Thursday, September 30, 2004

Pet Peeve #5287

Alright, this shit really rankles.
Enough already.
Ever have this happen to you at Subway? The sandwich maker says, "what would you like on your sandwhich," and you say "lettuce, onion, tomato, pickle, cheese" and they say, "what kind of cheese American, Swiss, Provalone, Cheddar" and you say, "I'll have Provaloan-ee," and they say, "O.k., ProvaLOAN" and you say, "excuse me you dumb motherfucker, its pronounced Povaloan-ee. See its Italian. From a country called 'Italy' which you can find on a MAP if you ever learn to READ." And they give you a blank (but still somehow hostile) look. At which point you leap over the counter, shake them violently, and say,

"You don't eat your red sauce with 'riga-TOAN', do you? You don't feed your dumpy white trash kids 'bull-OWN' on their white bread, do you? No, you don't. You eat 'riga-toan-EE' and 'buh-loan-EE'. THAT's why you should call that delectable white cheese you and your ilk have uniformly butchered 'prova-loan-EE'. Got it, smackass?"

And they say, "Golly, I don't know much about EYE-talians. But I sure do like pepper-own on my cali-zoan..."

Later, down at the station, you express your bewilderment to the nice detective who wonders exactly how how half a dozen chocolate chip cookies and a full cannister of root bear syrup ended up so far up some poor cashier's backside.

"Do I get my phone call?" you say.
"Of course. Here's the phon-ee," he says.

I'm consistantly dumbfounded by the gossipy shlock Hotmail puts up on its portal screen. Not dumbfounded because it exists: hotmail sold its soul to the devil years ago and took me along for the ride. And I'm not dumbfounded at the obviously low-level of discourse it aims to please its readers with.

I'm dumbfounded by its terrible grammar.

Check out this headline: "Can You Personality Get You Fired?"

This one has been up for three days.

That's another problem: lack of freshness.

If you're going to feed my already over-saturated brain with ostensibly tittilating (though more often flaccid) blurbs, at least change them up.

"Does it really matter, Clay?"

It doesn't.

Its just that the Hotmail portal reaches, oh, twenty-five million people a day. That's fifty million eyeballs.

So bad grammar and lack of relavance should probably be of concern to someone.

Microsoft is so big it feels comfortable being sloppy.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Last night I got home early, it must have been 4:20. Walked in out of a dying hurricaine, pampered a couped-up, wet puppy, popped in a CD, and set about slow cooking.

Slow cooking is a hobby of mine.

"Slow cooking" is a synonym for "fun cooking". As opposed to just throwing something together quickly without joy or circumspection. I'm not a careful cook and I don't take particular pride in adopting a traditionally feminine role, but taking time to cook is essential for enjoyment.

I learned to cook because my wife (thankfully) never learned from her mother and I like to eat. Somebody had to do it. My mom showed me a few tricks, got me started, outfitted my kitchen at every gift-giving opportunity with the necessary tools.

Most of my recipies involve the following:

Heat olive oil.
Chop onions.
Add garlic.
Add other stuff.

Last night I made potato-kale soup as the cold remnants of Jean (or was it Ivan?) splashed down. Late afternoon had that edge of Fall in it, where the sun is suddenly too low for comfort and night approaching too fast. Tires splash in puddles on the road outside.

Sam Phillips was in the CD player. You ever heard her? Of course you have. I'm probably years behind. Whether you have or have not, she's amazing. Not "amazing" like so many semi-competent groups people push on you like cheap pills. Amazing like...amazing. The friend who put me onto her likened her to a female Tom Waits. I can neither corroborate nor refute that characterization (due to my limited exposure to Mr. Waits). To me, she seemed more like some fortuitous blend of Sarah Harmer and Elliot Smith, poured over a starfield and stirred by Beth Orton or Mazzy.

Of course, I was cooking at the time, so the analogy seemed particularly apropos. ("apropos" is French for "an analogy involving food". So I hear.)

I peeled potatos and chopped onions to the beat.

I tasted melodies, & sauteed lyrics.

The air filled with steady bubbling, musical steam, and garlic.

The soup was done when the CD ended. The puppy had fallen asleep at my feet with her mouth over my pant cuff. The house was quiet. After gloaming, the neighborhood was dark.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Hey all of you who read this blog but don't keep one yourself:

Get off Yer Ass an' Blog

That sounds like a dance tune.

No, seriously. I'd love to read it. You know who you are.

Don't do it because its "hip" -- it won't remain so for long (if it ever was).

Don't do it because you "don't have anything to say". None of us do. Or maybe all of us do. Whatever. No one else is more entitled or has more license than you.

Don't do it because it resembles art and you're afraid of putting on airs, raising expectations, or resembling something you aren't. You can't sustain a phoney poise on a blog: light shines through.

Do it because you're alive.

Do it because you're adrift.

Do it because you breathe.

Do it because you're underfucked.

Do it because you're bored.

Do it because you're curious.

Do it because you're sorry.

Do it because you don't have time.

Do it because you're turning into a geezer.

Do it because you drive really fast but shouldn't.

Do it because you're happy sometimes in spite of everything.

Do it because, in spite of that happiness, sadness keeps tapping you on the shoulder.

Do it because you're infected with time-release, alien engineered DNA.

Do it because s/he's a sonofabitch and you're sick of t/his shit.

Do it because you never said how you felt.

Do it because the Bahamas were great and $7 pina coladas are worth every penny.

Do it because otherwise we'll never know what you ate for breakfast.

Do it because...

...because you can't help yourself.

Because you don't need to help yourself.

Because it doesn't matter if you make a misstep.

Or if you trample someone's time-honed impression of you.

Or if you say something you regret.

You already know you're a fuckup.

A crybaby.

A whimp.

A bastard.

A hypocrite.

A pointless period at the end of an invisible sentence.

We know it, too.

So are we.

We also know you're a freak:

A goddamned sizzle-fried, foursquare, funked-out, tough, touching, successful, funny, articulate, smart, flawed, beautiful freak with shit to *say*.

Thats why we love you.

Or we will.

So come out and play.

Bring your imperfections.

Bring your shitty grammar and your boring anecdotes.

Bring all that baggage you lug, pass it around.

When it gets too hot to handle, we'll fashion an industrial sized, anodized roach out of PR-plated platitudes, hackneyed genre paperbacks, glossy underwear ads, and whatever else serves as cultural enlightenment these days. We'll have ourselves a good smoke and just wave all that sky gravy away. Just kiss it goodbye. Wish it a fond bon voyage if it ever passes Jupiter, and be glad we were there to take some of it in before it was gone.

Let the EPA come: you can't pollute.

I've been neglecting this blog a bit more lately on account of having a busier schedule, and more "over the shoulder" supervision at work and, frankly, running out of things to say in this venue.

The fun thing about rants is they allow you to get shit off your chest. The un-fun thing about rants is, after you've indulged yourself a few dozen times, you realize what a broken record you are. And finding new things to rant about all the time just makes you seem like a boor and an ingrate. But rants are still fun, so who cares if nobody else cares. Whatever. Etc. They come out of the blue, justified under the most rediculous of pretexts, and fizzle out as the anger leaves and you realize that things could be worse. Or even (maybe) that things are alright. So one has to keep the ranting down out of duty to the Cosmos and the Universe and whatever else might care that you're an ingrateful jumble of self-propelled minerals soaking up your half hour of sunshine in a long chain of similarly pointless, if nevertheless self-important, agglomerations.

Plus, one has the cautionary tale of Dennis Miller to serve as a warning. Miller used to be funny and fresh, his rants gutsy and right on the mark. Then somewhere along the way he became a republican spokesperson. He became "positioned" on the political spectrum, instead of firing from-the-hip salvos in all directions. He got defensive about his wealth. He acted like so many rich people do when they get tired of the left: they (re)discover their sense of entitlement and decide that people really aren't important, only money is. They get terrible cases of amnesia and forget that the right is spending the country's money faster than big-money democrats ever did.
They forget that unions -- not corporations -- are responsible for distributing capitalist wealth to the lower classes.

They forget that diversity is worth maintaining, even if it means putting up with vacuous JAP teenie boppers wearing rastafarian hats and clamoring endlessly for a Free Tibet (which they probably can't find on a map and wouldn't want to visit if they ever discovered what a shithole it really is).

They forget that for every self-styled "anarchist" with their belt-buckle keychains and tiresome "whatever" attitudes pinned to their 57 (visible) piercings (who have never read Kropotkin and would shudder to discover that anarchism is based, at its core, on breathtaking idealism).

They forget that next-quarter's profits are not more important than next-century's rainforests. Or next-year's clean water supply.

They hide behind the self-righteous banner of "fiscal conservativism" which means (very little more than "nobody gets to spend any money on pork unless its me".

The Philosophy of Your Typical Fiscal Conservative Wanker:

Guns and missles are fine - especially when it is someone else's kid (preferrably Southerners) who have to man the trenches.

Corporate tax-breaks on big sports stadiums are fine.

Offshore tax-shelters to promote "free trade" is fine.

Cops are fine.

Barricades are worth every penny.

Environmental regulations are too expensive. We can't afford the environment.

Forget soup kitchens.

Forget sports programs for your local high school. Band? Art classes? Who needs art. Art and music are simply commodities, like everything else. We have industry to make art and music for us. If people will pay for it, why should we subsidize it in public education?

Healthcare? What a waste of money. Let the middle class wither on the vine: going bankrupt to pay a medical bill is better than having some commie system like they have in France, where you have to wait in line to see a doctor.

Lets all sing hymns.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Over the past few months I have recognized something about myself that would have filled me with self-loathing a few decades ago.

I really really dig Def Leppard.

Old Lady Sweeping the Recently Emptied Panacylum Peanut Gallery: Eh?


I really really dig Def Leppard.

You remember those guys, right?: glam band from the mid 80s, long hair, Led Zeppelin wannabes. The jerk ADD case next to you in 5th grade used to expertly carve their name in *your* desk when you weren't looking. All the pimply, stringy haired chicks you used to dry-hump your pillow to used to wear their black and red D.L. T-shirts.

You probably got their tape years after they were popular from some "buy 11 tapes for 1 penny" music clubs.

But see, its like this: I always hated Def Leppard because I hated hard rock back then. Now I don't, but I forgot all about them.

Then somebody played "Pour Some Sugar on Me" really loudly at a club I was at a few months ago and god-DAMN, that song smoked.

And since then I've heard three or four other songs by them and each time I have the exact same thoughts, in the exact same order:

1. This song is catchy, its obviously from the 1980s.
2. These musicians are talented.
3. Linkin' Park isn't even qualified to suck these guy's tuning knobs.
4. Whoever engineered this is a freakin' unsung genius. It positively glimmers with studio sheen.
5. Oh, its Def Leppard.
6. What ever happened to those guys?

Today I learned that they fizzled out like all good rock acts replete with dead guys in pools of vomit, wonderfully kinky sex, trashed hotel rooms, drugs, and eventual poverty and obscurity (eating out of garbage cans on Sunset strip).

I'm going to have to get myself some Def Leppard.

On other fronts:

I just wrote "Lighter, Garbage (Self-Propelled) (YG)" into an excell document. Those exact words.

Sad thing is, it isn't gibberish. Not to me, anyway.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Well, I've managed to avoid the office much of the week. That is success in my book. Not all week, mind you, but...what. What is it? That look on your face...

You don't want to hear about the office? About the adventures at my cube?

How about my puppy, then?

My horrible commute?

Fuck you, then.

Go back to your own little life. Leave me alone.


Oh, I don't mean it.

You know that.

I love you.


Where have I been?

I was hunting for Ervin O. S_____ at the National Archives. Rumor had it he dissappeared on a patrol in a dense forest south of an unpronouncable town in Belgium in 1945. They were wrong. I found him at the National Archives, pressed into all that paper. He was still alive over and over again up until January 15, when his company was ordered to cross into no-mans-land and get to "Rally Point Y". Somewhere in the midst of all the mist and machine gun fire and multi-hued flares see-sawing across the sky, he went missing. The few members of his unit that managed to stumble out of the crossfire couldn't agree on what happened. Someone saw unnamed American bodies piled at a German aid station. Another swears S___ was mistaken for a German corpse and buried under a Germanized version of his name. One wonders how such a thing might happen...

Der General: Who es zis pile of guts?
Der Clerk: We do not know, mien General.
Der General: Ze looks German.
Der Clerk: Ya ya. Very nordic.
Der General: Bury it in zee local cemetary.
Der Clerk: Very guten.

[click of heels, return to the war, neither survived to tell the tale. The General because he put a bullet in his own brain after Berlin fell, and the Clerk because the Russians "evacuated" him to the East to rebuild the Motherland from a mercury pit near Lake Baikal.]

Monday, September 13, 2004

This just in:

I have just re-discovered my indignation.

Two items in the news leave me pissed off and worried:

Putin Tightens Grip on Security

(Parliament candidates nominated by head of state? Where do they think they are, Russia? I thought the Patriot Act was bad...)

Media spotlight on Baghdad deaths

(Read the article. U.S. gunships fired on a crowd of citizens gathered around a burning truck. Who cares if some of them were happy the truck was burning?)

Much of my indignation is reserved for major online media outlets in the U.S., which seem to be slow on the uptake (if they're not ignoring it altogether).

World hear this:


I dropped my Chinese class.

I quit after a mere 8 months of instruction.

I quit after a fairly successful viewing of the movie "Hero" in which I recognized a good 15% of the dialog (using the subtitles that number went up to a respectable 35%).
Yes, I know: chalk it up to another eccentric plan, half-assedly undertaken. Big deal. Give me a few demerits and a few more hail mary's and let me go in peace.
Chinese is a really beautiful language, but I never found the time to study. Whether that's because I didn't "want it bad enough" or because my life is actually as hectic as it seems to be, I hardly care.

But just in case your opinion of me has dropped, perhaps I can redeem myself slightly by divulging my Next Big Plan:
I signed up for fencing.

No, "fencing" is not some wierd form of postmodern yoga where you stand in place for hours imitating barbed wire.

Fencing is a form of martial combat characterized by two sword wielding opponants (in tights) attempting to "strike" one another with their weapons. Whereas once it was a bloody and muderous form of recreation, it has been rendered "safe" through application of foam pads, rules, and swords so slim they'd make Mary-Kate Olsen look like Rosie O'Donnell after an all-night Waffle House binge.

Of course, "safe" is a relative term, for how safe can one be squared off against a hefty suburban housewife with 38 inches of steel in her hand? (Never mind that the thing is rubber tipped: ever been spanked by rebar?) How "safe" can one be squared off against a hyperactive 11 year old boy junked up on Pepsi and MSG?

Yeah, its dangerous all right.

Dangerous for the reputation.

What was I *thinking*? It is simply not manly to wear tights. Sweat pants are a possible alternative, but what kind of a man wears sweat pants? (certain friends-of-mine excepted, of course)

Better to take up some truly extreme sport: pistol duelling, boxing, or...wait, I have it... combat.

With *real* axes.

That would be a gas.

If I had an ax, it wouldn't matter at all what I was wearing.

Cuz really, who would laugh at a man in tights wielding an ax?

Friday, September 10, 2004

Perhaps it is the quart of O+ they sucked out of my arm at the Pentagon.

Perhaps it is that lingering taste of waste that always accompanies Friday.

Perhaps it is the moisture creeping back into the sky after a week of gloom.

But I'm feeling like this: hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Not depressed. Not brain-down. Just...hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. A steadily humming agglomeration of AC and fleuroescent lighting, vent rubber flapping overhead, and thoughts too numerous and half-conceived to be worthwhile.

My blue felt cube is motionless, silent, and utterly without humor.

Here is my plan for the next couple of days:

I might do some house painting.

Or have a barbecue.

Maybe I'll do both.

Maybe I'll hoe my nonexistant garden.

Or stand in line at the grocery store to buy beans.

Maybe I'll be content that I've somehow fallen into a sensible sort of life.

And turned my back on every ambition before it consumed me.

Here, Pentagon. Here's my other arm. Have more blood. I obviously don't need it.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

We have one smart little puppy. She is so smart, that after escaping the elaborate pen we constructed with tables and drawers, she ate a book.

A library book.

A hardback library book.

A hardback library book I waited a year to read so I could get it more cheaply in paperback.

Until I decided to be fiscally responsible and put myself on the extensive library waiting list.

I waited my turn, read half the book, then forgot to take it with me to work, whereupon it was discovered by our escapee puppy and eaten. And it was a day overdue. If I had only returned it on time, none of this would have happened.

Now we have thrown ourselves at the mercy of the library. Will they charge us for it? Will we owe a fine on top of the damages?

The irony is, of course, that I waited a year to buy the thing in paperback, then didn't buy it, then read half of it, then returned half of it. Now I might have to buy it anyway. In hardback. Which I could have done last year with no repercussions.

Still, I'm not upset. She could have eaten paint, which would have made her stupider. She could have eaten furnature, which has no intrinsic educational value to speak of. Devouring a book is really, very close to reading the words. I think she ingested page 37 in its entirety. The rest she scattered like confetti to consume at her leisure.

She did all of this while lounging on the couch, which is supposed to be off limits. She furthermore settled on a pillow on the couch. My pillow. My new pillow, which is really my wife's old pillow. See, my old pillow was discarded while I was in St. Louis.

Did it leak feathers, you ask?


Was it moldy or defective or squeaky?


Had the billions of dust mites living just beneath the visible surface gotten uppity and demanded better accomodations?


It fell victim to the dog.

Apparently, she was whining at 2 a.m. The pillow got forcibly chucked, doing no damage but providing additional comfort for our caterwauling canine. The irony here is that my sleep-befuddled wife thought she was throwing her pillow, forgetting that she likes to sleep (not to mention drool) on my pillow when I'm not in bed. Its a sick little tradition we have developed and I assure you, as I am not by definition present at such moments, I have no control over it.

But back to my story. The reason the dog was whining at 2 a.m. was because she had diahrrea. This unfortunate fact was not discovered until after the pillow (my pillow) was converted into a projectile.

I am a tolerant man, and a total slob, besides. My wife can drool all day on my pillow: I don't care enough to make a fuss. I just roll my eyes and flip the thing over.

But a pillow filled with puppy diahrea is far from acceptable.

Thus it was tossed one last time and I inherited my wife's second pillow (why she insists on sleeping on mine when she has two, I cannot tell you).

So the puppy spent her day engaging world literature on my new pillow.

The lesson I have taken from this episode is as follows:

1. Never own a dog.

2. Never get married.

3. If you are stupid enough to do either, always buy your books in hardback: it is cheaper than buying them from the library and you might actually get a chance to read them.

(As such I have recently expended a small fortune obtaining a new and very promising-looking tome entitled "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Morrell". It is a grand English fantasy shortlisted for the Booker prize & generating much buzz. I'm having my dog review it. I'll post her findings later today.)

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

An Account of What I heard This Morning Whilst Half-Awake...

In Which the Author Relates a Typical Conversation With A Puppy As Conducted by His Wife:

Wife: Hi, puppy. Cute puppy. Good girl. Ow. Stop biting my arm. Cali? Stop biting my arm. No bite. Good girl. Ow. No bite. Cali. No bite. No bite. No. No. No. No. Cali. No bite. No. No. No. No. Good girl. Cali. No bite. Cali. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. Good girl. Cali? Cali. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. Cali. No. No. No. No bite. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. Cali?


A Firsthand Account of An Average Man Attempting to Rid His Yard of Noisome Weeds

In Which the Author Himself Falls Victim to Other Denizens of The Space in Question

Man: Weeds, how I loathe thee. Especially you, poison ivy. How fun it is to chop you up into little, harmless pieces with this ho...HO! OW! YOU FUCKING LITTLE SHIT YELLOWJACKET. I'LL TEACH YOU TO SNACK ON ME. Ok. Fine. You had your fun. It just stings a little, anyway. I can take it. Actually it freaking hurts a lot. Little bastard. I hope you're happy. Still, I really shooed you away, didn't I? Coward. Thanks for the adrenaline, by the way. It helps me chop harder and faster. I'm a weed chopping machine. Hey dog, quit playing in that poison oak. AYYY! OW! HEY! WHERE DID YOU COME FROM? I'M GETTING SWARMED! Run, little dog, run for your very life! Into the house where you'll be safe OW! HEY! THEY FOLLOWED ME INSIDE! Upstairs, little dog, off with my clothes OW! FUCK! OW! Into the shower. One two three four five six seven eight stings. Jesus. What does anaphylactic shock feel like? What is happening to me? Why is everything going grey? Oh, its just fog from the shower.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Last week, in sum:

Hum de dum. Hello, St. Louis. Nothing to do. Too restless to prowl. Too married to flirt. Nobody to kill. Nobody to run from. Drinking is boring. Make that a double. More files, please. More and more and more. Who would have thought that paper could outlast flesh? Dead soldiers live on and on and St. Louieee...

[Everybody now, and so on. Cue Narrator:]

Look, a letter from Mom to the nice General who wrote her and so heartfeltishly expressed his sorrow.

"Dear Mr. & Mrs. Smythe,

It is with much sorrow that I write to you today...

I regret to inform you that your son, [NAME], was killed on [DATE] in the line of duty.

He was a good man and an honorable soldier, much loved by all of us in the "Fightin' [UNIT NAME]".

It may be of some comfort, however small, for you to know that he died heroically and painlessly, lying on a bed of lavendar, surrounded by angels singing soft lullabies. His passing came only after [NAME] heroically risked his life to save the lives of several wounded comerades. Before drifting off to sleep, he wished to relate to you a short farewell message expressing his gratitude for having had lived such a full & honorable life under your loving care.

Your country thanks you for providing your best and brightest. Here is a posthumously awarded medal and a shoebox with a cigarette lighter. If there's anything I can do...

Regretfully yours,

Mrs. Smythe, so full of gratitude to learn of her son's last (hopefully comfortable) moments, thanks the general for his kind words, not realizing that it is the 5001 identical letter he's written to mothers all across the country. Not realizing that the letter bearing Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon's names were not, in fact, composed by those two men. Nor did they even rubber-stamp their own names at the bottom. Or even know their son's names.

Nor did the officer who wrote the hand-signed letter. See, all the while he was safely ensconced in an air-conditioned office behind the lines, scheming of ways to get his own teenage children into the Alabama National Guard.

Here's the letter as it should have been written:

"Dear Mom & Dad of Dead Guy #54879B,

It is with much sorrow that I write to you today...

I regret to inform you that your son, [NAME], was killed on [DATE] in the line of duty.

Had he lived long enough, he might have proven himself a good man and an honorable soldier, and be much loved by all of us in the "Fightin' [UNIT NAME]". Unfortunately, none of us knew him. See, as with much young, inexperienced cannon fodder, he didn't really have much of a chance to become "one of the guys". Even if he had, nobody would have wanted to know him. We see kids like him pass through (and pass on) every day: ignorant, stupid, cocky, or just plain unlucky.

It might be of some comfort, however small, for you to know that he died heroically and painlessly in his sleep, lying on a bed of lavendar, surrounded by angels singing soft lullabies. Or that his passing came only after [NAME] heroically risked his life to save the lives of several wounded comerades. Its too bad that this wasn't the way it happened.

See, your son was actually burned to a crisp trying to burn garbage with gasoline. He was shot through the kidney by some little slant-eyed yellow bastard who hates Freedom and Apple Pie. He screamed for 17 hours before succumbing to severe dehydration 5000 miles from home. He broke in half when the tread rolled over him. He fell into a watery crater and was devoured by ants. He stepped on a booby trap that blew his varsity ring through his cranium. He swelled up and popped from agressive penile meningitis contracted gang raping a dying farm girl. Sorry to bring such sad news into your home.

He composed the following brief elegy to the end of life before expiring on a filthy operating table in a 3rd world shithole no one has ever learned to correctly pronounce:

"Oh God, no. Ow."

Your country thanks you for providing your best and brightest. Here is a posthumously awarded medal and a shoebox with a cigarette lighter. If there's anything I can do...

Regretfully yours,