eating of sunflower seeds. Now, I know that by "eating" you mean occasionally popping a few seeds into your mouth, sucking off the salt, and moving on with your life. If you are an amateur, this is what "seed eating" is probably like. You might even gotten brave once and tried to crackg the shells between your teeth (hands free), which probably resulted in an awkward, drippy mess and a promise to yourself never to try *thaaat* again. You are a perfectly ordinary, balanced individual and

I'm not like you.

I'm a seed eating pro.

I can do cartwheels with seeds. I can eat seeds with my mouth tied behind my back. (don't try this at home, kids). When passing a sunflower along the roadside, I can unroll the window, stick out my tongue, and suck out the seeds without even slowing down.

I know I know. Say what you will. Seed eating is disgusting and messy. Seed eating can result in quantities of salt igestion higher than all night 69 with Lot's wife.

The thing is, seeds are fun to eat and they satisfy an acute oral fixation. Seeds have been banned at my house -- even when I promised to eat them little league-style (pop a fistful in your left cheek, shell them in the middle, store the husks in the right side, spit them all out in one big juicy mass).

But enough bragging.

I purchased a small sack of seeds and on the back of the bag it had a statement that requires a certain amount of interpretation by you, my reader. Here it goes:

Seeders are unique. They're cool, confident, independent, active, and hardworking. They know that eating DAVID (TM) Sunflower Seeds makes what they do more enjoyable. Things are better with DAVID because they're a snack and an activity. Experience SNACKTIVITY. (TM)

This statement must be examined in finer detail.

A seeder is "unique"? Everybody knows seed eating is a vile and filthy passtime. A photograph of a man with a bicycle chain tied around his scrotum (ala Mapelthorpe) is also "unique". There are some kinds of unique that are not flattering.

A seeder is "cool". Sure, chicks just want to shag me silly when they spy residual seed husks clinging to the underside of my jaw. Happens all the time. If they're the kind of chick that likes to suck seed, I don't want to have anything to do with them. I just tell them be cool. Of course, maybe the DAVID people mean cool as in "aloof" because seed eaters typically have a greater radius of personal space around themselves than others.

A seeder is "confident"? Who you callin' confident, buddy, and what the hell is that supposed to mean? I'm confident that I'm making a mess spraying sodden shell particulates in all directions.

A seeder is "independent"? Yeah, I'm the only one in the country who eats these things. Last year I ate all 170,000,000 bags by myself.

A seeder is "active"? Let me see....nope. I buy my seeds to entertain me while I'm procrastinating in front of a computer at work.

A seeder is "hardworking"? Let me see...nope. See above.

"Seeds make [the things seeders] do more enjoyable". Ok, to a point. They don't make paying bills or answering telemarketers more enjoyable, but I'll grant them this one anywary.

Seeds are both a "snack and an activity". Don't bother me with that list of chores, Martha. I'm busy shelling seeds.

"Experience SNACKTIVITY. (TM)" Who can argue with that?

All I'm saying is this statement by the seed people is a bit too heady. I canot tell if they're being serious and giving respect (more than any poor, disgusting seed smacker such as myself deserves), or if they are instead being patronizing?

Tell me true, you.

Am I being mocked?

Monday, March 01, 2004

I wrote this in response to Fishfry's
latest post. Since it sort of summarizes typical advice I give at 12:22 p.m. on Monday, March 1, I figured it wouldn't hurt to duplicate it here. Plus I don't have any other pressing blog subjects to write about at the moment, but stay tuned just in case.


Cliche but true: there is a man for every women and vice versa. Don't despair...yet, and don't compromise yourself just because your current set of guy friends don't respond well to your style.

Personally, I dig smart women. I like pushy, powerful, competent, sexy women with soft underbellies (I mean that literally as well as figuratively). Of course, they need to be able to laugh and put up with someone else's (my) fairly aggressive style, too. Like all grown boys, I require a certain amount of artfully applied flattery. Fortunately for you and for other smart women, flattery is meaningless unless it comes from an intellectual peer.

My guess is that women are socialized to be ready to have a mate that is smarter than they are, but men are not. Men are touchier and more insecure when challenged outside of a normal, formal analytical conversation.

Once that is sorted through, the "men vs. women" generalizations kind of fall apart.

Find yourself a bitchin/artistic/hillarious/fun/tough/intellectual/sensitive guy with reasonable earning power. Teach him how to learn about you. Tell him it will be an adventure (i.e. flatter him into thinking he's Indiana Jones and you're the Holy Grail). He'll feel like he's the luckiest guy on earth. So will you. Except that you won't be a guy.
Meat loaf is good.